Saturday, July 25, 2009

West Bend book banners still haven't gone far enough.

Hi everyone,

I suspect many of my Fundamentalist readers will miss the irony that I commit precisely the same act for which I'm criticizing them.... irony is the first casualty of Fundamentalism. And so it goes.

And for those of you with your own lists of favourites, my apologies. I'm limited to around 720 words and picked what came to mind.

Saturday's column

Overlooking library’s most dangerous book?

Bored with the library flap? Me, too. But we’re not done yet. The book banners have overlooked one mighty important book that must be removed.

Let’s recap: a local group of fundamentalist Christians asks that a number of books be removed from the library’s shelves on completely unconstitutional grounds. Another group of even more fundamentalist Christians joins the fray, demanding the books be burned and filing a law suit against the city for the damage caused to its members by the mere existence of these books. A well-educated local Library Board, relying on established case law and federal court findings and using constitutionally vetted guidelines from accredited national organizations, says “no.” These local fundamentalists then claim West Bend is being victimized by “outsiders,” as if the U.S. Constitution was a set of values being imposed from outside. Julaine Appling, whose Wisconsin Family Council seminars provided the Maziarkas with the organizing skills now costing us bad press and tax dollars, comes to their defense in a recent guest editorial. The complaints depend on smoke and noise because they have no legal basis on which to rest. America hears the noise and smells the smoke. Reports are filed. West Bend becomes a national spectacle, featured prominently at this year’s meeting of the American Library Association and in all the major media outlets including, this past week, CNN's Web site. The fundamentalists vow to fight on.

So far so good.

Some people think all of this publicity is a bad thing. It’s not. It’s just a beginning. These morally righteous folks haven't got it wrong, they simply haven’t gone far enough.

They need to go further with their demands and insist the library remove the most dangerous book in the kids section, a book more hazardous to teenagers than “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” and even more perilous than those dreadful biology books on sexuality (and evolution!) from the adult section; a book which is, arguably, the single greatest cause of spiritual distress and physical bloodshed in Western history: the New and Old Testaments of the Christian Bible.

Let me be the first then to ask the Library Board this question: Do we want our children exposed to a book that includes obscenities like the following?

1. Depictions of daughters getting their father drunk so they can seduce him in order to become pregnant with their own siblings? (Genesis 19:30-36).

2. Descriptions of a prostitute trading sex for a goat? (Genesis 38:13-24).

3. Suggestions that you have your friends killed if you want to sleep with their wives? (2 Samuel 11).

4. An encouragement to marry your half sister and then let her arrange for her maid to become your mistress? (Genesis 16 and 20).

5. A defense of slavery, so long as the slaves come from neighboring countries? (Leviticus 25:44).

6. The conditions for selling your daughter into slavery? (Exodus 21:7).

7. An insistence we kill any young entrepreneur who wants to deliver Sunday papers? (Exodus 35:2).

8. Forbidding playing football with the old pigskin? (Leviticus 11:6-8). 9. Shocking phrases like “She lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose semen was like that of horses”? I mean, at what age is this appropriate? (Ezekiel 23:19-20).

10. Lurid language comparing your lover’s belly button to a goblet overflowing with wine and her breasts to fawns? (C’mon, fawns?) (Song of Songs, Chapter 7).

11. Communistic values like selling everything you own in order to subsidize the poor? (Matthew 19:21).

12. The claim that spiritual development is only possible when you learn to hate your parents, siblings, wife, and kids? (Luke 14:26).

13. And, finally, do we want anything on the shelves that teaches children to reduce matters of profound spiritual development to unanswerable, existential questions? (Ecclesiastes and Job).

I say nay! Let’s get it out of the hands of children immediately. In fact, let’s restrict access to those who can actually read the thing in the original Hebrew, Aramaic or koine Greek. OK, maybe we could allow people with classical (or even medieval) Latin to have a peek, too, but that’s it. Anyone without these skills would have to rely on politically warped translations into less accurate languages, like English, and might come up with all kinds of cockamamie interpretations. Some people might even cherry pick this dangerous book in order to justify imposing their own personal tastes, and beliefs, on their fellow citizens.

Thank heavens the Constitution protects us from letting things like that happen, even in our little town.

They won't even let *me* decide what should and shouldn't be in the library. Ahem.



Concerned West Bend Citizen said...

I presume you've seen Ginny's attempt to counter your column.

I've pointed out the errors of her ways here.

wbman said...

I knew where you were going when I read the first paragraph. I can't wait for the letters to the editor in response. Let me predict some of the adjectives that will be used: blasphemer, atheist, humanist, Communist, liberal.

Anonymous said...

Sorry if you take out such a powerful guide for people, all that will be left is people being nice to each other.

How is anyone going to make money from that?

Talk radio would change for the better that's for sure.

Good luck

Anonymous said...

I suspect many of my Fundamentalist readers will miss the irony that I commit precisely the same act for which I'm criticizing them.... irony is the first casualty of Fundamentalism

Brother Owen has already started the ball rolling.

Kristina said...

Makes me wonder who will be the first to file a complaint to have that removed or reclassidied to the adult section? The same wacko that went to the US supreme court to stop kids from saying the pledge before each school day because it says under God. Oh boy won't that give our little town a good name...

Aron Rodman said...

Hello Mark,

As the son of 2 of your UW coleuges, both english professors with Doctorates, I would expect a more factual article from you. Taking scriptures out of context, seems pretty weak just plain lazy. Even and extremist athiest could see that you were obviously writing about something you did not research. I would think that such an intelligent man would target an article to his peers, not some one dumb enough to take what you say as factual. I guess you just realized that anyone educated would check the sources themselves.

How about moving the Bible AND the proposed books. Seems like a great comprimise.

-Aron Rodman
West Bend Resident and unfortunately helping pay your salary.

Mpeterson said...


I was intentionally cherry picking the text in a parody of the fundamentalists who've done the same with the books they want re-moved from the library.

The Constitution protects the community from anyone who wants to impose their personal feelings on everyone else, whether it's Ginny or even me.

Irony, as I'm bound to start chanting, is always the first casualty of fanaticism.

Anonymous said...

I've sort of been sitting back for this whole library ride but now I just want to give a piece of my mind to this lady.

She is a real ______. (Insert whatever word you want here... most of them work).

What's the best way to talk to her?

Non-Censor said...

I guess those who think you're insulting the Bible haven't read enough of it to see how accurate your quotes and descriptions are. I've written more about that on, 25 July.

MorninStar said...

Amazing article. I LOVED it! Keep up the good word. ;)

...carry on.

wbneedssmartbloggers said...

Speaking of Brother "I'm the real sh-t" Owen and his "Column Fail" post in response - perhaps he should do a post titled "Blog Fail" - don't know if he has noticed (it is hard to notice stuff like this when you are a legend in your own mind), but it seems like the more prolific and intelligent commentators have "left the house", so to speak. A few are still there(i.e, Recess Supervisor)that add some intellectual depth to the conversation, but what seems to be left are mostly inane commentators parroting what Owen says (doesn't Rush have his "ditto-heads"?)or his butt-massagers. I'm not worried about any of them being insulted by reading this - their comments show that they definitely do not follow the links before commenting, in fact, they show evidence of not even reading the post before they comment. They won't be showing up here, because they are not seekers of information.

zombie377 said...

Great column, as always, there have to be a few individuals that have not made up their mind about the issue and can understand irony at the same time. Though this seems to be a more difficult supposition the more charged the debate becomes. I have to say though, I remember reading the old testament as a young man (for confirmation class at our UCC church) and asking my parents if they were sure it was okay for me to be reading it.

Dennis Allen said...

Loved your Saturday column, Mark.
Can you advertise the book signing we're having for the parents of two gay sons on August 1? We may need some decent people there to balance out the picketers!

Mpeterson said...

Hey Dennis,

post up the details and I'll put 'em up in a post!


Bob said...

I am reading a good book about the Iraq War. It is called"Gamble" by Thomas Ricks, senior military writer for the Washington Post. The book makes a point that in a counter insurgency war (is that what we have here in West Bend?)the most important thing is to identify who the "friendlies" are and who are the "irreconcilables." So many o9f the book banners are irreconcilables that all we can do is to ignore them. Should we appeal to their common sense? Sense of fairness or truth? Try and engage them in dialogue? As they say in Brooklyn, "Fugget aboudit."
Let's speak positively about West Bend, its people and ALL of its institutions-- not just the library. The good citizens of West Bend are coming to their senses. The future belongs to those people who care about building West Bend up, not tearing it down.

Mpeterson said...


I love this idea... I cannot imagine that the majority of our local population is represented either by Ginny or by the city aldermen who tossed the library board slate because they wouldn't go around their own procedures and because they followed the advice of the city attorney -- or by the myriad of letters in the local paper which have blindly followed Ginny in condemning the library board or complaining about the equal protections we all receive under the Constitution. I'm hopeful that these people do not represent a majority.

But Ginny will not be ignored, and shouldn't be for that matter. She has every right to pursue her course of action, regardless of the fact that it's in opposition to established law and federal court findings.

I think I'd say that people wake up to important issues only when the issues can finally penetrate their own, immediate, concerns -- like keeping their jobs and making the rent and keeping their kids in peanut butter. Public discussion, even one as heated as this, is an important part of that process.

But I love the library and our local systems of governance... but that doesn't mean we roll over when they're attacked on blatantly unconstitutional grounds or when they misbehave.

Do we praise city council for ignoring library policies? Or the truth (when one of 'em claimed there was porn in the library)?

Positively yours,

Ruth said...

For someone as intellegent as you, I suggest you do a study of exegesis vs. eisegesis!
The critical study of biblical literature: exegesis and hermeneutics
Exegesis, or critical interpretation, and hermeneutics, or the science of interpretive principles, of the Bible have been used by both Jews and Christians throughout their histories for various purposes. The most common purpose has been that of discovering the truths and values of the Old and New Testaments by means of various techniques and principles, though very often, due to the exigencies of certain historical conditions, polemical or apologetical situations anticipate the truth or value to be discovered and thus dictate the type of exegesis or hermeneutic to be used. The primary goal, however, is to arrive at biblical truths and values by an unbiassed use of exegesis and hermeneutics.Encylopedia Britanica

Mpeterson said...

Thanks Ruth. So, you too thought I was being dead serious?

I was, in fact, intentionally using an eisegetical approach.

If that was in some way not blindingly obvious, I apologize.

PaulyW said...

Dennis, why is it that the potential picketers are not decent people? Nice double standard. People can have opinions you don't agree with, but that is no reason to infer they are not decent. If you want to run off otherwise good customers that may agree with the moving of books in the library, just put your "decent" comment in the front window of the store, so more people know how you feel.

Dennis Allen said...

Hi PaulyW--

I don't really have time to get into a scratching match on the internet or argue about semantics, but I will say this: Anyone who stands outside (or inside) the bookstore on Saturday morning, holding a nasty sign or making nasty comments about--or to--the "decent" couple who have written this book, are not "decent."

This has nothing to do with a difference of opinion; what better place than a bookstore for that to take place? This has to do with respect for others, with civil discourse, with discussing divergent opinions in a "decent," polite, compassionate manner.

Holding a sign to protest the visit to a bookstore of authors of a book--especially a book that conveys a message of love and acceptance and compassion--is not a "decent" thing to do. The intent of such an action, if you're truly honest about it, is a negative one--to humiliate, to offend, to demean, to demoralize.

If people disagree with the Wagners' message, they should talk to them about it. Judging the authors without reading their book, without trying to understand their situation, is not "decent."

When the woman who suggested (in an email to the Wissup blogger) that others ought to picket the Wagners' signing saw the book on the front counter in the store, she turned it around on its stand, questioned the store employee about why we advocated "such trash," and stomped out, threatening to never return.

I ask you, PaulyW, was that "decent"?

Here's a sincere invitation to anyone who feels that something "indecent" is happening at the bookstore on Saturday. Come into the store, take a seat, listen to what the Wagners have to say, and then--if you wish--express your view in a "decent," respectful manner.

A book signing is not a political rally; leave the pickets at home.

Anonymous said...


I shop at your bookstore every Christmas for our children. I have even advertised to help you get a website up and running for your store. I am sad to say that I believe I will no longer be supporting your store. I will be doing quite a bit more shopping at Cornerstone Christian Books & Gifts and even drive to Fond du Lac to shop at the outstanding Reach Out Books so that I do not have to see and explain to my children about the immorality of our society until they are considerably older.

I am sorry to say that I have also forwarded this on to other family members who shop at your store frequently.

Dennis Allen said...


Might I ask why you do not give your real name? You know who I am; it seems a bit unfair that you can say things and not have to own up to them.

I'm wondering what it is exactly that you consider immoral about what Fireside Books is doing on Saturday. Could you help us understand why the parents of two gay sons talking about their book--the message of which is love and acceptance--is immoral?

I've always thought that Christ taught people that they should not judge one another. Do you remember any passages in the New Testament about love? Do you recall that of faith, hope, and love, Christ said love was the most important? (Are you aware that he placed love even above faith?) Do the stories of the Pharisees mean anything to you?

It's odd how your idea of "Christian" and mine can be so different. How do you explain that? Do I have it all wrong? Or do you?

By the way, your threat to take your business elsewhere--especially considering your decision to remain anonymous--strikes me as a bit un-Christlike, as well. I don't recall Christ ever wearing a mask, or a sheet, or a disguise of any kind to protect himself.

I'm hoping you come to the signing on Saturday. Meet this decent, loving couple. They are Christians too!
Dennis Uhlig

PaulyW said...

Tou have no idea if anybody will be nasty on Sat. You have pre-judged them because you don't agree with their views. Talk about pre-judging. Just what you told Anon not to do. There is nothing you can say to retract the fact you said what you said you needed decent people to show up to off-set the protesters.

wbneedssmartbloggers said...

My gosh, this has been interesting so far.

Aron R., I too am sorry that unfortunately I helped pay the salaries of your parents, who are "colleagues" of Mark Peterson. I sincerely hope that any purchases that I make at whatever fast food joint you work at doesn't help pay your salary.

To the "Anonymous" that will be shopping for books in Fon du Lac: Checked out the web site - seems to be kind of "churchy" at the store you mentioned. May I suggest the franchise bookstore at the mall - they have quite a selection of books in the "relationships" aisle - don't send your kids in there alone (some of the books have pictures), but I'm sure that if you would spend some quality time with those books in Fon du Lac, your spouse/domestic-life partner/yourself/whatever would thank me immensely. So, please, go to Fon du Lac and "enjoy" the selection of books there. And that way, when I shop at our local bookstore, the aisles will be a little less congested with absence of you & your kids. Talk about "win-win", eh? By and by, your name wouldn't be Jean W., would it?

Just checked in on the "Column Fail" post over at Boots & Sabers - seems to be at least 50 comments now. All kinds of "deep" discussions about Constitution, theology, Ten Commandments, religion, Declaration of Independence, etc. Good job, Mark, providing some oxygen to help keep up the chattering at that site.

Dennis Allen said...


I don't want to say anything to retract what I said.

I meant every word of it.

If you and Anonymous tell us your true identity, I'll be happy to respond. Otherwise, you won't hear from me again on this topic.

Hope to see you Saturday.
Dennis Uhlig

Dennis Allen said...

By the way, PaulyW--

You didn't answer my question about whether the woman who called the book "trash" without reading it was being decent. How come?
Dennis Uhlig

Anonymous said...

Pauly - All you keep doing is coming back to the whole "Why are these people not decent?" question. You fail to answer any of the questions that are asked and cannot defend your own end of the argument... yet you continue to make posts about it.

Anyways you look at it, you are wrong. The picketers will NOT be decent people. No one cares what your opinion of decent is either. Give it up.

PaulyW said...

i did answer them, but I made a mistake in the posting or Mark has not posted yet. Judge them all, but those in glass houses....I don't have to defend anything. I think your opinion is yours and mine is mine. And the person in the store had hers. She didn't call Dennis or the store "trash" did she? She expressed an opinion on the book. She has a right to have an opinion right?

Hey Anon.....your a opinion.

Anonymous said...

The fact that you can sum me up into one word, moron, from a blog posting shows me that your intellectual abilities may not be very good.

Why don't we sit down face to face and discuss this then? What's your real name? Phone number?

If you don't want to defend yourself, then stop using these blogs. These people are expressing their views and you come stomping in like your Thrasymachus.

Mpeterson said...

Not so much Thrasymachus as, say, Euthyphro really. Not sufficiently or keenly eristic.

Just my opinion, of course.

Euthyphro said...

Blah blah blah....I have no desire to sit down with you to argue my opinion versus yours. I expressed my view, but you don't like it. Hypocracy abounds here.

If this blog is not open to both sides of a debate, then why are my posts published? Never mind, its for your folly.

You guys need to get a real job...nobody gives a crap about philosophy after they get out of school. IMHO

Mpeterson said...


Your posts keep showing up because you're entitled to have your opinions heard, and because they're a foil for others.

Nobody uses philosophy after college? That's like saying nobody uses math after college either -- I don't use calculus much (although stats comes in handy a lot of the time), but the discipline it took to learn all that awful stuff helps me every day. It makes me careful when I argue, for instance. :^)

So, step up from being Euthyphro little buddy. You can eventually make it to Thrasymachus, and from there to Adeimantus and -- eventually -- even your own best self. That's all any of us can do.

So keep talking. You have no reason to call or be called a moron unless you stop paying attention to what you might be getting wrong.

Anyway, your hide is tougher than being called names.

Distance Relative said...

your article ties in well with the life story of french writer antonin artaud
after withdrawing from 20 years of opiates, while spending a month lost in the Mexican wilderness, he overdosed on peyote, then returned to France, and given forced electric shock therapy:

my point is this:

he came to similar conclusion as you:"there is nothing more erotically pornographic than Christ, ignoble sexual concretisation of all false psychic enigmas"

he also said (for the scatologists out there) "do you know of anything more outrageously fecal than the history of GOD and of his being:SATAN."

Anonymous said...

"Blah blah blah....I have no desire to sit down with you to argue my opinion versus yours. I expressed my view, but you don't like it. Hypocracy abounds here."

Exactly what I expected. Usually people like you cannot defend themselves when questioned about their opinions/beliefs. Maybe you are concerned that you could PERHAPS be wrong? I am perfectly OK with your view. But, as I said before, that isn't my issue. Your only view that you expressed here is that you felt the protestors were "decent". That's it. Your argument consisted of nothing else... nothing to back it up and you failed to answer the questions that others asked you. But you still continued to ask your questions to others. It was a one-way debate.

"If this blog is not open to both sides of a debate, then why are my posts published? Never mind, its for your folly."

Once again, I never said that there cannot be two sides to the argument. I was simply stating that you were doing nothing to hold up your "side" of the argument. You were simply badgering everyone else without ever backing up your side.

"You guys need to get a real job...nobody gives a crap about philosophy after they get out of school. IMHO"

What's a real job to you? I just graduated and I am working as an accountant... seems pretty real to me. And yes, Philosophy still comes up every once in a while when you come across a hard-headed person such as yourself.

You seem to have a real problem with twisting peoples' words around, not being able to support your own beliefs, and changing the subject. Ever considered politics?

Anonymous said...

"You have no reason to call or be called a moron" & "Anyway, your hide is tougher than being called names."

Mark - Just wanted to clear this up because it was bothering me... I guess what I type isn't always what it sounds like to me. When I said "The fact that you can sum me up into one word, moron, from a blog posting..." I meant "The fact that you can sum me up into one word, WHICH WAS "moron", from a blog posting...".

It's probably not a big deal but I don't come on here to ridicule or name call.


Mpeterson said...

lol. I've simply lost track of which Anonymous is which.