Stating the profoundly obvious, though inanely resisted, a Harvard researcher reminded us some time ago that teaching abstinence actually works to lower the HIV infection rate in some societies. If one doesn’t ‘do’ it, one doesn’t ‘get’ it. There is, of course, more to this recent Nashville Baptist Press story.
The government has often resisted abstinence education fearing it promotes a conservative religious perspective – despite the fact that abstinence education really does work. Conservative Christians, on the other hand, resist condom distribution fearing it encourages the secular acceptance of promiscuity – forgetting that HIV-AIDS was a problem before condoms were introduced. Meanwhile folks are dying from HIV-AIDS. A combined approach really does work.
Harvard’s Edward Green offers the evidence that should move us off our hobby horses and onto that which measurably saves lives. He presented the ABC’s of prevention: Abstinence, Being Faithful, and the use of Condoms. Where folks are taught to abstain from promiscuity and to be faithful to their spouse, the obvious results – lower infection rates. Yet, for those who abstinence and faithfulness isn’t a value, condoms are a must. Both knowledge and the right tools are the best we can do, whether or not a vaccine is will eventually be made available.
Genuine compassion doesn’t exclude effective methodology simply because it arises out of a religious context. Similarly, we shouldn’t jettison out-of-hand any methodology that would save the lives of those who don’t respond to the religious approach. We all lose when stubborn ideology rules – whether it arises out of either religious or political correctness.
Speaking particularly to Christian conservatives, we are not acting like Christ when we close our eyes to those who don’t respond to our values of monogamy and sexual purity. We cannot feel justified by offering only solutions that fit our values as if those who don’t see as we see are labeled as tares deserving of whatever consequences they face for their waywardness. As Christians we are also called to help the weak and the foolish. This is why we, Christians, insist that our kids wear their seat belts, obey traffic signs when they drive, check expiration dates before purchasing food items, and listen for warning sirens. We don’t merely say, well, if our children would just live healthfully and be aware of what’s happening around them they wouldn’t need these things. Maybe true, but would you still not install a smoke detector in your child’s bedroom? Education plus the right tools cover two important bases in life.