My daughter left for a three month mission trip to Thailand last week. She has her own blog that she is using to keep us posted and to process her experience. Her second day in Thailand, her team took a walk through the area known as the “Red Light District,” where the sex trade is alive and well. Her observations were chilling and kindled an anger in defense of the sanctity of human life.
You can read the whole post here, but here is an excerpt that captures the chilling reality of the sex trade: “Tonight I saw women wearing next to nothing and dancing on tables while being gawked at. Tonight I saw groups of men, women, college kids, couples, and even some families walking on a street filled with bars, strippers, and prostitutes like it was just a regular night out on the town. Tonight I saw a mother laugh as her 3 or 4 year old daughter held onto a pole next to a stripper and danced on a table. Tonight I saw groups of American college girls laughing and taking selfies next to Thai women who sell themselves for money each night. Tonight I saw girls who volunteered to be in the sex industry, and I also saw girls who were forced into it as slaves by the Russian Mafia. Tonight I saw things that I never wanted to see…but I will always be thankful that I did.
I was in shock, and I was heartbroken. I wanted to pray but I didn’t know what to pray for.”
I get it. She was in shock. Things like this are so far removed from the forefront of our everyday lives. We hear about the sex trade, human trafficking, and prostitution, but average joe, particularly average Christian, seldom, if ever sees it. We hear that Sacramento — a mere 3 hour drive from my home — is one of the sex trafficking capitols of the US, and that our beloved Super Bowl is notoriously active in the selling of women, boys, and girls for sex. It’s horrifying, but it still seems so distant and most of us really don’t know what to do with it. The truth is, however, we feed the industry and never even notice. Life is precious, but for the sake of our own pleasure and convenience we neglect the desperate heart cries of the forgotten, neglected and abused.
You don’t have to go very far to find a Christian, or even a Christian couple who believe the use of pornography is okay. It’s not hard to find believers with a heartless position on immigration. The problem with porn is that it objectifies human beings created in the image of God for the glory of God. Rather than seeing the true beauty of people — the inward beauty, the value and sacredness of human life — we see an object presented to us for our own pleasure. We ogle magazines (whether its Hustler, Penthouse, Playboy, the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, or the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition), watch movies (whether it’s Behind the Green Door or 50 Shades of Grey), and dine at Hooters and all the while we dehumanize people for the sake of pleasure. Holding prejudices against immigrants neglects the needs of people that drove them to take the risk. They are dehumanized as we refuse to help (help them get legal and in a better situation) and label them, diminish their worth, and reject them. Pleasure and rightness (pride) become the things we value (an idol if you will) and people become a means to an end.
This objectification of people perverts the sanctity of life and throws open the doors for a host of obscene, inhuman, inhumane, vile, detestable acts. Defiling the sanctity of human life has opened the door for adultery as married couples, through porn, invite a stranger into their marriage bed. It has given rise to rape culture and has normalized things like slavery (by paying illegals, or poor foreigners, less than a living wage) or the tragic scene my daughter has witnessed in Thailand (and that which goes on here during the Super Bowl); it has provided a hollow, self-centered justification for the murder of abortion — killing the unborn for the sake of convenience. Turning people into objects, or obstacles, allows corporations like those involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline to not just violate, but subject the basic human rights of people to the will of their greed. God is not fooled by our petty, childish, self-righteous justifications of our sin. He abhors it.
From the Old Testament through the Gospels and in the New Testament letters we see a common message: “Care for the helpless and needy.” Jesus said that the greatest commandment of all is to love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Who is our neighbor? Wrong question. The scribe who asked that question to Jesus got to hear the parable of the Good Samaritan and then was asked, in effect, ‘Who are you going to be a neighbor to?’ James tells us that “religion that our God and Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” What we do, however, is allow the world to pollute our thinking and we conform to its ideas and standards — even if we reject the greater apostasies and settle for “lesser evils.” In so doing, we devalue any human life that isn’t ours (even if it’s only a little bit). What we need to remember is that as followers of Christ, we are called to and being made holy. There is no “holy-ish.” There is holy, and there is unholy. If we choose, settle for, or practice unholiness (wickedness), then we prove that we are not of God. “Anyone who says he loves God and yet hates his brother is a liar and the truth is not in him” (1 John 4:20). What we typically think of as hatred is not the opposite of love. Sometimes disagreeing and opposing someone or something is an act of love (actively opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline or ministering to people dissuading them from abortion for example). Neglect is the first step toward hatred.
The Gospel of God reveals that we are among the unlovable, the broken, the wounded, and the needy. It reveals that for no other reason than it is in his nature, God reached out into our mess and rescued us, restoring our purpose and value, and drew him near to ourselves. This kind of mercy, this amazing grace, this unfailing love transforms our perception and thinking so that we can see a lost and broken world no other way but with the same mercy, grace, and love. Our heart goes out to the three year old being encouraged to pole dance and our resolve aligns with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe whose livelihood is being threatened by big oil. Our conscience is stirred to defend the innocent unborn from being murdered for profit and pleasure because we are convinced that God has known that child since the foundation of the world the same way he has known us.
The Gospel is not about causes. Anyone can pick a good cause and make that their god. It’s not about worshipping a cause and championing an agenda (even a noble one). It is about faithfulness. It is about pleasing and honoring God in the opportunities we are given. It is about bringing people into contact with the One who can redeem them. It is about walking with Jesus each day and following with him into what he is dong all around as we share in his priorities, values, and purpose. It’s about living the transformed life God has given us in Jesus through the presence of His Spirit and seeing people like he dies which will radically change the way we see and think about issues like immigration, abortion, pornography/sex/human trafficking/prostitution, homelessness, divorce, addiction, and other social issues. Not for the sake of the issues themselves, but for the glory of God and the sake of the people caught up in the issues.