Are we called to be restricting people or freeing people?
“A Florida principal has resigned after students at a Christian charter school in Tallahassee were shown the statue of the biblical figure David by Michelangelo, prompting at least one parent to complain that the children had been exposed to pornography.” (Source).
This might be one of the most famous pieces of art in the world. It was commissioned by the church and was considered too beautiful to remain in the church, so it was put in the public square for all to enjoy in Florence.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has signed a bill banning drag shows in public spaces. This comes after a picture surfaced of him wearing a cheerleaders outfit at a football game. “Lee says there’s a big difference between wearing a dress at a high school football game and drag queens wearing a dress on stage.” (Source) He didn’t go on to saw what the difference was though.
Florida is looking expand its Parental Rights in Education law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in March 2022, often referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. “The law bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.” (Source).
“For grades 4 through 12, instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited unless such instruction is either expressly required by state academic standards … or is part of a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend,” according to the proposed rule.
That’s just three stories in the news right now around one theme. Don’t even get me started on the book bans. As someone who loves to read I have a few words that come to mind to those who think banning books are a good idea. It’s not going to work. I don’t even doubt that for one minute.
Here’s why. Because restrictions and bans and similar efforts to make people and ideas go away through force don’t ever work. Humans don’t like to be told what to do or what to think or what not to think. They will resist naturally to such things. “Don’t touch the stove.” You know exactly what is going to happen. Your toddler is going to touch the stove.
And when a book is banned, or art is banned, or drag shows are banned, or other things are banned because some people can’t handle dealing with them and it makes them uncomfortable for whatever reason, guess what happens. Those things will continue. There’s always a way around it. Always. If we can’t talk about such things, then we’ll sing about then. If we can’t sing, then we’ll paint. If we can’t paint, we’ll do interpretive dance, or something else. Humans are creative, especially when they are subversive, fighting against oppression.
The point is banning things and people are not the answer. It never works.
These outrages and laws are really just outbursts of those in power with no other options available to them. So they have to force their way on everyone else. The use of force doesn’t come from a position of strength. It comes from a position of weakness. If you are in a position of strength, you don’t need to go on the offensive and attack your opponents. Only those who feel threatened, like they are losing go on the offensive and attack when they are already in a position of power.
That’s because when you are in a position of power, your focus becomes on one thing – you have everything to lose. There is no exploration of what to gain. There’s no expansion. No exploration. Just holding down the fort. Trying to maintain what is. And that is a losing game. It’s just a matter of time.
There’s only one way I have ever seen those in power stay in power longer. And that is by empowering others. Expanding power to others. Exploring partnerships beyond what is. Reimagining things. Assuming that what is can’t be maintained. In order to stay in power, you have to give away power. And in the end, you give it all away because it’s not about being in power after all anyway. What’s the point of power anyway?
You’ve got two directions to take things – more restrictive or more freeing. How do you use the power that you have? If you use your power to restrict, you are always defending, always trying to hold on, always worried about who is trying to take your power away from you.
If, on the other hand you use your power to free people, then what you are really doing is giving your power away, freely to people. You are spreading it out to more and more people, so that it is more hands, and is less consolidated, which is also less dangerous. And when you have given it all away, there is no fear of who will take it away from you – you have given it all freely, like a gift, empowering others to go and the same.
That’s what I think Jesus was about – empowering people, freeing people, giving his power away. That’s life giving. That’s healthy.
These laws, like all restrictions and bans before them, will fail. They won’t be respected. People will find a way around them. Politicians come and go – Thank God. Their laws can be changed rather easily. And regardless of what the law is, the question is this – how are we to live as followers of Jesus? Are we to be restrictive, hoarding power, desperate as if on our last leg of holding onto power? Or are we to be freeing, liberating people from oppression which is what the Good News is really about. The choice seems pretty obvious.