When I was a teenager, I read Genesis for the first and only time. It was quite the revelation. Excuse me, I would say with teenage zeal, to anyone who would listen, do you know about Lot? Do you know that his two daughters conspired to get him drunk and then they undressed him and had sex with him in order to continue the family line? This was after God turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt, by the way, and there was an attempted gang-rape involving angels. Oh, and this isn’t a one-off, you know. Noah – the animal rescue enthusiast – also got drunk and naked. And there was some weird business with his son, Ham. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but there is some messed-up stuff in the Bible.
An anonymous parent in the US agrees. A Utah school district recently removed the King James Bible from school libraries for containing “vulgarity or violence”. Last year, you see, amid an orgy of conservative book-banning, Utah’s Republican legislators passed a law that allowed any parent to file a challenge about a book in a public school they considered “pornographic or indecent”. Of course, nobody wants pornography or indecent materials in schools, but this law has been wielded in bad faith to get rid of anything related to LGBTQ+ people or racial identity.
One enterprising parent in the Davis school district, north of Salt Lake City, fought back by providing eight pages of examples of objectionable material from the Bible. The Bible, they complained, contains “incest, onanism, bestiality, prostitution, genital mutilation, fellatio, dildos, rape and even infanticide … You’ll no doubt find that the Bible … has ‘no serious values for minors’ because it’s pornographic by our new definition.” The school district was duly convinced and removed the Bible from its elementary and middle schools.
This isn’t the first time that conservatives have had their vaguely written, regressive laws weaponised against them. Last year, someone responded to Florida’s “don’t say gay” laws by circulating a letter among Florida teachers recommending that all students be referred to as “they” and “them” to avoid “gendered pronouns” such as “he” and “she”. As it says in the Bible, you reap what you sow.
Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist
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