Faith and HIV
Religion is a tricky topic to talk about. Everyone has different experiences with it. I grew up in the Christian church in a mostly black neighborhood in Chicago. In my household, the values I gained came mostly from this and my parent’s upbringing.
The church environment has the ability to shape your view of the world. The church also has the ability to include or exclude individuals. With so many scandals and schisms, the church today is in crisis. It is looking for its identity. The pews in many churches are empty. But the more I talk to friends around me, I hear they are looking for spirituality. The work of reconciling the relationship that the church has with the community of people living with HIV must happen.
HIV stigma and homophobia in faith communities
As participants in a Christian faith community, ‘judgment’ must come to an end. It is not the place of the church to judge. The place of the church is to be in community with all people who choose to come into that place of worship in peace.
Themes of judgment and alienation
In fact, I know many HIV positive people who see the church and their faith as the one thing that keeps them whole. It can be a devastating thing to hear a pastor rail in judgment against LGBTQ+ individuals or characterize HIV/AIDS as a just punishment. As if they know the mind of God. I don’t know many Christians that would disagree that ‘judgment belongs to God and God only’. So why do we fall short of this?
Fear, exclusion, and faith
I honestly think it is fear. Fear of disease, disorder, and our own mortality make us lose sight of the purpose of faith. In my opinion, it is to guide an individual to know what it means to be of ‘right thought’, ‘right actions’ and ‘right deeds’. So a church that excludes any individual before they even are welcomed into a house of worship makes me question the true intentions of that community.
Welcome all people without judgment
We can and should do better to welcome all people in our lives without judgment. We can stand in our truth, without judging and excluding others. We can do this because, in faith, we come to know who we are as people. With this internal knowledge, we should be fortified enough to stand in any situation and maintain our own beliefs without it being at the expense of other people's autonomy.
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