Beauty From Ashes Videos


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Exploiting the Exploited "In the Name of Jesus"

I received a forwarded email about a porn show outreach/ministry report earlier this week that as I read it three things struck me as ‘not right’. Not wanting to focus on the negative I quickly dismissed it, rejoiced more people were stepping out of their comfort zone to reach out in this darkness, said a prayer over the situation and moved on to other things. This morning I was forwarded another email related to the original email, this time it was highlighting a faith based anti-trafficking organization that posted the outreach report I mentioned into their blog. I felt my spirit twist as I then saw it was referenced to a well known Christian magazine blog.

I clicked on the link and it took me to the magazine blog where the initial email was submitted from the original writer as a ‘guest blogger’. My heart sank as I read through it again realizing they

#1. Used the actual names of the individuals they ‘reached out to’ at a porn expo.
#2. Went into explicit detail of the personal information people shared with them in confidence.
#3. Said there was a company selling iPhone porn apps.

Immediately my thought was ‘I hope the persons mentioned do not see this’ and I found myself reading through the comments. To even greater shock it was apparent that not only had the person whom the majority of the ministry report was written about read it, they had commented and their comment was deleted! As I my heart pounded I read the comments of well meaning Christians defending what this person had said and believers arguing back and forth defending the woman whose comment was deleted and the woman who wrote the ministry report. The comments went into detail of the content of the victim's deleted comment. I will call her from here forward the victim. She apparently accused the guest blogger of using her and exploiting her to promote the blogger’s book on sex trafficking, which the magazine article highlighted. The rest of the comments were believers debating who was right and who was wrong and my heart went out to the victim that was clearly re-exploited whose comment was deleted.

What kind of witness is this? How do you think this victim feels about Christians now? She bears her soul and life background to a woman that takes a great deal of effort to show interest in her life and this person, who happens to be an author of a book, posts the details of the experience on a Christian magazine blog.

I understand the desire to want people to know how God is using us to touch the broken, forgotten, discarded and downcast and I have made many, many, many mistakes in ministry. I’ll be the first to admit it, however, I have learned from those mistakes some of the most valued lessons. In the training for sex industry worker outreach and ministry we cover many of these mistakes in hope that others won’t have to make them. One of the topics we cover is this.

Trust is the crucial element that as ministers of the gospel we need to establish in order to build relationships that will result in discipleship. We also need to be sensitive to people’s privacy. Public emails and blogs that go into detail with people’s names and their personal lives, when they have not signed a release of information, is wrong any way you look at it and could cause significant harm to the very individuals we are trying to reach ‘in the name of Christ’. This woman’s experience with Christians reaching out to her at a porn expo has been sabotaged and the already sensitive issue was compounded when the comment in which she tried to state her hurt, disappointment and opinion was deleted from the blog. The message she received, ‘what you think doesn’t matter’ and ‘you were used to promote a ministry, a book and a magazine’.

As a victim’s advocate, social justice missionary and a licensed minister who has worked with victims of commercialized sexual exploitation for over 14 years, please don’t use people’s real names you come into contact with, nor go into detail of personal information they share with you about their lives in emails, blogs or newsletters. I understand the desire to share with people the details of a divine God encounter, but we need to be sensitive to people’s privacy. This is a perfect example of what could happen. Sadly, the young woman whose details of her tragic life was shared publicly may have ground for a lawsuit now as well. More importantly, her perspective of ‘Christians’ has clearly been tarnished and worse yet, she’s been re-exploited and likely traumatized AGAIN.

It’s imperative that we use wisdom and common sense when reporting information publicly and it’s time ministers start doing this, trusting God to bring exposure and support to the work we are doing ‘in the name of Jesus’. If God has given you a vision, He will also give you provision in a manner that does not include the exploitation of the precious people we are trying to reach in His name.

Let me share with you the definition of exploitation according to Wikipedia, “In political economy, economics, and sociology, exploitation involves a persistent social relationship in which certain persons are being mistreated or unfairly used for the benefit of others. This corresponds to one ethical conception of exploitation, that is, the treatment of human beings as mere means to an end—or as mere ‘objects’. In different terms, ‘exploitation’ refers to the use of people as a resource, with little or no consideration of their well-being.”

I love that so many people are wanting to reach out to those in the sex industry, but we need to use wisdom and common sense when sharing with others what we are doing. Before hitting ‘send’ ask yourself, 'what would the person I’m writing about think if they read this? Would it build them up, solidify the trust I am establishing with them or will they feel exploited and possibly used?' and 'Is this in the best interest of the person I am making reference to?' If we are not careful we will end up re-exploiting the very people we are trying to rescue from being exploited.

Lastly, for the record, Apple does not allow apps that contain porn for their iPhones. The author of the outreach report stated the victim worked at a booth selling such. I confirmed this through Apple. Apple is the only cell phone that doesn’t allow them, though their competitors do, which is most likely what the victim was selling. Stating that there are iPhone apps for porn is simply not true. Bottom line, neither Apple, nor this victim, should of been ‘sold out’ for this public ministry report. There is something significantly wrong that needs to be changed when major corporations that are actively taking a stand against the evils of pornography are falsely accused of the opposite and victims are re-exploited “in the name of Christ”. Jesus died to set us free. Hopefully we can all learn from this and work together to protect those we are trying to set free. They deserve the right of privacy with or without the name of Jesus.

Julie Shematz
Founder & CEO of Beauty From Ashes Ministries