Gigli delivered a devastating blow. Compounded by Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s off-screen relationship, Brest’s film was a megaton bomb dropped on an evolving career. By the end of its run, the $54 million crime dramedy earned $6 million domestically and vicious reviews to match. Oscar-winning producer Mark Johnson, who knows Brest through industry colleagues and met with the director during early development on Rain Man (a film Johnson would later produce for director Barry Levinson), says Gigli stands out, even among Hollywood’s spectacular failures. “I have a sneaking suspicion it was really shattering for him,” Johnson says. “I’m not sure he was able to work up the energy or enthusiasm to go right back at it and found other things to replace it. He’s a talented filmmaker with a lot to say. I can’t believe he’ll stay disappeared."
There are still tremendous hurdles. Thirty-five million people in the world are living with the virus. In sub-Saharan Africa, where most new cases are reported, sixty-three per cent of those eligible for the drug regimen do not receive it; those who do often fail to receive it in full. In the United States, a year’s worth of HAART costs many thousands of dollars per patient, and the long-term side effects can be debilitating
Now researchers are talking more and more about a cure. We know as much about H.I.V. as we do about certain cancers: its genes have been sequenced, its method of infiltrating host cells deciphered, its proteins mapped in three dimensions. A critical discovery was made in 1997: the virus can lie dormant in long-lived cells, untouched by the current drugs. If we can safely and affordably eliminate the viral reservoir, we will finally have defeated H.I.V.
The somewhat improvisational theology of the church is perhaps best described as Calvinism with a sprinkle of Puritanism. A banner at the top of the church’s website displays the images and names of pastors from whom the elders have derived inspiration. The names span a range of Christian traditions, from sixteenth-century leaders of the Protestant Reformation like John Knox to nineteenth-century Calvinists like Charles Spurgeon and twentieth-century evangelists like Rolfe Barnard, whom they characterize as “a man after God’s own heart.” But their message seems most infused with the sentiments of Jonathan Edwards, whose sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”—which compares man to a “loathsome insect” who is kept out of the pit of hell only “by the mere pleasure of God”—sparked the First Great Awakening, which swept the American colonies in the 1730’s and 1740’s. The elders share Edwards’s enthusiasm for a God of “everlasting wrath.” Even children aren’t spared and are considered hell-bound until they are born again.
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