‘Christian bookstores’ and the unsustainable bubble of the evangelical subculture

Some evangelical “gatekeepers” imagine they can still control the boundaries of their subculture and thereby can continue to control the lives and souls and thoughts and imaginations of those within it.

Or, if you prefer to put the most charitable spin on it, these gatekeepers imagine they can still guard the boundaries of that subculture and thereby protect the lives, souls, thoughts and imaginations of those within.

That used to work. It doesn’t anymore. The gatekeepers are still ferociously guarding their gates, but the walls on either side of those gates have crumbled into dust.

Consider the latest losing battle for these gatekeepers — a lopsided defeat in which they seem to imagine they’re still the winners: LifeWay Christian Bookstores will no longer be carrying DVDs of the movie The Blind Side.

Pastor Rodney L. Baker of Hopeful Baptist Church of Lake City submitted a resolution to the Southern Baptist Convention, demanding that LifeWay pull the PG-13 film over its language content.

“BE IT RESOLVED that the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in annual session June 17- 20, 2012, in New Orleans, expresses dissatisfaction with ‘The Blindside’ and any product that contains explicit profanity, God’s name in vain, and racial slur,” reads the resolution in part.

The resolution will be introduced to the Southern Baptist Convention at its Annual Meeting next week in New Orleans.

Although LifeWay has already agreed to pull The Blind Side, Baker still intends to submit the resolution as a way of sending a message about LifeWay and the content of its products.

Marty King, communications director for LifeWay, [said] he had hoped the move on the part of the book store would remove the controversy from the New Orleans meeting.

King understands how this works. “Controversy” is Step 1. Step 2 is to resolve the controversy by banning anything that any gatekeeper suggests might be “controversial.”

The Rev. Rodney L. Baker’s resolution didn’t pass, but he still got his wish — ensuring that good Southern Baptists in good Southern Baptist bookstores will be protected from profanity and Sandra Bullock. But if Baker imagines that this will somehow keep Southern Baptists from buying, owning and enjoying this movie, then he’s living in a fantasy of the distant past.

Here is the Amazon listing for The Blind Side on DVD. You can buy it new for $7.56 or used for $1.50 or so. The page also features tons of five-star reviews from viewers who describe it as “family friendly,” “inspirational” and “uplifting.”

LifeWay Christian Bookstores is a large and still-influential chain with 165 locations across the country. But which do you suppose sells more DVDs — LifeWay or Amazon? Do you think it’s even close?

More people shop at Amazon. More Southern Baptists shop at Amazon. More conservative, evangelical and fundamentalist Southern Baptists shop at Amazon. Southern Baptist evangelicals are still buying and watching The Blind Side, but LifeWay no longer sees any of the revenue from those sales.

The walls are gone and no one — not even conservative, sheltered, evangelical-leaning-fundamentalist Southern Baptists — needs to go through the gates or the gatekeepers anymore.

Mass media — from television to FM radio — chipped away at those walls for decades. Then the Internet came along and bulldozed them to the ground. (See earlier: “The evangelical bubble cannot be sustained, part 1” and “The evangelical bubble cannot be sustained, part 2.”)

But even though those walls are gone and cannot be rebuilt, the gatekeepers still maintain some of their power — partly through inertia and custom, partly through demagoguery that convinces their intimidated followers to pretend the walls are still there.

The so-called Christian bookstores still help to shape the evangelical subculture, even though its borders have become much more porous. Their timidly, tepidly cautious conservatism eschews all potential “controversy” and they have, through long habit, trained Christian publishers to adopt a similarly cautious, timid and tepid approach.

Rachel Held Evans discusses the chilling effect this has in a recent post titled “Christian bookstores and their chokehold on the industry“:

Christian bookstores have developed a reputation for producing a highly sanitized customer experience, purging from their shelves any language, content, or theology that doesn’t meet their uber-conservative standards. Walk into your local LifeWay and you will find plenty of Precious Moments statues, specialty Bibles, Veggie Tale movies, and Thomas Kinkade prints … but little trace of art or literature that intrigues, agitates, and inspires — as true art should! The Christian bookstore experience is, in a word, safe. But safe is not how Christians are called to live, and safe is not what artists who are Christians are called to create. In fact, based on LifeWay’s own standards, the Bible itself — which includes profanity, violence, and sex — should be banned from the shelves.

What most people don’t realize, however, is that the problem of sanitized Christian bookstores extends far beyond the inventory on the shelves to create an entire Christian subculture that is so sanitized and safe it often fails to produce art that is relevant to our culture or our lives.

Now I’m going to say something that will probably get me into some trouble, something that many editors and writers are afraid to say for fear of losing their jobs or their book contracts, but something which desperately needs to be spoken out loud: Christian bookstores have a chokehold on the Christian publishing industry. And this chokehold not only affects the inventory you find on Christian bookstore shelves, but which books are contracted by publishers, what content gets edited in the writing and editing process, and the degree of freedom authors feel they have to speak on their own blogs and platforms. As a result, the entire Christian industry has been sanitized, while its best artists look elsewhere for publication.

Evans gives several examples to illustrate the point, then describes how this chilling effect also influences the theology, politics and academic credibility of the evangelical subculture:

But what is perhaps most disturbing about this whole culture is the pervasive, stifling fear it has created among writers, editors, and publishers. I have spoken to former editors who left Christian publishing because they were exhausted from living with the fear that they would be fired for sticking their necks out and championing “edgy” projects. I know authors who are afraid to share their egalitarian views on their blogs because they might lose their book contracts. I too have hesitated before being honest about my views on gender, politics, and homosexuality for fear of repercussions. No one seems to like that the industry is this way, but many are just too afraid to challenge it.

For all the amazing people who work in Christian publishing, and for all the amazing books they produce every year, there is this undercurrent of fear and insecurity that undoubtedly stifles our collective creativity. And this fear and insecurity is a direct result of the unreasonable standards held up by Christian bookstores.

All true. And desperately sad once you realize just how little it takes for a project to be regarded as “edgy.”

Oddly, though, I think I’m more optimistic about all this than Evans is. That’s kind of a role reversal. She’s supposed to be the hopeful young idealist challenging evangelicalism from within, while I’m supposed to be the jaded old cranky exile, lobbing cynical criticism from the outside. But again, inside and outside don’t mean that much anymore now that the walls are down and all that remains of the old boundaries is a scattering of fortified gates standing alone on the open landscape.

So I don’t think that Christian bookstores can maintain their chokehold on Christian publishers much longer.

Those publishers finally seem to be realizing what Warner Home Video — the successful marketer of The Blind Side on DVD — already knows: You no longer need Christian bookstores to reach Christians.

Yes, old habits die hard, and many publishers remain fearful of doing anything that might jeopardize the once-necessary imprimatur of LifeWay and the other bookstores that were once so influential within the former boundaries of the subculture. But being publishers of books, they’re in a better position than most to also realize the inevitable truth about bookstore chains — which is that if they’re very lucky, they may just barely out-survive newspaper chains. Even the most timid and subculturally captive Christian publishing companies have already begun relying more on Amazon than on any of those old-guard brick-and-mortar chains. The publishers have already seen what the future will look like, and it doesn’t include much of a role for LifeWay, et. al.

The walls are gone. There’s no longer any need to pay the toll to use the gates.

  • glendanowakowsk

     Because, Ross, history shows that sufficiently-supported oppression can last for millennia. Of course, by the time the cracks are visible, it’s too late for the oppressors to win, but it’s easier to pretend that isn’t the case. 

    Maybe, like George Will, they’re trying to run out the clock.   
    Après moi, le déluge  and all.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Art can also be about something being beautiful, or at least pretty, and therefore giving pleasure to the observer.
    A Kincaid print may not intrigue, agitate or inspire. But that’s not what the people who buy them are looking for. A Kincaid print is intended to be pretty and comforting. A warm and well-lit home, the safety of protective walls and of the fire on the hearth that has been the focus of human life for thousands of years.
    Art inspires emotion. And emotions like feeling comforted and secure are as real as less-pleasant emotions such as agitation.

    Fallacy of the wrong comparision. There is enough good, true art that is soothing for people after a 70 hr. week.

    I most certainly would not hang Guernica on my bedroom wall. But the “Sunflowers” of Van Gogh have been scientifically proven to contain exact the right shade of yellow that makes people happy (by hitting the chemical producing thingie in the brain that reacts to sunlight). And a cheap reproduction of them doesn’t cost more than a crappy Kincaid painting.

    So it’s quite possible to buy a book with reproductions of conflicty art to look at and a nice soothing picture to hang onto your wall without giving money to Kincaid and his ilks.

  • arcseconds

     what about “Law and Order: Shut the Vuck Up”

  • Münchner Kindl

    My mother was asked if it was alright for me, a sixth grader, to read a certain book that was supposed to be for 8th graders. She was astonished. “She can read anything she likes.””But you might not want her exposed to certain ideas.””I want her exposed to everything. I believe in immunization, not isolation.”

    So did your mother send you to measle parties, too, and into the hospital isolation ward to play with MRSA-patients? Going into the other extreme is understandable, but not a good option. There are books and movies whose violence is disturbing for unprepared children, or whose demeaning attitude towards women / minorities you don’t want your children to accept unquestioningly. (And unless you watch / read everything together with them, you can’t always adress this  – a lot of stuff, esp. the attitudes underneath, children won’t adress directly).We already have a big problem that because porn, esp. violent porn, is trifling easy to find on the internet, that a big portion of youth, esp. male teens, get their whole idea of what sex is from that. Studies show that they indeed believe that “a girl that says no doesn’t mean it, once she’s gang-raped she’ll like it” “bigger is better” “women must be treated violently”, and that can be charted to the increase in violence against girls.So screening of problematic material until a certain maturity is reached is sensible. Of course, since each child is different and therefore will reach maturity at different ages, and will be disturbed by different things, this needs to be done on an individual basis. And talked about with the child as to why – a simple “I forbid this” without explanation will only tempt children to get the media from other sources. A good respectful discussion will make them understand.

  • malpollyon

    Citation seriously needed.

  • hamletta

    LifeWay. Oy. Back when they were the Baptist Sunday School Board, they had a tunnel under Broadway to the main post office in Nashville. 

    The main post office is now an art museum, but they still freak me out. The SBC owns a huge chunk of downtown Nashville, and my li’l Lutheran parish is just a coupla blocks away. I count on my Episcopalian brothers and sisters at the Cathedral to hold the line if they start another 30 Years’ War. 

    I’m only kinda joking. 

  • aunursa

    I took my ten year-old to see The King’s Speech when it was in the theaters.  She loved it.

    I couldn’t believe that it was rated “R”.  No sex or nudity.  No violence.  No drug use.  Two brief scenes in which Bertie exercises his voice by repeating profanities.  (She giggle during those parts.)

    It should have been rated PG.  Instead, films that provide nonstop gratuitous violence – including torture, gratuitous profanity, intense sexual acts, and frequent drug use are routinely labeled PG-13.

    I’ll never trust the ratings system. 

  • Münchner Kindl

    For what exactly – that there are measle-parties? Or that they are a bad idea?

    That violent porn exists on the internet, and that teenagers can find it?

    Or the studies that they are influenced by it?

    What standard of proof for citations do you accept? Because I’m sick and tired of going digging for cites only to have them
    a) ignored
    b) dismissed because they’re in “newspapers” not science journals (I don’t have access to science journals, and I’m a layperson; furthermore, just because the US has Fox news and journalists who don’t understand how reporting works doesn’t automatically mean that every other county has also media who can’t be trusted; dismissed because it’s in German)
    c) attack the source and their reputation by impugning them (usually without any evidence of course).
    So I only dig out cites if you are willing to accept them, not if you dismiss/ ignore/ impugn them.

  • Leila

    Hey Lori :)
    I think what the others are mentioning is the 2009 flap between Ted Dekker and Steeple Hill  where he posted on his website a listing of the words and situations that wouldn’t be publish in the works of that publisher.  Words like bra, butt, sex, etc.  If you google Ted Dekker and Steeple Hill, you should find a copy of the the list on other’s websites, But Dekker eventually made peace with Steeple Hill and took the list down from his site  a long time ago. It did make for funny reading though.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    So did your mother send you to measle parties, too, and into the hospital isolation ward to play with MRSA-patients?

    You know, in addition to committing various logical fallacies (jncluding purposely carrying lines of argument to absurd conclusions based on overly literal reading of the word “immunization”), you’re also being kind of a dick.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    “bra”, huh?

    I guess quantum mechanics is out, then.

    (You can’t have a bra without a ket. ;) )

  • EllieMurasaki

    Buh?

    Re the list: do good Christian women all have sufficiently small boobs that no support is necessary, or do large-boobed good Christian women all wear corsets instead?

  • Münchner Kindl

    Ah, breaking out the personal insults again.

    So following an argument to its conclusion to show its absurd is a fallacy? A literal reading of immunization is a fallacy?

    If the attitude of your mother was as you stated it that nothing should be filtered in any way or shape, then I fail to see how it’s absurd to point out where that leads to.

    If your mother did draw a line somewhere, because some things can be harmful, then you need to say so.

    I also note you didn’t adress the point of my post – that extremes in both directions are bad. Extreme filtering is bad, but extreme openeness is also bad.

    I guess once you had slapped the label of “logical fallacies” onto my post, you didn’t have to bother reading further.

    Really pleasant the intelligent discussions here…

  • Ima Pseudonym

    “”So did your mother send you to measle parties, too, and into the hospital isolation ward to play with MRSA-patients?”

    You’re comparing apples to oranges. 

     At the age of ten, I was already avidly devouring Stephen King, Robert R. McCammon, Clive Barker, J. G. Ballard, William S Burroughs, H.P. Lovecraft and Dean Koontz.  The books tended to be gory and violent, with heroes (for a given definition of the word “hero”) that were often morally ambiguous–or morally complex, if you’re feeling generous–and and with characters that were damaged in various extremely disturbing ways.  I was never forbidden to read them.  Even at the age of 9, I was able to understand that there were things the characters did that weren’t acceptable in real life, and even in the world of those stories, except perhaps under the extremely narrow range of conditions that were posited in the books themselves (being fictional to begin with, it didn’t matter).  And when I had a problem understanding something, I asked my parents. 

    I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t think it did any harm to me. Quite the opposite, in fact.  I saw a larger, wider world than the one I lived in, and the characters within those books doing the things you describe were generally depicted as villainous “heart of darkness” types no sane person wanted anything to do with, so they were valuable examples of people you didn’t want to emulate. 

  • malpollyon

    I want a citation for the claim that “violent porn” has a strong influence on its consumers.

    I’d accept a citation to a scientific paper in any language that explains what methodology they used to establish specific causation. I won’t accept a link to a Newspaper report, unless it gives enough details that I can easily track down the paper and verify it myself (I have access to most academic journals through my University).

    I’d be interested in an explanation of why you think that censorship of offensive material is more effective than countering distorted perspectives with accurate information, particularly once a child reaches the teenage years.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    The dislike I have for Christian bookstores comes more from the fact that I’m expected to fit into their definition of what a “proper Christian” is. And as an Episcopal priest, I certainly do NOT fit into their definition of an RTC. 

    Most “Christian bookstores” I’ve been in put stuff about Catholicism in the “cult” or “other religion” section, so…right with you.

  • Leela Bisht122

    This is spectacular! Simply put i appreciate reading your written content everytime I get feed alarm.http://www.religionstube.com/videos

  • veejayem

    Well said. There is an unpleasant element of elitism in a lot of contemporary art that acts as a “Keep Out” sign. A few years ago there was a show of Monet’s paintings in London and it was extremely popular. Then the reviews started to include snide little comments about Monet’s work, seemingly because (shudder) ordinary people liked and responded to it.

  • GeneMachine

    I guess quantum mechanics is out, then.

    Well, you can have a ket without a bra, though. At least you can note down superpositions under the given restrictions ;)

  • Tonio

    Good point. The current system is preferable to government intervention in countries like the UK, where local boards can ban movies. Still, many of the assumptions that drive the ratings are ridiculous. Sex scenes with non-white lovers or gay lovers almost automatically get more restrictive ratings. What you describe is the same attitude that drove the phony controversy over Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl – there probably would have been little outcry if, say, the show had included a fistfight with Justin Timberlake. Have you ever seen “This Film Is Not Yet Rated”?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Shhh. ;-) Quantum Romance is …. Uncertain.

    *badum-tish*

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Sorry, science geek humor. Basically a bra in quantum mechanics is one half of a product you take of wavefunctions (the ket is the other half). So it has a perfectly innocuous meaning there, but of course the word is identical in spelling to the breast-support-item :P

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Just because I only quote part of your post for context doesn’t mean I haven’t read the whole thing.

    And you’re still being a dick.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    First, screw you Disqus for eating my carefully composed intro twice.

    Second, I have no preconceived ideas about what the effect of consumption of violent porn is likely to be. I do tend to agree with Munchner Kindl’s general point, that complete exposure to all things at any age is not necessarily a great idea. I also think that he’s been rather abrasive in other threads recently, but personally find the response to him in this particular one surprisingly harsh.

    Anyway, I’m as far from an expert on this subject as one can be, but 5 minutes of looking at journal abstracts on Google scolar came up with a whole bunch of research.

    A Meta-Analysis Summarizing the Effects of Pornography II Aggression After Exposure
    MIKE ALLEN, DAVE D’ALESSIO, KERI BREZGEL
    Human Communication Research 1995
    Abstract:…The summary demonstrates a homogeneous set of results showing that pictorial nudity reduces subsequent aggressive behavior, that consumption of material depicting nonviolent sexual activity increases aggressive behavior, and that media depictions of violent sexual activity generates more aggression than those of nonviolent sexual activity. No other moderator variable produced homogeneous findings.

    This is not a concluse review on the literature. I just don’t think you can say that Munchner Kindl is completely talking out of his arse on this one.

  • Dan Audy

    Thanks for the cites Sgt.  I will have to see if I have any access to those articles through my local university.  Most of the research I’ve seen indicates that pornography (and violent porn in particular) displaces sexual violence rather than encourages it.

  • Mau de Katt

     When I was a “new Christian,” back in the early 80′s, the local Christian book store was independently owned and not a chain.  A good friend of mine worked there, and the older couple who owned and ran it were very nice and genuinely cared about their customers.  The products were still pretty much the same, but somehow didn’t seem nearly so bland and sanitized as the chains later did to their inventories.  Instead, their store seemed to me (the new believer) to be a mysterious place full of hitherto unknown wonders buried under the surface of “normalcy.”

    I remember there were books by not-so-well-known authors, books that weren’t so uber-marketed, even books that dealt with different Christian viewpoints than the “mainstream evangelical subculture.”  Heck, I remember buying a record (actual vinyl LP, lol) put out by a “Christian metal” group, Stryper, that had a pretty “out-there” cover (by evangelical standards; I must be honest,  I bought it because of the cover, lol), at that store.  The older gentleman owner was a bit taken aback by the cover of the album and by me buying it, and expressed his concerns that I “might not find it appropriate” (I had that “innocent & naive girl-next-door” aura, much to my chagrin), BUT he not only sold it to me, they actually carried it in the first place.

    But like all independent bookstores, secular as well as “sacred,” the chains came along and put them out of business.  To me it seems poetic justice that Amazon is now putting the chains out of business, culturally as well as economically.

  • Münchner Kindl

    I’d accept a citation to a scientific paper in any language that explains what methodology they used to establish specific causation. I won’t accept a link to a Newspaper report,

    Then I can’t give you a quick cite - the last article I read was in the Zeit magazine.

    And it wasn’t a scientifically controlles study exposing adults to non-violent porn; it was a study of asking teenagers about their experiences with porn (internet and other media) and their attitudes towards sex, esp. asking male teens about attitudes towards girls.

    Another study or part of that study was also asking teens who had already done acts of sexual aggression (like rape) on why they had done it and not stopped, and a large percentage answered with “because we saw that when a girl says no, she doesn’t mean it”.

    Now, obviously there is more than just porn a factor: a lack of proper sex ed. in the family; a lack of proper relationship models in the family and friends; a general emotional neglect of the teen by adults. Nobody is saying that watching one porno on the internet will turn a teen into a violent raping monster.

    Rather, what is worrying is that a) most pornos that are on the internet today are violent (as compared to 10 years ago) and that
    b) the teens say directly and indirectly that they have problems keeping fiction and truth different, esp. if other influences are lacking.

    I’d be interested in an explanation of why you think that censorship of offensive material is more effective than countering distorted perspectives with accurate information, particularly once a child reaches the teenage years.

    First, I did not in any way advocate censorship, and it’s not about “offensive” material. If you had read my post fully, you’d seen the part where I talked about how each child is different and affected by different things, so what material is appropriate at what age will differ wildly.

    I also did not advocate a simple ban, but rather a discussion with the child as to why he/she shouldn’t consume certain materials until older.

    As for countering distorted perspective with information: Did you follow in any way the research about psychological influence via emotions in the past decades?

    Violence, horror or otherwise unsuited material, along with bad role models, influence emotions.

    Factual information goes to a very different part of the brain. You can’t use information to counter emotions. If somebody is convinced that he is allowed to take what he likes because he’s a psychopath or because he was spoiled rotten, giving him information that is not good won’t do anything.

    The research of the past decades with adults have shown to how much a degree people are and can be manipulated without noticting, but you think letting children see that violence is accepted can be countered with the information “well that’s not really true”?

    I don’t really know how I can explain so wide a gap.

  • christopher_young

     Kindl and SPBHCB: I think you’re overreacting badly here. When a parent says, “I want to expose my children to everything”, they’re using a figure of speech to mean, I want to make sure my children to understand that it’s a big, varied world out there and there are bad bits as well as good bits, not that they actually plan to make the kids sit through a programme of snuff movies.

    Look, if somebody invites me to dinner and asks if there’s anything I don’t eat, I’ll likely reply, “Oh, I’ll eat anything.” But if I sit down at their table and they pass me a plate of hemlock fritters garnished with arsenic powder, they’ll discover that I won’t, in point of fact, eat anything.

    I’m quite sure that any thoughtful parent* who “wants to expose their children to everything” would in practice take pains to steer the children away from anything they thought they couldn’t yet handle. But do so in such a way that the children both have a sense of expanding their own boundaries, and a confidence that their parents don’t bullshit them about trivia, so that when they do strongly advise them not to do something there’s probably a good reason.

    *Yes, I know there are a lot of thoughtless parents out there who cause their children a good deal of harm in all sorts of ways. Those aren’t the people we’re discussing.

  • Münchner Kindl

    I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t think it did any harm to me. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    The old “I was beaten as child and didn’t harm me, so everybody can be beaten, too” argument.

    If you don’t want to speak for everybody, then what use is your personal anecdote? Maybe you could imagine a different 10-year old who would be unable to sleep for weeks on end after reading about government conspiracies experimenting on humans or unstoppable killers or other King and Koontz stuff (not to mention Lovecradt, with its horror and racism).

    (And then the kid asks an adult about it and learns that yes, indeed, government did experiments on people with drugs without telling them; yes indeed, there were very racist people; yes indeed there are psychopaths who can kill without any remorse).

    I saw a larger, wider world than the one I lived in, and the characters within those books doing the things you describe were generally depicted as villainous “heart of darkness” types no sane person wanted anything to do with, so they were valuable examples of people you didn’t want to emulate.

    Good thing I didn’t recommend forbidding anything. Good thing I specifically described how to evaluate what a child can consume at what age depending on each child. Oh wait, you all skipped that part and argue against a strawman.

    Because reading King or Koontz with characters specifically described as bad is exactly the same as all literature and movies. It’s not like there are books out there – like Left Behind? – or movies (like Bruce Willis, Batman et al) where the “good guys can do what they want because they are good; revenge and vigilantism are good” and other messages are pushed underneath the surface. No, that’s not a problem at all.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Most of the research I’ve seen indicates that pornography (and violent porn in particular) displaces sexual violence rather than encourages it.

    In that case, maybe you could cite the context of that research? Did they measure influence on adult men or on juveniles (who are still forming their whole moral system)? Normal adult men or those already in prison?
    How did they measure “influence” – the famous “penis-on-electrodes” response?
    And finally, what porn? Naked breasts isn’t porn. Violent porn is different from normal porn.

  • PJ Evans

    If the rest of us understand that the line about wanting the kids to be immunized was intended to be read as allowing the kids to explore the world around them and make some mistakes, then you’re really trying hard to misunderstand it.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Kindl and SPBHCB: I think you’re overreacting badly here. When a parent says, “I want to expose my children to everything”, they’re using a figure of speech to mean, I want to make sure my children to understand that it’s a big, varied world out there and there are bad bits as well as good bits, not that they actually plan to make the kids sit through a programme of snuff movies.

    The second part is a completly different meaning from the first. Is this a special US definition of that term? (Because Americans can only understand extremes, so if you are against censorship or even filtering in any form, you must allow everything, but in practice not?)

    Look, if somebody invites me to dinner and asks if there’s anything I don’t eat, I’ll likely reply, “Oh, I’ll eat anything.” But if I sit down at their table and they pass me a plate of hemlock fritters garnished with arsenic powder, they’ll discover that I won’t, in point of fact, eat anything.

    That example doesn’t fit. Hemlock and arsenic are poisionus to adults,too. This is about things that teens or adults can handle, but small children or teens can’T yet.
    I remember the anecdote of a real mother in a book about child-rearing, on how the mother tried to discuss with her child why she wouldn’t let him watch a particular movie for being too drastically violent. The mother used the analogy of “We don’t feed Sauerkraut to babies, because their stomachs can’t handle it yet, they would get belly-ache. Your mind can’t yet handle that movie, but in some years, it can.” The kid asked “How do we know that babies can’t handle Sauerkraut? Did somebody feed it once to find out?” Then some days later the mother comes home and the kid says “I now know what you mean about the Sauerkraut!” Turns out that in an afternoon TV programme approved by the mother with usually normal content, they had for some reason without warning shown a person with half their head blown off, which had badly frightened the kid watching.

    I’m quite sure that any thoughtful parent* who “wants to expose their children to everything” would in practice take pains to steer the children away from anything they thought they couldn’t yet handle. But do so in such a way that the children both have a sense of expanding their own boundaries, and a confidence that their parents don’t bullshit them about trivia, so that when they do strongly advise them not to do something there’s probably a good reason.

    And yet, this isn’t filtering. This is also not the discussion with the child about what’s not suited yet for them and why. No, this is completly different from what I described because …?

  • Münchner Kindl

    Oh, so it’s not important to be clear in your posts anymore? You just know that everybody understands what you mean, no need to try and be clear.

    You can tell that to Fred, too, he can reduce his wordcount immensly if it’s no longe important to clarify things.

    I also don’t remember being against immunizing kids…

  • Ima Pseudonym

    ” The old “I was beaten as child and didn’t harm me, so everybody can be beaten, too” argument.”

    I was going to ask why, exactly, you’ve suddenly become incredibly confrontational and (apparently) angry in your recent posts, but then I remembered that this is the internet and arguing on the net is moronic no matter who wins.  So have it your way.  Peace out.

  • Münchner Kindl

    A few links:

    Interview with the president of the German society for the sociologial study of sex http://www.zeit.de/zeit-wissen/2009/03/Aufklaerung-Kasten-Interview

    How pornos change brain chemistry and behaviour esp. in male teens:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/29671981/Are-Kids-Addicted-to-Internet-Porn

    Georgette Constantinou, a pediatric psychologist at Akron Children’s Hospital, said viewing pornography at that age “puts boys into a constant hyper-sexualized state.”

    In young males, Brooks has discovered in his practice, viewing porn teaches them to wallthemselves off from too much emotional intimacy in sex and to sexualize all feelings of emotional and physical intimacy. Because their closest approximations of emotional intimacy and most intense exposure to sensual pleasure occur almost exclusively in the context of rapid-orgasm sexual activity, male adolescents learn to closely associate sex with intimacy.Many men are unable to be aroused without porn…. Jensen said that often sex portrayed on the Internet is not consensual.´Having a 14-year-old watch a 55-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl have sex, thinking that·s acceptable to meet that man·s needs, is very concerning,µ Jensen said.´There are sounds and images that may seem like someone is emotional, when, of course,they·re not. And a child doesn·t have the context or maturity to make sense of all thosethings,µ said Jensen. She said children begin to think that·s what sex is. And now they·reseeing it at an earlier age than before.

  • Münchner Kindl

    but then I remembered that this is the internet and arguing on the net is moronic no matter who wins. So have it your way. Peace out.

    oh wonderful. So first you start an argument/ discussion, and then you leave, feeling superior.

    Yeah, what a suprise I get confrontational after being attacked. No relation to how the people treat me, no. You are so peaceful after all!

  • GDwarf

    Why not let children read/watch things? Sure, there’s stuff out there that will give them bad ideas, but the point, the important point, is that stuff will be out there long after you lose the ability to deny them access to it, and if the first time they encounter it is at a time when they cannot or will not talk to you about it then they only get the bad view, not the counter argument. If, instead, you let them be exposed to things that are inappropriate but you think they can handle, and then talk to them about it, you prepare them to think critically when they encounter such stuff in the future.

    It’s not like having a “Measles party”, it’s like giving your child their shots.

  • Münchner Kindl

    So you didn’t read the rest of my post or misunderstood it?

    I don’t feel like trying to argue anymore with people who keep on twisting what I said. Maybe it’s because “everybody else understands what it means”, and so what I say means something different to you, too.

  • aunursa

    Have you ever seen “This Film Is Not Yet Rated”?

    I’ve heard about it, but I haven’t seen it yet.  Probably something I should make time for.

  • Ima Pseudonym

     No, I’m ending the argument/discussion before it gets any worse than it already has.  I don’t know where you got “feeling superior” out of it, since what I’m feeling right now is “ridiculous” for having set foot in this thread in the first place.

  • Pat B

    Your post wasn’t that long or that confusing. People read it, they got it. What they don’t get is how you got from “I don’t restrict my children to media intended for children” to “I show my children violent (and in the case of some of those studies you cite, illegal) pornography.”

    Believe it or not, despite your distaste for American culture, we -do- actually get that showing hardcore porn to kids is a poor idea. In fact, in almost all municipalities it is illegal, usually called “Corrupting a Minor.” It is, in fact, too easy for kids to get porn on their own, but in the absence of effective content blocking software and with the ubiquity of the internet that is just a fact of life.

    The reason people seem to be attacking you? You use disingenuous augments (i.e. You let your child read Lovecraft? Why not infect them with Measles!), you display a level of nationalistic arrogance which is nauseating even to us Americans, and you act like your a huge victim when you’re really just a troll.

  • Tonio

    With the Harry Potter series, we’ve had to remind our children not to repeat the instances of rude language, particularly the words they’ve never encountered elsewhere. They haven’t asked why the middle-school-aged wizards can drink butterbeer and the teenaged ones can drink firewhisky, but that may be because we consume very little alcohol in our house and the kids might not even know what whisky is. We share a love of the series, and I greatly respect Harry’s values such as doing what’s right instead of what’s easy and standing up for one’s friends. Although we avoid deliberately sheltering them, the challenge seems to be in teaching them not to blindly imitate inappropriate things.

  • Lori

     

    I think what the others are mentioning is the 2009 flap between Ted
    Dekker and Steeple Hill  where he posted on his website a listing of the
    words and situations that wouldn’t be publish in the works of that
    publisher.    

    Believe it or not, I don’t think that’s the list I was thinking of. The one I’m remembering had all those things and more. There was stuff about how ministers are allowed to be portrayed and which characters can and can’t be non-Christian and on and on.

    The Steeple Hill list does give a good idea what I’m talking about though. It’s a list obviously designed to produce a book that doesn’t offend the most easily offended segment of the target market. It reads like it was created by a focus group of the most uptight older Southern Baptist ladies you’ve ever met.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    I’m not sure I’d agree – while local councils in the UK technically CAN still ban films, I can think of only instance of that happening in my lifetime – Cronenberg’s “Crash” which was banned by one (rather small) council in London (and still is, technically, but since councils only have jurisdiction over cinemas, not home video, i’s rather a moot point now).

    Furthermore, from what I understand, the MPAA’s power may not have the force of law, but it seems to be a lot more effective than the BBFC’s power. 18 rated films (excluding pornography, which can only be shown in licenced cinemas with tighter ID rules) are far more likely to be shown in cinemas here than NC-17 rated films in the US. Referring to “This Film Is Not Yet Rated”, the BBFC actually seems to be far closer to the way the movie wanted classification to work – ratings are explained in exact detail, filmmakers have a right of appeal (and the BBFC will work with them prior to release if they are seeking a specific rating), and the BBFC goes out of its way to be public and to seek feedback from the public at large over what content is acceptable at what rating. I know government enforced control over media is a big issue for many people (and for good reason), but I’ll take well run state classification over an anonymous private board that refuseds to explain its decisions.

  • christopher_young

    I’m not American.

    But there is a widespread, and as far as I know international convention in colloquial English that people say “I will do anything/eat anything/go anywhere/let my children do everything” as an expression of a general approach, but with an unspoken sub-clause to the effect of “anything or everything within the constraints of what a person in my culture would regard as unlikely to cause serious or lasting harm directly or indirectly.”

    The effect of the implicit sub-clause depends on whether the speaker is being entirely serious, in which case it can be taken as excluding intolerable cost or lasting physical or psychological damage, or whether the speaker is engaging in light banter, in which case it might mean that they would exclude getting up too early on a Saturday morning. You can only judge from context and your knowledge of the speaker, but usually it’s clear enough. Certainly if someone who seemed otherwise to be an intelligent and attentive parent said that they wanted to immunise their child against the bad shit in life by exposing them to everything early on, I would not take that as meaning that they weren’t going to take care to avoid physical or moral harm to the children.

    tl;dr. What PJ Evans said upthread.

  • malpollyon

    If you find more information on that study you mentioned before I’d be very interested in reading it, from your description it sounded like exactly the kind of evidence it would take to begin convincing me. 

    The interview and news article on the other hand are not strong evidence, the article is full of unsupported controversial claims and the only serious mention of the science is that studies show no causal link between viewing pornography and attitudes towards women. Of the few genuine statistics actually cited, none really point either way as to whether porn is uniquely problematic. The interview, as far as I could tell, makes no reference to specific evidence (except an unnamed study on U.S. soap operas, am I misreading that part?), just again asserts the magnitude of the problem.

  • Lori

     

    The second part is a completly different meaning from the first. Is this
    a special US definition of that term? (Because Americans can only
    understand extremes, so if you are against censorship or even filtering
    in any form, you must allow everything, but in practice not?) 

    Is it actually possible for you to make an argument or point without it being a jab at America and Americans?

  • Tonio

    You must be younger than 30, since Monty Python’s Life of Brian did experience some local bans, and that was when home video was in its infancy.

    MPAA’s system didn’t include detail until fairly recently, and you’re right that the board doesn’t explain its reasoning for ratings. My concern with government having veto power over which films are shown is that this can very easily be used to stifle dissent. To a lesser extent, a government ratings system could face the same problem – severe ratings could be used to punish politically outspoken directors or actors. I’m still shaking my head that some democracies still have blasphemy laws, which were used to attack the Python film.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

    So following an argument to its conclusion to show its absurd is a fallacy? A literal reading of immunization is a fallacy?

    Yes. Yes it is. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_absurdum

  • Münchner Kindl

    Um, we are talking about American attitudes shaping American language since this is an US-centric messageboard. Generally, Americans seem to have trouble understanding why limiting freedom of expression in any way shape or form is a good idea, because of the knee-jerk reaction (visible in this thread) of equating “restricting access” = censorship; censorship = terrible!

    And it’s especially aggravating considering that most Americans are those who say “I let my children read/ watch everything!” yet also say “My child must not have one drop of alcohol before turning 18″ (with it actually being illegal in several states even for parents) and “My child must not have any sex before turning 18″ (again, some acts being illegal in several states.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X