10/19 Flashback: Lies from ‘Truth for Youth’

10/19 Flashback: Lies from ‘Truth for Youth’ October 19, 2022

From October 19, 2015, “Do surgeons wear latex gloves in Catholic hospitals?

We were taught to recite the books of the Bible, John 3:16, and lies about how condoms don’t work.

The eminent Doktor Zoom at Wonkette invites us to “Read Some Terrible Pro-Abstinence Comics.” The terrible comics in question are included as part of the spectacularly awful “Truth for Youth Bible,” a rad resource for Christian young people produced by white evangelist Tim Todd, who’s down with kids these days and hip to all their cool lingo.

Here’s how Todd describes his new Bible:

Help us bring the message of the Gospel to America’s youth and counter the ill effect of the liberal agenda being promoted aggressively in America’s public schools by helping to provide Truth for Youth Bibles for every teenager in the United States.

The Truth for Youth consists of the entire New Testament in the God’s Word Translation along with 100 pages of powerful, full color comic stories that present the “absolute truth” about issues that young people are confronted with, such as: Sexual Purity, Evolution, Pornography, Secular Rock Music, Abortion, Homosexuality, Drugs, Drunkenness, Peer Pressure, School Violence, Sorcery and Witchcraft. … God’s wonderful plan of salvation is incorporated into each of the stories.

(The scare-quotes around “absolute truth” there are, inexplicably, from Todd himself.)

This is all just as mortifying as you might expect it to be. The newly canonical “comic stories” added to the Bible* are a shoddy collection of Jack-Chick-ish urban legends warning against the evils of Harry Potter and Elvis. Aron. Presley, but with Chick’s aggressively ugly artwork replaced by a differently ugly kind of imitation manga.

This sort of thing is so utterly useless for outreach to “America’s young people” that I can’t believe that even Tim Todd considers that their real purpose. He’s selling these in bulk — “50 bibles to a case … for Christian young people to give away to unsaved friends in school.” And I suspect he knows exactly what will happen to any unfortunate “Christian young person” coerced into doing such a thing. I suspect he knows that the persuasive potential of these abysmal “bibles” is less than zero, and that the only possible effect of Christian young people giving them away at school will be the ostracism and isolation of those Christian young people.

That is, after all, the most predictable outcome of such a deliberately offensive “evangelistic tool.” Give your classmates a deliriously weird comic book telling them they’re damnably stupid and evil and they’re likely to regard you as a creepy weirdo who thinks they’re better than everyone else. But this social suicide is a feature, not a bug. That ostracism and isolation is the intended result of such “evangelism,” which has nothing to do with “outreach” to the “unsaved,” but rather with strengthening tribal bonds of identity for the poor kids duped into passing these things out. It’s a way of manufacturing a sense of persecution that will create the illusion of righteous contrast.

Setting kids up for that kind of failure in order to isolate them from anyone other than their sectarian subculture is an old trick. Isolation is always an early, necessary step for abusers — and for spiritual abusers.

Stuff like this is utterly deserving of the Wonkette treatment, and Doktor Zoom does not disappoint. You can click through this link for his thorough ridicule of this ridiculousness.

Here I just want to highlight one panel from one of Todd’s cartoons, “Passes and Plays: The Truth About Safe Sex.” Because it’s full of lies about sex — lies enthusiastically circulated throughout the white evangelical subculture. These are lies and urban legends about condoms that make up part of what Everyone Knows within that subculture. Like all such legends, they can be repeated and reaffirmed without any need to source or verify them, because as part of what Everyone Knows they are treated as beyond questioning.

Here’s the panel:

Yeah, that. I’ve heard and seen this claim endlessly repeated by apparently well-meaning white evangelicals for decades. In their circles, this is something that Everyone Knows to be true — even though it’s completely false. And even though it’s transparently false — a bogus claim that can’t withstand even a momentary bit of scrutiny.

I’ve been charitable here in describing this falsehood as an urban legend and as something Everyone Knows. But that’s too charitable. The ritual repetition and reaffirmation of such falsehoods is a largely unthinking reflex for members of the white evangelical subculture, but it can never be a wholly unthinking reflex. Such falsehoods are thus never fully something that Everyone Knows but, rather, something that Everyone Pretends to Know.

And that pretending — that pretense — is a form of deliberate deception. That this deliberateness is only partially conscious, and that it isn’t experienced as an explicit moral choice in the moment, doesn’t change the fact that such a choice is being made. Habit and indoctrination and being surrounded by a subcultural bubble of others all making that same choice may all serve to make it easier and smoother and less noticeable, but none of that means that those telling and spreading and repeating this blatant lie are less culpable than any other deliberate, willful liar. it just means that their lying and dishonesty have become so ingrained that they no longer fully notice when they’re doing it.

This habitual, tribally mandatory, dishonesty is corrosive. The corrosive effect of such ritual lies — about condoms, about birth control and Planned Parenthood and LGBT people and Satanic baby-killers — are rotting the core of the religious communities that embrace them.

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* The fundies I grew up around might have approved of Todd’s anti-evolution, anti-rock-music, anti-everything cartoons, but they would have balked at his idea to include them as part of his Bible, quoting Revelation 22:18 (in the King James Version, of course): “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.”

That’s terrible exegesis — that verse refers only to Revelation and not to the entire Bible. But at least that terrible exegesis would’ve prevented them from including those cartoons as part of any edition of the Bible.

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