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February 5th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

The new Christian abolition movement

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Greensboro, North Carolina (CNN) —The truck-stop hooker is no Julia Roberts, the trucker in the cab with her no Richard Gere, and this truck stop off the highway could not be any farther from Beverly Hills, the staging ground for “Pretty Woman.”

The woman sports baggy shorts, a white T-shirt and frizzy hair. Her fat middle-aged pimp sits in a beat up red Honda, watching as his “lot lizard” moves from truck to truck, in broad daylight.  If this pimp has a cane it is for substance, not style.

She moves through the parking lot, occasionally opening a cab’s passenger-side door and climbing in.

The trucker and hooker disappear in the back for 10 minutes.

Danielle Mitchell watches from the other end of the parking lot and shakes her head.

“We know from talking to other victims and other agencies that girls are taken to truck stops and they’re actually traded,” she says, sitting in her car, a shiny silver sport utility vehicle, keeping a healthy 50-yard distance from the pimp.

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Mitchell is North Carolina human trafficking manager for World Relief.  World Relief is a Christian nonprofit attached to the National Association of Evangelicals and is best known for its efforts to combat global hunger and respond to disasters around the world.

Mitchell is trying to tackle a disaster in her home state.   And she is not alone.

Motivated in large part by their religious traditions of protecting the vulnerable and serving “the least of these,” as Jesus instructed his followers to do in the Gospel of Matthew, World Relief and other Christian agencies like the Salvation Army are stepping up efforts and working with law enforcement to stem the flow of human trafficking, which includes sex trafficking and labor trafficking.

“Jesus didn’t just go around telling people about himself.  He also healed the blind and healed the brokenhearted, he freed captives, and I think that it would be ridiculous to walk up to someone who is hurting and tell them, ‘Let me tell you about the Gospel,’ and then walk away while they’re still hurting,” Mitchell says.

In North Carolina, the result of those efforts can be seen in the number of victims of human trafficking being referred to World Relief for services, up 700% in 2011, Mitchell says.

“It’s not that North Carolina is all of a sudden trafficking more people,” Mitchell says. “It’s that we know what to look for and we’re actually identifying and rescuing them.”

Truck stops and sweet potatoes

North Carolina’s rich soil makes it an agricultural hub. It produces more sweet potatoes than anywhere else in the country.  The state acts as a crossroads for three major interstate highways. The mix of accessibility and low-paying farm jobs make a good working environment for traffickers, Mitchell says.

This truck stop is the type you think twice about.  It’s grimy and run down.

How badly do I really have to use the bathroom?  I bet I could hold out for another 12 miles.  That kind of place.

Mitchell walks in and politely asks the women behind the register if they have tape.

“Over there, honey,” the cashier says, pointing to a dimly lit portion of the store.

After paying for a roll of industrial packing tape, she tucks it in her purse and heads for the restroom.

In a stall on the far end, she shuts the door behind her and pulls out the tape and a poster with words in English and Spanish.

“Need help?” the poster asks. “Are you being forced to do something you don’t want to do?” There’s a toll free number, 888-373-7888, for the National Human Trafficking Hotline, run by the nonprofit Polaris Project.

More on the fight against modern-day slavery at the CNN Freedom Project

“A lot of times when girls are being trafficked they’re being controlled,” Mitchell says. “They’re often not allowed to get very far from their trafficker.  And we’ve found one of the very few times girls are alone is when they’re in the bathroom.”

She used to ask if she could hang posters in truck stop restrooms. Now she just hangs them.

That toll free hot line number is plastered on combs, lip balms and nail files that Mitchell and other anti-trafficking workers can slip discreetly to men and women they suspect might be victims. Slipping a potential client an anti-trafficking business card could be dangerous, even deadly, they say.

A comb, nail file and lip balm feature the number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

But it’s not the only way Mitchell gets in touch with victims.  Law enforcement is reaching out to her more and more.

When North Carolina law enforcement breaks up a trafficking ring, they call her.

She helps the victims get safe places to live, food and job training,  along with just being a conversation partner.

Since 2010, North Carolina has had a statewide coalition to fight human trafficking. Law enforcement officers are now trained in what to look for. The program includes rapid response teams made up of representatives from law enforcement, service providers, hospitals and charities. When a potential victim comes into a hospital or is discovered through an arrest, the team springs into action.

“Victims are not going to self-identify,” says Mitchell, who has since left World Relief and is considering going back to school after a lack of funding threatened to cut her hours to part time. “ They’re not going to say ‘I’m a victim of human trafficking.’ So the burden is really on the service providers and law enforcement and the community."

In North Carolina, the partnerships between those groups, she says, “have helped to rescue victims.”

Church and state in an unlikely coalition 

Christian groups working to combat trafficking are providing law enforcement with some much-needed relief.

“Because of the limitations of our work, we like to partner with organizations that can provide services,” says Kory Williford, a victim specialist with the FBI based in North Carolina.

“Human trafficking isn’t the only victim population we work with, so to have organizations who can provide care to our victims on a longer term basis than we are able to is huge,” she says.

“A lot of sex trafficking is occurring in this state” and labor trafficking is on the upswing, Williford says.

The FBI in North Carolina has been partnering with World Relief for several years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anand P. Ramaswamy, who focuses on human trafficking cases across the state from the federal prosecutors office in Greensboro, says he has been collaborating with local law enforcement on human trafficking.

“Those kind of cases have only recently been on the uptick,” he says. “As officers become more trained in what to look for, the number of cases goes up.”

The nation and the state are still working to catch up with the reality of trafficking, he says.

“Sometimes the victim was treated as part of the problem,” he says.  “In one instance a 16-year-old girl was charged with prostitution by local authorities.  So we have to go and sort of undo that.  That’s also the case where the person may have done something wrong, so they’re reluctant to come forward.”

Ramaswamy is keenly aware that his office and religious groups do not always have the same interests. His is in upholding and enforcing the law, while religious groups are interested in practicing their religion.

But the assistant U.S. attorney still believes in the partnership between church and state.

“On one hand the fact they’re a religious organization is not directly relevant,” he says. “However, if you look at the history of the abolitionist movement, it has always been religious communities and those are the people who are concerned enough to be active in it.

“And today with modern-day slavery the same is the case.”

The new Underground Railroad

Westover Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, is imagining what fighting modern-day slavery could look like. The nondenominational suburban church is cut from an evangelical cloth and has 5,000 members and a sprawling campus.

In 2011, the church started a ministry called “Abolition!” to fight human trafficking. It focuses on prayer, awareness and resources.

“In truth we didn’t know what we were going to do. We just knew we had a really strong passion for it,” says Dianne Stone, an "Abolition!" member. “We didn’t want to be a group that got together and said, ‘Oh we feel so bad for this.’ We wanted to do something and we wanted to make a difference.”

In a bright room off the sanctuary, Stone, Cambre Weller and Jennifer Craver, all members the group, explain why they got involved. They seem unlikely fighters against trafficking.

They could easily pass for a women’s Bible study group as they casually chat about their children and church activities before turning their attention to trafficking concerns in their area.

“It’s another thing to realize this is in your backyard and that’s our responsibility to address that and protect those who are being exploited,” Craver says.

What's the role of faith in fighting slavery?

Craver says the things they have learned about trafficking are horrible and keep her up at night. “I don’t want to know about trafficking, but I do know about it and as a Christian, I feel like I have to respond to that,” she says. “That is part of my calling.”

The group screens documentaries about human trafficking at other churches and sends out speakers to the Christian circuit. They also prepare emergency bags: canvas totes with a comb, brush, journal, pajamas, clean towels and other basics they learned that most trafficked women don’t have.

They keep a ready stash of bags for World Relief to distribute to victims, particularly those who are rescued during raids.

Mitchell says her faith has played a large role in her work to help victims of trafficking. “I don’t think I’m any different than anyone I work with, in vulnerability or dignity,” she says. “And man, I really believe that Christ saw everyone equally.”

Danielle Mitchell views her faith as integral to her work in fighting human trafficking.

“I could have been born in a brothel in India,” she says.

But there is a limit to how much personal faith she shares with clients.

“We’re completely client centered,” she says. “That means we’re not going to force our faith on anyone.  And I don’t talk to the clients about what I believe, unless they ask me.”

“If a client asks me and they want to go to a Buddhist temple, then I’m going to take them because that’s what they want.”

Prostituted not prostitute

Back at the truck stop, Mitchell explains that she hates the term “prostitute” and despises the phrase “lot lizard.”  She says it strips people of their dignity.

Instead, she refers to a “woman or man who is being prostituted.”  It is a slight change in wording that reveals a starkly different viewpoint.

“A lot of people think of sex trafficking or prostitution, they think it’s glamorous and that you can pinpoint someone who is selling sex or being sold for sex,” she says. “Usually it’s just average people who maybe aren’t taking care of themselves."

The prostitute, or woman being prostituted, or potential human trafficking victim, gets back into the beat up red Honda with the overweight pimp, who drives off, maybe after catching a glimpse of a journalist and activist watching them from a safe distance.

Mitchell calls the police to report what she just saw.

A few hours later, they call back and say the alleged pimp and alleged prostitute are long gone.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church and state • North Carolina • United States

soundoff (1,631 Responses)
  1. Non-Christian

    It is wonderful to see Christians using actions instead of words for a change. Too many Sunday-only Christians are what caused me to leave the Church, so I applaud these guys and encourage them to keep up the good work! Instead of just talking about how awful the world is, they are actually doing something to try and change it.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • MaB

      Christians do not "cause" others to leave church by being talkers and not doers. People who CHOOSE to leave do so because they CHOOSE to not follow Jesus. Jesus will not let you get by with that. Hun, you will have to own your choices in the end. Saying non-doer Christians CAUSED you to leave church is like saying you quit your job because the other employees didn't work.

      Regarding the story: It is nice to see people get involved in trying to help. There are so many -people- who just talk and do not do.

      February 15, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  2. billyjo

    Glad to see this church taking the Word of God and putting it into action!

    February 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • TheRationale

      Actually, the word of God, as written in the Bible, says nothing against s.ex slaves, and in fact has a few passages on how to manage them. So much for the word of God.

      February 15, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  3. Grace1954

    Posers the lot of us. We don't know what we don't know about God. But one thing I do know for sure: without love we are nothing and I can say this with certainty. Jesus is for love, all of the prophets were for love that is just a given. However, in our modern "objective" world where science rules, love is somewhere on the bottom. It's lust good looks and money that count. If you don't have this, you don't count. So much for science and modern thought. (Oh and to those who are in the know, they were here first you know so they should be able to do anything to anyone as long as they want it.)

    February 15, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  4. max

    Ah.. So its like a farmer getting a wolf to take care of a stray cat bothering his chickens.

    February 14, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  5. Antonio

    Wouldn't it be easier to remember the phone number if written as 1.888.3737.888 ?

    February 13, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  6. Admirer1

    Keep up the good work Danielle, blessed be 😉

    February 13, 2012 at 12:31 am |
  7. morris2196

    I find it strange that a group of people that we would all agree are trying to do good are bashed by so many of the people commenting here. Is the mere existence of Christians so upsetting?

    February 12, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      Most of the time, yes. But not always.

      February 14, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • T-Max73

      When I (as a taxpayer) have to subsidize them, fight them from attempting to teach pseudo science to my kids, shoo them away from my front door, and have innocent children's minds poisoned with self-deprecating nonsense-YES.

      February 15, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Keep Asking

      I would like to add the question why? T-Max73 began to answer this. Secondly is the mere existence of Christ upsetting and why?

      February 19, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  8. Annaliesa

    I don't consider myself to be religious or spiritual – non-theist, I guess. Don't really ponder the Higher Power deal. Never been my thing.

    However, I support Christian organizations in my community that are trying to tackle some of the world's nasty problems one at a time – support for teens who are pregnant, domestic violence, homelessness, mental disorders. I've worked in mental health, and I've had no problem referring people to these organizations. I find them, and people like the woman featured in this article, very inspiring. When I obtain my counseling license, I hope to work with an under-served population as well.

    It takes all kinds to make our world a better place. You play nicely with me, and I'll play nicely with you. I think a lot of us, regardless of faith or lack of, have similar goals. Enough of the bickering – time to get working on these kinds of issues.

    February 12, 2012 at 6:38 am |
  9. bobcarp

    how come when people disagree with christians they are told that they are "bashing christ or christianity", but when christians disagree with non-believers or followers of other religions they are "witnessing"? Nothing is worse than a hypocrite.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Luca Toni

      Bobcarp, YOU ARE AN IDIOT. you are the hypocrite, you atheist always have an anti christian agenda, you are a useless individual and maybe you should grow a brain before you comment.

      February 11, 2012 at 7:22 am |
    • Deej59

      My only agenda has been to live life by the "do unto others" rule. It's a good rule and I don't need to believe in God to follow that rule. Like most athiests I know, I don't want to take away your religious rights. I just don't want you trying to tell me what I should believe and how I should live my life. What Bob said here is legit. We see that double standard all the time. You'll say something awful about me now, making me sound like some evil radical who wants to take away your fun, when I really just want the same rights you enjoy. Because you DO get to practice and enjoy your religion. No one's taking that away from you. Show us the same courtesy, please, and accept that we believe as we do.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • momoya

      I think Luca Toni is what he calls bobcarp 🙂

      February 11, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • northern light

      To Luca Toni

      That is the point is it not ....to actually have a brain ....and use it..really use it...as in think.

      Believers of all stripes use their brain only when convenient....they can handle 2+2=4......but the common sense reasoning that states that people cannot walk on water ....rise from the dead ...or make the blind see ...seems to elude some parts of their brain function..

      February 13, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • John

      @Luca, you are as bad as bobcarp in your hypocritical generalizations of an entire group of people who don't share your views. And also, clearly to0 blind to see it.

      February 14, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • Mr Everyman

      To Northern Light: Magician walk on water with various devices, many people have had flat lining or near death experiences with out of body events – not just Jesus – reread Old and New Testaments, claims of "healers" inspire making technical devices to let the blind see. Legends and myths can point toward goals. The extraordinary is really extra ordinary, all within nature's laws that God does not violate because he made them.

      February 14, 2012 at 4:24 am |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      Luca, thanks for making the poster's point for them.
      Theists are constantly bashing atheists for bashing theists, etc...
      Bottom line, name one law atheists have tried to pass preventing you from going to church or believing in god, just one please.
      From the other side we have:
      DOMA
      Proposition 8
      just to name a few

      February 14, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  10. Godless-Logical_thinker

    There is no god, just myth / folklore. "Believers" are delusional and dangerous. We need science, fact, logic, sense and progress.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Greg

      What's interesing is our country is practicing less biblical principles than ever, but we have more problems today than ever.

      February 10, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • Luca Toni

      To you I say you are not even logical, why do you call yourself a thinker, you have no science that can explain everything. Science is man made theories, God is a fact not a myth like you stated. But obviously you are too ignorant to know that.

      February 11, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • igor

      really, atheism is religion as well as Christianity. both require faith. So please don't fool your self thinking that there is no GOD. in reality there is no atheists. Only if a person truly has all of the knowledge of the universe can say there an atheist. And since only being is GOD who can make that statement, and that would negate all that he is he to say so. he would not. SO your everyday atheist is agnostic, basically denying existence of GOD on the facts that they don't know and refuse to know GOD.

      February 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Spiritual One

      Here is what I don't understand about God:
      If God is all-powerful, why does He inflict so much pain and suffering on innocent children? If He is not all-powerful, why bother to worship Him?
      If God is loving, then why does He demand that you love Him before He will save you? Even as an imperfect human parent, I do not make conditions on my children before I loves them.
      And please don't try to tell me that Adam and Eve's choices doomed us – I totally reject that argument. A fair God would not punish me for what my great-great-great-great (etc) parents did thousands of years ago.

      February 12, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • John

      Greg, one has nothing to do with the other. It only does in your eyes because you want it to. Show some evidence... ANY evidence to support your ridiculous claim.

      February 14, 2012 at 1:37 am |
    • Mirosal

      @ Luca Toni .. you posted "God is a fact not a myth" .. ok, prove it. Show us your facts. What makes your 'god' any more real than the thousands of others that humans have had for untold millenia? Oh, and your buy-bull is NOT evidence. It is not accepted as evidence under established rules of evidence, because its source cannot be verified. So, what concrete tangible proof do you have?

      February 14, 2012 at 4:34 am |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      Greg, actually the US is one of the most religious countries on earth

      February 14, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • what1ever

      I'm not some rabid atheist, but if you think the US has more problems now than ever, you need to take a history class. Heck, we don't even has as many problems as we did during the last administration!

      February 14, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  11. pinostabaum

    christianity is already embroiled in an abolition movement. its called abortion.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • that's why

      There is 1 out of 4 believers having abortion. On the other hand, there are 4 out of 5 non-believers have it.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:03 am |
    • KeithTexas

      that's why – There is 1 out of 4 believers having abortion. On the other hand, there are 4 out of 5 non-believers have it.

      that's why – You are a liar, not a Christian

      February 11, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  12. 3N1Amen

    Yes, she is a good example of living more Christ-like. A Christian...true follower of Jesus. That is why I get sad to hear that some do not believe in God. Alot of people follow what "man" is doing, like some Christians who fall, there are many who watch and keep their eyes on man causing them to distance themselves from the Perfect One...God. We need to keep our eyes of Jesus, follow Him, not man.
    Always remember whether you believe or not that God loves YOU!

    February 9, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • KeithTexas

      I don't have to believe in your God or her God to understand and appreciate what she is trying to do.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  13. S

    Guess what? Being a Christian doesn't mean you're a good person. Being a good person means you're a good person. Crazy logic, I know.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • northern light

      to ....S

      Hey let's not get all crazy now by bringing up that word "logic"
      You don't want to be upsetting all those religious folks ......that there logic stuff is only for the non believers......that logic stuff makes religious folk think too hard........ and hurts their brains.

      February 14, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  14. S

    It's so nice to see real Christians doing what Jesus actually said to do. I'm an atheist, but the rare glimpses I get of real Christians inspire me. They are few and far between. The last one I met was over a year ago. My friend and I left a concert early and got locked out of our other friend's car. It was the worst winter we've had in Minnesota for a long time, so we started milling around to warm up. This guy came up to us and asked us if we wanted some free hot apple cider. Of course we said yes, and this nice man gave us the cider and asked how we were doing and suggested we go down the street to an open cafe because we looked cold. We asked why he was standing around outside handing out cider, and he said he does it every weekend night with a couple of friends, and he gets a regular crowd of homeless people to converse with, whom he checks on and feeds and connects to any social service they might need. He didn't say anything about his faith until I directly asked him, and I was blown away by his humility and compassion. It's one thing to claim you're a Christian; it's something else entirely to live as a Christian and follow the directions of Jesus. So many people don't get this. Which is part of the reason I'm a cynical atheist. But even for this cynical atheist, finding people who are truly good and selfless in this world stops me in my tracks and fills me with thankfulness and hope. Ms. Mitchell is one of those people. I wish there were more people just like her. The world would be a great place.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • 3N1Amen

      Yes, she is a good example of living more Christ-like. A Christian...true follower of Jesus. That is why I get sad to hear that some do not believe in God. Alot of people follow what "man" is doing, like some Christians who fall, there are many who watch and keep their eyes on man causing them to distance themselves from the Perfect One...God. We need to keep our eyes of Jesus, follow Him, not man.
      Always remember whether you believe or not that God loves YOU! 🙂

      February 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Reader48

      Amen

      February 9, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  15. Chris

    Knowing right and wrong is not anywhere close to being able predicting the future. Your sentences are put together well though.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  16. AGuest9

    Again, if the illegals weren't allowed in in the first place, this wouldn't be happening.

    February 9, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • CosmicC

      I know this may be hard for you to accept, but the idiots on the radio are lying to you. Some mytical boogie man is not to blame for all of the problems in this country. Scap-goating is what led to the holocaust. Now to the point at hand. A victim of human trafficking can come from any background. White suburban youth are susceptible, veterans are susceptible. You can accept that or just stick you head back in the sand.

      February 9, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Johnnnn

      What Cosmic said ^^

      February 9, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Godless-Logical_thinker

      Xtians should welcome and care for the poor of any race or background. But USA isn't Xtian.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • KeithTexas

      What CosmicC said

      February 11, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • what1ever

      Why are some people so obsessed with illegals? If I were to list the most pressing issues this country should be working on, illegal immigration wouldn't even make the top 15.

      February 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Alyssa

      You're poor point notwithstanding, I don't think illegals are "allowed in." In fact that's what makes them illegal.

      February 17, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  17. Mark Lewis

    check that-"GIVE and ye shall receive" either way, just a seductive add with a message the the article seems to be fighting.

    February 8, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Jaime

      I thought the same thing!

      February 9, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  18. abdelaziz mohamed osman abubakr

    dear.world relief
    i'm always keeping in touch with world relief website and read what the new in this humanity organization,i'm still sudan and fighting getting back usa soon regards for miss p.
    regard's
    kashol

    February 8, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  19. Wendi

    “Jesus didn’t just go around telling people about himself. He also healed the blind and healed the brokenhearted, he freed captives, and I think that it would be ridiculous to walk up to someone who is hurting and tell them, ‘Let me tell you about the Gospel,’ and then walk away while they’re still hurting,” Mitchell says.
    Such a true statement, 'be all things to all men' doesn't mean taking advantage of someone who is hurting to shove Jesus down their throat, then walk away thinking you did a good thing.. People find Jesus through those that emulate Him, not those that spout Bible verses that they obviously don't even fully understand. Mitchell is a wonderful person, a true Christian warrior. Kudos to these organizations as well, human trafficking is a problem that nobody really talks about, having worked in a truck stop in my younger years, I've seen it firsthand, and had to call the cops several times due to the pimps punishing their victims for one transgression or another. I wish I'd had some of the items with the phone number on them when I worked there, most of them seemed to want to be out of it but feared violence from their pimps and lacked the self confidence to believe they could ever hold a 'straight' job. God bless everyone involved, you are meeting a need most people don't even know exists and most don't want to admit.

    February 8, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • balanceBee

      Yes, I agree and very much appreciate your comment. This work being done is the way to do it.

      February 8, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  20. Tom

    I had the privilege of working with World Relief (in their work with Bosnian, Sudanese and other refugees back at the turn of the millennium) and I am so glad to see that they are in the thick of this struggle to see women, children (perhaps men, too?) freed from this kind of bondage.

    I wish those of you who prefer to either bash Christianity or (perhaps worse) poorly represent Christ by belittling skeptics would take your volley of insults somewhere more appropriate. What's at stake here is the lives of the vulnerable, and this is a feature about Christians who are bold enough to do something about it. Period. Any other comments are simply out of place here.

    February 7, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Nii Croffie

      Ashrakay repost ur question as the board was wiped in the middle of the reply.

      February 7, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • ashrakay

      @Nii Croffie, I'm not sure which question you are referring to, but here is my latest comment to you. "You REALLY do buy into the whole garden of eden story, don't you? This alone is shocking enough, but you also seem to be taking great liberties with the story and imposing your own convenient interpretation to justify god's actions. You talk about a conscience as if it is something bestowed on people, yet we know that children have to develop a conscience. They do this by experimentation with their actions to see what kind of result they will have returned. This is science and I suspect it's a little out of your paradigm. If I step into your view then, I should assume that Adam and Eve were created with a fully developed conscience, given to them by god, with absolutely no experience of right and wrong or the reward/consequence system that the brain chemistry operates on by every other living creature on this planet.

      Then you have to ask yourself, why did god put the tree there to begin with, if not to test them? It seems that if so much were riding on this 1 choice to eat a fruit or not to (i.e., endless generations of suffering, disease, toil, violence...), then they must KNOW that these were the consequences of their actions. Otherwise, again, they were not fully prepared for the consequences of said action and could not exercise an act of conscience. So do you believe that Eve and Adam knew this would be the result of their action? If not, we are back to what I call the innocence of the child mind. If they did know that taking a bite of fruit would cause such suffering, why would they not do everything in their capability to avoid this tree? In fact, why wouldn't they try to destroy it? To do otherwise or even knowingly eat the fruit would mean they must truly be corrupt before eating.

      I mean, I don't want to be the destroyer of your comfort zone. Personally, I find these back-and-forths beneath a respectable level of human discourse. But, if you find yourself in a sinking boat because there's holes all through it, and you're rushing around ripping off your own clothes to fill the holes... Maybe stop blaming the water and realize that the boat is the problem. A) you can most likely swim on your own, or B) one of us will be along to help you out."

      February 8, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.