As an outsider who shares many values with sincere and faithful Christians, I am
troubled with the apparent lack of effectiveness of their most common approaches to
the current HIV crisis. The Christian ultimate objective of saving souls is not universally
shared, and arguments from that perspective will not be persuasive to a general
audience. However, even if we were all to agree to that goal, the current Christian
approaches are allowing far to many bodies and souls to be taken by HIV.
The approaches which Christians are taking toward this issue publicly viz., to outsiders
as well as co-religionists will herein be considered.
The essence of the most typical
arguments will be explored. The impact of same will be analyzed, critically. Alternatives
will then be proposed. When pronouncements are made through the media and the
popular press by Christians as Christians, the impact upon perception of the faithful is
at least as great as upon the issue in question itself.
It is possible to have an ethical position promulgated which has the potential of mass
appeal without compromising any fundamental principles. Any pronouncements on an
issue as critical as HIV must take into consideration the current cultural climate.
Wanting of that, the risk of merely offending and the opportunity to reach a recalcitrant
mind to a moral perspective is lost as is the opportunity to save a lost soul.
It is also true that, a value-neutral approach is also ultimately doomed to fail. Doors
may be opened with a non-judgmental approach, but the root causes are not
addressed. Popular opinion notwithstanding, HIV is a consequence of moral decisions.
Yet, there is significant cadre of Christians who loathe to even suggest a moral cause
Clearly the most favored approach is what I will call the compassionate
non-judgmental method. This is also most typically used by secular treatment facilities
and is looked upon approvingly by the mavens of the popular culture.
A typical example
can be found in article generated by the AIDS National Interfaith Network. In it they
proclaim that the enormity of the pandemic itself has compelled us to join forces
despite our differences of belief. (ANIN 1)
Further, we are told that AIDS is an affliction of the whole human family, a condition in
which we all participate. (ibid) The assertion is then made that God does not punish
with sickness or disease. (ibid) Now, if we agree that the Almighty is infinite and we, as
individuals are finite, how can anyone make such a definitive assertion of the intent and
method of Deity? This fallacy will be explored later; it is abused by advocates of several
The authors lay out their objectives: an emphasis on prevention for those not yet
infected and non-judgmental care, respect, support and assistance for those who are.
They are committed to transform public attitudes and policies.
(ibid 2) These
attitudes which are to be transformed are the sins of intolerance and bigotry. We are
admonished to remember that AIDS is not a gay disease. (ibid) The policies
government? which need such transformation are alluded to in the assertion that
economic disparity and poverty are major contributing factors in the AIDS pandemic
and barriers to prevention and treatment. (ibid)
Not included in this advocacy for prevention and education is any assessment in
how the behaviors which transmit the disease may be major contributing factors.
Nowhere in this missive is the suggestion that any effective education might need to
include what those who are infected may have in common and what could be learned
We are instead expected to take the leap that intolerance and bigotry and economic
disparity should be the focus of our efforts in the struggle against AIDS. Are we to
suppose that even they actually believe this to be true? Do they really mean to imply
that the original outbreak of HIV/AIDS and/or its continuation was caused by people
who consider the behaviors which transmit the disease to be morally abhorrent?
Also, there are places where HIV/AIDS are virtually unknown which have an essentially
medieval socio-economic structure viz.
a great deal of economic disparity and
poverty. The social mores in these traditional societies are as equally backward in
comparison to ours as are their economic situations. How are we to assess that?
Claudia L. Webster, a Board of Directors member of the United Methodist General
Board of Global Ministries advocates what I would characterize as the practical
approach. Church leaders are encouraged to facilitate discussion and education
targeted toward adults, teens and children. .