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Jim Henson, Muppets creator and former Christian Science Sunday school teacher, would be 75 today.

September 24, 2011

I was just reading a description of Jim Henson’s funeral at the Church of St. John the Divine in New York City, in 1990. (Google it. It is an exhilarating read.) What a wonderful tribute to a remarkable man of extraordinary talent. After his death at age 53, there were many rumors flying about cause, which was strep A pneumonia. Some people at that time of heightened AIDS fear and homophobia postulated that Jim Henson had died of AIDS, and that the cause was covered-up out of fear that making a connection between AIDS and homosexuality and the Muppets would be bad for the Muppets, bad for PBS, bad for kids, bad for America.
What fewer people speculated on was Jim Henson’s Christian Science upbringing in a Christian Science family. Even as an adult he had been active in the church. A Christian Science Sunday school teacher in his twenties, he later wrote to his church stating that he was no longer practicing the faith. (Wikipedia.) Did he die because he was a Christian Scientist? No. Is it possible that he put off going to the doctor in part because he was raised in a lifestyle that did not include check-ups, antibiotics, trips to the emergency room? Very, very possible.
One of his last public appearances was on the Arsenio Hall show, on May 4th. That day, he mentioned to his publicist that he wasn’t feeling well, and had a sore throat, but thought it would go away. May 16th, he died in a New York City hospital, but he only went there after he had started coughing up blood early in the morning on May 14th.

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