If I should achieve all of the rights in my world as a same-gender loving man.
If I am welcomed into the arms of the Church as such, and feel that justice has finally been served.
If that’s my litmus test for how far Christianity has evolved, and I turn a blind eye to the rest of the world.
Love. If that’s the extent of my love for the “least of these.”
If my sole focus, as a Christian, is on my right to marry and to not be vilified at home,
while I don’t speak out about inequities abroad.
If I ignore the fact that Christianity has, and is, playing a massive role in the spread of AIDS and lack of access to treatment abroad.
If I shout “Woo hoo! I’ve been accepted and affirmed!”
If LGBTs are scapegoated abroad as the source of the spread of a pandemic that people in the west, in rich nations are blind and clueless to now.
If I express outrage at the horrors inflicted against my brothers and sisters in the news that I see, but not at its source and cause.
If that points right back to our own silence and inaction. If it points to teachings of lapses of morality that we’ve sown in foreign lands.
Then let me stay single and unmarried. Silence the voice that only cares about my own narrow scope of rights. Silence the voice that has seen much and should know better.
If people are taught that abstinence is the best way to cure AIDS, and funding withheld for prevention, based on moral precepts from the institutions from which we’re obsessed with seeking affirmation.
If in 2012, 1.6 million human beings died from this disease (210,000 of whom were under the age of 15).
If in 2012, 35 million were now infected, 3.3 million under the age of 15.
If since the beginning of the plague nearly 75 million people worldwide have contracted HIV, 36 million of whom are dead.
If from its beginning, 1.8 million of these in cases came from the United States,. If of the 36 million who’ve died worldwide, approximately 600,000 – or 1.7% of these AIDS deaths – were those lost to us in America.
If we think that it’s now “manageable” and “not a death sentence.” If we think the pandemic to be done.
If the average cost of medication in the developed world is $24,000 per year, discounted to $400 per month for poor nations.
If rich and poor nations are expected to keep an eternally mutating disease suppressed, without the means to pay for its treatment.
If I screamed. SCREAMED at other Christians who pulled sponsorships of 10,000 children, because an outreach agency had the decency to allow LGBTs like me to work to care for those in need.
The care of children. Many of these the same 3.3 million children who died or were orphaned from this still-raging pandemic.
If I was ready to walk away from all that I knew. From my faith communities, when their policies were reversed. If I felt pangs of anguish at the injustice.
If as an American survivor, I take my 2 pills at night and think nothing of the $60 that it costs.
If the corpses are now out of my sight. If all is well my insurance, my drug coverage. If my copayment is doable. If access is readily available.
If I’ve achieved it all. If I’ve achieved my rights. If I’m winning affirmation.
If I’m silent to what’s occurring abroad, because my world is all that I care to see.
If I ignore the role that prevention can have, and nod when Christians speak of abstinence and disparage condom use, because they’re “amoral” and infections increase.
If I speak with the tongues of mortals and of angels and don’t give a rats ass about anything beyond the 1.7% of those within sight lost to me in America.
Then take it all. Take my rights, affirmation. Take my outrage. I’ve not earned what I have.
Take all that I’ve been given, to be distributed among those most affected, most deprived of that which I enjoy.
Take my privilege and my complacency.
Yes, for my silence and for my disregard for an infinitely larger world,
a silence much like that which took so many from us. From me.
Take it all.
Take all that I’ve achieved, as if it were only ever important for me.
KENNY PIERCE, a native of Southern California, came out in 1985 as the AIDS epidemic raged around him, both in Los Angeles and in San Francisco.
“I am passionate about emergent theology and interfaith dialog. My greater interest lies in sharing what I (and others) learned in those formative years, to build bridges between rapidly-changing faith communities and the earlier generation of survivors, families and friends affected by the AIDS plague.
“I feel strongly that the Church needs to acknowledge and work to address the alienation and disillusionment inherited by the current generation of affirming people of faith, who may not understand the implications of the past social, political and religious dynamics through which their uncles, aunts and parents lived.
“It is my hope that residual feelings of betrayal and silence during the “gay genocide” in those earliest years of HIV/AIDS be circumvented, and someday don’t fatally color the perception of all of Christianity among its survivors. Our earliest mandates — pacifism, social justice and compassion — are the universal key to unlocking the heart of our work in this world.”
Kenny lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog, Tangentials.