I hear the term “family-friendly” used fairly often, especially on the radio, as a code word for “religious.” Christian radio station IDs include sound bites of happy moms explaining that they can leave this station on with their children in the car and “not have to worry” about what they might end up hearing. There’s a certain fairness to this claim, highlighted when the next station on my dial plays only rap/R&B that seems to have given up on any attempts at euphemism.
But I’m not sure that I buy the idea that a Christian radio station is “family-friendly.” Many of the songs they play carry the basic message of: I’m a broken, horrible person who doesn’t deserve to exist, but thanks, Jesus, for loving me anyway. I understand why this sounds happy and uplifting to Christians, who accept the degrading premise, but this sounds like pretty classic emotional abuse. If I had kids I certainly wouldn’t want to leave them listening to those kinds of songs for extended periods of time (or, really, ever).
When they’re not playing self-deprecating love songs to God-as-emotional-abuser, Christian media outlets of various kinds can be found telling Bible stories in cutesy, kid-targeted ways, or even just reading aloud from the Bible. (I’ve even heard long, droning readings of genealogy and population counts, as though that’s interesting or relevant to anybody.) The idea seems to be that if something’s in the Bible, it must be good to tell our children about.
But the Bible has plenty of examples of scandalous, even nonconsentual sex:
Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”
That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father.
From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.
The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say:
“You are just in these judgments, O Holy One, you who are and who were; for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.”
And I heard the altar respond:
“Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.”
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.
The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.
(Those are just a few highlights. The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible has a longer list of Biblical “family values” here.)
And I can certainly understand why a parent wouldn’t want to expose a young child to all of that! Of course, they tend to ignore these less-than-family-friendly stories and passages — which only underscores the fact that they don’t get their values from their supposed holy book after all. So let’s all stop pretending that Christian doctrine and the Bible are good for children, please. If you want to tell nice little fables that teach kids to be kind to each other, you don’t need the Bible to provide them. And cherry-picking the nicer bits from among the Bible’s genocides, rapes, and plagues is a pretty misleading strategy for spreading the “good word.”