“The contemporary evangelical movement to “end modern slavery” has become one of the most powerful, non-denominational humanitarian missions of the twenty-first century. The sensibilities, theologies, tactics, politics, and priorities of the “new abolitionists” provide a window into some of the most interesting trends in evangelical gender theology, the long history of “city missions” humanitarianism, and the landscape of evangelical entanglement with the American secular. ”
Over the last three decades, social justice-oriented evangelical Christians of various political stripes have become increasingly concerned about the problem of human trafficking. This issue has brought together Christians concerned about pornography and sex addiction, the social effects of immigration policy, and the exploitation of the poor in a globalized world. Widespread evangelical interest in the problem of human trafficking – particularly sex trafficking – has created an entire industry of non-profit service providers, foundations, advocacy organizations, missions, and parachurch ministries devoted to “ending modern slavery.” Their advocacy has spread beyond overtly religious spaces, making the movement to end human trafficking into one of the most significant religious and humanitarian movements of the twenty-first century. My project centers on an ethnographic study of a faith-based, anti-trafficking non-profit organization in New York City, Restore NYC, and intervenes in broader political and academic conversations about the nature of American evangelicalism; the neoliberalism of faith-based humanitarianism since the 1990s; and gender, affect, and genre in the “rescue industry.” I use ethnography, archival research, and popular media analysis to explicate the motivations, tactics, ideology, and theology of the contemporary anti-trafficking movement, while positioning it within the longer history of evangelical humanitarianism and city missions.