A Tennessee school board recently voted to ban “Maus,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust from their eight grade curriculum. This has become a familiar tactic of Republican parents, politicians, and pastors, working through local school boards to edit out vital creative works and voices from school curriculums, in the name of protecting children.
In reality, it is continuing the time-honored Right-wing tradition of raising them to be historically unaware and racially intolerant by redacting the story they are told about the world.
The incessant outrage over Critical Race Theory is the most current and brazen assault on teaching young people historical information under the guise of a “dangerous Leftist agenda,” which turns out to be accurately recording the horrors of our recent collective past toward people of color in an effort to make sure that inhumanity doesn’t repeat itself here.
Conservatives have now expanded their assaults to works like Maus and to minimizing the horrors of the Holocaust, with one Indiana Senator claiming that works critical of Nazism, fascism, and Marxism are dangerous, and that teaching on these matters need to be “impartial.” Florida lawmakers have proposed legislation banning sympathetic references to LGBTQ people in schools.
I’m a Christian and I’ve been a pastor in the local church for most of the past three decades. I’ve read, studied, and taught the Bible and have found great meaning and beauty in it throughout my life. I also know that If Republicans want to ban books that perpetuate violence and inhumanity or tell stories of generational racism and discrimination, and they’re being honest — they’d better start with the Bible.
Christians who are responsible students of history, know that the Bible is the single most weaponized piece of writing on the planet: responsible for unjust wars, systematic genocide, generational anti-semitism, violent extremism, subjugation of women, and pervasive racism. This isn’t really up for debate. From the Crusades to the Inquisition to the Troubles to The Holocaust to slavery, to racism and homophobia in America, the shadow of the Bible looms large. Many responsible people of faith are able to engage with texts of their sacred tradition and even love parts of them, while being fully cognizant of the atrocities committed in its name or its words. And this is where the book banners need to be very careful.
Of course, I don’t believe the Bible should be banned, nor do I believe any piece of historical writing should be. We need to correctly see where we have been so that we gain a wisdom that helps us avoid the worst corporate sins of the past. But, if Conservatives are going to declare a holy war on writings that are somehow dangerous to young minds or potentially harmful to society, they’re going to need to reckon with the true and full legacy of the Christian Scriptures: the inhumanity, violence, and sexual immorality that accompany the teachings of mercy, compassion, and justice.
They’re going to need to be honest about its patriarchs with hundred of wives and concubines, with unpunished sexual assault, with the slaughtering of entire cities in the name of God, with thousands of words used since its distribution to perpetuate bigotry and intolerance.
They’re also going to have to admit, that for as often as the Bible has yielded empathetic and generous people burdened by Jesus’ teachings to work for equity and diversity justice and to build more expansive communities — it has made monsters who feel mandated by it to be horrible to other human beings based on the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their nation of origin, or their gender. For as often as the Bible has inspired people to “love the least of these” it has generated wall-builders and travel-banners.
In fact, if they were truly capable of introspection and self-awareness, Conservatives might ask whether their own current crusade against Critical Race Theory or graphic novels about the Holocaust or teachings about LGBTQ human beings — are simply the latest example of the Christian Scripture’s negative influence on people prone to fear and exclusion.
Maybe the Bible-believing book-banners, should think about banning the Bible.
The original version of this Op Ed was published on johnpavlovitz.com