God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

pastoral care not possible!?

Having spoken and listening to lots of people during the conference who are dealing with pastoral care for those marginalized in our society there is still a question which is haunting me quite for some time:
How can we minister to such groups like those who are gay, or are HIV positive (and not married) or transgender, or drug-addicts when the moral judgement of the faithful rather scares them away then making them feel embraced and loved?
I ask this question specially on the back ground of HIV being most prevalent in men who have sex with men.

Some would say, if they don’t have sex with each other, they wouldn’t infect themselves. Right, that is exactly the kind of answer I am making the case for…

Yes, I  know, we love the sinner and hate the sin, but that is just “a say” – how can we say we love gay people but we reject their feelings and their happiness when it comes to practical terms, when we forbid them to live out their love.
And is the AIDS pandemic consequently not just a very welcomed way to enforce such a moral judgement and infringement of basic human rights and adding  to the stigma and consequently discrimination of those “unfortunately not by God made so perfect” people?

Or how comes that in many countries, where homosexuality is a crime with severe punishment the church is rather on the side of the oppressors than of those fallen victim to such practice? And supports with it a lesser chance that the gay person receives adequate treatment and care.

Take Uganda – where the debate about AIDS and GAY and DEATH PENALTY is not quiet and still in political debate and where the church “for the protection of family and marriage values” rather condones the state orders killings (called execution) instead standing in for the dignity and human rights of every son and daughter of God in this world. Where is the sanctity of life in this case?
When we don’t uphold the sanctity of life in all aspects, we have a big problem being taken serious. There is no gamble or choosing when to advocate the holiness of life.

There is no half a dignity, there is no limited human right, there is also no mistake in the creation of mankind – God saw that it was good and if he sees it, why we are blind at times? He gave us eyes to admire his creation as well…

Pondering these thoughts I do understand why HIV/AIDS is a calling to put our thinking, our comfort zones, our theology, our way we discover God to the test – it is a like a deep calling to engage with all these minority groups who are the hardest hit by the pandemic. By engaging with them, by bringing the unconditional love to them I am sure we suddenly discover a different face  of God, another glitter in his eyes watching lovingly over each and everybody.

HIV and AIDS is not only a medical problem; it can only be overcome when we end stigma and discrimination, when we end our “Sunday sermons” and change those silent disapproval which so easily can get out of hand.

And yes, I know that we care about all these people in need in a practical sense, and we are great in it. Without the churches involvement the plight of so many marginalized people would be even more big – but we can do better in lovingly accepting that God’s creation is much bigger as what we think and  give to us as margins for our life. Only then can we be advocates for life; only then can we be truly advocates for the living God and his unconditional love. We just pass on what we have received.

Coming back to the beginning of this blog part:

We can only work pastoral with people who feel that we take them as they are, we can only work spiritual with people who feel embraced with all their life structures, with all the things making them the person they are. People who are afraid of the church, who are afraid of the “intrinsic evil” they are committing according to our teaching, are lost for our pastoral care, are practically excluded even if we try to cover up with the “evil” with smart words that we don’t mean it that way.

HIV and AIDS confronts us as Christians, as the church with our own shortcomings, prejudice and perceptions… it is up to us to let this confrontation happen in the best sense of the word to discover what we still lacking in meeting the mercy and unconditional love of God we are called to – now and here.

Filed under: General, HIV Prevention, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

POZ Magazine: “Jesus Had HIV” Sermon Riles South African Christians

South African Pastor Xola Skosana upset churchgoers by preaching a sermon titled “Jesus Was HIV Positive,” Mail & Guardian reports. Skosana chose the sermon to draw attention to the stigmatization and silence that fuel the epidemic. The sermon drew scathing attacks, he said, because people assumed it meant Jesus was promiscuous. “My responsibility…is to…paint a picture of a God who cares for people…not who judges them and is ashamed of them,” he said, adding that “in many parts of the Bible, God put himself in the position of the destitute, the sick, the marginalized.”

Source: http://www.poz.com/rssredir/articles/Jesus_HIV_sermon_1_19029.shtml

To read the Mail & Guardian article, click here.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, , , , , , , , ,

22.08.2009 Saturday blues… and the spirit house

Saturday, in the morning shopping – in the afternoon working. A sermon to prepare, emails to answer, a future to be developed… so much to do and so little time sometimes. A wonderful and sunny day so far – winter in Cape Town can be like summer in Europe – so beautiful and relaxing. It is indeed a gift to live at the end of Africa – such a beautiful spot, unique and full of atmosphere.

And yes, my spirit house has arrived in Cape Town and hopefully customs will be so friendly to release it soonest. A spirit house is a traditional small house mainly used in Thailand. It houses the spirits of a house and one must give eating and drinking and not to forget some joss sticks on important days. Can a priest believe in such things? Well, I can.. 🙂 at least I love that idea of being reminded every day that this world is so much more than we can feel and touch and hear and see…. And believing in the community of living and death, as we do as Christians, why not manifesting this thought in a Thai tradition. The part of my soul which is surely Thai origin is so excited and I am sure, my Buddha statues at home will be happy to be in company of a spirit house. Feels more home for them… 🙂

I am excited and can’t wait to see the spirit house – and hope it will be done as ordered. Otherwise another reason to go back to Thailand..  but I guess, I am never too short of reasons to visit my beloved Thailand. 🙂

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

09.08.2009 Sunday blues…and toughts about the sermon…

Sunday morning – and the usual ritual. Going to the office, last preparation for the church service and then off we go. And as every Sunday the question before: Does my sermon meets what the people need to hear…? Need to hear to go home afterward more joyful, more thoughtful, with more sun and love and compassion in their hearts? Am I able to touch their hearts and minds – those of the adults, but also those of the kiddies, the young and the old ones?

When I do prepare for a sermon, I always have somebody in front of my mind, or a situation close to my heart. Theological lectures are for study purposes, a sermon should bear witness from my faith, my thoughts, my questions, my experience with the unconditional love. I strongly believe that I can only touch peoples lives when they sense that my words are matched by my life experience. Otherwise I only deliver bloodless words…

Getting feedback on my sermons is very important to me. When I hear that a family was still discussing the sermon on the way back home, or somebody after quite a while can still tell me what I said on that occasion.. it is amazing for me and I feel blessed being able to be a blessing for others. Or an encouragement. Or a stone to stumble and get into deeper thoughts about life and faith.

Whatever it is, a sermon, even if nobody is able or willing to respond directly, must be a dialogue of hearts, otherwise it is a waste of time. Lets hope for this dialogue this morning again.

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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