Black Christians are having sex, the church must learn to deal with it
We are currently in the midst of a crisis and we are being faced with a decision: whether we are going to choose blindness and live in a Christian dream world surrounding sex, or open our eyes to the dire reality and follow the Christian calling of love, non-judgment and compassion.
The crisis does not surround whether Rihanna is dating Chris Brown again or whether to side with President Obama or Bristol Palin on the issue of gay marriage. The crisis is HIV/AIDS.
Christian leaders may point out that in their ideal version of the world, the HIV/AIDS pandemic would be greatly limited because no one would "fornicate," commit adultery or engage in "sodomy." In such a world, HIV/AIDS diagnoses would primarily be found among people who were accidentally exposed to infected blood and used medical needles -- or in a worst case scenario their lawfully wedded spouses (who did not know they were infected). But we are not living in that world.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson's extramarital affair which resulted in a child, allegations of Bishop Eddie Long's sexual acts with underage boys, gospel singer Kirk Franklin's admission of a past porn addiction and Sunday Best winner Le'Andria Johnson's out-of-wedlock pregnancy demonstrate that even those who believe that they have been called to minister God's word through sermons, counseling and music struggle with their own interpretations of the Bible's commands. It should therefore come as no surprise that the followers and fans in the pews are similarly struggling. Chevonne Harris's Ebony article Single Saved -- and Having Sex discusses this struggle and the decision that many young Christians have made to engage in extramarital sex while still expressing a steadfast devotion to their faith.
Given the harsh impact that HIV/AIDS is having in our community, the black clergy cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the reality presented in Harris's article. Although the overall numbers of new HIV infections in the United States have been relatively stable, recently there have been disturbing increases in infections in some groups such as low-income heterosexuals of all races, African-American men and women, and senior citizens. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for black women was more than 15 times as high as that of white women and the estimated rate of new HIV infections for black men was more than 6.5 times as high as that of white men in 2009. But perhaps the most staggering statistics are that 1 in 30 African-American women and 1 in 16 African-American men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes, if current rates of infection persist.
What should the response be to this phenomenon? I advocate that we must elevate the most universal, transcendent and inspiring aspects of the Christian faith to solve this health crisis by embodying the concepts of God's love, self-love, human love, compassion and non-judgment as described in books such as Corinthians and Matthews.
Self-love, human love, compassion, and non-judgment dictate that each sexual interaction we engage in must be loving, respectful, fully-consensual and very safe. These virtues dictate that we raise our voices to encourage widespread condom use to preserve the health of the uninfected. These virtues also inspire us to support those who are infected such asTonya Raspberry (who contracted HIV from her husband) and my friend's 13-year-old male patient who contracted HIV after he and his boys "ran-through" a 13-year-old girl who knew she was infected when she invited the boys to have sex with her, but did not disclose it.
The young boy, overwhelmed with the lifetime consequences that a fleeting decision has wrought, is currently taking both anti-depressants and anti-retroviral medications. There are scores of men and women like him, such as Atlanta HIV patient Terri Garnder, who trusted and had unprotected sex with people that they were dating. They deserve our compassion and non-judgement, the greatest test for those who profess to want to be like Christ.
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