It has been a hard week for me, emotionally and it isn't because of what is going on in my personal life. It is because of what is going on in our world. First, I was invited to host a book table at a Sex Trafficking Symposium at Saddleback Church in Orange County. We've had a few traffic survivors attend our Passionate Heart Ministry support groups and I have worked with a few at the at the rescue mission so I had a good idea of what we would be hearing. However, a couple of the speakers brought video clips with the purpose of helping people see sex trafficking for what it truly is. And believe me, it isn't something done by women voluntarily to make money. Even though they take money from the John, the pimp takes the money from them.
Just like victims of childhood sexual abuse, victims of trafficking have come to that scene with vulnerabilities that increased the likelihood they would be manipulated into that lifestyle (“the life”). Some of them were vulnerable because they ran away to escape the sexual abuse they experienced at the hands of people who should have nurtured and protected them. Some of them became vulnerable because their parents kicked them out when they got addicted to drugs or alcohol. Some of them became vulnerable when their needs weren't met and they grew up without a sense of belonging to family and a guy or gal from a gang, a bottom, or a pimp befriended and groomed them with the promise of being a part of their family. Sick as that sounds, it fulfills a deep need written on the heart in the womb. I worked with one gal who was a single mom that met a couple at a PTA meeting. They befriended her and she was lonely and began to frequent bars with them. Eventually, drinks were spiked and she was given drugs and became addicted, pimped, and even videotaped without her knowledge. She found out later her videos were posted online.
What is really scary is that some of the youngest girls were lured into “the life” by men and women pretending to be someone close to the girls' ages on social media pages. They developed an online relationship and soon the kids thought they were in love with the fake person and ran away to be with them. Instead, they ended up in the hands of a pimp, drugged, raped, and trafficked. Some of the videos we saw were posted by the pimps themselves, proudly showing how abusively they treat the women they own. The language, the physical violence, the drugs dispensed, the bragging in the videos - it hurts the heart. I became angry because they seem to think they are so tough, so powerful, and so manly, but all they are is the embodiment of pure evil.
Sadly, a lot of drug dealers are finding they can make way more money selling humans than drugs. I won't write the words they use in that lifestyle, but believe me they aren't pretty words. Sadly, these women and girls (and men and boys) are stuck because they have no money, are addicted to the drugs provided, desperately want to belong, and rightfully fear for their lives if they run. Some women become bottoms, which is the pimp’s right hand woman, and they become horribly abusive to those under them. They recruit, train, and control through threats and through abuse. They have to do this or be beaten worse than anyone. There is a status in that community that comes with these positions and what they will do to maintain that sickens the heart.
We are mistaken if we believe they can just leave if they want. It is hard to get out of “the life”, because the conscience becomes seared when one is living only in that setting. To come out of “the life” and return to a more normal, moral setting shines a bright light on what they have done to survive and the shame that rises up within them can be unbearable, causing some to commit suicide. Some of them don't have job or people skills and if they do, they have police records that make it hard to get a job. It is also becoming a generational business as they draw young guys and girls into it. Some are their own children and some are not, but kids that are drawn in know no other life. I came home sad for the victims and the kids being trained, but wanting to throat punch me some pimps.
Then, on Monday, we heard about the bombing in Manchester that killed and injured young kids, parents, and young adults who were doing nothing but attending a concert. And with the work I do, I know that those not injured will also suffer emotionally from the trauma of having been through. They will never ever be the same again. And these men think they are so powerful, so manly, and even so spiritual because they think they are earning some kind of special reward for carrying out their horrible deeds. Please tell me what is manly about killing a child? It makes me sick to think back on all the terrorist attacks that have been reported. There were the terrorists who carried out the attack out in southern California, who had dropped their baby off at grandmother’s house and went and shot up his co-workers, and then shot it out with the police. And then there is Boston, Florida, and all the European bombings...and it makes me want to throat punch me some terrorists and those who recruit and train them.
Then, this morning I read a response Leslie Vernick, a godly author and counselor, wrote to a pastor who had given some pretty bad advice to a woman who was dealing with an abusive spouse. The woman’s marriage had started out great and then over time her husband disengaged, withdrew to his basement, and become a very angry man. He started blowing up at her and the kids and verbally assaulting them. Though it hadn't escalated to physical violence, his tongue was extremely caustic and he had thrown both words and objects in anger. I have heard similar stories like hers, and in many cases the husband was battling a sex addition and viewing pornography. The woman sought advice from her pastor who didn't point out the Biblical steps in handling his sin. Instead, he told her she should try harder to be a good support to him and that her emotional pain had at its root pride. That is spiritual abuse at its worst. No one in the church should be silenced when they are being mistreated and abused. The sin needs to be dealt with. It is time for churches to quit blaming victims and deal with the sin in the body.
It reminded me of the number of women in our sexual abuse support groups. Some of them were abused by parents who were involved in the church or by youth pastors, pastors, or other leadership in the church. Those brave enough to speak out when they were young were often told not to say those kinds of things, or dad would go to jail, the pastor's family would break up, or the reputation of the church would be ruined. It always hurts my heart to think of those little girls too ashamed or too afraid to tell. But, it hurts my heart even more that those who did tell were silenced--literally sacrificed for the false reputation of their families and their churches. It makes me want to throat punch me some abusers, some pastors and some parents who would rather sacrifice kids than deal with sin in a Biblical way.
I could go on and on with the things that make me want to throat punch. I want to throat punch me some men and boys who think it is manly to objectify women and who think it is manly to look women up and down as they walk down the street or the hallway. I want to throat punch me some guys that think it is okay to grope women in the work place or in a public line. I want to throat punch me some men who think it is manly to intimidate women or withdraw affection if they don't put out. I want to throat punch me some men who think it is okay to drug women and rape them when they can't resist or say no and I want to throat punch me some judges who let them off. I want to throat punch me some parents who are neglecting their responsibilities of loving, nurturing, teaching, and disciplining their children and leaving them to raise themselves, making them vulnerable to abuse, addictions, and trafficking. I want to throat punch me some people behind the abortion industry who make their money performing abortions on women they have deceived into believing abortion doesn't hurt the mom or the child and that the best way to handle one sin is to perpetrate another against an unborn baby.
But as I have been processing these feelings, I came to realize there is an enemy that is bigger than the pimp, bigger than the John, bigger than the bottom, bigger than the terrorist, bigger than the misguided misogynistic pastor, bigger than the men caught in sexual addiction, and bigger than doctors performing abortions, and bigger than neglectful parents. All of these people have been deceived by the Enemy who is prowling around seeking to devour and to destroy those created in God's image. Every one of these people doing such tremendous harm to others was formed in the womb by God's own hands just as their victims were. They have made choices to harm others partly because the enemy deceived them so they would be in the business of destroying other image bearers and in that process of believing and obeying the lies they themselves seem to have lost the ability to bear the image of God they were created to bear, that is unless God steps in and redeems.
The Enemy is the one that has deceived men into thinking it is more manly to pimp and create porn, to be aggressive and abusive, and to control wives and children through manipulation and intimidation. It is the enemy telling parents it is okay to ignore their family and parental responsibilities to work and to socialize. It is the enemy telling girls it is okay to rectify one sin with another. It is the enemy telling them “the life” will fill the need of family. It is the enemy that causes people to become so entrenched that it seems normal to live a life of degradation and defilement. It is the enemy telling terrorists that their salvation comes through murder. And it is the enemy that is telling us in our churches that these things don't have anything to do with us.
We have got to remember the truth. A man is never manlier than when he loves well, respects women, provides for his family, is in involved in his kids’ lives, models morals he doesn't have to hide, and bears the image of His Savior by loving well. There is never a more manly man than the one who controls lustful appetites, wandering eyes, and his temper. There is never a more manly man than a father who teaches his sons to love and respect their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and spouses. and who protects his daughters, loving them well and teaching them to let the Savior be enthralled with their beauty. They are manly when they guard their hearts both as a single and a married man and fight with all of their might to preserve purity and their marriages.
And women--they are more beautiful when they get their love needs met by God and find a sense of purpose fulfilled as they engage with their kids, taking the time to show them how to love God, themselves, and others. Women are never more beautiful than when they walk in truth and model a modest heart and empower their daughter to choose wisely who and when to date. And they are even more beautiful if they have blown it and own a mistake made, and recognize that grace and community can help them navigate the consequences of their sin, allowing God to redeem even the sinful choices they made.
And the church--it is never more godly than when it acknowledges sin in the body and deals with it adequately. That means dealing graciously with unwanted pregnancies in a way that maintains the dignity of the mother and preserves the life of the baby while at the same time dealing with the root causes of the sin. That means being willing to deal with pornography, sexual addictions, and calling on men to openly take a stand against sex trafficking and porn use. It means being willing to deal with perpetrators of domestic violence, misogynistic attitudes of men, and teaching young men to respect women and to appreciate God's plan for sex inside of a covenant marriage. It means loving well and teaching our young people to be fulfilled in Christ so that they don't look for love in sinful ways.
I believe we all have the potential to be deceived and to sin so that God's image in us is no longer visible. That should terrify us. That should humble us. That should bother us enough to want to catch our own sin in its earliest stages and nip it in the bud. It should bother us enough to drive us to the Word to see what God's plan for His people is. It should bother us enough to fall down and worship the one who can preserve His image in us.
As I contemplate how big God is, the desire to throat punch dissipates. I know the Enemy was defeated at the cross, his time is short, and he is angry and writhing like a snake dying. And I want to be found consistently worshiping God, remembering He is more powerful than he who is in this world. I want to pray against the Enemy's schemes and boldly proclaim God's truth to counter the Enemy's lies. I want to get out of my comfort zone and challenge the church to consider if we are doing all that God has called us to do. Are we doing church God's way or guilty of hiding and perpetuating sin? Are we going where sinners live with the gospel, or hiding behind the comfort of the church walls? Are we willing to be around people with "rough edges" to share the gospel and to disciple or are we reaching out only to those resembling us most? Isn't it true that we can render the Enemy powerless by living as God has called us to live? Every prayer spoken, every act of worship, every demonstration of love, every testimony spoken aloud, every heart healed, every knee bowed in repentance, and every relationship healed through forgiveness, and every godly choice made are things that silence and render the Enemy powerless. Could it be that those are the spiritual throat punches God has called us to throw?