Recently my husband and I took a few days and headed to the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas to celebrate 10 years of marriage. I booked the trip since we take turns planning anniversary celebrations and I have to confess that I was giggling as I thought about the possibility of renewing our vows in a drive thru.
We arrived, picked up a little red Hyundai rental, and opted to drive down the Strip to our hotel to enjoy all the famous neon sights. After checking in, we decided to walk down to the Bellagio to see the fountains which were highly recommended and free. It was a longer walk than we thought and gave us time to see a number of things:
· people dressed up as creepy, off-brand children’s characters who pose for pictures (for tips)
· people handing out playing card-sized ads for female escorts
· scantily dressed women (bachelorettes, bridesmaids, etc.) stumbling down the street
· very drunk men (bachelors, groomsmen, etc.) stumbling down the street
· families taking in the sights with their infants, toddlers, and preschoolers
It was the last one that really bothered me. Las Vegas is something to see – a wonderland carved out of the desert with neon, water, steel, concrete, and a lot of performing talent. But it’s not for children. It’s an adult playground, with all the temptations that includes – drinking, gambling, and sex are all available in exchange for money. There’s a lot of smoke in the casinos, there’s a lot of danger in the streets. And I worried every time I saw a child whose parents were trying to take in the sights while exposing them to the same.
Anyway, I’ll get off that soapbox. On the way back, a friendly, off-duty flight attendant sitting near us tried to make small talk with me to take my mind off how my stomach was not being a good flyer. She noticed the book in my hands, a romantic piece of fluff perfect for flying, and she asked about it. I replied, “It’s pretty hot.” She said, “Is it explicit?” “Yes...” And for a moment I think I blushed. I wondered why. Why am I ashamed for reading someone’s imaginative rendering of intimacy between consenting adults?
I am convinced that our embodied existence is a good gift from God. We are dirt creatures, made from dust and God-breath, yet just a little lower than angels. What is it that God is mindful of us? We are indelibly the image of God, yet broken and fallen.
In Las Vegas, my stomach turned as I realized the ways in which women and men are seeking to earn a living. I don’t condemn them, knowing that if there were no demand for it, there would be no supply. And in Las Vegas, it’s just that it’s obvious – the city makes no apology for what it is, incorporating rules and regulations designed to keep persons safer and healthier.
When the Super Bowl came to North Texas, where I live, I was shocked to hear about the underground sex trade that would come with it. This is the sin that lies beneath, secret, taboo, and horrific. As faithful people, we are called to do better – not by passing laws that are simply evaded, but by encouraging one another to hold to higher standards and kicking the legs out from under these trades.
But I continue to wonder why I was embarrassed by my reading material. These were just words on a page, not objectifying a living, breathing child of God. And, in my reflection, I think it’s because discussion of sexuality finds no safe haven in the church. We try not to allow our faith to inform our embodied existence in its totality. We like to tell God, “Ok, you can reign here and here in my life, but not over here - this part is for me.”
As we drove home from Love Field, leaving Las Vegas behind us, my eyes rested as they gazed on the subdued landscape, mostly flat, still paved and developed, but different. Less neon, no showgirls, but still the reality of silence and shame.
So, sisters and brothers, I invite you to find your voice. Speak for those who have been taken captive in the sex trade. Speak to those who have been taken captive by addiction to sex, drugs, alcohol, or pornography. Speak to your brothers and sisters in Christ about how it is we can live faithfully in and through our bodies, enjoying all the good pleasures God has given us in ways that respect the other. It might feel strange, but God has gifted us with so many things, including our bodies and sexuality. Lived out well, it is a great gift indeed.