Judge not – The pointless categories of guilt and innocence
It’s one of those lectures you don’t forget in a hurry. Prof. Marc Cotton, a steering committee member of HOPE Cape Town, delivers it to the staff of City Park Hospital in Cape Town. It is 7am and his listeners are still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. He is lecturing on general socio-medical issues related to HIV/Aids. The stream of dense facts and figures nearly drowns out the peculiar story of 14 children. As an aside, Prof. Cotton reports that all of these 14 young patients are HIV-positive, but their parents are HIV-negative. The children come from different areas, but they have one thing in common: they were all hospitalised for lengthy treatment of various illnesses. Prof Cotton doesn’t need to offer a conclusion; the inference is obvious.
This incident contradicts the general notion that infection is always due to sexual contact – a prejudice that is also widespread in church circles. When we meet an infected person, all of us instinctively wonder: How did it happen? Our terminology betrays us. We prefix our references to affected children with the word “innocent”. That makes it so much easier to be compassionate. But with adults there is always the question of guilt. We might not say it out loud, but it’s in our thoughts.
It cannot be disputed that HIV is chiefly transmitted through sexual activity. But there are other possible causes of contagion, such as blood transfusions or transmission during birth. The case of these 14 children should counsel us to be more vigilant in our assumptions and to curb our imagination.
A biblical verse might help us: “Judge not, lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Our perceptions should not be clouded by questions about how, where and why somebody was infected. We should be guided only by seeing the infected person as our brother or sister, to suffer with them in compassion. In our speculations about the origins of contagion we nurture the seeds of stigmatization. When Jesus, in Matthews Gospel, speaks about the final judgment, he places among the saved those who visited the poor and captive, who clothed the naked and fed the hungry. Christ doesn’t talk about the events that led these people to their pitiable circumstances. He judges nobody. Nor should we. All people with HIV deserve our unqualified support, like these 14 children Prof Cotton told us about in his lecture.
Translation from the book:
Gott – Aids – Afrika
Hardcover: 207 pages – Publisher: Kiepenheuer & Witsch GmbH (August 31, 2007)
Language: German – ISBN-10: 3462039253 – ISBN-13: 978-3462039252
Gott – Aids – Afrika
Paperback – Bastei – Luebbe –
Language: German – ISBN-10: 3404606159 – ISBN-13: 978-3404606153