Is “exploitation” too strong of a word for what happens in Christian ministry?
I feel radical even in the suggestion. Certainly, Christians are doing good work. Christian charities are excellent in helping house, clothe, and feed people. But at what cost?
There are many, many Christians with “good hearts” who would never want to hurt anyone, ever. Yet…
Behind all those good works there is something lurking. A monster. Regardless of how compassionate they are, they believe you are lost. They disrespect your own way of thinking and want you to “find the Lord” and be saved.
I see it. I can detect even a hint of evangelicalism. And I saw it at the volunteer training I went to this last week.
I am training to be a volunteer at a local charity: “an empowerment organization focusing on prevention, advocacy, and restoration to assist victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic sex trafficking.”
Phew, Quix. That’s heavy. Couldn’t you like, plant trees or something?
I realized a couple days after the first training why I am drawn to volunteer there: I am passionately anti-exploitation.
The reason this took the specific focus of human trafficking:
I became aware that the sex trafficking was a major issue in my area a couple years go. A 5 year-old girl had been kidnapped from her front yard, tied to a tree for days, molested, and had been prepped to be trafficked. The teachers and parents were trying to shield the kids of the details of the story (many kids knew the little girl directly or knew someone who did). This was a tough conversation to have with my kids as they were in tears for many weeks about it, as I was, despite not knowing her directly.
Shortly after this horrible tragedy the local roller girls group sponsored a charity at one of their derby bouts and I started asking some questions about it. It was a slap in my face and punch to my gut when I learned how prevalent in my area it was. And how recruitment into trafficking typically happens at my daughter’s age! I then watched a Netflix documentary called “I am Jane Doe” about mothers fighting to help their middle school-aged girls who are victims of sex-trafficking. I wanted to know how this was possibly a “thing” and what we could do to prevent it or help victims.
That’s how I ended up at the volunteer training at the local charity.
The outreach coordinator slotted to give the training to 10 people. Twenty people showed up! People want to help – that’s good! Or is it?
The environment in the room caused me to revert back to my formerly shy self. I haven’t been shy in quite a while but I became quiet and watched. Evangelism was in the air.
I wish I could describe how I knew, but I’m not sure how I can. Even before they opened their mouths I knew.
Everyone went around the room to introduce themselves. There were two others there who, like me, felt drawn to help the charity for no specific purpose other than they wanted to help. There were few emergency personnel wanting to learn more as they keep seeing trafficked victims, a couple college students needing to do volunteer hours, but nearly all were women who wanted to help these women as part of their church ministry.
These women were laughing, gushing with each other over how their churches are doing this-or-that, dropping names of people they knew, talking about the private Christian schools their kids were going to and I just couldn’t…
I decided to drop my protective social happy barrier as I wasn’t able to laugh in agreement anyway and decided I wasn’t going to bullshit. I’d be authentic. Congenial Quix disappeared. They were talking with the volunteer coordinator, who was thrilled anyone showed up and was laughing with them and whenever someone made eye contact I gave a small smile of, “Okay, I acknowledge you but this isn’t important. Let’s get onto the training.”
I wasn’t an asshole about it, but it was socially awkward because evangelicals are constantly looking for small windows to either 1. evangelize or 2. find other evangelicals (it’s like a secret club). This happens to me ALL. THE. TIME. There are several people at work who are mega-religious, who are my favorite people at work in-fact, but they keep throwing me evangelical bones that they think I will catch. I’m not ready to share my story so I awkwardly shut them down and change the subject.
I guess I give off evangelical vibes too. They make eye-contact with me and it’s like I’m one of them. But I’m not. “Love the sinner, hate the sin?” Same difference. At this point it’s more like “love the evangelical, awkwardly protest by changing the subject.” Sigh.
Back to exploitation…
Political leaders can exploit their constituents by claiming to share and care about their religious values.
Prosperity gospel preachers can exploit their parishioners by telling them if they give all their money (even if they have none) to God they will reap financial and spiritual awards.
Evangelical pastors exploit their ‘flock’ in a more subtle way financially, but in a much greater way ‘spiritually.’ The brethren bring in more souls to assimilate into the Borg.
Victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation are vulnerable. They have already been prey. They need to now be empowered.
Is it empowering to tell sexually exploited women that they need to submit? Whether it be to a husband, a pastor, a church, or a god? Nope.
Is it empowering to sexually exploited women when you make out pornography or prostitution as MORAL issues instead of ethical ones? Nope.
Is it empowering to force a woman’s story into a redemption narrative? Nope.
I de-converted four years ago and yet there are a lot of things I haven’t yet sorted out.
One of these is whether I’m anti-theist. Do I think that religiosity can be good in this world? I want so badly to say yes, even though I believe the majority of people in the world are delusional for being religious. I think people can be good despite their religion. It seems that people without religion aren’t better or worse, they are just more honest.
Do I think these Christian women can do more good than harm? Oh, I hope so! I really, really hope so. I also hope that the charity won’t exclude me for being non-religious (there is a question on the volunteer application asking if you go to church and, if so, which one).
But non-religious people like me are desperately needed there. I have no agenda. I’m not going to try to push my beliefs (or lack of) onto another person and I’m good at the sort of skills they are looking for.