Book Reviews

Donald E. Messer, Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence; Christian Churches and the Global AIDS Crisis (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).

"It is required of a person," wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes, "that he should share the passion and action of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived" (p. 69). Using Holmes' metric, and the statistics that continue to emerge about the magnitude of the global AIDS crisis, one would think that most people, and especially Christians, would be involved. But such is not the case, according to Donald Messer. True, 22 million people have died of AIDS, 40 million now live with HIV (95% of whom are in the two-thirds world), and 14 million orphans have lost parents to the disease. True, the disease is still in its infancy and by some estimates will not peak until the year 2050. True, although 95% of HIV infected people live in the two-thirds world, only about 10% of the global HIV/AIDS budget is spent there (p. 118). Even so, Messer argues, most Christians have responded with apathy, indifference, denial, denunciation and discrimination. His book wants to move us forward.

In the Greek New Testament the word kairos (= "time") has a special connotation, which Robert McAfee Brown once defined as "a time of opportunity demanding a response: God offers us a new set of possibilities and we have to accept or decline" (p. xiii). The Scottish theologian George McLeod (1895–1991) may have said it best when he wrote, "I simply argue that the Cross be raised again at the center of the market place as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a Cathedral between two candles, but on a Cross between two thieves; on the town garbage heap; on a crossroads so cosmopolitan that they had to write his title in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek; at the kind of place where cynics talk smut and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where he died and that is what he died about. And that is where churchmen should be and what churchmen should be about" (p. 20).