Illumination of Absolution

25 04 2008

Friends and Family,

Mere Christianity. I’m sure you’ve either read it or have a friend who has. Yeah, that C.S. Lewis guy wrote it. You know, the one created The Chronicles of Narnia, but don’t get confused, this book isn’t about fauns or talking beavers. It’s about the raw essentials that illustrate God’s existence and the book is blowing my mind. Literally, my brain cells are dropping like flies.

A plus RV’s equals Responsibilities

The sky shed a few tears as I waited for the hovering darkness to pass. Tonight, I was going to be in community with an old friend and her family. A family made up of twenty-two children, a husband and two wives. Yes, two wives. I can still remember my first reaction to polygamy in Uganda so clearly. “What, you have four wives? No wonder you’re HIV positive.” However, tonight projected a different reaction. My tune was understanding and complimentary to the tune of Acholi culture.

My old friend (I’m now going to refer to her as Betty because that is her name after all), was frying donuts as Vanessa (my girlfriend) and I arrived late in the evening. The stars seemed too close and a cool breeze irritated the bats living in the trees above (Vanessa got pooped on…twice). What would tonight have in store? I sat down next to Vanessa and mentally transitioned into community life. Betty’s husband joined our small group of four and followed his greetings with a forty-five minute monologue. It eventually evolved into an explanation of what a real man is. He ended by saying “Jared, you’re a great man.” My insides got really uncomfortable and then Vanessa got pooped on (so we moved inside). As I grabbed my bag I couldn’t help thinking about what he said, “am I a great man?” No, I thought, I’m no greater than any other convicted men. Men convicted to take care and support those around him.

The Acholi culture is community based and men are seen as the head of the home. It’s the man’s responsibility to take care of and to provide for his wife(s) and children. An HIV infected widow is unable to provide enough for her eight plus children and is “blessed” when she remarries (even if the man is already married to more than one woman) because she and her children will be provided for. She loves her children so much and does anything; even share her love with a man who now has two wives. When I was fresh from America I had a hard time understanding an Acholi man’s “conviction” to love more than one woman. However, his culture is a part of him. His convictions are a part of him. HIV is a part of him. A woman with HIV is looked down upon and is rejected by a single unmarried man. However, a married HIV infected man sees it as his responsibility to take care of his tribe, so he marries another woman adding responsibility (ridiculous amounts), but he loves it. It’s part of who he is. (Note: Not all men with multiple wives in Uganda are HIV positive and not all HIV positive men have more than one wife).

I’m not writing this to say men in America should marry more than one woman because it’s the responsible thing to do. I believe western men should only have one wife (it’s the law). I’m saying an AIDS infected Acholi man who’s convicted and responsible enough to marry an AIDS infected widow with eight plus children is consider by some to be a real man. In fact, more real than me (I’m an unmarried 25 year old, that’s unusual here).

At the end of the night, Betty passed her husband his ARV’s and he gave a big smile before swallowing them.

The world is not as black and white as I once thought.

God offers Absolution and His love is strong.

Jared

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