I took Corduroy Dog for a walk the other day and passed a man, about the same age as my dad, loaning his cell phone to a woman on the street. She was probably my age, but she looked like she had at least twenty years on me. Her face was wrinkled. Some of her teeth were broken or blackened. She was as thin as anyone I've ever seen. I imagined that her bones could break through her skin. She wore the tell-tale signs of crystal meth use on her body like a garment. He was driving a Lexus. Shelby County tag. White laundered shirt and khaki pants. Braided belt and loafers with tassels. His white hair was coiffed and his nails were manicured. He had a thick gold watch on his wrist.
Corduroy Dog let out a long low snarl like she does when she knows something's wrong. The hair on her back stood at attention. And suddenly I knew what it was I was seeing.
When he saw me walking towards them, he grabbed his cell phone, jumped in the car and drove away. She pulled her hood over her face (it was warm outside) and hurriedly crossed the street. If shame has a spirit, I saw it that day. If shame has a voice, I heard it.
I gave him the finger as he drove away. And that was probably wrong. But it felt right.
Tonight, all through the city, in this neighborhood, women are selling themselves or being sold for drugs and money. Women who were born into vulnerable situations. Incestuous situations. Alcoholism. Neglect. And this is where they come to do what they do. And this is where the sexual predator finds them to victimize them for the thousandth time and then drive home to wife and children. He thinks he's better than her. He thinks he has a right to use her, to exploit her. His lust has made a prisoner of him.
I think of Jesus speaking to the prostitutes. The woman at the well. Women the world left on the dungheaps of society to die. Jesus cared for them. Jesus called them to travel with him and learn from him. He equated them with his male disciples as he allowed them to wash his feet, to sit and learn from him, to eat with him, to work with him. In a society where the distinctions between men and women were infinitely more pronounced than they are in modern America, Jesus broke the rules of orthodoxy to reach across gender lines and love trashed women. Jesus did.
Tonight in the city, women are trafficked like drugs. Women are forced into sexual slavery and prostitution. Here, in this city, tonight. Sexual trafficking isn't something that exists only in Southeast Asia or Latin America. Here. Tonight. This is happening.
Our churches are having meetings to decide who can be a deacon. What women are good for. When it's appropriate for women to speak in church. And somewhere, a woman is sold for her body. And I can't believe that Jesus approves of our priorities.