Some context first. AIDS had smashed its way through Africa for almost two generations before many people in Europe or North America had even heard of it. It killed poor black people many miles away and nobody matters less to the wealthy white than poor blacks many miles away. It was only when the disease was brought into the male homosexual community of the United States that the likes of Elizabeth Taylor became so emotional on television and numerous actors, politicians and public figures made it one the most fashionable causes in modern times.
Indeed, AIDS is a fascinating case-study in itself in that while politicized statistics and agenda-driven activists try to tell us otherwise, AIDS in the west is still largely a concern for Gay men and intravenous drug-users. But it is the suffering itself rather than the nature of the sufferer that should motivate us. Problem is, this philosophy was not applied when it was Africans rather than Californians in need.
That, at least, was the attitude of the western elites – the very people now condemning the Roman Catholic Church, evangelicals, and pro-lifers.
Yet it was the Church that was in Africa caring for people with AIDS when Hollywood and the western media were more concerned with puppies and kittens. Indeed even today almost half of all Africans with AIDS are nursed by people working for the Roman Catholic Church. A Church, by the way, that has also called for all African debt to be forgiven and for a radical redistribution of wealth from north to south.
None of this is mentioned when pro-lifers are attacked for condemnation of condoms. The argument runs thus: First, it’s not working. In countries where condoms are state-distributed, free and ubiquitous AIDS has not been controlled and is often spreading. Second, even where AIDS is less an issue, such as in North America, the increased availability and use of condoms has coincided an annual increase in STDs and so-called unwanted pregnancies.
Third, one failure of a condom to work – and the failure rate is significant if not overwhelming – is not a mere mistake but a death sentence. Fourth, condoms enable promiscuity rather than encourage abstinence. Fifth, how dare we treat black people as if they were children? They are capable of self-control and all over Africa, most successfully but not exclusively in Uganda, there are elaborate, empathetic and extraordinarily successful abstinence programmes that emphasise humanity rather than lust.
Of course, there is more to this anti-life neurosis than television comedians making jokes about celibate clergy and commentators assuming that they know far more about reality than a priest who has worked in an African city slum for forty years. Conventional wisdom has it that Africa has a population problem and that Africans can become “more civilized” if they have fewer children. It’s an organised and sometimes quite sinister campaign. Africa is, if anything, under-populated and the problems of the continent are far more about western greed, colonisation, resources exploitation and arms sales than about family size. Christians and pro-lifers have spoken out on these issues for decades and were, for example, the leading voices at the United Nations that persuaded the multi-national pharmaceuticals to make their anti-AIDS drugs generic and thus affordable in the Third World.
Paradox and lack of understanding rule the day. We applaud an obscenely wealthy American actress when she takes a black baby from Africa but forget that the Hollywood values she epitomizes encourage loveless sex and treating one another as sexual objects rather than distinct individuals – the precise phenomenon that encourages the spread of AIDS. More than this, the solution to children living in poverty in Africa is not to remove the children but to remove the poverty. But there is never a camera crew around for that sort of thing.
It’s all very frustrating but, whether the subject is AIDS, Ebola or anything else. Then again, the day we are accepted for what we genuinely believe and proclaim and treated fairly is probably the day we have got something wrong. Stay strong, and stay correct.