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Discussing religion, spirituality and values. Amy Umble is the religion reporter for The Free Lance-Star. You can email her at
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Today’s Lepers

In the times of Jesus, a leper had to leave society and call out, “I’m unclean; I’m unclean” if anyone approached. They lost their jobs, their families, their friends and their homes. And this was on top of the physical pains of the illness.

Pastors at Fredericksburg’s World AIDS Day service said that AIDS patients share many similarities to the lepers of Jesus’ day.

“People with AIDS are not required to go around shouting, ‘I’m unclean; I’m unclean,’ but so often we treat them that way,” said the Rev. Doug Hodges.

But Jesus wouldn’t, he said. A few times in the New Testament, Jesus touches, talks to and even dines with lepers. So the question, “Would Jesus discriminate against people with HIV or AIDS?” isn’t hard to answer, pastors said at tonight’s service.

“The answer is a no-brainer,” Hodges said. The real question, he continued, isn’t what Jesus would do but what his followers should do.

The message is especially important as HIV/AIDS continues to grow.

The Rev. Lori McPherson asked the about 30 people at the service who had lost someone to AIDS. More than half raised their hands.

“How many of you know someone who has HIV or AIDS?” she asked.

The entire audience raised their hands.

“We realize our entire community is infected and affected,” she said.