Thursday, March 26, 2009

Luweero and Labels

This weekend we traveled to Luweero to learn about AIDS. A certain family has spent the last several years creating a program to meet the needs of AIDS victims. That family has each member contribute 10% of its income for the program, which provides food for six families. Once a week all the children come to their center and play games, talk, have bible study. Its called the Mirembe Orphans and Vulnerable Children Service Centre, and it's about as grassroots as it can get. AIDS is this huge issue that gets huge concerts and huge celebrities. But this family…they're paying to feed six families and they're playing with kids. Local children are also invited, so it's not just the "AIDS kids." When we were there, we didn't know who was who. And it didn't matter. No labels. Because labels suck. One of my pet peeves is labeling. Yet I do it all the time. And you have to, you think in labels, categories.

I almost got to go to the north this weekend with a Pastor Steven, to Arua district which is along the DR Congo border. It didn't work out, but I won't forget the conversation we had in preparation. He told me that in the rural areas, people might assume I'm Episcopal since I'm American, and think that I would be teaching homosexuality. Labels. In Luweero we met Bishop Rt. Rev. Evans M. Kisekka, who oversaw several Episcopal turned Anglican churches in California, that asked him for permission to become part of the diocese of Luweero after rejecting the Episcopal admittance of homosexuality. Yesterday in law class my friend Rob, who's Episcopal, did a presentation on homosexuality and argued that Jesus' message was peace and love, not condemnation. My Ugandan friends argued that if you blur the line here, soon thieves will justify themselves, that two cities were destroyed for homosexuality in the Bible (which isn't quite true), and that it's wrong the way school boys will get "sugar daddies" to provide their school fees (which I accept). I realized that they're coming from a very different place, though probably not as different as I'd like. When my Ugandan friend purposefully antagonized Rob, and then whispered to me about how fun it is to do so, I did have to laugh, but I was also sad.

Sometimes, labels are just a tool of the powerful to score points and to marginalize. But partly, labels are necessary to distinguish right from wrong. But even then it doesn't really matter, if there's not love. I watched Sometimes in April yesterday, about the Rwandan genocide. Amazing movie. There's this scene of someone watching tv as a bureaucrat stumbles over trying to call it acts of genocide, but not actual genocide. Labels stop to matter in finding right and wrong, because if there was love you wouldn't need a label to make yourself do something. A child doesn't need to be an AIDS orphan for you to help them if there's love. Murder doesn't need to be genocide for you to stop it if there's love. And someone with relationship drama doesn't need to be homosexual for you to listen if there's love.

Labels are important to identify distinctions, but they can also be perverted to create false distinctions where none should exist. I think everyone agrees on that. It's just making the distinction between the two where everybody seems to lose the love a lot of the time. Self included.

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