**This is the fifth guest blog in a series of posts by the 2018 JuST Faith Summit speakers. Check back for new posts highlighting the critical topics that will be featured at this year’s Faith Summit. Join us, June 20-22 at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, for this exciting Summit. Visit this link to see the full agenda and lineup of speakers.
By Benjamin Nolot, CEO & Founder, Exodus Cry
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” —Anonymous1
The change I want to see in the world must begin first in me. The reality is, we have all been affected by, and to varying degrees, participated in the toxic culture that helps to perpetuate the commercial sex industry. It’s critical that we achieve personal freedom, not just as a prerequisite to shifting the culture, but also as a means to it. Bringing an end to the commercial sex industry will require us adopting a new way of being in the world.
1. Choose Love
“Love is the great conqueror of lust.” –C.S. Lewis
Our planet is in a great struggle between the forces of love and lust. Lust is the fuel that drives people to visit strip clubs, consume pornography, and pay to have sex with individuals in prostitution.
To the degree we are participating in these activities, we are fueling and perpetuating the commercial sex industry. Participation at any level has consequences at every level. The commercial sex industry operates on a supply and demand basis: without the demand, there would be no supply. It’s as simple as that.
Our problem with lust needs a solution. It’s a fire that needs to be extinguished. Just a cursory look across the landscape of our world reveals a globe being swept away in a deluge of lust.
The nature of lust itself is exploitative. It only considers its need to be satisfied, but never the cost that is paid by oneself or others. It gives way to a predatory sexuality where commercialized sex is one of the chief expressions. Make no mistake about it—there is no “love making” in commercial sex; only “lust making.” It is people consuming other people for self-gratification. This is not to suggest that people consuming commercial sex (pornography, stripping, and prostitution) don’t have other issues that may be contributing towards their acting out, but lust is the fuel that puts them into action.
The nature of lust itself is exploitative.
Love, on the other hand, reverences the gift of our common humanity. It says, “You are more valuable than just the body you possess.” Love honors the whole person and desires good for them, even at one’s own expense.
Love is not guided by consumptive compulsions but by respect and dignity. It is the highest way of being in the world—one in which both we, and those around us, are better off. It is the only place of true joy, freedom, and safety. Love is the antitheses of lust in every way.
The call to love sounds simple enough, but it is a monumental undertaking. In 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “love” passage in scripture, the apostle Paul gives a beautiful summation of what characterizes love. “[Love] does not dishonor others…[love] is not self-seeking…[love] always protects…” are some of the things that Paul highlights.
Love is a vision, it is an ethic, it is a way of being in the world, and it is ultimately a choice—a choice to value the freedom, dignity, and well-being of others, even over our own needs or desires. In a world full of loving people, the commercial sex industry would not exist.
We must choose love in every situation where we are tempted by lust. Not only will this bring freedom and joy into our own lives, but it will also bankrupt the commercial sex industry and bring freedom to those who are captive in it.
2. Be Compassionate
The systems of socio-economic, gender, and racial inequality that run across every culture in every society around the world marginalize large segments of the population. These vulnerable populations are the ones who are most frequently preyed upon by pimps, traffickers, and pornographers for exploitation in the commercial sex industry.
This kind of widespread systemic marginalization and exploitation of people would not be possible apart from a culture of complicity. That is, a culture that distances itself rather than identifying with the plight of the vulnerable.
The existence of the commercial sex industry exposes our lack of empathy as a society. We have abandoned vast numbers of people to a life of violence and exploitation inside this ruthless industry. These are not a unique subclass of humans who were born with a special capacity for sexual degradation. These are our sisters and brothers, our daughters and sons.
The commercial sex industry has profited greatly from a society that has become increasingly narcissistic and sociopathic—a society consumed with self-gratification and checked out from the pain of their brothers and sisters.
The existence of the commercial sex industry exposes our lack of empathy as a society.
The only possible way to turn the tide on this trend is to become people of compassion. Compassion disrupts exploitation. It allows us to see the deeper truth behind the glamorous cover narrative of the sex industry—that it is actually populated with the most marginalized and defenseless people in the world. There is nothing sexy or attractive about that. Only compassion can bring us to this truth.
Compassion is different from pity in that pity may acknowledge someone’s plight, but compassion causes us to identify with the plight of another. It empathetically connects us to others. We see the truth about their condition and we don’t minimize it, run from it, or give platitudes to it. We feel it along with them.
Compassion forces us to take action. It produces a groaning in us for freedom and a cry for justice. It drives us to the darkest ends of the earth to bring comfort to the afflicted and hope to the hopeless. No person is overlooked by compassion and no passage is too perilous to cross to reach those in need.
Through compassion, we share in the vulnerability, powerlessness, and pain of others. Our solidarity forges a path for hope and healing to emerge. The compassionate ones are beacons of light amidst a dark and hostile planet.
Compassion is not merely something we do; it is someone we become. It enables us to truly see, truly feel, and truly act. To be compassionate is to live out the highest essence of our nature. It is to be authentic and fully alive.
Compassion forces us to see people in their humanity and vulnerability as three-dimensional beings. The commercial sex industry would not exist in a world full of compassionate people. We must embrace a compassionate way of being in the world so that others can be saved.
3. Reclaim Your Identity
Much of the way we have come to think about what it means to be a man, or a woman, or a sexual being in this world has been shaped by the culture around us. Men are cast as sexual predators, women are cast as sexual objects, and sex itself is cast as a meaningless recreational act. The confluence of these trends has led to the emergence of the global multi-billion dollar per year commercial sex industry.
It has also robbed us of an authentic identity. The pressure to conform is so great that many of us simply adopt what is expected of us and end up living out performances of who we think we are supposed to be.
It affects every area of our life: from the way we dress to the things we talk about, to whom we date, and how we treat others. What is lost here is a quality of self-possession—a way of being that is not shaped by the messages of the culture but is birthed from a place of deep authenticity and connection to oneself.
As long as we continue to go along with the cultural narrative regarding gender and sexuality, we will lose ourselves and in the process, we will experience dehumanizing and debasing sexual encounters while the commercial sex industry will continue to thrive. In order to put an end to this, we have to reclaim our identity. We have to reconnect with our truest and deepest selves.
We were made for more than the current script that has been written for us. Men were made for more than conquering women sexually. Women were made for more than being conquered for male pleasure. We have a role to play in a grand story woven across time, but our story has been hijacked. It’s time to get it back.
Our world needs real men and real women, not fabrications of the culture. This will require us disavowing the culture’s narrative and constructing a new one. One in which women are respected and valued for the diverse range of gifts they bring into the world, not merely their sexuality.
Reclaiming our identity is the pathway to true freedom and it is a critical step towards abolishing the commercial sex industry.
- 1. This quote is commonly, mistakenly attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.