Miguel Ruiz: New light on the oldest profession

Judah and Tamar, Gassel
Judah and Tamar, Gassel

Note from CM: After thinking about the way many Christians today devise their moral theology, our friend Miguel offers a “modest proposal” about reconsidering “the oldest profession.”

• • •

The history of Christianity is a twisted tale of conflict over sexuality and the suppression of those who dissent the party line on bedroom ethics.  These days, it is commonly argued that there is only one correct approach, from sound exegesis of Scripture, to human sexuality and appropriate boundaries.  However, we still must concede that what is commonly accepted as “right” today is not exactly how we have always taught.  Throughout the centuries, various sexual practices have gone in and out of favor with the church catholic at various times and in various cultures, as external influences have doubtlessly impacted how the relevant Scripture passages were read and understood.  We’ve run the gamut from repressing to libertine, and everything in between.  It is nothing short of confounding how difficult it is to get the Bible to speak directly and consistently on these matters.  If we truly value and respect the Word of God, we would be wise to continue listening and respectfully consider alternate interpretations, especially those coming from fellow believers as a matter of conscience.  We’ve all made mistakes in Biblical interpretation before, probably not for the last time.  So I challenge you to listen with an open mind as I explain how we’ve been largely wrong about a particular issue for a number of years:  Prostitution.

Prostitution gets a bad rap in our culture today, and as a result, women in this profession are grossly mistreated.  When we think of sex workers, the stereotype that comes to mind is a scantily clad woman, working a corner, wearing too much makeup.  She renders her plunder to a psychologically manipulative and physically abusive pimp who doesn’t take very good care of her.  It has truly become a dangerous profession in our day, largely because a judgmental spirit against it fosters a suppression of its legitimacy, resulting in occupational trauma.  Unfortunately, this is often done in the name of Christianity.  It doesn’t have to be so.  The exegetical scholarship on this issue is no longer as conclusive as we once thought.  Let’s take a look at what the Bible really has to say about prostitution, from the beginning.

The first recorded prostitute is Tamar.  She slept with Judah after his three sons died without knocking her up.  Oddly enough, Judah did not realize it was his three-time daughter in law.  When it was discovered that she was pregnant and she gave proof that it was at his doing, his response was (and I quote the ESV), “She is more righteous than I.”

Consider the significance of this.  Judah is not just one of the patriarchs of Israel.  Neither is he the firstborn, from whom the Messiah was expected to come.  Rather, the first three sons were passed up in favor of Judah!  The very father of the tribe of Jesus, an essential link in the genealogy of salvation, has declared a prostitute to be more righteous than him!  What does that say about how he viewed them?  It reminds me of something Jesus used to say;  “The tax collectors and prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.”  From the popular Christian sexual ethic of today, you would expect a much more sever evisceration of this demographic, but these words seem rather flattering.

Further down the history of salvation we see Rahab, who assisted the spies in Jericho at the beginning of the Israeli conquest.  The spies had no qualms heading to her place to hide, which may even have been construed as a “business transaction.”  They showed her respect and promised her both safety and a secured place among the people of God.  Did I mention she also became a part of the lineage which led to Christ?  The holy family is not too good for hookers.  (See Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 for more praise of her.)

Jesus openly elevated the status of prostitutes.  He called many of them as followers, and nary a word is recorded of his chastisement of their livelihood.  Instead, we see “Wherever the Gospel is preached, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”  Jesus went out of his way to honor and uplift these downtrodden members of society.  And all we have for them judgement and condemnation?

Tamar, beautiful daughter of Judah, Chagall
Tamar, beautiful daughter of Judah, Chagall

“Oh, but isn’t prostitution adultery?”  Not according to Webster’s dictionary, which defines it as, “sex between a married person and someone who is not that person’s spouse.”  So prostitution can be adultery, but only if the John is married.

Sure, the Levitical code condemned prostitution, along with the eating of shrimp and the wearing of clothing with mixed fabric.  Unless you hold to those other restrictions, there is no reason to assert some of them as mandatory for today.  What would be the basis for that such a selective reading?  Prejudice.

What about New Testament condemnations of fornication?  The word commonly translated as “fornication” (pornea), actually refers to sexual immorality generally, not fornication specifically.  Many modern translations have reversed this err, effectively removing the word  from the New Testament!  You could, potentially, make the case that fornication is defrauding, in the sense that it is often achieved dishonestly:  promising commitment, feigning infatuation, blindly following temporary feelings of romance.  With a professional, however, the exchange is consensual and contractual.  Everything is mutually agreed upon, transparent, and up front.  Would that all our relations proceeded thusly!  If society were freed from this stigmatization, far fewer would resort to deception to meet this need.

1 Corinthians 6:9 is the ultimate “clobber verse” that is whipped out to shame professional sex workers and prove that God hates them:  “…prostitutes shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  And yet, several of them clearly have:  Rahab, Mary Magdalene, etc.…  Perhaps this verse doesn’t mean what is might seem.  Could it refer to temple prostitutes in the fertility cults of the time, whose pagan worship was mutually exclusive with the worship of the one true God?  It fits the textual evidence so much better than writing off an entire discriminated demographic whose line of work has left them in oppression for millennia.  It also fits with examples from the Old Testament:  When righteous kings of Israel led a revival and return to faithfulness, they always drove out the shrine prostitutes.

Verse 15 mentions prostitution in a seemingly derogatory light, but the passage is about sexual immorality generally.  It lists no specifics besides prostitution.  Surely adultery, rape, etc… are also forms of sexual immorality.  So the intent of the passage clearly isn’t to spell out a definitive list of what is or is not sexually immoral.  Rather, sexual immorality is, analogously, a prostitution of ourselves to the God of pleasure, rather than the one true God.  From this passage alone, prostitution itself may or may not be considered “sexual immorality.”

It is time for Christianity to move beyond this mistreatment of hard working young women, if we want anybody to take our faith seriously in contemporary society.  Let us consider, as an example of the Gospel’s transformational effect on society, the arrangement in parts of Nevada, where prostitution is legalized and regulated.  The girls receive medical benefits, vacation time, and can freely advertise their services with business cards and websites.  What does this do for the industry?  For one, their services are much more fairly compensated.  We should not take lightly the benefit that their labors provide society.  Those running back-alley operations to hide from the law are far more likely to get dirt for pay.  This results in a higher client load in order to make ends meet, which takes a much more severe toll on their health.  And when society is done with them, we toss them aside like yesterday’s garbage, while the rest of us enjoy our retirement plan.  Is this justice?  Does this model the compassion Christ taught?  We’re so busy patting ourselves on the back for having obtained more “respectable” vocations that we don’t even notice how our systems have trampled them.  Surely these “least of these” would receive a much stronger hand up from Christ Himself; they did when He was walking the earth.  Why not work to transition as many of them as possible from victims of thuggery and abuse to respectable entrepreneurs who run their own escort service?  After all, a women’s body ought to be her own business, not somebody else’s.

Enough with occupational discrimination.  In the past, the church has also shunned bartenders, casino operators, lingerie manufacturers, and goat herders.  These are honorable professions that are widely accepted and valued by Christians today.  The church has changed its mind on other issues, such as polygamy, once permitted and later overturned.  It is time to overturn this ancient prejudice as well.  Sure, prostitutes are sinners, like everybody else, and need forgiveness from Jesus.  But according to the Scriptures, their job isn’t the problem.  The story of God and the Christian prostitute isn’t done being written yet.

Who knows?  Maybe Jesus and Paul really meant to condemn prostitution, but didn’t choose their words carefully enough.  It’s always possible that they were simply wrong on this issue.

213 thoughts on “Miguel Ruiz: New light on the oldest profession

  1. Understood. Agreed we need to be compassionate but that does not mean we embrace the behavior. As Jesus said to the woman caught in Adultery …”I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”


  2. John, I understand your concern. FWIW I sat on this essay for a year to try and soften that some. The thing is, not everything written in this satire is meant in its full opposite. What was said about the plight of these vulnerable people is very sincere, along with how they are more often than not beat down by organized religion, because what is being parodied by it is how some people use their plight to renegotiate their moral theology. This is usually done by starting with a bunch of true statements, and then slipping in some half-truths. It was not meant to denigrate anybody so much as it was to show how often good things, such as compassion, can lead us to less than helpful decisions. Not because compassion is bad, but because our compassion is never pure enough, and remains deeply mixed with other motivations we must strive to distinguish. Believe me, the point of the post is not that the church should be judgmental towards and berate prostitutes, as if God hated them and eagerly desired them to burn in hell forever. Or anybody else, for that matter. But a compassionate response, I believe, is most certainly not one of these two things: either telling them it’s ok to continue embracing that which would destroy their life, or prescribing a one-size-fits-all solution to everyone caught up in this profession. Either one ignores the truth of the impact of personal decisions and the uniqueness of each individual’s situation.


  3. After two days or so of thinking about this occasionally, it finally dawned on me why I am troubled by this post and don’t think it works as satire: one of its main objects is prostitutes, who are indeed among society’s most vulnerable and outcast, yet to remain satire it can’t strike any authentic note of compassion for them. Most good satire uses as its object the lofty and powerful (and often proud to boot). This doesn’t.


  4. Give me a break, you constantly attack, tear down and deride traditional views and those who hold them, and now you are offended by one post you don’t agree with? That’s weak. How do you think it feels to come here week after week and see that Protestant Liberalism has been given free reign for the last couple years? The comment threads are a liberal cultural echo chamber. To have my views (and most traditional views) pilloried and impugned as ignorant and evil.

    Put your big boy pants on and gird up your loins lest it be said of you that you can dish it out but can’t take it.


  5. “And probably the biggest reason? They have the exact same audience.” Citations please, or are you just being an ass?


  6. Is this supposed to be snarky? I can’t figure out if the author is trying a ham-fist at satire, ironically poking fun at conservatives who are so concerned with sex that they cast everything in light of it (hint: the general immorality about prostitution isn’t about the sex), or making fun of the inability of some conservatives to take Scripture seriously or share thoughtful arguments. I wish I could take it at face value, like most posts at iMonk, but I suspect this was not written to engage anyone thoughtfully, so I’ll just bow out. Bleh.


  7. ‘Jumped the shark’? I think it was a brilliant piece of satire. The fact that some are outraged shows that he struck the nerve he was aiming for. As I have heard said before ‘That arrow sank to the feathers.” He accurately reflects the hermeneutic used by many to justify overturning traditional interpretations of Scripture. People are pissed because because it hits close to home, so they refute his analogy or attack his use of prostitution as a foil. Given the radical leftward and liberal shift of this blog in recent years, chalk this one up to ‘balance.’


  8. … and if you do delve into the Church Fathers, esp Athanasius, and Irenaeus of Lyon, it’s likely you will get the impression that Jesus wasn’t about establishing a “morality” at all…



  9. Well, the traditional understanding, FWIW, is that by upholding the decalogue on adultery, and ratcheting that up a bit, Jesus condemns pretty much everyone as adulterous. He kind of killed the last high horse with that one. You might say that killing high horses was his hobby horse.


  10. That’s the correct saying, but it’s an Athenian democracy, with a very limited franchise.


  11. StuartB,
    You’re not the only one who’s taken a walk on the wild side, you’re not the only one who has compassion for marginalized people of all kinds, and, because your perspective is a partial human one, your voice sometimes needs to be countered. In my opinion, your advocacy for a nearly Sadean libertinism in this matter does not embody Jesus’ love for the “least of these”, some of whom are trying desperately to leave behind behaviors that you say are morally indifferent, and who need to hear the counterpoint that their struggle is worthwhile.

    What’s with the revolutionary fervor? Do you march in the streets with the sexually marginalized, or advocate for them? That’s the way it sounds, from the moralistic tone of your language.


  12. J sez, “And then of course there’s the bit in Luke 21 “this generation shall not pass away until these things have” etc. comment. The generation he was referring to has, in fact, passed away. The stated prophecy has not come to pass. Oops, I guess.”

    J, I’m responding to this down here hoping you’ll have a better chance of seeing it. What you are talking about here bothered me almost from the get go forty years ago. The context of this statement gets a bit fuzzy, but the statement itself is plain enough. Doesn’t seem like one of those things where it got misquoted or miscopied or mistranslated or tweaked. This generation seems like it could only be referring to the people he was talking with at the time.

    As you say, that generation passed away, so what’s the deal here? Wasn’t a deal breaker for me, but was one of those questions I was saving up to get straight from the horse’s mouth. In the meantime I read a lot of so called explanations which could be summed up by Trish above tho some were more intricate. Let’s be kind and say I found them inadequate. No, I’ve gotta say they just make my bs detector go off.

    And that was just the tip of the iceberg. What about all these folks all thru the New Testament waiting for the return of Jesus, the Day of the Lord, the Second Coming, tho I have been unable to actually find a specific reference to the Second Coming as such. What about the very specific words of Jesus to John in Revelation as to “I am coming soon”? Yeah, yeah, a thousand years is like a day, give me a break.

    Conventional Christian academic wisdom has the New Testament documents being written anywhere from the 50’s on up into the second century, altho it has tended to settle with Revelation being written around 95 AD or CE if you prefer, tho I might ask as an aside, common to whom? What if in fact Revelation was written near the start of the Jewish War of 66 AD and was addressed to those who were going to undergo the buildup and collateral damage of that war?

    What if in fact all of the New Testament documents were written before the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple? What if in fact the horrors of the siege and subsequent nightmare of defeat were what Jesus foresaw and spoke of in this passage. It’s all documented. What if that generation did indeed get to see exactly what he was talking about. It happened roughly 37 years after he made the comment, well within a generation, even if most of the apostles had already been killed by then.

    I can tell you that the New Testament makes a great deal more sense if you accept that it was written down before the fall of Jerusalem. Admittedly this is not granted by the great majority of the academic community, but I’m here to say that this is one place where they blew it badly. Stack up all those degrees halfway to the moon, and I’m holding firm.

    Just to forestall, I do personally believe that the Lord Jesus is going to return again in one form or another, probably not floating down from a cloud wearing a bed sheet, and I will be surprised if it doesn’t happen in my lifetime. But that wasn’t what he was talking about when he talked about one stone not being left on another. All that’s a done deal, faulty reasoning. Pick another objection.


  13. I’m not going to fight back against this one. I’m not angry or fired up or anything. But this just hit a little too close to home for me, for many reasons, and I need to withdraw from it.

    Blessings, all.

    And I’m sorry.


  14. Robert, I’ve heard that comment before, about providing proof about loving your wife, in these comment threads before.

    And I’m surprised you think you need to provide a counter to my voice, as mine has been one of the counters to the majority my entire time here. Or so I thought.

    Yes, I’ve been burned my fundamentalism. I’ve got a lot of skepticism. Test and prove. Hold fast to what’s true. And I’ve been doing a lot of testing and proving and studying in the past few years, and it’s led me to some different conclusions.

    Maybe I shouldn’t claim any faith in Jesus or adherence to Christianity at all. Even though, Miguel, I agree; sexuality is a lot more than what it is. We’re not disagreeing. I don’t particularly like being misrepresented.

    But on this topic, I will stand and side with the least of these. Because they are people. Because they have been my friends. Because I’ve seen their pain and tears and heartbreak and how they have been treated. Jobs aside…they are still people. Humans. Imageo Dei. Beloved. Loved by God. Known by Jesus. Not all victims. Not there to be rescued. To be loved, and respected, and treated with the same love and kindness we’d treat anyone.

    And I will fight for them and against those who hurt them.

    Love. Justice. Righteousness.

    It comes down to that.


  15. Apologies, I’ll be clearer: not prostitution. But sex work? Yes. It’s a very broad field, and I know some who would consider any form of modeling, however mild, to be a part of it.


  16. You know, I find the request for sources and proofs of my claims rather funny. I speak solely from personal experience of my own life and the lives of others I have known closely. It would be as if you asked me for sources and proofs that I love my wife. You are mistaken if you think I intend to convert you to my perspective. At most, I think it would be a good thing for someone out there who has shared experience like my own and come to the same place to see that they are not alone, if they happen to think they are. I’m providing a voice counter to your own because some may need to hear it, not because I’m a social scientist with an armory of research.


  17. Stuart, seriously. You have no problem with your own daughter pursuing prostitution as a vocation? I concede that your conditions are pretty much impossible, but the idea at all is flat out insane. You can’t even reason with that. You are so burned by fundamentalism that your knee-jerk reaction against anything resembling a rule has caused you to jettison common sense in favor of a ruthless skepticism that makes Descartes look gullible. I sincerely hope this is not true, and even more so that you never have to prove it.

    Ask yourself this: Why are the that these problems always seem to plague this kind of work?

    You can’t claim any sincere faith in Jesus or adherence to Christianity and then insist that sex is whatever you say it is, such as a disembodied form of recreation, with a shred of consistency. Christ and the scriptures explicitly treat sexuality as so much more than this, as having a much more definite purpose, the violation of which has painful consequences on body and soul. For pete’s sake, just an ounce of real life experience will bear that much out as well!


  18. I’m not about to share the sordid details of my misspent youth with you and all the iMonks. Thank you, no.


  19. Jesus didn’t condemn prostitutes; he didn’t condemn gays. He did, however, condemn divorce. But conservatives are in love with the presidential candidate who is a serial divorcé/adulterer. It’s like Jesus said, “The end justifies the means”…Oh, right! Jesus didn’t ever say that!


  20. That’s actually a pretty well documented falsehood. Plenty of resources online to debunk it.


  21. You do know that the Super Bowl cities are inundated with sex workers and their pimps every year, don’t you?



  22. The use of sexuality for business exchange involves the very likely risk of losing the capacity of sexuality to express and embody deep, personal relational intimacy. Longtime prostitutes lose this, as do their habitual johns, and cannot regain it without repentance, or something akin to repentance. This will always be the risk of prostitution: the loss of the ability to feel, sexually, relationally, emotionally. This is why those involved in prostitution, hookers and johns, are pitiable, and why it’s right to say they have been victimized.


  23. Stuart it seems like your response here shows your evangelical past.
    If in doubt throw it out in favour of something new and improved.

    I would suggest another route: look to the rich tradition we have in Christianity and Judaism. Don’t be afraid of Orthodox and Catholic thinkers. Delve into the church Fathers.


  24. I like satire, Miguel, although it almost always backfires. (Think of the offended clergyman who called the Screwtape Letters “positively diabolical” advice!) But judging from the mixed responses, you’ve done a good job with it. I found the effort to decode what you had written rewarding and potentially convicting, since I — like everyone else — create my own wiggle room in interpreting scripture.


  25. something about this post does trouble me . . . that there is a truth here about our self-righteousness in the face of the lives of some who have found a way to survive in the darkness . . . a way that they might have been forced into and a way that in the end destroyed them

    there are enough innocents in that category to take the smirk off of my face . . . especially when I recall watching a History Cold Case episode (UK) where the scientists came to the conclusion that the small skeleton was of a girl in her late teens who’d been compelled to a life of prostitution from as early as aged 8 and was riddled with syphillis. The skeleton was discovered in a place commonly used to lay poor prostitutes to rest. Apparently the damage from the syphillis had begun to affect her bones at a very early age, so this was a child forced into something unspeakable, who then ‘made her way’ until her early death where likely her face was terribly deformed from the progressive devastation . . . I cannot imagine the sadness of the life of that child, or her suffering, but I know that God would not judge the child . . . He would likely judge those who hurt her, and those who wouldn’t help her, and those who took advantage of her, and even those among us today who joke about ‘sex slaves’ and ‘hookers’, not understanding the depths of sadness in the lives of many of these people.

    Satire? Maybe the ‘joke’ is on us. Maybe it should be. Miguel’s article hits me in a place where I didn’t think I had a problem. . . . but somewhere in the ‘humor’, I saw my own self-righteousness, and then I understood.


  26. I think where I land on this is that we must wrestle with scripture in every generation.

    But if we discard what the great tradition says in favour of new interpretations that fit the spirit of the age we have to be wary.


  27. Yes, but as a “people of the book,” when we neuter Jesus of the ability to say “Here’s what you need to do,” or his Apostles, then we’re not being very consistent if we say that we believe Him and not his teaching. Christian morality is not an absolutely subjective experience with nothing to say to a world of immorality. Everybody gets up in arms at whatever THEY perceive as an injustice, and indignant when anybody does the same for something they want to justify.


  28. Should have used lawyers. That’s universally accepted.

    Or maybe musicians. I know from my childhood that anyone who beats a drum or plays a stringed instrument that isn’t a piano is living in sin. Standard teaching in the IFB.


  29. Slactivist has been doing a really good job of illuminating all those parts of the Bible where God applauds rape and conquests of war and taking foreign wives…and then killing or casting them out later on because it displeases his idea of racial purity.


  30. Yes, my position on homosexuality and gay marriage is the traditional one, though I identify more closely with a conservative Roman Catholic representation of it (sans complementarianism and stuff) than a conservative Evangelical one.

    But that is not the point of this essay. As I’ve said elsewhere, SCOTUS did not even cross my mind as I was writing this, last summer, long before it happened.


  31. I like the idea of semper reforma. I just wish it hadn’t ended with Luther (or Calvin)(or Aminius)(or…)


  32. Some systems, perhaps, but the ones I’ve been around are hopelessly tied up in a biological heritage of original sense because of Adam’s seed, the counter balance being Jesus not being from Adam’s seed.

    I’m not discarding the idea of original sin. But it needs to be addressed apart from it’s Augustianian pre-science foundations.

    And maybe a post or a series one day about what Jesus came to save us from would be appropriate. American believers tend to lean on sin/death. I wonder if NT believers, and Jews at the time, would say it was from the Law and their position/status in life.


  33. and fyi, I agree with your paragraphs above. not completely, but enough.

    and i wish more people agreed with us

    especially believers


  34. After thinking about the way many Christians today devise their moral theology

    Miguel, I see what you are doing with this piece. Taken with Chaplain Mike’s quote above, I see it. As an example of how many will approach the creation of their theology, it works, even if I see the cracks and would choose different, less deliberate words and phrases at spots throughout it.

    But I think that this is a unfortunate subject you used for this example. I know it’s an important one for me. And it’s very tied up in many other subjects. A different subject may have worked better, or it may have not.

    It’s just…unfortunate.

    I may leave it at that. Perhaps another day.


  35. If we are going to be traditionalists, doesn’t the Old Testament endorse rape and sexual slavery for women on the losing side of wars?

    You’re looking at “traditionalism” as if fundamentalist literalism were the only version. A more catholic traditionalism, healthy informed by and anchored in traditions, bases its morality strictly on the New Testament.


  36. I think one of the problems in some streams of Christianity is that they do not believe in tradition, not from 30 years ago and certainly the past 2000 years is out of the question.

    So they are left with constantly having to come up with ‘new’ interpretations, or as one Orthodox Christian said ‘they make it up as they go along’


  37. Pushback: how far have people already taken and twisted scripture to suit their beliefs…and are we finally unraveling what previous generations have corrupted?

    Remember, I grew up in extreme backwoods KJVO fundamentalism. I’ve had to realize that the only true christianity in the world was just an extreme segment of limited years, isolated it, and figure out what came before and what comes after that segment of christianity. While still bearing the kneejerk thought tendency that anything that is not fundy KJVO actually *IS* that so called twisting of scripture to suit my beliefs.


  38. Yeah, J, I agree with you. That statement is garbage. It’s very wrapped up in purity culture and patriarchy rhetorical. It has no place in a Christian’s mouth.


  39. the Bible is less effective when we use it to tell us what to do, and more effective when we let it show us who we are in comparison to who God is



  40. Didn’t say we can’t. I certainly do. But we do not take such decisions lightly, and we must be very skeptical of the tendency of popular contemporary philosophy to conform religious dogma to the zeitgeist.

    1. KJV is not the universal consensus of the historic church. KJV onlyism is a recent, modern phenomena, which being historically grounded can help prevent.

    2. Christianity has not, and will not ever, discard the idea of original sin. We may not attribute it strictly to biological factors, but when Jesus dies to save people who aren’t really broken, you have a different savior, and a different religion. Our “system of theology” has remained intact quite nicely despite biological advancement on that one.


  41. No offense to Miguel, but I saw who wrote the article, read the first sentence or two, and instantly knew he didn’t mean what he was writing. Miguel is Miguel, and a very clear and consistent thinker. So when I saw things I agreed with, but knew he was writing it, and that he secretly disagreed…that’s disappointing.

    i still don’t know if i’m going to properly respond. it just doesn’t seem worth it right now.


  42. Perhaps this would work better with a more mundane topic that can also be funny – gluttony?

    In high school chapel services, we’d have visiting missionaries and college recruiters boast about how often they shopped at Christian businesses to support Christian causes and help their fellow Christians.

    For fun, I once wrote out a sermon/study arguing that it was unlawful and unchristian for a Christian to shop anywhere that had sin. Even went so far as to make it biblically impossible for believers to eat at McDonalds.

    Poe’s law is an Internet adage which states that, without a clear indicator of the author’s intent, parodies of extreme views will, to some readers, be indistinguishable from sincere expressions of the parodied views.

    It’s too easy.


  43. There’s many huge reasons why the largest gun and tactical show in the country is the exact same week in Las Vegas as the largest adult entertainment expo in the country.

    And probably the biggest reason? They have the exact same audience.

    And I’ll probably be there for work this coming time, lol.


  44. Surely you must concede the tremendous health risks and personal hazard that accompanies people in this line of work. Is it not a dangerous lifestyle, with short life expectancy? Would you wish this on your daughter? If she thus choses her livelihood, would you support it?

    First question is why, and what can be done to prevent the health risks and personal hazards. Second question again is why, and what can be done to prevent short life expectancy (in this and any field of work, I’d add). Third question is yes, if it is her choice with her full consent. And fourth, absolutely, providing the first three questions are answered and addressed.


  45. Alexander used the ruins of the ancient mainland city of Tyre to build a causeway to the new island city of Tyre thus fulfilling the prophecy that Tyre would be thrown into the midst of the sea. Now unless humanity has developed gills, the remains of that original city would be uninhabitable.


  46. Thank you for posting that, David. I look forward to following the series. I’ve heard a lot of lies and assumptions about human trafficking from many pulpits, and it’s frustrating trying to help people see through the bullshit to the actual needs and issues. This series will hopefully enlighten a lot of people; there are already some great links included in the first post.


  47. I’d propose any system of morality that is not based primarily on ancient Judaism as understood by middle century anglo-saxon protestants or by modern 21st century evangelicals.

    Let’s start there.

    Seems like there are plenty of reasonable common ground systems of moralities from multiple cultures throughout the world. Let’s take the best we can find.

    Like the golden rule. Great steal there. And it’s still true no matter who originated it.


  48. Clever, but false. I’m sure there’s still plenty out there who counts themselves as the losers in civil rights, states rights, ancient congregational wars, ancient tribal wars, etc.

    There most definitely is a right side of history, and there most definitely is a wrong side of history. And the conservatives tend to end up on the wrong side the majority of times.

    I’ll post this link again.



  49. It can be hard work, but most of it has been well done in the last 2000 years, so let catholic tradition help you understand the text. Near universal consensus through history should not be lightly discarded.

    A light pushback…but why not? When we find out new facts contradict old opinions, and realize the people who originally formulated ideas didn’t have all the facts…why can’t we discard it, if not lightly?

    Two examples I can think of from other threads/sites. 1 – KJV Only people believe the KJV is THE bible, inerrant, perfect, etc. I can’t overstate enough how much they deify that text. But we know from history that the KJV translators lacked a lot of resources and materials, and modern translations are simply more accurate or better translated. The KJV has it’s place in history, but not the place the KJVO movement puts it at.

    2 – Any and all idea of sin being transmitted through a man’s magical seed. Augustine. Original Sin. The Fall of Man. Ideas that we have shown to be utterly false based on poor understanding of biology and a magical/mythical understanding of human nature and the way the world works. Whole systems of theology come crumbling down with this one.

    So…why can’t we?


  50. It is true that you can’t legislate morality, in the sense that laws won’t make people more moral. The Bible authors explicitly acknowledge that as one of the great dangers of relying upon law.

    However, every law is a statement of right and wrong: do this, don’t do that.

    Stephen, on what system of morality would you propose that society’s laws be based? You have to start somewhere.


  51. Those who are interested in this subject might wish to check The Official Blog of Benjamin L. Corey (Formerly Fundie) who is running a series of posts on “I Am A Human Trafficking Survivor & Here’s What I Want To Ask Christian Activists” today.


  52. <>

    “History is the democracy of the dead”.

    I always have to laugh at the hubris when someone warns about ending up on the “wrong side of history” on an issue; specifically when the last decade is to be considered by them as the right side, therefore 6,000+ years of written history must be the wrong side.


  53. J – “the stated prophecy has not come to pass” – yet! Oops, indeed!

    I respectfully disagree with you. We obviously have different opinions on the generation this passage is addressing. Jesus tells us when these things (v25-26) begin to take place (Did He say how long they will last?) we are to – straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (imo, Jesus’ declaration is a comfort to His followers both in times past and in these uncertain days that lie ahead.)

    Although I do believe Jesus is referring to a specific generation, what if He was talking about mankind in general? As the NASB notes, generation can also mean race. Let’s consider, the Human race will not pass away until all these things have taken place . . . and we’re still here . . . so perhaps all these things haven’t happened according to God’s plan yet. . . And after these things, has anyone seen Jesus returning in a cloud with power and great glory?

    My God is never wrong; my God is altogether holy, true and faithful to all He has made. Jesus is who He says He is – God. I prefer to trust Him with the things I don’t know or understand and I most certainly am not looking to challenge the validity of His Word!

    I believe I know [now] in part, but then [in the future] I will know fully just as I also have been fully known . . . woe to those to whom the LORD says, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”


  54. The problem with the satire is that the examples are too sexy (pun alert!); they distract from the quieter points Miguel wants to make.

    By making prostitution the butt of the joke doesn’t work because it’s too grave a topic. Placing the Absurd Example in the mouth of a Liberal Sock Puppet, who winds up sounding like a really nice little sock puppet, has rhetorical effect of lampooning (by accident) the kindness most of us, Miguel included, would want to bring into a discussion of prostitutes.

    Making a rhetorical connection between the problems that the academic, historicizing theological arguments about same sex marriage or women’s ordination may present, to a theoretical argument about prostitution, immediately distracts everyone because it sounds too familiar. Most of us are veterans of endless strained religious conversations during which homosexuality has been compared with a variety of unpleasant things, same sex marriage presented as a slippery slope to every vice possible, and supporters maligned for alleged moral and spiritual turpitude. You can’t echo those points – or even appear to echo them – without distracting people.

    Perhaps this would work better with a more mundane topic that can also be funny – gluttony?


  55. Donald — You say “doesn’t the Old Testament endorse rape and sexual slavery for women on the losing side of wars? Doesn’t it support genocide in some cases?” I’m not sure that the OT mentioning something is the same thing as endorsing it. Much of the OT, especially the historical accounts, are descriptive and not prescriptive.


  56. “…if we can do it without setting ourselves up as the law.”

    And therein lies the rub, and the danger. That’s why I think it’s best to say, “Here’s what I’ve found…” rather than “Here’s what you need to do…”


  57. Thinking about the NT passages that mention it, if there is any moral law in regard to prostitution, it seems to be along the line of “don’t visit them;” the idea that the ladies themselves don’t want to be there may in fact be assumed.

    In a way, if someone were to say that we shouldn’t legalize it like some places have because then everyone would be using their services, it would reflect more on THEIR integrity and motivations than on anything else. Just like Phil Robertson unintentionally implying the only reason he can think of not to rape, murder, and pillage is fear of hellfire.


  58. Well, I won’t argue with you there, I’m already far over my head with how much you seen to have studied up on it. But I can ask this much: Surely you must concede the tremendous health risks and personal hazard that accompanies people in this line of work. Is it not a dangerous lifestyle, with short life expectancy? Would you wish this on your daughter? If she thus choses her livelihood, would you support it?


  59. We are definitely called to remove our own planks first. Often we would be better off to stop there. But if we are all called to remove our own planks, then really nobody is “off the hook.” Perfection judges everyone, and we should at least be honest about that, if we can do it without setting ourselves up as the law.


  60. I’m more versed in traditional Lutheran dogma than the actual writings of the man, which to some extent, helps me understand his writings at times. If all he ever wrote were the Small Catechism, that would be more than enough for me, though I do get a sadistic joy out of torturing my congregation with his music.

    With his rhetoric he would doubtless be less tolerated in most forums than the last article Mule wrote here. What I want to know is how his theology might change were he to live in our time. I kind of think he might have gone LCMS while Melanchthon went ELCA, with Chemnitz in LCMC or something.


  61. Hi ADAM,

    I begin to see a reason for the tight hold on the ‘literal’ in the fundamentalist-Repub-Evangelical camp: it keeps folks from figuring out the word-play in ‘satire’. So these good people read satire and take it straight, without seeing the ‘point’ that is being presented that might stir them to understand more clearly the irony of their present circumstances due to their specific present loyalties. One support for my theory is how Fox News is touted as ‘fair and balanced’ and worked very hard to keep people from watching other news offerings, also the huge push to ‘homeschool your children’ but only with the ‘proper’ materials which likely have in them history rewritten and phony science galore. The final give-away is that these fundamentalist-oriented groups are extremely exclusive, which keeps their membership ‘pure’ and guarded from the thoughts of those who might ‘contaminate’ them with other ideas. Do I make something of a case here, Adam? It certainly makes sense to me. And it’s sad, if it’s true . . . people aren’t stupid and the kind of thinking that this fundamentalist world engenders is a very fearful contempt for those outside of it who are seen to present a threat to the closed cult-like unity that despises ‘diversity’ as ‘opposition’. It is sad, especially for the young and the innocent in that world.


  62. Do you know of any prostitution-free societies?

    Can you identify ways in which prostitution-free societies are ‘far better off without it’?

    Do you have evidence that most prostitutes are coerced or trafficked? Not all ,but certainly many ‘sex slavery’ narratives fall apart upon any sort of scrutiny. You heard the Somaly Mam case? And how a whole industry of SE Asian women not actually being sex slaves but *portraying* themselves as sex slaves for western humanitarian/tourists was consequently revealed?

    Likewise, there’s a book called “Sin in the Second City” about a multi-year period in Chicago around the turn of the century in which politicians, reformers, ministers and so forth basically tore up the town from end to end looking for ‘white slaves’ and found . . . not a single one. Couldn’t actually identify a single ‘victim’.


  63. Miguel, thanks but you are normally far better informed about Luther than me. This was more luck than prior information. However this is interesting stuff.

    Just think what it would be like if he were on some Christian forums today!


  64. Yeah, I liked that, too. I also thought it’s more effective when we use it to look in the mirror rather than point it at others.


  65. Interesting the tacit assumption that society should automatically privilege Christian morality. Or that Christians are default subject matter experts on morality.


  66. The text needs to be taken as a comprehensive whole, outlining God’s purpose for humanity and chronicling of His direct interaction with us, rather than each verse an isolated oracles from an instruction manual. It can be hard work, but most of it has been well done in the last 2000 years, so let catholic tradition help you understand the text. Near universal consensus through history should not be lightly discarded.


  67. Revised question – So if prooftexting doesn’t work, from where, and how, should we derive our moral theology?


  68. It’s in the article. Judah and Tamar. The righteous kinds of Israel who led a revival of Torah faithfulness are said to have driven the “shrine prostitutes” from the land. Surely we wouldn’t insist those were only for the foreigners living in the land, as if the Israelites had kept to their own religion?


  69. Don’t know. Possibly because government cannot exist apart from the right to enforce its authority (all government carries the power of the sword), but society can thrive without prostitution, and indeed, is arguably far better off without it. Especially the majority of the workers who are forced into it.


  70. If there is anything to which I am more deaf than poetry, it is satire. I saw this last night and said to myself,”I’d better sleep on this before I reply, if I reply at all.” Good thing I waited, and thought to check the tags when I returned this morning. I still didn’t really get it until Miguel and others explained. Because people now understand prostitution as so connected to organized crime and human trafficking, I don’t really hear much of a fuss from American Christians about it anymore, so that was another thing that confused me.

    Something nobody has mentioned so far, though, is that Mary of Magdala was not a prostitute; this is not recorded anywhere in scripture, only that she was delivered from demons. It was one of the popes who identified her in one of his sermons as the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair.

    During Holy Week in the Orthodox Church, the liturgical day is “shoved back” so that we pray the vespers prayers earlier in the afternoon and the matins prayers the night before – i.e. matins for Wednesday on Tuesday evening. On Tuesday evening, it is very common for prostitutes to come to that Wednesday matins service, because this hymn is sung in response to the Gospel reading from Matt 26 about that woman who anoints Jesus’ feet. A nun named Kassiani, who lived in the 800s in Constantinople, composed it.

    “O Lord God, the woman who had fallen into many sins, having perceived Thy divinity, received the rank of ointment-bearer, offering Thee spices before Thy burial, wailing and crying:
    ‘Woe is me, for the love of adultery and sin hath given me a dark and lightless night. Accept the fountains of my tears, O Thou Who drawest the waters of the sea by the clouds; incline Thou to the sigh of my heart, O Thou Who didst bend the heavens by Thine inapprehensible condescension. I will kiss Thy pure feet and I will wipe them with my tresses. I will kiss Thy feet, Whose tread, when it fell on the ears of Eve in Paradise, dismayed her so that she did hide herself because of fear. Who then shall examine the multitude of my sin and the depth of Thy judgment? Wherefore, O my Saviour and the Deliverer of my soul, turn not away from Thy handmaiden, O Thou of boundless mercy.'”



  71. the Bible is less effective when we use it to tell us what to do, and more effective when we let it show us who we are in comparison to who God is.

    Wow. Profound stuff. Definitely a more helpful perspective.


  72. I *did* say the same thing about soldiers. Read again.

    And that’s my point: We consider soldiering an unavoidable necessity. Centuries of trying to end war have met with mixed success at best. But specifically: Why does the prostitute come in for greater opprobrium than the soldier?


  73. The Israelites seemed rather open about their sporadic participation in it. You’d think they’d have the sense to edit that out of their own history. If most in the ANE were morally above it, then “winners histories” should be expected to prescribe that flaw exclusively to their enemies, wouldn’t you think?


  74. That does indeed seem like a double standard. Another solution, however, could be to un-legalize killing for money (is that really legal? Holy cow.).

    You might, however, also say the same thing about soldiers, though, and I do not believe military service is necessarily wrong. Or being a police officer, for that matter.


  75. *Prostitution treats the body of one made in the image of God as a piece of merchandise.*

    How horrible! Let’s pay attention to the nice, wholesome NFL Draft instead . . .


  76. Wow. Thanks for sharing that. You are clearly the better informed student of Luther. I suppose it was good for him to recover marriage as a commendable thing, but not at the cost of demeaning celibacy or women.


  77. Gosh, and here I thought the article was in reference to Cecil the Lion and Planned Parenthood.


  78. I’m surprised I missed the tag line. Didn’t even think to look at that. And the casino workers comment wasn’t jarring enough to jolt me into the satire.


  79. “…but could someone please tell me where God is wrong on anything?”

    And then of course there’s the bit in Luke 21 “this generation shall not pass away until these things have” etc. comment. The generation he was referring to has, in fact, passed away. The stated prophecy has not come to pass. Oops, I guess.


  80. “If they had a track record half as bad as politicians or preachers of overpromising, they’d have been gone centuries ago.”

    Well, last I looked, politicians and preachers still exist.


  81. No. It’s a caricature of how moral theology is sometimes done, and the textual eisegesis that often accompanies it. This has nothing to do with “law and grace,” and it’s not about any particular moral issue, though it borrows rhetoric from multiple controversies.


  82. Agreed that it is a worthy discussion. And super-agreed that if this was the intention, it certainly got lost.


  83. *Never existed* is quite strong language. If you have access, the Anchor Bible Dictionary has a great entry on cultic prostitution. It seems to communicate that lots of our temple prostitution assumptions (Israelite & other ANE systems) are probably exaggerated to an unfair degree. Yet, there likely was a place for sexual excesses to take place during certain feasts and celebrations, and there were some sexual functions for those who had taken vows to serve in temple capacities. Michael Coogan and other modern Semitic scholars would agree.


  84. >you have voted away your voice

    Exactly. You are preaching to the choir, BTW. 🙂

    It is doubled down on voting against one’s self-interest by a deeply held [and flawed] notion of “Independence”. Shunning affiliation with political parties, candidates, unions, community organizations, local government, neighborhood associations – even neighbors themselves – the Conservative poor slam the door in the face of the very people who could, and are there, to help them. It is very frustrating to observe.

    Even getting college students to network for professional opportunity is hindered by this insane [no other word describes it] Independent streak. “I am an Independent!” [translation: I am in this Life alone and don’t want any assistance]. I’ve seen employers at tables on a college campus…. in a big otherwise empty room. Something is broken in our culture, and it has nothing to do with prostitution, gay marriage, or the various sin-of-the-month.


  85. Hey now: Prostitutes regularly make good on their promises. If they had a track record half as bad as politicians or preachers of overpromising, they’d have been gone centuries ago.


  86. So, like, what ARE you trying to say with this post?

    The compassion of the Father for the “least” in society is good and biblical (most of the post), but hold your horses and let’s not take it too far (last two paragraphs of the post)?

    Is this another “hermeneutic of law & grace at all times in all places” angle?


  87. sadly, the strange thing is that most of these evangelicals vote against their own interests . . . think about it: you grow up in a family that does not place a high value on education, so you cannot enter university easily OR achieve a professional status with the accompanying income and certifications . . .

    you marry young and produce many children . . . but your wife is instructed that she must stay at home and educate them herself . . . so you are left to struggle supporting the family on your working class income . . . all very honorable, yes, but ten percent off the top goes to the Church and you must find your way clear with the remainder of your earnings . . .

    but you vote for no unions that might better your working conditions, hours, sick-leave, and salary; you vote for advantages for the wealthy which your own taxes must pay for, and your leaders of choice do not work for you but for the wealthy contributors to their campaigns who have bought their votes to serve THEIR interests . . .

    you have voted away your voice . . . it’s like that book ‘What’s the Matter With Kansas’ . . . there is something so illogical about a people that vote against their own good, especially when their families will suffer the consequences . . . and yet no one thinks about this, being loyal to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Fox News editorials, and the preaching of them what says ‘if you don’t vote Republican, you cannot be a real Christian’

    that is some loyalty . . . or maybe some stupidity . . . and there are no signs it will change anytime soon . . .


  88. Busy day at work, I may post more tonight or not. This is a very important subject to me, both professionally and personally.

    Also, a quote:

    “Blessed is the sex worker’s body sold tonight
    She works with what she’s got to save her children’s life”


  89. Yes, it was in response to the debate over celibacy, etc. Here is part of the context that precedes the above quote (he doesn’t mince words!):

    “These fellows view the state of marriage as a superfluous, presumptuous human thing that one could dispense with and do without, just as I can do without an extra jacket or coat. Then they fill the world with their foolish and blasphemous scribbling and screeching against the married state, advising all men against it, although they themselves feel—and abundantly demonstrate by their actions—that they cannot do without women, these being created specifically for marriage; instead they run after and plague themselves with whores day and night.”. [LW 28:5]


    “Of this kind is that arch-fool, Johann Schmid of Constance,?? that renowned whoremonger, who has written an immense book, recently printed in Leipzig, against the state of matrimony. He tries to talk everyone out of it but says nothing more than that there is much effort and labor connected with it, as though this were not sufficiently known throughout the world and as if this ass must first teach us what every village peasant knows. If I were chastity herself, I could think of no greater and more unbearable shame and disgrace than to be praised by such rascals, whoremongers, and enemies of chastity. They rail against us, charging that we are enemies of chastity and promoters of marriage who prefer to see men married; and we are to consider them extremely wise, though they cannot but devote themselves to incessant fornication and though they praise chastity with their pens only and defame the married state.”. [LW 28:5]”


  90. I agree with Sean, David, Rick, Jean and others. It doesn’t work as satire. The largest clue to it being Satire (other than the Casino workers) was the name of the Author, and the tag line at the bottom.


  91. Trying my darndest to understand you argument here: “Because some workers are highly paid and others poorly paid, therefore the entire industry should be done away with.”

    Want to identify a single other field of endeavor you would ever apply that to? I guess I can think of some super-environmentalist friends of mine who would look on coal mining and see United Mine Workers guys getting $26 an hour and backwoods workers getting maybe $12 an hour and say, “No, no good: It ALL has to go.”

    But I’m betting that isn’t the actual basis of your argument . . .


  92. Sure, sort of the same way that because payday lenders exist, therefore the entire banking industry should be done away with.

    *…and I don’t see a time in the past where it was looked on honorably by all…*

    The prostitutes guild of Rome paid to build large parts of St. Peter’s cathedral.

    *And if you peruse the going rates that are charged by these women you would see why most men would never use their services.*

    Maybe better that you not assume we’re all as big a cheapskate as you seem to be.


  93. Oh by the way: Temple prostitution never existed. We have exactly ZERO written records from Egypt, Assyria, Sumer, etc. referring to temple prostitutes. We have zero tombs of women whose identified occupation was temple prostitute. We have zero religious texts from any of these ancient religions identifying any role for supposed temple prostitutes.

    And we have weird paradox of Near East which were basically under the same holiness code as ancient Israel (viz. loose women = death) supposedly condoning this. So are we to imagine that these women sold themselves, then were immediately stoned to death afterward?

    What we have as our source for the supposed existence of temple prostitutes is the testimony of one man: Herodotus. The extent to which Herodotus personally ever went anywhere outside of the Aegean region is really unknown. That he traveled personally through Persia and wrote down exactly what he saw is . . . doubtful. A lot of what he wrote has the smack of Just So stories and/or out-and-out fabrication and some of it has direct parallels to folk tales of the time.


  94. It’s legal–and, indeed, honored–to be a soldier or mercenary (Xe/Blackwater, etc.). That is, to kill for money.

    It should be legal to be a prostitute. That is, copulate for money.

    To insist that it should be otherwise would rather further the impression that rough, tough, manly, Empire-sustaining sins are acceptable, whereas, perhaps predictably, “female” sins are not.


  95. LOL. Come to think of it, I don’t think there’s a single proposition in this entire article that is thoroughly true. It’s all loaded language. (Except for the part about the suffering of prostitutes, but even that is built on a false premise.)

    Politicians, however, have to speak this language far more naturally. Considering how long it took me to write this, I wouldn’t survive one day in that field.


  96. We can learn a lot about ourselves from how we react when we first encounter a really good piece of satire. Usually, for an experienced reader of satire (ie. them what had to study British Lit. in college), the recognition of the word play will take place almost immediately. For most of us, there is the usual ‘What the hey’ reaction at first encounter, followed by a more careful reading to see if the author was serious, until we ‘get it’ as the going becomes SO ridiculous that we wake up to what is going on (and laugh at ourselves for not having ‘got it’ sooner).

    My own initial response this morning? ‘Oh boy, do I need more coffee’

    One thing about Imonk . . . it is never boring.
    The variety alone is a draw. Yesterday, corn, today ‘porn-ea’
    . . . can’t wait for tomorrow’s post.)


  97. Now I WILL own this: Post SCOTUS, there was a deluge of articles written, by people who would not normally take the teaching of Jesus very seriously, that declare with authority that Jesus is definitely pro-gay marriage and the Bible proves this. Trotting him out as a poster boy when convenient. THAT grinds my gears, no matter what position or what issue.

    However, it is largely irrelevant because I actually wrote the whole thing ONE YEAR AGO. At best, it motivated me to finish my editing. I had completely different muses from what so many suspect is motivated by Jerry Falwell politics. This is not about one single moral issue, and I’m kinda surprised that nobody seems to be picking up any of the other allusions. But something about hammers and nails, I suppose.


  98. > Thank you. SCOTUS never even crossed my mind when writing it

    Ha! So I didn’t completely miss it. 🙂 Because SCOTUS didn’t occur to me until it was mentioned in the comments, and I was like …what??? Am I daft?


  99. Snark aside, Stuart, I am genuinely convinced that prostitutes have a special place in the heart of God. Especially if you believe that Jesus is God: you can’t read the Gospels without noticing the blatant emphasis he placed on ministering to them. In the 1 Cor. 6.18 sense, people caught up in this are having to subsist at the crossroads of humanity’s most profound brokenness, and in the Mark 2.17 sense, I think Jesus received a special joy in helping them find freedom. God loves prostitutes. Jesus died for them. God hates prostitution. Jesus weeps over such dehumanization of his children.

    When we say “love the sin, hate the sinner,” it usually means we are justifying ourselves for failing at part of that. But in the case of Jesus, he hates sin because he loves the sinner, and he truly sees what it costs us. The two are inseparable when you are a perfectly discerning deity. We manage to screw this up plenty, but as an ideal, it is just. Most just ideals are rather elusive and, by their nature, something to be striven for, rather than achieved.


  100. > Indeed, I would wonder how an occupation that facilitates sins such as adultery

    Like the manufacture of fire arms and/or ammunition, or weapons in general?

    Or even TV production…. which facilitate apathy, obesity, and sloth.

    What about the production of alcohol?

    Or looking a bit the other way – consuming fuels which financially support tyrannical states? Or wearing clothes produced in sweat shops?

    Guilt-by-association is a tedious master; and one we seem to use very arbitrarily.


  101. I actually agree there: Whatever it takes to give sex workers some legitimate help more than merits our serious consideration. I don’t know how much legalization really helps in the long run, but the point isn’t roasting certain types of sinners (while others get a break, right?).

    There are two extremes: On one hand, you have some who would deny grace on any terms to certain kinds of sinners. On the other hand, you have people who would designate them as victims who are therefore exempt from moral critique. I think both are wrong. Not because victims really need their sin pointed out, but because justifying them in it is not ultimately very helpful.


  102. Thank you. SCOTUS never even crossed my mind when writing it. Honestly. This is about theology and hermeneutics, not politics. I just don’t care that much about politics. There was a legalization angle touched on briefly, but only as an extension of the church reversing its judgement.


  103. But the deeper issue – how far do you take and twist scripture to suit your belief – is worthy of its own discussion, which is getting lost in the satire.


  104. Thanks, David.
    I’m having a hard time making sense of that Luther quote, though. It would seem he was opposed to celibacy/monastic vows of chastity? Figures, he married a nun. But FWIW, nothing he wrote is ever considered authoritative by us. Unless, of course, it was included in the final cut in 1580. So basically just the small and large catechism, and the Smalcald Articles. We reject even the 95 thesis (though that first one is a handy zinger at times).

    It doesn’t take a genius to see that Luther was a deeply flawed man, like the rest of us. He is also considered one of the most influential historical figure of his millennium, but all in that category wrote and believed some outlandish things. In Lutheran circles, the primary purpose of reading Luther’s extended works is, in addition to mining humorous quotes, to shed light on the cultural context in which the confessions were written. Much of the BoC was crafted as a response to specific historical errs that had crept into the church, and apart from understanding those circumstances it can be a bit difficult to make sense out of.


  105. “Part of the hermeneutical problem I’m addressing here is the tendency to make the Bible speak in little verses and snippets to prescribe or proscribe specific details of our lives. The vast majority of potential sins are never directly addressed, but this does not necessarily imply endorsement either.”

    That would be worthy of its own article, without the satire.


  106. I was trying to figure out why this didn’t work for me as humor, and maybe you’ve hit upon why: using marginalized people as his foil. I found a lot of content in the article worthy of discussion.

    But humor, and satire especially, are such tricky and subjective things. I remember going to This Is Spinal Tap on opening weekend and half the audience was laughing at the joke, the other half sat in agitated boredom.


  107. Truth, and wisdom. Thank you, Tokah.

    Part of the hermeneutical problem I’m addressing here is the tendency to make the Bible speak in little verses and snippets to prescribe or proscribe specific details of our lives. The vast majority of potential sins are never directly addressed, but this does not necessarily imply endorsement either.

    I agree with you fully that someone would need much more than a face-value take on Romans 1 to withstand a lifetime of temptation. Biblical ethics should not be built on proof-texts, and those who attempt to do so can fit whatever they want into their system. Ultimately, without leaning very heavily upon tradition, I honestly do not believe the Bible will be rightly understood very often. I believe it is technically possible, but generally our ulterior motives get the best of us all. The jettisoning of tradition is a rather unfortunate tool to accommodate this, which is why my snark here is equally critical of conservative literalism as it is the kind of progressivism that is post that.


  108. Exactly. And the problem with “sola scriptura.”

    Brad S. Gregory in his excellent “The Unintended Reformation,” makes the following points:

    …“as if there ever was some point in the early Reformation when anti-Roman Christians had agreed among themselves about what scripture said and God taught. There wasn’t.”


    “The important point is that every anti-Roman, Reformation-era Christian truth claim based on scripture fits into this pattern of fissiparous disagreement among those who agreed that Christian truth should be based solely on scripture.” p 91

    So you might also say “everyone is a conservative when it comes to reading the Bible– we just disagree on the (very important) details.” The Reformation laid the groundwork for all kinds of interpretative battles that followed, and still do.

    Thus we have thousands of denominations and independent churches, all claiming “sola scriptura” but disagreeing with each other. The results are easy to see.


  109. “The story of God and the Christian prostitute isn’t done being written yet.”

    If we truly believe that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, will we choose to use those bodies to engage in actions that do not glorify God’s presence in them? Are we not all guilty at times of this kind of temple “prostitution?”

    Our “righteousness” isn’t determined by what we do or don’t do, but by God alone. Self justification is never a means to a God-glorifying end. Only God can bring about something good out of our “professions” – aren’t these tainted by our sin nature?

    Jesus echoes God’s clarion call; He tells us to “repent” – to change the way we think and act – our actions are reflected by our thinking (Pr. 23:7).

    Miguel asks: “Who knows? Maybe Jesus and Paul really meant to condemn prostitution, but didn’t choose their words carefully enough. It’s always possible that they were simply wrong on this issue.”

    I’m not sure where Miguel is going with this, but could someone please tell me where God is wrong on anything?
    Either God is WHO He says He is or He is not.

    Might we the be the ones who are wrong in our understanding of Him?

    What did God mean when He commanded His creation to have no other gods before Him? Isn’t that ‘other god’ really the unholy trinity of me, myself and I? I agree with Miguel here: “The story of God and the Christian prostitute isn’t done being written yet.”


  110. “This post… just… why?”

    Indeed. Feels a bit like iMonk just jumped the shark, just one day after the beautiful article on Fresh Sweet Corn.


  111. Captain Obvious reporting in: there is no way the totality of this IMONK audience will appreciate , or laude, Miguel’s attempts here. I applaud Chap Mike’s willingness to go with it, based on what I know of the differences between the two on this issue.

    I’m glad to hear more than one ‘take’ on this issue, and satire might be a more congenial way to go at this than some.


  112. Larry,

    I understand where you are coming from. If I had stayed evangelical, I would have ended up in your camp by now. What little Scripture has to say about homosexual activity does not stand up to year after year after year of trying to understand what our place in God’s kingdom is. If you’ve read Justin Lee’s “Torn”, I was with him until halfway through chapter 11, and if I’d stayed evangelical I would have gone right into chapter 12. Sola Scriptura fails us here pretty hard. I think it is also hard for someone in Miguel’s position to understand that, as his experience differs so much from our own.

    It is one thing to do a scriptural study, come up with somewhat relevant negatives scattered throughout, look at Romans 1, and say “yep, it seems pretty clear that this is bad”. It is much harder to lean on those scattered and somewhat relevant verses to feel confident that there is a point to resisting the things that feel most natural to us in a sea of people who get to have those things.

    What all of our true hopes have to lie in, though, is not a particular interpretation of the Bible, but in the person and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We all have sins that are invisible to us, we all have flaws we do not overcome, and our unity and salvation in this state comes from and in Him. Jesus is big enough to save you, me, and Miguel, even if we never come to theological agreement in this life.

    Hoping in Jesus, we do need to seek the truth and His will for as long as we have breath. Sometimes that takes us to hard places, and we have to navigate those together with our brothers and sisters in the faith. Whenever we feel like the rug is pulled out from under us, it is a moment to consider whether our faith and hope are truly in Him, or in structures we have mentally built around Him.


  113. “I actually thought this was going in a healthy direction at first.I actually thought this was going in a healthy direction at first.”

    Same here, then I became confused.


  114. Well, Miguel, you seemed to have riled up people with this one.

    For what its worth, I took the piece to be satirizing how “moral theology” is often done by academics these days, not as a reference to the SCOTUS decision. In that light, it worked well.


  115. Perhaps at the end of the day, the only sin is in how it’s painted: Judah is wearing socks with his sandals.

    Fashion crime!


  116. Ah, parallel argument. I too was wondering if there would be a “laugh or else” tag.
    Partway through I started changing the ayers from Tamar and Rhab over to Moses and David and Paul, and changed the subject from prostitution to murder, just to see if we could use the same arguments to scrub that one a little cleaner, too.


  117. I thought that was the idea of the nerdy guy (Les?) on “WKRP in Cincinnati.”

    Why do I even know this?


  118. Politics is the proto-profession! Both prostitutes and preachers are politicians.


  119. I think it was Reagan who said that politics was the second-oldest profession, and that it has some surprising similarities with the first!


  120. +1 Battered, frightened, cold, and hungry people are better off when their purity has been protected.


  121. Nah, farming is certainly second. That happened when everyone got so hungry waiting for the Preacher that they just went and solved the problem.


  122. You make a good point. From my reading of Miguel’s past comments, his position on homosexuality and same sex marriage is fairly consistent with conservative evangelicals. Correct me if I’m wrong.


  123. I *still* don’t think Miguel intends to be arguing that gay marriage is sinful. Because if that’s what he believes, then by comparing it to prostitution he would be implying that he thinks being a prostitute is a sin, rather than a form of sexual victimization; that prostitutes “choose” that lifestyle (presumably due to out-of control sexual desires?) rather than being forced into it through economic necessity or manipulation by others or outright sex slavery.

    Internet Monk tolerates a wide range of opinions on GLBT issues, but they don’t tolerate hateful attitudes toward women. So, I seriously doubt they would publish something so obscenely misogynistic that it implies that women caught up in the sex trade deserve the same sort of disgust and hatred that conservatives direct towards gay people. Which means the point of this article must be to imply that prostitutes, like gay people, deserve compassion and legal protection.


  124. less dead and abused women on the streets

    How can you be so worried about something so minor when there’s SIN!!!!!


  125. I’m sorry, but conflating prostitution with same sex marriage is wrong on its face and doesn’t make for good satire.


  126. Thanks, Marcus, for getting at the heart of the matter. Most women don’t “choose” prostitution unless all other avenues for support are gone. Prostitution treats the body of one made in the image of God as a piece of merchandise. So, let’s legalize prostitution and criminalize patronizing one – because that’s where the true sin lies.

    Meanwhile, back on Facebook, this popped up in my newsfeed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aWIQFogJAc&feature=youtu.be


  127. See, this does not work as satire because sex workers absolutely do need the compassion of Christ shown to them, and I am all for the state decriminalizing this lifestyle if it means less dead and abused women on the streets. I actually thought this was going in a healthy direction at first.

    This post… just… why?


  128. Prostitution gets a bad rap in our culture today, and as a result, women in this profession are grossly mistreated.

    Actually, prostitution gets a bad rap because women in this profession are grossly mistreated, not as a result of its bad rap. The social activists that I align with recognize that, as a global institution, most women don’t look like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, don’t enter the trade willingly, and are subjected to some of the worst human rights violations imaginable. Even in America. Even in Nevada. The dismissal of the value of these women’s lives and bodies came first, the “bad rap” came second.

    And as for the Bible, I consistently argue that the Bible is less effective when we use it to tell us what to do, and more effective when we let it show us who we are in comparison to who God is. Pulling examples of “good” prostitutes, then, doesn’t justify the trade, as much as it shows us how far God’s grace can go.

    Now, if someone can show me the correlation between the mistreatment of women in prostitution circles and the consensual act of two adults choosing to have sex or enter into a relationship, I’m all ears.


  129. Miguel, as usual you are an elegant writer. The problem is, it took me a bit to untangle what you are trying to do. I’ve found out that satire is a difficult sell unless you know the totality of your audience. Maybe that’s the way it should be. I wrote a piece on the “radical Jesus” for the local newspaper once, early in my ministry. The phone rang, and people raged! Later I wrote a clarification, which in the end took all the wind out of the piece. The only person who seemingly understood was a young man I went to seminary with. In the meantime my church was thinking I was a religious communist (maybe I am).

    Still, your piece has some excellent truth writ plain that we should not ignore.

    And then I found a quote from Luther about women and prostitutes. Being from Luther, this should settle it. Shouldn’t it? :

    “But since God’s work and Word stare us in the face, declaring that women must be used either for marriage or for fornication, these heathenish pretenders should shut their blasphemous mouths and leave God’s Word and work uncriticized and unhampered; unless perhaps they would like to teach us according to their own famed sagacity and contrary to God that all women should be strangled or banished. This would make a fine fool of God: what He does is no good; what we do is well done”. [LW 28:5]

    Of course this is out of context, and means almost the opposite of what the one paragraph says. Yet, it is used as an authority now and then.


  130. So I had a rebuttal prepared, but then I considered CM’s introduction. If this is indeed a lambasting of “the way many Christians today devise their moral theology,” I must commend you for painting so vividly the illogic that is so frequent in all our reasoning, not just about morality.

    However, my initial impression (and I believe that of several readers) was that this is a veiled satire of people’s theological reasoning to support same-sex marriage. If this was the intent, I believe it fails to convince. Chiefly, I see that as because the real topic (SSM) doesn’t have the same sort of “sin profile” that the satirical topic (prostitution) does. Indeed, saying that “immorality in the general sense” may or may not include prostitution seems to ignore the chief problems of that occupation in the first place. Indeed, I would wonder how an occupation that facilitates sins such as adultery (itself a form of dishonesty), pride, excess, the dehumanization of women as objects, or the dehumanization of men as mere walking ids could qualify as anything BUT immoral. These things do seem to match same-sex relations as described in the ancient Mediterranean and elsewhere (“women for babies, men for love, boys for fun”), but not same-sex marriage, unless you consider the defining problem of both things to be what people do with their naughty bits.


  131. I’m surprised by how many people apparently either did not see the phrase “A MODEST PROPOSAL” in the title, or simply did not recognize it as a flag for satire. If you wish to know that roots of the phrase, Google “Jonathon Swift Modest Proposal.”

    Also let us remember that satire is not about making a joke. It is a form of Argumentum ad Absurdum. That is, making an argument by following the logic of your opposing case to its absurd conclusion.

    I read many comments here by people who act offended by this form of argument. That may be an indicator that it has struck a tender spot. A more useful response than being offended would be to demonstrate where Miguel has misconstrued the position of his opponent and therefore built a straw man. It’s easy to make a false argument appear absurd. Show where his case in NOT parallel and therefore his satire is unwarranted.


  132. Robert, the comparison of prostitution with homosexuality IS the point because Miguel is spelling out parallel reasoning. You know this.

    Gay marriage proponents would say that there is nothing INHERENTLY wrong with homosexuality because it is, after all, just love. It is the lack of commitment, the promiscuity, the personal oppression, etc., that knock it off track. But if it is placed within the context of a committed relationship then it can be sanctified.

    Miguel’s Modest Proposal suggests (satirically) that there is nothing INHERENTLY wrong with prostitution because it is, after all, just a job. Moreover, it is a job based on helping those who can’t find love the normal way from at least getting a little hired help. Besides, we wouldn’t want to prevent a woman from being empowered to earn her own living and determine her own destiny using the very gifts God gave her, now would we? What make prostitution bad is the oppression inherent in the system. So let’s remove the oppression and make prostitution legitimate.

    But, of course, if you actually don’t see homosexuality as inherently sinful, but merely an inconvenient form of love, then you won’t accept the parallelism.


  133. radar o’riley from M*A*S*H* he thought the oldest profession was farming.


  134. Umm… I don’t think he’s making a gay-bashing argument. In fact it’s the exact opposite: he’s saying that if anyone wants to insist on reading the Bible’s sexual ethics as always being absolute and not culture-bound, they should support prostitution (and presumably sex slavery / concubinage, polygamy, and so on). So, any reasonable modern person can agree that some of what Scripture presents as “normal” is not right or just. That’s actually an argument in favor of gay marriage advocates, because they’re the ones arguing that when Scripture presents heterosexual marriage as normative, that is just a cultural artifact and not an absolute moral statement.


  135. I thought it was a tie – the oldest profession either being the Prostitute or the Preacher


  136. It’s an attempt at satire. He is attempting to ridicule those of us who take a different view than him regarding homosexuality. Unfortunately he has chosen to use marginalized people as his foil.


  137. The OT supports making women on the defeated side of a war into concubines–in other words, sex slaves. Sometimes it supports genocide. One could write a really bitter piece of satire using those facts, but as a Christian who wants to see people argue these issues with some degree of respect for both the Bible and each other, I wouldn’t recommend doing it.


  138. I got about halfway through as well, then looked for the “laugh or else” tag at the bottom.

    My dad used to say that our profession (commercial fishing) is the second oldest…


  139. I suppose this was successful satire since some people took it at face value–that always happens with satire. But I strongly disagree with its point. If we are going to be traditionalists, doesn’t the Old Testament endorse rape and sexual slavery for women on the losing side of wars? Doesn’t it support genocide in some cases? Like it or not, everyone is a liberal when it comes to reading the Bible– we just disagree on the (very important) details.


  140. “””implied comparison of loving homosexual relationships with prostitution”””

    I don’t get the joke as I completely fail to see the correlation.


  141. > where prostitution is legal to determine if legalized prostitution changes the
    > mistreatment and occupational trauma

    People have looked at this, but (a) initial bias seems to skew the results [no surprise] and (b) the data may just be ambiguous. Some places with legalized prostitution – such as some regions of France – have backtracked on that citing that prostitution and organized crime are inextricably linked [at least in modern western society]. Human trafficking and determining the consent of those from damaged nations is a core problem. Other places – like Nevada – have had this law on the books for a long time… and not much happens, the industry is tightly regulated, it is not exploding, it is not a massive draw of ‘sex tourists’, it just sort of rolls along, relatively scandal free.

    Other places, in America at least, prostitution is illegal and is very linked up to illicit drug use and trafficking. Whatever laws you pass or change… can those things now entangled be disentangled at the stroke of a pen? Regulation must always proceed out of the existing reality [whatever nice thought construct those of The Academy contrive].

    No tidy answers here.


  142. Miguel,
    Perhaps you should forward this to Pat Robertson (with explanatory annotation); he would get a chuckle out of it. And then he can give a copy of it his friends in Kenya, you know, the ones who just passed the anti-homosexuality legislation that punishes active homosexuality with severe prison terms; I’m sure they’d love it.

    I disagree with your point, and I’ll leave it at that. Though I’ll add that your implied comparison of loving homosexual relationships with prostitution is especially unfortunate.


  143. If it is intended to be a bait-and-switch, the joke has failed, because he is on-the-money.

    The possibly chink in the armor for this post is the line “”” It lists no specifics besides prostitution. Surely adultery, rape, etc… are also forms of sexual immorality”””. I am confident in saying that Rape would possibly not be listed as a form of sexual immorality as the culture did not have much of a notion of it [much like America in the 1970s… but I digress]. The lists might be subjective ones, meant to be illustrative not exhaustive, but in accepting that notion a true Traditionalist risks his own premise.


  144. “”” And when society is done with them, we toss them aside like yesterday’s garbage, while the rest of us enjoy our retirement plan. Is this justice? Does this model the compassion Christ taught?”””

    Interesting. But this is the societal model advocated for the majority of the population – not just prostitutes – by most Evangelicals I know.


  145. I was fooled for a while as well. Then I started looking to see if the source of this was the Onion, as this is obviously satire. Of course, let’s toss that nasty book of Leviticus with it’s strange laws, especially that little sneaker that is quoted by Jesus and Paul extensively, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus and Paul were wrong about so many things, being bound to a Bronze Age mindset. Let’s bury this book, the Bible in the sands of antiquity, it’s caused too many problems.

    We’re going to write a new book, The Book of What’s Happening Now, it should be a best-seller.

    I get the joke. Taking this article seriously would be partaking in chronological snobbery gone wild.


  146. You had me right up to “casino operators”. I’ve seen all the Mafia movies, so I know all casino operators are mob dupes who end up wearing cement overcoats. Nice try.


  147. You had me fooled till halfway through. I thought you might be setting up some challenging insight.

    Then I realized what you were doing.

    And I felt a twist in my stomach as I realized you were attacking us. You were mocking our reading of scripture. You were spitting upon the hope that had saved our faith, sneering at our understanding of God’s love as wide-open-armed.

    Your contempt speaks volumes. Please pass us by, o teacher of the law. We will wait for the Samaritans. They may not know how to pronounce your shibboleth, but who wants to speak a language of resounding gongs anyhow?


  148. Rick, even in legal landscapes there are always those who are not highly prized who work the margins in poverty and degradation. A number of years ago a woman reported that she got $200 per hour, a sum was, at that time, far more than the average working man could afford. The low-end market requires servicing, so you can imagine what class fills the gap. It is not a happy situation.


  149. The problem I see immediately is twofold. FIRST, in a perfect world prostitutes would be paid fairly, recognized as a valid vocation, pay income and social security taxes and have adequate health care. There ARE a few places where this does take place, such as in certain parts of Nevada. And if you peruse the going rates that are charged by these women you would see why most men would never use their services.

    The reality, though is quite different, as Miguel pointed out. So if we leave the woman out of the equation and just deal with the customer one has to ask if the customer is contributing to a sad and miserable situation. So the customer is sinning by confirming the degradation of the woman, even IF the customer is not married. Is this acceptable?

    The second issue is not quite as plain but deals with the woman involved. For the sake of argument, let’s say that prostitution was legal. Now if the woman tries to take care that she only services unmarried customers is she still liable if the customer lies about their marital status? Immediately you might say”Well of COURSE not! She cannot know if someone is lying.” But, given the clientele, doesn’t the woman have a reasonable assumption that a number of customers will lie and that this knowledge makes her an accessory to sin? I realize that this particular argument is thin, but it just came to mind anyway.

    So for me the subject is not prostitution, per se, but rather the women caught up in it and our attitudes toward those women. We should treat them with respect and not loathing or condemnation. In my time, I have known a few women who were either involved in prostitution or were formerly involved, and NONE of them gave the profession a good report. And only one admitted to liking the sex, generally.

    So maybe Miguel makes a good point, but I cannot see a way to make prostitution into ”just another profession”, and I don’t see a time in the past where it was looked on honorably by all, a few highly regarded courtesans aside.


  150. Interesting, out-of-the-box thinking, Miguel. Whether people agree with it or not, this is the kind of post that helps us examine if God’s something other than what we’ve always believed.

    “…women in this profession are grossly mistreated. When we think of sex workers, the stereotype that comes to mind is a scantily clad woman, working a corner, wearing too much makeup. She renders her plunder to a psychologically manipulative and physically abusive pimp who doesn’t take very good care of her. It has truly become a dangerous profession in our day, largely because a judgmental spirit against it fosters a suppression of its legitimacy, resulting in occupational trauma.”

    There are enough places in the world (and even Nevada) where prostitution is legal to determine if legalized prostitution changes the mistreatment and occupational trauma. Does anyone have any data regarding this?


  151. I think he’s actually referring to the recent SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage – etc. I find this pretty sad, really, and i don’t know that it benefits anyone. Though i suppose people who agree with him on that will enjoy yukking it up in the comments.


  152. I see the note…and I see the tag…and think…idk.

    This article speaks truth. I really hope there is no wink here.

    I might withdraw from this one til I see how the comments play out.


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