Thursday, August 12, 2004

AIDS and the church

Another long gap, this time because I took a trip north to Washington state to visit family. While I was there I found out that two of my extended family members had just published a book, Time to Talk in Church about HIV and AIDS: A Bible Study Discussion Guide. Because they wanted full editorial control over the contents, the authors also established their own publishing company, Bakken Books.

The book is divided into ten chapters, each of which includes a short introduction, the full text of a biblical passage, and approximately ten discussion questions. The discussion sections begin with questions focussing on the biblical text itself. Many of the biblical portions selected are stories about people with leprosy. Parallels are elicited between leprosy and HIV and AIDS.

Other questions ask for people's individual experiences with and responses to HIV and AIDS. For example, in the chapter on "HIV and AIDS at the Communion Table," which studies the story of Jesus eating at the home of Simon, who had leprosy (Matthew 26:6-13), one of the questions is, "Would you invite a person who is infected with HIV to your home for dinner?"

Yet other questions probe the enormous social issues around HIV and AIDS and what a church's response might be. The chapter on "Protection from HIV" asks, "In cultures where women are subject to men, who needs to take responsibility for protecting young girls and women from HIV?" The chapter on "The Changing Family" looks at some of the family structures found in the Bible and then poses the question, "How can extended families be assisted as they attempt to cope with the sudden increase of children orphaned by AIDS?"

Corean Bakke writes in the Foreward, "The goal is not to locate right answers—there are no right or wrong answers for many of the questions—but to study and discuss." (p. 1)

I'd highly recommend the book for group discussion or even for personal study and challenge. In her Afterward, Corean reflects on the verse from the Sermon on the Mount, "You are like salt for everyone on earth":
Jesus speaks to me in language I understand when he likens my presence in the world to salt in my kitchen. I could neither bake nor cook without salt. Is my presence that critical to the well-being of my community? (pp. 85-86)

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