TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF AIDS CHANGES FAITH GROUPS
In June of 1981, researchers identified the disease that today we know as AIDS -- acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Most of the people who had the disease in those early days in the U.S. were gay males. And most of the voices coming from faith communities were speaking words of condemnation to homosexuals. Today people of faith of many religions are in the forefront of the battle against AIDS. My own church, for instance, has had an AIDS Ministry since 1989. Other congregations also are working on AIDS as part of their normal approaches to ministry, both here and abroad. A few of examples: The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; black churches; Christian churches in Zimbabwe. If your own faith community isn't active in AIDS ministry, a good question would be, "Why not?"
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HOW DOES GOD SPEAKS TO US?
When I hear people say, "The Lord told me. . ." or "God spoke to me. . ." I am intrigued but uncomfortable. I want to know how one can know that what they're hearing (or sensing) is really the voice of God.
I was affirmed in my discomfort recently by a book one of my sisters gave me -- Why Do I Love These People? by Po Bronson. The book is a collection of revelatory stories about the lives of ordinary people. Well, I don't know, actually, what it means to be an ordinary person. I'm not sure there are any such people, just as I'm positive there are no normal families.
But in a story about a woman named Rosa Gonzalez and her autistic son Vince, I ran across an insight well worth passing along.
Vince had lots of troubles as a youngster but has managed to get control of his life, partly thanks to the hard work and persistence of his mother. When the story was written, Vince was in college studying Jewish mysticism, though he's not Jewish and not, in fact, affiliated with any religion at all.
"I am to religions," he explained, "as an auto mechanic is to cars."
"Vince now makes his prayers to an Unknown God," Bronson writes, drawing on a story from the 17th chapter of the book of Acts in the New Testament. ". . .Vince draws a parallel between the way an autistic child experiences his teachers and the way we experience God. The autistic child spends most of his life in a haze of distraction. Now and then a teacher or parent gets through, and for a brief moment this child feels gloriously in touch with a higher power who seems to know everything."
That, says Vince, is how we experience God.
"The gods speak a language to which we are all autistic," Bronson quotes Vince as saying. Bingo.
It strikes me as a wonderfully humble way to acknowledge how things really are. Is that how, if at all, God speaks to you?
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.
Today's religious holiday: Ascension of Christ (Orthodox Christian).