Sex Trafficking, Pornography, and Domestic Violence | Influence Podcast


“Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes on Earth,” writes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the U.S. State Department’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report. “We must band together and build momentum to defeat human trafficking.”

I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host. In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Dr. Sandra Morgan about one form of human trafficking: sex trafficking and how it relates to pornography and domestic violence.

Dr. Sandra Morgan is an ordained Assemblies of God minister and director of the Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California. The center is dedicated to educating and training students and professionals locally and globally on collaborative strategies to prevent and counter human trafficking, equitably address immigration and migrant challenges, advocate for victims and promote human rights. The center’s podcast, which Morgan cohosts with Dave Stachowiak, is Ending Human Trafficking.

President Donald Trump recently appointed Dr. Morgan to a two-year term on the administration’s Public-Private Partnership Advisory Council to End Human Trafficking.

This episode of the Influence Podcast is brought to you by My Healthy Church, distributors of MEGA Sports Camp, a unique VBS that makes it easy to reach new families.

Children’s ministry leaders often feel frustrated and disappointed that their summer outreach program doesn’t bring in new kids. MEGA Sports Camp gives leaders a fun, unique summer outreach program so that they can welcome new families, engage new volunteers, and impact the community.

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Joy Qualls | Influence Podcast


People in America are increasingly divided ideologically and politically, and our public discourse reflects those divisions. Too often, however, our rhetoric becomes toxic, leading many to worry whether hateful words will result in violent deeds.

This worry came up again last week when Rep. Steve Scalise (R_LA 1st District) and several congressional staffers were shot by a man who didn’t like their politics. Few political disputes result in violence, but this incident is a good reminder to watch how we speak about others in the public square.

This week, I talk to Joy Qualls about how to have a constructive debate about hot-button social issues. In an increasingly pluralistic and polarized culture, this skillset is an absolute must-have for Christian leaders. Qualls is chair of the Communications Department and professor of Communication Studies at Biola University in La Mirada, California…and a personal friend with whom I have occasional disagreements on politics.

Take a listen!

The Power of Life and Death | Influence Magazine


Over at Influence Magazine, I offer some opinions about hateful words and violent deeds in the wake of yesterday’s shooting of Rep. Steve Scales (R-LA) and GOP congressional staffers. The article is posted here with permission:

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“The tongue has the power of life and death,” Proverbs 18:21 says, “and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

This proverb came to my mind yesterday when I learned that a gunman had shot and wounded Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La., 1st District) and four congressional staff members in the early morning near Washington D.C. The shooter later died from wounds sustained in a gun battle with Capitol Police, who were protecting Rep. Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives.

The shooter evidently supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Sen. Sanders immediately denounced the violent act. Regardless, some right-wing pundits quickly tied the incident to anti-Trump and anti-Republican rhetoric by some left-wing pundits and Democratic politicians. They claimed that rhetoric had created the “climate of hate” in which the shooter acted.

This is not the first time partisans blamed violence against them on the other side’s rhetoric. Democrats, for example, pointed to Republicans’ “climate of hate” in 2011 when a gunman shot then-Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords (D-Ariz., 13th District) and 17 others. Giffords suffered brain injuries, and six people died.

I’m not interested in assessing whether the Left’s rhetoric is more hateful than the Right’s or whether the Right’s actions are more violent than the Left’s. As far as I have seen, the answer to those questions generally lines up with the respondent’s ideology. A person on the Right thinks the Left bears the blame, and vice versa. This suggests that we’re not coming at the answer from an objective, statistical point of view.

Instead of assessing blame, I want to make an obvious point and a less obvious point and then offer an explanation and several suggestions:

Points Obvious and Less Obvious
The obvious point is this: Both sides think climates of hate are capable of producing violent action. Nobody thinks there’s zero connection between words and deeds. Everybody acknowledges some connection.

The less obvious point is this: Regardless of that acknowledgment, neither side changes its rhetoric in a significant or enduring way. Oh sure, after a tragedy, right-wingers and left-wingers will come together, pray for the victims, sing “Kumbaya” and pledge to work together. A few days later, however, they’re back at each other’s throats, using the same nasty rhetoric they used before the violence that temporarily brought them together.

Explaining Why Our Rhetoric Doesn’t Change
Why? How can people who acknowledge the connection between words and deeds go on to think their hateful rhetoric doesn’t generate violence on their side? The explanation, it seems to me, is that they think their rhetoric is true. Partisans and ideologues don’t merely disagree with the policies of the other side; in other words, they think the other side and its policies are objectively evil. That’s why both sides in political debates are tempted — and too often succumb to the temptation — to compare the other side to Hitler and the Nazis, which all sides agree to be symbols of perfect evil.

But here’s the deal: In American politics today, if you really think that people on the other side are like Hitler and their policies are like the Nazis’, then the obvious response is to go to war — to engage in more violence, not less.

Nobody in their right mind thinks that way, though. After a tragedy like yesterday’s shooting, we all get together and pledge to talk kindlier and work together more constructively. That implies — and you need to pay attention to this point! — that the other side in current American politics doesn’t deserve the hateful rhetoric your own side sometimes throws its way.

Three Practical Suggestions
Once you and I realize this point, several suggestions come quickly to mind.

First, repent! We constantly tell people on the other side of an issue from us to cease and desist from their climate of hate, but Jesus told us to take our own advice first: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? … You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3,5).

Applied to political rhetoric, this means we need to police our own words — and the words of those on our own side — first.

Second, follow the Golden Rule! How do we know which of our words are hateful? The answer to that question is as simple as the Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

If you want people to ascribe good motives to your actions, ascribe good motives to their actions. If you want people to characterize your statements accurately and in context, do the same for them. If you want people to acknowledge your right to speak and act, acknowledge their similar right.

Third, don’t retaliate! In my experience, I practice self-criticism and the Golden Rule as long as the other side does so. The moment they deviate from those two standards, though, I am tempted to ditch those standards and start throwing mud. That’s a bad idea, for as some wag once pointed out, when you wrestle with a pig in the mud, you both get dirty … and the pig likes it. Responding to bad rhetoric with more bad rhetoric creates a vicious cycle of bad rhetoric.

Once again, Jesus points the way: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39).

The best way to stop a vicious cycle is to stop being vicious, and turning the other cheek does that. It stings, of course, but it also stops things from escalating to violence.

What I’ve written here applies to politicians and citizens, to leaders and followers. It applies most of all to Christians, however, and especially Christians leaders. We lead our congregations, and we represent them in the public square. It is incumbent on us especially — as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ — to do what He said to do.

As our nation wrestles with a vicious cycle of hateful words and violent deeds, let’s make sure we model a better way. Our tongue has power. Let’s use it in a way that brings life, not death, to ourselves, our churches and our communities.

Thursday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • I draw lessons for Christian leaders from the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R_LA) about the connection between hateful words and violent deeds .
  • Elizabeth Rios continues her series, “Church Dropouts,” with three ways to stop the flow of people leaving the Church.

Please make sure to follow and like InfluenceInfluence magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes!

Review of ‘Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future’ by Johan Norberg


Johan Norberg, Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future (London, OneWorld, 2016).

“Nothing is more responsible for the good old days,” wrote Franklin Pierce Adams, “than a bad memory.” The good old days, in other words, weren’t so good. Indeed, if Johan Norberg is to be believed, the good old days are right now.

Drawing on a variety of social science data, Norberg points to ten ways the world has progressed over the last three centuries:

  • Food is plentiful and cheap.
  • Clean water and good sanitation are increasingly available.
  • Life expectancy is longer.
  • Poverty has fallen dramatically.
  • War and violence blight fewer lives.
  • Increasing wealth has benefited the environment.
  • Literacy is widespread.
  • People are increasingly free of arbitrary authority.
  • Equality is increasingly experienced and demanded.

None of this denies specific counterexamples, of course. Hunger, pollution, terrorism, and poverty are facts of life for many throughout the world. Still, in historical perspective as well as in absolute terms, these ills are on the decline.

Take extreme poverty, for example. Norberg writes:

…In 1981, fifty-four per cent of the world lived in extreme poverty, according to the World Bank. This already marks an historic achievement. According to an ambitious attempt to measure poverty over the long run, with a $2 a day threshold for extreme poverty, adjusted for purchasing power in 1985, ninety-four per cent of the world’s population lived in extreme population in 1820, eighty-two per cent in 1910 and seventy-two percent in 1950.

But in the last few decades things have really begun to change. Between 1981 and 2015 the proportion of low- and middle-income countries suffering from extreme poverty was reduced from fifty-four percent to twelve per cent….

…By all our best estimates, global poverty has been reduced by more than one percentage point annually for three decades.

The next time you and your friends debate income inequality, keep that statistic in mind. Yes, there is income inequality in the world, but the floor of that inequality is no longer extreme poverty for the vast majority of the world’s population.

That’s good news, right? Of course it is! And it’s a reason—along with other improvements in the material conditions of humanity—to give thanks at this time of year.

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P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

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