Evangelical Christians Respond to Global AIDS Crisis
June 20, 2003
As they confront Africa's AIDS epidemic, evangelical Christians in Minnesota and across the United States are beginning to ask: What would Jesus do? For one thing, they're joining forces with the AIDS activists, gays, liberals, feminists and celebrities who have been spotlighting the problem for years. That's why Rep. Betty McCollum, a self-described "progressive Democrat from St. Paul," found herself addressing a conference of evangelical leaders in Washington on June 12.
The abstinence vs. condoms clash rages on, but the two sides say they can agree on one thing: When it comes to AIDS, Christian mercy needs to replace moral judgment about how the disease is transmitted. Echoing the sentiments of many evangelical leaders, McCollum described the global AIDS crisis as a "divine test" for Christians. It is a test that many pastors admit they have flunked so far.
"The response of the Christian church has been appalling," said the Rev. John Crosby, senior pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, who has taken his own family on a trip to Kenya to care for AIDS patients.
The recent turnaround has come about with the help of some old-fashioned evangelizing, and the $15 billion budgeted by Congress and approved by President Bush to deal with the African AIDS crisis. World Vision, the world's largest Christian humanitarian organization, is conducting a 15-city tour for evangelical leaders; it recently included a stop in the Twin Cities. A recent World Vision study found that only 7 percent of evangelical Christians were willing to give money to help African AIDS patients.
But images of orphaned children, together with the fact that much of Africa's epidemic is the result of prostitution and sexual violence against women, have changed attitudes. So has the Bush administration's emphasis on faith-based charities, which has opened federal funding to church groups that want to treat AIDS patients and preach abstinence. Because the promised $15 billion has not yet been allocated by Congress, the 260 evangelical leaders meeting in Washington were also lobbying White House and Congressional leaders.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
06.13.03; Kevin Diaz
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.