Evangelical Christians Respond to Global AIDS Crisis
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
06.13.03; Kevin Diaz
June 20, 2003
As they confront Africa's AIDS epidemic, evangelical Christians in
Minnesota and across the United States are beginning to ask: What would
Jesus do? For one thing, they're joining forces with the AIDS activists,
gays, liberals, feminists and celebrities who have been spotlighting the
problem for years. That's why Rep. Betty McCollum, a self-described
"progressive Democrat from St. Paul," found herself addressing a
conference of evangelical leaders in Washington on June 12.
The abstinence vs. condoms clash rages on, but the two sides say they
can agree on one thing: When it comes to AIDS, Christian mercy needs to
replace moral judgment about how the disease is transmitted. Echoing the
sentiments of many evangelical leaders, McCollum described the global
AIDS crisis as a "divine test" for Christians. It is a test that many
pastors admit they have flunked so far.
"The response of the Christian church has been appalling," said the
Rev. John Crosby, senior pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina,
who has taken his own family on a trip to Kenya to care for AIDS
The recent turnaround has come about with the help of some
old-fashioned evangelizing, and the $15 billion budgeted by Congress and
approved by President Bush to deal with the African AIDS crisis. World
Vision, the world's largest Christian humanitarian organization, is
conducting a 15-city tour for evangelical leaders; it recently included
a stop in the Twin Cities. A recent World Vision study found that only 7
percent of evangelical Christians were willing to give money to help
African AIDS patients.
But images of orphaned children, together with the fact that much of
Africa's epidemic is the result of prostitution and sexual violence
against women, have changed attitudes. So has the Bush administration's
emphasis on faith-based charities, which has opened federal funding to
church groups that want to treat AIDS patients and preach abstinence.
Because the promised $15 billion has not yet been allocated by Congress,
the 260 evangelical leaders meeting in Washington were also lobbying
White House and Congressional leaders.