Sunday, August 06, 2006

Fight AIDS, not the heathens

From the BBC:
Call to boost churches' Aids role

The Christian aid agency Tearfund is calling for more recognition and more international funding for Africa's churches in the fight against HIV/Aids.
Based on the 5 minutes I just spent looking up info on Tearfund on the web, it sounds like they generally do excellent work. But this "call" of theirs is problematic.

First, the obvious. When it comes to the problem of AIDS in Africa, a great many churches have a lot of explaining to do. Or, rather: they have a lot of repenting to do. There is at least a nod to this:
The Tearfund report does say that some attitudes - including opposition to condom use, condemning people who become infected as sinful and the failure to talk openly about sex, need to be addressed.
Well, that sounds decidedly weak. On the other hand, I know that religious folk (well, lots of other religious folk) tend to be soft-spoken, so maybe I should hold out hope here that "address" is actually polite-church-code for "smack those fools upside the head until they recognize that they are contributing more to the problem than to the solution."

Leaving that aside, I think there's something very wrong with calling for more funding for churches in particular.

In fact, personally I would prefer organizations responsible for dealing with such pressing problems as the AIDS epidemic to have no religious affiliation at all. My general feeling is that such problems are ones that do not recognize parochial boundaries, and so they are best addressed by organizations that do not recognize such boundaries either. Nonreligious organizations are more likely to fit that bill than their religious counterparts.

But maybe I'm worrying too much about that. I think it would also make a lot of sense to have no preference either way. But I'm pretty sure that that's as far as one ought to go in that direction: no preference. Tearfund, though, does go further, and ends up advocating support for churches, as opposed to organizations not affiliated with churches.

Naturally, they don't explicitly say any such thing. But if more money is going to go to churches fighting AIDS, then less is going to go to non-churchy organizations fighting AIDS. Unless, of course, funding for the fight against AIDS increases overall--but if that's the goal, then why not just call for overall funding to increase, rather than funding for churches in particular?

Maybe I'm not being completely fair here, because I haven't seen the full report summarized in the BBC article. But I'm having trouble seeing any way around these implications. So, I'm left wondering: How does Tearfund rationalize privileging churches over other organizations in this way?

1 comment:

Janet said...

Perhaps a rationalization would be that church organizations have a pre-established position of authority and respect in the community, and if they address these issues head-on, they are likely to get listened to. You know, the whole "only Nixon could go to China" kind of thing.