The Truth Isn’t Sexy

I receive the Mustard Seed Associates online newsletter. Today there was an article by Si Johnston with this picture detailing the world-wide slave trade of the sex industry. The truth of this reality is not at all what most of us understand it to be. Did you know that slavery today is three times larger world wide then it was when William Wilberforce and his colleagues were fighting to rid the world of this evil. Johnston’s article also concerns the Emerging Church and it’s relationship to this issue.

Here is the article:
Even in our sophisticated 21st century world, slavery is worse than it has ever been. Having surpassed the drug trade and with a turnover of 9 billion dollars per year, human trafficking now represents the second biggest underground economy behind only the arms trade.

Its causes are complex and its depths are hard to plumb; however, it is not new. In the Bible, Joseph was sold into slavery and a little later Amos lambasted Israel for selling the needy into slavery for a few pairs of sandals. Fast forward to the 5th century and on Slemish Mountain only a few miles from where I sit and write this, St. Patrick experienced six years of bonded slavery when he first arrived in Ireland. More recently, and exactly two hundred years ago, some 11 million Africans were sold to the plantations in the West Indies and America to fund the greed of the British Empire. While a cursory reading of history shows many have been enslaved, few ever realise that it was wrong or at least speak up about it. One man in particular did—William Wilberforce. Through sheer persistence and creativity he succeeded in blowing the whistle on the trans-Atlantic slave-trade.

Sadly, today we have no William Wilberforce, but rather a slave trade that has multiplied in scale times three. I’ve spent the last few years living with the statistics of an evil that is careering across our globalised world making misery of the lives of millions. And yet out of all the numbers and stories, one young girl in this darkened underworld is the most important statistic. She is advertised as a mail-order bride; she is the ‘Kid as Industry’ moved next door whose body is put out for hourly rent; she is someone’s daughter; she is our sister.

Her story, if she told you while looking into your eyes, would have you do for her what you would want done for yourself. Her pain might have you rise at night from the comfort of your own bed and weep. Or still further, it may well have you sell all your possessions and give your money to the poor. Wilberforce wasn’t content with cap-tipping at the injustice, he was a creative loud mouth who stood against the odds in opposition to systemic dehumanising evil.

At a recent event I took part in, someone suggested we hold a conversation entitled “Is the Emerging Church middle class white boy intellectualism and mac computers or does it have a genuine concern for the poor and justice?” Perhaps surprisingly it was a well attended conversation which apparently continues to have unexpected implications for those who attended. Similarly, a couple of years ago, while he was preparing the manuscript for ‘Conversant with the Emerging Church’, I ended up parked beside Don Carson on a short-haul flight. During our now documented tete-a-tete, he leveled the criticism that the Emerging Church has too little theological substance and lacks sufficient enough organisation to bring about any social change of the sort catalysed by William Wilberforce and his Clapham Sect associates.

Carson wasn’t to know that only months earlier a collection of people, who would identify themselves as belonging to emerging church communities across London, gathered to learn more about modern day slavery. It was here in the same church that our community gathered and that Wilberforce used as his base from which to lobby government, that Protest4 began and subsequently the Truth Isn’t Sexy Campaign. In saying that, ‘meeting’ doesn’t constitute ‘acting,’ and we’re at a moment in time when the words of Jesus as recorded by Luke have a particular resonance for us in our world:

“The Spirit is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Wilberforce, surprised by the lack of support from fellow Christians concluded that they were culturally deluded as to what it meant to be a Christian. Jesus offers us a statement that seeks adoption into all our faith families and it needs to be primary, not just an archaic tag line in our polity. It’s these words that are tugging on the imagination and passion of the new abolitionist movement that rises in our day and which will prevent us believing and behaving ‘un-Christianly.’ This movement is beyond ‘events’ but like a siren, repeats the words of Jesus to those who would be ‘activists’ against injustice.

On the 20th March, The Truth Isn’t Sexy Campaign joined the echo of Wilberforce’s voice around the House of Commons exactly 200 years after he succeeded in garnering enough support to end slavery. Former Conservative Party leader and MP William Hague spoke of this new wave of abolitionists as he pointed out to a full sitting in the House, the need to take note and act against 21st century slavery. Hours later, we launched the campaign in the presence of MP’s and law enforcement agents in an adjoining parliamentary room.

Protest4 is not a charity or organisation. We have no employees or tangible resources. We gather under a vision of freedom, liberty, and redemption in the Protest For a more just world. You might say Protest4 is a spirited network. With presence in the UK, the USA, and Denmark, we’re inviting any and all who would add to our voice and efforts. We’ve recently held Freedom Day in Southern California and in connection with the Home Office are rolling out the Truth Isn’t Sexy Campaign in the UK. The campaign began while on a trip to Cambodia and seeing Western men draped with the bodies of young Khmer girls. I realised that it was market economics. Men create demand and traffickers/pimp rush to supply. Women believing the streets of the West to be paved with gold, reply to cleverly placed adverts for ‘work’ or fall into the hands of a deceitful ‘boyfriend.’ We believe that if we address this demand, we’ll simultaneously knock out the supply.

Finally, we’re asking that those who read this and learn of it, don’t just consume anti-trafficking measures and this human-rights issue as the next funky wave of campaigning to get on board with. God spare us from jumping off one bandwagon onto another every time something captures our imagination. Instead, let’s see this one through to the end and ensure that none ever again fall into the trap of commodification. Let none of us sit back in passivity but do all that we can to ensure that no one remains a slave—no one.


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