The Christian-based organization Salvation Army will soon be sending its troops to an unlikely place: a sexuality expo in South Africa. Members will attend the event next month as a way of being a representative of the "Christian understanding of sexuality," say officials with the group.
Carin Holmes, spokeswoman for the Salvation Army, said in a statement that the Salvation Army's presence is planned to be a show of availability, not one of judgment.
"If Jesus Christ was on earth today, he would be standing beside us at Sexpo," said Holmes, who is part of The Salvation Army's Southern Africa Territory. "We're not going there to condemn anyone. We aren't going to lecture people…We're going there to be available."
Scheduled to take place at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg September 26-29, the Sexpo, or "Health, Sexuality & Lifestyle Expo", boasts of being the largest adult-themed event of its kind.
"The aim of the exhibition is to educate, inform, entertain and celebrate our sexuality in a fun, exciting and safe atmosphere," reads a Sexpo press release. "Sexpo is not just about the entertainment though, we offer a vast number of diverse exhibitors ensuring that there is something for everyone and for those of you on the prowl for that fun, unique or even special gift options for friends or loved ones, Sexpo will not disappoint!"
Features promised by Sexpo organizers include adult film stars, other celebrities, aerial artists, pole-dancing fitness acts, hypnotists, comedians, various stage productions, a "Music Fest" and "our world famous amateur strip."
Not all agree with the Salvation Army's decision to become involved in Sexpo. Barton Gingerich of the Institute on Religion & Democracy wrote a blog entry on "Juicy Ecumenism" regarding the Christian organization's involvement.
"First of all, Holmes's statements mark a betrayal of General William Booth's legacy. While he and his fellow workers were no strangers to seedy levels of human existence (including prostitution), they worked to call sex workers and everyone else to repentance from such lifestyles," wrote Gingerich. "Secondly, participation in a pornographic conference fails to resemble Christ's habit of breaking bread with prostitutes and tax collectors. The Sexpo is a place where leaders in the legalized sex industry advertise and promote themselves – it is where sin is promoted as an industry. Hardly a parallel exists in the pages of Scripture."