Wash Your Face… But Read Your Bible

Image: Sheologians.com

Sharing today an article from the Sheologians website that I found really interesting. No small number of women are flocking to this easy-breezy “you go gurl” theology. It’s like big gulp of Red Bull… props you up for a bit, but you inevitably come crashing down at some point because it’s not actually what you body needs. At the very least, this is a great reminder to think before you read.

“Not a few of you have asked us about Rachel Hollis’s book, “Girl, Wash Your Face”. Admittedly, I have never read a “self-development” book, but since this baby is a New York Times bestseller and Hollis is currently sitting in the number one spot in Amazon’s Women’s Christian Living, Self-Help, and Religion and Spirituality sections, I am going to oblige. Perhaps I will finally learn how to help myself religiously. Or something.

I will tell you from the outset that I am not naturally drawn to any of these topics unless they are written by someone with years in ministry and a tried-and-true track record. It’s not that I think that Hollis can’t have anything worthwhile to say. It’s just that I tend to be skeptical when someone with an Instagrammable lifestyle blog spends a lot of time trying to convince me that, no, really. Honestly. She is so messy. Like the messiest. But you all know how I feel about copious uses of the word “messy” so I digress.

What I’m Expecting

I have purchased the book, I have read reviews, endorsements, Hollis’s Twitter feed, and the book’s introduction. I am supremely confused. Jen Hatmaker and Jefferson Bethke want you to read this book. An atheist Amazon reviewer liked the book. Pastor’s wives are sharing it with their congregants. Target is displaying it on their end-caps, which are usually reserved for heavyweight sellers like Oprah and Nicholas Sparks. Given that Joel Osteen is also usually following us with his eyes when we meander past said end-caps, but Hollis doesn’t have the same book selling history he does, I am going to make a few predictions:

Hollis is probably hilarious. It takes skill to make a reader laugh. I am expecting she can do this well. I bet she’s relatable, witty, and easy to read. Since her Amazon bio page has the word “empower” or some form of it at least five times, I am going to guess she is very Katy Perry Roar-y and we are going to know it by at least chapter two. Maybe we will all make like Sarah Bessey in Jesus Feminist and go out in the forest and clang pots and pans because, you know, girl power. I am going to guess that in some ways, she’s going to have a hard line on exactly what my inner monologue can be when I’m at my messiest. After all, this book is about not “believing the lies about who you are” and as a sinner, I am guilty of needing to correct my thinking all the time.

The Introduction

On the second page of the Introduction we read:

“Have you ever believed that you aren’t good enough? That you’re not thin enough? That you’re unlovable? That you’re a bad mom? Have you ever believed that you deserve to be treated badly? That you’ll never amount to anything? All lies. All lies perpetuated by society, the media, our family of origin, or frankly—and this is my pentecostal showing—the Devil himself.”

We should really make some distinctions here that Hollis doesn’t make. For starters, some of these are always a lie and some of these might be a lie and one is for sure true on the only scale in the universe that matters.

In Romans 3:11-12 we read:

No one is righteous, no, not one;

no one understands;

no one seeks for God;

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;

no one does good,

not even one.

So the absolute truth is that you are not good enough, none of us are good enough, and none of us shall ever be good enough. We are not good. We are fallen. We are sinners. We reject and despise God. If you’re spending your time wondering if you are good enough or pronouncing that you are good enough, you are believing a lie. Jesus did not come and die on the cross because you were good. He did so because you will never be good enough. “Good enough”, in the context of the Christian life, has no place.

God did pronounce in Genesis that His creation was “good”. And the Bible does give us a holistic way to view ourselves as being image-bearers of God that is positive. Our Creator made us in His image and gave us the task of taking dominion over His creation. But I don’t get the feeling this is quite what Hollis is talking about, given that her list here of other possible lies includes things that simply do not correlate or have any teleological bearing.

For example, she lists “not thin enough” as a possible lie. On the next page she explains that “taking the easy way out is how you end up on the sofa, fifty pounds overweight, while life passes you by.” Apparently, for Rachel, there is a “not thin enough”.

I do want to note that she is right that no human deserves poor treatment from other humans. You do not deserve to be treated badly. But what about the notion that you are not unlovable? How can that always be true? Have you ever lived with another human for more than a day? Has that not been enough to convince you that sometimes humans act in incredibly unlovable ways? And wouldn’t that negate the very nature of the love of Christ—the God-man who loved us while we still hated him? Shouldn’t we be willing to confront our brothers and sisters when they are behaving in extremely unlovable ways, and isn’t that the best kind of love of all? The unconditional kind that images Christ and His bride? (Yes. The answer is yes.) Most of us have experienced the love of at least one other person, but that is certainly not because none of us have never been unlovable. And thank God for that.

There is freedom in understanding that we aren’t here to be good enough or lovable enough to earn anyone’s favor. We are called to something better. We are called to love our spouses and our children when they aren’t being lovable. Our spouses are called to love us when we aren’t being lovable. And upon the basis of Christ’s love and grace towards us, we are called to imitate Him. You can stop spinning your wheels trying to convince yourself you are “good enough.” You can rest in knowing that Christ loves the unlovable, and as you image Him more and more, the less unlovable you will be. Christ didn’t love unlovable you and then leave you in that state. He has freed you from bondage towards the sin that produces some extremely unlovable behavior.

The following page offered a ray of hope:

It’s worth asking, right here, right up front, where faith plays a role in all of this. As a Christian I grew up learning that God was in control, that God has a plan for my life, and I believe in the marrow of my bones that this is true. I believe God loves each of us unconditionally, but I don’t think that means we get to squander the gifts and talents he’s given us simply because we’re good enough already.

Okay, well, great. I am not sure how this plays out in the rest of her theology, and I won’t touch on her so-far-lacking “good enough” paradigm again in this section.

A caterpillar is awesome, but if the caterpillar stopped there—if she just decided that good is good enough—we would all miss out on the beautiful creature she would become.

I seriously doubt that caterpillars have the wherewithal to make “decisions”, both in the sense that she is using and not in the sense that she is using, and I’m offended we couldn’t get to the end of the first section without a misplaced caterpillar metaphor that literally has nothing to do with how we should use the talents God has given us.

All of this to say, the end of the introduction promises to exposit each of the lies Hollis has believed that have held her back, hurt her, and caused her to hurt others. She is going to tell us how she has taken the “power” away from these lies. I’m looking forward to finding out where Christ’s victory over sin and death comes in to this, how a Christian woman should battle insecurity, and if she’s willing to give Christ the glory in her battle against lies. Call me a skeptic, but I am not feeling super hopeful.”

Summer White

Plucking Forbidden Fruit

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” Genesis 3:6

“Good intentions get the best of us, don’t they? Eve probably didn’t go into her day with a diabolic item on her to-do list. 

Prune roses. Check. 

Feed the goofy-looking animals with really long necks. Check.

Take a stroll with God around lake. Check.

Try out new fruit. Check. Usher sin into world. Check.

Neither do we go into our days thinking, I’m going to be a control freak today and make myself miserable. Instead, we go into our days with self-made edicts of love. No one is more surprised than us when we turn around and find ourselves plucking forbidden fruit from trees that we had no business touching.” Jennifer Dukes Lee It’s All Under Control.

Do you ever notice the things that most drive you crazy in others are usually the exact shortcomings or sins that you yourself struggle with? It’s not easy to admit, but the controlling tendencies in others bring out the controlling tendencies in me. It would be funny if it wasn’t so darn sad. We vow we’ll never be like so-and-so… we would never handle the situation the way so-and-so did… only to find ourselves stuck in same miry mud puddles they are in.

Since the dawn of creation, we have craved control. It can come from an innocent place or a devious one. For most of us, I’d venture to say we don’t want bad things to happen, so we clench our fists as tight as we can. That old metaphor is true though, the tighter you squeeze, the more sand falls out onto the ground.

There’s this ‘surrender’ word floating around and it sounds nice.  We sing the old hymn “All to Jesus I surrender… all to Him I freely give”… all while checking our phone and adjusting our calendars. It’s not surrender if we don’t actually lay something down.

Here comes the inevitable BUT…

BUT I can’t just throw all caution to the wind and hope it works out! I can’t just let those proverbial chips fall wherever they may! Peoples lives are at stake here! Little people, big people, work people, projects, households… ALL THE THINGS!

Ironically, surrender doesn’t mean we toss up our hands and hope for the best. That’s fatalism, and Jesus wasn’t in the business of making things overly complicated. He said to we must surrender our lives to His will. There will be a cross to carry, but it is far better than the baggage we accumulate through our stubborn and prideful control.

It’s both funny and tragic that we are often so blind to the futility of all this micromanaging. Like Eve, we think things can work out better if we can just get our hands in the mix. In the end, we just come out with sticky, dirty hands. We don’t mean to go after the forbidden fruit, but our stubborn flesh just won’t rest until it gets to have a say in everything.

Do you know what I’m learning the hard way? We don’t need to have our hands in everything in order for it to work out. Moms of teens are really bad at this at times. Ask me how I know. Every day I have to choose to let them go just a little farther out into the world. Every day I want to intervene with my big ol’ opinions. It’s not always necessary and God is faithful to remind me that I have to lay down my control and pick up my cross.

Half-hearted surrender isn’t very useful. Jesus asks for everything we’ve got, and in return, He promises to keep it and sort it better than we ever could have ourselves.

“Then He placed His right hand on me and said: Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.” Revelation 1:17

Can you picture Him? Hand on our shoulder telling us not to fret. Like two giant bookends, The First and the Last is here with us and He promises to guard whats in the middle. We can trust that we don’t need to go chasing after other fruit.

Get Your Control Under Control

I’m excited to have the chance to review Jennifer Dukes Lee’s new book (to be released in a few weeks) Its All Under Control. I haven’t read it entirely through yet, but wanted to just share some thoughts on this heavy topic we all struggle with: control.

Bleh. I think if we’re honest, we all deal with this at least sometimes. From a quirky need to have the countertops sparkly all the time to stepping over the line in personal relationships out of insecurity… control can take us from freedom to bondage in a heartbeat. I love this passage she shares:

“When you are at your best, you are plugged into the limitless resurrection power of God, who pulses through you with tremendous force. God created you for great things, and when you live as one empowered, you do these things really well.

But when you are under stress, you are probably like me: running dangerously close to empty a lot of the time. It’s hard for you to tell the difference between what’s essential and what’s unimportant, so you do it all. You wrap your arms around everything, just in case. Without proper fuel, you try to generate your own strength – as if you can propel your car with your feet, like Fred and Wilma Flintstone. This leaves you worn out and calloused. You need to get your control under control.”

Ouch. Get your need to control under control. Our lives aren’t really conducive to this though, and the more we think about it or try to “let it go” be more tangled up we get. We don’t like when things don’t go our way. We squirm at the thought of being uncomfortable. So we orchestrate and we delegate. We plot and plan.

The crazy “new normal” is too much for me. I have no desire for it, yet I’m caught up in it.

Years ago I studied the topic of Biblical surrender at great length. I remember vividly learning about abiding in Jesus. We lived in Germany at the time, along the Rhine river which was full of vineyards. I need to revisit that often as life moves forward and circumstances change. We are required to hold on to some things and let go of others. Out desire to control all the outcomes has to be put down… daily.

Take up your cross… it rings in my ears a lot lately when I find myself running away from the hard things. We are called to carry our cross, but not our baggage. Here’s a huge difference. I hope to dive deeper into that as the next weeks unfold.

“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

Defeater Beliefs

“I’m a Christian, BUT…”

“Well sure I believe the Bible is true BUT…”

We live in a time and place where fence-sitting could be a national sport. It’s good to be grey, bendy, undefined… unless you have defined yourself in which case, be whatever you want. There’s always some crazy hoopla surrounding “Christian” celebs or pastors who choose to go off into the grey, and rightly so.

There’s a great article, entitled “Gracious Confidence is More Appealing than Angst and Doubt that appeared in the Gospel Coalition and really hits the nail on the head I think. The idea of “defeater” beliefs is fascinating to me because it’s these beliefs are being used to draw people in. I have to say, I’m of the opinion that there’s so much beauty and freedom to be found in true Biblical Christianity, you don’t need to have a “yeah BUT…” excuse at any time. Too many big shots are out there preaching a pathetic version of the Bible because they are afraid of bringing the truth to sinners. How arrogant and prideful we have become when we take the responsibility upon ourselves to impress people with our words and actions. Love everyone, yes, but for heavens sakes give them something to believe in.

“But what happens when there are immediate “defeater” beliefs, such as “Christianity is intolerant because you believe Jesus is the only way” or “Christians believe in hell,” or “Christians discriminate against LGBT people because they don’t perform same-sex marriages”? When we come up against these objections, it’s easy to assume that the way to win hearing is to present the teachings of the Christian faith in the most tortured way possible, almost as if we too are as uncomfortable with our religion’s teaching as they are. We build common ground by acting as if we hold in common an outsider’s aversion to Christianity.

By presenting the image of ourselves as “wrestling” with challenging teachings, we think we come across more human, more vulnerable, and more authentic. We’re convinced we are more winsome when we make it seem as if we’d love for Christianity or the Bible to be different, or we’d love to find a way to interpret these texts differently, but right now, we’re just in the same season of struggle as many people of faith are, as we try to reach the modern world. I believe this approach is fundamentally misguided. There is nothing attractive about people proclaiming the lordship of Jesus who, deep down, resist some of the King’s commands. It’s like saying, “Jesus is Lord, but I don’t like it.”

There’s nothing attractive about inviting people to become part of a community that doesn’t know what it believes, or that is fundamentally uncomfortable with its own teachings. Yet this is the approach that I see among many evangelicals, particularly those of my own generation, who are trying to gain a hearing for the gospel.

I get it. It’s tough to present the beauty of Christianity in a culture in which the plausibility structures are set against you, in a pluralist society that sees all evangelism as intolerant, in an age that sees one’s self-expression (especially sexually) as fundamental to identity. Yes, it’s tough. We can all feel that pressure.

But we do ourselves no favors by backpedaling, by coming up with tortured explanations of why we believe what we believe, or by acting as if our hands are (unfortunately) tied by the biblical text we say is our authority.”

It isn’t authentic to not know what you believe. If we want to share the good news we must first not be ashamed of it, because it is indeed good news. When we act as though Jesus was just messing around when He said A, B or C we are saying our small brain knows better. Here’s a tip: we don’t.

We struggle and we sin, but we don’t totally leave the ranch for other pastures. There’s a truth that anchors us, centers us, and keeps us within the realm of Gods bounty, but when we proclaim to know more and simply bask in our “wrestling” we miss the freedom that Christ died to give us.

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15

With gentleness and respect. We respect man more than God Himself when we change His gospel. We may be smart and witty and oh so plugged in to the heartbeat of our culture, but it benefits us nothing if we lose Christ along the way.

Rise Up

I have a friend who told me a most eye-opening story the other night. She was speaking with a fellow mom who candidly just blurted out how Facebook was making her feel like crap. “Do you ever feel like that?” she asked. When my friend explained she wasn’t on any social media and neither were her teens, she was met with total confusion. “Well… do your kids even have any friends then?” was the honest and brutal response. It turned into a whole long debate, but ended with my sweet friend holding up her phone and proclaiming “this may define you and your family, but it’s not going to define mine!” And that was that.Sadly, unplugged people like her are kind of an anomaly these days. We treat them like weirdos and wonder how they ever get anywhere in life. To say we are letting the tail wag the dog is an understatement. We genuinely believe that going with the flow is in our best interests, even when it causes hurt and harm. It’s not that we don’t have the intelligence to know better, we do. There’s just this nasty thing called pride that will not be hushed. It’s fueled by a relentless enemy who knows that if he can keep us focused on ourselves, we can’t focus on much else. This passage from Lisa Whittle takes the breath right out of my lungs as she laments seeing kids she loves fall into this trap:“I have heard this story over and over again, and I’m sick to death of it. Another talented, God-breathed soul with a limitless future stuck in a web of earthly entanglements that will alter the course of his life. My anger takes me aback. I expect the sadness. I expect the tears, I don’t expect the mad. But my sadness has taken me here, to the manic food chopping and yelling out loud at the devil. With deep love often comes a rising up, and this is where I am. I am fighting for this kid and my kids and all the kids whom satan wants to take down with drugs and sex and alcohol and porn and self-harm and eating disorders and violence and apathy and entitlement and mind games. All my heart and soul and love is rising up within me and crying out.”I think this is what my normally quiet friend must have felt. In this long list of tragic vices, I find apathy to be the worst. It robs us of any desire to get out of our predicament. We stay lazy and self-focused and uninterested in rising up.Proverbs 29:18 says “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.” If our highest goal is to look good or if we are driven by a fear of missing out… we are going to “cast off restraint” and make poor choices. It can be as dull as wandering aimlessly or as deadly as running totally wild. A vision is more than just a pipe dream or even a goal… in this context, it means revelation from God. A Biblical vision gives us a bigger purpose outside of ourselves. It’s the thing we align ourselves up with because we believe it to be worthy. It’s looking beyond the little screen in front of us to something larger.Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Approval from God first and foremost. Let the rest shake out how it will, but being right with God is first. Yes, we will look weird at times. We may even miss out on some things. There’s a heavy-handed message telling us to keep on in that rat race and que sera sera… it’s the enemy hoping we’ll trade in the vision for some cheap imitation. The God-breathed kind of adventures are so much more interesting than the filtered little worlds we create. Being unapologetically tied to His Word eliminates a ton of dicey situations if we have the good sense to seek it and treasure it. This “web of earthly entanglements” is no game, but neither is the riches in grace that have been provided to believers through Jesus. Power to rise up and fight for what the enemy has stolen. Crazy love that keeps our feet planted when they want to turn and run. A sound mind that can be quiet and humble in a world gone totally mad. Power, love and a sound mind are riches worth fighting for (1 Timothy 1:7).Will we rise up and fight against this apathy? Will we tell the demanding world that it isn’t actually the boss of us or our kids? We don’t need to go cold turkey on it, but we do need to hitch our wagons to something that isn’t fleeting, something bigger than what we create. “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

Rejecting and Reinterpreting

“Oh be careful little eyes what you see… be careful little ears what you hear… be careful little hands what you do… be careful little feet where you go… be careful little mouth what you say… there’s a Father up above and He’s looking down in love… so be careful little eyes what you see…” 

Anyone know that song? It’s Sunday school 101, my boys used to love driving and listening to it. They would cover their eyes and ears and mouth as they sang it and yell “be CARE-ful eyes! be CARE-ful ears!”  Oh my stars how I wish we could still practice that little exercise. The song randomly popped into my head this past week and I was humming it for a good few minutes before I stopped to wonder why I was singing a kid song from years ago. I had been reading some quotes on Instagram from Rachel Held Evans new book and they had me all knotted up. The world we live in today allows for such easy sharing and spreading of ideas. This isn’t a book I would ever buy, but thanks to the glory of the internet and enthusiastic book reviewers, little pieces of it found their way to me. I don’t mind when this happens, I think we need to at least examine ideas we disagree with and know why we believe the things we do. I’ve been focused lately on the unchanging Word of God, the unchanging character of God and what that means to us living in a world that is rapidly changing. Anywho… here’s kind of the crux of her new book:

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“Spiritual maturation”… sounds excellent. “Wholeness” also sounds downright lovely. How do we become mature and whole? Her answer is apparently by downright rejecting or reinterpreting certain Biblical stories that no longer suit our cultural sensitivities. Her writings have a distaste and disdain for God’s word and character that make me question why one would even continue to give this Jesus the time of day. I’m all for critical thinking and asking the hard questions, but reinterpreting the Bible to fit your tastes is backwards. Her insistence that God’s word didn’t quite turn out the way it was meant to is blasphemous. I don’t mean to sound like an old curmudgeon, but the beauty of the Bible is that it is pure and true for all mankind, no strings attached. The obsession with divisions and differences has changed all that:

“By that I mean we’re all actually interpreting the Bible in a context. We’re all bringing our backgrounds, our gender, our socioeconomic status or race. We bring all of that to the Bible, so we’re limited in how much we can really learn from it because of that, unless we deliberately and willingly and joyfully hear what other people have to say. Somebody coming from a minority community is going to read the Bible differently than I am. 

So. Many. Buzzwords. It’s a given that we all come from different backgrounds and experiences. However, it is not correct to assume that because of those differences we all are limited in what we can “learn” from God’s word. The Bible continually reminds us that we must receive before we learn. We receive Christ as a gift. We receive wisdom and truth through the Word and through the Holy Spirit. These are not intellectual pursuits, but spiritual ones. Learning is fantastic but not until you have first received. The same surrender that is required of a servant is also required of a king. You see, her way of studying God’s Word is doomed from the start. It may be interesting to turn stories on their head and reinterpret them, but this is powerless Christianity. In trying so hard to make the Bible relevant, she’s completely neutered it. If that’s what you’re going for, by all means enjoy the study. I am of the opinion that “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Hebrews 4:12.

I picture it as a river in which God is upstream from all of us. His love and truth flow downward to us all. There is no discrimination or altering of any of it. We all get washed with the same truth. It may be cold, but it’s pure. That truth is our starting point. Doing it backwards leads to confusion and obsession over the wrong things. Trying to get pure water from our little downstream inlets just doesn’t work.

This stuff is a hit with those who want to be told it’s ok to be blasé about God’s Word. It’s a fun study, but an utterly feelings-based and humanistic one. It’s the kind of thing I feel like my college-self would have been drawn to. It’s artistic and witty with a touch of intellectualism. Before we fully experience the sufficiency of God’s Word and the joy that comes from it, we are eager to find something new and exciting, but it’s akin to getting blood from a turnip. No amount of human creativity can compare to the power that lies in His word. The idea that we can just enjoy all these poems and letters and stories for the distant writings they are is very scholarly, but they put Jesus on the same level as any other historical figure.

The truth of the Word convicts us of our sin and asks us to sacrifice. It frees us from habitual questioning and doubting and guides us into a place of joy and trust. We don’t check our brain at the door or stop asking questions, we simply start from a place of holiness instead of offense at the scriptures. Books like this are rebellion in its purest and sneakiest form. We aren’t called to sit in judgment of the Bible and decide for ourselves. Sliding down the path of least resistance, consuming whatever is tossed out to us is not a path to victory. Little by little, the repetition of the narrative chisels away at our foundations making us shaky and unsure. Park yourself in God’s Word. All of it. Most of these arguments can be refuted with a basic understanding of scripture. God is not a genocidal maniac and Jesus isn’t a mild-mannered pushover who wants us to be nice.

God’s stories are not harmful nor are they as complicated as they are made out to be. We don’t need to do a large-scale sociological study on them simply because they are offensive to our current ideals.

Our experiences are valid, but we are not to be defined by our sin, no matter how much attention it may get us. Start with God. Begin with Him, and let everything else fall into its proper place. True maturity and wholeness come not by picking apart God’s attributes, but by surrendering our offenses and hurts to the One who came and died for us. Freedom is found by narrowing in more and more on Jesus and His Word, so that we become an arrow pointing straight to Him.

-Leading seekers to an abiding relationship with Jesus? Yes.

-Pointing people back to themselves and wallowing in victimhood? Pass.

-Putting out a slick message that embraces rebellion and waters down the necessity of a Savior? Nope.

-Speaking honestly and sincerely about hurts while trusting God’s Word holds the balm we need to be healed? Absolutely, all day long.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

God is upstream to us. That’s our starting point. Don’t let human interpretations muddy your waters and get in the way of your most sacred relationship.

Be careful little eyes what you see.

In Defense Of That Little House On The Prairie

Happy Monday friends! Someone who knows me well wrote me about this and sure enough, I can’t leave it alone. There are things on a daily basis that we have to let roll off and then there are hills to die on… here’s my hill: Little House on the Prairie.

Somewhere in America over the weekend, a group of librarians got together and decided the annual childrens book award they give out that carries the name of Laura Ingalls Wilder must be immediately renamed. You see, it turns out that she was a terrible racist and this nonsense must be stopped. Their statement reads:

“Wilder’s body of work continues to be a focus of scholarship and literary analysis, which often brings to light anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments in her work. Her books continue to be published, read, and widely used with contemporary children. ALSC recognizes the author’s legacy is complex and Wilder’s work is not universally embraced.

ALSC works to promote excellence in literature for children that aligns with our core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness, as well as to our strategic plan. While we are committed to preserving access to Wilder’s work for readers, we must also consider if her legacy today does justice to this particular award for lifetime achievement, given by an organization committed to all children.”

You can read the details for yourself on Twitter under the hashtag #alaac18. There was apparently a standing ovation when the vote went through. An entire “task force” was dedicated to this outcome,  and great “tears of joy” were shed over the change. Tears of joy… seriously. Yikes. I have tears of joy at weddings, graduations and the occasional sports game, but I’m clearly not very woke.

Now, before we go any further, lets address a couple of facts: nobody with a brain in their head thinks racism is ok, at any time. Years ago, Wilder herself changed some of the “problem passages” so readers wouldn’t be upset by them. That doesn’t actually matter, however, because this is not about righting a wrong, it’s about that “strategic plan” they talk about, one that requires they control the material and in which everyone else conforms to it. You see the tweet about “decolonizing” literature? Now we are getting somewhere. Drag Queen Story Hour is a thing in several cities now, but that crazy Laura Ingalls has got to go. Amusing that a group of people whose job it is to maintain a love and access to books is suddenly feeling the need to police what everyone is reading.

I have vivid memories, as many do, of sitting at my desk in elementary school reading about life on the prairie. It was our first exposure to something outside of ourselves, our first understanding of hardships we knew nothing about, our first peek into a history long since passed. Not everyone loved reading the books, that’s ok. We weren’t reading them because we related to/agreed with/embraced a pioneer lifestyle, we read them because we didn’t.

Nobody is naive enough to think the real-life experiences of these people were as clean cut as the book or TV series portray. Let’s face it, Ma was scared to death of the Indians. If I lived out on the open prairie at that time I’d be scared of literally everyone. Crazy things went down. Things the modern woke person would faint dead away at. Pa, it seems, wasn’t as much of an intolerant bigot and had more understanding towards them. Anyone remember that the entire family was saved from malaria by a black doctor? Anyone? No? Chapter 15. Not everything is so black and white (no pun intended).

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These stories are the memories of a little girl growing up in a harsh and different world. Have we lost all ability to put things into any kind of context? Nobody reads these books today and develops a fear of Indians. We read to understand that there was life before us and that there is life outside of us, whether we relate to them or not, whether we agree with them or not. I did my college thesis on the French Revolution, not because I was a crazed Revolutionary, but because it fascinated me. Amazingly, I never once had an urge to go undermine a monarchy or guillotine a nobleman.

My son read To Kill a Mockingbird recently. It challenged him and opened his eyes to something he had never seen. This book is on the no-fly list as well, because, racism, of course. It didn’t turn him into a racist, it showed him what people had to unjustly endure and that not everyone was willing to put up with such nonsense. That’s the problem with this kind of thinking, you are missing out on the other side of the story. For every racist fool, there’s at least one person who comes up against them in standing up for truth. Atticus Finch proves not all white people were awful. Kids should be reading all these things. Not wanting them to feel uncomfortable is not a reason to ban a book or retroactively sully an authors work. How narrow-minded and lazy have we become when we equate reading an authors works with total agreement with their personal world views? It’s insanity.

My humble opinion is that this isn’t really about racism, not as much as they’d like us to think. This is about a culture so self-absorbed they truly believe they have all the answers that thousands of years of humanity were too dumb to figure out. They are ‘woke’ and the rest of us bumpkins are still in the dark ages. CS Lewis called this “chronological snobbery” and we are in the thick of it:

“The uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.” 

We can’t just keep shunning things that rub us the wrong way, whether they are genuinely wicked, somewhat offensive or simply annoying. The logical end to this path is that literally every historical thing is going to be banned. That is nothing to stand and applaud with tears of joy. This isn’t about giving racism a pass or embracing genuinely evil beliefs. It’s about not being so fragile as to be afraid of our own history. Your kid won’t turn into a racist reading about the pioneers. You can actually talk to them about humanity and history and it can be a wonderful thing.

I am literally watching Little House as I write this, lest you doubt my sincerity on the subject:

Obviously, we have a much bigger problem on our hands. I wonder who I can talk to about sexism on the prairie….