Tuesday, February 08, 2005

More about HIV/AIDS and the church

Interestingly enough - just 3 days before I went to the HIV/AIDS Workshop for Medical & Religious Professionals, this editorial appeared in the Kansas City Star (my former hometown paper), speaking specifically about the challenges of speaking about HIV/AIDS in the black Christian church. This had also been the topic of Rev. Alberta Ware of the Balm In Gilead project.

The article says some good things - so I'll let you read it. But the points Rev. Ware made last Saturday were also rather pointed:

+ Black gay men will often do anything - including marry, and then carry on with extra-marital relationships - rather than "come out," precisely because of the stigma that homosexuality carries in the black church. In this way, the church of Christ creates more harm than they ever could create hope. (You may hear the slang term "down-low," or "DL's," to describe this culture of secrecy.) Because of this growing practice, women married to secretly-gay black men are becoming a significant transmission vector in the spread of AIDS among the heterosexual population.

+ In the black church (and, to be honest, in many white churches) the pastor's salary is their only income - they don't have the chance to hold outside occupations to help pay the rent. So in many churches, pastors won't address sexuality issues (let alone hot-button topics like HIV/AIDS) because they don't want to raise up trouble around their bread-&-butter. They will, however, respond to the call from concerned church members to "step on up" on a particular topic (which is where the work of Balm in Gilead is so effective).

While I was grateful to Rev. Ware's presentation on Saturday, and I fully support what the Balm In Gilead group is doing, I find there is a horrible tragedy that the first full week of March (the 6th-12th, this year) is designated The Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS. There is just a huge part of me that wants to scream, "So when the hell is the WHITE Church praying for the Healing of AIDS? Huh?!? Can't we do anything together anymore??"

Yes, I know that the black church is hit harder than the white church is. Yes, I know that many blacks still have trouble believing that whites would pray for anything for blacks, other than that they'd all disappear. But there is still that part that says, "Dear God, if we can't get freakin' racism out of the way, how are we ever going to deal with issues of sexuality and disease?" My prayers generally devolve into something approximating, "Maranatha - come quickly, Lord Jesus" (or for traditionalists, "E'en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come").

One other thing from yesterday's post is that I didn't mean to sound like all of the Christian church, except for these few organizations, has been completely averse to caring for people with HIV/AIDS. I simply meant that in my experience, there hasn't been a lot of public support for people living with HIV/AIDS (victims, their families, loved ones and friends) from within the Christian community. As I told a friend earlier this evening, part of the miracle of the workshop this weekend was that medical professionals got to hear religious professionals (especially a number of Christian ones) who were caring, compassionate, and inclusive about the GLBT community - rather than just hearing more of the poison that so many so-called "evangelical" church leaders have spewed over the years about gays and HIV/AIDS.

One disappointment is that I won't be able to get to Jeremiah Wright's Trinity UCC Church (or any other church) this weekend, because of my employer's Chocolate Fest going on Saturday and Sunday 11-5...it's a command performance. But I will be able to watch the web-cast of their early AM service, which will just have to do, for a week or so.

And, to steal a phrase from Steven Curtis Chapman, "while it is still called today..." I'm going to put my big ol' self to bed.


Nick said...

Setting aside HIV/AIDS, how the GLBT crowd should be welcomed by the church, etc...is there any discourse anywhere on what God's plan is for human sexuality? What are the ideals that inform our thinking?

My understanding is that the two-in-one-flesh union is the most revealing sign this side of heaven of what the inner life of the Trinity is like. My understanding is that the marital covenent is meant to be lived freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully.

Our culture places a high value on human sexuality; look at all the hubbub over same-sex marriage, abortion, contraception, cloning, STD's, the pornography industry, divorce, pedophilia, etc.

Our ideals of human sexuality flow from our ideals of how we conceptualize what it means to be a person. What is human nature?

Dave said...

Interesting response Nick. Although I don't think I could descern an actual position on the subject from it.
To my knowledge there is material in the Bible about God's plan for human sexuality, however, I don't believe that Jesus ever addressed it directly during his time here. And since he did address so many other issues (even ones that had already been addressed by others previously) that it didn't really hold the same priority as other things.

Anonymous said...

Wes says:

It's interesting to watch how society helps people. It isn't about alleviating suffering, but addressing our own fears.

Something happens when we become open to suffering ourselves. Suddenly we're available to others.

Would we choose to find happiness if there was an alternative?

Lisa P. said...

You said, "Dear God, if we can't get freakin' racism out of the way, how are we ever going to deal with issues of sexuality and disease?"

Honey, racism - like sexism, homophobia, classism, and any other kind of -ism and violence are never going away. They just are.

I think our task is to end the way the violence is perpetrated without comment by and within the systems in which we find ourselves. Yeah, it's still in people's hearts, but only God knows and can work on that stuff.

Folks may still have onerous views, but at least I can work to make it corporately uncomfortable for them to do anything other than keep it to themselves.

radioreb said...

It's amazing that we the church have a laundy list of "enemies" and AIDS/HIV still don't rank very high. News on Yahoo! today said something about a new strain...faster acting and non responsive to medication.

I fear that to some this will seem a timely answer to their wicked prayer.