Heather, a frequent commentor on this site, once made the following comment to one of my articles:
“…another thing I’ve found interesting about conservative Christianity in general — discouraging members from reading books that promote opposing viewpoints. Or just reading books on those opposing viewpoints that are written by conservative Christianity.”
So several months ago when Heather made this comment, I put my memory cap on, and I sat about thinking about what books I have been discouraged from reading, what movies I was discouraged from watching, etc. I tried to remember everything that I was explicitly warned about by clergy or my parents, for strictly religious reasons. Were they trying to protect me? Were they trying to hide something from me? Were they trying to keep me from falling into sin, or challenge God with questions?
I published a long list about 7 months ago on my old website, and I thought I would re-publish them here. Maybe some of the readers here can relate to this.
When I was a very young boy I was told, by either the church or my mother, to dispense of, not watch, or pay no heed to the following items:
- Song of Solomon from the Bible (too racy)
- An animal show that I liked as a child, that I cannot remember the name of (No, I don’t think it was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. I was allowed to watch ol’ Marlin Perkins). There was always a segment on this show which described how the animal of the week evolved from some extinct animal to its present day form.
- My Bible Picture Book (my own mother said this was inappropriate, but I’m not sure why – maybe she did not like an interpretation of a particular story?)
- My 45 rpm single of Convoy by CW McCall (it contains the line “eleven long-haired friends of Jesus in a chartreuse microbus”)
- The Ten Commandments movie (half of it was viewed by my church as blasphemous fiction, but the parting of the Red Sea scene threw my grandmother into a fit of Holy Ghost tongue speakin’!!)
- My dinosaur flashcard set
The following TV shows were banned strictly on religious grounds:
- I Dream of Genie
- Bewitched (church rumor had it that Agnes Moorhead was a real witch)
- My Favorite Martian
As I got older, my mother enrolled me in a private Baptist school. The school was in the 3 room basement of the local Baptist Church.
ALL rock music, in fact nearly all music of any kind, was banned at my Baptist school. Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Kiss and Elvis (of all people) were given specific attention as being Satanic. I was at least allowed to play some of my music for the principal before he passed judgment. He banned everything I played for him except an ambient snippet of a Kansas song that I used for a school play. The music I played for him, hoping for acceptance, included the bands Yes, Rush, Devo, Jethro Tull and Moody Blues. I didn’t even try to play him other stuff I liked that I thought had no chance of passing through his filter. I was also really getting into jazz at the time, but he put a stop to that, claiming all jazz to be self-indulgent and not glorifying to God. My mom was much more accepting of my music than that school, but she did confiscate my brother’s Love Gun LP by Kiss. She also questioned why one of my Yes albums featured a naked man on the cover.
These are all books that I was threatened with confiscation by my Baptist school. They never outright took these from me, but I was told never to read them on school grounds again. I was caught reading these mostly in the bus to a basketball game or during lunch. I admit that while I did enjoy all these books, I sometimes blatantly read them on school grounds just to rattle the Baptist principal’s cage. My version of geek teenage rebellion, I guess.
- Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
- The Hobbit by Tolkien
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by Tolkien
- The Silmarillion by Tolkien
- The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
- The Illearth War by Stephen Donaldson (if memory serves. It was one of the Covenant Books)
- The Time Machine by HG Wells
- Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (This one got me in a
LOT of trouble)
- I nearly had CS Lewis’ Narnia series banned, but it was a hard sell.
The game Dungeons and Dragons gave particular ire, and was repeatedly banned by church, school and parents. I tried to get around it by playing a subpar game called Tunnels and Trolls, but nothing doing.
The Baptist school discouraged us from seeing ANY movie in the theater. Fortunately, my mother was a little more liberal than that, as she did let us see cinematic gems like The Apple Dumpling Gang and The Lincoln Conspiracy. She did relent and let us see Star Wars when nearly every other teenager on the planet was going. The only movie that I can remember being forbidden to see by my mother for strictly religious reasons was Monty Python’s Life of Brian. I am tempted to include The Exorcist here, but really that movie is not suitable for children anyway so I won’t.
As I got older, nothing was outright banned from me by the church. We are in the United States after all, and it is easier to ban these things from impressionable children than law abiding adults. However, the Pulpit was still used to actively tell us certain movies, books and music were unacceptable to God. The following is a list of things that were strongly discouraged by the churches that I have attended over the years. These are movies that I remember being actively discouraged from the Pulpit:
- The Last Temptation of Christ
- Brokeback Mountain
- Jesus Christ Superstar
- Jackass (TV Show)
- Beavis and Butthead (TV Show)
- The DaVinci Code
- The Prince of Egypt
- Bruce Almighty
- Cheers (TV Show)
- The Simpsons (TV Show)
Strangely enough, I was actually encouraged to see The Omen by one of my Bible teachers.
For some reason, books seem to get more attention than movies. These books were named and actively discouraged by churches that I have attended:
- The Apocrypha of the Catholic Church Canon
- The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
- Holy Blood Holy Grail by some folks I can’t remember
- Catcher in the Rye by Salinger
- The Urantia Book by.. by Space Aliens I guess
- The Harry Potter Series (I lived just a few miles from Christ Community Church, which sponsored the book burning seen in the above photo)
- Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
- The Miracle of Seed Faith by Oral Roberts
- Quest for the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer (I think a very odd book to mention from the pulpit)
- Anything by John Shelby Spong
- Anything by Erich Von Danikan
- Anything by Henry Miller
- Good Morning, Holy Spirit by Benny Hinn
- I’m OK, You’re OK by Thomas Harris
- The Book of Mormon
- Dianetics by L Ron Hubbard
- The Gospel of Thomas
- The Gospel of Judas
The number of musicians we were warned of from the Pulpit are too numerous to mention. But there was one incident that will live in my memory forever. A number of years ago I had a prayer meeting in my apartment, and everyone noticed my enormous collection of LPs (I had several hundred at the time – music has always been a passion of mine). After several hours of Holy Conviction by my hyper-Pentacostal buddies, and convinced of my own sinfulness against God, I willingly threw every last one of those LPs in the dumpster – well almost. I saved only two LPs that I did not tell my friends about. They were too difficult to part with, as the songs on those LPs projected a deeply rooted spiritual hope that would stay with me to this day. One of the LPs featured a song called ‘He is Sailing’.
This is an enormous amount of effort by others to keep outside influence away from me and out of my Christian life. Looking back at this list, it is interesting to me how long it is, and I live in a very permissive and free nation! I cannot imagine the repressive hell lived by those who have experienced true censorship, or really experienced Orwell’s Thought Police enforcing a Fahrenheit 451-type policy, be it political or church driven. When the Church gains political strength, I think that is when real trouble begins. Given human nature, I have no doubt that had the Christian Church the power and political force that it once had, most every one of these items (and whole lots more that I did not mention) would have been outright banned from our society. It has happened before, it is still happening outside the United States, and there is nothing guaranteeing that it could not happen again.
Photo: Harry Potter book burning, Christ Community Church, Alamogordo, New Mexico, 2001