Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Some Evangelicals Changing Attitude Toward AIDS

I am not going to be holding my breath for the time that Evangelical Christians start treating members of the LGBT community as fully human and worthy of their love and understanding. In the meantime, it is encouraging to see that some Evangelicals such as Kay Warren are changing their views on AIDS - perhaps through more exposure to all those infected, including gays, they will start to see our equal humanity. It is always harder to spread hate about those you have interacted with after all. Here are highlights from an MSNBC story (

LOS ANGELES - Kay Warren says five years ago she was a "white suburban mom with a minivan" helping her husband run one of the most influential evangelical churches in the United States and barely aware of the global AIDS crisis. Today, Warren will host the third conference on her church's role in fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic after a spiritual awakening that rocked her own faith and challenged how the evangelical community responds to what many still regard as a "gay cancer."

More than 50 international speakers -- including the first ladies of Rwanda and Zambia and Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton -- will gather at Saddleback Valley Community Church in Southern California on Wednesday for three days to mobilize local churches around the world to help prevent HIV/AIDS and care for its victims.

"This is the passion, the call of my life," said Warren, a quintessential California blue-eyed blonde. She admits that U.S. evangelicals have been "late to the party" on the AIDS issue and castigates the "sinful absence and puny efforts" of her community's past track record. "I see more and more individual churches, pastors and believers who are recognizing that this is what the Bible teaches and that there is nothing strange about it," Warren told Reuters of her campaign.

The Saddleback AIDS initiative is the most controversial in a recent raft of social issues embraced by U.S. evangelicals, who have traditionally favored social conservatism. The Saddleback approach to AIDS sidesteps the thorny issues of sexuality and condom use by focusing on the care and support of victims. The Warrens say the question should be not "How did you get sick?" but "What can I do? How can I help you?" The plan encourages churches around the world to use their grass roots networks to set up testing centers, unleash volunteers, reduce the stigma of being HIV positive and promote "God's standards of behavior."

Some Saddleback members felt uneasy at being urged to care for AIDS sufferers. "They felt that our job was to speak to people's spiritual needs, that the church was about saving souls. I completely disagreed. This is historically at the heart of our Christian faith," she said. Five years on, Warren says she is no longer the comfortable wife, mother and grandmother she once was. "I froth at the mouth a lot. I'm not very much fun at dinner parties because I really want to talk about life and death issues. It is a radically different life," she said.

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