Rest your fears, my friends: I will not be part of demonstrations and petitions calling for condom distribution and safe sex education as part of international aid programs (nor advocating expanding these within the North American education/health care system, for that matter). But neither will I be a loud voice opposing these activities. If unregenerate people want to teach unregenerate people how to avoid contracting and infecting others with a deadly disease, is it really worthwhile to try to stop them? Sounds like a good way to waste my time feeling important for taking a “moral stand” while a field fertile with opportunities to share the gospel while fighting this crisis goes uncultivated.
What is worth advocating for on this issue so that the people of God can influence public policy in a way that aids the spread of the gospel? We should support abstinence education, which is quite easy to do by pragmatic reason: diseases are spread every day through people having pre- or extramarital sex, protected and unprotected (condoms don’t work 100% of the time); the crowd of people who were infected as a result of choosing not to have sex outside of marriage is…well, non-existent. However, there are some who have been infected because of condoms failing. If abstinence was the favored method of prevention among public officials, Christian development groups would be much more likely to obtain public funds for their work, allowing them to do more as they offer Christian truth along with the loving laws of a loving God.
Supporting treatment for those already infected and treatment for expectant mothers (which greatly reduces the chance of the virus being transmitted to their children) provides funding for medical care that can be obtained and used by Christian organizations as an expression of God’s mercy. And God’s mercy is not limited to those who are innocent victims.
In the process of teaching prevention, then, the Christian has the opportunity to explain God’s expectations for human behavior, and show how they are clearly given in love - in this case, to keep people from harm, sickness and death. In the process of showing mercy on those suffering the consequences of sinful behavior, the Christian can show how God’s care and mercy continue for a time in the face of humankind’s tragic rebellion that brings them to face the devastating consequences of choosing a path that diverges from God’s will. Christianity can affect politics in a very good way on this issue, by putting a structure in place that is friendly to Christian compassion and pragmatically effective in reducing infections and treating effects.* And please, let’s be defined by what we are for, not by what we’re against.
Thankfully, in the community where the pastor was so ready to let AIDS victims die for their sins, the church is now active in responding with compassion to the crisis around them through the ministry of World Relief. And this organization’s work has received a considerable amount of funding through matching funds and grants from US and international aid money.
*And already has, if you look into what happened from 2001-2008 in this area of U.S. foreign policy.