Left Field by Patricia Nell Warren
Religious Extremists Offer a “Solution” for the World’s Ills, including HIV/AIDS.
As I wrote this column, the last week of March, a conference was about to take place whose speakers numbered some of the most extremist U.S. religious activists. One might assume that it was sponsored by the Tea Party, or The Family, or some other way-out cult group. But no. The Social Transformation Conference was sponsored by Harvard University. It partnered with Harvard’s Extension Service and Leadership Society, which seeks to help students step into public service.
Once upon a time, this Massachusetts school was a respected (if conservative) educational institution whose performance was relied on by many Americans—and that included those concerned with biomedical research. In recent years, however, Harvard has been on a slippery slope of scandal and loss of credibility. It’s not hard to see why.
The April 1–2 Social Transformation Conference was titled “Reclaiming the 7 Mountains of Culture.” Those buzzwords “transformation” and “Seven Mountains” identify the extremist evangelical political activists that group together in the so-called New Apostolic Reformation. In their view, they are the new Apostles, chosen by God to drive demons out of the U.S. and the world and restore it all to Jesus. “Demon possession” is another buzzword—according to the NAR, demons can infest anything from a child to a town, an institution, an entire country.
To achieve this, NAR believes they must “reclaim” (i.e., completely control) the Seven Mountains of Culture—business, education, government, media, arts and entertainment, family and religion. Reclaiming them means, of course, driving out the demons that infest them. Interestingly, none of those mountains are health science and healthcare. Presumably those “demon-infested” areas fall under government. At any rate, the NAR will—if they succeed in taking over the U.S. government—dictate everybody’s healthcare according to their Apostles II interpretation of the Bible.
So how do these apocalyptic activists view AIDS?
One of the conference’s featured speakers is Dr. Lance Wallnau, formerly founder of the Lance Learning Group, now a leading NAR activist. In a recent YouTube video, Wallnau quoted the Bible on the Apostles’ power to drive out demons and heal maladies. Then he proceeded to give us his version of Uganda’s efforts to fight AIDS through the ABC program crafted by this movement. In recent decades, the NAR had been missionizing hard in sub-Saharan Africa. Their organizations were among those benefiting from PEPFAR support of faith-based NGOs. President Museveni of Uganda, his wife and some of his government had become NAR converts. So Uganda turned to the NAR and PEPFAR for help.
According to Wallnau, thirty-five percent of the Ugandan population was HIV-positive, including the military, putting the country at risk of occupation by Islam. (Experts put the prevalence rate at more like twenty-nine percent.) So the NAR asked for, and got, access to Ugandan media and education, to put out the word on ABC. A meant abstinence from sex outside of marriage. B—be faithful to your spouse. C—use a condom if you are already infected. In three years (as Wallnau tells the story), HIV prevalence plummeted to five percent. In short, according to Wallnau, “The problem with AIDS has already been solved.”
What Wallnau isn’t telling us, and what less biased experts admit was this: The Uganda figures dropped because of massive deaths in three years, not because of ABC. By the following year, 2006, the Uganda health ministry had to admit that the infection rate was rising again.
When all else fails, the NAR has another solution: drive out demons with “miraculous healings.” According to them, countless thousands of alleged “miraculous AIDS healings” are being reported from converts in countries across sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, U.S. TV faith-healers like Benny Hinn, who is widely viewed as a fraud here, have been touring Africa, doing big business.
With this conference, I’d say that Harvard has slid farther down the slope. Indeed, the school is almost back to those colonial days when Salem, Massachusetts, authorities hung people believed to be demon-possessed.
I wonder how the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative feels about this conference. According to their mission statement, HAI “is dedicated to research and education to end the AIDS epidemic in Africa and developing countries.” How does HAI view demons as a routine factor of AIDS? And if “the AIDS problem is solved now,” why are we bothering to do more research and spend billions?
Lance Wallnau talk, “How A Nation Ended Their AIDS Epidemic!”: www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1DxBuAS1rs
Copyright © 2011 Patricia Nell Warren. All rights reserved.