Author archives: Mary Beasley

Attention Millennials: True Religious Freedom May Make You Feel Uncomfortable

by Mary Beasley

August 4, 2017

Millennials have been lauded for being one of the most open-minded of generations, accepting and tolerant of a variety of perspectives. Millennials pride themselves on being an exceptionally diverse generation—racially, ethnically, sexually, politically, culturally… the list goes on. The linchpin for diversity is acceptance. More than ever, millennials pride themselves on being particularly tolerant and accepting.

However, the real-world consequence to this much-heralded virtue of tolerance is, ironically, intolerance. Tolerance without limits becomes moral destruction. Tolerance with limits… can that be called “tolerance” at all?

Tolerance” can only be taken so far, until one is forced to become intolerant to intolerance itself. So, millennials have a problem. Tolerance seems to be an impossible standard to uphold, unless one is advocating for complete political and cultural anarchy. Tolerance, to its end, upholds no standards.

A recent survey found that millennials do believe religious freedom is important—remember, tolerance is the name of the game. However, it seems that millennials tend to draw a boundary between society and the self. Many millennials see religious freedom as an “individual” priority, not as a social priority. And over half of millennials agree that religion is only personal and should not play a role in society.

So, millennials appear to be “tolerant.” Religious freedom seems like a decent idea to them. In practice, however, tolerance of religious freedom can only go so far. As it turns out, many millennials are confused and apprehensive about something called the “free exercise clause.” The Constitution does not simply establish the freedom to hold religious belief as a certain inalienable right, it upholds the exercise of religion as an inalienable right.

Apparently, the free exercise clause has made the millennial generation uncomfortable, who see religious freedom as an individual value becoming a societal problem when it is put into actual exercise.

For millennials, it seems, the values of the self are prioritized over the values of society, a line defined by political correctness. When religious freedom is strictly a right of the individual, it doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable nuisance—unless it is defined as a societal right. If this were the case (and it is, as defined by the Constitution), then the rights of society would impinge on the rights of the individual. This becomes a real problem if individual rights are prioritized. This kind of thinking views authentic religious freedom in society as a problem, because it could make the individual feel uncomfortable.

In order to keep the individual prioritized, political correctness has become essential. Political correctness defines the standards for keeping all individuals in a comfortable, trigger-free zone.

But what is true religious freedom, and what does it require in practice?

The Founding Fathers knew that the idea of religious freedom cannot be understood merely at the level of a belief. Religion is a belief, but belief itself necessitates action. The “free exercise” clause is therefore essential not only for the individual, but for the proper understanding of what religious belief requires.

Giving people the “right” to religious freedom does not bestow true freedom unless there is also a freedom to act. Any person who associates themselves with a religion or a belief system knows that true devotion requires action. What is the point of believing that killing another human being is immoral unless it is put into daily practice? The decision to believe is not enough. True devotion is carried out in daily life, requiring the commitment and sacrifice of the individual.

This is the cost of commitment to faith. Jesus Christ radically defines this commitment as a sacrifice of the individual. He was honest with his disciples about the cost when he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die” (from The Cost of Discipleship). True commitment to faith is radical. It is completely selfless, requiring man to die to himself. This commitment goes far beyond a mere intellectual exercise; it requires the full sacrifice of an individual’s life—every piece and part.

Thus, it is not only unlawful to argue that individuals should revoke their right to exercise freedom of religion, it is also illogical. To assume that religious people can “contain” this commitment as a purely intellectual pursuit inside the four walls of a church is to misunderstand the nature of religious belief. Societies are formed by individuals, many of whom infuse religious practices into their daily lives. They naturally affect, influence, and inspire those around them. Therefore, religion cannot be displaced from the actions of the individual just as the individual cannot be displaced from society. Therefore, religion cannot be contained from society.

One of the millennial generation’s biggest misconceptions is that the individual is above society. In reality, individuals are pieces of a larger community. Ironically, it would seem, the millennial generation’s insistence on “tolerance” ends up suppressing individuals who are deemed “intolerant.” The individual, however, cannot be contained. The individual is called to be a part of something greater. Could it be that the essence of the individual is sacrifice? The individual’s sacrifice is directed to a greater purpose: society itself. The exercise of religious freedom is not solely for the good of the individual, but for the good of society. This will be an uncomfortable but vital lesson for millennials to learn as they renew our society.

Backpage.com and Human Trafficking: What is Christian America’s Response?

by Mary Beasley

July 24, 2017

Recently, a large amount of evidence was uncovered revealing that Backpage.com has been facilitating prostitution and child sex trafficking through the promotion of ads posted on its website. For years, Backpage has absorbed and dissolved accusations of these crimes by various non-profits and congressmen. They have dodged several lawsuits, many involving murders of young women who were victimized and trafficked through ads placed on their website. Similar to Craigslist, Backpage allows its users to post ads and sell various items, including sex ads.

Backpage hosts ads through its “Dating” section showing scantily clad women and underage teenagers in explicit images, offering, for example, to “Let a young babe show you the way” or “Little angel seeks daddy.” This has been a huge source of controversy. In years past, Backpage has cited the Communications Decency Act in its defense, which protects websites that display ads posted by a third-party, whether by another website or person.

Backpage hired an ad agency from the Philippines that specifically searches for advertisements concerning sex. This website looks for these ads on various websites and offers advertisers the opportunity to re-post on Backpage for free.

However, recent evidence suggests that Backpage has edited these advertisements to use less-suggestive or explicit words. Since Backpage has interfered with the advertisement process, the immunity previously provided by the Communications Decency Act could be null.

A mother whose daughter was trafficked on Backpage at the age of 15 was among some of the women who have lost lawsuits against Backpage for trafficking and prostitution charges. Her daughter was trafficked on Backpage for nearly 3 months. “I find it morally disgusting,” she said. “Not only are they exploiting young women that are clearly vulnerable, but they’re furthering their exploitation by putting them on another website. It just shows the lack of morality of this company, how little they care about the victims. Which child is going to be enough to make this end?”

In recent years the subject of human trafficking has gained more traction. Yet, many Americans have little understanding of where and how trafficking begins. The stereotype is that trafficking is mainly a problem in third-world countries, yet many do not consider how American people are involved in and even continue the cycle of trafficking.

Last summer, I spent some time working with a small ministry that cares for victims of sex trafficking in the heart of inner-city Akron, a city in Ohio of less than 200,000 people but with one of the highest drug overdose rates in the country and a hub for human trafficking. When I heard these statistics, I was shocked. I grew up near Akron and had no idea that human trafficking was happening anywhere close to where I grew up or was even an issue in America at all.

The ministry is stashed away in the same area where women are picked up off the streets, prostituted, and trafficked. This involves a deep, dark cycle between the victim and a pimp, who oftentimes forces drug-use and uses fear-tactics to falsely create an attachment in the relationship. The victim submits to the control of the pimp again and again, until it is all she knows and the only way she understands how to survive.

The women involved in this ministry harbored horror stories. Some women come to the ministry simply for free health and hygienic supplies. Some women would return simply for a gentle hug and smiling face.

Written on their faces is the pain of violence and shame of what they have had to suffer. One woman returned again and again to a Bible study we hosted, sometimes with black eyes which were often bloodshot and glazed over. Some women suffered broken ribs.

Not only does forced prostitution take an obvious toll on the body physically, but the emotional, mental, and spiritual effects are widespread. Victims of trafficking often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by harrowing experiences that often include violence, forced captivity, control, and fear. Mental symptoms of PTSD are manifestations of deep emotional wounds that are difficult to heal. How does a woman who has been victimized by sex trafficking learn how to view herself as a free and independent woman after such a traumatizing experience? It is not simply knowing she is free, but changing thought patterns which have been embedded in her mind, telling her that her worst fears are true: she is insignificant, she is invaluable, she is unforgivable, she is unchangeable, she is unlovable.

Many ministries which try to help solve issues with trafficking focus on the mental and emotional healing process, helping women recover from trauma and PTSD. However, a woman is not only defined by her physical or even emotional or mental health.

Jesus teaches us that the root of a person lies on a spiritual level. When asked how to inherit eternal life, Jesus answered, saying “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…” (Luke 10:27). Jesus desires that we love Him with our whole person: with our heart’s desires, our soul’s reliance, our physical strength, and our mental capacity. All of these components are involved in the development of our relationship, commitment, and fellowship with Jesus. It is where our love for Him blossoms and strengthens. Commitment to Him is not simply spiritual, it is holistic: divine intervention within our humanness. God created us with a beautiful multiplicity and a unique capacity for love. The multiple facets of our human condition are unified in our worship and submission to His will.

The trafficking of children and adults is a direct attack on this holistic concept of personhood that is rooted in Jesus’ love. The victim’s personhood is undermined at every level—physically, mentally, emotionally, and, ultimately, spiritually. Therefore, the battle against human trafficking is ultimately a spiritual one. In Luke, right after Jesus commands us to love Him with our whole person, He commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Unfortunately, human trafficking is not only present in third world countries—it is right at our doorsteps here in America. Loving our neighbors means establishing, renewing, and refreshing their concept of personhood—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—in the love exhibited by Jesus’ teachings and, ultimately, His work on the cross. The controversy involved with Backpage is not simply a matter of the law, it is a matter of people’s personhoods being taken advantage of and being broken down and dehumanized into a purely sexualized image, exacerbated by a culture immersed in pornography.

Regardless of what Backpage did or did not do, they’re dabbling in a dark field through the dissemination of sex ads. These ads perpetuate the cycle of prostitution and trafficking. It is our responsibility as Christians to respond and to battle back against this scourge. The cycle of trafficking can be broken. These victims can be reached, healed, and reestablished as whole people through a holistic and complete concept of personhood through Jesus Christ.

Mary Beasley is an intern at Family Research Council.

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