Today is World AIDS Day, a day to raise awareness of the AIDS crisis which is devastating children, women and men around the world, particularly in Africa.
It seems that every Christian denomination has its own AIDS task force, but all in all, the Church ought to be embarrassed regarding its response to this global pandemic. The American Church has been so preoccupied with other issues that we have allowed this particular issue to take a back seat. Some of these issues are important and shouldn't be taken lightly...human rights issues such as abortion, poverty, and war. Other issues which have preoccupied the Church should be viewed as nowhere near as important as AIDS...issues such as homosexuality, gay marriage, and presidential politics. Both the Left and the Right have been obsessed with these issues, to the detriment of our mission concerning AIDS response and other ministries.
In our Conference, a relatively small group of pastors (led by my good friends Randy Roda and Bob Zilhaver) formed a compassion ministry for folks who suffer with AIDS several years ago in the Brookville area; other than that, I can't think of a single Conference-related AIDS ministry here in Western PA. I'm sure that many local churches are reaching out to persons in their communities who are dealing with this disease, but if our Conference is a microcosm of the denomination (and, indeed, of the Church Universal), then we are sinfully falling short of God's hopes for us.
World AIDS Day is a day to raise awareness of the AIDS crisis; sadly, this awareness needs to be raised in the Church, who ought to be the group raising the awareness!
I commend Baptist pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California, who hosted a conference concerning how the Church should be responding to the crisis. Shame on those evangelicals who chastised Pastor Warren for inviting Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois to participate. Sen. Obama's support for legal abortion is troubling, to be sure, but that doesn't mean he can't be helpful in combatting AIDS, any more than Pres. Bush's troubling support for capital punishment means he can't help fight poverty. No politician is perfect...no Christian is perfect (Obama nor Bush...and certainly not me!)...but let us go on to perfection together, all the while faithfully addressing important crises such as AIDS.
The truly startling realization is that the great world issues of our day...AIDS, abortion, economic justice, education, health care, poverty, terror, war...are all intimately related, and to faithfully address one means addressing all of them in afar more holistic fashion than the Church has done to date. I believe that we need to be in prayer as to how we might more faithfully approach these issues. I have failed, to be sure, and do not write from a position of superiority.
I pray that "compassionate conservatives" and "compassionate liberals" can band together to be the Church in this chaotic hour.