Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The AIDS Crisis and the Church: The Churches' Calling to BE Church

From journals of September 1990:

I've been thinking of an idea I sketched in journals last year about an article on AIDS and the church.* It strikes me more and more that the primary obligation of the church to the gay community today is healing. And as the etymology of the word “heal” suggests, churches can heal people only by recognizing and wanting their wholeness. This seems key to the church’s mission of healing, if it's going to claim that it really wants to offer healing to those living with HIV and AIDS.

If abundant empirical evidence suggests that people harm themselves and are harmed by others when their sexual identity is denied, then the church has a moral imperative to heal by affirming the wholeness of the gay person. You can't deny a part of a human being, or ask him or her to deny an integral part of his/her makeup, and claim to be about healing.

Central to any project of describing/defending such an ethic of acceptance, it seems to me, is defending the notion that we make world, that the social construction of reality includes the construction of the self as a sexual person. This cannot of course militate vs. the recognition that people’s orientation is also a “given”—but a given to be achieved, consolidated, as a task.

* I did write and publish this article. “The AIDS Crisis and the Church: A Time to Heal” appeared in Theology and Sexuality 2 (1995), 11-37, and was then reprinted in Christian Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender, ed. Adrian Thatcher and Elizabeth Stuart (London: Eerdmans and Gracewing, 1996), 347-66. For those who want to read the full article, it's now online.