there is a fellow that is causing quite a stir, every where but in the US and that is only because we run about a week or two behind in our news stories from the rest of the world. This one may not make it here because it ….may be too challenging to our sense of social justice and morality.
Which has been an evolving conversation that I have been a part of these past few weeks. I have gone from being ill fed to almost over stuffed just from the sheer amount of meetings I have been going to that occur around food. Which is nice for a change, gives me a chance to sort of catch up and lose that edge. But my god, it really becomes noticeable that there are certain types of food and/or food preparations that you haven’t been ingesting for a while when you suddenly spend a day doing it.
But that is not where I was going with all this 🙂
ANYWAY…there is this African preacher who did a three part sermon called “Jesus had HIV.” His point being that biblicaly, Jesus hung out with the poor, the ill, the shunned, those who were ignored and oppressed by both the organized religions of his day, the governments and the community. It makes sense, he goes on, that as Christ took upon himself the pains and illnesses of these people, that he continues to do so to this day, which means he takes on HIV.
The latest stats report that there are approximately 34+ million people in the world today living with HIV/AIDS. 22 million of them live in the sub-Saharan African region. There are approximately 2 million adults and children newly infected in that area each year. Population wise, it is the third most populated area of the world. HIV/AIDs is disportionatly a part of the sub-Saharan African population compared to other areas.
So this preacher went out to say that Jesus would have spent a great deal of time with the very people that the majority of Christian churches condemn. Mostly because they mistakenly attribute the spread of the infection to behaviors deemed “morally wrong.” What help they offer is given in a manner of an “open secret.” Food is gathered publically, but distributed secretly. Persons with HIV/AIDs are not allowed to stand publicaly within their communties of faith for support because they are condemned morally (and wrongly).
At the end of the sermon, the preacher sat down and rolled up his sleeves and a nurse came out and did on AIDs test. In front of the congregation. In a modification of the call for new believers to come forward, he asked that anyone who desired to be tested do so and 100 people came to the altar.
Our understanding of morality, in this day and age, and our sense of social justice is largely formed by politics and not the kind of inner-searching to discover our faiths. In the US, the politics has shaped both the sense of marality, social resposibility and social welfare efforts. People still perceive HIV/AIDs as primarily a problem or men who engage in homosexual acts and intravenous drug users.
A very smart man recently convinced an agency to fund a new study of HIV/AIDs in the US that for once, did not look at behaviors, but look at economic status. What he found is that the disease is growing fastest among the poor and the lower middle class – across boundaries of sexual activities and without the culture of drug use needing to be present. In the analysis of the data he concluded that the most significant factor in a person’s risk of acquiring AIDs was a lack of security and sense of community framework. In other words, people who felt alone and as if they do not belong to or have any impact on the society they live in. People like this are more apt to engage is risk behaviors sometimes as simple as having serial monogamous relationships – because there is no framework to support the relationship lasting. Serial monogamy is the act of having multiple sex partners but like…without the caffeine. In the perception of the relationship being monogamous and long lasting from the beginning (because that is the desire), safe sex goes out the window. The relationship ends, a new one begins. In this economic class, there are more men who have experienced the prison culture and more men and women who have lived in or brushed against the drug culture. Maybe only briefly.
But to hear it told by politicians and social activists (of both sides of the pendulum) HIV/AIDs is not the disease of families and people trying to “do right.” It remains the province of minorities who are already conveniently ostracized and separated from the mainstream.
That preacher made the point that helping people through items and donations, while a part of it, is not enough. That social communities have a responsibility to actively develop cultures that are geared towards life, not the maintenance of those already dismissed from participation.
In my conversations the phrase got repeated again: “Social Justice is the New Narcissism.”
A whole culture has developed that supports the impression that “doing what you can” is enough, this thinking fails to see that it is in reaching beyond what we perceive as our limits that we grow and change.
If you are given a plot of land to garden, let’s say an acre, and you realize that you can only really take care of a small section of it (and do it well) the tendency is to cultivate and wall off that section. The rest, we believe, grows in a kind of wild abandoned. Unaffected by the small bit we are caring for, and that small bit then thrives.
What actually happens is that each time we put up a wall to say “I can do no more than this” that this wall casts a shadow that falls on the other side and inhibits growth.
Better to leave the walls down, work without boundaries, because as you do you get better at it and surprise, will find out you can do just a bit more.
All change requires sacrifice. What we may wind up sacrificing to help others may not be a momentary thing, but a life long acceptance that there are things that you are choosing to do without, or even, to accept as something your family will not do; because in the end, the benefits to your children from living as adults in a world made even slightly better are greater then the temporary salve of providing them with a few years of “more” in the sight of so many with less.
Being a part of the evolution of change in the world today requires that you become able to work towards “the big picture” and this may mean donating money, foodstuffs, writing about it, teaching and at the same time narrowing your focus to see where, in your garden, you can begin to get your hands dirty. And to never assume that will be the definition of all that you can do.
c.2010 Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.