…are they saving souls only to kill lives?


‘Religion is the opium of the masses’ so the saying goes and it would seem for many Zimbabwean women, Christianity is not just a religion – it is also an escape route.

...illuminating beyond the dark shadow cast by HIV

Attending church, following the routine and keeping religious observances have become a form of escapism for many women in the age of HIV as they try to apply biblical teachings to their marriages, relationships and lives at a time when hypocrisy has become a prevalent trend in most churches.

Considering that a great proportion of women are Christians, most of them adhering to Christian doctrines, it follows that the impact of HIV on our society must be interrogated within the confines of religious teachings and what church leaders are feeding their flock.

A year ago, the Roman Catholic Church’s Pope Benedict XVI provoked much outrage for re-affirming the papacy’s position on condom use – a position that has been widely accepted by other Christian groupings who all teach that fidelity within heterosexual marriage and abstinence are the best ways to stop AIDS.

Dismissed at the time as being ‘unrealistic and irrelevant’ the Pope’s position however reflects the dominant thinking within the Christian community in Zimbabwe and the response to HIV has been lukewarm, uninspired and in most instances impracticable, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, for married women the church prescribes fidelity and yet most married women have non-believing husbands who do not subscribe to the teachings of the church regarding fidelity and moral uprightness.

This leaves the Christian women in the lurch as they cannot effectively apply Christian teachings to their personal lives without the cooperation, consent and sanction of their spouses.

Moreover, the Christian woman is not encouraged to assert any rights over her body because Christian teaching insists that she has no autonomy over her body, if it does not belong to the Lord then it belongs to her husband so using condoms is out of the question.

Needless to say, Christian women are not expected to negotiate for safer sex even in instances when they know their spouses have been unfaithful being advised by the well-meaning church leadership and counselors to ‘pray for their errant husband, fast and trust in the Lord’.

Whilst it is admirable for one to demonstrate their faith by praying for divine intervention to ensure that one does not contract HIV from an unfaithful partner with whom they go on to engage in unsafe sex with; how many Christian women find their way to an early grave as a result?

In many instances, pulpit sermons fail to address the specific needs, fears and concerns of congregates, of which women form the majority.

Women are not encouraged to actively take responsibility for protecting themselves from contracting HIV nor are they expected to demonstrate any inclination towards understanding and exercising their sexual reproductive rights.

In some instances, women who are married to dodgy religious leaders are often worse off than their congregates as they have to keep up appearances and often find no support system within the church.

The general assumption is that church leaders are beyond reproach, well they should be, but at times they too, succumb to the pesky desires of the flesh.

For most women, being cheated on is humiliating but for Christian women, the experience also casts aspersions on them as believers because people question where their God was when the hubby was romping around in the arms of another woman.

They blame themselves for not clocking in enough hours in the ‘prayer closet’ or for letting the devil in to their marriage by not fasting enough or some such nonsense failing to realize that they are victims and not the villains.

...praying is all good but what practicle steps can devout women take to protect themselves from HIV

The problem is further compounded by the fact that Christian teachings often have a fall guy handy every time things go awry – quite simply, the devil takes all the blame and people just don’t take responsibility for their actions.

As a compromise, one may concede that they were ‘tempted’ and then ‘led astray’ none of which conveys any real conscience intent on the part of the individual to do wrong or make unwise and risky sexual choices.

By giving the sexual infraction, known as fornication or adultery in Christian discourses, a spiritual premise, i.e it’s the devil that caused it – the reasonable response for the average Christian woman is a spiritual one, that is, prayer and fasting to counter this spirit of adultery.

The very real threat posed by HIV is not addressed in all this spiritual abstractness.

It is possible that AIDS is one disease that has exposed the limitations of the church in so far as empowering and equipping women is concerned.

Some of the solutions women come up with are not only absurd they are really religious rhetoric emanating from reckless and overzealous pulpit outbursts.

So while women ‘in the world’ may perceive themselves as being at risk of contracting HIV and take measures to protect themselves, the women in the church are exhorted to pray, fast and “confess the blood of Jesus” over themselves.

Based as much on patriarchal thinking as African culture, what real chance does Christianity have of offering women a refuge other than making them easier and willing victims of abuse as well as other forms of injustice while reminding them how ‘blessed” it is to be “meek”.

Are Christian teachings saving souls and unwittingly killing lives?

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16 thoughts on “…are they saving souls only to kill lives?

  1. Sharon says:

    Hey Delta,

    Interesting piece. I however think that portions of it are not being entirely fair on Christianity and what it stands for. All sects of society must indeed contribute in the fight against HIV. It is simply not fair to demand of Christianity to promote condom use when one of its values is sexual purity before marriage and fidelity while in marriage. It is beyond dispute that those who abstain before marriage are indeed way safer from HIV than the active condom user. It is also beyond dispute that if two parties to the marriage are faithful, they are not at risk. So I say let Christianity preach what it will, let the other organizations preach condom use, getting tested etc and together we present a holistic approach to HIV prevention.But I say let us not demand of Christianity to go against its values simply because the average person is too weak to control their desires, too reckless to protect themselves and too indulgent to care. And women should shirk this victim mentality, it is not biblical, we should stop passing blame and take charge of our lives, marry a fellow Christian also – dont marry a drunk and cry afterwards that he doesnt share the basic tenets of your faith….but I digress and waffle…nuff said

  2. Munyaradzi says:

    I hear the point,especially in reference to what the papacy says.What he implies is that even when a partner is infected then the other though negative would have to give up their right to life…asking them to abstain is impossible.it is however sad to note that the catholic church has alarge following due to the aid that the church extends to the people.HOWEVR BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO TAKE INDIVIDUAL EVNTS AND MAKE GENERAL COMENTS.

  3. Nqaba says:

    Too many generalisations about the church. Is your gripe with the church, men or both? I missed it.

    Its simple its either you follow the church’s teachings or you don’t. If you are not happy with the issue of condom usage then don’t go to the Catholics because they will tell you what you don’t want to hear. The church teaches sexual purity and condoms don’t fit in that scheme of things.

    So if you follow the teachings of the church there will be no need for infidelity and by extension condoms. Condoms carry a salient message that have sex with as many people you like and you will be safe. But that is not the truth, condoms are not 100 percent safe and their effectiveness in combating HIV and Aids is debatable.

    We shouldn’t fall in the trap of these big conglomerates who just want to promote their products (condoms) and attack the Pope. Fidelity by both men and women is vital to both men and women whether within and without the church and condoms should never be used as an excuse. Rather what you should be questioning is the institute of marriage and its sanctity rather than the church and promoting condoms

  4. “Moreover, the Christian woman is not encouraged to assert any rights over her body because Christian teaching insists that she has no autonomy over her body, if it does not belong to the Lord then it belongs to her husband so using condoms is out of the question.”
    Throw in the burden of Original Sin, and women are fair game to the Judeo-Christian tradition.
    The main purpose of this theology is to curb the power of women by demeaning their status as bringers of life, which in other cultures they are revered for.
    In an effectively secular society, that task has now passed to the porn industry.

    • Sharon says:

      @Little Richardjohn,

      Sorry to say but you are misguided. The bible does not state that it is only the woman’s body that belongs to the man but that the man’s body also belongs to his woman. The glaringly obvious rationale is that married people should be exclusive to each other – faithful to one another. It has nothing to do with oppressing women. Let us not quote the word out of context and base shaky conclusions thereon.

  5. tsitsi makwande masuka says:

    God’s plans are always perfect.Before marriage,He demands abstinence for both parties.In marriage He requires faithfulness from both parties.If human beings could only adhere to God’s plan for marriage,there will be no AIDS.Unfortunately,people choose to do as they desire and wish.They choose to have multiple sex partners and small houses.At the end of the day we have disease and pestilence and who do we blame?Certainly not God. As human beings lets learn to live according to God’s plan and stop excusing our risky behaviour on nature and so on. Try it and prove for yourself.

    • Ebeneza says:

      juss to echoe some more on that. God views us as sovreign institutions that have the ability to choose good from evil. He set his principles and made them crystal clear for each on of us to abide by.God did not crompromise light and day for so that we can hav them both at the same time but separated them. Why then try to apply his principles to satify your lust.His principles do not charge its either you apply them or do away with the m and die the moment you try to use both at the same time you juss confusing yourself at the end you will die so you say have condoms so that we continue fornicating and go to church try that we will soon bury you. if you fail to trust God with you life the one who made the heaven and te earth out of nothing a formless void dark place turn into what you see now and you stil trust that the latex condom can protect you hahahahah i don think so read the bilble well an you will understand rather than jumping to serious conclusions that have serious repacations on your life.

  6. Noxolo says:

    The world we live in is getting messed up by the day @ such an alarming rate u wonder wat will b left for generations to cum.Conformity is the worst way to liv a lyf especially wen its under misguided notions of wat is cool and wats not.If more pple took initiativ instead of blaming all their problems on others this world would be a better place.We cant entirely blame the church bcoz i believ its there to guide pple it cannot dictate hw u liv bcoz they dont know wat u get up to wen u get home.

  7. Taffy says:

    As much as most women try to live by christian principles their still human beings with feelings.The church should encourage condom use and even preach about its usage even in a sunday service so the Christians are free to go out and buy ccondoms openly in the shop without fear or discrimination because as much as people try to live by biblical instruction not everyone is able to especially in this day were most married people are living apart because one has to work in the diaspora to fend for the family,So let the church be Realistic and encourage ccondom use so as to save lives and souls,In the real world we are living in how many husbands are being faithful to their wives or unmarried people who are abstaining

  8. Ebeneza says:

    be warned of blasphmy it will lead you in great trouble wacth out.

  9. Sebastian says:

    hey
    thot i myt also eventualy air my views on this matter. the reason y Karl Marx said that religion is the opium of the poor is because the religious pple of his age uzd it as a means to escape reality and live in a false world and aura with a delusion that despite and in spite of what they were experiencing somehow someday something would work out. this doznt rily happen, this idea of turning a religious blind “godly” eye on issues that affect us and remaining fixed on impractical beliefs or behaviors has always been a weakness of religion which seeks to follow preset ideologies even in the presence of evidence to the contrary. this trap has finaly caught up with christianity which i personally believe is supposed not to be a religion but a way of living. i am not advocating to the embracement of fornication by the church but the church shud stop deceiving itself, the young pple in churches are sexually active, this is a wel known secret which the church is turning a “holy” blind eye to. no wonder we see a lot of unplanned pregnancies among these holy church youths. wateva the church is doin is tantamount to wat religious groups do – the catholics continue pledging their futile celibacy farce and end up molesting kids, the moslems continue in their religion that teaches that dying as a suicide bomber means u gt 70 virgins in the afterlife bt wat gud z t 2 have evn one virgin wen m dead? – wat a sham? the church seems to be not wanting to teach proper sexual practice to its youth which they know are active, but just hoping that they stay negative by some other chance or divine intervention. it seems as if the other responder above also is mistaken that its only the average person that is weak but the true christians are the ones who we are seeing missing it and after all the whole bunch of them are average pple. teachin condom use is nt equivalent to saying, go get the sex, it should be taught as part of general things that pple shud know, for example washing hands after visiting the loo. i do agree that abstinence is the 100% way of staying in God’s plan and HIV free before marriage and the church shud preach t mo than anything else, but we shud not turn a blind eye to the fact that the same christians are failing to abstain hence… if in such a quagmire condomise. in this way we save a soul, that is the christian wud repent at least if it was a mistake and they wud live free of the plague. i personally have seen the effects of turning this blind eye that the church is doin and then punishing or excludin the “weak” from their gatherings. these are the ones that eventually get pregnant or infected and are in dire need of their support. this leads to loss of faith in the church even in God, loss of lives to the disease and also poverty due to unwanted pregnancies. in conclsion the church shud rily sit down and map out a strategy to solve this issue in such a way that it advocates and teaches abstinence but still promotes a practice of safe sex if that event develops coz lets face it, it happens and christians are doin t and we know that they aint doin t ryt coz we see them PREGNANT!!!!!

  10. Patie says:

    Well i think i agree with you Delta, and there is scientific evidence that shows that young women are more likely to sleep with more partners due to the effects of the group spirituality…it kinda lowers their guard i think…here’s the quote

    Spirituality is Sexy

    Spirituality has a greater effect on the sex lives of young adults — especially women — than religion, impulsivity, or alcohol. A research measure known as the Spiritual Transcendence Scale considers connectedness, universality, and prayer fulfillment. The study found that of the three, connectedness plays the largest role in spiritual sexuality and leads to more sex with more partners, often without the use of condoms.

    source: http://www.livescience.com/health/10-surprising-sex-stories-100330-1.html

  11. Sharon says:

    @ Sebastian,

    Let me succinctly reiterate my thoughts in this way-

    Just because we willingly,recklessly (and foolishly) indulge our sexual desires within wrong contexts gives us no right to demand the church to conform to our moral decadence. We are the problem and not the church – we are essentially saying – don’t tell me not to play with fire because it burns, i know the fire burns but ‘i cant help’ but play with it therefore i demand that YOU provide the fire-proof gloves to save me from my own folly. SERIOUSLY???

    Don’t ask the church to sanction our despicable, loose and frivolous sexual indulgences by arm-twisting the church into promoting condom use simply because doing the right thing is inconvenient.

    BTW – When i refer to the average person above, it includes everyone- christians and not. i never gave the impression that it excludes christians.

  12. Mqhelisi Mkhwanazi says:

    God is stil the Lord even when there is HIV/AIDS. We cant arm twist the church 2 our standards as people. The Bible is clear on such issues, sex belongs within the confines of a marriage & if u are married u must be faithful 2 yo partner.

    Condom usage shld never be a part of the message 4rm the church. That wil be against the mandate of the church…

  13. Sharon says:

    If the youth of the church are going against the church’s teaching of abstinence and go on to have pre-marital sex, why aren’t they using condoms to protect themselves?? We all know that condom use is being extensively taught in schools, workplaces,on TV and in communities including free condoms in toilets. So if the young people don’t follow that extensive teaching -whats to make them listen to that teaching simply because it comes from the pulpit- the same pulpit whose teachings they are already ignoring?? This is the fatal flaw in your argument Sebastian.

    So we still have no basis for blaming the church…The church isn’t killing anyone – we are killing ourselves.

    What the church is doing is fighting the root cause of the spread of HIV i.e. multiple sexual part – that is the only way we can ever eradicate HIV not thru condoms. Need I say more…

  14. Sharon says:

    OOPS… got a typo –meant”multiple sexual partners”

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