“Ban the Bible, too”

A commentary on book-banning

I am disturbed by the filth that Americans are reading, and you should be, too.
Take, for example, a story in which two daughters live alone with their widowed father. They make a pact to get him drunk and trick him into having sex with them, after which they become pregnant and give birth to sons.
Or, if that is not to your taste, there is a story in which an angry mob surrounds a house, demanding to rape a male houseguest. Appalled, the homeowner instead offers up his virgin daughter and the houseguest’s wife instead. The mob rapes them all night, and in the morning, the houseguest takes his wife home and cuts her into twelve pieces.
What about this sexual language? “When a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and be unclean until evening. Any piece of cloth or leather with semen on it shall be washed with water and be unclean until evening.”
And, of course, there is the endless blathering about slavery, such as: “The male and female slaves that you possess — these you shall acquire from the nations round about you … these you may possess, and bequeath to your children as their hereditary possession forever.”
Sound familiar? All of these stories and quotations come from the same source material, a single book that has spread across the planet at a frightening pace. At any time, millions of American children have at their disposal an arsenal of smut, slavery and immorality, which will surely corrupt them for good.
I am, of course, referring to the Bible, a book that has been mass-printed since the fifteenth century and relied on as the primary text of all Christian faiths for millennia. The verses which I have quoted or paraphrased, in order, are Genesis 19, Judges 19 and Leviticus 15:16-17 and 25:44-46.
How can we continue, in good conscience, to allow written material of this nature to have an honored place in our households, libraries and hotel rooms? As moral citizens who steer clear of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth, how can we reconcile our virtues with this book full of vices?
It’s simple, really. I know the answer, and I suspect you do, too. We have not yet banned the Bible because the parts which I have cherry-picked — and, yes, they are cherry-picked — are not the whole story. They are the questionable passages, the ones we now ignore or acknowledge are obsolete. Some passages may even be metaphorically interpreted to reveal a deeper, more profound meaning, a skill that is taught in any entry-level English class.
So, I must ask: What makes the text of Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” any different from the tale of Lot’s daughters in Genesis? What makes the sexual assault in Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak” different from Judges? What makes “Stamped,” a nonfiction examination of racism and slavery in America, different than the contents of Leviticus when examined as a historical artifact?
The latest book-banning craze that has swept the nation has been spearheaded by a generally conservative, Christian and white demographic. The moves are prescribed, practically a stereotype by now: an outraged suburbanite wearing a custom graphic tee and a crucifix necklace approaches the podium at a school board meeting. She pulls her required mask down below her chin. She then proceeds to read selected passages from books like “Looking for Alaska” and “The Hate U Give,” passages that inevitably involve no-no buzzwords like “masturbate” and “police brutality.”
Out of context, anything can be made outrageous. (Have you heard the one about the two men who are “roommates” and live next door to a trashcan-dwelling hobo with anger issues? That’s Sesame Street.) If the school board or parents in attendance have never read these books, they, too, will be appalled by the dirt which their pornography-peddling librarians — liberal, godless temptresses wielding stamps — allow, nay, encourage their children to read. They soon jump aboard the bandwagon, and it’s off to the first amendment races.
This movement relies on misinformation and a ticking clock. It banks on the ignorance and emotional reactions of others, much like my own treatment of the Bible earlier in this article. The people getting up to read at school board meeting podiums across the country are wholly dependent on the fact that their captive audience has not read these books and will not bother to do so, rather accepting what they are told from the outset and joining the movement without a second thought.
See, if any one of those newly-minted protesters bothered to read and subsequently think critically about the books read aloud at school board meetings, they would find that the “lewd” sections are, in fact, minor components of the book that lend themselves to a larger literary value.
“To Kill a Mockingbird,” for instance, contains a description of rape. It does not, however, condone, encourage, or give instruction to commit rape. Yet, book banners frequently cite the rape plotline in their complaints, assuring Harper Lee’s honor as one of the most-challenged authors in the U.S. for decades.
The fact of the matter is that reading books takes time and thinking critically takes even more. Proponents of book banning want their audiences gullible and scandalized. Their greatest enemy is critical thought and independence. In fact, this movement has become such a ridiculous game of telephone that most groups challenging libraries and school boards draw their list of illicit books from pre-made spreadsheets, complete with selected quotations to read at forums, which circulate on the internet. Much like most social movements nowadays, book banning comes in an easy-to-assemble kit, instruction booklet and all. There is no agency in this movement, only self-righteous outrage addicts looking for their next hit of grandstanding.
I am certain of two things. One, if I described the above Bible passages as selections from an allegorical anthology about sexuality, morality and humanity written by a collective of Middle Eastern authors, it would be added to the banned book spreadsheets in an instant. This was never about protecting children; it has everything to do with prejudices already ravaging our society.
Two, this fad — and it is most certainly a fad — will fade into the ether in two to five months when a shiny, new boogeyman emerges for moral outrage addicts to fixate upon. Those involved in this movement are simply following the herd wherever it may lead — first critical race theory, then novels about gay teenagers, and next, school curricula. Forgive me if I’m wrong, book banners, but it seems to me as if there is no conviction or staunch belief in this movement. Instead, it is a national effort to generate even more political discourse and division over some books that you, in all likelihood, have never read. (You probably should — you might learn something.)
As Matthew 5:29 says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” Getting your way, book banners, must mean staunch adherence to your own proclaimed moral code. Until then, this is nothing more than posturing. So, let’s start with the original sin. Go ahead and ban the Bible first, then we’ll talk.