Florida recalls anti-AIDS brochure for being too religious
The politicization of the AIDS crisis continues. This week, under pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, Florida's Department of Health pulled a pamphlet called "A Christian Response to AIDS."
The brochure apparently said such evil things as:
- "If we are to love as Jesus loved, we each must face the issues of AIDS."
- "Jesus' response to the ill and disabled was full of compassion—not condemnation, fear or rejection. Jesus set the example for us to follow."
- "Jesus calls on us to respond with love to everyone, especially those who are suffering."
"The continuous use of the word 'our,' as well as 'we' and 'us,' can only convey the impression of state endorsed and state sponsored religion," the ACLU complained.
The health department has sent a letter to all county health departments and local health groups, asking them to pull the brochures from circulation. There is a legitimate First Amendment issue here: these brochures did have the Department of Health logo on them. The state can distribute such religiously themed literature, but it should be wary of embracing the pamphlet's religious voice as its own. The answer is to fix the brochures, not to pull them from circulation entirely. God forbid that the state should encourage Christians to get involved in fighting AIDS.
Baptism or bath?
Baptisms in the Middle Ages were popular—but not always for the right reasons. A ninth-century German monk named Notker the Stammerer, in his Life of Charlemagne, tells of a baptism ceremony where 50 potential converts arrived—far more than expected. The church simply didn't have enough clean linen garments to go around, so the emperor ordered shirts to be cut up, sewn together, and made into wraps.
Given one of these quickly made garments, one older proselyte was enraged. "I've gone through this ablutions business about 20 times already, and I've always been rigged out before with a splendid white suit," he protested. "This old sack makes me feel more like a pig-farmer than a soldier!"
Have times changed? The Miami Herald, in a story that has become widely popular in the blogging community, tells of Army chaplain Josh Llano, who has a clean, 500-gallon pool of water at "Camp Bushmaster" in Iraq. To the soldiers, who haven't bathed in weeks due to a water shortage, it's nothing short of an oasis. But the pool is for one purpose alone.
"It's simple," Llano says. "They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized."
The Herald's Meg Laughlin, embedded with the 7th Combat Support Group, notes that it's not quite as simple as that. Before the baptism, "the soldiers have to go to one of Llano's hour-and-a-half sermons in his dirt-floor tent. Then the baptism takes an hour of quoting from the Bible."
But what happens if plans to install portable showers go through? "There is no fruit out here, and I have a stash of raisins, juice boxes, and fruit rolls to pull out," the Southern Baptist chaplain from Houston said.
Church reaction to Iraq war:
- Church members speak their piece | War often puts parishioners at odds with faith leaders (The Indianapolis Star)
- Church pastors face questions of war | Some analyze, some guide; all try to comfort. (The Herald-Mail, Hagerstown, Md.)
- A prayer to make a difference | Judy Brenneman prays at church on the ninth of each month for peace (York [Pa.] Daily Record)
- Vt. clergy say war coloring holy days | Does celebrating life-affirming holy days during a deadly war seem an impossible conflict? (Rutland [Vt.] Herald)
- Some congregations mixing God, country | Patriotism in worship has long been a sensitive issue to congregations (Tallahassee [Fla.] Democrat)
- Jesus, the Stars and Stripes, and the American main street | The Free Methodist Church in Lawrence sends parishioners to fight in Iraq (Helsingin Sanomat, Helsinki, Finland)
- For one pastor, the war hits home | The Rev. Tandy Sloan has presided over many a funeral and memorial service in Cleveland. But on Sunday, he wondered why his only child had to die in Iraq. (The New York Times)
- Stripped of spiritual comfort | My one comfort has been prayer and church. Now I'm feeling forlorn even about going to church (Frank Schaeffer, The Washington Post)
- Iraq on minds of churchgoers | Many in Wake town pray for war's end (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)
Opposition to war:
- Quakers find voice during times of war | In worship, they remain silent unless led by the divine to speak out. In wartime, they have no choice but to speak. (The Tampa [Fla.] Tribune)
- Churches are peace symbols | While noisy street protests have given Germany's campaign to stop the US-led war in Iraq its visibility, voice, and headlines, the nation's churches have provided the movement with its soul (The Boston Globe)
- Pope calls for Iraq war to end soon | Pope John Paul II pleads for swift end to Iraq war, expresses concern for civilian welfare (Associated Press)
- D.C. pastor hears the insanity of the war cry | The Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler warns people against putting faith in a god who serves the interests of an American empire (Courtland Milloy, The Washington Post)
- Archbishop in Qatar strictly for theology | Rowan Williams, who was at the forefront of the anti-war movement, has no plans to visit British troops or even to mention the war (The Times, London)
George Bush and faith:
- Meshing of religion with politics refreshing for some Americans, concern for others (Voice of America)
- Bush puts God on his side | Before September 11, President George W Bush kept his evangelical Christian beliefs largely to himself (BBC)
- A pagan view of waging war | History's pagans might have approved of President Bush's Iraq policy, an author suggests (Peter Steinfels, The New York Times)
- Some doubt fellow United Methodist (the President) | At the Calvary United Methodist Church in the Bronx, feelings about the war easily intermingled with views of the president's religious convictions (The New York Times)
- The footsteps factor | From boyhood to the war in Iraq, George W. Bush has tried to follow his father's path (Kevin Phillips, Los Angeles Times)
- Military chaplains tackle tough issues | Because America often adheres to those theories of a just war, it makes it easier for military chaplains to do their jobs and soldiers to do theirs, says one (Montgomery [Al.] Advertiser)
- Pastor serves troops as military chaplain | It's nothing like Baghdad. On a sunny spring morning in Gilbert, Iowa, the combat zones of Iraq seem a world away (The Tribune, Ames, Ia.)
Aid and relief in Iraq:
- Christian groups plan for relief | Some are heading east with more than powdered milk and antibiotics in hand (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Agency sensitive to need in Iraq | Food for the Hungry is collecting aid and preparing to assist 100,000 Iraqis when it becomes safe to enter the country (San Antonio [Tx.] Express-News)
- Should Christian missionaries heed the call in Iraq? | Christian relief workers want to help the Iraqi people, but they also want to spread the Gospel to a population that's 97 percent Muslim. (The New York Times)
- Relief plans for Iraq raise questions of hidden motive | Muslim critics say Christian groups should stay out (Winston-Salem [N.C] Journal)
- There is aid, but where are Iraqis? | Relief groups, including some in O.C., were ready, but refugees haven't shown. (The Orange County [Cal.] Register)
- Christians fear loss of liberty | Iraq war's fallout, reaction to proselytizers could threaten freedom to worship (The Washington Post)
- The new Christian crusades | Religious right Islam-bashers target postwar Iraq (Bill Berkowitz, WorkingForChange)
- Bible brigade is ready to roll | President Bush is under pressure to clarify his position on the role evangelical Christian aid groups are set to play in post-war Iraq (The Observer, London)
- Hell for leather | As always with your classic Anglo-American imperial conquest, sword, flame, bullet and bomb will be accompanied by the maniacal whacking of Biblical leather (The St. Petersburg Times, Russia)
Christians in Iraq:
- Iraq: Church services continue | Telephoning members difficult (Adventist News Network)
- Church services dwindling | "Previous Sundays there have been three or four hundred Christians worshiping there and today the crowd was only about thirty, thirty-five people" (Newshour, PBS)
- A Christian in Iraq | One American's view of the war, from the heart of Baghdad (Newsweek Online)
- Religions must listen to each other, says Williams | In a deliberately low-key address, which included only passing references to the nearby conflict, Dr Rowan Williams said that improved relations between Christians and Muslims could help a "deeply troubled world" (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Three faiths: one message. Listen | The "warring" faiths have something to tell each other and everyone else (Jonathan Freedland, The Age, Melbourne, Australia)
- U.S. interfaith relations strained by Mideast volatility | Some leaders believe those relations have reached a crisis point (Voice of America)
- Priest encourages cooperation between Jews and Christians | Local residents stand for the Mideast state by attending a talk by Canon Andrew White from the Church of England (Savannah [Ga.] Morning News)
- Top Vatican official calls for emphasis on Christian unity | Dialogue with other religions is less credible if essentials of faith jettisoned, Quebec gathering told (The Gazette, Montreal)
- God's children prefer talking to fighting | Yesterday, parishioners from the Dee Why's Uniting Church and St John's Anglican Church joined neighbors and the curious as the mosque, with local police support, opened its doors (Linda Morris, The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Lebanon's Christian, Muslim clergy stand together against war | 'Brought together by America's conceit' (The Daily Star, Beirut)
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