Do the Steelers make your blood pump or boil? Are you secretly (or very openly) gleeful when the Lakers lose? When your favorite college team plays, do you let Jesus sit by you on the couch and calmly watch, or will your yells and referee critiques flow freely from your heart and spill out of your mouth? I have to admit I’ve spoken ugly words while supporting my favorite teams, mainly when my husband coached and my kids played. I cringe at the thoughts and comments that bubbled up and out of me, and I’ve apologized to God and to people.
Over the past few years, however, sports haven’t impacted me at all because I don’t care who wins what anymore, but I’ve found myself drawn into another facet of community life. The idea that some political leaders want to create laws forcing everyone to think/behave/read a certain way confuses me. And now that my livelihood as a librarian and teacher is at the center of these discussions, it frightens me. But, true to my goal for this year, I’m going to write in a way that scares me a little.
The most recent legislative discussion brought to my attention concerns Indiana SB12 about keeping harmful materials away from minors. The bill’s authors want parents to have a way to see and question any material in a school library that they deem inappropriate. The current phrasing then shows that these senators want to “[remove] schools from the list of entities eligible for a specified defense to criminal prosecutions.”
Wait. Does this actually say that I won’t be eligible for defense and will be criminally prosecuted if the library has material that a parent doesn’t like?
Parents at my corporation can see the holdings of all three libraries, and we have a board-approved policy in place to make sure that all parents have a voice concerning their child’s library selections. Some parents wish for their students to read authors like Judy Blume, Alice Walker, John Steinbeck, Angie Thomas, Sherman Alexie, and William Shakespeare while others don’t. Isn’t it my job, even as a Jesus-following believer, to make sure materials are available for all patrons?
What’s the point of this micromanaging SB12? Are our leaders trying to force their belief system on all citizens? How is that American freedom?
When I was listening to Annie F. Downs’s podcast Let’s Read the Gospels today, one part of scripture jumped out at me. The reading from the Gospel of Luke shows Jesus as he’s preparing to go to Jerusalem where he knows he will be crucified. In this particular section of Luke 9, Jesus and his disciples were traveling to Jerusalem and moving through a Samaritan community. The simplified background is that Samaritans and Jewish people hated each other. They had a history of conflict and name-calling where both politics and religion were involved. Take a look at the beginning of the scripture.
Luke 9:51-56 (New International Version)
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.
The Samaritans did not welcome Jesus. They didn’t want him near or in their area because they had different viewpoints on life. The people did not believe in Jesus even when the miracles were happening in that exact time period and in close proximity to them.
So, the disciples, being fully human with bubbling hearts that spilled out of their mouths, reacted.
54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.
Look! Jesus, the living man who is the Christ, rebuked the disciples when they wanted to punish the people who didn’t think like them. Rebuked means to express sharp disapproval. When James and John wanted to destroy the people who thought differently, Jesus sharply criticized them. He shut them down and showed his strong disapproval. Then, he led them to another village to try again.
To me, this means that when humans disagree, Jesus does not want us to force beliefs on each other or use our relationship with Him to oppress and harm each other. Applied to Indiana SB 12, when librarians offer materials, each family chooses the items they want to read.
So, why are our modern legislators, in the name of moral Christianity, continually creating laws that force one belief onto all people? I’m a lifelong Christian who wants to follow Jesus in all of my dealings, and I want to be like Him. Using this and many other scriptures about Him, I see that I’m not supposed to force my beliefs on anyone. God built us with the free will to choose Him, so our relationship with Him will be authentic.
How does legislation like Indiana SB12 reflect Jesus?
How do so many of the national laws and proposed pieces of legislation reflect the free will of each person to choose Jesus?