By Reagan Keith
Special to The Alabama Baptist
Efforts to combat human trafficking have recently experienced a new hurdle coming from a group seemingly on the same side.
The conspiracy theory group known as QAnon, which gained popularity during the 2020 presidential election, claims there is a secret satanic group of pedophiles among Democratic elites who are stealing children for cult purposes. With this accusation, QAnon has tied one of its main conspiracies to the reality of child trafficking.
For years the organization SaveTheChildren used a Twitter hashtag (created to reflect their name — #savethechildren) to fight for the dignity and rights of children. Although they continue to do real work for this same purpose, their hashtag has been taken over by those spreading the QAnon conspiracy theories.
So now there is confusion about the original source of the hashtag and the latest conspiracy theories, and longtime efforts to fight human trafficking are being tossed aside as collateral damage.
Advocacy organizations alarmed
Organization after organization that works to end human trafficking is expressing concern about the claims of QAnon.
The Polaris Project, which runs the national hotline for human trafficking said, “QAnon and similar groups have an agenda that has little or nothing to do with reducing human trafficking and whose real aim is creating an atmosphere of fear and division. … Polaris and many other organizations that work to protect children and families are deeply concerned that the spread of intentional disinformation about how child sex trafficking happens in most situations is detracting from the very real, very important work of helping families to protect children and working to change the conditions in which trafficking thrives — poverty, abuse, addiction, hopelessness, discrimination, to name but a few.”
In an attempt to understand what is actually happen, consider two aspects.
First, child trafficking does happen in the United States but the demographic most targeted is not the suburbs, but instead in the most overlooked of society, particularly those in the welfare system. The paranoia created by those who are acting as if children are being plucked from the streets of affluent neighborhoods seems unwarranted, even though the horror of trafficking is very real.
Second, the United States is not the only perpetrator nor is it the largest in the crime of child trafficking. Not only are the young trafficked in other parts of the world, but also the old — and in a variety of ways.
According to the International Labor Organization, “At any given time in 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labor and 15.4 million in forced marriage.” Out of this number, which has likely increased, 1 in 4 victims are children, which means 3 in 4 victims are not children.
Child trafficking is not less of a tragedy because the numbers are smaller, but we should recognize that our view in America is limited. We are blind if we see child trafficking as a local atrocity born out of some secret politically based cult when the evil is widespread around the globe and has been for many years.
We give our nation too much credit for the evil at hand when we disregard the suffering taking place globally. In the rankings of places where human trafficking is the worst the United States does not even break the top ten.
How can we come together to combat evil and fight this injustice against human dignity?
To fight we must start with revelation. Our source of revelation determines how we will act. This is the major problem that needs to be addressed with the QAnon conspiracy at hand.
The phrase “Do your own research” pops up again and again when looking at interviews with the QAnon followers. The caveat added is that the research needs to be “the right research” and not “untrustworthy sources” of information, like the mainstream news or even those organizations who are deeply committed to fighting the child trafficking problem.
But the conspiracy built upon Save the Children preys upon the good emotions of Christian men and women and perverts them to depend on emotions rather than facts as the ultimate source of authority over what one should do.
A sad reality in all of this from the standpoint of the church is a loss of submission to God’s authority. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and came that we may have life and have it abundantly. We in the church are not immune to conspiracy, but we fight conspiracy with more than feelings for just causes. We fight it with our rootedness in the faith that Jesus’ kingdom has been inaugurated and continues to break through day by day.
Authority of God’s word
When we confess the authority of God’s word over our lives, we confess that the story of Scripture is marked first by the fallenness of God’s creation. After the fall, the dignity intrinsic to being God’s image bearers is subject to abuse. Some of those created in His image ironically (and tragically) no longer see Creation as a means to glorify God, but instead an opportunity to take others created in His image to be used for sex and labor.
Time and again God displays His care for those who are vulnerable and abused whether that be the orphan, widow or sojourner. Our God cares about what He makes, and it is irresponsible to sideline ourselves when evil seeks to abuse His given image. The fallenness of the world, not a proposed demonic cult of child-trafficking Democrats, is sufficient to explain this horrible global practice. And describing the problem in a way that is biblical and accurate helps us to be a part of the solution instead of being a hindrance to those involved in the excruciating everyday work of fighting this modern-day slavery.
To combat human trafficking there are real and legitimate groups both local and international that are working day and night to eradicate this evil. One church in New Orleans was even honored by the FBI for the work done in coordination with local and state officials to target the Super Bowl a few years back.
Churches have a real opportunity to partner with local and state officials in tackling this evil. The truth is it takes effort to get your church more involved. The good news is there are groups already working and willing to help. A starting point is the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which provides a national list of resources already fighting human trafficking. The North American Mission Board also put out a resource for thinking about engaging the culture. And The Alabama Baptist newspaper has covered the issue of human trafficking for at least 15 years.
I pray new awareness of an old evil will lead our churches to faithful action not reflective of the culture but of the gospel.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Reagan Keith is a student at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama.