In contrast to Jerry Falwell, who characterized AIDS as a form of divine punishment, Bakker largely affirmed Pieters’s experience that “God was with me through this disease, not having given me this disease.”
In November 1985–when news coverage of the emerging AIDS epidemic was still shallow–televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker interviewed an HIV-positive gay minister named Steve Pieters on her international television network. The interview was surprisingly positive; Bakker did not condemn Pieters, but she did admonish her (largely conservative, evangelical) audience to do more to support people with AIDS. The hell-and-brimstone rhetoric of men like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson became the lasting image of conservative Christian responses in the early years of the American AIDS epidemic. The Bakker-Pieters interview offers another perspective, highlighting the potential for political diversity that existed within the New Christian Right in the 1980s while also clarifying the limits of political divergence in this movement.