A Pimp & A Hooker Walk Into A Church

Safe Fortress_Ian Sane_Creative Commons

"Safe Fortress"_Ian Sane_Creative Commons

Not together, mind you.

Separate.

Each knowing who the other is, but refusing to speak because each is the other's competition. Each is the other's nemesis. Each is the other's reason for vocation.

Each is seeking for something beyond themselves.

My title is no crappy opening line to an old joke. It's prophetic — both in its forthtelling and foretelling.

In forthtelling, prostitutes, pimps, recruiters, buyers, producers, managers… they are all darkening doors of our churches for unnumbered reasons. Some are seeking solace, others mercy, others damnation, others a facade, others just a quiet place to swim in the confusion of how quickly life has spiralled out of control. 

Many of us have no idea these people are sitting beside us each week.

No.Idea.

Oh sure, some of us might know "that lady on the corner" and add to that millstone without realizing it even in just the use of that label. But by and large, people brought to Canada and people born and of Canada caught in the sex trade are invisible to our eyes. Sacred in the hands and desire of God, we blow on by.

We preach.

We teach.

We sing.

We pray.

Do we see?

Do we know how hard it is, even understanding a drop of the terrible stigma that comes with the word "prostitute", for these souls to dare step over our thresholds? 

Do we see?

We preach endlessly about a moral sexual ethic, but for sex trade workers this ethic is dry wind against old bones. It might add to present guilt, it might not. Regardless, it offers no solace or help. It only reinforces that the core of a prostitute is…

… bad

… filthy

… ruined

… used goods

… unlovable

… untouchable (by the Divine)

… "so close, but so far"

We might not believe we are speaking such things, but these are our messages. It has taken broken trembling churches to recognize our messages we present and, in tears and desire for community, ask forgiveness of the most marginalized in our society. Even as our Body reaches out and offers sanctuary, healing, nurturing and love, we have had to take hard looks at ourselves in the mirror of these people's eyes, naked and cold, and once more find Jesus Christ.

In foretelling, Canada is walking through a deep cultural shift: will sex be for sale, fully and legally?

What if it is?

How shall we live?

"They shall know we are Christians by our love…" Yes, I can hear you now.

Not good enough.

For some, that phrase is simply an excuse to point out sin (or what we believe sin to be). It gives us leave to rub salt in the wound, and we jump on it. I've been guilty of this, and I imagine you have too. Other times, we serve one another in love without question but sometimes stick our heads in the sand about what's really happening. 

How shall we love?

Pattern_Vinoth Chander_Creative Commons

"Pattern"_Vinoth Chander_Creative Commons

If legalized, sex trade work will be affirmed as a taxable viable income. When prostitutes come through our doors, how shall we love those who we believe are living a lifestyle that oppresses others?

Preach more?

Teach more?

Throw the Book at 'em?

Hardly.

And when single out-of-work moms refuse sex trade, but are then denied employment insurance because they don't want to enter that trade, what then?

And when pimps and johns and prostitutes meet together — legal and above board — in church, what then? 

And when their kids come, are we going to insulate our children and say: "Our kids can't play with their kids", what then? (safety, sure! But the kids needing friends most are still left in the cold)

And when the inevitable collision of trauma rears its ugly head — all it will take will be one prostitute facing one pimp or one john — and the crash of choice versus oppression meet face-to-face, what then?

Our Divine is a Lover. A Holy Lover, to be sure, but a Lover. 

But not all beloved can peacefully co-exist together safely, especially in the world of the sex trade. 

Who stays?

Who goes?

Who goes where?

How will we love, Church?

I'm not sure I have a holy answer for this. All I know is: right now, it's a messy in-between where Spirit works in ways unseen to our eyes, even as our eyes need to be opened to the people already around us. Legislation should not be dictating our mandate of Love.

But it could alter her face a bit.

Be prepared for the messy.

Be prepared for irrational outcomes, and desparate people.

Be prepared to make mistakes but take full ownership for those mistakes.

Be prepared to welcome those with a new legal label.

And for goodness' sake…

… let's be prepared to embrace.

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