I am a graduate of Wheaton College, and I have been to a strip club.
And it wasn’t even because I read Christianity Today’s article “Would Jesus Hang Out in a Strip Club?” and was overcome with spiritual delusions of grandeur about extending the Gospel, as it were, to writhing, bare-breasted women.
I just went, well, because of the prospect of seeing beautiful naked women.
Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away. After I had smoked a cigarette in the Christianity Today parking lot in Carol Stream, Illinois, and made out with a Wheaton College art student. Consensually. And then we danced. And played a couple rounds of craps.
Sorry, I know this is going to require a lot of justification.
Not about going to a strip club. But about attending Wheaton College. After all, they’ve got quite the anti-LGBTQ reputation—not to mention the institution’s public opposition to Obamacare. There are other reasons. Wheaton also seems to have a knack for letting go of anthropology professors.
Some folks are even wondering if Wheaton College has a right to call itself a Christian institution of higher education. I mean, is the cupula on the Billy Graham Center actually going to be whisked away during the Rapture?
But back to the subject of evangelizing naked barbarians in birthday suits who twirl around Asherah poles.
I mean, that’s why you clicked on this article, right? You were hoping there might be a reference or two to buxom babes and perhaps a joke such as “and by his strips we are high-heeled.”
At any rate, I seem to be one of the few people, among millions of Christians in the United States, willing to admit he has patronized a gentleman’s club at some point during his adulthood. Maybe even more than once. (But I swear I was blindfolded the second time.)
Therefore, I feel qualified to follow Christianity Today authors Dawn Herzog Jewell, Joe Carter and Mike Foster as a fourth responder to the WJHOIASC? question.
First, let me clarify. I’m not saying that I am proud to have been a gentleman’s club patron. I’m just saying it’s a fact. And one that I don’t stress about very much. Judge me if you feel the need.
In my younger days, I found such places alluring. Who wouldn’t? But in my current middle-aged state, as a twice-divorced man who has oft seen the female anatomy in and out, honestly, such places bore the hell out of me.
Jesus, forgive me, but these days I find irises way more interesting than nipples.
If you haven’t guessed by now, this article is interested in demystifying strip clubs.
I am not downplaying human trafficking, by the way—which is a godawful, exceedingly evil, prevalent problem in our world.
But I am suggesting that strip clubs are not the mystical Jezebelean dens of iniquity that Bob and Laura Evangelical of Topeka think them to be—any more than my Christian private high school was. Hell, my junior year, so many girls became pregnant and “disappeared unexpectedly” that I thought I was living through an alien invasion.
Anyway, back to the two-dollar bill question: “Would Jesus Hang Out in a Strip Club?”
Frankly, it’s an offensive question—and one of the biggest editorial click-baits I have even seen on a Christian Media website.
In fact, it’s almost as offensive as asking: Would Jesus deign to write for a celestial ass-kissing publication like Christianity Today?
I mean, we’re talking about an American religious rag that aspires to be the love child of USA Today and People Magazine. (CT isn’t exactly the Episcopalian Economist.)
Within CT’s virtual pages, you can find reviews of such pornographic Hollywood films as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Hidalgo (geez, the horse is naked the whole film) and The Hangover Part III. And, OMG, they even had an article this week in which the word “orgasm” was used—despite the fact that the BIG O never once happened in the Bible. I mean, except for that whole Onan episode.
Anyway, it’s simply hard to imagine that Jesus would allow his name to appear in a byline of a publication that instructs one on how to properly choke one’s chicken.
Yeah, I am riding you pretty hard, CT. Would you like another lap dance? This song’s almost over.
The thing that really set me off about the “WJHOIASC?” article is the seeming suggestion that exotic dancers are a subspecies of human being. I’m not one to judge, but it’s almost as if the editorial meeting at Christianity Today went something like this:
Bob: Folks, subscriptions are down, way down. Does anyone have any ideas?
Bob: Ted, agreed. We’ve got to lead with a boobs-heavy clip. Thoughts?
Dawn: We could have a Proverbs 5:19 original Christian artwork contest.
Bob: Hmm. Anyone else?
Bob: Yes, Ted, we’re pursuing that avenue of thought. But thanks for reminding us.
Thorne: Strippers! An article about strippers!
Bob: Nice, Thorne. Let’s run with that.
Dawn: An article about strippers. How about: “What Would Jesus Do To Strippers?”
Bob: Hmm. A little less forward, perhaps?
Percy: “Would Jesus Hang Out in a Strip Club?”
Everyone: THAT’S IT!!
Bob: Perfect! And we let users read the first 500 words before forcing them to subscribe for 3 Years for the low, low price of $59.99. Then, poor ole Bob Evangelical in Topeka is forced to throw down a couple of Andrew Jacksons to read further. We’re providing a real service here. I mean, Bob has no sex life and he’s dying for an excuse to sneak off to a t*tty bar this weekend. We make a few buckaroos. And all we had to do was dehumanize exotic dancers. Win-win!
Dude, c’mon. How can we take you seriously?
We’re talking about strippers! Everyone knows strippers can’t be Christians. They’re like migrant workers; they’re not even real people.
On the other hand, strip clubs patrons can be Christians—pastors even. But not the women and men who get up on the stage and actually stir up the demons of lewdness within us.
I have known strippers who are doctoral candidates. Strippers who are dedicated single mothers. Strippers who are drug addicts. Mean-spirited strippers. Quiet, kind-hearted strippers. Sexually abused strippers. Sexually empowered strippers. Strippers fleeing everything. Strippers making documentaries to show the world just what it’s like to be a stripper.
I met them in strip clubs. But also I met them in grocery stores. I met them in bars. I met them in bookstores. I met them in college. I met them at Tupperware parties. (Well, maybe not the latter.)
They’re people. And they don’t deserve a “Would Jesus Come Anywhere the Hell Near You?” theological Candy Land question splashed across the border of a Christian publication.
Life’s not as seemingly simple as the editors of Christianity Today think. I promise that, within the Christianity Today workplace, there are alcohol and drug addicts and sexual misfits. Whether CT colleagues routinely disrobe in front of one another, they are all “simul justus et peccator” human beings.
(If they don’t believe me, maybe for a follow-up article I’ll create an archive of articles that exclusively expose religious workplace sex scandals.)
Generally, people all along the religio-political spectrum need to stop treating exotic dancers like second-class citizens. They’re just people. Women and men. They’re fallen. They’re broken. They’re rising. They’re solid.
And you know what else? There are nearly a half-million of them in our country, earning on average $125,000 per year. And they’re responsible for nearly $3.1 billion in economic development annually.
Want to know another crazy fact? A good many of them are teaching your children.
And they vote.
And they don’t need religious ministering more than anyone else.
I know I’m going to take some flak for this article.
There will be people on the right who insist anyone who admits he or she has been to a strip club “just because” is damnedy-damned for lust—especially someone who doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal. There will also be a few folks who don’t understand the point of an iconoclastic title.
On the left, others might accuse me of aiding the human trafficking industry. Why, don’t I know that there are prostitutes in urban Cleveland and that anyone who ever took off his or her clothes for money (except for Jennifer Aniston, Robin Williams, Kristen Stewart, the actors in Schindler’s List, Jessica Biel, Sacha Baron Cohen, Reese Witherspoon—even Helen Mirren) was the product of sexual abuse?
Look, I’m not saying that strip clubs are as banal as the local farmer’s market and would make an ideal field trip destination for high school freshman classes. I’m just saying that we need to chill out about demonizing the people who work in them.
So, yeah, I’m willing to be that guy who stands up for strippers.
If anything, to me, that’s what Jesus would do.
So, finally, to answer the question, allow me to quote myself:
Would Jesus hang out in strip clubs? Probably.
But more likely, Jesus would realize that trying to minister to exotic dancers with music blaring louder than a jumbo jet is a bit of a losing cause. Instead, he would probably find the nearest Waffle House and just lounge about at 3 a.m., waiting for perfumed ladies in eight-inch heels to show up, then offer to buy them pigs in a blanket and chat for a bit about where their life is heading.
Somewhere, a Christian stripper—that’s right, they exist—just read that sentence and is smiling.