Thursday, August 14, 2014

Finding Hope in the Midst of Terror

Photo by Katie Martinez
It's hard to believe that this month marks two years since I started working on this blog. The concept took shape after I attended the 2012 Slavery No More conference to learn more about human trafficking.   

The blog began as a means to help others learn about the efforts to fight human trafficking. As more organizations started working with victims and awareness began to spread, the blog evolved as a place to set forth the realities of the underlying causes--orphans, broken homes, the ideologies of a hypersexualized culture and the devaluing of women, poverty, and human rights. At the same time, this blog attempts to advocate solutions to these problems--personal transformation which involves a relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and a celebration of life in Him throughout every sphere of society. Jesus provides light in the darkness. Hope for the hopeless. A refuge in every storm.

This past week with constant news reports about ISIS, genocide, and the sexual violence again minority women, girls and boys, darkness appears to be closing in. I was surprised to find out that Western girls are even being recruited online to "marry" jihadists. As in other trafficking efforts, after these young women arrive in Syria they may be quite surprised to find that things are not as they seemed. Force, fraud, and coercion will likely be put into play. Severe punishments will be enforced for transgressing strict dress codes, beatings will be acceptable, and should one be caught in adultery (or perhaps even just accused of it), public stoning would result.

In a casual conversation, one Muslim man in my own neighborhood told me that according to Islamic culture beatings are acceptable because they keep wives in line. Knowing how trafficking works, it's not hard to imagine how women who respond to these Internet recruitment tactics will be at the mercy of terrorists who could easily marry them for an hour or a day or not at all, but rather use them up and cast them away. That's what's to be expected where women have no rights. And, should they try to escape or their families try to rescue them, they cannot take their children with them because they would be the man's property.

We already know ISIS tactics are evil. Wicked. And they bring tremendous grief. Add in the concerns about the brutality of human trafficking, and we wonder: Is there any relief? Is the name of this blog a complete misnomer? How can there possibly be a beautiful day in the neighborhood in the face of such travesties?

This morning Psalm 33:13-22 reminded me that in God's neighborhood, it's still a beautiful day.
The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; From His dwelling place He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth. He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works.The king is not saved by a mighty army; A warrior is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a false hope for victory; Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength.
Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him. On those who hope for His lovingkindness. To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.
For our heart rejoices in Him, Because we trust in His holy name.
Let Thy lovingkindness, O Lord be upon us, According as we have hoped in Thee (NASB).
We may not understand His ways, but God's view offers hope. He's in charge and we know we can trust Him. None of this is taking Him by surprise. It's right in line with His Word. We also know that in His eternal realm, people find the magnificent love offered to victims and terrorists alike. A hope that values women and supplies an indestructible life regardless of the circumstances. A hope that offers forgiveness and mercy to all who seek it, but also exacts justice to those who don't.

That's why we pray. It's not easy and takes time, but it's in Christ that we find the beauty of reconciliation that seems impossible. Corrie ten Boom forgiving her Nazi guard. Amish families whose children were killed embracing the family of Charles Roberts, who walked into a one-room school in Pennsylvania with an automatic rifle and four hundred rounds of ammunition.
From Israel to Indonesia, from Baghdad to the Balkans, groups like Christian Peacemaker Teams, the American Friends Service Committee, and other nongovernmental organizations promote reconciliation as the only way to overcome ethnic strife. (Why Forgive  by Johann Christoph Arnold, p. 205).
Unimaginably, even in the midst of intense agony, there are already Iraqi Christians praying "Father forgive them . . ." And, even if these believers are murdered, they'll know the beauty of an indestructible life in the eternal neighborhood that reaches far beyond death. Meanwhile the rest of us must do everything in our power to come to their aid. Not to do so would make us as barbaric as the terrorists.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Reaching for the Stars in the Entertainment Sphere

Smiley face
"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience,and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world" 
                                                        Harriet Tubman
An African-American abolitionist and a humanitarian, Harriet Tubman was a dreamer. And, she was a great role model for every member of the body of Christ. Tubman demonstrated what can be accomplished when we want more for people than bondage to slavery.

Guided by her passionate faith in God, Tubman consulted with Him frequently in her quest to free slaves during the American Civil War. That's what the members of the body of Christ need to do now in every sphere of our society. 

Some in the entertainment sphere are rising to the challenge. They are determined to eliminate the underlying causes of human trafficking--dreaming big dreams fueled by passionate faith. The team at Unearthed Pictures said:
We saw that men were largely absent from the fight on sexual exploitation - so how could a group of us walk away? We decided to dig our heels in and stay. We slowed down, listened and researched how to best engage the men fueling the demand, because in this battle, when you get the men, you get everyone.
This team recognized that addressing the sexual brokenness of men could begin building a bridge to Jesus. So they started producing the Hearts of Men, a film about "the collision between our sexual brokenness and the relentless love of God." This message will not only diminish the demand for modern-day sex slaves, but it also has the potential to unleash revival. That makes this effort worthy of prayer, financial support, and every other kind of promotional support we can give it. 

Cap Stewart, a videographer and media manager, is also doing what he can to expose the underlying issues involved with entertainment--issues that relate to each one of us. In his blog post "Sex Scenes in Movies Don't Bother Me," Stewart poses challenging questions that Christians need to ask themselves and start discussing with their friends. 

Doing so can help Christians reach higher with dreams that can change the world. Leaders model the way for others. By discussing the issues, praying for, financing, and promoting entertainment that frees people from the lies of a hypersexualized culture, not only will we  diminish the demand for young girls to be sold as sex slaves, but we will also enrich our own lives. 

A tremendous opportunity to support culture-changing entertainment is rapidly approaching, and we need to start talking about it now. The movie "50 Shades of Grey" will be released on February 14, 2015. Bold Christian filmmakers have taken on this erotic film by fearlessly scheduling a Valentine's Day release of the movie "Old Fashioned." Many people (including believers) may be inclined to follow the crowd and support the movie that features the bondage of S & M behaviors. Yet deep down most of us long for genuine romance, love, and a healthy marriage. Why not boycott the film that stimulates a momentary desire for cheap careless sex and increases the demand for porn? Instead Christians can promote the production that reaches for the dreams of the heart--old-fashioned romance where women are valued and men are chivalrous. It's the least we can do.