Monday, February 4, 2013

Luke 6:37

As of last Monday, I had 500 days of service left. It’s odd to think about, I went from saying that I had two years in Botswana, to saying I am going home next year. It’s hard, when you are sitting alone, or writing a blog or doing anything idle (which is more time than you would think for PCVs) to not be in countdown phase, at least it is for me. Major props to those of you out there who have served/are serving/ are going to serve, who didn’t/are not/ will not, have this mental state, but I won’t be ashamed, I’m not going to kick this feeling under a rug like a dust bunny. I love America, and the people I left at home, and the friends and the family and my dog; that is where this feeling comes from, not a lack of love for Africa but an abundance of love for the US.

But that is not the topic of today’s discussion kiddies, so let us move on.

On New Year’s Eve I wrote out a list of resolutions, and one of them was to start putting time aside every Sunday to practice my faith. So, today’s topic is going to be crisis of faith, not in myself but in my church.

I love being Catholic, I love the tradition, and the history, and the big stone buildings and the fact that I have been to mass in English and French and Latin and Setswana and that I understand what is going on in any language because we have the missal. But it is more than just the aesthetics of my church, it is the tenants of my faith that I am ardently in love with. The idea that faith must be acted upon, the relationship and reverence of the Virgin Mother, the idea that when I take in communion, I am taking in the body and blood of Jesus Christ. I love the complex and beautiful concept of the Trinity, I love that each saint has a new and creative way to show me how I can love my Savior, I love the people that have chosen to give their lives, and sacrificed SO much, to be a part of the clergy (which is a debate for another time.)

Here is what I can no longer love though; I can no longer love the idea that my church is trying to block a form of prevention through education of the spread of HIV; and that, that message is broadcasting far and wide to the world that we care more about our hierarchy, and our tradition and our dogma than we care about human life. I am all about supporting abstinence, because when push comes to shove, and it is practiced the way it should be, there is NOTHING more effective. If you and your husband/wife have only slept with each other, and neither of you were infected at birth, you aren’t going to get HIV through sexual transmission. PERIOD.

But we cannot make laws and doctrine for a world we wish we lived in; we have to open our eyes to the flaws of our surroundings and attempt to surmount the impossible challenge of making it Christ like. We are not in the Kingdom of Heaven, we are not God, or the Son, or the Holy Ghost; we are man, and we err, and we will continue to err for as long as we are man. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

At this point you might say that we do not make this doctrine, we simply lift it from scripture and practice the word of God that has been passed down to us. I understand this, but I also understand that there are a million interpretations of every single passage in every holy book ever written. The Torah, the Bible and the Qur'an have been used for immense good in equal measure to the destruction caused in their name. I can sit here and feed you passages that I believe are tools for my own argument, and someone else could read them as arguments against me. Everyone believes that they are right and so therefore we are stuck in a circle of blind leading the blind, because we cannot see past our own convictions...(reference to Luke 6:39)

I’m not above this; I will never understand those out there who say that we should stop educating about condoms, and birth control and switch to only abstinence and no sex before marriage. I could give you a million and one studies that have been shown that teenage pregnancy, and STIs and death rates go up when this happens. It won’t matter, you won’t listen; just as I won’t listen to you.

So I ask all you out there, both Catholic and not, to bring it down to a simple idea that God (under whatever name you choose to worship with, or not) saw fit enough to give us life, and that when it all boils down at the end of the day we should preserve it to the best of our ability. That the Lord is mysterious, and that we will never be able to fully understand heavenly intention or law; that, that dark shroud is what makes us human and not divine. Take that idea to the conclusion that life is precious and worth saving, and that though our spiritual bodies may be the ultimate prize, there is a reason in having our physical ones as well. Life is the one and only thing that has been handed down from the Almighty Creator directly, and that in the end, the preservation of life will not be a sin in the eyes of a just and merciful God.

I would like to also point to how, in Judaism, there is a law that one must value life, even if it means breaking rules laid out in the Torah. It is called pikuach nefesh, and is based in language from Leviticus, Ezekiel, and the Talmud. The Qur'an states: "...Take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law. Thus does He command you, so that you may learn wisdom." (6:151)

If one condom, prevents the death of one person from HIV/AIDS, isn’t worth mentioning? If a person wants to remain abstinent the knowledge of how to use a condom is not going to prevent them from doing so. By withholding information under the assumption that the knowledge itself is dangerous, because the mind of the one you may be giving it to is too weak to handle it, you are playing God. Is that not exactly what happened in Eden? People at risk of contracting HIV through sex are not your personal Adam and Eve, you don’t get to deny them the fruit from the tree of knowledge because YOU determine that it is dangerous for them. We are all human, and to play God is a most mighty sin indeed. We have eaten the forbidden fruit, and that ship has sailed, there is no going back, you cannot reverse it.

The argument I want to try and make clear with this post is that we are not talking about whether or not premarital, extramarital, or any other kind of nonmarital sex is a sin or not; we are talking about the education of our people, and whether or not withholding information that could save a life is against what our church should stand for. At no point in this post will you read "And then I threw condoms at the teenagers and told them to 'go forth and copulate!'"

It is time to grow up, it is time to stop casting a judgmental and uncaring eye to those that choose not to believe how we believe, live how we live, or practice how we practice. A full frontal assault that includes condoms and abstinence, education and faith, and support and understanding is the best way to cover our bases, and tailor programs that can reach as many at risk populations as possible. This is not the destruction of the devotion, but preservation of the devoted.

I love my faith, and I love my God, but I do not believe that God wanted our faith and our practice to be stagnant, I believe that the rules were created to promote life, not destroy it. I will leave you with this as my defense for coming out against a church that I believe to be slowing drifting from the intended beauty of the faith:

“Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven...For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:32&37)


1 comment:

  1. Claire, I absolutely loved reading this post, and all your other writing on this blog. You make such great, insightful arguments and articulate yourself so well. I hope everything is going well in Botswana and that you're enjoying yourself there. Reading this just reminds me what a thoughtful, intelligent person you are, not to mention a great roommate :)