The tragedy of AIDS continues to challenge the church. Initially, many Christian leaders called AIDS “God’s judgment” against homosexuals. In recent months, many of those leaders have softened their rhetoric with statements of compassion and forgiveness. Often, such changes in attitude come when a close friend or family member has AIDS.
Last month, Scott Cox told the congregation of McLean (Va.) Bible Church that he was gay, a former drug addict, and has tested positive for HIV. Cox talked with CHRISTIANITY TODAY the week following his disclosure.
Tell us about your church background.
I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life in my teen years, and later I attended a Bible college where I was president of my class. Then, as a sophomore at Taylor University, I became editor of the university paper, and as a junior served as president of the student body.
When did you know you were a homosexual?
Around the beginning of my second semester at Bible college in 1978 I had a sexual incident with another student. He went to the dean to talk about it because he was afraid he might be gay. But when they found out about us, they kicked us out of college. My parents and I went back a week later to ask for forgiveness and help, but it was clear the school didn’t want to deal with me.
Did you continue with your homosexual lifestyle while you were a student at Taylor?
Toward the end of my time at Taylor I would drive an hour and a half to Indianapolis to go to gay bars. In fact, the gay bars in Washington and Indianapolis became my church because that is where I got fellowship, understanding, and camaraderie. But spiritually, I was trying to answer the question, “How can I be a Christian and be gay?”
When were you diagnosed as HIV positive?
After college I got a job as a law clerk working for a Christian attorney in Washington. One day he said, “You’ve got to go to the doctor, because your eyes are yellow.”
Tests showed I had hepatitis. At the same time, the doctor said I tested positive for the HIV virus. That was in 1983, when the AIDS problem started hitting the news. I told no one, and I never went back to see that doctor again.
How did you react to the news that you had AIDS?
I was scared to death. I was afraid to go to church because I had been kicked out of a Bible college—I knew how the church felt. From that point on, my life went downhill. I got involved in the drug scene, and of course had to find money to pay for the drugs. Somehow my mind kind of snapped and I was just doing anything to feel better—almost like I didn’t care. I went to California where I traded sex for money to buy drugs. I knew I was going to die, and I didn’t want anyone to know what I was going to die from. I just felt there was no way out. Eventually, I ended up in Richmond, Virginia, where I got caught taking money from my employer and was put on probation.
Had you completely turned your back on your faith?
My relationship with Christ was tied in to how I felt about the church. Because I felt rejected by the church, I felt rejected by God. To me, they were one and the same. I thought if the church wouldn’t help me, then obviously God wasn’t interested in me either.
What led you back to the church?
I knew I was in a mess and needed help. I wanted to get my life right with God. I resumed contact with members of my family and have been working daily to try to get my life right. I have decided it is impossible to live a gay lifestyle and be committed to the Lord. And if you really look at what the Bible says, you see that God renews the mind. He will provide a way of escape.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have struggles, but I can deal with them. My sin is no worse than others’, it’s just my sin.
From your experiences as a Christian young person who has struggled with homosexuality and who lives with AIDS what message would you give to other Christians?
Don’t say that homosexuality is right. It isn’t. But homosexuals are hurting people who need help and who need Jesus. If the evangelical community believes what the Bible says is true, then we need to overlook our biases and prejudices and really do what Christ would do.
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