I saw this billboard while driving through Montreal a few weeks ago.
My first thought was: Good! Glad to see the government raising awareness about sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
But after reading it again, something about the choice of wording felt off. Never mind the word sport, which is odd but neither here nor there. No – the word I’m thinking of is criminal. Because that’s really the big punch of the whole thing. They grab your attention with the word SEX (or SEXE, in French, because, as you know, adding an E to the end of the word makes it more romantique). Then they hook you with the notion that you may be the victim of some misconception about buying sex. And, finally, the hammer of truth comes down: In Canada it’s criminal. Whabam!
Wait – really? Criminal? I mean, yes it is (for now!) and that’s good I guess. But that’s the best we can do? Something in my strange little brain says that word should be wrong. “In Canada (like everywhere) it’s wrong.”
Feel free to laugh out loud. Who am I kidding? Is this the 1870’s? We can’t make moral statements in public. We certainly can’t make absolute moral statements – my goodness! What kind of meddling bigoted hypocrite are you? What kind of sex-hating nail-biting Victorian Puritan are you? What kind of fun-hating, long-skirt-wearing, finger-wagging nanny are you?!
A quick glance at the comments section of a local news article about this makes it clear that the peoples here are decided: leave it alone – people will do what they do and it’s not our business.
Ah. But of course the steady stream of robbed and raped girls and boys who are pulled and pushed into the sex industry to feed endless appetites are our business, as long as justice for the oppressed is our business.
The fact that we are now appealing to the assumed desire of citizens to not commit crimes in order to educate and dissuade sexual exploitation is rather telling, isn’t it? Hmm, that’s probably still too generous. We are appealing to not wanting to go to jail and be in the papers.
To me, that’s setting the bar a little low. In terms of a vision for human flourishing, that’s some thin gruel. Some thin, no-sugar-added, low-fat, nutrient-free kind of gruel. Not even a hint that some desires are good, some not so good. No clue that human dignity is part of the equation.
But that’s no criticism of the billboard itself. It’s a fine billboard – one for a time such as this.
All of that can get categorized under fumbling attempts at cultural commentary, which I personally find interesting, but ultimately falls well short of being ultimate. Now you might assume that I think this is a bad thing! And okay – in one sense I do. But that’s what I mean by it not being ultimate. It’s a bad thing that might lead to better things.
The gospel and God’s kingdom are ultimate in a way that society and culture isn’t. If Canada and the U.S. go headlong into moral relativism and all manner of ethical upsidedownery, as is the charted course, all the more reason why people will find themselves longing for an anchor for their heart and minds, and forgiveness for the wrongs which they can only deny doing for so long. It might all end up being a gospel opportunity – and I certainly hope and pray so.