5,000 people is about how many people showed up to the Justice Conference on February 22nd and 23rd in Philadelphia, PA. Almost 10,000 if you include all of the simulcast locations. If you don’t know about the Justice Conference, it is an annual international conference held every year where people gather together and discuss what it means to pursue holistic justice. I don’t know about you, but it is pretty encouraging to see so many people passionate about this. It excites me to see that there are so many people out there that think it is better to give than to receive. I’m excited that people are ready and willing to make a difference. On top of that, there were hundreds of exhibitor organizations, ready and willing to equip people to pursue holistic justice that cares for the poor, marginalized, and oppressed. I’m so happy about that.
At the Justice Conference, I got to have many great conversations with people I’d never met before. Often, I would introduce myself to men by saying, “Hi, my name is Ethan.” Then the person would introduce himself, and then he would almost always ask, “So why are you here?” Whenever this question was asked by a man, I would first say, “well… I’m a Defender,” and then I would continue to say my other reasons, like me being a pastor, student, and writer on Justice. Almost always, the followup question would be, “Oh…what is a Defender?” Then I would get to explain about the Defenders, and I invited them to check out the website (and our booth at the conference), and to take the pledge. It was so awesome to see so many men excited about taking the pledge and becoming a Defender!
I’d like to spend some time thinking about the theology of a Defender. Brenda Salter McNeil, a speaker at the Justice Conference, said that our theology directly affects our anthropology. Theology is answering the question of who is God. This question will directly affect how you see and view people.
For me, I believe that God has a heart for the oppressed. I believe that God wants people to be well, to be whole, and to have dignity—including the women and children who are trafficked daily! Deeply rooted in my belief about God is the idea that he cares for the oppressed, the marginalized, and the well-being of all human beings. As you can see, my theology directly affects my anthropology. And I think yours does too. Think about that yourself, and ask this question: how do I view God and how does that affect how I view people? I think as Defenders, we need to have a Defenders theology. God cares for the widows and orphans, and he cares for women and children. Everyone has dignity. Everyone has rights. As a Defender, we are called to end the demand for commercial sex because that is at the heart of God’s desires.
I’ll end with another quote by Rev. Brenda Salter McNeil. “God is raising an army that is going to do justice and love mercy” and “God is [definitely] doing something unusual.” Defenders, its time to take action. We have the support of at least 10,000 other people who care about what we are doing to bring about justice. Be encouraged by that, and lets make a difference. Lets end the demand.