Friday, March 11, 2005

Boys Will Do Boys: At least according to a number of members. Consider this pearl of wisdom:

Since sex is between two consenting adults and everyone's standards of moral obligation are different, we do not have the right to tell someone who is HIV+ or HIV- what they are allowed to do behind closed doors. We can give information and listen to people's needs. From there an answer and lasting solution will come to this problem that has plagued our community for so many years.

Ah yes. That most venerable of heresies, gnosticism, rears its ugly head again, still claiming after all these centuries that knowledge alone is sufficient to solve every problem. The only trouble is that experience suggests a rather more complicated explanation of human behavior is in order, one that neither denies the existence of the human will (i.e., one that concedes we can change our behavior) but that also does not fall into the trap of presuming we sin out of ignorance.

Consider the AIDS epidemic among American gay men. Most of us know what HIV is, how it is transmitted, and what steps (abstinence, monogamy, use of condoms) can be taken to reduce its spread. In short, we have been given knowledge about the disease, and most of us have received it. Yet still the (largely self-inflicted) plague continues. All of which would seem to confirm the psychological--if not the soteriological--truth of St. Paul's confession to the Roman church:

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (Rom. 7:15).

Paul's answer to this dilemma, of course, was to turn for help to the One who created us:

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you... (Rom. 8:7-9a)

But then this answer to the problem of HIV is not likely to be taken seriously by those who think knowledge or gnosis is the answer to everything. After all, Paul's approach would require people to get down on their knees for some purpose other than indulging sexual "needs." And this, in turn, would involve making a moral judgment against promiscuity, a definite no-no in this age of moral relativism--even, it would appear, when the only alternative is quite literally death.

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