Can you remember ever being around a group of people where everyone was a good listener? Over the years, the only times that I have had such an occasion has been whenever I was in the company of internationals. In my experience, South Koreans are especially adept at listening. Otherwise, as a rule, Americans are not generally competent in their listening skills. Our culture does not emphasize the importance, the absolute need of listening well, of refining this practice over time until it becomes our very instinct of habit. However, last week I found myself in the company of such intrepid sojourners in the most empathic of enclaves. They were all gathered at the Sexual Integrity Leadership Summit.
I know – it might sound weird. That there is such a thing as a Sexual Integrity Leadership Summit continues to surprise me as well. You wouldn’t think that there are enough ministries acting in this space to validate the existence of an entire industry. But it does exist! And what a gift that it does.
Perhaps the cynic will think that I had something of a summer camp experience, that first encounters are unreliable and that people’s “true colors” were not on display. There might be something to that. However, I’m something of a cynic myself, most especially when it comes to leaders and their lack of listening well.
A person’s capacity for listening is always the first thing that I observe in any relationship. This perception is even more pronounced when an individual is in a position of authority, whether it’s ecclesial or secular. My primary barometer for trust rises or falls upon how well they listen. So, believe me when I tell you how much I pay attention to this feat, this ability to relate with a pronounced practice of selflessness. The ministry leaders, pastors and therapists at the Sexual Integrity Leadership Summit are not pretenders. They inhabit this space for a reason.
a nation adrift
Over the years, we’ve written plenty already about the prevalence of pornography and its effects on our culture, on our world. For the moment, I’ll assume that we’re on the same page, at least regarding the nefarious horrors that have inundated us, that most of us have acquiesced to. However, while I’m sure no self-respecting pastor out there would ever endorse pornography and the onslaught of sexual immorality in our churches, precious few of them are doing anything about it.
Our generation has become famous for asserting that it would have behaved better in times past. “If I had been alive during colonial times” or “if I had been born in Nazi Germany” and so on. Such sentiments serve only to valorize their own chronological snobbery. On one hand, it’s impossible to know if you would have been exemplary in any era. On the other hand, how you live within your own culture tells most of that would-have-been story.
Pornography is tantamount to modern-day slavery; it is the single most pervasive tyranny among us. Call me bombastic and then look into the data for yourself. Our colleagues in anti-trafficking always emphasize the direct connection between the proliferation of pornography and the increasing degradations of human trafficking. Rape culture, the subjugation of minors, domestic abuse, abortion-for-convenience… so much ugliness descends downstream from the headwaters of the porn industry. So, before you assert that you’d have been a freedom-fighter in some other time and place: what are you doing in the face of today’s most pernicious evil?
the remnant at work
The fine folk who gather at the Sexual Integrity Leadership Summit (SILS) have given me sanity and encouragement all at once. Apparently, we all contend with the same difficulties. It would be dandy if all our ministries functioned as a claymore mine, facing outward against the world’s participation with pornography. However, all of our energy is currently expended in the context of God’s people, simply because they have been subsumed into the world’s behavior. It’s impossible to be a city on a hill when all the shades are drawn due to the shame within our own walls.
But last week hundreds of us gathered together. And there are at least hundreds more out there, working tirelessly to achieve the renewal of sexual integrity throughout the entire Bride of Christ. Pornography is the modern-day slave trade. The men and women of SILS are the contemporary William Wilberforce contingent. Our cabal is as ferocious as it is empathic. What’s more, we remain determined to continue this endeavor in the context of the Church. Despite the stubborn ignorance of church leaders, despite the surrender of Christian men, despite the neglect of Christian women, despite the shade thrown at us by all kinds of detractors – we are resolutely adamant to stay engaged.
Presently, our position is something like the Allied Forces entrenched outside Bastogne. SILS may as well be the 101st Airborne Division. The deployment is isolating. Our supply chains are minimal. The enemy is better equipped and gaining ground. Yet this is our station. We can do battle nowhere else.
What will it take for you to join us in the fight‽