In Which I’m a Jesus Feminist Too.

You have to own what you’re doing here. If you’re wanting to give people a new way to see this, then you have to give people a new way to see this. Don’t tuck it in…People get a book because they want to hear what this person has to say. So if this person turns all the knobs down to the left and sort of says, I don’t know, I just sort of have a couple of thoughts, that’s not interesting. –  Author Rob Bell

Author Sarah Bessey is interesting. And so is her little yellow book, Jesus Feminist, which dropped yesterday. The title alone promises her entree into hot water with just about everybody, but good for her. She did her homework, took the stage and turned her volume up.

Whether I agree with her is premature and frankly kind of irrelevant. Since when do we only read books we’re certain to agree with? Bessey’s moving the conversation in an interesting direction, much like Rob Bell did with Love Wins – the book that earned him the title “heretic.” So let ‘er rip Sarah, I’m already stomping my feet and cheering you on for saying things I think, but can’t yet muster. Things like this:

“We are among the disciples who are simply going outside, to freedom, together, intent on following Jesus; we love him so. We’re finding each other out here, and it’s beautiful and crazy and churchy and holy. We are simply getting on with it, with the work of justice and mercy, the glorious labor of reconciliation and redemption, the mess of friendship and community, the guts of walking on the water, and the big-sky dreaming of the Kingdom of God.

So if that’s what it means to be a Jesus Feminist, count me in.

Because at this very moment, more women are exploited and enslaved on this planet than any other time in human history. One in three American girls is sexually abused before age 18. The average age of a child sex slave worldwide is 11. Why? Because among a thousand other poverty and gender-based reasons, there is demand, or to put it bluntly, there are lots of men who like having sex with women and children against their will.

And THAT is an abomination.

So, if ever there was a time for educated, resourced, liberated women of God to stand up and bang the drum for the lives of their sisters who can’t, this is it. Because if not us, who?

Can you tell God’s been dealing with me about something lately? Open your mouth Erin. Open it.

Open your mouth for the dumb [those unable to speak for themselves], for the rights of all who are left desolate and defenseless; Open your mouth, judge righteously, and administer justice for the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9

When I was just a feminist – no modifier – I would have considered the phrase “Jesus Feminist” an oxymoron and maybe even rattled off some caustic remark. But I didn’t know then how much Jesus loves women, how he defended them, listened to them, corrected them and healed them. I didn’t know everything he did was a model for the rest of us, including occasional, chair-tossing, whip-cracking outrage. Don’t forget, Jesus didn’t just carry baby lambs around, he flipped over tables in the Temple too.

And for all the things I’ve heard about women and the church, I’ve heard the following point made exactly once. It was said by a powerful woman of God, who 30 years ago was kicked out of her church for preaching the gospel.

Q: According to the Gospel of John, who was the first person to see the resurrected Christ?

A: Mary Magdalene.

Q: What happened next?

A: Jesus said to her, Do not cling to Me [do not hold Me], for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brethren and tell them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God. Away came Mary Magdalene, bringing the disciples news (word) that she had seen the Lord and that He had said these things to her. John 20:17-18 (emphasis mine.)

Q: Do you know what that makes Mary Magdalene?

A: The world’s very first gospel preacher.

Pause and calmly consider that. I’ll wait.

Maybe my volume’s up a little high for you today. Believe me when I say, I don’t mean to raise your blood pressure with theological debates. I’ve wasted enough time arguing, so you’re welcome to disagree with me. As Bessey says, there’s room for all of us.

I’m just saying there’s work to be done in this beautiful disaster and we need all hands on deck. Let’s not tie up half of them, especially those who can galvanize and lead others into battles that desperately need fighting.

**As ever, the views expressed herein are my own and not that of my employer.

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Did You Get What You Wanted for Christmas?

Present

Present (Photo credit: ejorpin)

All I wanted for Christmas this year was to stop doing nothing about the condition of the world, to be more like Jesus in the exact way he calls his followers to be – light.

After calling himself the light of the world, Jesus passed the mantle. WE are now the light of the world and WE are meant to shine like a city on a hill. It’s so simple, but I have sipped countless lattes with my smart, beautiful friends discussing hunger and poverty and slavery and AIDS, fixing our hopes on some opaque redemptive body and wringing our hands.

But Jesus Christ did not ruminate over why the Jewish mental health system failed the demon-possessed man. He just stopped what he was doing and healed him.

So a month ago, I began raising money for The Exodus Road, a coalition of covert investigators rescuing child sex slaves out of SE Asian brothels.

By Christmas day, 18 people, from my parents, to friends, to complete strangers had contributed $1000 of our $1400 goal. That means all of us are engaging the problem of sexual slavery, not just talking about it. We are advancing an army of light, which the darkness cannot suffer. We have done as Proverbs 31:8 says:

Open your mouth for the dumb, for the cause of all who are left desolate.

And yet many people still gaze at all the sticky, black tar fouling the earth and say, “It’s too big, too dark. God can’t possibly be here.”

But He is and here’s how I know:

Careful readers will note we fell short of our $1400 goal. I did the best I could by my deadline and handed the rest over to God.

Yesterday, a couple I don’t know in Minnesota donated the last $400 – our biggest single donation.

candles

candles (Photo credit: rogerglenn)

They gave on behalf of Urban Servant, a blog written by my childhood friend Dorothy, who has adopted nine of her eleven children, many of whom were damaged in utero by booze. If there were no Dorothy, there would be nine more needy, little people dropping through the system like metal balls in a game of mousetrap.

But there is a Dorothy and she is a beacon. This woman has 13 mouths to feed thrice daily, yet she made time to blog about us in such a compelling way, people I don’t know made a sizable gift in her name.

This is how God works. After we agree to serve Him, He uses us like melodies in other people’s songs.

When we get less selfish with our time, our money and our hands, when we accept that we don’t know what we’re doing and may mess things up, when we engage one another in sometimes slow and inefficient ways, that’s when the light shines through us and people can see it. Then the world is a little less dark.

I’m grateful for all of you. Happy New Year.

Fight Sex Trafficking – Out the Johns

Soi Cowboy, a red-light district in Bangkok

Soi Cowboy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Years ago, I was walking through a bustling red light district in Thailand. Crowded bars and the occasional elephant lined the fluorescent pink streets, and young girls stood in doorways promising sex shows involving a surprising array of implements.

Just then, a florid, middle-aged white guy wearing a teenage Asian girl on his arm walked by, parading down the street like landed gentry strolling in a rose garden.

“What a dick,” I thought. “He would never get away with that in Germany, but in Thailand he thinks he’s hot, like nobody knows he paid for it.”

Then I promptly did nothing. Because what can you do?

Though prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand, it is a robust industry that, studies say, produces $4.3 billion per year. Not surprisingly, The UN considers Thailand, with its porous borders, a hotbed of human trafficking.

Prostitution and human trafficking are not necessarily the same thing, but they are definitely kissing cousins. Thank God counter-trafficking groups rescue people and pursue legislation in economically unstable regions where women lack even cursory legal status, but I wonder:

Who is prosecuting the dick with the underage girl on his arm?

Isn’t our “what-happens-in-Vegas-stays-in-Vegas” attitude equally liable for what is now the world’s third largest organized crime?

In 1999 the Swedish government passed a law acknowledging that a country cannot resolve its human trafficking problem without first addressing the demand for prostitution – not supply, demand.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Ten years later, the Swedes studied the law’s impact and found street prostitution had dropped by half with no evidence it had just moved indoors or online. In addition, fewer men said they purchased sexual services. Even the police agreed, the law worked and in 2010 Sweden was the only country in Europe where prostitution and sex trafficking had not increased.

The success of Swedish law, now called the Nordic Model, lies not so much in penalizing men, but in outing them – removing the invisibility of the behavior. Countries where the customer fears the loss of his anonymity are unappealing to pimps and traffickers.

US law enforcement is exposing Johns too. In January, New York City police arrested 195 people, including johns, and seized 55 vehicles, as part of Operation Losing Proposition.  In May, Manhattan’s D.A. charged 14 men with soliciting prostitution after a crackdown on a sex trafficking ring, where pimps tattooed bar codes on womens’ necks. During the bust one of the men was overheard asking an investigator, “Does my wife have to find out about this?”

People love to call prostitution a victimless crime – a commodity transaction between adults. However, in our culture which flirts regularly with shamelessness, getting caught soliciting sex is still deeply shameful  (think Hugh Grant and George Michael).  It’s easy to rationalize selfish impulses until organizations like WomensLaw.org show up with data like this:

Prostitutes are 40 times more likely to die than non-prostitutes.

Sixty-eight percent of prostituted women meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the same range as combat veterans and victims of torture.

Studies show that 75 to 95% of all prostitutes were sexually abused as children.

 Kevin Ryan CEO of Covenant House, the largest privately funded agency serving runaway, homeless and trafficked youth in the Americas, says, “We need a 21st century abolitionist movement to end the trafficking of women and children, and it must include a robust front in the war against demand.”

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