Reclaiming Adam: Challenging Men To Take on the Sex Industry (a guest post by Beth and Chris Bruno)

Beth and ChrisThrilled to feature activists and allies, coauthors and spouses Beth Bruno and Chris Bruno today. What if men and women partnering together could take down the sex industry in their city through a comprehensive and prayerful approach? What will the gospel make possible in your city? For as we reclaim Eve, we are also reclaiming Adam. (Download their free ebook End: Engaging Men to End Sex Trafficking at the end of this post.)

***

“In God’s Kingdom, every woman—no matter her circumstance—can be reclaimed.”

Beautiful words from Reclaiming Eve perhaps because they ring so true for us all, perhaps because they sear my soul as I consider their weight. For as true as they are for women, they are true for men. And as true as they are words of hope, words of calling, they are true words of restoration.

Can we all be reclaimed for God’s glory—sinner and saint, victim and perpetrator, exploited and trafficker? Do I believe the weight of glory, promised for me as an ezer, extends to the adam who has harmed fellow ezers? Does the promise of restoration even encompass men who buy and sell sex? 

I’ll never forget the Sunday when my husband leaned over and whispered, “Do you know how many men in this room buy sex?” Not the typical pre-worship chatter a couple engages in, but as a Christian counselor and anti-sex trafficking leader, it has become normal for our marriage. He counsels those on the spectrum of Johns and I empower others to join us women to end sex trafficking. Together, we recently co-authored END: Engaging Men to End Sex Trafficking. While our unified aim is to put an end to the sexual exploitation of women and children, our ultimate goal is to reclaim both Eve and Adam for their original intended glory.

Men who buy sex live their own version of hell.

In the entanglement of sexuality, far too many men have been deceived into believing that sex is their most basic need. Indeed, the most core aspect of the human heart, the most primitive place in every human soul, is to worship. Everyone worships something or someone. Everyone. Inundated and overwhelmed by sexually explicit messages, images and experiential opportunities, many men have found sex a worthy idol. It delivers the comfort and pleasure they have come to believe they deserve. It provides momentary power without demanding strength. It offers intimacy without insisting on relationship. The insidious trap is set, and men by the millions find themselves bound in the tentacles of arousal and shame. This is their hell.

As if that were not enough, the rabbit hole deepens. For on the spectrum of marred sexuality, Adam’s masculine culture not only creates Johns (men who buy sex), it creates Johns-of-the-heart. While not all men buy sex, they know the place of derision against women in such comments as “you throw like a girl” or “stop being such a sissy.” Far from the conversation about trafficking, these deeply rooted attitudes represent another end of the spectrum. Indeed, the far opposite end of the spectrum, but the very same spectrum nonetheless. In these comments and thoughts, we hear the echo of Adam’s murderous words against Eve, “She gave me fruit. My failure is all her fault.” Jesus is quite clear about blame, hate and anger and equates them to murder.

 “And while typical Western men may not involve themselves in physical murder, to use someone else for one’s own pleasure robs her dignity and repeals her humanity. It strips her not only of her clothing but of the image-bearing glory of her femininity, and reduces her to little more than an object” (END). This includes the entire spectrum of marred sexuality, from misogynous attitudes, to pornography, to sex trafficking.

If we are to reclaim Adam, especially with regard to the sexual debacle in which we find ourselves, we must inspire him to reclaim three specific realities:

1. The grace of God runs to him. As a Father, God awaits with anticipation the return of his prostitute-abusing son. He stands on the porch and longs to catch a glimpse of that once-familiar form. And when he does, he runs...with cloak and love and rings and parties, he welcomes the wayward woman-abuser home. Anyone and everyone is within reach of the gospel. Adam must reclaim his home. (Luke 15:11-32)

2. Adam’s primary purpose is to worship. Even the Hebrew word zakar, meaning “male” or “penis,” is directly linked to the ancient notion of worship. Worship is Adam’s nature. Men need to be reminded that they were designed for intimacy and devotion, and that their hearts’ true longing is to have rightly directed worship. Adam must reclaim his God. (Genesis 1:27)

3. Women need Adam’s strength, not his power/domination. For the sex industry to crumble and for every exploited woman to once again find safety, men must regain their strength and battle the darkness, protect the vulnerable and stand up against other men who seek to destroy the dignity of women. In so doing, they reclaim the very design of men to offer their strength on behalf of another. Adam must reclaim his strength.

These 3 realities represent the core of our ministry at Restoration Project: Heal your Heart, Know your God, Restore your World. Empowering men to bring restoration to their communities for those exploited by sex trafficking is vital to our work. END is designed to equip any man in any town to face the spectrum of marred sexuality, wherever they are on it and however they would like to engage. The important thing is that men engage. We need men to engage!

For us to reclaim Eve, we must simultaneously reclaim Adam, for femininity and masculinity are intricately interwoven and interdependent.

End-New-3D-no-shadow2-177x300FREE BOOK: Click here to order your copy of END: Engaging Men to End Sex Trafficking. As a special gift for Suzanne’s readers, the ebook version is free.

Beth Bruno and Chris Bruno are writers, ministry leaders, and non-profit founders committed to restoration. After a decade of working together in campus ministry overseas, they diverged to pursue graduate degrees and start separate non-profits. In END: Engaging Men to End Sex Trafficking, they have teamed up in their passions, skills, and experience again. When not talking strategy, vision, and direction they can be found parenting 3 kids, playing in the Rocky Mountains, or enjoying their local cheese shop. You can find Beth at bethbruno.org and Chris at restorationproject.net.

Your turn: What are you doing to end sex trafficking in your city? What are some ways you believe men and women could partner together to be more effective in this mission?

"Back off, dude!" and other ways to fight the sex trade

To begin with, you should know that I am only 5'4" tall. If you met me in person, you would understand how unimposing I am. Except when I am riled. Today was one of those days.

While helping a woman in crisis, one whom God calls beloved, I found myself outside of a gas station after just realizing the man loitering outside had propositioned my friend: sex with me for drugs. You give out, and I will give it up. 

And I was livid.

Turning on my heel, I spun around and yelled "Back off, dude!" I pointed my index finger his direction and yelled: "And I am serious!!" 

I am telling the truth when I say he smiled, almost laughing. It was so unexpected, and I am so unassuming, that the whole thing was apparently  hilarious. My friend laughed, too. Why would you do that? she asked.

And here is my response: "When Jesus' love comes into your heart, and you see injustice, you want it to stop. You have to do something about it!"

Now I realize that what I did was not really heroic, that it didn't make much of a dent. No matter; I would do it all over again. I have ministered to hundreds of women in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction over the last 3 1/2 years through a weekly Bible study, and I have heard things I never imagined could ever be true. Except they are, brutal and painful as the facts may be.

And what I know is that millions of women in the world see themselves as unworthy, as worthy of abuse of all kinds, and that abusers sense this instinctively. And so these precious ones made in the image of God— young girls, teenage girls, young women, old women (and yes, boys, too)—are being bought, raped, abused, harassed, and beaten.

I have concluded that prostitution is the world's oldest oppression. No group in society is so victimized, so brutually terrorized and abused, as the women and children who are trapped in the vicious cycle of prostitution. And what is so baffling is this exploitation continues to be one of the most overlooked human rights abuses on the planet today.

For the last four years, I have been coauthoring a book that "unleashes women in God's Kingdom," and I have realized anew that each precious daughter is made in God's image, a "strong power" or ezer (Hebrew word) as it states in Genesis 2, and that God weeps when women are sidelined and stomped on, when they are not fulfilling the purpose for which they are created.

One of the main ways this happens is through gender-based violence: when men use up women and spit them out. 

And though I may be small, and my voice unimposing, I will raise it up on their behalf: "Back off dudes—those of you who are using pornography that objectifies women, which so often leads to sexual abuse or buying sex for thrills, those of you who have participated in the sex trade by frequenting places in which you can find women of all ages for sale. Back off, in the name of Jesus!"

And here is what is breaking my heart tonight, even as I type. The realization that the millions of women who trade sex for money or drugs or who are sex slaves for someone else's profit are being used by men who are also made in the image of God. These men who have twisted and distorted their strength for evil, for selfish gratification, for addictive power: God loves you. He made you to reflect him. Your actions distort his image, but you are not beyond hope and not beyond repair. Repent. Grieve, mourn and wail. Find help and move towards hope.

I am talking to men in the church pews and outside the church. To men dressed up in power suits and men twisting wrenches in a factory. I am talking to well-educated men and men without a GED.

Hear me well: I am not just asking you to back off from using women as objects. I am not just asking you to stop consuming media that cheapens the female sex or to stop exploiting them through strip clubs and prostitution rings.

I am asking you to step up to help set these women free.

God is mobilizing women around the world to fight on their sisters' behalf, but to be frank, we ladies can't do it without you. This alliance, male and female, that God created in the beginning is most powerful when men and women are working together, side-by-side. Now is the time for you to stand up and use your power, your strength, your abilities, your smarts and your God-given instinct for justice.

Guys, I realize that some of you have already heeded the call. But for the rest of you, I'm pleading: Please, step up.

Resources: Porn Addiction Recovery: XXXChurch.com Stats and Facts on Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence Against Women (World Health Organization) New York Times: "Nearly 1 in 5 Women in US Survey Report Sexual Assaulted" List of organizations opposing human trafficking

Call the Anti-Trafficking hotline at 1-888-3737-888 to report a tip; to connect with anti-trafficking services in your area;  or to request training and technical assistance, general information, or specific anti-trafficking resources.

Thoughts? What are some creative ways men and women can partner to speak up and act on behalf of those who are sexually exploited each day in our own neighborhoods and cities?

Book Giveaway - Refuse to Do Nothing: Finding Your Power to Abolish Modern-Day Slavery

A few weeks ago, my 12-year-old niece and I were talking chocolate over lunch. The conversation took an uncomfortable turn. Since I had recently finished reading the book Refuse to Do Nothing, I had learned that up to 40% of the cocoa used to make the chocolate we eat is slave-harvested.  Suffice it to say, there was no Hershey's on our s'mores that weekend, as I have not yet been assured Hershey's is doing what it can to eliminate "slave-free chocolate." Up until this conversation, I don't think my niece was aware slaves still existed. Her face fell when I said, "They estimate there are 27 million slaves worldwide." I didn't want to tell her what I've learned, but I can no longer keep quiet. Those of us who follow Jesus are called out to uphold justice, free the oppressed, and love like our Savior loves.

That's why the purpose of this important and necessary book is not guilt, but action.

Refuse to Do NothingAuthors Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim, two abolitionist mamas, have crafted a book that not only informs us of the dark evil happening in our backyards, our cities and around the world, they convinced me I could do something about it.

Here are a few quotes:

“Poverty and extreme levels of gender inequality play a significant role in why women and children make up 80% of trafficking victims.”

“Pornography today…is a world where women are dominated, urinated on, spit upon, beaten and raped. But we are told pornography is a matter of personal choice and something we engage with in private. We keep silent because the world has told us we are prudish if we voice our concern about the effects pornography has on our children or our society.”

“The average time it takes for a runaway child to be approached by a trafficker is 48 hours.” -Polaris Project

While the book often took my breath away, it also covered the beautiful story of how women in the U.S. rose up to abolish slavery in the 19th century. The opportunities it afforded them were ironic; because they stood up on behalf of the defenseless, women began to be treated more and more equally themselves. They preached, they entered new spheres of influence, and they eventually garnered the right to vote.

All of this makes me wonder: what might we accomplish in abolishing modern-day slavery if brothers and sisters tackled this evil TOGETHER?

Instructions: 1) To enter, leave a comment below stating why you would like to read this book or tell us a story of what someone is doing to abolish slavery in your community.

2) Through random.org, I will choose a winner and contact them. (Be sure you’re signed into DISQUS with an email address.) Contest runs through Thursday, July 18, at which point I will notify everyone of the winner. 

(Participants must live in the United States or Canada to accommodate mailing costs. Thanks!)

Note: Shayne and I met through Redbud Writers' Guild, a fabulous group of ladies crafting some beautiful material that you should read. "Like" our facebook page or visit our website to learn more!