Monday, November 15, 2010

An Untended Story


No matter what we might think of it, social media is an avenue into clarity.  It is a great way to force us to have to articulate ourselves well, to determine what is important enough to us to do so.  We either engage in it silently and keep our head low, or we venture out and have to say, “Look, this is what I mean.”  I’m having one of those moments.

Like many, my Facebook friends list is a menagerie of current intimate relationships mixed in with friends from the block I grew up on in New Mexico, mixed with high school friends from Trigonometry, college reading group folks and various people from many countries I’ve encountered in my adult life.  It is a mixture of professing followers of Christ, Buddhists, Jews, nominal Christians, agnostics, academic atheists and those practicing a various smattering of contemporary spiritual mixes.

So, each time I desired to post something about a story of forced prostitution and/or the work of folks I care about involved in that realm, or even my own heart and work, I was forced to consider how it would be ‘heard’ by those on my friends’ list.   Would it come across as moralizing?  I realized that many would immediately think of the ‘sex trade’ as a viable if not necessary form of income for the impoverished. For many, when not aware of the coercive and violent nature of how many of the girls are forced into slavery, the term ‘traffiicked’ has helped in recent years to underscore the difference between forced prostitution and the practice or trade of selling sex simply to make a living. Even with that distinction, however, many hear of attempts at intervening in prostitution as either moralizing or a na├»ve intrusion into the private choices of others.   I recognized that there were perhaps men in my list who have, at one point in their life, participated in securing a prostitute.  The spectrum of opinion and impression and unspoken images around the subject would be as varied as, well, the Facebook list.

There’s too much encumbered around the notions and stigmas around prostitution.  That’s okay.  Actually, it is really good.  It allows us to come to the subject the way Christ comes to any subject.  It is not that he refuses to be boxed in, its just that he can't be.   His heart is so intent on the true nature of a person's heart that he speaks of slavery as our condition.  He brazenly stood up in his hometown temple, reading the prophetic scroll of Isaiah and claiming it as a description of himself as the one who would 'heal the broken hearted, and set the captive free' (Isaiah 61).  He not only leveled the playing field for Greek and Hebrew, Male and Female, Slave and Slave Owner, but he makes it clear that our log-fogged eyes can't see clearly just how similar we are to the speck-blinded poor folks we pity.   Another way for us to think of it:  his words are as much for the hardened child porn producer as they are for the eleven year old Cambodian girl taken into an interment camp intended to prepare her for filming.  His words are for organized crime, and for my own heart.   His definition of captivity is comprehensive, it cannot be separated, body from spirit from heart.  Oppression is slavery is bondage is…. our state. 

Last week was a case in point for me.  I (along with thousands of others, apparently) was really grieved when I learned that Amazon.com was selling and promoting a book entitled, ‘A Pedophiles Guide to Love and Pleasure.’  My heart was immediately flooded with the stories of women I’ve had the privilege to walk with in my counseling practice, many of whom have struggled upstream their entire life after being drawn into the conflictual relational nature of child sexual abuse.  And my mind was overwhelmed at the thought of the countless kids who are forced onto the soiled mattresses or pristine silk pillows or suburban couches which are the venues of child exploitation in this age.  I picked up the phone and called to complain.  As I was on hold, waiting to speak to an Amazon.com supervisor, the thought crossed my mind that many would consider what I was doing an affront to freedom of speech.  I knew intellectually that this argument did not hold up, as the book promotes criminal activity, and yet, our culture has become desensitized to the point that ‘live and let live’ often is the stronger choir than intervening on behalf of goodness.   I posted something about the book, and I was off and running in wondering what people might be thinking about it.  It was important enough to post – I really hoped others would call Amazon as well.  Amazon responded to a cavalcade of complaints, and the supervisor I spoke with expressed their own personal horror that the book had slipped through normal decency channels.  I thought to myself, “This is not about decency.  It is about kids.”  But I just said yes and thanked him.   A few days later CNN did a story about this whole thing – the book, the avalanche of opposition, the guy who wrote it.  I was struck when I read how the author of the book spoke of his intentions – to show people they could express love for children in sexual ways.  He referenced his own life and experiences as a child, and my heart broke as I realized this is a man who has a history of sexual abuse himself.  An unnamed, untended to story.  I realized anew the level playing field.  This man needs to be in prison, yet in the same breath that he needs a rescue from the prison he is in.    Just like me.


 ~ Jan Meyers Proett