The Prostitute and the Pharisees

Jim Burroway

March 20th, 2007

Note: This post began as a comment I left on Warren Throckmorton’s web site.

Rev. Karen Booth, Executive Director of Transforming Congregations, an Exodus-affiliated ex-gay ministry based in Delaware, left this comment more than a week ago describing her ministry:

My “organization” is not politically involved, so we don’t have the goal of squelching equal rights. In fact, we’re also connected to the United Methodist Church, which takes a strong stand on the rights of the LGBT community.

But then, last Friday Rev. Booth left a comment in a free-wheeling thread on Warren Throckmorton’s web site that led me to look around a little. That’s when I found this on Transforming Congregations’ web site:

TED HAGGARD MASSAGE TABLE ON EBAY

I recently discovered that Mike Jones, the gay prostitute that “outed” Rev. Ted Haggard, is selling his massage table on eBay… Even though Jones claims the proceeds will go to an AIDS charity, this act is reprehensible.

It is very difficult to register a complaint with eBay, and almost impossible to do so through their website… I have sent a message (which follows at the end of this report) that can be used as a model for you to fax eBay with your concerns…

So if Rev. Booth’s ministry is not political, why is she encouraging her supporters to engage in a political act? What exactly does interfering with a charity auction have to do with “equipping the local church” to “meet the needs of confused, trapped and hurting people”?

Later in that same thread on Warren’s site, she returned to taunt everyone there:

BTW – Mike Jones eBay auction was cancelled by eBay. I’m really glad, and hope they got a ton of complaints. Interesting that I didn’t see any criticism of Mike’s action (who was also on the Montel show) in this thread. But then, it’s so much easier to just keep bashing Alan [Chambers].

I spent the rest of the weekend wondering why nobody — myself included — rushed to Mike Jones’ defense. And I guess we all know why, really. He’s a former prostitute.

Sure, it’s salacious and in poor taste for Mike Jones to put his massage table up on eBay for charity. The proceeds of the auction were to go to Project Angel Heart, which “promotes the health, dignity and self-sufficiency of people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses by providing nutritious, home-delivered meals with care and compassion.”

Yes, putting the “Ted Haggard massage table” on eBay is in extremely poor taste. Also in poor taste? How about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who organized some of the first safe-sex messages when official health departments were afraid to touch the subject? They also raised money for home AIDS care, food and housing when nobody else would.

And don’t forget all those leather daddies, also in extremely poor taste and a terrible influence, many of them. They also have a reputation for being among the most generous donors of time, money and talent towards AIDS care at the height of the crisis.

And we cannot forget the Dykes on Bikes, who cleaned apartments, cooked meals and walked the dogs. You get my drift…

Now don’t get me wrong. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence deeply offend my Catholic sensibilities. Leather daddies are not my scene — in fact, I find all public displays of sexual fetishes offensive. As for the Dykes on Bikes, I have nothing against them — they just scare the bejeezus out of me.

But Sunday evening, Chris and I had several friends over for dinner, including two gentlemen who had lived in New York City during the early ’80’s, just as the AIDS epidemic was getting started. They reminded us of the abject fear they felt of not knowing what was happening, the feeling that nobody anywhere in the country cared about what was going on, and of course, of attending memorials two or three times a week. Alan said, “it was simply exhausting.”

And I can tell you right now that if you had been in my home Sunday evening, you would have heard nothing but gratitude for everyone — no matter who they were or where they came from — who worked hard and tried to make a difference. You would have heard words of immense gratitude for the Sisters, the Dykes, the daddies, the drag queens — every blessed one of them. They were among the more prominent groups who were key to establishing and funding many of the AIDS service organizations that exist today, organizations which continue to do the hard work that nobody else is interested in. They all did this because nobody else would.

And where was the church during all that? Well, I think we don’t really have re-hash all of that, do we? Everyone knows the answer. Ex-gay author and counselor Joe Dallas gave a powerful, emotional talk at Love Won Out on the church’s shameful failure. He listed the church’s sins of omission as well as its sins of commission. And he concluded that portion of his talk in a thunderous voice, “And they [they gay community] will never forget it!” By the tone of his voice and the look in his eye, he left unspoken the words “… and who can blame them?” He left that part unspoken, but I think everyone there understood it that way anyway.

Rev. Booth, if you really want to know why many in the gay community are not willing to condemn Mike Jones or any of the other “salacious” groups, it’s because when the chips are down, there are still today — twenty-five years later — only two responses: thunderous condemnations or silence on the one hand, or rolling up your sleeves and getting to work on the other.

So today, we have Mike Jones, a prostitute. I’m not going to defend his profession. Not by a long shot. But the folks at New Life Church made the brave decision to embrace him and forgive him. No, not forgive him, thank him for revealing what Ted Haggard was doing.

And if he wants to raise money for a worthwhile AIDS charity, nobody’s going to hear any protest out of me. I’d rather follow Christ’s example and choose the prostitutes over the Pharisees any day.

Update: Rev. Booth responds in the comments. I reply to Rev. Booth at Ex-Gay Watch.

Update: The auction is back up and Rev. Booth has a partial change of heart.

Karen Booth

March 20th, 2007

Jim, your “ends justifies the means” argument doesn’t work any better here on your own blog than it did on Dr. Throckmorton’s site.

The actions I took with eBay (and encouraged my ministry supporters to follow) weren’t because poor Mike Jones is a prostitute. It was because his auction crossed the line of common human decency and pricipled business ethics. What’s next? Used condoms from someone who had sex with Anna Nicole?

Not that facts ever deter you, but eBay has stated that the auction was cancelled because of charity violations and had nothing to do with my – or anyone else’s – personal concerns.

As a registered buyer/seller of the eBay community, I had every right to express my concerns. And to encourage likeminded supporters to do likewise. That’s consumer activism; it’s not politics.

Jim Burroway

March 21st, 2007

Rev. Booth, I appreciate your response. My reply to Rev. Booth’s comments are at Ex-Gay Watch.

Kevin

March 21st, 2007

Well Rev. Booth, I’m not sure when you were appointed the arbiter of “common human decency” and apparently, if eBay’s official reason is about how the auction was created, then your personally selected appointment as the governess of “common human decency” apparently wasn’t so commonly shared. Nor was it consumer activism.

It would seem rather easy for eBay to determine that, as a buyer or a seller, you’d have no intention of bidding on the product. Therefore, your complaint wasn’t based on “consumer activism” – it was an attempt to prevent others from bidding on the product. That was political, since you appear to be unable to cite any practical or material harm other than some self-constructed notion of “common human decency.”

Last I knew, massage tables weren’t considered illegal items, nor necessarily related directly to some sex industry trade. While it is true that Mr. Jones may have engaged in intimate relationships as an occupation, I’m not sure what role massage tables would play in the performance of an intimate act.

“Common human decency” should have, however, compelled Rev. Haggard to practice honesty, rather than continue collecting a salary, performing ministerial duties, and manipulating and misleading his congregation. Since I haven’t seen Mike Jones engaging in attempts to manipulate, engage in cover-up or lie about his previous occupation or relationship with Haggard, I’m quite puzzled about just what was so objectionable.

Timothy Kincaid

March 21st, 2007

Karen led the charge to deny Project Angel Heart in excess of $1,275. Project Angel Heart provides food to those who are sick. My response to Karen is this:

Matthew 25

41″Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44″They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45″He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Robis

March 22nd, 2007

I’m confused here. I was always taught that “common human decency” referred to how we treat each other, not some vague reference to a morality not universally shared. With that in mind, it seems to me that Rev. Booth, by cruelly denying those in need, crossed the line of “common human decency” not Mike Jones.

Timothy Kincaid

March 22nd, 2007

It seems that Rev. Booth is too busy raising funds for Project Angel Heart to replace those she deprived them of and cannot yet answer.

Steve

March 23rd, 2007

And still she tries to deny that rallying others to write to eBay as well and threatening a boycott is political. This, of course, is not a lie, it’s just that “political” is another of those Humpty-Dumpty words that she and her organization define differently than the rest of the world.

On the other hand, I fail to understand what is “offensive” about this sale. It’s a piece of used furniture on which sex sometimes occurred. Sex is not in and of itself offensive, and people sell used beds and couches all the time, and sex has occasionally occurred on most of them. Auctioning off the SUV from which the Rev. Haggard lied about his relationship with Mike Jones, lied while looking across the face of his wife, lied in the presence of some of his children, lied into a microphone and camera to his congregation, his city, his nation and hig God–now THAT would be offensive.

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