Monday, March 13, 2006

"The only Christian response to AIDS is........."

Photo at top Dack Rambo

Bottom photo: Mike Roe of 77s ,Brian Healy (in shades),

"The only Christian response to AIDS is..."

When I first read in Brian Healy's
(the genius behind DAS/Dead Artists Syndrome, and now an ordained minister...his Myspace site here , and Wikipedia article here)
liner notes to an "ancient" tape (yeah, cassette)..that "the only Christian response to AIDS is a relentless compassion," it gripped me..

.and gripped and griped me that it was quite a radical statement to make back then
(the 13th anniversary edition of this recording was released last year). Here is a link to a more recent
more recent interview with Healy, in which he engages the topic at hand.

Many have heard about how I became friends with movie star Dack Rambo (Jake Ewing on TV's "Dallas") soon after

he became a Christian..and became aware he was dying of AIDS.

I was so immediately blessed by his humility and grace upon firsy meting Dack.
I would have bet a million dollars at that point that I could never betray him.

Yet that is the precise amount of money involved.

Not to mention the reason I have little grace for the National Enquirer.

I read somewhere that in emerging churches, the smell of coffee sometimes serves as "accidental incense." Dack didn't know that his tears on my shoulder during our prayer served as accidental (both in the usual sense of the word, and in the theological sense sense of the term. It was full-blown Commununion via Transubstantiation !)

I had just met him, there in in my office as pastor of a church in his hometown. We had an amazing visit and prayer time..and I'm sure (or sure hoping) he felt only love, not judgment, from me
(photo at Delano church from back in Dack's day...some of you will recognize other folks beside me..I'm on the far most Methodist pastors, right? (: )
(which hopefully had nada to do with the fact that he contracted AIDS as a result of what he called his "pre-Christian" "acceptable" evangelical answer....), but to my shame after his visit, as I cried and thanked God for Dack and his humility and faith, I did what Jesus wouldn't do:

threw out the glass he had drank water from!

Now I could justify this sin by recognizing that back in those days, the early days of AIDS in America, there was all kinds of confusion about how one could contact AIDS..but throwing out as unclean a cup of cold water I had just given to Jesus in thin disguise!?

Unforgivable in my book!

But thanks be to God fully forgiven in Jesus's book.

Dack's body was still warm, he had been dead a matter of hours, when the National Enquirer started calling me, begging me to talk to a member of our church who was friends with Dack, and who had taped and scribed his testimony for him...perhaps to be an eventual book. See, Dack had dictated his life story to our member, dropping names of all the folks in Hollywood he had slept with, knowing that in any public version, the "names would be changed to protect the guilty." But the Enquirer got wind of these manuscripts, and wanted it..and the names (and my soul)!

When a phone call from the Enquirer begins something like this "Pastor, this is _______ from the National Enquirer, and as you know, the Enquirer has a moral mission to help people...", well, you know it's not going to be just another day at the church office.

They eventually flew out their people, and offered our member...our poor (literally) member/ custodian..a million dollars for the names of Dack's partners. But our amazing member said "No, I don't betray my friend for any amount of money!"

What astonishing...but normative.. faithfulness. Unlike his pastor, who betrayed this same friend for the wimpiest of reasons. "The only Christian response to AIDS, " you remember Brian Healy once told me (through the liner notes of a cassette I may well have had on my office desk next to the ceremonially unclean drinking glass!) "is relentless compassion."

That's worth a million dollars.

I close with the lyrics of another ever-timely Brain Healy song...a song whose title alone ("Jesus I Love You, But I Don't Understand Your Wife") should speak for itself.

And maybe bring "accidental"healing to these memories of my unwifely... harlot....past.

Jesus I love you
But I don't understand your wife
She wears such funny make up
And she always wants to fight
Every time I turn my back
She's waiting with a knife
In a world of black and gray
She argues shades of white
Jesus I love you
But I don't understand your wife
She wears such funny make up
And she always wants to fight
She loves capitol punishment
And nuclear arms
Then screams about the right to life
And the Grand Old Party's charm
She's always burning bridges
Even ones she's standing on
And when I try to tell her

She says with you I don't belong
Always hear me complain
And you're listening
once more I know everything your bride's against
But I don't know what she's for
So don't mistake my anger for bitterness and strife
Cuz on bended knees I'm begging you please
Jesus talk to your wife !


  1. I had this tape when I was younger. Healy and DAS never appealed to me that much musically. I was more into punk rock but I remember these lyrics ...they are brilliant.

  2. You are cool Ryan.. you had tapes!

  3. and for you...i added video of the song...a few years later

  4. As a kid in the 70's I was enthralled with Dack Rambo. Was there a more beautiful creature? I was surprised to hear he had AIDS, but honestly more surprised to hear he had become a Christian. Thank-you for sharing this last chapter of his life.


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!