Can Your Jesus Love Porn Stars?

An important theological question to ask yourself is: "Are there people your Jesus shouldn't be in the midst of?"  Can your Jesus hang out with gangsters?   Can your Jesus be seen in a gay bar?  Would Jesus eat with Sarah, that wretch?

On the one hand, there's Ephesians 5, where Paul says that we are not to be "partakers" with sinners, and we are to have "no fellowship" with them.  But on the other hand, in Luke 7, Jesus has the equivalent of a lap dance from a harlot (yes, look it up).  So where is the line between condemning culture to show Christ's values, and mimicking culture to show Christ's love?

For those that want to bring the Good News, there are mission fields overseas and in the slums...and there are mission fields in glitzy Las Vegas where missionaries to the sex industry are starting a church plant.

XXXChurch is starting the process of starting StripChurch, a portable church (sans organist and pews) that will offer services (stop it, worship services) at sex expos and conventions.  XXXChurch has been doing this a long time, offering witness and free water to people (see articles here and a video on their website here), but this is their first foray into an actual worship presence in the midst of a sex expo.


While I applaud their mission, I'm hopeful that they move away from the trinket and tasteless missionary tactics they've used previously.  Printing bibles that say "Jesus Loves Porn Stars" is the right theology, but seems more like a trinket than a serious conversation-starter.  Driving around in the PornMobile and using a backdrop like Wally the Weiner (NSFW maybe) are gimmicky ways to witness to a fleshy culture.  Maybe since they are in the mission field they know the tactics better than me, but from an armchair perspective they seem to be more shock-value than conversation starters.

50 years ago Richard Niebuhr published Christ and Culture distinguishing the various ways how Christ and culture interact: Does Christ condemn culture, does Christ transform culture, does Christ mimick culture?  For the detractors of this ministry who correctly identify XXXChurch as "Christ of Culture" (thus mimicking culture to make Jesus contextual) I would say that Christ was often called "guilty by association" and I think he can take it.

What do you think? 
  • Is a mission to porn stars outside the realm of missions?  
  • Should missionaries embody and emulate the culture to the point of bible trinkets and edgy vans and inflatable sculptures? 
  • Can one really worship God on the floor of a convention hall?
And finally: "Are there people your Jesus shouldn't be in the midst of?

Discuss.  Welcome to our visitors and we welcome your comments!

(hat tip: Alan Hirsh)

6 comments:

Ginkgo100 February 2, 2009 at 10:45 AM  

John 3:16 doesn't say, "For God so loved the world, except the porn stars..." Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by associating with sinners.

I don't like your characterization of the story in Luke 7 as a "lap dance." She was showing him respect and service stop it, platonic service and remorse for her sins by washing his feet. There is no suggestion that there was anything sexual about it.

# Is a mission to porn stars outside the realm of missions?

No.

# Should missionaries embody and emulate the culture to the point of bible trinkets and edgy vans and inflatable sculptures?

No. Jesus didn't do that, either. People who are ready to answer God's call will respond to God, not to slightly God-themed reminders of sin.

# Can one really worship God on the floor of a convention hall?

Yes, in the sense that you can worship God anywhere and at all times. But it is certainly not conducive to introspection or meditation.

Rev. Jeremy Smith February 2, 2009 at 11:04 AM  

@Ginkgo, thank you for your comments, it seems our hearts are in similar places. I'm completely with you on trinkets and God-themed items. Like I said, they seem to serve a different purpose than conversation-starting, even if they can be used that way.

Regarding Luke 7, you are right from our eyes that it seems mundane. However, in Greco-Roman culture, scholars and commentaries remind us that a woman "letting her hair down" (yes, the phrase still exists today!) and wiping feet with perfume with that hair would be seen as erotic. That's why I wrote "an equivalent to" a lap dance, since it was received in the same way that we would if we saw a pastor receiving one. It was still a violation and the Pharisees were shocked Jesus didn't condemn her, but also forgave her sins....with the important declarative "go and sin no more!" Transformation, not accomodation!

david February 2, 2009 at 8:15 PM  

Regarding Niebuhr, he has five positions Christians might take on this issue:
Christ Against Culture might say Christians should avoid the corruption of the world at all costs and would avoid porn stars for the potential corruption.
Christ of Culture might say that sex is transcendent and therefore there is no contradiction between following Christ and being a porn star.
Christ Above Culture might use risque tracts to reach people who would otherwise turn to porn.
Christ and Culture in Paradox might keep their sex life separate from their faith life.
Christ Transforming Culture might attempt to help porn stars escape that destructive lifestyle regardless of whether they convert or not.

John February 5, 2009 at 3:58 PM  

Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

However, its efficacy was unnecessarily hurt by one quite jarring part.

But with all due respect, to say that that passage conveys that "Jesus has the equivalent of a lap dance" is simply wildly inaccurate. Did this woman with a tainted past cleaning and kissing Christ's feet create some feeling of social awkwardness? Obviously, given folks' reaction. Did it transgress the conventional boundaries of that particular society? Sure. But did it involve the sorts of deliberately sexually titillation involved in a "lap dance"? Only if you go out of your way to insist on adding things to the text that simply are not there, and reduce your view of Christ to say that he was not sinless.

Rev. Jeremy Smith February 5, 2009 at 4:28 PM  

@ David,, thanks for the nuances. You clearly don't see this as "Christ of Culture." Would you then categorize StripChurch as somewhere between "Christ Above Culture" and "Christ transforming culture"?

@ John, I believe my response to Ginkgo (about the erotic view of women's hair) along with your own reponse (about "social awkwardness" and "transgressions") form the picture well. We use "equivalent" language when we connect our culture and biblical culture. If I was writing to extremist Muslims, I would say "Jesus got the equivalent of showing ankles." If I was writing to Mormons, I would say "Jesus got the equivalent of being told the woman's secret name for her husband." But since I'm writing to an oversexualized secular society (a good portion of the internet), I felt the language was appropriate.

Did Jesus get a lap dance and therefore sinned? No.
Is there a better equivalent example? Probably.
So I will consider this conversation if this topic comes up again, so thank you.

Larry B,  February 9, 2009 at 10:57 PM  

I'm a little late to the conversation - but this post is interesting for me. I don't doubt the idea that Jesus can love porn stars. But an equally relevant question is, can a porn star love Jesus?

Ultimately the goal of any mission has to be for the person to confess their love for their savior. Sin stands as a barrier to that love and has to be resolved in order to be in full relationship. Misleading people by letting them believe that they can continue to be a porn star and still return Jesus's love is the real problem here. Not whether they hang around porn stars.

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