Christie Turner was a psychology student in Taylor University, Indiana in 2009 when ACET Ireland hosted Taylor’s ‘ J-term’, an intensive one month interactive study programme focussing on HIV in Ireland and around the world. She is currently a doctoral student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.
My month with ACET made me very uncomfortable and insecure with the world I knew. I did not think I was a judgmental person until I was gently confronted with the reality of my bias during my time at ACET.
ACET presented, through lectures and stories, the multi-dimensional impact of HIV on communities. They discussed HIV in relation to gender, drugs, families, kids, church and sexuality. Prior to my trip, I had a very limited one-dimensional perspective on HIV. All these new dimensions overwhelmed me.
When presented with these stories I found myself asking how a drug addict, homosexual or prostitute could love Jesus. I had difficulty reconciling that Christian acted in ways that I considered sinful.
I felt a bit foolish admitting my judgementalism. I was surprised that some of the clients were still injecting drugs and receiving care. I discovered with my time at ACET that somehow I had a preconceived idea that in order to receive care you need to be on a path of good choices and improvement. I was terrified that I was asking these questions. What did these questions mean about me? All of a sudden I was surprised to find that I had an opinion on who qualified and was deserving of care.
ACET was gentle with my ignorant opinions. They engaged me in conversations about my bias. They asked questions about my experience. They helped me to see and observe firsthand the outside influences on my opinions. I began to realise that I focused so much on the particular behaviour of others and forgot that so many other things in my own life separate me from God. I am so focused on my own progress, achievement, and measurement that I forget about the person next to me.
Now what? During my time studying with ACET I learned about and saw a glimpse of how HIV impacts communities. Ultimately I questioned society, myself, my bias, my faith. I began to remove the barrier that I had created that separated me from others — the “us and them” barrier. I began to realise how close my own story is to this person’s story that I distanced myself from.
My time with ACET ignited, confirmed, and challenged my desire for further study.
I saw ACET embody theology. I desire to be a part of psychology that embodies my theology by working with people who my knee jerk judgments try to keep me from.
My time with ACET made me very uncomfortable and insecure with the world I knew, but I am grateful that I am uncomfortable with that world I participated in.