Category Archives: Assignment 7

Emergency Sex

There are always uncertainties ahead, but there is always one certainty-God’s will is good.” -Bruce Wilkinson 

For most people, they live out their daily lives without thinking twice about God. It seems that we only pray to God in a time of need or when we are asking him for something, but the other 99% of the time He is not even a thought in our minds. But when tragedy strikes, God seems to be the first person that we blame. When something terrible happens, it automatically becomes God’s fault, and we choose a particular tragedy as the reason to why we don’t pray to him on a regular basis. No one thinks about the over used saying, “everything happens for a reason.” However, when we want or need something we pray to God asking for this, as if he will just respond to all our needs. While carrying out peace missions in various parts of the world, Ken, Heidi and Andrew all had their moments of doubt in God because of the horrible tragedies they were forced to encounter and sights of fellow human beings that one could not even imagine.


Towards the beginning of the book, when Heidi is in Kenya, she kind of pokes fun at God. She is staying with a man, James, and when she wakes up in the morning she is trying to find a bathroom. The book mentions that Heidi is “praying to God he’ll (James) tell me it’s behind an as-yet-unnoticed door (Cain, Postlewait, & Thomson, pg. 100).”  It is kind of funny that she says she was praying to God that a bathroom would be in a convenient place, yet she probably wasn’t actually praying to God, kneeling on the floor or anything. A lot of people say “I’m praying to God that blah blah blah,” or “I swear to God, etc.” but they don’t actually mean what they are saying. It is just an expression that the name of God happens to be a part of. Towards the end of the book, even though Heidi does not come out and say that she is questioning God, I think it can be assumed. Her lover of three years, Marc, dies suddenly in an electrical accident, followed by the death of her mother a few days later. I think Heidi felt that after all the work and time she put into trying to maintain peace and love in foreign lands, she is repaid by the death of two people she loved. As I mentioned, she doesn’t come right out and say anything about God, and she doesn’t appear to be too religious throughout the book, but I think she was definitely having some second thoughts about Him during her time of despair.

Ken seems to be a tad more religious than Heidi, and mentions the name of God a few times throughout the book. While in Mogadishu, Ken makes a reference to God in relation to people from the UN being killed. He says that “you can always tell who their friends were as they shuffle broken-hearted around the base. You just put your head down and walk past. There but for the grace of God (Cain, Postlewait, & Thomson, pg. 122).” I this instance, I don’t think that Ken is really blaming or doubting God but he is saying that the UN members who were killed were there in Mogadishu for God and doing and fighting for what they believed was right. I find it interesting the few times that Ken mentions God in relation to Andrew. I think that Ken almost lives through him when it comes to his faith. Still in Mogadishu, Ken has a flashback to Cambodia, where he remembers that he was originally intimidated by Andrew because “he doesn’t bend and his faith doesn’t bend and that’s precisely what I respect about him (Cain, Postlewait, & Thomson, pg. 175).” Even through all of the terrible things Andrew has to see and face as a doctor in warring countries, he remains strong, at least that is how he is perceived by others. Another instance where Ken refers to Andrew and his faith is when the two are in Rwanda during the genocide. Ken finally sees that Andrew is starting to break down under the weight of everything he has succumbed to over the past couple of years. The burden of not being able to help in certain areas he was assigned to starts to take a toll on him. Ken says it’s like a cycle, “the worse it gets, the more work for Andrew; the more work he does, the worse it gets (Cain, Postlewait, & Thomson, pg. 227).” Ken also goes to say that “it’s painful to see him wrestle with his conscience. The God he was taught as a boy to serve is merciful and just, but there’s no evidence of justice or mercy in Bosnia or Rwanda (Cain, Postlewait, & Thomson. pg. 227).”

Andrew is definitely the most religious out of the three, and it shows throughout the book. I feel that Andrew almost felt a calling by God to travel to these warring countries, and as a doctor, try to save as many lives as possible, or bring peace to the families of the deceased. In the beginning of the book, Andrew is confident in himself and in his faith, but this is slowly torn apart, and by the end of the book he is a mess. He is unsure of the work that he is doing and his faith in God. In the beginning of the book, while in Haiti, Andrew says, “But I’m not here on a whim. I know how to save lives and it’s my duty to do so (Cain, Postlewait, & Thomson, pg. 108).” This statement surely shows the confidence that he has. He also says, “my father taught me that when I was a boy, when he would kneel beside the wooden bed, showing me how to pray to a good God…It’s been over twenty years since I prayed beside my bed with my father. But as I take my first steps on Haitian soil, I’m still answerable to those beliefs (Cain, Postlewait, & Thomson, pg. 108).” Through these statements it is clear that Andrew has all the faith in the world in God and he believes that as an individual he cannot be broken by what he encounters on his peace missions. However, towards the end of the book, Andrew finds himself atop a church in the bell tower in Rwanda. By this point, he is really questioning God and how he could let such tragic things happen to human beings. He has just spent time going through piles and piles of dead bodies, many of which were killed in the very church he is present at. He wonders how God could let these brutal acts take place, in a church nonetheless. While atop the bell tower, it is mentioned that Andrew decides God “heard all the desperate prayers from the kids and the half-dead women…because everyone was praying for something, if only a quick death, facing a machete through the head. And God just pissed all those prayers back down to earth, leaving everyone to die. This can’t be the God I prayed to as a missionary kid…this is a pitiless stranger and to pray to him up here in this bell tower would be absurd (Cain, Postlewait, & Thomson, pg. 243).” It is obvious that at this point in his life, Andrew is seriously doubting God. He evens mentions that it can’t be the same God he use to pray to all the time with his father. He doesn’t want to believe that the God he spent so much of his time praying to, would let heinous acts happen to innocent people.

In an article titled “Caring for Others, Caring for Yourself,” it mentions that common post-traumatic symptoms in the category of spiritual discontents are loss of faith in God and belief one has been cursed by God (Ehrenreich). Loss of faith in God was definitely a common theme for Ken, Heidi and Andrew, but it is the latter that is interesting to me. It doesn’t appear in the book that any of the three feel cursed by God, but even though it is not mentioned in the book, it is quite a possibility. Maybe one, or all three of them, feel that they are being punished for some reason by God, especially Andrew who has the biggest faith in Him. This book leaves many questions to be answered about the faith of Ken, Heidi and Andrew. Was it restored once they returned back to their normal lives? Did they remain broken in faith?


Ehrenreich, John H., Ph.D. “Caring for Others, Caring for Yourself.” N.p., July 2002. Web. 18 June 2013 <>.
Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone. London: Ebury, 2004. Print.
“Christian Quotes on Trust and Trusting God in Times of TroubleGod.” Daily Christian Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 June 2013. <>.
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Balancing the Realism of Humanitarian Aid and Personal Religion


Ken started out as a student at Harvard, studying underneath the marble carving that read “NOT UNDER MAN BUT UNDER GOD AND THE LAW” but sought something more than corporate tax law (Cain, Postlewait and Thomson 4) His thesis in school was coupled with the Holocaust and the Jews, and he sought out Cambodia and further humanitarian aid because of the Holocaust’s legacy, and the belief that genocide should never happen again, and that “god and the law” would set things right. Ken even acknowledges the silliness in trying to conquer such a huge task at the end of Emergency Sex: “I planned to harness the power of an ascendant America to personally undo the Holocaust. Don’t laugh. We were young. We weren’t the first, and won’t be the last, to venture forth overseas with grand ideas” (Cain, Postlewait and Thomson 291).

Ken says that he is not religious, but we can see that he holds a duty to his ancestors that were. In trying to stop genocide, Ken had seen a lot and at times it is too much for him to bear. But in the end, Ken relates back to two quotes that can be found in the Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem one which inspires him to write this book: “Son of man, keep not silent, forget not deeds of tyranny, cry out at the disaster of a people, recount it unto your children and they unto theirs from generation to generation” (Cain, Postlewait and Thomson 291). As seen throughout Emergency Sex, Ken tried in many ways to get rid of memories of the Holocaust which were just reoccurring in the areas he visited. I don’t believe that Ken has a connection to God himself, but that he feels the duty as an ancestor to those victims of the Holocaust and also a duty to victims unrelated now.

There are both positives and negatives to any field of work, and humanitarian aid can definitely amplify these polar opposites. When researching the stresses of being involved with humanitarian aid, one of them is that “Separation from familiar religious frameworks, exposure to radically different views about spirituality and religion, and exposure to traumatic events can challenge and alter a humanitarian worker’s religious beliefs” (“How Can Humanitarian…”). I believe that traumatic events are what affected the people in Emergency Sex the most because they were removing their own views from the equation and trying to help the victims of the places they visited, no matter what their religion was. According the the Meichenbaum, 60% of American think that religions matters are important in how they conduct their lives (Meichenbaum 5). I believe that this statistic definitely applies to one of the people featured in Emergency Sex, Andrew.

Andrew was a strong person at the beginning of Emergency Sex, whose faith in God faltered as the pressures of humanitarian aid wore on him. Andrew was my favorite person in this book, because he went from a humanitarian hero in Cambodia to helpless in Haiti. The fact that he was unable to do anything in Haiti wore on his soul, and when he was in Rwanda his faith reaches its end. Ken says about seeing Andrew in Rwanda: “It’s painful to see him wrestle with his conscience. The God he was taught as a boy to serve is merciful and just, but there’s not evidence of justice or mercy in Bosnia or Rwanda. Andrew’s view of the world, and of himself, is rotting in those mass graves too” (Cain, Postlewait and Thomson 227). Andrew admits his loss of connection to god as he sits in a chapel in Rwanda where murders occurred: “This can’t be the God I prayed to as a missionary kid or at the communion rail as a medical student. This is a pitiless stranger and to pray to him up here in this bell tower would be absurd” (Cain, Postlewait and Thomson 243).

After seeing all of the things the have, I am not surprised that Andrew loses his faith. It seems that for both Ken and Andrew, belief in a higher power to promote justice and what is right cannot be relied on. Andrew even says: “We should have been capable of changing just this tiny sliver of Rwandan history, but we didn’t. People kill. The God I worship doesn’t protect the weak, so only people can stop it” (Cain, Postlewait and Thomson 244). But as we also see from their experiences detailed in Emergency Sex that one person alone cannot make a difference. Ken pledges to get his own voice out there, but a single person can only do so much. Like in In The Eyes of Others, MSF also takes time to understand the locals and how to make a better impact on the world. But like Polman says in her interviews and War Games, people need to work together in order to make a real difference.


Works Cited:

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story From Hell on Earth. New York: Hyperion, 2004. Print.

“How Can Humanitarian Work Be Stressful?” Headington Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 June 2013. <>.

“In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid.” In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2013. <>.

Meichenbaum, Donald. “Trauma, Spirituality and Recovery: Toward a Spiritually-Integrated Psychotherapy.” The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 June 2013. <>.

Polman, Linda. War Games. London: Penguin, 2010. Print.

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A7: Emergency Sex

Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures

Below are some questions that might guide your reading through this “tell all” book.  Some of questions are fairly straightforward, but a few are such that you could -and people have- written book-length answers to.  For this post I want you to select and respond to one of the questions that interests you most, keeping in mind that A8 will allow you to select another of these questions.  Alternately, you are welcome to write and then answer your own question related to the book and/or to blend together elements of the questions below.

Some thought questions for Emergency Sex

  • Given what you learn in this book about the UN’s actions –and inactions- before, during and after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, how can you explain UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s stand down directive to General Dallaire, the ranking UN official on the ground at the time?  Could the genocide have been averted?  If so, why wasn’t it?  After reading Ken Cain’s Guardian essay about Annan, what do you think of his assessment?
  • How does knowing about the events in Somalia and particularly in Mogadishu help you understand the US and UN reaction the actions of the Hutu in Rwanda?  How does this lesson help you understand how other historical events are related (give an example)?  How are the actions of the US and UN in relation to the crisis in Syria right now better understood by learning from the lessons of the past?  At what point -if any- should the US and UN respond to ongoing concerns in Egypt and Turkey?
  • Given what the three authors have seen and experienced around the world, what has this done to their personal sense of Emergency Sexreligion and God?  Cite at least one example where one of the three questioned God.
  • Given everything you have read in this book both about the protagonists and the people in the countries where they worked, what is your answer to the question “are people basically good or evil”?  Given all we know about how we are all products of our cultural upbringing, can we meaningfully ask if some cultures are basically “good or bad” as well?
  • Based on this book, what is your assessment of the UN?  Is it a good organization that has a few “bad apples” or is it a bad organization with a few “good apples”?  Does asking the question in that way seem overly simplistic?  If yes, rewrite the question to have it reflect the appropriate level of complexity.
  • Which of the three -Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson- seems to have been more changed by their experiences by the end of the book?  Which would you like to meet in person, and what questions would you ask them?  Who was the most likeable?  The least likeable?  Why?  How can you use the concept of moral career as you describe their journeys?  How does your reading of Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit help you better understand this concept?
  • The title of this book certainly makes an impact at first glance and indeed likely led to more sales.  What do you think of the title?  Is it misleading or usefully descriptive?  Can you think of a better alternate title?
  • What functions does a “tell all” book like this serve?  Why do you think the three friends went forward with publication?  What other “tell all” books can you think of and how does this one compare in terms of impact?
  • As of spring of 2011, HBO was in production with a TV series based on this book. Reports are that Russell Crowe bought the screen rights from the authors and casting has taken place.  If you were screenwriting the pilot for this series, which scenes would you put in to make the most impact and tell the story in a way that the authors would be proud?
  • Are there classes or groups of people that you would recommend read this book?  What would you hope that they would learn from the experience?  Are the groups of people for whom you think reading this book would be too disturbing?  Why or why not?  How important do you think it is to have someone more experienced and/or mature help people through making sense of this book?  Would a set of thought questions be better handed out before or after the reading was completed?



  • Due by 10:00pm EST June 18th.
  • Late posts will be downgraded at least one letter grade.
  • Comments to at least two colleague’s posts by  June 19th by 10:00PM EST.
  • At least three citations: at least one from text and/or other assigned reading, and at least two from outside academic sources.  Note:  you are to read/watch/listen to all of the material in the hyperlinks in the parent post above; your contact with the material should be apparent in your post.
  • List references at the bottom of the page (MLA format).
  • At least one photo and/or video link.
  • Minimum 0f 500 words (excluding references).
  • Grade will be based on quality and quantity of response to the post prompt including adherence to the above benchmarks.
  • Keep in mind that you are writing for a broad audience that is educated and interested in this topic; infuse your post with the sociology you are learning/have learned in a non-jargonistic manner

Please check Assignments/Assignment 7 before you Publish.

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