Several weeks ago, our founder Emily Mills and Director of Outreach Kellie Gibson attended the Exxotica Expo in Dallas, TX. We were invited to minister to attendees and adult film workers with partner ministries Restored Hope and Eve's Angels. The following blog was written by Emily after attending the Expo.
The Day Before: For two days, a lowness has been hanging over me... one that left me crying in the kitchen while baking cupcakes for a friend’s baby shower. I haven’t slept well. I am tired. I feel beyond my limits, and I want to throw in the towel. And there I am, getting ready to attend the Exxxotica Expo, a cultural war zone. Deep breath. Do I step? I commit all over again to moving forward. I say aloud to myself, cupcakes baking, black and white cold tile underneath, “I am not letting the enemy have this. I am advancing LIGHT.”
The Day of Exxxotica: I’m still battling the lowness, but a morning spent at our Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market centers me. Surrounded by Texas heat and organic vegetables, I’m comforted by my little 254 city on a hill, a rich and growing community. I am known here. And then, armed and feeling not-so-ready, I am Northward bound on I-35, praying all the way.
My warrior sister Kellie meets me at the convention center. As soon as we step off the elevator, our ears pick a sound...a muffled and intense bellowing. Our brows furrow, curious. Something doesn’t settle. These voices sounds familiar, but not familial. That’s because they’re not.
“Let the WHORES burn like S’MORES!” they’re yelling. An angry hand pounds a literal Bible, the sound echoing down the chamber. Over and over it hammers away, violently slapping an angry hand against the Word. The protesters hold many signs, but the worst reads, “You deserve rape.”
As soon as they see us, their tone shifts. Both incredulous and militant, they scream, “Jesus loves strippers?! Jesus does NOT love your whores!” Just like that, we’ve been labeled as their enemy. The biggest bulldog, muscles bulging, yells: “You’re lost! If YOU think you’re saved, you are losing your salvation as soon as you walk in those doors!” The oppression in the air hangs as heavy as Vaseline.
Men, women, and even a few children take part in the hateful protest outside of the Dallas Convention Center...one 10-year-old boy stands yelling at semi-nude porn stars for 6 hours. He’s being infused with hate and standing totally exposed to the industry.
Kellie is nauseous. My blood pressure skyrockets as I plaster a smile on my face. The lowness makes perfect sense now: the darkness didn’t want us to fight this oppression, to see such hate from the “religious right”. Reminder: it is His kindness that leads to repentance. The Bible being slammed says so.
We walk through the doors to the Expo, and I am astounded by the difference. Immediately, we feel lighter! Surrounded by nudity, porn and blaring music, we are greeted with smiles and hugs. I think to myself, “If the church were really smart and the anti-trafficking organizations really strategic —if they wanted to infiltrate the darkness through LOVE —they would be in here!” We cannot stay tied up in our clean pews and fight from afar.
I wept when I left, and I am still weeping from what I saw. If it was traumatizing for me to field those flaming darts, I can’t imagine the hits that the industry girls received.
The Aftermath: Jesus’s righteous anger always stirred against the argumentative, self-righteous religious leaders. The Messiah always left them confused, trumped, and speechless. The bloody crucifixion must have been so satisfying for the Pharisees and Sadducees, always frustrated with His winning arguments, His speaking in parables, and His improper healing of multitudes. Jesus exposed them as phony, and they saw to it he was exposed to the most brutal death. And still, the bulldogs waiting outside the Dallas Convention Center were begging to see Exxxotica blow up in smoke and all the “infidels” inside destroyed in Jesus’ name.
In the end, Jesus said, “Lawlessness will be increased, and the love of many will grow cold.” Though most of us aren’t screaming condemnation to porn stars, we may need to check ourselves. Are we are practicing a living Word? In Matthew 23, He put this smackdown on the Pharisees in front of a large crowd: “They preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others….Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in peoples faces...”
I grieve for the Bride. Jesus hasn’t come back yet, which means that we aren’t ready for him. We’re not unified and we’re not pure. We still grumble and moan and yell...we’re still stingy with our time and money, thinking more about our vision and agenda for growing an organization than we do grieving for the afflicted. I’m ready for living sermons...but living the Gospel is messy and hard and uncomfortable. I pray we will admit we don’t know the first thing about love, and instead find ourselves on bent knees, weeping, waiting dependent on God to show us.