[EDIT: In light of a comment from Mr. Ewert below, this post has been edited a bit. Thanks for a Proverbs 27:17 moment, Mr. Ewert!]
I hope to make this quick (because it could be a much longer post if I don’t stay focused). In a small book review article in Newsweek’s August 13, 2007 magazine, there is a completely and annoyingly shallow quote from Columbia University psychiatrist Justin Richardson.
Richardson is co-author of the children’s book, And Tango Makes Three — notorious for being the American Library Association’s “most frequently challenged” book for 2006. Why? Because the story bases itself on the true tale of two male penguins, Roy & Silo, in New York’s Central Park Zoo who bonded with each other instead of with female penguins and who hatched an adopted egg together (the baby female being the “Tango” of the title). Well, this really isn’t the reason that the book is notorious, of course. It gains its notoriety from its using this tale as a chance to teach children about the “validity” of homosexual relationships and same-sex parents.
Now, I am not writing this post to take issue with the book, as tempting as that idea is (hence the need for me to focus).
What I am taking issue with is the ridiculous statement Newsweek quotes Mr. Richardson as making concerning why some (many) parents do not want their children reading such books: “Parents worry that a child who reads a book with a gay character or theme will be more likely to become gay.”
Really? Is that all? I mean, I would like to think that someone who can claim the description “Columbia University psychiatrist” would have a certain ability to comprehend that people’s thoughts and motivation involve more depth than that.
Perhaps the statement was simply a lashing out at critics (or mocking them), without much tempering thought behind it. Or perhaps he is being quoted out of context. The statement certainly could apply as is to some parents, though I would gather that the parents whose concerns could be summarized so simply are in the minority. But regardless of these possibilities, some might take an absurdly oversimplified statement like that to be an accurate and complete depiction of parents such as myself, so I thought it would be worth discussing.
Since we homeschool our children, books like this do not come up as frequently as they may for others (although the issue of homosexuality has not been avoided and has certainly discussed with our children at an age appropriate level). Yet, if this book came up as a recommended read in our homeschooling program, I certainly would not have our children read it (or if we did, it would be for the purposes of deconstructing it, just as we do other cultural propaganda and advertising).
But our avoidance would not be because I fear an increased risk of them choosing to become homosexuals (though accepting the underlying message of such a book does increase that risk). Rather, I don’t wish to treat my children to positive advertising for a lifestyle that I believe God feels negatively about. Should someone write a children’s book in the future positively advertising other negative, sinful addictions, I will likely avoid those books, too.
Why? While I am trying to raise my children to make wise choices (including the choice to avoid sexual sin), I am also trying to raise them to have a Godly worldview.
We all see the world through the lens of our worldview. Some lenses obscure reality by tinting it in a particular, odd color. Others make reality clearer and easier to see by reducing glare or making contrasts sharper.
It is my belief (and that, I am sure, of many others) that books like these have a worldview to sell. And if such authors say they do not, they lie (even if unknowingly).
Whether I want it or not, I know that my children will be exposed to many sinful aspects of life in this fallen world. But I have an obligation to manage that exposure as best I can so that it is done at a pace and in a manner that is appropriate for their growing minds — and for their growing worldview. And at these young ages, I also have an obligation to raise my child in the way that he should go (Proverbs 22:6) — to nurture within him a worldview that allows him to see the world accurately. Mr. Richardson and the co-authors of Tango may argue that theirs is that worldview. They certainly have the legal right to do so, and to buy whatever books they wish for their children. We will act on that same right.
May the best worldview win.
[By the way, Silo — one of the supposedly homosexual penguins — has since become an ex-gay penguin and taken up with a female penguin named Scrappy. Perhaps there will be a follow up children’s book — “Hope for Silo” or “Silo Gets His Act Together” — though I doubt it. And for those who would like to read an excellent op-ed on this (yawn) dramatic turn of events in the animal world, as well as a good commentary about the dangers of extrapolating human morality from animal behavior, check out this essay by Dr. Warren Throckmorten, Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy in the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City (PA) College: “Silo Rains on the Penguin Pride Parade.” (Warning: The article is referenced on a Catholic website. Following Mr. Richardson’s reasoning, perhaps I shouldn’t link to it for fear you all might begin wearing pointy hats and speaking Latin…)]