Wednesday, March 2, 2011

'Jesus had HIV' sermon sparks South African fury

BBC, Cape Town

`Today I will start with a three-part sermon on: Jesus was HIV positive,` South African Paster Xola Skosana recently said in a Sunday church service.

Some Christians have beenn outraged, saying he is portraying Jesus as sexually promiscuous.

However, as Pastor Skosana told those gathered for his weekly services, in many parts of the Bible Jesus put himself in the positionn of the destitute, the sick and the marginalised.

Continue reading the story

Pastor Skosana´s approach to combatting stigma against HIV is very unique. I do not believe that he is actually proposing Jesus had HIV. He is trying to make people think hard about what it would mean if he did...or maybe if someone else they loved and adored had HIV.

I did not realize until I started working at an HIV clinic last year in New Orleans, just how much of an issue stigma still is, even in the United States. From teenagers to grown men, I kept hearing the same stories of families rejecting their relatives because they had HIV. I heard stories of mothers who would make their HIV positive sons eat off paper plates and plastic forks, separating and labeling food in the fridge because they were afraid they would catch HIV by eating after him. And I met many, many people who were homeless because their families had thrown them out after finding out they had HIV. There probably isn´t a single country on earth where people living with HIV don´t have to deal with the stigma of the disease to some degree. No wonder people prefer not to know their status.

From the article, it seems one reason people are offended by the idea of an HIV positive Jesus is that they don´t like to think about how Jesus would have contracted the virus. The idea of Jesus having sex, or shooting up, or breastfeeding from an HIV positive Virgin Mary makes people very uncomfortable.

The stigma attached to the ways in which people contract HIV is what causes people to shun those who are positive. But getting HIV sexually does not mean you are promiscuous. Children contract it from their mothers. Mothers contract it from their husbands, husbands from wives. The question of how someone gets HIV shouldn´t really matter when it comes to how we should treat them.

I believe Pastor Skosana was probably referencing Jesus' words "what you do to the least of these, you do to me." They way we treat the most marginalized, the sickest, the poorest among us reflects our love of Christ. When we treat them badly - and still dare to call ourselves Christians - we are hurting Chirst himself.

Related Posts:

Posts on HIV

Christianity and Health Care Reform

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