April 29, 2018

Mary Magdalene and the rights of sex workers

There has been a powerful move in recent years to redefine Mary Magdalene as anything except a prostitute. I find this movement deeply troubling. Jesus always treated her with respect and courtesy. She does not appear often in the Bible, but when she does, the writers are clearly not comfortable describing her presence and the way Jesus treats her. The morning of his resurrection, Mary Magdalene was the very first person he appeared to and the only person he actually took the time to comfort. This is why it is so important for us to acknowledge her chosen profession. Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Knowing the time and culture, it is safe to assume she worked her trade from a temple dedicated to Ishtar (Astarte). Jesus never reviled her, never condemned her, never criticized her, appeared first to her on the morning of his resurrection, and even comforted her in her grief. This is why so many people want to believe she was his wife, a rich merchant, a wealthy widow, a Roman noble, or anything at all except a temple prostitute. They want to be free to denigrate, humiliate, criticize, and condemn women who work in the modern sex trade. Even worse, there are far too many men who seek to denigrate women in general. I cannot fathom this thinking. If it were not for their mothers they would not even exist, and yet, they hate women?

I am no longer a fan or supporter of CNN. Ever since the nomination of Senator Barack Obama for the presidency they have slavish transformed themselves into the propaganda arm of the American Democratic Party in order to support a DNC platform based on identity politics. They have turned themselves into a platform dedicated to spewing the most disdainful, elitist, condescending, anti-American, anti-modern, primitive ideology known to the modern world: Neo-Marxism disguised as "liberal progressivism". There is nothing liberal or progressive about insisting women are better than men, blacks are better than whites, and the most oppressive people in the world are white, American businessmen. By the very same token, any man who denigrates women, treats women like sex toys, humiliates women, beats women, demands women "know their place", and so on, is also delusional beyond my ability to comprehend. Not all white American businessmen are pigs, but yes, some of them are, too many of them. Collectivism that lumps all white American businessmen into the same category as Bernie Madoff or Harvey Weinstein is just as despicable as the behaviors and choices of those men. This is important to note: their behaviors and choices are despicable. The men themselves are just men, neither better nor worse than any man or woman or child.

It does not surprise me in the least that one of the strongest platforms advocating for an end to sex trafficking is the CNN Freedom Project. It is important to recognize that all of CNN's proposed solutions are related to "freeing" and "reforming" sex workers. They call it "freeing" and "reforming", but what they really mean is imprisoning them in a "safe house" and "re-educating" them to perform any form of commercial slavery possible except sex work. In line with this globalist agenda, CNN advocates for greater international treaties that outlaw and stigmatize sex workers of all kinds, regardless of whether those sex workers are slaves or independents. CNN's Neo-Marxism is fully on display here. They parade true stories of violence and humiliation and then insist the only possible solution is increased violence and humiliation. This is typical of almost every political platform being pursued by the "liberal progressive" movement in America and Europe. They insist there is widespread corruption and oppression of women and minorities and then state point-blank that the only possible solution is increasing the level of corruption and oppression by applying it to everyone else. How is the destruction of mainstream cultures "liberal" or "progressive"? It isn't, and that is entirely the point. The real purpose of all this talk of "globalization" and "open borders" is to get everyone so riled up that they happily and voluntarily enslave themselves to "wiser", "better qualified" political leaders. (It is no coincidence that this is also one of the key doctrines of Maliki Jurisprudence, nor is it surprising that the vast majority of sex traffickers in today's world are Maliki followers. If you want to make something even more valuable and desirable, simply propose international treaties prohibiting it.)

In Denver in my youth I lived next door to a prostitute. At first, I was just as judgmental and critical as my family, my society, and my church had taught me to be. It did not take long for me to see the error of my ways. She was someone's daughter, someone's sister, and she had a boyfriend who loved her. She was just an ordinary young woman forced to earn her living by renting out her body by the hour. Sometimes she borrowed sugar or milk from me. Once she offered me some homemade biscuits (and they were very delicious, by the way!). Her boyfriend brought me a six-pack of beer to thank me for treating her kindly. When I told him I did not drink (in those days, I did not drink any kind of alcohol), he returned an hour later with a six-pack of A&W Root Beer, which I loved then and still do now (although I seldom drink it now because at my age it does terrible things to my body). Living next to her forced me to re-evaluate all of my attitudes toward women in general and sex workers in particular. That is why I do not condemn the LGBT movement for their lifestyle, only for their insistence that the government pass laws ordering everyone to accept it as "normal" (whatever that means).

When the post above popped up in my Twitter newsfeed I was neither offended nor shocked. For some bizarre reason over the past year the Twitter algorithms have been dropping call girls, cam models, and other sex workers into their "Suggestions". I am not certain why, exactly. I suspect it is partly because about two years ago a cam model I'd never heard of liked one of my Tweets and started following me. Before long, I had a dozen of them following my Twitter feed. I guess there are sex workers out there who love guns and conservative politics, because that is the vast majority of what I post about on Twitter. The post above was just another in a long line of similar posts. However, this one cut me to the core. I was not scandalized by her desire for a partner who accepted her. Just the opposite, in fact. It hurt me deeply that she felt so ostracized she needed to post about it on Twitter.

I went to her Twitter feed and read a couple dozen of her posts. I learned she used to work in New York City in broadcast journalism. She did not make enough money to support herself, so in the evenings she accepted money in exchange for companionship, casual dates, and sexual favors. I am not certain if she became a full-time sex worker simply because the money was so much better or because her company forced her to leave. In far too many ways, either option amounts to pretty much the same thing. Criminalization of the sex trade is one of the reasons that escorts and call girls can charge so much for their services and fully expect to receive it. As long as the sex trade is illegal, sexual favors or paid companionship will remain an extremely rare commodity that is both risky to offer and difficult to obtain. Legalization of prostitution would not destroy the escort and call girl business, but it would certainly force them to revise their business model in some way if they hope to receive the same payment for their services.

Yes, I support the legalization and regulation of prostitution. Health checks, worker's rights, consumer protections, all need to be applied to the sex industry in the same way they are applied to every industry. Sex workers need to be protected from predatory owners/operators and sex clients need to be protected from predatory sex workers. This cannot be achieved in any meaningful way unless the sex trade is legally regulated, morally acceptable, and socially recognized. Preachers should be free to hire a prostitute on Friday night and then rail against the evils of prostitution on Sunday morning. Freedom is freedom, after all. But the sex worker should be paid fairly and the preacher should be protected from blackmail. We cannot protect both the sex worker and the preacher until prostitution becomes both legal and socially acceptable as a chosen profession.

If prostitution is legal and socially acceptable, then we can also protect both male and female workers from being secretly coerced into offering sexual favors in exchange for promotions, pay raises, and bonuses, or even simply for keeping their job. By the same token, businesses can maintain sex workers on their staff for entertaining stubborn clients, comforting stressed workers, or whatever. As long as the sex worker is a volunteer who is protected from physical abuse, emotional trauma, and social ostracization, why would this be a problem? Legal protections and avenues of resolution need to be in place to insure that no one would ever be forced or coerced into prostitution and sex workers would never be treated like property. Regulations also need to be in place that would always give the sex worker the freedom to decline to serve clients who they fear, despise, distrust, or simply don't like.

Christianity became politicized in the 4th Century. One of the first initiatives it undertook was the criminalization of the sex trade. They did this for several reasons. First of all, this allowed them to capture the revenue stream that went to the temples of Diana and Ishtar. Yes, sadly, it really did boil down to money. Secondly, it allowed them to better control the leisure activities of their followers. It became both illegal and immoral to patronize any faith other than the official Christian faith. In my never humble opinion, this dual approach of becoming officially sanctioned and outlawing the sex trade in the name of religion was one of the first great mistakes made by the Church. If they could not compete on the basis of their theology and their ideas, then they did not deserve to survive. Yes, that's harsh and many of my Christian friends will be appalled, but facts are facts. If Christianity was truly the best choice among the thousands available, then it would not have needed Imperial Roman Law to protect it and nurture it. Thirdly, and almost as important as the first two, by transforming itself into the official religion of the Roman Empire they were able to end once and for all three centuries of torture and martyrdom. I wish I could claim this was the most important reason, but diaries of believers from the era are very clear on this point: martyrdom and persecution were desirable qualities of Christian life because it verified the "truth" of their teaching. Numerous Christian writers opposed official sanction because it would end the persecution and persecution was their best tool for self-affirmation. We see this same kind of thinking in the Maliki Jurisprudence school of Islam which inspires and fuels the martyrdom complex of terrorists. Where do you think Malik ibn Anas got his ideas from? He assumed if it applied to Christian "truth", it applied even more forcefully to Islamic "truth". He explicitly states this in his writings.

Jesus respected Mary Magdalene as a person. He did not condemn her chosen occupation. As a matter of fact, Jesus himself never spoke out against any other religion. The only theology he opposed was the corrupt teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Paul was the one who first began condemning all of the other religions and belief systems of the Roman Empire. This was part of his teaching because he took the gospel out of Judaism and into the broader world. Paul is the new testament writer who explicitly attacks homosexuality, temple prostitution, pagan feasts, and so on. Paul's writing is logical, precise, and direct. However, in my old age I am less inclined to take everything he writes at face value. Paul had a very human agenda and oftentimes his writing has more to do with his personal agenda than it does with expanding on the words of Jesus. (This is a sad reality that more theologians need to address if they expect the world to regard them as intellectually honest.)

The real reason so many modern scholars and theologians are struggling to redefine Mary Magdalene has nothing to do with how she is presented in the New Testament. Their real problem is they cannot accept sex work as a legitimate profession. Part of this is related to Paul's condemnations of temple prostitution. Part of this is related to the very real violence that permeates the modern sex industry. Healthy, mature sex workers who entered their industry voluntarily are few and far between, but they are also very real. Unfortunately, criminalization of the sex trade has banished it to the shadows. Anything that resides in the shadows becomes the providence of human predators because this is where they live. Now, more than ever, as we move daily closer to a one world government and a global society, we need to be very careful about the rights of individuals. We are either going to build a world where every individual has the freedom to maximize their potential in their chosen line of work, or we are going to build a world where a handful of prominent families live completely above the law while condemning to death anyone who disagrees with them. It does not matter how you personally feel about sex workers. They have been with us from the very beginning and they will be with us until the very end. As globalization gains speed, we need to demand that global elites be subject to the very same laws as the rest of us. A world where prostitutes and other sex workers are slaves controlled by elite families will be very bad for everyone, but it will be a complete hell for the sex workers. The only way to avoid that world is to start accepting sex workers as real people entitled to pursue their chosen career free of condemnation and social ostracization.

The first person Jesus appeared to on the day of his resurrection was a whore. And how did he greet her?

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.