ChurchETHOS

The Christian Response to Prostitution

Posted in christian thought, cultural relevance, social justice by Nathan Creitz on April 23, 2009
Rembrandt "Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery

"Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery" by Rembrandt

On Tuesday I wrote a post about the legalization of prostitution. The response to that post in the comments, on Facebook, and other social sites like Twitter and Reddit has been very interesting. Everyone from fundamentalists to sex workers have been voicing their opinion on the matter. Some have voiced their opinions on legal grounds and others have been on moral grounds (though I tried to do a fair job of keeping it on the legal side for the sake of discussion).

So, what do we do about it? ChurchETHOS is meant to help the church think about it’s habits and it’s reputation in the world. Churches have a lot of bad habits and as a result many people have rejected the teachings of Jesus because of our poor reputation with outsiders. When confronted with an issue like prostitution what can your church do to make a positive difference?

» Show Some Love

Whatever you do, don’t get out your Sharpie and poster board and start thinking up catchy slogans about how much God hates certain groups of people. For one thing, He doesn’t! For another thing, it’s exactly the opposite; God loves prostitutes, homosexuals, murderers, and fundamentalists even if He doesn’t condone their actions. So, if we are in fact, children of God who bear the DNA of the Creator, then we will love people. I’m not going to say, we should love them, because that sets up an us vs. them mentality. I’m not going to point to Bible verses so that we feel obligated to love people who aren’t like us. There is no obligation; there is no need for exhortation; a child of God loves people! It’s part of who we are.

» Preach the Word

Pastors and other church leaders need to preach and teach the Word to the church. Emphasis should be on God’s love in giving us sex and intimacy and marriage and family. We need to talk candidly and frequently (but tactfully) about the blessings of sex but we shouldn’t shy away from talking about the dangers physically and morally of engaging in sex outside of marriage. More than that, we need to cast vision for husbands and wives that they can be faithful to one another. We need to cast vision for parents that they can raise their children to avoid moral pitfalls. We need to cast vision for teens that even though they are inundated with sexual images daily they can find ways to live a victorious life through Christ.

» Make it Personal

The church has thrown away it’s street cred by trading in it’s relational mission to the poor and the marginalized for a seat of power in Washington. It is debatable whether that seat has done more harm than good for the kingdom of God. Our collective denouncement of the world has taken its effect: we got our seat for a time but people got tired of hearing what we stand against. Not to mention that the fundamentalists failed to consider what happens when the White House no longer cares what the church thinks. The social capital that once belonged to the church is spent.

I’ve written elsewhere that our faith shouldn’t be a public faith (or private). Instead, our faith should be personal. If your church leans more towards boycotts than towards building relationships with people who don’t watch Pat Robertson on TV then change needs to happen in your church. I’m willing to let our voice in Washington fade if we renew our Gospel mission to our neighbor on a more personal, relational level.

» Show Compassion

A lot of people who are involved in prostitution don’t want to be involved in it. The church can help them find something better for their lives. The church can help counsel those who have sexual addictions. The church can take troubled teens into their homes who may have been trafficked for sex. The church can provide a non-judgmental atmosphere for people to ask questions about God. The church can raise money and awareness for social issues.

Laws only take us so far. They are given primarily to protect society. The church can do more through compassion than the government can through taxes and policies and legislation. That will only work, though, if the church actually addresses issues like prostitution. If we just try and get more control in Washington then the real mission work will never get done.

» A Parable

Once, a group of religious leaders brought to Jesus a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11). I always wondered about that story. Didn’t they catch the man in the act of adultery, too? Why didn’t they bring him to Jesus? What would Jesus have said to him? It seems unfair that the woman is the only one who is blamed.

To anyone wanting to legalize prostitution I promise I won’t try and fight you on it. I’m not going to stock up on poster board and Sharpies. Of course, my personal vote in the ballot box is one thing but I’m not going to try and mobilize an army of voters against you. Legally, I would rather see us place more emphasis on those who kidnap, abuse, and exploit women and children for their own monetary gain than on the women who often feel ostracized from society.

There are some things that should not be on the market: drugs, machine guns, sex, etc. They can all be dangerous because of their power even though they aren’t bad in all contexts (like in medicine, military, and marriage respectively). The buyer should be just as accountable as the seller when it comes to such dangerous commodities. However, I want to address issues like prostitution the way Jesus would address them. He spoke personally to the woman caught in adultery. He challenged her not to live in sin. He went beyond the law that demanded her death because he knew her accusers couldn’t live up to the law either. He spoke to her heart. He loved her. He connected with her. He forgave her.

May we the church begin acting in a way that is pleasing to our Lord and that brings about transformation in the hearts and lives of our neighbors!

Related Post: Should We Legalize Prostitution? ::  Subscribe :: Why Subscribe?

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21 Responses

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  1. alexad said, on April 23, 2009 at 4.07 pm

    I reject your blanket categorization of sex as “dangerous.” That assumes it is inherently bad, and it isn’t. Perhaps you should’ve used the word “powerful” instead?

    Aside from that, however, the post itself was pretty well balanced and much more “real” than a lot of things we see coming from those who write from a religious perspective. 😉

    • Bobby Grow said, on April 26, 2009 at 1.02 am

      Alexa,

      We’re all religious.

  2. Nathan Creitz said, on April 23, 2009 at 4.09 pm

    Yeah, I see how that comes across…I’ll do a quick edit…thanks for catching that.

  3. Nathan Creitz said, on April 23, 2009 at 4.14 pm

    Okay, changed to “They can all be dangerous because of their power even though they aren’t bad in all contexts (like in medicine, military, and marriage respectively).” This better communicates what I was trying to say. Once again, thanks for keeping me sharp.

  4. The Introvert said, on April 23, 2009 at 4.15 pm

    Well said. Christians tend to be real good at talk – particularly when it comes to removing the spec from our brother’s eye. But people don’t want to hear us talk. We are called to act. To love people. To help people.

  5. happyendingsdoc said, on April 23, 2009 at 4.32 pm

    Check out Happy Endings? a documentary on RI’s legal prostitution in the Asian massage parlors.
    If it was totally legal it would be safer for all those involved.
    http://www.happyendingdoc.com

    • Nathan Creitz said, on April 23, 2009 at 4.51 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I’m not really debating here whether or not prostitution should be legal but I respect your comment. I’m trying to address how Christians should respond to issues such as prostitution. Should they wave big signs? Should they drive by street workers and yell out that
      they are going to hell? No! We all have areas where we mess up so we need to be more loving and compassionate to one another and not worry about who can or cannot cast stones.

  6. happyendingsdoc said, on April 23, 2009 at 6.27 pm

    There is a man in my film who isn’t a Christian, but he tries to quote the bible. He says the bible says “It is better to shoot your seed into the womb of a prostitute than to cast it on a stone”. I haven’t found that in the bible, but I don’t think people should be going after the service providers. If there was no demand there would be no supply.
    The reason most women get into the business is because of the money. Poverty is the pimp. If you want to do something about prostitution, you should do something to address the conditions and reasons why women get into this profession.

    • Nathan Creitz said, on April 23, 2009 at 7.41 pm

      You are right, that’s not in the Bible. I also agree we have to address the problem on the demand side of things. Hopefully, if our churches did more of the things I outline in the post we would see a decline in prostitution and a lot of other vices.

  7. alexad said, on April 23, 2009 at 6.32 pm

    Happyendingsdoc,

    The reason most women get into the business is because of the money.

    See, these kinds of statements irritate the pee out of me. Just about *EVERYONE* who goes into ANY line of work does so because of the money. Do you think people who work at McDonald’s would be doing what they do if they didn’t need the money? Do you think ANY of them would be doing what they do if they had other options?

    And, just for the record, most of us who work in the higher end of this business actually DO enjoy what we do. Please disabuse yourself of the stereotypes.

  8. suzylicious said, on April 23, 2009 at 11.07 pm

    So homosexuals are in the same category as prostitutes, murderers, and fundamentalists? Very offensive. No one deserves to be grouped with fundamentalists. 🙂

    I appreciate that you think faith should be personal rather than political. I am all about the separation of church and state and I think the church does need to take a step back form injecting their ideas of morality into every legal issue.

    Alexad is right, it is inappropriate of you to use the word “dangerous” to describe sex as being bad in any context outside of marriage. That is extremely subjective, just as it is to describe drug use as being bad in any context outside of medicine. Plenty of people are addicted to prescription medication and their healthcare providers look the other way and continue to irresponsibly allow them access to those drugs anyway. And what about medical marijuana? Although I have no problem with it, I am pretty sure that you are against, although we have not discussed it. I am interested to know. If you think that drugs are okay in the context of medicine is medical marijuana okay? If you were in pain would you use marijuana if it was prescribed to you, or would you prefer Vicodin? Just wondering. As for machine guns, I will agree with you. Dangerous and bad.

    I guess if you are dealing with any issue – prostitution, drugs, whatever it is – you are going to find that it works for some people, does not for others, and then there is that grey area where we have all the controversy. I do hope you have success helping those people who truly need to get out of a bad situation.

    • Nathan Creitz said, on April 24, 2009 at 7.24 am

      I agree that the church should “take a step back from injecting their ideas of morality in every legal issue”, but I probably agree with you for a different reason. It’s not that I think the church is wrong in their beliefs but society doesn’t want to hear it anymore. Ethos has to do with character and reputation and if you don’t have a relationship with a person it’s hard to get them to hear you out no matter how passionate (pathos) or articulate (logos) you are on a subject. We need to just shut up and listen and show compassion and allow our actions to speak for themselves.

      I’m not going to deal with drugs and medicine for now. Suffice it to say that was an example to illustrate how destructive something can be if it’s not used appropriately. I didn’t mean to imply that sex is always dangerous, just as I don’t mean to imply that medicine or machine guns are always dangerous (well, maybe machine guns). As far as medicine is concerned, if I used “medicinal” instead of “medicine” would that help us move past a totally separate debate about marijuana? I’m not sure why you assume that I’m against its use for medicinal purposes. Also, my illustration took into account that people abuse even prescription drugs. That actually illustrates my point more fully. These are good medicines that can bring about healing but at their extreme they can even bring about death for one who is suicidal.

      I maintain my illustration, as imperfect as it is, only to point out that we live with boundaries in every facet of our lives. When I say I believe sex should have boundaries too, why is that so hard to take for many people? I said sex “can be dangerous”, that doesn’t mean I believe that sex is dirty, or sex is only for baby-making, or sex is evil. Sex is powerful and anything that is powerful needs to have boundaries. I’m not speaking from morality and I’m not going to quote Bible verses here, I’m speaking common sense.

  9. Jaisen said, on April 24, 2009 at 10.43 am

    I agree with the majority of what you said. I’ve been generally vocal about issues like this and it’s led me to a lot of frustration. A friend of mine were talking and I realized that I was becoming more known for talking about the issues than for loving people. I stopped.

    It was a realization that my faith was becoming more “public” than “personal”. I wish I would have come to that realization earlier, and I hope other Christians come to it sooner.

    • Nathan Creitz said, on April 24, 2009 at 10.50 am

      Jaisen – Thanks for your honesty. I’ve been there too. It’s easy to get our hackles up when something happens that we don’t approve of. It takes much more patience and grace and love and forgiveness to show compassion on a personal level. I love how Paul puts it when he writes, “Do you despise the riches of God’s kindness, restraint and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended for your repentance.”

    • Paul said, on April 24, 2009 at 11.45 am

      That’s a great verse, Nathan. Just last week we discussed that verse in my group. It seems to me that it has become easy to simply group people together and “demonize” them. Then we don’t have to feel the guilt of not loving them. They cease to become individuals created by God and simply become “those sinners”.
      That verse reminds me, however, that we are no different. We are saved only because God loved us first even when we were still sinners. And because of this, we should love all others, each and every individual, beautiful sinner. And I think you said it best, Nathan, “Its part of who we are.”

  10. Mikes@Your Daily Word said, on April 27, 2009 at 12.46 pm

    No Matter what happens, Christians must be sources of Love and Compassion just like the Lord Jesus Christ. Nobody’s perfect and we have no right to condemn anyone because we too are worth condemning.

    Preach the Word with Love and Compassion would be great way to do it!

  11. Ingrid Nevin said, on April 28, 2009 at 10.01 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I wondered over from Alexad’s blog and it was refreshing and wonderful to hear a calm and compassionate discussion.

    However, as a non-Christian, as I was reading your points, I kept thinking to the fundamental moral differences. I am very glad that your approach promotes reduction in ostracism, greater acceptance and tactical cooperation in stopping injustice and abuse. If everybody had just taken a couple of steps in this direction, the world would have been a much, much better place. And even those couple of steps are an immense goal that’s hard to achieve. So simply trying to implement your advice would make our hands full.

    But if we were to take it further, it’s like we live in different universes. The concept of axioms from math is a powerful one. If parallel lines don’t cross, you have geometry of a flat surface. If parallel lines cross, you have geometry of a sphere. There seem to be some fundamental differences in what Christians and sex-positive non-Christians consider healthy, balanced, and right; and I don’t know if those could be successfully resolved.

    But the good news, as I said above, is that we can accept the differences and cooperate in the areas we agree on, which alone is quite enough work for a lifetime.

    • Bobby Grow said, on April 30, 2009 at 2.22 am

      Ingrid,

      Why don’t you just become a Christian, then there would be no disjunctions to resolve . . . as far as our differing value-sets 😉 .

      But I agree with you, we do live in different universes; and so trying to find “common ground” becomes an difficult, if not impossible task. Btw, there’s a good little book you might want to read, it’s called The Universe Next Door by James Sire; it is a comparative study on the major “worldviews” out there (you might find it interesting).

      Peace.

    • Nathan Creitz said, on May 1, 2009 at 6.52 am

      Thanks for the comment Ingrid. I appreciate your perspective and I agree if we can work together on these issues we can accomplish much. I think you would discover that we probably agree on more than you might think. For example, would you agree that a major problem is that there is a craving for sex in our society that is out of control? People don’t seem to know how to set boundaries for sex and many believe there shouldn’t be any. ALL incidents of rape, sexual exploitation and trafficking, and abuse happen because of out of control selfish desire. Our society doesn’t know where to draw the line.

      At least the Bible gives a very definite line that sex should be enjoyed within marriage. Not that Christians always get it right either but where they mess up they’ve strayed from following Jesus and the teachings of the Bible. We have to realize that a moral line should be drawn. We can debate about where it’s drawn but the Bible gives the only unwavering, common sense, answer to the debate. And, it’s not just rules, it goes to the heart of why people do the harmful things that we do.

      I would encourage you to take a look at the life of Jesus. If you need some help finding where to begin feel free to email me. I’d be happy to send you a Bible or point you to a few good places to begin reading. In my opinion it’s important to begin with the root causes and not just the symptoms. The symptoms are more child slavery, more exploitation of women, more rape and abuse and etc. We have to realize that there is something evil in the hearts of people that must be addressed; not through legislation, but through love and forgiveness.

  12. nobody416 said, on May 9, 2009 at 3.59 pm

    Great post! I’m currently working on a series on my blog about “Hope for the Prostitute”. I’m working on some researching today and came across this post. May I link back to this in one of my posts in the series with a list of good resources on this topic? Thanks and God bless.

    • Nathan Creitz said, on May 9, 2009 at 5.22 pm

      nobody416 – Thanks for linking to me. I am looking forward to reading your final project. I’ll try to drop in and check out your site later today.


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