Saturday, March 19, 2016

Remarkable Unity in the Battle Against Modern-Day Slavery

Photo credit, Katie Martinez

Don't we all love the peace of a serene scene. Isn't that where we long to be? In a world without conflict. Yet every day the news keeps us constantly aware of a world full of violence and hatred. In America the political situation seems in constant danger of exploding or imploding, and it's not much different in the rest of the world. Besides a litany of murders and other crimes, we hear of North Korea's increasing threats of nuclear war and Secretary of State John Kerry's declaration of genocide by ISIS.

A few days ago, Kerry described how:
in 2014, ISIS trapped Yazidis, killed them, enslaved thousands of Yazidi women and girls, "selling them at auction, raping them at will and destroying the communities in which they had lived for countless generations," executed Christians "solely for their faith" and also "forced Christian women and girls into slavery."
Turning a blind eye has done nothing but make matters worse. So does justifying our hopes for a human savior by choosing Republican or Democrat nominees without integrity. Our only hope lies in  a Savior who helps us get beyond ourselves and accept a more realistic view of the world. His Holy Spirit, can then empower us to work together to value every human life within our communities. As individual lives are transformed, they will transform communities, and in turn that can transform nations.

This past month I've been in meetings with people who live life caring deeply enough about those being brutally exploited to do something about it. Together we are making headway in solving the problem of human trafficking. These Christians come from many different denominations, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, political parties--and all want to contribute to a better world. Instead of focusing on differences, we focus on what unites us--a desire for a more serene scene, where everyone--not just people of privilege--can be safe.

About ten days ago, the Wesleyan Holiness Consortium's Freedom Network met in San Diego at Point Loma University where Jamie Gates, the director of their Center for Justice and Reconciliation has worked strategically with the University of San Diego to research the extent of gang involvement in sex slavery in San Diego County. This ground-breaking work to understand the problems in San Diego will make the solutions more apparent--even in Pomona and Poughkeepsie.

This past week, CARE 18, a collaborative in Los Angeles County, gathered so people from various spheres of society could further their partnership helping each other in this battle. Nonprofits need volunteers, funds, and other resources that people from churches are eager to supply. Law enforcement needs encouragement and services as they rescue young girls from the street. We all need each other to work smarter. It's been my joy to deliver Freedom Bags and street kits from Every ONE Free to the Dream Center. Without this collaborative, we wouldn't have known what needs existed.

Now CARE 18 is exploring ways to help Every ONE Free in Pomona get an outreach center up and running on Holt Blvd, one of the most notorious tracks in the nation.

Working together--that's the good news in this battle. Many people care. Many people of all faiths are getting involved. They're willing to work together in harmony to figure out ways to bring light into the darkness and hope to those in despair. They're working to bridge gaps and bring reconciliation to our neighborhoods. The more individuals that get involved, the more we can learn from one another, and the closer we come to that serene scene--one where every girl and boy will be safe.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Trump and Trafficking--Enough Already!

"The Bridge to Nowhere," photo credit Katie Martinez
What does the current Republican front-runner have to do with modern-day slavery? Everything.

Both Trump and trafficking are a reflection of our culture. It's mainly because of moral degeneration that a candidate as vulgar, disrespectful, bigoted, and shameless as "the Donald" can garner enough support to be the top contender for the Republican nomination. It's mainly because of moral degeneration that our neighborhoods have become breeding grounds for human trafficking.

Behind traffickers and Trump, lie strategies for winners and losers. Some people win (traffickers and currently Trump), while others lose (victims and Americans committed to common decency). Some of the underlying contributors to these divisive and corrupted realities in our society are that human dignity has been buried along with all the aborted babies. Human rights have been sold (trafficked) as fetal tissue by Planned Parenthood  Yet many people (including Trump and evidently those who support him) still think Planned Parenthood "does a lot of good."

In terms of trafficking, once human life has disintegrated into body parts for sale, how can any young girl or boy believe their lives have value if they're not wanted by their parents? And tragically far too many girls and boys are not. The breakdown of the family has dramatically contributed to this problem and a Trump presidency can't offer much hope of a strong role model for family values. Little can reflect an untrustworthy character better than repeated adultery, however, Trump's supporters don't seem to care about his indiscretions. These are powerful indicators of how far our culture has fallen.

And, oh what a vision Trump offers in terms of greed. Perhaps as bad as the traffickers who make on average $35,000 per week! Other billionaires like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett are known for their works of compassion. Yet Trump and traffickers seem to consider little besides themselves as they rake in their fortunes. Rather they fixate on their power and sexual domination and that leads us to pornography.

We were warned about the damage pornography does in society when Dr. James Dobson served on the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography in the 1980s. But media ridiculed his involvement and society refused to pay attention. Instead television shows such as The Bachelor/Bachelorette, video games and all sorts of entertainment bring this trash right into our homes where any 8-year-old can access it. And, we wonder why we increasingly hear on the nightly news about the sexual exploitation of children. Could it be because we applaud and elevate the vulgarities epitomized by the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City instead of condemn them and refuse to cry "Enough?" (Yes, I'm aware he declared bankruptcy there, refusing to pay his debts and yet he claims to be without sin. After all that's good business, the kind of business Americans have become accustomed to. Evidently Trump wants to disassociate his name from this "resort" that offers Atlantic City's first strip club in a casino, but his legacy is a powerful one.)

With Trump epitomizing the disintegration of strong biblical values in our society, are Christ-followers yet ready to start being the light in the darkness; the salt that seasons our culture with goodness and integrity instead of making it fertile ground for human trafficking? The kind of people who abhor modern-day slavery so much that they'll demand a candidate with strong family values, character-building influence on entertainment, and a role model for integrity?

Christ's love and the personal transformation of His followers can have such a powerful impact that even political candidates like Trump and those who delve into human trafficking (both buyers and sellers) can be overcome with God's goodness. In turn, numerous transformed lives will begin transforming our communities and our country. Still that requires a desire to change and I wonder--are we ready yet?