Magazine article The Christian Century

The Church in a Ditch; Points of Connection

Magazine article The Christian Century

The Church in a Ditch; Points of Connection

Article excerpt

The essence of the passion story is identification. God pitches a tent in the valley of human experience, identifying with us in the inevitable and sometimes insurmountable trials of daily existence and in the mystery of death.

The plot presents a pastoral challenge in the age of AIDS. We are called to discover how we are more like than different from people with the HIV virus. We presume to do so in such trendy sound bites as "the church has AIDS," but experience suggests that we are not finding much common ground with our sisters and brothers living and dying with the virus. This is true of the most well-intended souls in the church. Our honest efforts often subtly but surely substantiate how different we are from people with HIV.

Values are embedded in language. When we say that we reach out to the dying, contagious, poor, drug-addicted and gay-adjectives that often describe those with HIV disease - we convey the unintended message that we are immortal, impenetrable, rich, clean and straight. A chasm is created that is hard to traverse. Why isn't my denomination's Diocesan AIDS Task Force part of the Congregational Resources and Development Commission?

A Lenten language for the church which would enable us better to share ground with people with HIV comes from Will Campbell. In Brother to a Dragon Fly, Campbell shares a good friend's ecclesiology: "The church is one cat in one ditch and one nobody of a son-of-a-bitch trying to pull her out." The message is that a bent and broken spirit is the best thread of continuity in the church, the point of identification, the context of empathic connection, the place where we are more like than unlike our neighbors. Despair is the strongest connecting tissue between people in community. It is one of the few bonds that is strong enough to fade distinctions of race, class, gender, sexual orientation and disease.

A portrait that hangs in the conference room at the hospice where I work says it all. Seven people stand arm in arm. The sense of solidarity is contagious. Rich, a drag queen, was known for his sometimes stabbing manner. Thomas, an IV drug user, often went outside and sat in the resident director's truck as a way to remember life before AIDS. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.