Thursday, October 4, 2007

Oh no! Gay Penguins!

Banned Books Week has come to a close, and I've spent the past few days reading about books that have been challenged (i.e., it's been demanded they be removed from libraries or bookstores) during the previous year.

As as all twelve of my readers are probably are, the most challenged book of 2007 was And Tango Makes Three, a book about two male penguins that adopt a chick. The book is based on the true story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo that tried to fertilize a rock and get it to hatch (penguins aren't too bright, apparently).

Zookeepers took pity on the dim-witted pair and gave them a real egg, which they were able to get to hatch, and thus young Tango was born.

Tango--written for the 4 to 8-year-old-crowd, has troubled quite a few parents. In Shiloh, Illinois, some parents requested that the book be put in a "restricted" section of the school library (it's news to me that elementary school libraries have restricted sections). Mother of two Christine Farmer expressed the feelings of many parents when she said "Kids have to be kids at this age...I don't know why sexuality of any type is appropriate for kids that age." Sexuality? Now I'm not sure what she's getting at, but if she knew anything about what birds do to procreate...well let's just say that to mammals it's barely recognizable as sex.

But I digress. In Charlotte, North Carolina, the book's existence alarmed Republican County Commissioner Bill James, who has been quoted as saying, "I am opposed to any book that promotes a homosexual lifestyle to elementary school students as normal." (Tango was removed from Charlotte-Mecklenburg school libraries).

Perhaps, I'm naive, but I seriously doubt that a five-year-old is going to look at a few pages of drawings of penguins and ask mommy, "When's the next Pride march?" She'll probably just be thinking about...penguins. Or maybe drawing. Or--and I'm going out on a limb here, I realize--drawing penguins.

Maybe parents are afraid the book carries some kind of subliminal message. Twelve years from now young Chad or Tripp might be watching Animal Planet, hear the word "PENGUINS" and immediately dump Courtney so he can slake his newfound lust for the high school quarterback.

This is the possibly the most ridiculous uproar the family values crowd has raised since 1994, when a North Carolina preacher named Joseph Chambers tried to use the state's anti-sodomy laws to ban Ernie and Bert.

The American Library Association has provided a list of other books frequently challenged in 2006 here. Sexual content of any sort is invariably the leading reason for objections to a book. Any sympathetic treatment of homosexuality is a close second. And objections to sexual content--especially gay sexual content, invariably come from conservative Christians.

It's unsurprising that conservative Christians would object to books that conflict with their moral teachings. But please, people, show some consistency. If you want to object to books that contradict Biblical teachings, you're only scratching the surface.

While the Bible is a long, rambling hodge podge of a book--a welter of creation stories, national myths, royal chronicles and often contradictory religious teachings--it's remarkably consistent on certain topics, like how one should treat the poor.

Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

Prov. 31:8ff.
[Commandment to kings.] Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.

Luke 3:11. And [John the Baptist] would answer and say to them, "Let the man with two tunics share with him who has none, and let him who has food do likewise."

Mt. 5:42. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

Now contrast this with a remark by a certain bestselling author. On June 11, 2004 Bill O'Reilly treated his listeners to his opinion of the poor: gotta look people in the eye and tell 'em they're irresponsible and lazy... Because that's what poverty is, ladies and gentlemen.

So where are the mobs of Christians demanding that The No Spin Zone be pulled from library shelves? Let's face it, Bill O'Reilly is basically urging people to reject Biblical teaching. Where are the concerned parents worried their child might read O'Reilly's books and end up in Hell like the rich man in the parable of the beggar Lazarus?

But no, it's the books about sex that get all the attentiion.

And while we're on the subject of conservative darlings, let's discuss one who's made a career out of violating the Book of Common Prayer's injunction to live in love and charity with one's neighbor: Ann Coulter. She's spent much of this year on the war path against John Edwards, most notoriously accusing him of exploiting his son's death. In its nastiness, it's vintage Coulter.

But I'm most intrigued by Coulter calling John Edwards a "faggot." Of all the things she could have called John Edwards--"vain," "inexperienced," "Doogie Howser, Presidential Candidate"--she chooses an insult preferred by fifteen-year-old boys, one that she had to have known would draw a firestorm of criticism. Maybe she couldn't help herself.

It's obvious social conservatives are obsessed with sex. Especially gay sex. Please, people: get help. See a therapist. Spend time in airport bathrooms and see if you can work this out of your systems. Do something. Because this fixation of yours on gay sex--it's just not healthy.

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