This is one of those issues in which I am of two minds. Yes and no is how I want to respond. There seems to be a bit of merit in either direction. So what am I referring to? The decision by the Salvation Army to have a booth at the notorious Sexpo later this month.
Here is how the Herald Sun introduces the story: “Sex and the Salvos are not the most obvious bedmates. But the Salvation Army will join the likes of Club X, Condom Kingdom, Fluffy Cuffs, Kinky Boots, Savage Lingerie and Awgasm at Melbourne’s Sexpo this month. Its stall will promote ‘Christian understanding of sexuality’ and raise awareness about the human trafficking in prostitution. Salvos social justice director Capt Danielle Strickland will distribute material on human trafficking, the sexualisation of girls and ‘Jesus loves porn stars’ New Testaments, which tell how a porn star found God. But she won’t be preaching moral messages.”
So what is a Christian to make of this? It seems some pluses can be mentioned. It is good that material on the biblical view of sex is being made available, but one can ask if handing such items out at the front of the expo would be a better way to go.
Presumably they are paying good money to have a stall there. Can money going directly into the pockets of the exploitative sex industry be justified? Should one do similar things – and spend similar amounts of money – elsewhere, in order to get a contrary view across?
Another plus would simply be a spiritual presence in such a den of iniquity. But again, is there biblical precedence for this? Paul can speak of it being shameful to even speak of those things which are done in darkness (Eph. 5:11-12).
Of course it will immediately be pointed out that Jesus hung around with sinners. Well, yes of course he did. Indeed, he could do no other. Every single human being that has ever walked the earth – except Jesus – was and is a sinner. So in that sense he was always amongst sinners on a daily basis.
But what many will have in mind is when the critics of Jesus said that he – and sometimes, his disciples – was a friend of sinners. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, for example, exclaimed the Pharisees (eg., Luke 7:34). And yes we have some occasions when women of ill repute came to Jesus.
In Luke 7:36-50 we have one such account. So yes, sinners of all sorts were attracted to Jesus, and came to him. We are not told when the woman in Luke 7 was forgiven, but her actions speak to her having received the Lord’s forgiveness, something the Pharisees could not understand.
But we clearly do not have an account of Jesus going to places specially designated as formal places of obvious sin. We do not read about him going to brothels in order to preach to prostitutes for example. But when such people came to him he of course ministered to them.
In John 8 we read of how he dealt with the woman caught in adultery. He forgives her and tells her to go and sin no more (John 8:11). So yes Jesus always was with sinners, but always with a view toward having them repent of sin and enter into the Kingdom. Jesus could simultaneously associate with sinners while condemning all sin.
Yet we are told in this article that the Salvos are not exactly going to do that sort of thing. We have already been informed that Capt Strickland would not “be preaching moral messages”. She also said, “We’re not going there to condemn anybody. We aren’t going to lecture people. We’re going there to be available”. Which raises the obvious question, just what does being “available” entail in this context?
Again, we need to reach all sorts of people with the gospel – those in the porn industry as well. I am just wondering out loud if this is the wisest way to go about this. Indeed, my main concern really involves just one thing. But it seems to me that this one concern outweighs most of any potential positives that might come out of having a booth there.
My concern is this. Simply by being there, the Salvos – whether wittingly or not – will be doing one very important favour for the sleaze industry: they will be giving them further legitimacy and acceptability. The one thing the multi-billion dollar a year smut industry wants is to be seen as any other normal, respectable business.
It craves, above all else, respectability, legitimacy, and to be seen as just another way of earning a living. But this, it seems to me, is something we must never do. It is not just another career. It is a vile, exploitative and filthy industry which uses and abuses women, all to make literally obscene profits.
If the Salvos believe they are doing the Lord’s will by being there, then what can I say? It just does not seem like a wise move to me. Jesus said we must be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matt. 10:16). He also intimated that often the children of this world are wiser than the children of light (Luke 16:8).
Just who will benefit from this arrangement? The smut industry will benefit greatly from it. Indeed, the article mentions this: “Salvation Army officers attended Brisbane’s Sexpo this year, where Capt Strickland said they had a great time and were warmly welcomed.”
I bet they were warmly welcomed. This is handing the smut peddlers legitimacy on a silver platter. This is giving them a golden opportunity to appear to be just another mainstream industry, holding another mainstream convention.
I am not so sure that we need to be feeding into those lies. And for what it is worth, I have had a bit of experience here in this. A number of years ago when I was heading up a national family organisation, the head of the porn lobby invited me to come to Sexpo and have a debate with him.
I thought about the invite for about a half second, then threw his fax into the bin. There was no way I was going to lend any respectability and legitimacy to those folk. But the Salvos seem to think this is the way to go.
So we may have to agree to disagree here. If they feel this is what they must do, then I will pray for them. But part of my Christian responsibility may well also take the form of writing this article.
As can be seen, I have asked a lot of questions here. I do not necessarily claim to have all the answers, and this clearly is an issue in which believers will probably differ on. However, let me mention this: when the newspaper’s vote line asked ‘Is Sexpo an appropriate venue for the Salvation Army to preach from?,’ I voted ‘no,’ (even though the question may not have been worded the best).
But as I said at the beginning, to a limited extent I can see some arguments both ways. However, at the moment I still feel rather uneasy about it all. I am sure many of you have strong feelings on the subject, so let the comments start pouring in!