Jesus and sex workers
I was going to think of a snappier title but this post is about Jesus and sex workers, so there it is folks.
Not in a rescue industry way. Not in a redemption and at-a-distance ‘pray for them’ way.
I recently wrote a piece for the March 2019 issue of our parish magazine about ‘Evangelism as listening: an illustration from listening to sex workers’. Quite a few people asked to read it via twitter and my other social media accounts, and I was delighted to share and get feedback.
I don’t want my writing and work to stay inside the construction hut (John Robinson) I want to to collide with the world. To be a Christian isn’t to be passive and sweet, it’s an often confrontational calling out of social injustice.
Our sermon today was around John 12:1-8. This came at a very apt time for me and clarified a lot of the thoughts I have been having lately. In the passage Mary washes and anoints Jesus with extremely expensive perfume. This act of extravagance was criticised, but the extravagance was the point. The challenge is to be like Mary, to be risky, be extravagant in our service, be a bit off-the-wall and to show love in absolute abundance.
Not love when it suits you or when it gains us social favour. In fact in loving and serving with abundance we risk social judgements and even legal penalties.
I have heard so many Christians having an opinion on sex work. Most of these vocal critics are privileged and have not faced socio-economic disadvantage. They are mostly well-meaning, and they want to do what is ‘right’. The neat and comfortable answer is to support the ‘zero tolerance’ and ‘end demand’ campaigns.
The uncomfortable reality is that criminalization of any part of the sex industry harms sex workers. It takes away their choice of preferred client; it takes away their autonomy; it creates hostile working environments; it creates a mistrust of the police and NGO’s; it increases stigma. It ignores the feminization of poverty and it makes life more difficult for those selling sexual services.
You might not like the sex industry. You might believe that sex is reserved for inside a marriage. But guess what? Prohibition of anything, drugs/sex/alcohol doesn’t work. Our role is surely to walk beside people and give funding and support to harm reduction services.
Our churches are often (usually?) filled with the same people. And those on the margins of society feel unwelcome. There is thankfully a growing movement for LGBTQIA+ communities to be welcomed into churches. Yet sex workers are still excluded. They are seen as poor victims or as problematic people. But guess what? Sex workers are welcome too.
The church is an extremely influential and powerful tool. There are a growing number of christian allies to sex workers and I pray that this keeps growing. I would love to form a steering group to see where we can go with this. The idea would be to train churches in how to support sex workers and harm reduction services.
I came home from church and saw this quote on Facebook. The bible in the right hands, read in the correct way and guided by gifted teachers is the most powerful tool. It is about love. In the wrong hands it becomes a weapon to bash people with and a pick-and-mix of put downs.
To any sex workers reading this, whether you are a Christian, of another faith, or of no faith: you are worthy, loved and you matter in this world. I am sorry that people support measures to harm you.
If anyone wants to contact me regarding this, please do.