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    “After the Wrath of God” Book Review

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    In the book, After the Wrath of God, written by Anthony M. Petro, he provides a broader take on the religious history and responses regarding the AIDS epidemic in the United States from the early 1980s through the mid 1990s. As opposed to other historical reports surrounding the topic of religion and AIDS that were centered around ideas that the epidemic is God expressing his anger and wrath for sexual impurity on homosexuals. Going off that, Petro gives insight as to how Americans provoked a discussion questioning the morality of the AIDS epidemic and how it can be seen in other perspectives other than the tough punishment of God. Throughout the book, Petro also writes about how Americans shaped the moral epidemic politically, morally, and religiously. He also discusses the different reactions and responses that came from Christians and goes beyond the ideas that encouraged monogamous marriage and abstinence. Petro divided his book into four different chapters, the first one concerning upcoming moralities in American Christians, Sexuality, and AIDS. The second chapter discussing the Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, and the moral politics regarding public health. The third and fourth chapters were conversations and arguments discussing the Catholic church and religious freedom.

    Anthony M. Petro made a point that he argued throughout his book that I most certainly agree with. In the introduction of his book, he says, “I also attempt to elucidate the broader cultural and political influence that religious constructions of disease, sex, and morality have exerted.” (2) Petro does exactly what he was attempting to do throughout the whole book, and he uses some great supporting evidence and ideas to make it clear how religious establishments have deeply influenced how disease, sex, and morality are viewed. Petro uses supporting evidence from magazines such as Christianity Today, Christain Century, and America. Petro successfully clears up the idea of the broader cultural and political influence of religious constructions by examining how the moral eloquence surrounding AIDS influenced how the epidemic was viewed by Americans. I agree with this idea because I too think that the broader cultural and political influence should be brought into the discussion rather than just deciding that the epidemic was solely the wrath of God. Even though this may be a logical conclusion for religious institutions, I think some more thought and analysis should be put into it.

    In a magazine from 1986, called the weekly Jesuit, America dedicated a whole issue to priestly reactions to the epidemic. Father Thomas Stahel wrote the introduction on the issue and made a great argument that I also agree with. Stahel argued back “AIDS is not God’s wrath poured out on homosexuals.” He went on to call it a vicious idea and claimed that this idea fails to notice the fact that people who are not homosexual and even children get AIDS. Sahel also exclaimed that “Even more, this condemnation demeans God attributing to him the specifically vengeful intent characteristics of us, but not God.” I agree with this idea because it is true that the holy, kind God that Christians worship would not be taking his wrath out on innocent children. Although there were many great points Anthony M. Petro made throughout his book, there were also some that I disagree with. Specifically, I do not necessarily agree with the idea that AIDS could be stopped by moral conductivity and awareness. Simply because most people would not listen or open their hearts/minds to accept new ideas into their lives.

    To end his book, Petro broadened the span of religious discussions by including the moral opinions and perspectives of lesbian and gay activists. By doing this, Petro expands the conversation by including other Americans besides Christian right members. In the book, he even puts gay journalists and activists at fault by informing the audience that they assisted wrongly informed efforts to connect AIDS to promiscuity. He also questioned why the gay marriage movement has become attached with presenting romantic sexual monogamy as the normal model for queer life and the solution to aids. (196-197) Overall, Petro provides an interesting and new perspective into the years that followed the AIDS epidemic, while also broadening the lens for most of us to understand more clearly. The issues I addressed such as the idea that the AIDS/HIV epidemic was God taking his anger out on those that are homosexual and the issue that Americans and Christians were very closedminded during the epidemic were both fully explored and examined by Petro.

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