I’d like to discuss a random revelation I had when I was thinking of Conservapedia - though it can be easily applied to just about any fundamentalist publication or a message board. Or public appearance of any kind.
I’ve became convinced that the fundamentalists have a really, really odd idea of what constitutes sufficiently wholesome and child-friendly language.
I’d like to expand on what I babbled about when I added some stuff to RationalWiki’s analysis on some Conservapedian standards. (It used to be in a separate article; I’m talking of the stuff in “No obscenity” section.)
If you ask any fundamentalist, they will probably say that it’s not appropriate to discuss sexuality in any manner, least of all in front of the children. And then the fundamentalists decide to discuss sexuality in front of children.
This is the picture I’m getting. Because when you ask people what they think is the central message of Christianity, they’ll go “oh, I know the central message of Christanity - to oppose homosexuality at all costs.”
That’s what the fundamentalists have taught us. What is the central message of Christianity? To oppose homosexuality. To oppose abortions. To oppose anyone who says anything bad about largely defensive weapons of gun.
And they realise, of course, that in order to fight that war, decisions must be made. Decisions to mention the things, even when that would otherwise be unthinkable.
So, in Conservapedia, it’s obviously not at all appropriate to discuss sexuality. Children don’t need to learn about sexuality. They’ll look it up when they’re adults and when they’re properly married. Right.
But it is appropriate to discuss the evils of sexuality. In fundamentalist mindset, the end seems to justify the means in this regard. It’s never polite to discuss homosexuality or abortion; it’s always polite to discuss how evil homosexuality and abortion is. Discussing those evils is a discussion on the fundamentals of the Faith, a discussion on the message they have to carry to the farthest corners of the Earth.
And similar things happen in real life, of course. Just watch “Jesus Camp”. If you’ve seen a fevered guy wail about abortion in front of the children, you’ve seen it all. It’s the same rhetoric. There’s a message to deliver, and dang if it any rational advice can stop it.
And, of course, it’s even more appropriate to discuss the evils of sexuality if it makes the opponents seem bad. It’s appropriate in Conservapedia to mention anything, anything at all, that will discredit Wikipedia, no matter how out of place that is. If Wikipedia has been criticised as not being child-friendly, that’s front page news in Conservapedia. The evil not-very-child-friendly stuff must be mentioned. In front of the children. Because they need to know how evil Wikipedia is, and they should never visit that evil site.
There is a bigger problem with this way of thinking: People get extremely one-sided views of things this way. Discussing sexuality through these supposed “evils” is harmful, whether these labels are justifiable or not. Can you seriously imagine what’s going to happen if all you’re ever going to hear about sex and sexuality is “X is evil, don’t do it” or “X is inappropriate, don’t do it yet”? Prohibition after prohibition after prohibition isn’t going to build morale. All it does is that it encourages spirit of negativity. What if they really ought to do it, and all they can remember is “don’t”? Just how deep can those ideas take root?
And that is, in my mind, a bit of a pedagogic problem. If you take any topic that people need to learn, they need to learn how to do X properly. What they don’t need to learn is “don’t do X at any cost”. Because if you want to teach people to not do X, that all goes back to the idea that you’re supposed to teach people how to do X properly; to wit, “You’re not supposed to actually do X, because…” - and all that has to be justified with honest facts.
In other words, if you want to teach abstinence to kids, it’s probably more effective to teach responsibility, which may, incidentally, have the natural consequence of promoting abstinence - or it could just make them more clueful. Either way, you accomplish the same goals more effectively. “You’re not supposed to have children unless you’re up to the task. Think about it. You’re just teenagers - can you afford to raise children of your own? There are consequences of your actions.”
The Slacktivist post mentioned earlier has some good points in this regard. People can be easily deluded into thinking that something is evil. When they find out that something is, in fact, not evil, it’s kind of head-explodey.
Being resonable and responsible, however, hasn’t caused the world to end yet.