Stuck in Trafficking

For some time now I’ve been suspicious of the anti-trafficking movement, and especially that segment of it that’s specifically Christian. It’s long struck me as sensationalist, focusing on sex work to the exclusion of other forms of forced labor (Hi there, Nike and the US Agriculture industry!), as well as overly broad. It seemed there was a reluctance among anti-(sex-)trafficking groups to precisely define trafficking in a way that avoided lumping consensual sex work in with forced sex work. The idea that no one really wants to do sex work seems to run deep, with Slave Free Earth stating: “We have a broad definition of Sex Trafficking and will work from the philosophy that the vast majority of prostitutes are not there by choice.” (Side note: Homebrewed Christianity being sponsored by that organization is one of many things that put me off of that podcast and blog, despite its hosting so many interesting thinkers. But that could be a whole other blog post.)

The feminism I came into is one that is concerned with the rights, voices and safety of sex workers. That includes the right to and practice of self-determination. Yeah, a slave-owning pimp infringes upon those rights, silences those voice and provides no real safety. The idea that sex-workers need some sort of rescuing (almost always by affluent white folks) can do the same.

It was with great satisfaction that I saw some of my concerns being reflected and expanded in Are Evangelicals Monopolizing, Misleading US Anti-Trafficking Efforts?, an interview with professor of Christian Ethics, Yvonne Zimmerman, as well as in Chink in the Evangelical wall: Sex trafficking, colonialism and Christian ethics from “The Naked Anthropologist,” Dr. Laura Agustín. They are both worth your time, and deserve to be read widely in evangelical circles.

God bless MLK. God damn MLK Day.

Today I’m off work for the MLK Holiday, and I’m thankful for that. I can use the rest. I’m also dismayed by the day.

Rev. King was killed in Memphis while he was there supporting the sanitation workers who were striking. I walked out my front door today to see the rows of emptied trash bins, evidence that while I was sleeping in, the sanitation workers in my town were up long before dawn, working. People are at work right now, making nowhere near a living wage at WalMart, Burger King, gas stations, coffee shops, hotels, janitorial services and nearly every retail or service industry job, while a handful of us rest. Or worse, shop.

The president is being sworn in today with his hands on Dr. King’s Bible. Dr. Cornel West expresses everything that is wrong with that, and does it far better than I can.

So we celebrate the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by letting a privileged few off work while those who labor and still make poverty wages are ignored. We celebrate King’s agitation for peace by having the leader of the world’s largest killing force, a man who murders by order and by robot, falsely associate himself with King’s vision and King’s faith by placing his hands on the Rev. King’s Bible.

We do nothing to stop war. We do nothing to end poverty. We ignore the basic humanity of people near and far. Yet we can feel good about ourselves, because there’s a day on the calendar to honor a man who did all the work that we refuse to.

God bless Martin Luther King, Jr. May his legacy never die and his words never fall silent. God damn the empty holiday that bears his name.

Ted Jennings on Advent

From Homebrewed Christianity.

What we do is pretend that we have hope, and joy, and love. What we yearn for is what stands under those names. Hope and joy and love, but which we dare not hope for. Advent is a time when we have a chance, if we want to take the chance, of getting in touch with what we deeply yearn for and do not have. We live in a culture of optimism, that thinks that things are going to turn out well, and yet we know in spite of all of that that things do not, in fact, turn out well. We all die. We all experience disappointment, destruction in our personal and familial lives. And yet we think that’s the way things are. We console ourselves with that is what is part of our life, part of reality.

I think one of the things that Jesus does when he comes into Gallilee preaching and goes ultimately to Jerusalem is to tell people not to take reality lying down. Not to take what is real, what is actual, what is possible, what is factual as what is given, but to awake in them this wild, crazy desire. Yearning, which is always already there, for that which is impossible. For bodies to be healed. For the brokenness to be brought into wholeness. For the disasters of our world to turn into actual peace.

And Advent is a time when we can say “That’s not enough. That’s not good enough. That’s not REAL enough. What we want is something that far exceeds what is within our grasp, what is within our experience.” It is only if we really enter into Advent that we can be surprised, astonished, blown away by the coming of that which so far exceeds what is possible, what is programmable that we can actually break loose in tongues, in rejoicing, in rejoicing that has no words.

There are those who are poor, who are broken, who are destroyed everyday who can sing and sigh and yearn, “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” Can we? Dare we? That is the challenge and the promise of Advent.

Constructed from a mutable stuff

There is an element of irreducible indeterminacy and instability built right into creation, so that creation is going to be continually exposed to re-creation. What God has formed is able both to come unformed, to break down or come unstrung – that is the bad news, the downside of the risk – but by the same token and for the same reason, things are also able to be reformed, reconfigured, and reinvented, which is the upside, the more creative and re-creative side in things. There is a deep structural mutability and transformability inscribed in things by these narratives that works both ways, which is what we mean by a risk. It can undo the best-laid plans of God and humankind, even as it keeps the future open. Things are deconstructible just because they are constructed from a mutable stuff to begin with. That is why life is a risky if bracing business, and why the Talmudic author points to the “radical uncertainty” in things, while God is keeping the divine fingers crossed, hoping that it all works.

John D. Caputo, The Weakness of God, p. 64