Thursday, February 25, 2010

Censorship and the Christian Parent

(Reposted 11-12-2011 - edited only for spelling and grammar)

When I was in high school (I went to public school), we had an annual Censorship Week/Banned Books Week, in which the librarians told us how we should despise the censorship that some conscientious folks would like to force upon us. At the time, I was very grateful... I mean, afterall, one of the censored books was the Bible! But, as a Christian parent, I am seeing things differently.

I don't usually think about the debate of censurship anymore... I just DO it! But, recently a new topic came to my attention. My dad, who is always getting the kids used books to further their education, gave us a book of one hundred of the masterpieces contained within the Chicago Institute of Art. I was delighted with the book! I love teaching "art appreciation." I love to expose my kids to lovely things. I did not even think to preview this book before handing it over to Rebecca.
Rebecca, who will be 8 years old in a few weeks, is VERY modest. She is easily heartbroken over the dress of women that she sees in public. (Note: She is NOT judgemental! She is hurt for the ladies she sees... I think she is a lot like me in this. I will/do shed tears for women who parade themselves before men. It causes a deep ache within me.)
Anyway, my modest daughter threw the book down in front of me and ran from the room! I said, "Rebecca, what is the matter with you? We don't throw books on the floor!"
And, poor, flushed Rebecca replies, "But, Mommy! There are NAKED people in those pictures!" My daughter was nearly in tears, because she saw these portraits of nude subjects.
I thought I was being wise when I said, "OK, we can cover up those pictures until we can learn to appreciate the work of the artist." (Honestly, I was not thinking! I was just reciting something from some art appreciation class I had in my Bible college!)
My very mature Rebecca replies, "But, Mommy, I don't want to look at those pictures! Why should I appreciate pictures of naked people?"
Let me tell you, that was one of those "Wow!" moments for me! Rebecca really opened up my eyes! Why should we teach "art" when it is a bunch of ladies bathing naked by a stream? Why should we subject our children to portraits of nudity, just because they are "masterpieces"? Why, when we strive so hard to teach modesty, would we push pictures of naked women in front of the eyes of our children and call it education?!

I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid? Job 31:1 (KJV)
I make no apologies for the fervor with which I write this post. I do not mind that it is controversial. I really think that some Christian parents (like myself!) sometimes function in autopilot! We just do what we ourselves did as children. Or, we (all too often) teach things without really trying to see it through God's eyes.

In conclusion: I love our new-to-us art book. And, I am very fond of some of the paintings within it. What Paul and I have decided to do is cut out all of the pictures that expose body parts. True, none of the images are pornographic in nature... but that does not mean they will not stir up unhealthy desires within us! And, if we show them pictures of nudes at a young age and call it art, what would that potentially lead to as they age? Would they someday see a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition as art? The Victoria's Secret catalog? I mean, aren't those photographers artists in their own way? I am being completely serious. You might laugh at my train of thought that "fine art" could lead to adult pornography... but I do not think it is so far-fetched.

I am open to disagreement here. I just ask that you speak with charity.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Matt 5:27-30 (KJV - emphasis mine)
What do you think that our Lord would have your family to do?


Mama in Uganda said...

I agree with you 100%. Thanks so much for being bold enough to speak the truth, and doing it in a spirit of love! I also like the verse you posted from 31. The Word of God speaks to EVERY facet of our lives, and the lives of our children.

Hugs from Uganda,

Anonymous said...

We had the opportunity to visit the Vancouver Art Museum for free during our Olympic visit- we didn't even consider going! A few months ago we had a substitute preacher, who is a Prof at a local Christian college- I don't remember the sermon, He used a famous painters portrait of Mary and a naked baby Jesus, (well endowed)- Which flashed up on the big screen, our whole family was embarrassed. Living in a big city, we have many public art displays, most are obscene and embarassing- we don't teach art appreciation in our homeschool.

Nan Baker said...

You are right on the money with this one!
I never thought exposing the private body as art,just very bad choices. Thank you. Maybe if more parents thought this way,our world would not be bombarded by nudity in all the forms of media.
Nan in Oklahoma.

Anonymous said...

We were given a similar sort of book at Christmas. We decided to do some salvaging so my husband tore some acceptable pages from it and let my daughter choose her 20 or so favorites to keep.

-Mrs. B

NYLass said...

Dear Bethany,

I reacted the same way - having been an art student my whole life (I was drawing nudes in middle school) - my faith did not win out over my history. So my girls have been exposed to "art" and because mom didn't react - they didn't. As my boys got older and found MY books and reacted as Rebecca did I began to rethink: they were boys and didn't boys have a harder time with this sort of thing? (-please forgive me if this is offensive - I really did think this and just wanted to be honest). At this time I was teaching beginning drawing to some children in our church and saw that their 'art' books had sharpie bikini's over their private parts. I just saw that as their limitation. God has set my record straight – so if I might…

I now think that as we are exposed to things we have less sensitivity in dealing with them.

This can be good: there is less prejudice when we are exposed to many different cultures and peoples. We know them better – as God intended and can therefore treat them as brothers and sisters because of this.

Unfortunately this reasoning (which is used in the world today) is for the same reason harmful when applied to things we were not intended to “know”. I will use violence for the example. When we are exposed to violence early and/or often we come to “know” it. Familiarity with violence dulls our senses to the awfulness of it and it scars us; post traumatic stress is one example. Soldiers who are trained and 'prepared' (how 'prepared' can one be to harm another person?) for battle struggle with scars from violence (again, PTS is just ONE example of a battle 'scar', unfortunately there are many). Continuing with this analogy, how much more so those who are not trained and 'prepared'?

I feel the same is true for sexuality - I really think that the whole issue with lust is secondary here. Primarily I would fear desensitization, which would definitely allow one to get WAY too close to the danger zone of lust - but (IMHO) only after one has been robbed of the joy of godly beauty, become confused about sexuality, which can lead to confusion about sexual identity (homo or hetero) and gender roles and cause (without Christ) permanent scarring. If it isn’t apparent – I am familiar with (most of) these struggles because I was exposed to sexuality in ways that God never intended – some innocently, some not. It is from my struggle that I write.

My Point:

First things first; if it (what ever it may be) is as God intended – it is good, if not, it should be avoided. When my highschool aged daughters learned of the confusion in the lives of many of the “great Masters” of the art world, their immodest art was almost understood. While I still have to deal with the confusion that seeing this “art” caused, God has been able to use even this for our good: the outworking of sin in the life of the artist causes/ allows them to want to strip their model of the modesty and dignity that God intended us to have.

Second; Like art, art appreciation is not bad, but letting the world define what it is and how we should do it IS. Bethany, you praised the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival for putting out Christian entertainment in the form of film; but what if all the arts were represented by Christians? As an artist, a homeschooling mom and a Christian I would love to see a sea of modest, Biblical Christian artists standing and being counted, even as we count Christian athletes, politicians, singers and now those who make and star in films. To God be the glory!


Bethany said...


Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

It will be quite a challenge in my future to introduce my children to all types of fine art, while limiting others for the time being.
I completely agree with you that I would LOVE to see Christian artists (musicians, visual artists, stage performers, writers, etc) use their talent for the glory of God. It is to that end that any "appreciation", studies, and/or lessons will be taught in this house. (I start teaching piano to my kids again this week).

For the glory of God,