Thursday, October 02, 2008

Banned Book Week?

Libraries are celebrating banned book week. This (I believe) comes from a university student publication. You can find more info if you google "banned books" or "banned book week."

In my typical rambling, indecisive, empathetic, let's look at this from everybody's perspective complicated style ...

. . . There were lots of books, TV, and videos our kids didn't have access to. We took them to the library regularly. We didn't buy a TV until my oldest was 10. When we got the TV we started with lots of controls (not dials, controls) - but that's another post. Emphasis on "started." By the time my youngest was 10 the other four complained about all the things she got to do that they never got to do - yet another post.

I believe God gives commands he expects to be obeyed. But I also believe He gave us a free will and we live with the consequences of our actions. It doesn't appear that God protects us from everything. It doesn't appear that He severely disciplines us for everything. When God does intervene in a way some would consider parental discipline, His intervention probably saves us from a worse fate. But I don't see God as terribly consistent unless you look at the effectiveness of random reward (ie. slot machines) and punishment. I see Him as patient, faithful, constant but not necessarily consistent. So I asked my husband how he sees God's reward and punishment system He said, "That's why God created parents."

I value the freedom of speech and freedom to choose (so far) available to parents, individuals, and organizations in this country. I think that if we value our own freedom we will be very careful what freedoms we take from others. As much as I recoil from big government and government controls, and people I don't agree with telling me what to do I'm also grateful for law enforcement that allows me to live a relatively safe existence. I don't particularly want to live in an anarchy.

When the kids' high school (an upstate NY city high school, ethnically diverse) was celebrating 100 years I had the priviledge of reading 100 years worth of student written school newspapers? Alot of them were missing but there were enough in the cabinets to see how high school humor and perspective changed over 100 years. Let's just say that the first 80+ years of high school humor was a far cry from what we would consider politically correct today. Culturally different. Most of those papers came out with a minimum of faculty oversight (censorship). They valued freedom of speech but apparently it was tempered with a measure of respect. I don't appreciate humor at someone else's expense but it's fun to be around people who know and care about each other enough that they can laugh together.

Banned books. Just because something appears in a book doesn't mean the book is condoning the behavior. There are fantasies and sci fi stories that people disapprove of for what seem to be obvious reasons but in their disapproval miss the ideas that the author is exploring in ways that can't be explored in more literal genres. Our God is a supernatural God. He is unseen and acts in ways that aren't "natural". There are also evil forces. I understand that a certain story about two male penguins raising a baby penguin is actually based on a true (as in non-fiction, it happened among penguins) story. Is it about life-style? Is it about caring? Is it both? Are you willing to read a controversial book with your child and talk about it? That kind of parent-child interaction starts the moment you pick up a book and look at pictures with your baby.

What we read, see, and hear influences how we think but sometimes depicting stories from real life complete with consequences makes a stronger impression, a stronger deterrent, than telling someone "don't do it". You can say scripture's full of "don't do it"s but it's also full of stories with consequences - stories most of our children (and teens) never hear, by the way - stories that would be banned in Christian schools.

But not every real life situation with all its graphic detail (or Bible story) is age appropriate for every child and household.

There comes a time when we can't protect our kids and the "when" of that may vary depending on child, family, circumstances, and life beyond our control. That moment may not be the same for every family or even every child in a family. Until that time, if I'm a parent, I have a job to do. Both parents and teachers have the priviledge and responsibility to teach kids how to choose and make wise choices. Kids need their parents and their teachers to be on the same team, not pulling them in different directions.

Sometimes you follow your head and sometimes you follow your heart. Sometimes you listen to someone older and wiser. Sometimes you go digging for information and read it from different perspectives. We want to teach children to choose wisely and give them the support network to do that. As we give them more and more freedom to choose, we have to be willing to respect their choices . If we find ourselves disagreeing with those choices maybe we need to back up and ask ourselves why they made those choices.

We also have to remember that they won't be living in and raising their children in the same world we grew up in. Someday they may find themselves having to make choices we never dreamed of - God forbid. They need the tools to do that.

There's a time to look at the tree and a time to look at the forest. Freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and a parents' right to choose are (to me) valuable freedoms. My most basic thought and feeling - I better be darned careful before I take those freedoms away from someone else, if I expect someone else to extend the same courtesy to me.

What do you think?

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