Shine A Light On Slavery

Shine A Light On Slavery

Be in it to end it.
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Yesterday, Feb 23, was something called “shine a light on slavery day”. While this may seem like a small gesture, people around the world, inspired by the "End it Movement" drew red X's on their hands, wore a big red X, and posted pictures on their social media raising awareness for human trafficking. While drawing the X’s doesn’t end slavery, it raises awareness among people about this $32 billion industry that thrives on the exploitation of humans just like you and me. This industry is the trade and enslavement of humans and more specifically the trade of humans for sex.

While this movement to draw and wear x’s comes from the “End it Movement”, who partners with organizations such as Out of Darkness, The International Justice Mission, a21, and others, the movement has grown. Just a few days ago, Ashton Kutcher presented before the Senate calling for more action to tackle child sex abuse. Celebrities posted pictures with the End it X, people like Carrie Underwood, and Kristen Bell.

Lately, I have begun to realize the shocking presence of the sex trade in our society today and how desperately it needs to be addressed. Today, over 20 million people around the world sold and bought. An estimated 300,000 of these victims are children, meaning 1 in 5 victims under the age of 18 and the average age to enter the slave trade is 12 years’ old. In a school sponsored event this week I learned typical timeline for teenage girl entering sex trade beginning anywhere between ages 12-15 girls may run away from home, be picked up by a pimp, put on a site like "back-page" and very quickly start servicing between 5-10 men a night. There is a very low possibility these girls will ever be rescued, only 1-2% of slaves ever are. They may run away from the sex trade, may get too old, or may never leave this industry.

In 1850 an average slave cost $40,000 in today’s money, and today, a slave costs about $90. Every 30 seconds, someone becomes a victim, and there are more slaves than at any other point in history.

The unfortunate reality is that we are all connected to slavery. People our age, both boys and girls are sold in the slave trade. People our little sister's age, our little brother's age. While the reality is that we are closer to human trafficking and sex slavery than we think, we are closer to ending it than we think. We can raise awareness – learn how through the End it Movement, wear an X and show that you stand to bring an end to this industry. Know the warning signs among people your age. Become educated through the International Justice Mission, Department of Homeland Security. Advocate for this issue with your friends and family, like I am now. Realize that this isn't a Christian issue, a racial issue, a male or female issue, or a US issue, but this is a human issue. Realize the reality of this horror in our society, and be in it to end it.

Cover Image Credit: Becca Colehower

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I'm A Christian And I Have A Tattoo

Stop judging me for it.
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Like most people, I turned 18 years old during the course of my senior year of high school. I’ll never forget the months prior to my birthday, though, because I spent hours making a decision that would be with me forever, the decision of where I would go to get my first tattoo and where that tattoo would go, and of course I spent a lot of time deciding on the font, the colors, and all of the other aspects of the tattoo I wanted. Throughout this time, two things stood firm 1) the fact that I was going to get a tattoo, and 2) the six letter name that it would consist of.

Now, three years later, I’m 21 years old and I still get the occasional dirty look at church on Sunday or in line at Walmart, and more often than not this look is accompanied by the following words: “Why would you do that to your body when God says not to?” A few weeks ago at a new church, a woman came up to me and said, “How can you consider yourself a Christian when you have that blasphemous thing on your foot?”, I simply smiled at her and said: “God bless you, have a good week.” I let it roll off of my back, I’ve spent the past three years letting it “roll off of my back”… but I think it’s time that I speak up.

When I was 8 years old, I lost my sister. She passed away, after suffering from Childhood Cancer for a great deal of my childhood. Growing up, she had always been my best friend, and going through life after she passed was hard because I felt like even though I knew she was with me, I didn’t have something to visually tribute to her – a way to memorialize her. I, being a Christian and believing in Heaven, wanted to show my sister who was looking down on me that even though she was gone – she could still walk with me every day. I wanted it for me, for her. I wanted to have that connection, for her to always be a part of who I am on the outside – just as much as she is a part of who I am on the inside.

After getting my tattoo, I faced a lot of negativity. I would have Leviticus 19:28 thrown in my face more times than I cared to mention. I would be frowned on by various friends, and even some family. I was told a few times that markings on my body would send me to hell – that was my personal favorite.

You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:28

The more I heard these things, the more I wanted to scream. I didn’t though. I didn’t let the harsh things said about me and my choice change the love I have for the Lord, for my sister, or for the new precious memento on my left foot. I began to study my Bible more, and when I came to the verse that had been thrown in my face many times before – I came to a realization. Reading the verses surrounding verse 28, I realized that God was speaking to the covenant people of Israel. He was warning them to stay away from the religious ways of the people surrounding them. Verse 28 wasn’t directed to what we, in today’s society, see as tattoos – it was meant in the context of the cultic practice of marking one’s self in the realm of cultic worship.

26 "You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying. 27 You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. 28 ‘You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD. 29 ‘Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, so that the land will not fall to harlotry and the land become full of lewdness. 30 ‘You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am the LORD. 31 ‘Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God."
Leviticus 19:26–31

The more I have studied my Bible over the past few years, the more I pity those who rely on one verse in the Old Testament to judge and degrade those, like myself, who made the decision to get a tattoo for whatever reason they may have for doing so. This is because, you see, in the New Testament it is said that believers are not bound by the laws of the Old Testament – if we were, there would be no shellfish or pork on the menus of various Christian homes. While some see tattoos as a modification of God’s creation, it could also be argued that pierced ears, haircuts, braces, or even fixing a cleft lip are no different.

24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."
Galatians 3:24-25

In Galatians, we read that the Old Testament law was created to lead people to Jesus. However, we know that Jesus has come and died on the cross for our sins. He has saved us, therefore we are no longer held to this law in order to have a relationship with the Lord. Our relationship with Him comes from believing that Jesus came to Earth to die on a cross for our sins, and repenting of our sins – accepting Jesus as our Savior.

I am a Christian, I have a relationship with the Lord that is stronger than it has ever been, and - I HAVE A TATTOO.

I have a beautiful memento on my left foot that reminds me that my sister walks with me through every day of my life. She walked with me down the red carpet at my senior prom, she walked with me across the stage the day I graduated from high school, and she continues to be with me throughout every important moment of my life.

My tattoo is beautiful. My tattoo reminds me that I am never alone. My tattoo is perfect.

Stop judging me for it.

Cover Image Credit: Courtney Johnson

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Football Players Aren't Kneeling To 'Disrespect The Flag,' They're Kneeling Because People Are Being Killed

It seems like every day there is another unjustified police shooting against a minority. And that is exactly what the NFL players that kneel are trying to bring awareness to.

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If you have been watching the news this past football season, then you had to have heard about all the kneeling controversy. if you are confused or haven't heard about it don't worry, I will make it easy for you to understand. Back in 2016 Colin Kaepernick, a player for the San Francisco 49ers at the time, began to sit then eventually kneel, every time the National Anthem was sung. Once the media got ahold of this it was like a wildfire. Other teams and players that understood why Colin was doing it and began to do it too. It took off so much that even newscasters began to argue about it.

What the media, politicians, news crews, and some people in general don't understand is that these football players ARE NOT kneeling with intent to disrespect the American flag, the National Anthem, or our vets. They kneel to bring awareness to the growing issue of police brutality we have going on in our country. We all have to admit that lately the only things that have been in the news a lot are things about police shootings. Especially "accidental" killings against minorities.

Many of these protests started with the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. But now they have escalated. It seems like every day there is another unjustified police shooting against a minority. And that is exactly what the NFL players that kneel are trying to bring awareness to. Since kneeling Colin Kaepernick was dropped by the 49ers and has literally been blackballed, no team has picked him up. Not because he isn't a good player, he is actually very good at football, but because the team knows that if they pick him up, Colin will kneel. And that will bring unwanted attention to said team.

Now that about two seasons have gone by and players are still kneeling, President Trump has gotten in on the commentary action. His comments have sparked more attention to these kneeling players and a lot of dislike towards them. Which is wrong, clearly people do not understand why the players are protesting. Although it seems like from these comments the NFL has decided to make a new rule about the National Anthem, whoever tries to kneel or sit will be heavily fined.

This new rule has brought on a lot more controversy. Although I believe Malcolm Jenkins from the Philadelphia Eagles said it best in his You Aren't Listening interview. He gave facts as to why players kneel, these were some of the facts,

Approximately 60% of people in prison are people of color. In 2018, almost 500 people have been killed by police thus far. The US population is made up of 8% African American males & now 25% of African American males have been shot and killed.

These were just a few of the facts. There are many more out there that are very outstanding. Start listening. It's not about disrespect, its about bringing awareness. I want you to keep those facts in mind the next time you see someone kneeling or sitting when the National Anthem is being played.

Cover Image Credit:

https://unsplash.com/photos/iWv-bGqUfao

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