via Daily Prompt: Paragon
A paragon is a person or thing that represents the standard of excellence for a particular quality or behavior. People with shared values agree that the qualities are beneficial to the group and will support those possessing them in various ways. One of the most visible is inclusion into a community: people who have similar values and aspirations will tend to interact with each other frequently, ultimately alienating others, even if not done intentionally.
Everyone is groomed to some extent to fit into the society in which one is born. The more one is prepared, the more one is guaranteed for success, and the more seamless is one’s transition from birth to adulthood. Nature has endowed some with qualities, gifts, and talents that surpass their peers; and others have been lucky to receive the nurture to make them fit. And then there are those who have to fight to find and keep a place, while others teeter on the periphery of society. The latter are just faces, and no one pays attention to their existence, but a few from this group are considered as “necessary evils.”
The necessary evils live in the shadows, but society knows their names. They have survival skills, and they are aware of the community norms, but they don’t follow them. Modern day drug lords, corrupt lawyers; ruthless politicians; loan sharks; prostitutes and others who are apparently no paragons of virtue fall into this category. Prostitution, by its very nature, is a stigmatized profession because it defies what is supposed to be an act of love, honor, and commitment between two adults. It is considered “the world’s oldest profession” because it has been existence for an inordinately long time in virtually all cultures of the world. Moreover, men and women have earned a living from it. Many people may be shocked to learn that male prostitution was practiced in the Ancient Near East and Greco-Roman antiquity because women have dominated this institution for centuries.
Even more surprising, prostitution originated as a ritualistic sexual activity that was performed within the context of religious worship to appease the many fertility gods found in ancient cultures. Exchange of money for sexual intercourse between two people occurred over time. Prostitution was a common practice in Ancient Greece and Rome, and it is known that some patrons paid handsomely for the sexual services they received.
Today, outright prostitution is somewhat reviled and prohibited to some extent in Western society. How much of the law enforced against it depends on how law enforcement officials view its existence: whether it’s a crime or harmless vice. Furthermore, some of the well-heeled paragons of society are covertly involved in this trade. They cover their tracks well while exploiting young girls and “renting” them out to men seeking sexual pleasures. People know that prostitution occurs in various ways in society, but it is not something someone discusses in polite society. Although Christianity is still the dominant religion in many of these societies and prohibits sexual sins, needless to say, their citizens do not abstain from engaging in them because secularism is on the rise.
Talking about Christianity, if one examines the Bible, there are references to the subject of prostitution. There is the story of Tamar who posed as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law in sleeping with her. He impregnated her, and she gave birth to a son who became part of the lineage of Christ. However, the most well-known of the two women is Rahab, the harlot. She was the woman who allowed two Israelites to escape from her countrymen by first hiding them on her roof and later letting them down from a wall with a scarlet rope. Because of her heroism and faith in the Hebrew God, she saved her family and the Jewish nation from annihilation. She married a Jewish man, and God blessed her (and also Tamar) to be one of Christ’s maternal ancestors.
Rahab led a life of immorality before her conversion to Judaism. She was a necessary evil in her society because she catered to the many travelers who stopped over at her brothel in Jericho. Not only did she bring revenue, but she could learn secrets from wayfarers that she could pass on to the authority and protect them from potential danger. Although her vocation was not socially acceptable, she was tolerated. The Book of Joshua records that the king of Jericho sent a message to Rahab to turn over the Israelite spies to his messengers:
The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” 3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land (Joshua 2:2-3, KJV).
Had the children of Israel not succeeded with their plans to destroy Jericho, Rahab would have been tried for treason. She was a prostitute, a liar, and a traitor: qualities that were the antitheses of virtue. However, through the work of grace, she was mentioned with the Hebrew matriarch, Sarah, as a paragon of faith(Hebrews 11:31). Shernett Ford states in The Scarlet Thread: Tainted Women that: