I was contacted by a father whose 12-year-old daughter’s required summer reading list included The Misfits, a novel that “prominently features a gay character, and is obviously meant to introduce the students to homosexuality in a positive way.” He asked me for advice on what he should do. Should he push back against the school? Read the book with his daughter? Something else?
Since this is the kind of situation many of you could find yourselves in at some point, I thought I’d share my answer here.
At Stand to Reason, we generally recommend “inoculation” rather than isolation as a strategy for dealing with things like this. Rather than keeping her from reading the book, I think the best thing for you to do would be to read the book along with your daughter, discussing these things along the way:
- Explain the Christian view of sexuality.
- Explain the Christian view of loving people, even those who are sinning in ways we aren’t.
- Talk about the hurt and pain the gay character might be experiencing as a “misfit.”
- Look at all of the above in light of the gospel. Help her see that following Jesus is better than merely following our desires, and that the characters in the novel need Jesus.
- Help her think about how she can show love to her gay friends at school and be a good representative of Jesus as she follows Him in obedience.
- Teach her that “love” doesn’t always mean approval.
- Help her to see the ways in which the book is promoting a view that isn’t Christian. Ask her to identify the view they’re promoting, and ask her to contrast it with a Christian view.
- Note especially if they portray those who have a biblical view of sexuality in a bad light. Help her to see that this is propaganda to further the author’s goals, and that propaganda doesn’t necessarily match reality. Do this calmly and without fear or anger. Help her learn to be rational and not driven by emotion or manipulated as she analyzes culture.
- Teach her to recognize when an author has an agenda and to identify how he/she is trying to promote that agenda.
- Talk to her about Christians who have same-sex attractions who are faithfully following Jesus by remaining celibate (such as Sam Allberry). They are full members of the body of Christ, contributing members of the evangelical Christian community.
- Talk to her about sexual temptations she will face so that she’ll understand we’re all battling sexual temptations and need to submit our sexuality to Christ.
The best thing you can do for your daughter is to help her 1) look at her gay classmates in light of the gospel and a recognition of her own sin and need for grace, and 2) understand the Christian worldview and recognize when someone is promoting something that’s opposed to Christianity—particularly if they’re using emotion to try to sway people towards their view. If she can learn to recognize this, that will help her to resist it.
Here are some short posts you might want to review as you enter into this conversation (or perhaps the two of you could read these together, as well, and discuss them):
- Sexuality, Identity, Sin, and Denying Ourselves to Follow Christ
- Be Willing to Submit to Our Good God on the Issue of Homosexuality
- Gay or Straight, We All Must Decide if We Love Jesus above All Else
- Worshipping Images of Ourselves
- To the Christian Who Is Being Tempted by a Relationship
- Sam Allberry – Is God Anti-Gay?
- Homosexuality: Know the Truth and Speak it with Compassion
- What Does God’s Love Look Like?
- Responding to Pride Month with Genuine Love
- Is the Biblical Stance against Homosexuality Necessarily Unloving?