UCC Draws Fire for Condom Distribution Stance
So, there's this church, the UCC. Apparently President Obama is a member of this denomination, but that's probably NOT what drew them to the attention of the "OneNewsNow" organization. Instead, it's that (not unlike the President, on many issues), the UCC is acting on their faith -- and the obligation they see in it to serve their fellow human beings.
The Institute on Religion & Democracy is blasting the religious denomination of President Barack Obama for its recent stance on condom distribution inside houses of worship.
Maybe we should write in to the UCC and support their stance. Here's their position statement as twisted by the American Family Association "newswire" email I received today:
Recently, the HIV and AIDS Network of the United Church of Christ (UCC) said condoms should be handed out at places of worship. The statement was issued during a presentation to the denomination's Wider Church Ministries Board and also advocated making condoms available at faith-based educational settings.
A UCC executive said that condom distribution is a matter of life and death and that condoms should be made available to save the lives of young people.
Calling it the denomination's "moral responsibility" to make condoms available, the UCC's executive for health and wellness advocacy said "people of faith make condoms available because we have chosen life so that we and our children may live."
Wow. Recognition of science and common sense, and actual help with highly emotionally-charged issues of life and death (STDs can and do kill). No wonder the AFA finds the statement "dangerous"!!
But if you go to the UCC site, you find something a little less threatening:
The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, the UCC’s executive for health and wholeness advocacy, urges a more scientific and compassionate approach to the prevention of HIV. “The availability of condoms as part of a comprehensive approach to HIV prevention sends the right message and more importantly, it saves lives,” he said. “The message [UCAN is sending] is rooted in the belief that loving carefully is a moral responsibility. The practice of safer sex behavior is a matter of life and death. People of faith make condoms available because we have chosen life so that we and our children may live.”
Indeed, the Reverend Schuenemeyer's statement actually provides some genuine compassion to men, women, and young people. Have a look:
Human beings are sexual beings and sex is a gift from God, to be shared with love and responsibility. As such, sex, sexuality and sexual behavior are concerns that must be addressed honestly and openly by people of faith. This is an evermore urgent concern because the world is living with a growing HIV epidemic. For those who choose to be sexually active, safer sex is more loving and more responsible – toward oneself and one's partner – than unprotected sex. There is a significant body of evidence that demonstrates that when condoms are part of a broader, more comprehensive prevention package, they play a key role in reducing HIV infections (UNAIDS, March 19, 2009.)
There is no evidence that making condoms available promotes sexual activity. In fact, condoms, when distributed with educational materials and integrated into a broader, more comprehensive prevention package, have been shown to delay sexual debut among those who are not sexually active. Among sexually active youth, HIV prevention education programs have resulted in a reduced number of partners and increased condom use.
A comprehensive approach to sexuality education and effective evidence-informed HIV prevention programs include affirming abstinence, monogamy and fidelity. Abstinence is always a viable and commendable choice, no matter the age or sexual experience of the person choosing it. Condom availability does not undermine abstinence, monogamy or fidelity as appropriate faith-based behavioral choices. And, it does not undermine effective HIV or sexually transmitted disease prevention.
At the same time, we cannot put our heads in the sand with “abstinence only” approaches. People can and do make other choices, and when they do, we must affirm and provide accurate safer sex information along with access to the means of protection. Making condoms available promotes honesty in sexual relationships and acknowledges the reality that people do have choices about their sexual behavior.
Making condoms available at houses of worship and faith-based educational settings provides opportunities to open conversations that can save lives. In this context, condoms become educational tools. Their presence encourages questions and discussions with individuals who are prepared to respond with factual and up-to-date information. Condoms are a sign that people of faith take sexuality seriously as a part of human life and that we endorse all options for preventing HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases.
The bottom line is this: safer sexual behavior can be a matter of life and death, so, when people choose to engage in sex we must affirm safer sexual behavior. Thus, it is our moral responsibility to make condoms available because doing so not only sends the right message about loving responsibly, it saves lives.
The AFA is promoting somebody named Alan Wisdom who claims that this statement undermines morality. Wisdom says the UCC has departed from its Puritan roots by making the statement and that "It sends a message to youth particularly, the kids who meet in their Sunday schools, that the church really has no expectation of them in terms of sexuality, that it expects them to enter into multiple sexual relationships in the same way the world does, and that its only concern is they not pick up diseases."
Do what, now, Mr. Wisdom? Where did you see that in the UCC's statement? No expectation in terms of sexuality? Multiple sexual relationships?
What were you reading, Mr. Wisdom? Oh, and for what it's worth, my support will go to Rev. Schuenemeyer's position over yours, anyhow.
The United Church of Christ is a denomination of 1.2 million members in 5,600 autonomous local churches that are joined together in Christian mission through local associations, regional conferences and the biennial all-church General Synod.
That group sounds a lot, to me, more like the Beatitudes than your American Family Association or Institute on Religion & Democracy. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," remember?