Acton Institute Powerblog

How Prostitution is Like Predatory Lending

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kangblog“Because the Bible tells me so.”

Most of us think of that phrase as part of one of a beloved children’s hymns (“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”). But it’s also one of the most sophisticated premises for a moral argument. Because Scripture is a channel through which God’s self-revelation can be known, arguments based on moral appeals to the Bible (i.e., interpreted through proper contextualization and hermeneutical principles) should be particularly compelling and authoritative.

Unfortunately, this is rarely true when arguing with modern Christians, much less with non-believers. The problem is not with Scripture, of course, but with the reasoning abilities of the average person. Using Biblical arguments in moral discussions is often like using calculus to convince people who think arithmetic is akin to witchcraft: You first need to disentangle their confused worldview before they can even begin to understand.

That is why Christians often need to arm themselves with “translations” of moral appeals that are more comprehensible to people acclimatized to a culture of pluralism. “Secular” moral arguments are not better—often they lack the solid foundation of Biblical-based appeals—but for those who reject or can’t comprehend religious-based arguments, they can be more persuasive.

A good example is David Marcus’s argument in “The Amoral Case Against Paying For Sex.” Marcus agrees that we “need arguments against sex for pay that do not merely appeal to moral authority” and comes up with a clever and compelling comparison: prostitution is like predatory lending.

There is an odd disconnect between how Progressive prostitution advocates look at sexual consent in private and as commerce. With regard to the former, consent is jealously guarded, and very narrowly defined: it must be affirmative consent, not merely a lack of resistance. But with sex as commerce, many progressives take the more libertarian view that an exchange of money is, by itself, a complete expression of consent.

But consent is complicated. Sometimes we consent to something because we want to do it, sometimes we consent to something even though we don’t want to, because it will get us something we want. Services offered in the commercial marketplace are rife with this latter form of consent.

As the recent situation in Indiana over its Religious Freedom Restoration Act recently illuminated, running a legal business requires doing things one might not want to. You don’t want to provide services to a gay wedding? Too bad. You chose to run a business, and you must offer your services in a fair and equal manner. But how would such prohibition of discrimination work in a regime of legal prostitution? If a woman is offering sex in the commercial marketplace, when can she refuse service? And the men paying for sex, how can they know if the woman is consenting because she wants to, and not because she feels she has no choice? These questions arise in any commercial transaction, but with sex they come with more dire emotional and physical consequences.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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