I heard a radio spot today for Pray for the Johns Day. The radio spot talked about the terrible facts of sex trafficking here in the U.S., an industry that preys on very young women, children actually, and how this activity spikes around Super Bowl Sunday. The ad enumerated many of the reasons that this is to be abhorred, the rape and physical abuse of children, depriving people of any self-autonomy, and exposing these very victims to deadly diseases and illegal and unsafe abortions.
They’re right. Of course they are right. Sex trafficking exists in this country and it is a bigger industry, encompassing more victims than you’d ever expect. There may be 100,000 children (which account for about 40% of sex trafficking) sold everyday in the U.S. alone. Another 300,000 American children are at risk of being captured by this system (85% of children in sex trafficking cases are American citizens themselves). It’s a terrible, disgusting, terrifying problem. If you are someone who prays, then this is certainly worth your prayers.
But let me suggest this, you should pray for the victims, not their abusers. Because the people behind “Pray for the Johns Day” want you to pray for the men who are paying money to rape a child. Rather than pushing for tougher laws, more vigorous prosecution of these rapists and abusers, or gathering funding to use to support these women and children as they attempt to heal and become whole again they are agitating for more merciful understanding of the Johns.
I’m pretty sure I’ve read all of the website. I was really careful because I wanted to be sure that when I made this statement I was correct. No where on the website is there the suggestion to pray for the victims. Anywhere.
The website gives this reasoning for praying for the abusive Johns (all emphasis theirs):
Holistic responses also entail the restoration of both the exploited and the exploiters. When men participate in the systemic injustice that is sex trafficking, they are not just harming others (a sin of commission) but not doing the good works for which they may have been created (a sin of omission).
Yes, half of the sin committed by these Johns is the failure to be helping old ladies cross the street during the time they are paying money to rape children. Let’s continue (if you can, I understand if your nausea keeps you from reading).
But who’s to say a trafficker in your city could not be the next John Newton? Couldn’t a local brothel’s regular client yet become another Augustine? If God got hold of such men’s hearts, and they turned from their sin, who’s to say how their full potential for good and blessing could yet be released despite all that they have done and may be doing even this minute?
Now, there is a time to consider how to reconcile and move forward from even the most terrible crimes. Germany, Rwanda, and Bosnia had to find ways to reconcile and heal after unimaginably violent regimes. Longstanding conflicts like those in Ireland or South Africa had to be addressed before any citizen could look forward to a life of justice and peace. In this country we had to, and still are, coming to terms with our shameful history of slavery and native-rights denial. Forgiveness may be the only way forward for an individual or a country. There is a time to look to reconciliation, but that time is after victims are safe. The victims are not safe right now.
Pray for the Johns Day makes the exploiter more important than the exploited.
It makes the abuser of greater concern than the abused.
It considers the violators before the violated.
That is wrong.
Terribly, terribly wrong.
Where does this sentiment come from? Let’s look at the website’s logo. It’s a play off the XXX symbol that usually denotes explicit material. The second X is shifting to show the last X, which has turned into a cross. They’ve shown how explicit sexuality can turn into religious devotion. Since both the rapist and the raped are involved in a sexual activity, and sexual activity is morally repugnant and dirty, therefore both parties are harmed by being involved in such sordid dealings. Since the rapist and the raped both suffer equally (I’m not saying this is true, folks, I’m following their repugnant logic here) then the Johns deserve some kindness too.
But the moral horror caused by sex trafficking is not about its explicit nature, it’s about people paying money to rape children. To suggest that the issue is mainly in the graphic or explicit nature of sex trafficking glosses over all the actual violation and oppression that occurs. It belittles the crime committed against these victims by equating it with dirty magazines. Whatever your views on porn might be, I’m sure you don’t think it’s as bad as paying money to rape a child.
So I suggest that if you want to remember the victims of sex trafficking this Super Bowl Sunday you should. You should read the links in this article to find out what sex-trafficking looks like in this country. If you want to help these victims materially or to see what kind of legislation is pending to protect victims go to Polaris Project.
If you’re really committed to praying for Johns then let me suggest a good prayer, one that reflects the enormity of the crimes they’ve committed and looks to a juster world for all of us,
“Go to Hell.”