Prostitute: It may not mean what you think it means

Prostitution doesn't mean what we think it does. Let's change the conversation.

In the fight to abolish slavery two hundred years ago, those seeking reform faced a number of obstacles. The social and economic structures had a powerful interest in maintaining the slave trade, and people at home had little idea of what was really going on aboard slave ships. To expose the evil underbelly of the slave trade, abolitionists needed to challenge the political powers and incite the moral imagination of the culture.

Part of that task involved a painstaking process of explaining what the word slave meant. Yes, there was slavery in the Bible – but the socioeconomic situation of slaves in the first century was not the same as the slavery the abolitionists were talking about in the eighteenth. Slave didn’t mean what people think it meant – and so, reading about beloved slaves like Onesimus did not give Christians a pass at saying the eighteenth-century slave trade was justifiable. As John Newton pointed out, the better biblical word to describe the situation was not slave, but people-stealing as 1 Timothy 1 describes:

Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” (KJV – 1 Timothy 1:9-11)

Words teach us how to think, and showing people that the slavery they were dealing with was more accurately men-stealing marked a pivotal change in the way people responded to the issue.

Today the word prostitute needs an overhaul in our thinking too. The way we’ve been using it (and seeing it in the Bible) doesn’t reflect the reality of what is going on in our world at the moment.

I remember when people started to call prostitutes sex workers, a term which emphasized the business-nature of the women involved. Whether it is called prostitution, whoring, or “the oldest profession in the book” – the terms have all focused on it being a woman’s chosen way to earn money.

A quick search through the Scriptures for the word “prostitute” supports this idea: people are repeatedly told not to prostitute themselves, and shame and judgment are reserved for those who would prostitute themselves in this way (Exodus 34:15-16, Leviticus 20:6, Deuteronomy 23:18, to name but a few). Prostitutes in the Bible are women who have made shameful and sinful choices, as Proverbs 7:10 describes: “Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.” The prostitute of Babylon in Revelation is the ultimate depiction of one who has chosen a path of evil and reaped all its rewards.

For sure: there are women (and men) in our world who choose to sell their bodies for sex. They are prostitutes, or sex workers, by choice. However, the alarming truth of the sex trade today is that a vast majority of those who exchange sex for money in our day and age are not choosing to do so. The truth is, the “prostitutes” today are more often than not vulnerable woman who have been exploited, beaten and violently forced into a trade. They are, to all extents and purposes, sex SLAVES: sold for another’s profit. They are beaten, drugged, brainwashed and manipulated to keep them enslaved. And it does no good to say, “Well, they say this is their choice,” when the truth is that someone is threatening to kill them if they say anything different. Read Liz’s story for a glimpse into what was really going on behind the words of compliance she was forced to utter.

If it is true that many (if not most) of those whose sex is for sale are being held against their will, then the appropriate Biblical word for today’s “prostitutes” is not prostitutes, it is “victims of violence,” “the oppressed,” and “the fatherless.” For most, there is no choice involved. And if the appropriate word is not prostitute, but victim; then the appropriate response from us is mercy, not judgment.

We need to stop thinking of these women and children as prostitutes, if by prostitutes we mean someone who has made a sad and unfortunate choice of career. Children, by law, cannot even legally make this choice. Anyone under the age of eighteen by definition cannot consent to prostitution. They are by definition victims of sex trafficking and victims of violence.

We also need to stop thinking of pimps as “managers” of these shady career women, and instead start to see them as prison guards or slave owners. Their offer of “protection and shelter” is as heinous as the “protection and shelter” offered by the mafia. The relationship between pimp and prostitute is not one of business-partnership: it is one of fear and exploitation.

The right word to describe these women and children is not prostitute (or sex worker, or ho, or whore), but victim.

We need to change the way we think about these words, because words teach us how to think. We need to follow the lead of Sweden, who have changed their legislation to reflect a better understanding of what prostitution is (and isn’t):

“In Sweden prostitution is regarded as an aspect of male violence against women and children. It is officially acknowledged as a form of exploitation of women and children and constitutes a significant social problem… gender equality will remain unattainable so long as men buy, sell and exploit women and children by prostituting them.”

Christians need to be at the forefront of this change, for it is Kingdom work to advocate for justice. We need to speak out and speak up for the defenseless. We need to shine light into the dark places. And one of the ways we need to make a change is to change the way we talk about prostitution. It doesn’t mean what we think it does. It means something much, much worse.

*******

This post is part of a 5-day series called #ACourageousOne, seeking to raise awareness, money and hope about the issue of trafficking. We need to talk about this, and we need to use the right words. Sex trafficking is not the same as prostitution. It is a violent skin trade happening right around us (in white, middle-class, well-educated America, as well as around the world). We need to pray about this. We need to find these girls – the Courageous Ones – and do something. They need your help.

And you CAN help. Support #ACourageousOne this week by:

  1. Giving ONE Dollar to end sex trafficking. Click here to send your $1 to CourageWorldwide, or to International Justice Mission, who work directly to rescue women and children in sex slavery locally and internationally. (There are many more incredible organizations that work to end trafficking, but these are two I know enough about to personally endorse them wholeheartedly).
  2. Praying for ONE minute for this issue. Pray for perpetrators to repent, for victims to be found, for God to rescue and heal. Tomorrow I’ll post a Psalm you can use as a guide.
  3. Share ONE article on social media. Share this post, or Liz’s story.  Share Courage Worldwide or IJM’s website, or the In Plain Sight film trailer. Share about celebrity efforts to end trafficking (like the incredible pro athletes who founded Not For Sale) ) But whatever you do, spread the word. The sex industry relies on secrecy and shame to keep going, and we have the power to change that: if we’re talking about it, it’s no longer a secret.

Of course, you are welcome to give more than $1, pray for longer than 1 minute, or share more than once – but would do you at least one? Support #ACourageousOne, so that we can support the many Courageous Ones out there.

 

 

 

 

18 thoughts on “Prostitute: It may not mean what you think it means

  1. This article has made me consider how mainstream media (particularly television show, movies, songs) minimize and increasingly present such women in a positive light. Widespread references condoning and glorifying porn, adult clubs and prostitution, marginalize the voice of the afflicted. Subtly, desensitized to what is taking place we walk away from those who most need our help.
    Thank you for voicing truth boldly and gracefully.

  2. Dear Bronwyn,
    I am disappointed to find that someone with your legal training has not thought more carefully about the full implications of equating “prostitution” with “victimization.” While in the cases you highlight, those terms certainly are greatly synonymous, you must look at the broader picture. Victimization is not the basis for all prostitution. But a prostitution law will govern all cases. You must look at broader issues, such as the victimization through impoverishment brought about by social inequalities, to explain other instances of prostitution. There are countless other motivations for prostitution, whether the prostitutes are male or female. You have become much too narrowly focused by your particular mission in this ancient human practice that is vastly prevalent in the world today. The Swedish legal model is predicated upon a feminist agenda that, in fact, victimizes males, including innocent males who cannot get a fair trial under such legislation.

    In Canada, thousands are suffering under the unconstitutional nature of a rape shield law that similarly deems women as “victims” in all cases of domestic violence. A woman (or male partner, but for a variety of important reasons women chiefly are the accusers) is allowed to bring charges against her partner without proof, and without her prior sexual and other behaviour being admitted as evidence. This means that the partner must “prove a negative” in a domestic situation where there usually are no witnesses. It is impossible to prove a negative in court, as the prominent US attorney Glen Greenwald pointed out in an interview last year. The Canadian rape shield law was passed in 1983. In 1991 a justice of the Supreme Court, writing from the bench, stated that it is, practically speaking, impossible for a defendant to mount a defense under the rape shield law. A man or woman cannot get a fair trial under that law. Thus, from the moment of accusation the accused loses his (or her) presumption of innocence. In some cases, the “trial” takes place when the police decide who to believe at the crime scene. Police are not trained in psychiatry, sociology, or any of the other relevant specialties. It is doubtful whether lawyers and judges are, either.

    While theoretically a defense under the rape shield law could be made, in fact to do so is so onerous as to make it practically impossible. So onerous, that even the wealthy cannot mount a defense. Nevertheless, thousands of individuals, mostly young males, have been unjustly sent to prison and otherwise punished for crimes they surely did not commit. I have watched young men writhing and shaking their heads “No, it wasn’t like that!” as accusations are read out in court. We have two sons who have been charged on three occasions by mentally unstable women who have with impunity lied to the police so that we and our gentle, respectful sons have been crushed with thousands of dollars in legal expenses, incalculable losses of income, and the punishing social consequences of the stigma attached to these legal procedures and their consequences. In addition to humiliating procedures designed to harm without the presumption of innocence, they have been assigned outrageous fines and have suffered extensive losses of employment. For many such men, their future employment opportunities are ruined. My husband and I have suffered losses of every kind in our efforts to support them. In the most recent court case, our son, well aware that neither the legal system nor the psychiatric system could help his partner, and well aware that their children would be lost to children’s aid if he were to lay counter-charges, chose the more noble path of grim silence. And perjury. And the agonizing consequences. Have you ever watched a puppet trial? Where the attorney who is sucking thousands of dollars from you mumbles, the judge rubber stamps a foregone conclusion, and the police lead your son away in shackles? And your grandchildren hang limp and silent in your arms with eyes glazed in pain and their smiles and laughter wiped from their faces? Don’t get me started on the effects on toddlers when their sane, gentle, battered father is removed from them not only in jail for 30 days but for weeks afterwards by a legal system that now views him as a dangerous criminal.

    And what happens when the partner begins to see the Christ-like sacrifices of her mate and wants to repent and live a different life? The legal system bars her from seeing him and from allowing their children to see their father even if she is aware of the agony of the children. The rape shield law is known to be unconstitutional, but the prostitution law being considered in Canada follows the same model! The very one you are promoting. The Swedish notion that female prostitutes always are “victims” is NOT Christian! You must NEVER remove the fundamental notion of responsibility from women or from men because to do so is to infantilize them. You re-institute a patriarchal view of the female. How ironic that feminists adopt this agenda! And therein resides an important corrective to the feminist point of view that Christian feminists ought to ponder. You reduce the capacity of the oppressed female for standing up and walking away. You reduce the woman’s capacity for seeing the role of sin in her own life, which is a fundamental fact of her human condition. You leave prostitutes open to the patriarchal or matriarchal ministrations of a state that makes no pretense of being Christian. And, believe me, the most revolting distortions of feminism flourish under such rules; I have seen women take sadistic pleasure in victimizing men. (Readers of C.S. Lewis will recall “Fairy” Hardcastle, the head of the N.I.C.E. police in That Hideous Strength.)

    We had statistics on domestic violence in Canada until Stephen Harper suppressed the collection of such data; so now we depend on American statistics. We know that women are as likely as men to be violent, although when violent they may not always be (but often are) as deadly. (We could learn those truths from the Bible, of course.) There are physiological reasons for violence to which my learning about the role of the ears in behaviour has a great deal to contribute. The same understanding of ear-based neurology applies to aspects of prostitution (both male and female) as well. But even without that specialized learning, sheer common sense and rational thinking should lead you to realize that men are not the only sinners on earth and that women are not merely victims of males. You are overlooking those factors in the sex slave trade. Yet you want to enshrine that bias in legislation. Your touching video displays only a narrow section of a very broad spectrum. I found it offensive that the “protagonist” of the video was a Barbie Doll because courageous women do not reflect that stereotype. You have abandoned essential Christian teachings for a distorted, biased, feminist agenda. A much more holistic view of the human condition is needed to approach the truly terrible conditions you seek to alleviate. I beg you not to multiply the problems inherent in these horrific conditions by taking a skewed and prejudicial view of the particular participants in prostitution who have become your focus. In the long run, you may win a following but you will be harming everyone.
    Laurna

    • Laurna, I am so sorry to hear that your sons were unjustly accused in such a horrible way. I can’t even imagine the grief and suffering that has put your family through: it isn’t right, and it should not be that way.

      That being said, I don’t believe you have understood my point rightly, and your accusation that I have “abandoned essential Christian teachings for a distorted, biased, feminist agenda” is unfair.

      I am NOT seeking to label all prostitutes as victims. As I clearly stated: some have chosen this path (and there are systemic reasons, poverty chief among them) which would factor here. Furthermore, I do not believe that men are the only ones sinning here: Liz, who shared her story yesterday, was sold into child pornography BY HER MOTHER (!!!!) I fully believe that men and woman alike are sinners.

      My point in this article is not to promote a change in legislation. However, I linked to the Swedish change in legislation as an illustration of a change in the way think about the conversation. My purpose in writing this is to make people rethink how we use the term. From the perspective of the buyer, all prostitutes look like prostitutes (people who are free to go if they want, but are there for the business). But from the perspective of the one selling sex, not all prostitutes are prostitutes. Some might be choosing to be there, but MANY of them are being forced to be there.

      If that is the case, the word “prostitute”, with all the Biblical baggage of shame and judgment that goes along with it, is not the right word.

      Finally, I should add that what prompted me to write on this particular topic was hearing a number of LAW OFFICIALS speak about this at the screening of the In Plain Sight Film I attended last month. A panel consisting of the DA and public prosecutor, the chief of police as well as a former member of the FBI task force against sex trafficking spoke – and they ALL MENTIONED how they have realized that 10 years ago they were treating all prostitutes as defendants: booking them, charging them, holding them for questioning. Now, however, they are realizing that there is another layer of activity (of enslavement and intimidation) and that many of the “suspects” (prostitutes) they were picking up were, in fact, victims in need of protection. The legal professionals involved all, in their own way, talked about the way they are USING DIFFERENT LANGUAGE when dealing with prostitution because of a change in their understanding of the complexities involved.

      I’m not saying all prostitutes are victims. I’m saying many of them are – and if we are to do justice (both to the offenders and to the words used in Scripture), we would do well to clarify what we mean when we use these words.

      Again, I am so sorry to hear that your sons were on the receiving end of such unjust treatment, and I fully understand your sensitivity to the ways that rape shield laws can betray justice. With respect, though, that is not what I’m talking about here.

  3. I recommend watching the documentary “Nefarious” also. It well lays out the what fuels prostitution both here and abroad. It is not easy to watch but definitely redefined prostitution in my mind – from a choice to something altogether different.

  4. Bronwyn, I think you made yourself very clear that prostitutes are not always victims. Your post is thoughtful, well researched, and well written. Amen, Amen, and Amen.

    Laurna, you come at this issue with a very personal perspective, and I appreciate reading your thoughts. It seems you and Bronwyn are very similar in that you both believe “we need to speak out and speak up for the defenseless.”

    While rape and prostitution are certainly related, they are not one in the same. I do not claim to be an expert on this subject, by any means, but I have read a lot about human trafficking, talked to women who were trafficked, seen trafficking myself and I have several close friends who work full time on these issues. I would like to echo Bronwyn’s concerns that this is an issue we cannot ignore.

    • Hi, Lesley,
      I am not suggesting rape and prostitution are the same, although in the matter of trafficking they are closely related. I am suggesting that the solution being offered in Sweden and in Canada to both those problems (which is a way of equating them) is not a solution worth trying. It is failing here demonstrably. I would be interested in an unbiased account of how that law is working in Sweden as the only account I have read was a sugar-coated bit of feminist propaganda. It is premised on a concept that is anti-Christian.

      Bronwyn’s participation in the fight against sex trafficking is admirable. I should have couched my objections in gentler language. I am as horrified and heart-broken as she by those facts. I am fueled by anger about them right along with her. I also am passionate about the harm being done to the males, females, and gender-confused people being drawn into the social morass caused by rape-shield legislation. From my personal experience and research, I am suggesting to Bronwyn and to her readers that the “victim” model of the female she is promoting will be ineffective and ultimately harmful. It is based in emotion, not reason, because it assumes a gender-based bias. That is the same sort of bias feminism proposed to end. Instead, we find feminists actually pushing for male oppression. Some quite inadvertently. Some with a honed misandrous agenda. I know Bronwyn is raising sons and daughters to think of themselves as loved equally by God; she writes about loving each of her children lavishly without bias. Let’s figure out a better solution to these dreadful social problems than the Swedes and my fellow Canadians have managed. The law must be both impartial and merciful; and without gender bias.

      Bronwyn, please forgive my obnoxious rhetorical tone. Finding Christ’s answer to the combination of problems we face in our family is as taxing as anything I have ever attempted. I also know God is working with our sons and with others despite and throughout these terrible inequities and trials — literal and figurative (with dollar signs before those figures). I must stop fulminating and start imagining the better solution than casting women in the role of victims. Perhaps the need is for a different model of law and government, more along the lines of Celtic compensatory law adjudicated by the community or the North American Aboriginal model similarly formulated. Or, dare I say, the church with equal numbers of female and male elders upholding goals of restitution not punishment, of rehabilitation not control? I do know what is not working, which is a start.
      Laurna

      • Laurna, thanks for clarifying and your apology.

        I think what I”m trying to say (and perhaps this is where we disagree) is that I am not advocating for this position because I think all women are victims, or that all prostitutes are victims. I am advocating for this because people who are trafficked (whether women or men, girls or boys) are, in fact, victims – not because of being female (although most are), or because of being prostituted (though many are). They’re victims because they’re enslaved and abused, and we need to acknowledge that in our language rather than using the broad brush language of “prostitution” to cover all categories of the sex trade.

        I’m calling for linguistic reform more than legal reform.

    • Hi, Jamie,
      So glad to hear you weighing in; I had hoped you would find the discussion. I have revised my concepts of what constitutes “sin” on the basis of my learning about the controlling role of the ear(s) in behavior. That learning while new and terribly important does not provide simplistic answers; not only physiology but the social circumstances impacting the individual’s capacity for decision-making must be part of what my theoretical council of elders would be taking into consideration. I would like to ponder the implications of “protecting the majority” as I have tended instead to a belief in “seeking the lost sheep — the only one of the community to stray” as a method of fully healing and uniting the community. Thanks for your nourishing food for thought.
      Laurna

  5. Bronwyn,

    I am so impressed you have taken on this topic, no holds barred. Even “fluffy” topics are hard to write about intelligently for a full week; topics such as sexual abuse and human trafficking are all the more difficult.

    As an attorney, I find Sweden’s law fascinating on a variety of levels, not all of which I will address here.

    As Laurna pointed out in her comment, not all women (or men) are forced into prostitution, and some may not consider themselves victims (although I would argue that our society may present things in such a way that false “choices” are created. Nonetheless, we can all agree that not a full 100% of prostitutes are forced into it. Saying 100% of anyone does anything is never a good idea!)

    So yes, one may argue that Sweden’s law (and Canada’s proposed law, I believe):

    1) infantilizes women or merely ignores the fact that some women choose a certain lifestyle;
    2) ignores that poverty and other forms of oppression lead to prostitution

    Then the question becomes: is that okay?

    I would say yes, for at least two reasons:

    1) The majority of women who sell sex are forced into prostitution by one reason or another (pimps, poverty, and even one’s own parents as Bronwyn sadly pointed out, etc.), and laws must protect that vast majority by not criminalizing those who are truly victims.

    2) The second part is trickier. Because poverty and other forms of oppression lead to prostitution, is it erroneous to assume men are, by definition, being explotative when they buy sex? Buying sex is a purposeful and thought-out act. Just as women may take the action of asking for money for sex, men must make the decision to agree to that trade. I think we can likely agree that most women do not truly want to sell sex, and we can likely agree that of the men *do* buy sex they do it because they want to (BL note: edited for clarity). To the latter point: Goods and services are only worth what the market will bear. Again, we must focus on the majority, not simply because it is a majority, but because it is a vast majority. Overwhelmingly so, I believe.

    All that said, it is indeed hard to prove a negative. I’ve seen a handful of the cases Laurna points out in her comment, and they are tragic. They are especially tragic when children are involved. Sometimes our legal system is a travesty, sometimes a life saver.

    So what to do? I have no idea. It’s complicated, oh so complicated. No one truly knows what to do, and so we are left with choosing to do the best that we can, which is protecting the majority. That sounds reminiscent of debates in my Phil 101 class in college, but it’s not sophomoric at all. Even re-reading my comment here, I see holes that could be poked into my words (correctly or not), and I don’t envy those who are paid to try to find a solution to what we know is an age-old problem.

    Regarding sin (and everything does, doesn’t it?), is the woman less of a sinner because she is a victim?

    It is a moot question: we are all sinners. Down to our very bones, and even on our best behavior, we are all sinners.

    • ” I think we can likely agree that most women do not truly want to sell sex, and we can likely agree that most men do want to buy sex.”

      This is a fascinating position/juxtaposition and I would be interested in learning how you formulated those two ideas.

      I would be interested in knowing how many of your readers agree with either of those suppositions.

      Heather Mallick, a writer for the Toronto Star, has nothing like Christian values. However, her series on the brothels of Europe that provided excellent insights into prostitution abroad as Canadians were contemplating the rewriting of the prostitution law also gave us her personal reactions to the sex trade in several different countries. http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2014/06/02/its_11_am_at_the_biggest_brothel_in_europe.html# is a starting point if you are interested.

      We are sinners. But remember the Valley of Dried Bones. It used to horrify me, that ghostly image of Ezekiel. I avoided it, although it follows on one of the prophecies that brought us to this place. If He was issuing a warning, I could not fathom it. However, I think we have lived through that sort of terrible blighting of lives that breeds hopelessness. Seeing the metaphorically dead arise turns out to be not such a bad thing after all.

      • I suppose it comes from having read various texts — academic, religious, and secular; books (text and popular), articles, and blogs — that indicate the juxtaposition I stated. I completely understand that all writers come at things with an opinion and agenda, but I believe there are statistics that would back up such a statement, certainly the latter. The issue, then, becomes one of a) what about women who lie and/or want to do what they are doing, and b) what about men who are falsely accused? Our legal system is not the best at sorting this out, although I have seen some great judges see right through false stories. We have learned to err on the side of caution — such as learning to take as truth stories reported by children. Some children lie about abuse (a very, very, very small amount), and some children have their statements taken out of context by others. And some children also misunderstand situations and become confused. But most children do not lie about sexual abuse. As such, children as a whole must be protected by taking their statements as true, at least for purposes of investigation if not prosecution, and we leave it in the hands of our justice system to figure out the truth of the matter. I am not comparing women to children! I am comparing analogous situations; however, of needing to prove a negative, or of protecting the vast majority even though there are a few outliers. I’ll pose the question on my FB page about who agrees with my statement. I’m fully prepared to be proved wrong (although I prefer to be proved correct! : ))

        I can’t read the article right now, but I will bookmark it for later.

        Seeing the dead arise is not a bad thing at all… We will be wholly restored.

        Thanks for bringing me from the mire and doldrums of my domestic duties to address these important topics!

    • I realized I made a MAJOR typo here. What I meant to say is that OF MEN WHO **DO** BUY SEX they do it because they want to. Not that ALL men want to buy sex. I don’t believe that at all!!! Is there a way to edit a past comment? (seriously asking. Need to change that because that’s a terrible thing to say about men!)

      • Whew! Jamie, big sigh of relief!

        Your analogy with sexually abused children and their various ways of testifying to their abuse is interesting because it no doubt impinges on the children pressed into sexual slavery. Psychologists have studied kids and have established useful norms for non-abused and abused kids. However, young children are more transparent in their behavior and usually also in their language than teens, older teens, and adults. Psychologists have not established as useful norms for prostitution, although it’s obvious from the discussion here that even Christians with a strong anti-prostitution perspective acknowledge the wide range of social (and national) views and laws concerning “the oldest profession.” Making distinctions between promiscuity and prostitution or showing how those behaviors are related also would be useful, and that is where I want to interject my learning about why some people (male and female) are unable to learn how to control their sexual (and other) behavior. My point is that some older children and adults are as vulnerable to enslavement as young children while others are not and that we can sort those differing types and address their problems with appropriately differing strategies.

  6. Hi, Bronwyn,
    I am with you on the linguistic reform, although you did appear to be advocating for the Swedish solution as other Christians I have read lately are doing. It is a stance tempting to those who are naive onlookers to spousal abuse or who are seeing the prostitution issue from the point of view of the video you showed. The introduction to Matthew’s Gospel is fascinating for the prominence it gives to the prostitutes and female “outsiders” to Judaism in the genealogy of Jesus. The “righteous prostitute” is a strong thread in literature and song (e.g., Leonard Cohen’s poetry and songs) and the view of prostitute as “victim” may be a strand in that thread or may be precisely the opposite. Perhaps it is that aspect of Biblical teaching that gives me pause when I hear the “victim” dialectic. The recovering prostitute needs a core of self-respect to build upon. In responding to your kindly mother-words about our sons, I realize why I know how that works.

    God had warned me a few years ago through the verses in Jeremiah 30:10-24 that “I am coming against your sons to heal them of their sins.” What transpired does not justify an evil system, but it shows how God can work through such evil. We had exhausted our resources and our words were falling on the deafened ears of addicts with dangerous friends, damaged self-concepts, and a multifaceted inability to work. When the nasty things started happening, I had the means of looking for the Hand of God. If I have learned anything from the home front, Jeremiah’s listeners had grown complacent with the gifts they had been given. In the crucible of captivity they began to realize the core of righteousness in the Judaism they knew about but had shunned: they could compare something of value they had absorbed against the evils — or even the better aspects — of paganism. Our sons became able to do something similar when they fell afoul of an unjust legal system. In one assault after another (literally, by the police, and figuratively, by lawyers and judges and others) they saw themselves first as victims then increasingly as spiritual warriors among an alien people. Again and again they “rose to the occasion” with pacifism, reason, restraint, and co-operation. Sometimes magnificently. They have grappled with such concepts as civil disobedience and police brutality and unconstitutional law as one never can by theorizing in Philosophy 101 — or in any church hereabouts that I know of. They have been harmed, scarred, scared, lied to, misled, fined, impoverished, humiliated, surveilled, and pursued, while we have suffered along with them. Jeremiah 31 and 32 prophesies a New Covenant and restoration. He purchased the deed to a portion of the Promised Land and preserved it throughout the exile in an earthen jar. I have regarded our youngest son’s property adjoining ours (we carry the lien for its purchase on our property) as such as talisman. Today, from their income from their first renovations contract (an insurance job on my sister’s house further up the road), our sons committed funds to pay for the penalties and third-year arrears of taxes on our two properties that would put them up for tax sale in January. They still carry dreadful burdens; their allocation of their meager earnings represents sacrifice but also hopefulness. Faith in themselves and faith in God. One of them will be returning to jail for having been caught seeing his repentant partner (and seeing his children), which sentence we pray can be served weekends so he can be with his family during the week, although he must also be working. These two men are literally redeeming their inheritance of the land to which God led us 40 years ago. They are no longer destroying but are building — again, quite literally — this Christian community with the laws of God written on their hearts. This is a work of God such as proclaimed in scripture. He is the same yesterday and today . . . .

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