Tuesday, April 12, 2005

AIDS' Collateral Damage

Today, in a thoughtful critique of the Left's use of the word "progress," AJM wrote that one of the tenets of Evangelical Christianity is that "Human life is precious at all stages of development and degeneration." O.K.

If that's true, I find it appalling that Conservatives are so ardently opposed to the provision of contraceptives to those in third-world, developing nations ravaged by HIV. Instead, they say, teaching abstinence is the only ethically justifiable way to quell the raging viral firestorm sweeping the continent. I heartily disagree.

No one doubts that extra-marital sex is one of the main transmitters of the disease. Migrant workers who often must travel hundreds of miles to find work outside their villages spend nights away from their wives, have sex with prostitutes, contract HIV, then bring it home to their wives. These innocent women then pass it on to their innocent children.

Conservatives believe that teaching these men that sex outside of marriage is wrong will help. I'm the first to concede that such an approach--if the men commit to it--will help. Of course, not all of these men will listen or be convinced. And fewer will be contacted by those preaching this agenda. And as long as prostitution runs rampant (and is governmentally supported in many cases), many men will purchase those services.

In the very, very long run, when and if the vision of all Evangelicals--to convert the world to Christianity--is realized, abstinence training could work.

For now, millions of innocent women and children--not to mention the men for whom customs accept extramaritial sex--are dying from a loathesome, preventable disease.

Christ was asked, "Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22: 36-40.

This has a natural corollary. One way to "love our neighbors" is to "show them the way," so their souls can be saved. But before their souls can be saved, their lives must be saved.

Jesus spent a lot of time saving lives without judging the behavior of those whose lives he saved. If I happen upon a man in a pool of blood dying in the street with a bag of money and a gun next to him, do I refuse to try to save his life because I suspect he's a criminal? No.

How can we justify punishing the wives and children of sinners (as we all are) for the sins of their men?

Condom use saves lives. Free, widely distributed condoms save more lives.

Teaching a man to fish so he can feed himself is one thing. Feeding the five thousand so they do not starve is another. Both are honorable, but one is a much bigger priority.

Otherwise, millions of innocent women and children are collateral damage in the Right's war on sin.


Some will likely respond by citing recent progress on the war on AIDS through abstinence in Uganda. I'll preemptively counter that for that country, with that Christian leader, some progress may have been made. But what of the other millions across the continent? What of the thousands becoming infected and dying every day?


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