AIDS Summit today.
I remember learning about AIDS in school. About how you can't contract it. About how you can.
I remember growing up in the theatre.
I remember being in Minnesota and seeing Godspell and feeling the awe and joy of taking in an amazing and creative production. I remember remembering watching Godspell in Missouri. I remember Heidi with the long blond hair and the guy who played Jesus and David. I remember mom causually telling me in the car that he had passed away. That he'd died of AIDS. Several months earlier.
I remember feeling crushed. Feeling betrayed that my parents hadn't told me earlier. That I didn't get to go to the funeral. I was the littlest orphan, Molly, when RRT did Annie and he played Rooster. He always kissed me on the head and teased me. I remember idolizing him and the others during Godspell for their animation and talent. Wasn't I as important to them as they were to me?
And my parents didn't tell me this man I looked up to died? I was young and narcissistic.
I remember asking dad about it when we returned from Minnesota. I remember him telling me a story about the last time he'd seen him. He was in a wheel chair and dad didn't say anything to him cause he didn't know what to say. He felt so sad about that. I remember feeling my dad's shame.
The speakers asked us how our churches would respond if we went home asking them to embrace the otherness still appropriated to people with HIV. Honestly, I thought my church would handle it just fine. Our problem would be that our volunteers are stretched so thin and there are so many other causes to take up...
But as I discussed this with a friend of mine from a less progressive city in Texas, she said, "My church still thinks of AIDS as the 'gay disease.' They don't even think there are gay people in the city let alone in our church."
How times have and haven't changed.
AIDS is an issue in Africa, but it is also an issue here. Wake up America. Stop asking members of your congregations to check their sexuality and their shame at the door by never talking about these issues. We only perpetuate the otherness and allow the estrangement to continue! One man told a story of a clergy member who told her church her brother died of cancer because she didn't feel comfortable telling them he actually died of AIDS.
It's time to come out of the closet, not with our sexual orientation, but with our ability to share ourselves and our lives and our brokenness and God's healing and acceptance of all people, all diseased ones, all God's children.
For we are all estranged, all diseased, all broken. All in need of redemption, acceptance and grace.
We all need to know that we are loved by God.
And fortunately, that's just was God wants to give us.