Last year, Florida passed a law allowing parents of public school students to examine learning material and contest it if it’s considered inappropriate. This year, a bill is making its way through the state’s legislature that would require books in public schools to be reviewed to ensure that they’re free of pornography — and I’m willing to bet it will become law, too.
After Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last year’s bill into law, Chaz Stevens, a resident of Leon County, sent a letter to 62 school superintendents in the state asking that the Bible be banned in their respective districts. Stevens, an atheist activist who styles himself archbishop of the First Church of Mars, explained his request by citing a number of passages from both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.
According to Stevens, mentions of human sinfulness in the Gospel of Matthew and Paul’s Letter to the Romans are not age appropriate. Nor should children be exposed to Leviticus’ prohibition of sex with animals. Mentions of slavery might disturb white students, and the teaching that it’s not good to be alone might encourage support for same-sex marriage.
Stevens was on to something. But given what’s coming down the pike, I’d say he vastly understated the sexual dangers posed by Holy Writ to young hearts and minds.
Let me tick off just a few.
In Genesis you’ve got Abraham pimping out Sarah to Pharaoh. Not to mention Sarah giving her handmaid Hagar to Abraham, which is just the beginning of patriarchal polygamy. And then, after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s two daughters get their old man drunk so he’ll impregnate them.
Further on in the book, the son of the Hivite chieftain rapes Jacob’s daughter Dinah. A few chapters later, Judah’s second son, Onan, refusing to impregnate his deceased elder brother’s wife, spills his seed on the ground. That pretty clearly means coitus interruptus rather than masturbation (as “onanism” came to be known), but either way, it’s not a story fit for little kids.
Then there are the so-called pornographic texts in which Hebrew prophets denounce the Jewish people for worshipping other gods in graphic sexual terms. Ezekiel, for example, has this to say: “At every street corner you built your lofty shrines and degraded your beauty, spreading your legs with increasing promiscuity to anyone who passed by. You engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians, your neighbors with large genitals, and aroused my anger with your increasing promiscuity.”
Would you want your children exposed to the likes of that?
And let’s not forget that summa of erotic poetry, the Song of Songs. As defined in Florida law, prohibited pornography includes representations of the “fondling or erotic touching of human genitals, the pubic region, the buttocks, or the female breasts.”
Your stature is like that of the palm,
and your breasts like clusters of fruit.
I said, “I will climb the palm tree;
I will take hold of its fruit.”
If that doesn’t fall afoul of the definition, I don’t know what does.
To be sure, the New Testament is much less given to descriptions of such Floridian abominations. But Jesus has a dangerously soft spot in his heart for sexual sinners. He protects an adulterous woman from being stoned to death. And according to him, prostitutes (not to mention tax collectors) will enter the kingdom of heaven ahead of top priests. OMG.
When I was a boy, my father, who was neither particularly religious nor religiously knowledgeable, surprised me and my brothers one Yom Kippur afternoon by suggesting that we get together and read the Bible. He opened the book at random, and where should his eye alight but on the second chapter of Joshua.
“Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. ‘Go, look over the land,’ he said, ‘especially Jericho.’ So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.”
What’s that about? we asked. Flummoxed, my father closed the book.
Back in the day, the Catholic Church discouraged its flock from reading the Bible for themselves. Florida school superintendents, go ye and do likewise.
Mark Silk is a columnist for Religion News Service. This column is republished with permission