Tragic Magic

I've held off a few days on what I'm about to say today--because, frankly, I was afraid of being lynched.   The subject, of course, is Magic Johnson. It seems that everyone, from the President down, is hailing him as the new national hero. The Los Angeles City Hall has renamed its steps in his honor. His story has been front-page news in newspapers across the nation.   And what for?   Pete Rose wasn't canonized when he was caught gambling. Sugar Ray Leonard wasn't praised for his courage when he admitted he was a drug addict.   But Magic Johnson is--for admitting he has AIDS. And for announcing that he plans to be a spokesman for "safe sex."   I hate to challenge a national hero but I have to admit, I just don't understand it.   Magic had a reputation for being sexually wild, a real party man. For sports stars, apparently, that's not so unusual. Wilt Chamberlain recently boasted of 20,000 conquests.   But we're not hearing much about that side of Magic's life. We only hear what a great service he's doing now.   But is it really such a great service? Think for a moment what message Magic is sending. A New York Times article says his message is "neither religious nor moral but [only] practical." Exactly. The safe sex approach strips sex of its moral content and makes casual sex normative.   Just try telling your 14-year-old adolescent now that he should be chaste. "Sure, Mom. Sure, Dad. That's not what Magic Johnson says."   Besides, the message of safe sex doesn't blame AIDS on individual behavior--where the blame usually belongs. Instead, it focuses on ways to patch things up after the fact. It builds pressure on government to find a cure.   That mentality was poignantly expressed by a 14-year-old boy in my local paper. "They've had a lot of time to find a cure," the boy told reporters. "Maybe now they will." This is the entitlement mentality taken to an extreme. It's like demanding a right to play with matches--and then blaming the fire department when your house burns down.   The worst part is that the safe sex message is false. Condoms slip; condoms break. There is no foolproof way to contain the AIDS virus. Some studies show a four percent failure rate.   Let's be clear about this: AIDS is not a minor irritation. It's death sentence. It is the height of irresponsibility to give young people the impression that they can play around with sexual sin, just as long as they use a condom.   When you think about it--how many young people may die because they believe this national hero's message that sex outside marriage can be safe?   No, the real solution is sexual purity: abstinence before marriage, faithfulness within marriage. The only national leader who's saying anything like that is Vice President Dan Quayle. He's taken this opportunity to urge young people to practice sexual abstinence.   Magic Johnson could say that, too. He could express remorse and repentance. He could stand up before his adoring fans and say, Listen, I was wrong. Promiscuity is a bad thing. I realize that now. And I want to urge you not to make the same mistake.   Now, that would make him a real hero.


Chuck Colson



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