It Doesn't Have to Be This Way

An image of "Charina" / Photograph © International Justice Mission

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that modern-day slavery is a thriving, lucrative, global business. There are more slaves alive today than during the entire 400 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Human trafficking generates about $150 billion in profits every year. And 1 in 3 trafficking victims are children.

The statistics are staggering.

For me, it was a single story that moved me through the numbers to a place where I could take action. I heard about Charina* when I joined International Justice Mission. She was one of the first girls we helped rescue in Cebu, Philippines.

Charina was 13 when she was sold for sex.

Her family was very poor, and she had dropped out of school in fourth grade. Her mother was the first one who sold her. For the next couple years, pimps took turns selling her from street corners and seedy piers. They earned extra because she looked so young.

Charina was finally freed from this harsh cycle of violence in 2007. She was addicted to drugs, pregnant and unable to trust the people who wanted to help her. The work of freedom was just beginning.  

My colleagues started meeting regularly with Charina. She needed professional care and a customized plan to meet her unique and complex needs. She needed trauma-focused counseling. She needed to learn how to trust others and to believe in herself once again.

When I first heard her story and saw a photo of Charina—her bright eyes, her small frame—my first reaction was anger. This young woman should never have suffered in the many ways she has.

And that anger is right. It’s not fair.

Charina’s story has illuminated another reality for me, a more hopeful one. It doesn’t have to be this way.

The Self-Destruction of Mark Driscoll

OUTSIDE OF BUSINESS circles, accountability is rarely a popular conversation topic. Its implications of deference to authority and limitations on personal freedom are at odds with Western cultural trends. But the controversies that have dogged evangelical pastor Mark Driscoll demonstrate the need for Christians and churches to think more seriously about how authority is understood, exercised, and appropriately checked.

Driscoll, a best-selling author and pastor of Mars Hill Church in Washington state, is known for preaching a “muscular” brand of Christianity and a personal arrogance that fits the part. His views and provocative statements on gender roles, homosexuality, and a variety of other topics have repeatedly sparked debate within evangelicalism, but recent revelations that he pseudonymously posted offensive comments on an online church message board have justifiably brought condemnation from many.

Yet Driscoll’s theology is not the only thing landing him in hot water. A group of more than 20 former Mars Hill pastors have filed a formal grievance with the church based on Driscoll’s leadership style and actions that have been labeled intimidating, controlling, and abusive. Revelations that church funds were spent to buy copies of his book in the hopes of making it a New York Times bestseller and allegations of plagiarism resulted in a formal apology and his publisher pulling books from store shelves. This fall, Driscoll took a multiple-week leave of absence and sought counseling while the church reviewed the complaints against him.

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Christians Must Create a 'Culture of Accountability' for Their Pastors, Church Leadership

Pastors Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and Christopher Brooks, head of Evangel Ministries in Detroit, say congregations must uphold their biblical responsibilities as members of the church by creating a "culture of accountability" for their pastors and church leaders.

5 Reasons Christians Avoid Accountability and Don't Confront Sin

Via Doug Shelton,

Via Doug Shelton,

Spiritual accountability and discipline are slowly becoming extinct within church communities Here are some reasons why:

1. A Desire for Comfort and a Fear of Conflict:

Confrontation is awkward, messy, and just plain hard — so few do it. Additionally, churches and spiritual communities are intentional about creating a sense of peace, encouragement, happiness, and joy — even if it’s a façade.

Identifying sin, exposing immorality, admitting the truth, uncovering corruption, and acknowledging failure contradict the image many churches are trying to portray.

In reality, Christianity was never meant to be comfortable or easy, but in a society obsessed with self-gratification, pleasure, and comfort, churches too easily succumb to an attitude of placation and appeasement instead of responsibility and intervention.

On Accountability: The Buck Never Stops

It was a strange, but telling, spectacle when those who billed the government millions for working on its Affordable Health Care registration system denied any accountability for the portal’s astounding failure.

“The other guy did it,” as they say in court. The client kept changing specs, no one did any whole-system testing, other vendors are to blame — blah, blah, blah.

Whatever shred of truth lay in their blame-shifting ran up against another wall of non-accountability. The Republicans did it with their insane sequestration, said Democrats. The Democrats did it, said the GOP. Health and Human Services did it. The Oval Office did it.

In the end, of course, no one will accept accountability, for we live in an age when the “buck” never stops on one’s own desk, if it stops at all.

Let's Hold the Rich and Powerful Accountable

Here's something curious.

Big banks can't make money without cheating, manipulating interest rates, selling overly risky products and betting against their customers.

Big pharmaceuticals can't make money without paying competitors to keep their generic products off pharmacy shelves.

Google and Facebook can't make money without monetizing customers' privacy and violating their trust. Game maker Zynga can't make money, period, but its insiders did sweep $516 million off the table by unloading soon-to-plummet stock before a lousy earnings report.

Rupert Murdoch's media empire can't make money without tapping telephones and politicizing the news on which democracy depends. 

And these are the people we are supposed to trust, admire, treat as superior and as worthy of huge salaries and government bailouts.

We All Need A Spotter: Church and CrossFit Gym

Gym image by Robert Kneschke / Shutterstock

Gym image by Robert Kneschke / Shutterstock

I can’t lift my arms.

They scream in muscle soreness after 3 weeks of CrossFit workouts. At the age 43 I’ve found myself in poor physical condition; my career having taken over my usually fit body. But a block behind our house in a slightly ghetto strip of businesses along a sidewalk dotted with empty gin bottles and crushed packs of generic cigarettes is a little white building with red trim. Inside this vintage garage which 2 years ago was where most of the neighborhood dope slinging happened, is now a CrossFit gym.

When walking my dog I’d pass by the crazy people lifting weights and stepping up and down on giant tractor tires and pulling themselves up over steel bars and I thought I surely was not in good enough shape to show up.

But three weeks ago I did just that. I hauled my out of shape middle-aged ass over to the gym and have worked out four days a week for the last three weeks.

Now I can’t lift my arms.

I was talking to my husband about why I am loving CrossFit and it made me realize that it is for some of the reasons I love church.

It's Finally Over -- and It Was Wrong

Finally, as President Obama has announced, this American war will soon be over, with most of the 44,000 American troops still in Iraq coming home in time to be with their families for Christmas.

The initial feelings that rushed over me after hearing the White House announcement were of deep relief. But then they turned to deep sadness over the terrible cost of a war that was, from the beginning, wrong; intellectually, politically, strategically and, above all, morally wrong.

The War in Iraq was fundamentally a war of choice, and it was the wrong choice.