If I had to select one word to be emblematic of our current political landscape, that word would be, division. There are the noticeable divisions such as those between the economic classes and those between political ideologies. There are also less noticeable divisions, such as those that exist within the Christian community among political lines. While denominationalism makes many divisions in the Christian church very apparent, the political divisions are often less apparent to those who do not pay attention. However just because people may not be able to name these divisions we would be naïve to think that they do not hinder our witness about God and the unity that we share in Christ.
On rare occasions, and normally in the wake of a crisis such as Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake in Haiti, we can see examples of broader cooperation among churches and Christian organizations that would normally disagree. However, there is a need for more such examples and for a greater level cooperation; especially in today’s fractured political environment. I believe that perhaps the best place for the church to begin to demonstrate such cooperation is in the fight to end the devastating impact that HIV/AIDS has had on America and the world. As we enter into the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, I offer three reasons why this struggle is the perfect one to unite us.
1) It is winnable.
Saul Alinsky, considered by many to be the father of community organizing in the Unites States, lists this as one of the important factors in choosing which issues to tackle. Although I do not believe this should always be a criterion, it is important both to acknowledge and repeatedly announce that this fight is winnable. HIV/AIDS is a 100% preventable, with proper education and intentional action there is no reason that the new cases of HIV/AIDS have to continue to arise. One of the greatest gifts that the church has to offer society is the vision of a brighter future. A future without HIV/AIDS is not only brighter; it is possible. This is a message that every Christian church ought to proclaim.
2) It has broad-reaching moral implications.
This is important those who have a deep concern for issues of personal morality. The values of personal awareness and responsibility need to be promoted. Anyone who is currently or who has been sexually active should know their current status. Just as important are the moral implications related to stigma. A large part of the ministry of Christ was reaching out to those who were seen as untouchable or unworthy: the blind, the lame, tax collectors, lepers, and adulterers, and letting them know that they were not beyond the reach of God’s love.
3) It has broad-reaching justice implications
While there is no direct correlation, there is no doubt that poverty amplifies health-care issues including HIV/AIDS. UNICEF sponsored a study of AIDS that was published in 2007 in which it claimed that AIDS was reversing progress international development goals. It makes sense that people who suffer with HIV/AIDS have greater health care costs. It also makes sense that people who have to spend more money on health care have less money to save or to invest. Therefore if we are going to have an impact on poverty, we cannot turn a blind eye to HIV/AIDS. As we work for justice, both domestically and across the world, we must include access to education to prevent HIV/AIDS and access to medical care necessary to live with it.
If we as the Christian community can cross racial lines, denominational lines, economic lines, and even ideological lines to work together to impact the HIV/AIDS crisis, then perhaps we can usher in a wave of cooperation that will transform our current political climate.
For more information on HIV/AIDS and poverty, please see AIDS, Public Policy and Child Well-Being published by UNICEF at http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/476
The views, opinions, and perspectives expressed in by guest and consultant bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, its state affiliates, it member organizations, or the National Black Church Initiative. The Religious Coalition is committed through its National Black Church Initiative to faithfully, prayerfully breaking the silence on issues related to sex, sexuality and religion.