Monday, November 12, 2007

the church's failure

as part of my promotion of World AIDS Day i created an event on Facebook that people could join and invite others to join. someone got invited yesterday, apparently, and sent me the following message:

Dear Joel--

I received your invitation to your group today, and I think what you're doing is absolutely despicable. Not the celebration of World AIDS Day, of course, that is commendable and important, even if it isn't a genuine form of action / respect / or memorializing for those who are infected and those who are already gone. But to bastardize the one day in which the world actually recognizes what is going on with AIDS, and to exploit that day in order to spread the 'word' of a euro-centric God that has all too often been used to inculcate those who are HIV-positive and to obstruct effective prevention messages is entirely unforgiveable. That you only promote the religious 'relief organizations' of your friends as viable and deserving organs of our donations is sickening. There is extremely strong work going on in the world to prevent and treat HIV, and the best of it has nothing to do with salvation or bible-beating. The entanglement of the church with issues of public health and the delivery of state services in order to prolong and better the lives of citizens has only wasted enormous resources and obfuscated cofactors of poverty, inequality, racism, and colonialism under a veil of religious ignorance.

Lest you think that I'm just some heartless complainer, I've spent the last years of my life working in the field with HIV-positive mothers to prevent the spread of HIV from mother to child. I am now in a PhD program studying how political systems can be improved to better the delivery of HIV services. What I am deeply offended by is the use of the one day all of us have to mobilize and compel people about this issue to proselytize about god, particularly given the abysmal history that religion of almost all sects has had with the social treatment of this disease. Start a religiously-affiliated facebook group devoted to HIV when your religion HASN'T called HIV 'god's will' and actively disseminated libel amounting to human rights abuses against those who are sick. Then I'd be happy to join your 'cause.'

I don't care to join you in any argument on this. Please keep your requests, and your opinions, out of my inbox.

Thank you,

Wow. I was angry when I read this. Not at the person that wrote it, but that her charges directed at Christianity are largely true. It upsets me a lot that we've represented Christ so poorly in this area that these statements could not only be said of us but bear far too much weight. It breaks my heart that we have taken a Christ so loving and turned him into a Christ so condemning.

This was my response:

Thanks for your thoughtful and thorough care about this issue. I have no desire to engage you in an arguement, but would instead like to apologize, both for myself and the (universal) church that I'm a part of. We have, very poorly, represented the God that we believe in on this issue. That you would critisize us is both understandable and deserved.

My goal of creating this group is in no way to use World AIDS Day as a chance to proselytize, but instead to help my friends and people within churches to see the huge ways in which we've missed the boat on this issue.

One of the things that I've done in the last few years that I've been involved with this is posted the outrageous quotes that some church leaders have made about this issue (such as it being "God's will") and called on us to seek forgiveness for being so foolishly ignorant about this issue.

I also want you to understand that I'm not some far removed idiot (though also not nearly as closely or importantly involved as it sounds you are in addressing AIDS). I work with a group of people that are partnering with two villages in Mozambique (which I have travelled to) to address AIDS and other issues in a holistic way that doesn't try to push people into a "white man's religion," but instead hopes to help address the myriad and challenging array of problems that are facing this generation.

The reason why I chose the organizations that I did was because they're organizations that I believe are addressing this a way that my friends can relate to. I do regularly support other, non-religious organizations, such as DATA and the Red campaign. Also, I regularly try to educate people about the role of the UN, the Millennium Goals, and UNGASS.

Again, I'm sorry that this offended you, and I hope that this helps explain it some.

Joel Daniel


Matthias said...

ouch dude. But great response.

Joshua Johnson said...

joel! we should connect at ys.

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