Friday, September 29, 2023

The first to be banned...

 There is no doubt or disagreement that parents should be involved in the education of their children. In fact, most teachers I know, are more disappointed with those parents who are never available for a student-teacher conference, than with those who are present and engage difficult issues.

Problems arise though, as parents with a special agenda organize, to promote a certain point of view for “public,” not private, schools. We try hard to function as a democracy in this country, so Moms for Liberty are part of the “public” when we speak about the “public” school. They deserve to be heard. But they also need to listen, as those responsible for the education of our young deserve a platform to engage the conversation too.

In a democracy, if there is no satisfactory resolution, the ballot box is always available. Even the culture wars can be conducted with common sense and nonviolence. (Although one hates to see the education of the young become a political and partisan football.)

There is one segment of this part of the culture wars I would like to address, and believe it has an underlying truth that impacts all the others. A fundamental concern for me is the idea of banning books. I found a passionate letter to the editor by a former Brookings teacher riveting and accurate with a historical reminder. “Book banners have never ended up on the right side of history.”

But if books are going to be banned, then I am convinced that the first one on the list has to be the Bible. I’m willing to wager book banners have children who are given a Bible by their church after graduating from sixth grade Sunday School, or at the end of Confirmation class, or for some other reason, and they are proud parents that their child has their own Bible. Little do they know what is in it.

The violence in the Scriptures is horrendous. You not only have several tribes wiping out another, but you have a God wiping out the whole of life on earth, except for a few. One wonders if a child reading those stories today wonders what God is thinking as he waits on the roof for help from a flood or watches TV while apartment houses explode in Ukraine.

How does a child respond to the idea of rulers killing new born children, totally and indiscriminately, to protect their own place of power, with only one child escaping in the two different stories of Moses and Jesus. Should our children have to read about the slaughtering of children in the Bible when they have to worry about it going to school every day?
Or isn’t it gruesome to hang people on a cross? Is that what happens to good people right along with criminals, if you fall foul with the rulers? And nails! Shouldn’t there be blood dripping from the hands and feet in all the paintings; lots of it?

What about the sex? You don’t hear much about bestiality these days, even in some of the raunchiest things written. My guess is most younger folks don’t even know what it is, so reading the prohibitions in Leviticus they may need to ask mom or dad how that happens. Or would you like a story about incest? You can find it. Or homosexuality? Check out the relationship between David and Jonathan! Read it carefully with an open mind!

Or what about rape and sexual abuse in the Bible! There’s lots of it. What about the story of David and Bathsheba, where lust leads to the death of a husband, so David can take the wife to add to his harem. How about the Levites concubine, raped all night by many and dead in the morning. Not to mention her dismemberment.

As a pastor I want every child to have a Bible. But I also want them to have an attentive and caring parent, a thoughtful and knowledgeable church school teacher, and some grandparents who have lived long enough to know the reason why difficult reading can also be sacred and life changing reading. 

Today, if parents are truly concerned about influences potentially detrimental to their children, it isn’t about books; it’s about cyberspace! It’s hard to get my college students to read a book. They are constantly scrolling. And guess what’s out there? You don’t even want to know!

In the end, children need caring parents, teachers and mentors, who can help them interpret what they read, see or hear, that they might have a healthy and life giving context for whatever comes their way.

Carl Kline

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