Sex: Gift Or Sin?

May 6th, 2014 12:20 pm

JoAnne Lam

The sex trade has been proven to be more than justa phenomenon of distant places. It has been present throughout every time and place. Women, men, and children have become commodities to be traded for sexual pleasures, sexual releases, and the satisfaction of sexual fantasies. What is happening to humanity’s needs that individuals have turned to purchasing sex? Are we so lacking in physical intimacy or that we are incapable of maintaining personal relations that one would need to purchase a brief illusion of tenderness and physical connection?What is happening to us when we no longer seethe humanity in the “other” but a means to our ends?

The Church has had a fair amount of difficulties dealing with the topic of sexuality. No matter if it is speaking of pre-marital sexual relations, homosexuality, celibacy of priests and nuns, contraceptives, etc., the Church has remained conservative, rigid, unmoving, and elitist. This comment is unfair because it groups ALL expressions of Christianity within this stereotype of inflexibility with regards to human sexuality. However, despite the movement of some denominations, branches of classical and institutional forms of Christianity remain uneasy when dealing with sexual matters.

Human trafficking is a contemporary form of slavery and sex trafficking is a major part of coerced individuals trafficked across borders. In this article, I am not addressing those who have chosen to work in the sex industry. Rather, the pressing issue is the trafficking of vulnerable people from various countries and circumstances where the individuals have been coerced and promised legitimate work, but to find themselves heavily immersed in a sex trafficking ring. That said, if the Church is to address the issue of human trafficking, it is crucial that the Church becomes comfortable with discussing the nature of sexual relations and its place in society. Sexuality is a part of human nature and without considering this aspect of human needs neglects the necessity to approach humans holistically.

What do the Church and Christians have to say about sex? Opinions spread across a spectrum from treating it as a sinful part of human nature to something as normal as breathing. If we treat sex as a gift from God that allows two individuals to express love and intimacy,sex is beautiful and a natural part of relationships. On the other hand, if sex is to be considered a dirty secret and sinful desires, anything associated with that also becomes unwanted and rejected by the Church.

Theologically, one can perform an exercise of logic to draw some interesting conclusions about what we may believe about sex as Christians. God has created all things and especially brought to life human beings as stewards of the earth. Upon being casted out from Eden,according to Genesis 2, Eve was condemned to painful childbirths, and that thus explains the reproduction process of human beings. However, throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, there were mentions of “feet” and“lying together” which then resulted in children. It would almost parallel the childish belief that one would become pregnant through kissing another person. The over-simplifying of the sexual encounters has become a culture in churches where sex is unspoken topic while it is on everyone’s minds. At the same time, Mosaic laws governed that those who had an “emission of semen”was required to bathe and remained “unclean” for the rest of the day until evening.

My curiosity wonders if it were the “unclean” state of the man that made the Christian Church assume it meant the individual was “sinful.” The parallel between “sin” and “unclean” has been historically an issue in the Church because of such language that “Jesus has washed away my sins” or that one is to be made “pure as snow.”Not with standing the unhelpful nature of the imagery of cleanliness with “whiteness” of snow, there is a tradition of associating cleanliness and sinlessness. If one were to connect those dots, would then be sexual desiresor sexual acts be associated with sinfulness, which therefore, precludes sex to be sinful as well.Just as divorcees and homosexuals were stigmatized by the Church at various times, the sexual element of human relationships has remained only superficially explored by the Church. Returning to the point that since If it is the Church’s stance that a celebration of love is to take place in the sanctuary such as wedding rituals, then the Church also has the responsibility to stand against acts that destroys that very understanding and definition  of love and intimacy such as in the case of sex trafficking. This requires a greater exploration on the topic of sex by church leaders and the Church’s position on the usage of sex as a tool for manipulation and exploitation. 

As Christian students, one of the important tasks is to make faith relevant and to bring the Church into society and the world into the Church. Theologian Karl Barth was quoted in an interview for the Time Magazine to have said, “[I] advised young theologians ‘to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible”1 The biblical message without a context is ineffective. If the Church can establish a clear stance on sex and its role in life, it will also establish its stance on the societal abuses of human dignities through the exploitation of sex. The Church can be a resounding presence, irritating societal complacency and economical exploitation to reform and to resemble a glimpse of justice and compassion. Jesus stood in solidarity with a prostitute who was being threatened with violence. Are Christians willing to do the same for those who are inhumanely traded for sex and money?

Human trafficking is identified by Office of the High commissioner for Human Rights to be a contemporary
form of slavery. On the other hand, according to the International Labour Organization, trafficked sex workers do not fall under their mandate because governments have not agreed upon if the sex trade is a legitimate industry or a crime. If sex workers are working under illegal circumstances, they are not protected under labour laws and neither will their working conditions be standardized by international rules and regulations.
At an ILO presentation on migrant workers, it was explained that if it has something to do with an exchange of service for a fee then it is governed within the work of ILO. However, though sex workers are also offering services for a fee, they are not considered to be a concern of ILO, the presenter simply informed me that sex trafficking was the work of the High Commission for Human Rights instead. While individuals involved in the sex trade knowingly do have a choice to refuse participation, human trafficking must include the element of coercion and deception. People who are trafficked are deceived into giving up their freedom and their basic human rights are not respected.
A historical example would be the Korean and Chinese (as well as many others) Comfort Women taken forced into prostitution during the Second World War by the Empire of Japan. They were taken into brothel-like camps and some accounts described the young women’s experiences as being like “toilets” for the men’s sexual pleasures. Such is the current experience of trafficked people. Because there is a demand for sex as something to be purchased, bodies are being supplied. Human trafficking is defined by coercion. It is understood that trafficked persons do not have the freedom of choice. However, when desperation pushes a person to choose exploitation for the sake of survival, is that still considered to be a freedom of choice?

To choose is to have more than one option at hand.When one speaks of the freedom to choose, we would
assume that there are at least two items from which to choose. If one of those options is not viable, then the situation no longer is fostering a freedom of choice,but rather a “cornering” effect to force the individual to the only feasible option. To choose between “bad”and “worse” is not a freedom of choice;, at least it is neither fair nor just. At the same time, trafficked persons are coerced into believing there is a promise of life where in reality, there would be only abuse and exploitation. In their desolate situations, they could not imagine that life could be worse than their present circumstances. They placed their faith into strangers who offered them life in the midst of hopelessness.There was no freedom of choice because to be offer life and death, the only choice is life.

Human beings were created in the image of God. As God moulded Adam and Eve out of clay and breathed into them the spirit of life, would you imagine God to fathom the destructive practice of human beings buying and selling each others for sexual comforts? As God gazed upon creation and said that it was “very good,” do you think God could have imagined the uncompassionate treatment of women, men, and children as sexual objects and commodities to be traded?

As Christians, we hold the Malachi passage where God requires us to “seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God” (Malachi 6:8). In Isaiah 58:6, the prophet proclaims that God calls the people of Israel “to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke.” Finally,Jesus stood to bear the sin of the world in order that creation may be redeemed back to God. Therefore, the Church, the body of Christ, is to embody this call to justice which is woven from the beginning of God’s relationship with creation. The Church may not be comfortable with the topic of sexuality, but we have to move from that spot quickly before our Christian witness no longer is relevant in the world.

The voice of the Church is there to challenge the societal standards and values. The witness of the Church is there to stand with the vulnerable.On the global crisis of human trafficking, the Church has a significant role to call people into re-evaluating the state of the world and the treatment of fellow human beings. To be in solidarity with the suffering and the abused requires us to step into the desolate pits of miry mud that greed and desire have shoved the vulnerable and the marginalized ones.As God is willing to stretch out and accompany us in our pains, Christians are called to accompany and stand in solidarity with others. What are you willing to give up in order to answer this call?


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