Posted by on Apr 23, 2015 in In The News, Weird | 30 comments

[WARNING: NOT SATIRE] It has been an interesting couple of days – angry parents, principals, police, media, threats of lawsuits and physical violence. Over what, you might ask? Toward the end of this post, I will finally reveal the uncensored illustration of a Bible story that has been deemed by some to be “obscene pornography.” But first, a little back story and some context…

A couple of weeks ago, a third grade public school teacher handed out Gideon Bibles to her students in class which caused a bit of an uproar that eventually compelled the state’s Attorney General to issue an official letter in support of Bible distribution on public school grounds. The letter to superintendents began with some interesting rhetoric,

Oklahoma Attorney General - Scott Pruitt“Few things are as sacred and as fundamental to Oklahomans as the constitutional rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion. It is a challenging time in our country for those who believe in religious liberty. Our religious freedoms are under constant attack… I am therefore writing to make it clear that it is in fact legal for schools to allow the dissemination of religious literature and I will take a stand to defend the religious freedom of Oklahoma.” Attorney General, Scott Pruitt

Pruitt then goes on to lay the ground work of specifics on how religious materials can be distributed to students on school campuses in order to avoid any further pestering legal problems (from his own office.). Before I go on, I must ask… “Our religious freedoms,” Mr. Attorney General? For whom do you speak? Is every tax-paying citizen of your state on your team?

The whole thing seemed just bizarre enough that I was inspired to write an open letter of my own to to AG, Scott Pruitt which resulted in many requests for copies of our illustrated mock children’s Bibles (which are intended to promote Biblical literacy and critical thinking about scripture among adults). We were happy to send some books to the kind folks of Oklahoma as a gesture of solidarity and a few of those books eventually found their way across the street from a public middle school. What should happen next? PEOPLE LOST THEIR FREAKING MINDS! (Rightfully so…)

“Wait a second – the Bible says what???”‘

The books were apparently confiscated by the principal, the police were called in, local news outlets rushed to the scene, and public statements were made while the lone Bible distributor fled from the scene out of fear for their personal safety when angry parents began organizing via social media to chase them out of the area who wrote in a private group, ” I am already heading home. Parents heading there now for my blood. Not worth getting beat up over. I don’t trust the police in that small town.”

STATE OF THE “OK” STATE: Before I go on, I think it’s worth taking a moment to gain a little perspective on some of the awkward-but-relevant realities in the great state of Oklahoma – a state that currently ranks:

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WE’RE #1! WE’RE #1!
(In divorce…)
And… women in prison.
And… drug abuse.
CONGRATULATIONS, OK!

religious_freeLikewise, when you juxtapose the 576 official churches to the 15 public highs schools in Oklahoma City alone, it translates to an amazing church-to-school ratio of 38-to-1 – almost forty times as many churches as schools! Is it any surprise that 1-in-5 adult Oklahomans are functionally illiterate?   (You’d think they would be begging for illustrated Bibles, right?) So, please keep this all in mind as you reflect on the self-righteous rally cries about family values, religious freedoms, and priorities coming from a state that certainly has more important things to worry about than figuring out creatively legal ways to distribute a book of ancient superstitions to 3rd graders in public schools.

So… why the big fuss? Because, some Christian parents were finally met with a big ol’ dose of irony, something many parents from all walks of life have been saying all along – the Bible is not appropriate for kids! (Illustrated or otherwise.) Apparently, parents weren’t offended by several unflattering illustrations of Jesus but latched on to one particular censored illustration and ran with it…

“…passing out literature of a naked woman and a man ejaculating. If they are passing out pornographic images to children, the police should be called and the situation should be remedied by them.” – Concerned parent

This is apparently what prompted the local news to do a story on the incident, quoting another parent/lawyer.

“There were obscene sexual graphic images, I looked up this book after meeting with the assistant principal at the middle school and found on amazon that not only do they [the authors] have an advisory for this book not being for kids they even say it [the bible] is inappropriate for some adults because of the explicit nature [of the bible] and pictures in the book,” said Brandon Link, attorney and parent

Indeed, that is exactly the point – the Bible is not appropriate for kids!  (A simple concept that seems to elude the state’s Attorney General as well as many administrators, teachers, and parents.) Like many parents, this particular parent/attorney later took it upon himself to publicly “troll” our Facebook pages with language more graphic than I’d care to use in public while endlessly tagging other parents to join the fight – which many did, complete with several attempts to have our page automatically removed from Facebook by using the reporting system to issue bogus copyright violations and intellectual property complaints. Not to mention sending run-of-the-mill generally unintelligible “love” notes like…

Did I mention Oklahoma ranks 48th in education?

Did I mention that Oklahoma ranks 48th in education?

jeff

Wrong number. I was never in your town. Please hang up and try again.

You mean the storm that was predicted using meteorology days before? (Also, I was never there...)

You mean the storm that was predicted days earlier? (Also, I was never there…)

So, what exactly was this particular illustration that got people so worked up? Well, in our second book (explicitly marketed only to grown-up audiences), we do include two very suggestive-yet-censored illustrations to discuss the extremely graphic allegorical warnings against the kingdoms of Samaria and Jerusalem, a startling cautionary tale of the grotesque punishments for turning away from God – all found in the “Good Book,” Ezekiel 23:19-49.

Suddenly, when illustrated in whimsical style with vibrant colors, the Word of God (which was being championed and protected by the state’s Attorney General as an icon of the very “religious freedoms” that were “under constant attack”) is now deemed as “obscene pornographic material” of a “man jacking off and ejaculating.” But… is that what is actually being depicted in this particular illustration? Or, could obscenity be in the eye of the overly-sensitive beholder with a history of religiously motivated oppressive control issues (in a state where any mention of evolution was “accidentally” censored from the Peabody award-winning science series, Cosmos and where lawmakers voted to de-fund AP U.S. History courses for not being “Christ centered” enough)? Well, my friends – not everything is as it seems…

itsatrap

Wait for it…

After spending much of my life in Christian ministry, I am no stranger to wild assumptions and knee jerk reactions that seem to plague Christian culture – from making Harry Potter the most banned books in America (because he somehow undermines Christian values) to getting girls kicked out of their own prom (because of pervy chaperones having “impure thoughts” about her). In short, I’m not naive.

When we finally gave into pressure from our fans to tackle this passage of Ezekiel, we couldn’t think of a “palatable” way to illustrate such a vile bunch of Biblical word salad without offending somebody, somewhere. So, we used the illustration as an opportunity to hide a ticking time bomb of an Easter egg, an inside joke of sorts that further illustrates the obvious point of just how many levels the Bible is highly inappropriate for some audiences. We knew that eventually someone would take the bait in their search to find anything offensive enough to justify banning the book (of Bible verses) and threaten legal action of some sort.  After completely forgetting about it for over a year, it finally exploded this week in Oklahoma. So, without further adieu, I give you… Ezekiel, Uncensored!

ken_doll

OH, THE HORRORS!!!
Get these filthy dolls off the shelves! (No child has ever seen a Ken Doll before!)

That’s right, folks – a truly shocking image of an ambiguously innocent “Ken” doll holding his copy of the Holy Bible, from which many troubling topics flow. Genocide, rape, slavery, demons, misogyny, cannibalism, unicorns, zombies, the list goes on and on (see the full size image for all of the fine print). Wait, wait, wait – what were you thinking was behind the censor bars, you filthy little perverts! Censored or not, I’d suggest that kids see more “explicit pornography” every day on public news stands, billboards, and music videos – let alone… (gasp) the internet! Provocative and suggestive? Sure! But, only “obscene pornography” if you have an odd Barbie fetish. 

THE BIBLE IS THE BIBLE! What makes the Word Of God suddenly so offensive and unsuitable for kids? Is it really when somebody dares to visually illustrate the grotesque atrocities commanded by their all-loving God? Filthy, horrific, terrifying? Yes, absolutely! This has been our point all along which is why we have big bold disclaimers on every book…

But, here we are with parents forming posses and calling the police because of the censored illustration of a single Bible verse from the same holy book they wanted the right to distribute to children in the first place! The same sacred text that their Attorney General claims evangelists should have the constitutional right to distribute to children every day on school campuses, as protected under (his version) of “religious freedoms”! I was originally going call the bluff of the threatened civil suits, happily showing up in court to force legal judgments that would define the Bible as “obscene pornography” that would eventually require an NC-17 warning label be printed on every cover of the Good Book, but… I’ve got things to do, folks. (That said, if you feel you really must… Bring. It. On.)

MAKE UP YOUR MINDS! How are illustrated Bibles really any different than their fear-filled textual counterparts?  Do these people really think kids could read such horrific verses in text-only Bibles and somehow not use their imaginations? I mean, I know that Oklahoma’s schools are not doing well, but give the students a little credit. On the other hand, children do tend to only see what they know (which, given the state’s record with online porn, might explain some things)…

What do you see? Dolphins or filthy pornography? (Children see dolphins...)

What do you see? Dolphins or filthy pornography? (SPOILER: Children see dolphins…)

On that note – what about famous works of religious art throughout history – Gentileschi‘s Judith Beheading The Gentile” or Luini’s Nursing Madonna“? Are these also obscenity and pornography? Of course, nothing quite compares to miracle of modern film…

PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE? Passion of The Christ (2004)

PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE EXPLOITATIVE BLOOD PORN
The Passion of The Christ (2004)

I’m sorry, but you can’t claim that “religious freedoms are under constant attack” one day, then claim the Bible is “filthy pornography” requiring legal intervention the next. But, in a world of “religious freedoms,” what’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander, is it?

BUT, A SERIOUS QUESTION: Who is in charge of approving or denying “religious materials” for distribution at the central offices of these public schools? How is this even part of a public employee’s job description to begin with, being paid (in part) as judge and gatekeeper of religious propaganda to be doled out on public campuses which are paid for by taxpayers? How are they even qualified, exactly?  Are they given carte blanche to vote “yes” to new-age Joel Osteen and young-earth Ken Ham, but “no” to actual Biblical scholars like Bart Ehrman or colorful illustrations of awkward Bible stories that don’t fit with their one-in-a-million theological views? (Obvious Answer: As I said in my original letter, it should always be a parent’s decision if/how/when to expose their children to religion of any sort – not some secretary at the administration building who is married to a pastor of one particular denomination or another.)

TWO WRONGS: Yes, at the end of the day, I fully admit that I understand that obvious outrage. The same outrage that a lone mother in the religious minority might feel when her third-grader comes home with a Bible instead of a science book!  In all honesty – I had actually forgotten about this particular illustration until the angry hate mail started showing up yesterday. I certainly had no interest in causing any psychological distress for any students, parents, or staff by providing fans with illustrated copies of the very Bible passages that are passed around regularly in written form.

Heck, the "Good News Clubs" don't even both with text or illustrated Bibles anymore with their "Wordless Book" (used in after-school evangelism on school grounds by public school teachers).

The Good News Clubs don’t even bother with actual Bibles anymore – they simply use their sin-and-hell focused “Wordless Book(in after-school evangelism programs on school grounds by public school teachers). Heck, now they even have “Wordless Book Beach Balls” to make the fear of hell and damnation all fun and games in order to teach children the “Seven Most Important Things” (video)

Of course I understand the concept of “watering down children’s versions” of adult books like the Bible for a younger audience. However, that’s EXACTLY how children’s evangelism ministries (like those who distribute religious materials on school campuses) that aim indoctrinate children with the “good parts” of the Bible before they grow up to sit through cherry-picked church service that give them no reason to ever bother opening a Bible of their own to look up the “rest of the story.”  (Trust me, this is not done by accident – youth evangelism used to be a large part of my daily job responsibilities.)

I would normally agree with the old adage that two wrongs don’t make a right. That is, unless a network of public officials religious zealots go out of their way to justify one “wrong” using mental gymnastics, legal loopholes, and the court of religiously-skewed public opinion in order to develop a system of policies and procedures that will technically protect future transgressions from any legal backlash. (I’m looking to you, Mr. Pruitt.) To respond with another overused cliché – it is unfortunate, but sometimes you do have to fight fire (the Bible) with a little fire (the Bible). In this case, it seems to have proven at least a temporary point that will sadly just be used to add to the largely-manufactured persecution complex of those in a state with over 82% in the religious majority whose legislature recently voted to ban atheist marriages.

Finally, I must say that I did find it rather disheartening that so much angry attention has been given to the first half of the Ezekiel passages but no mention of the real horrors that appear on the page directly opposite – including the actual scripture in question. All of this outrage over implied masturbation (which we all know that no junior high student has ever heard of), but no angry messages about an illustration of the systematic rape, torture, and mutilation of a woman at the demands of their all-loving God? Well, for those who are interested, here you go…

Nobody complained about the illustration of this poor woman (don’t worry – she is also wearing a yellow frowny-face bikini under the censor bars). No complaints about the illustration of a young girl being sold to her rapist, or of women being gagged and on leashes to remain silent in church. Or of God throwing a temper tantrum and committing mass genocide. All Biblical and protected under “religious freedoms.” Enough! (Why it matters and made it into the second book…)

MORAL OF THE STORY: Next time, be careful what you wish for. The law of unintended consequences has a nasty habit of rearing its ugly head when you least expect it. You wanted Bibles at public schools, you received a few awkwardly illustrated Bibles across the street on public land. It upset you. It should have.  However, it seems that we finally come to an agreement on one thing – the Bible is not fit for kids, illustrated or otherwise.

So much outrage over an implied penis, but not a word about young victims being sold to their rapists? So much for kids, eh?

Self Esteem

Just a couple of verses a third grader might read in the Gideon Bibles they received. Nothing like a little fear and self-loathing to teach self esteem, eh?

What's that? This actual Biblical version of Noah's Ark isn't acceptable for kids? Don't blame me, folks - it's in the Bible!

What’s that? This actual Biblical version of Noah’s Ark wouldn’t be approved by the “central office”? Don’t blame me, folks – it’s in the Bible!

The point is simple – schools should be houses of education, not potential targets of state-approved indoctrination. Amen?
– Horus Gilgamesh


Clarifications To News/Rumors: In response to the local news story – no, we were never in Oklahoma – we were simply nice enough to send some books to our fans. However, according to witnesses, about 75% of the kids took the books and the protester only left because of the large forecasted (not heavenly) storm that began pummeling the area as school was about to start. (Administrators weren’t aware until later in the day…) Also, from what I have seen and heard, he wasn’t distributing anything from his car or yelling anything about Satan, he was politely standing on the sidewalk in broad daylight across the street from the school property – well above and beyond any requirements set by the state’s AG.

[SIDE NOTE] There *might* just be a video on YouTube of the entire boring affair, taken specifically from start to finish in order to protect the man from false accusations. (As apparently wisely expected.)

dfsdfs

Uhm… no. That is, unless he was an amazingly talented mild-mannered ventriloquist who could “throw” his voice while smiling, I don’t think so… 😉
[Out of respect for an impressionable kid, we blurred the TV station’s story.]

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