Turning the judgement of AIDS on its head

This is a potent example.

I was accustomed to hearing talk of AIDS as a punishment from God or a judgment on such and such a behavior. Along with this attitude went another which suggested that, since these people deserve what has befallen them, it’s not worth the bother of doing something to alleviate the problem. And here’s the irony of the thing: God’s judgement is very real and very terrible, but its working is the inverse of what such people imagine. By separating ourselves from our sisters and brothers in need, alleging reasons of religion to boot, we run grave risk of eternal fire, because God’s judgment arrives as the clamor of the neighbor in need. The judge is judge as victim. Whoever attends them confronts no judgment. Those who do not have already separated themselves into goathood. I think that AIDS, for example, might be interpreted as a judgement of God, but it works as a question: a catastrophe has occurred; are you prepared to ignore the judgment of this world and stretch a hand toward those who are on their way out of existence? Or are you separating yourself into goathood, thinking yourself a sheep?

-James Alison, Raising Abel, p.158

How often have we heard that AIDS is some kind of curse on gay people or the sexually promiscuous? Look at all the preachers who proclaimed hurricane Katrina was a judgement against New Orleans for partying too much or against America in general for facilitating lots of abortions. Note how many suggested that the recent earthquake in Haiti was judgement against those folks for making some sort of voodoo covenant years ago. This is serious! It see’s Yahweh as Zeus, throwin’ down lightning bolts at people (rather inconsistently it seems). How does Jesus say God judges? Who gave a cup of cold water to the least of these. Here we see judgement not as a violent act of God, but a test for us to respond to.

Later in the book, Alison alludes that the idea of “AIDS as the judgement of God” driving a wedge between “us and them” as being one of his primary motivations for writing on the topic.

I think there is a bit more to the “judgement of God” than this, but I think we have here a VERY important perspective to keep in mind – one that is heard too infrequently.