AU Trafficking Summit — Day 2 [updated]

Extra seats had to be brought into Newbold Auditorium to accomodate the large numbers of students who attended the second event of Andrews University’s Summit on Social Consciousness [go here for day 1]. The crowd gathered to watch the documentary, Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, and many attendees signed up to learn more about the chapter of Adventist Peace Fellowship that is forming on campus.

Nefarious is a “hard-hitting documentary that exposes the disturbing trends in modern sex slavery,” drawing lessons about trafficking from countries in Europe, Asia and North America. Even though Africa was not covered in this film, it is by no means exempt from trafficking.

The film makes a number of important connections–between trafficking and prostitution, between child abuse and the sex industry, between organized crime and government corruption, between legal approaches to prostitution and societal affects, and between Jesus and true freedom. Despite the brutal nature of the topic, in the end there was a strong message of hope in Jesus.

Exodus Cry, a Christian organization working to end modern slavery, played a significant role in making the documentary available to Christian audiences. More on Exodus Cry in a future post.

Watching Nefarious brought back thoughts I had earlier in the week regarding the documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer. I want to affirm the story it tells of Kris Carr’s journey dealing with cancer–navigating the uncertain terrain of treatments, friendships, romance and much more. It was a moving film that told a story of courage, tenacity and hope. Yet that word “sexy” stood out to me. Everything in our culture has to be sexy. We’re not interested if it isn’t sexy, whether “it” is economics, kale, taxes, or even volunteering. Sexy, good! Not sexy, boring!

Sexy: provoking sexual interest; arousing sexual desire. The attitude says, “If taxes and kale aren’t leading to sex, then why should I care?” Isn’t this the same attitude fueling the sex trafficking industry? “I’m really only interested in sex, so if you want me to pay attention to something, make it sexy. Only my desire for ‘sexy’ matters. Sex tops my list, and I’m getting what I want. Ultimately, I’m going to take it regardless of the consequences.”

In our church and in wider society, there is a lot of discussion about who should be able to marry, to have sex, to raise children, to hold church office. Rights of all members of society are important, and I am not minimizing that conversation surrounding LGBTQ issues; however, when Jesus spoke about sexuality, he did not speak to the issues we usually get fired up about. Rather, he went to the heart of the matter and called out lust as the demon within, noting especially heterosexual men (Matthew 5:28). Looking at people as objects to satisfy my desires rather than as children of God with inherent dignity, worth and significance is the root problem of this global tragedy affecting some 27,000,000 people (that number includes both labor & sex trafficking).

As I understand Jesus, this means (speaking from the perspective of a heterosexual male) that the SI swimsuit issue, porn in whatever form, and sex trafficking are not so different. They are merely a continuum of the same lust. It’s the same attitude–“you are here to please me, and not you, only your body.”

May we have eyes to see that everyone–every person we meet, every person we see in the media, and every person affected by injustice–is a temple built by and for God (1 Cor. 6:19). Whatever holiness we may attribute to “the house of God,” this pales in comparison to the sacredness of the individual created in the image of God. This means you. And her. And him. And unbelievably, this is also true of the traffickers (Ez. 18:23). God wants to rescue the traffickers and Johns from their future destruction just as much as God wants to rescue the abused from their present hell. As Pastor Esther Knott said at the close of the first night’s meeting, “God is in the pursuit of all of us.”

May we not pass judgment on the traffickers and the “Johns” (purchasers) so quickly that we fail to see how the seeds of that sin are likely lurking in us as well. May the Spirit of God remove this attitude from our hearts, so we are not self-righteous and blind, thinking “At least I only look at Maxim. I’m not a bad person like those traffickers.” Jesus always goes for the heart because “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matthew 15:19).

So at the same time that we work to free those in sex and labor slavery, may we be quiet before God and pray also for our own freedom from the sinful attitudes that yet reside in us.

Biblical passages for reflection:

Examine me, O Lord, and try me;
Test my mind and my heart. (Ps. 26:2)

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matt.  7:1-5)

Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? (Is. 58:6-7)

BONUS: EG White on Isaiah 58–“The whole of the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah is to be regarded as a message for this time, to be given over and over again” (Special Testimonies, series B, no. 2, p. 5; Welfare Ministry, p. 29). “I have been instructed to refer our people to the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah. Read this chapter carefully and understand the kind of ministry that will bring life into the churches.” (Manuscript 7, 1908; Welfare Ministry, p. 29). “Please read Isaiah 58…. This is the special work now before us. All our praying and abstinence from food will avail nothing unless we resolutely lay hold of this work” (Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 33-35; Welfare Ministry, pp. 29-31). MORE

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