It's been a long week, and I don't have anything heavy for you all today--just an observation on the oddity that is people giving away copies of the Bible to small children.
According to the American Library Association, some of the most common reasons books are challenged--and sometimes banned--in the United States are sexual explicitness, violence, racism, and misogyny.
Consider some of the books that have been banned or challenged over the years for these reasons.
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for racism.
- Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging for references to sex.
- Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret for references to sex.
- As I Lay Dying for references to abortion.
- Beloved for references to bestiality, sex, and violence.
- The Bluest Eye for child abuse, incest, and racism.
- Brave New World for sex.
- Bridge to Terabithia for death.
- The Call of the Wild for violence.
- The Color Purple for sex.
- A Farewell to Arms for sex.
- Gone With the Wind for slavery.
- Goosebumps for violence and fear.
- The Grapes of Wrath for sexual references.
- The Great Gatsby for sexual references.
- The Handmaid's Tale for misogyny, racism and sex.
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings for rape and racism.
- Invisible Man for references to sex.
- James and the Giant Peach, in one town in Wisconsin because a spider licking her lips could be taken sexually.
- Lord of the Flies for excessive violence.
- Mommy Laid an Egg for depictions of sex.
- 1984 for sexual references.
- Of Mice and Men for racism, violence and misogyny.
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for references to sex and bestiality and for violence.
- Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison for sex and violence.
- Their Eyes Were Watching God for sexual content.
- To Kill a Mockingbird for racism.
- Where Did I Come From? for referencing sex.
It strikes me that these books have been at least challenged, and some actually banned, while someone will hand my kid a bible without thinking twice. Let's take a closer look at some of my content issues with the bible.
As I Lay Dying makes the list for referencing abortion.
Pro-life and Christian are nearly inextricably tied in the public consciousness, and yet, we have shared this before about abortion in the bible in Numbers 5:
11 Then the LORD said to Moses,
12 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him
13 so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act),
14 and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure—
15 then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah[c] of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.
16 “‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the LORD.
17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water.
18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the LORD, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse.
19 Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you.
20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”—
21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the LORD cause you to become a curse[d] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell.
22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.” “‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”
23 “‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water.
24 He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her.
25 The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the LORD and bring it to the altar.
26 The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial[e]offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water.
27 If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse.
28 If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.
29 “‘This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and makes herself impure while married to her husband,
30 or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the LORD and is to apply this entire law to her.
31 The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.’
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou were both challenged based on this reasoning.
But the bible doesn't take qualms with hurting innocents. We see this in the story of Noah and his son Ham in Genesis 9:
9:20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
9:21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
9:22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
9:23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.
9:24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
9:25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
9:26 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
9:27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
9:28 And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years.
9:29 And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died.
In this passage, Noah curses Ham, but the curse is actually carried out on his son, Canaan, who was innocent of the original act.
Proverbs 13:24 is also used to support the idea that the bible may be interpreted to allow child abuse:
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
Deuteronomy 21 says why even fuck around with a rebellious kid? Just have them stoned:
18 “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them,
19 then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown.
20 “They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’
21 “Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.
This is another charge levied at The Bluest Eye and I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.
We can start in Genesis, with Adam and Eve. A literal interpretation of the creation account means they were the only two humans, so the only humans that could have been produced would have been through their children.
There's also the marriage of Abram to his half-sister, Sarai:
Abram makes his wife lie for him, by telling the Egyptians that she is his sister. But at least it was half-true, since she was his half-sister. Such incestuous marriages are condemned elsewhere in the Bible, but god makes an exception for Abram and Sarai. (See Genesis 17:15-16 where God blesses their marriage.) [Genesis] 12:13
Moses was also the product of incest, as shown in Exodus:
6:20 And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years.
This claim was cited for several volumes above.
The bible is rife with misogyny. This was a key point in my awakening, honestly. Consider this: we know the names of so many of Adam's sons...and yet we know the names of none of his daughters. Not even one.
The same holds true with Abraham.
There's also the tendency to take more than one wife (and concubines) that is never reciprocal--a wife does not have more than one husband at a time, from Abraham to David and Solomon.
Consider this disturbing Genesis passage about Jacob and his wives Rachel and Leah:
29:30 And he went in also unto Rachel , and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.
29:31 And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.
29:32 And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.
29:33 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the LORD hath heard I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon.
29:34 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi.
29:35 And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.
There's also a continued trend here that affected Sarah, Rebekah and now Rachel--only women are barren. Never men. There's something incredibly reminiscent of Henry VIII in that.
Judah, son of Jacob, is determined to have his daughter-in-law burnt for harlotry until he realizes he was the one who used her as a harlot and impregnated her:
38:24 And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.
38:25 When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff.
38:26 And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.
In Exodus 15, we are taught that both menstruation and childbirth--two natural female activities--are unclean, and that women must purify themselves afterwards.
In Leviticus, the law establishes the monetary value of human life--and women are naturally worth considerably less than men:
27:3 And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary.
27:4 And if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels.
27:5 And if it be from five years old even unto twenty years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male twenty shekels, and for the female ten shekels.
27:6 And if it be from a month old even unto five years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male five shekels of silver, and for the female thy estimation shall be three shekels of silver.
27:7 And if it be from sixty years old and above; if it be a male, then thy estimation shall be fifteen shekels, and for the female ten shekels.
If a woman is accused of not being a virgin at marriage, and her family can't prove it, she bears the price (no word on what happens if the man isn't a virgin...), per these instructions in Deuteronomy:
22:13 If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her,
22:14 And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid:
22:15 Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate:
22:16 And the damsel's father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her;
22:17 And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city.
22:18 And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him;
22:19 And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days.
22:20 But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:
22:21 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.
And remember, we're only four books in right here. There's so much more that could be cited.
Another issue cited above was tomes that deal with rape. And yet, the bible is full of the concept.
I know what you are asking--how can we punish rape victims? Well, the bible has the answers in Deuteronomy:
22:23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;
22:24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.
22:25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die.
22:26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:
22:27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.
22:28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
22:29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.
Yes, that last verse does say that a woman can be sold to her rapist.
From Judges 21, we have rape to provide wives to the Benjaminites:
6 Now the Israelites grieved for the tribe of Benjamin, their fellow Israelites. “Today one tribe is cut off from Israel,” they said.
7 “How can we provide wives for those who are left, since we have taken an oath by the Lord not to give them any of our daughters in marriage?”
8 Then they asked, “Which one of the tribes of Israel failed to assemble before the Lord at Mizpah?” They discovered that no one from Jabesh Gilead had come to the camp for the assembly.
9 For when they counted the people, they found that none of the people of Jabesh Gilead were there.
10 So the assembly sent twelve thousand fighting men with instructions to go to Jabesh Gilead and put to the sword those living there, including the women and children.
11 “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin.”
12 They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead four hundred young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan.
13 Then the whole assembly sent an offer of peace to the Benjamites at the rock of Rimmon.
14 So the Benjamites returned at that time and were given the women of Jabesh Gilead who had been spared. But there were not enough for all of them.
15 The people grieved for Benjamin, because the Lord had made a gap in the tribes of Israel.
16 And the elders of the assembly said, “With the women of Benjamin destroyed, how shall we provide wives for the men who are left?
17 The Benjamite survivors must have heirs,” they said, “so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out.
18 We can’t give them our daughters as wives, since we Israelites have taken this oath: ‘Cursed be anyone who gives a wife to a Benjamite.’
19 But look, there is the annual festival of the Lord in Shiloh, which lies north of Bethel, east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.”
20 So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards
21 and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin.
22 When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Do us the favor of helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war. You will not be guilty of breaking your oath because you did not give your daughters to them.’ ”
23 So that is what the Benjamites did. While the young women were dancing, each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and settled in them.
Notice that God is silent on the topic.
There's more mass rape, murder and pillaging in Number 31: 7-18 and Deuteronomy 20: 10-14.
Deuteronomy 21 tells you that you can rape and coerce a woman into marriage, but if you don't like her, you have to set her free, so there's that:
10 “When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take them away captive,
11 and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself,
12 then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails.
13 “She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house, and mourn her father and mother a full month; and after that you may go in to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.
14 “It shall be, if you are not pleased with her, then you shall let her go wherever she wishes; but you shall certainly not sell her for money, you shall not mistreat her, because you have humbled her.
Slavery, Sex and Violence
I honestly did not intend this post to go on quite so long, so I am going to link you all to some resources for researching slavery, sex and violence in the bible versus going through all of the passages myself.
Here's a breakdown of Slavery in the Bible.
Here's a selection of instances of Cruelty and Violence in the Bible.
Here's a selection of Murders in the Bible, as well as all of the instances that call for capital punishment. Good luck making it out of that one alive!
Here's a look at Sex in the Bible.
So, Kayla Sue, You Don't Want Your Children Reading the Bible?
I am glad you asked.
The answer to this is a resounding, "That is totally not what I am saying at all."
I don't believe the bible should be banned anymore than I believe any of the books at the top of this page (or any books) should be banned or challenged. I believe it's up to parents to decide what their children are ready to read. Many parents choose the bible for that, and there's nothing wrong with it--we read the bible in our home too.
What strikes me as so intriguing though is that we will challenge the books above based on some of the very facets of the book that we are supposed to base our morality from.
That's quite a conundrum. How do you say that rape is wrong, if biblical morality is being pushed? The bible doesn't say it, and indeed, provides for rapists to marry their victims. How do you say slavery is wrong? How do you then denounce racism? It's innately linked to our concept of slavery in the modern age, so providing moral basis for the one opens the door to moral basis for the other.
It's just more evidence that the bible, like all books, comes from a specific time frame. It's from a specific culture, with a specific point of view and a specific sense of right and wrong. These are issues that parents encounter with every book. More modern offerings align more closely with our viewpoints, because they are products of the time that we are in--but the more we reach outside of our circle or time period, the more that we have to frame the conversation for our children, introducing concepts and talking through more difficult parts.
This is what we do, in our family, for every book that we read. It's just part of child rearing, in my opinion, especially in a freethinking home.
I only ask that the bible be treated with the same consideration--or at least, that we not challenge book that espouse the same values.