By Deondre B. Moore
Faith is something that you believe in, but can’t see. It tells you that all in life and love are possible, even when everyone around you says they’re not. But some have forgotten what it’s like to have faith. Some have lost their faith because those who they thought would be there for them have turned their backs. Today, on World AIDS Day, I’m reminded of the faith that I have, that I have had, and how it has brought me to where I am. I’m reminded of those who have been there for me from the beginning, especially my church family.
But for some, this isn’t the case. As I prepare to speak to a group of ministers in Beaumont, Texas, I’m reminded that there are a lot of church folk who turn their backs on those in need, and they take with them the faith that was once invested in our communities. The church is supposed to be a place where people can go and restore their own faith in the face of adversity and turmoil. However, that’s not always the case when adversities come along with stigma and shame.
For those who are HIV-positive and religious, we know how big the challenge of going to church and asking for prayer and guidance can be. Because of the stigma associated with HIV, some would rather lie about why they need prayer, or keep their diagnoses hidden—something that can further damage the spirit. For some reason, church folk think that they are entitled to shame or to stigmatize those who are positive, part of the LGBTQ community, or both. It’s time we get to a place where people who are positive can go to church and be open about their situation without having to worry about being shamed. The question is: how do we get there?
First, we must remember that the church is a place of healing, and no one can or should be denied that healing. Healing can mean mental stability for some. It can be as simple as giving someone the hope to carry on or restoring their faith in themselves and those around them. However, to do that, that someone has to know that when they are being open and honest about their situations, they won’t be judged, but rather respected for their honesty, loved, and shown compassion. After all, that’s what the Bible says we should do: “Love our neighbors.”
Also, church folk should learn to be humble and stop acting as though they’ve never had to go through anything difficult. When people can get to a place where they no longer worry about what someone is going to say or think about them—and worry more about how they can impact and help strengthen our community—we’ll truly be working toward building spiritual growth in one another. This should be one of the main focuses of the church and its people: restoring faith.
When we begin to restore faith in our community and work together for a common purpose, we are then working towards an AIDS-free generation. That process can be as simple as reminding the congregation that everyone is welcomed in God’s house, no matter who they are or what they are going through. It can be as simple as reaching out to those who we know are positive and reassuring them that everything will be okay, and to encourage them to work towards a healthier life.
Restoring faith also means reminding people that no matter what they are going through, their life is valuable. Sometimes we must remind people that, because they are still here, it means that God is not yet done with them, and that they still have a purpose to fulfill. While we may not always know what that purpose is or what it is we are supposed to do in this lifetime, that’s what faith is: believing in something that you can’t see or even fully understand.
It is faith that will help others to carry on. For some, it’s faith in God that will give them peace of mind and understanding. For me, it’s faith in my church, my community, and everyone working to put an end to HIV. For me, its faith that makes me believe that—if everyone continues to work together and do their parts—we can get to zero new infections and an AIDS-free generation.