an open letter to Prof. Scroggins

I'm starting to wonder what's up with Missouri, and I'm not just talking about my alma mater's game Saturday night (although yes, the final minute and a half 'bout gave me a heart attack). I mean with this apparent affinity for censorship in SW MO? First with Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in Stockton and now with Laurie Halse- Anderson's Speak in Springfield/Republic.

I don't do a lot of religious speak on this blog, mostly because as a writer of YA fiction, I find it difficult territory to navigate. Many people (like Scroggins) have certain ideas about what is or is not "Christian." And my fiction is not always "sterile" and "clean." I have characters who sometimes cuss. Sometimes make bad decisions. Sometimes do things that are "unbecoming of a Christian." Because some of my characters aren't. My fiction, like life, is kinda messy.

But, I couldn't sit on the sidelines with this one, mostly because I am SICK. AND. TIRED. of people hijacking the God I love and using Him like some kind of political battle cry.

So, what follows is my open letter to Prof. Scroggins in response to his letter to the editor about the types of books being taught in schools in Republic, MO.

Dear Professor Scroggins:

As a fellow sister in Christ, I can't tell you how disappointing it was to read your letter to the editor. While I agree that parents should be aware of what their children are reading, where we depart is at the way you want to control what children read. Namely, by banning books from the classroom (instead of, say discussing some of the heavier issues therein).

Full disclosure: as a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, you could say I LOVE the First Amendment.

But, I have to tell you that I take the most issue with your assertion that, because it contains a rape scene, Speak is somehow on par with, in your mind, "soft-core pornography."

Calling it soft-core pornography is, by definition, equating it with something that is sexually titillating. And what else are we to assume than that you, who've chosen such a label, find it to be sexually titillating?

If that is indeed the case, dear brother, I beg of you: run! don't walk, and seek some strong men of faith who can sharpen you and help you! Because to call rape sexually titillating does two things. One (and most destructively), it makes the sexually assaulted individual feel less than human, like what happened to him/her is somehow okay (and to be clear, it's NOT). And two, it leads to a further perversion of the gift of sex (which, judging by your letter, you seem to be against).

Further, rape is about power, not sex.

I don't have to tell you that we live in a fallen and broken world, one full of SINNERS, of which I am the greatest (okay, so maybe I stole that from Paul, but it's a good line. Also, true.). How then can we tell people to ignore the sin and brokenness they are experiencing? Or worse, that their brokenness is beyond God's reach? I happen to know several women who are both Christians and rape survivors.

Do I long for the day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus reins? ABSOLUTELY. But that day is not here. In fact, really crappy things can and do happen to believers and non-believers alike. But it's how we respond to these issues, to the crap the enemy throws at us (and how!) where we can and do glorify God. Life is messy, but it turns out, our God is a really good janitor. Like, the best.

And I also believe that our God is in the business of restoration. He invented it, actually. And He makes all things new. And this includes victims of sexual assault (they might be first in line, actually). And people from broken and "dysfunctional" homes. People who not only identify with Speak's main character, but who see parts of themselves in her.

Kind of like how there might be some people who can identify with another great character of literature. You've probably heard of him-- a shepherd boy who became a king? The Bible tells us David was a man after-- literally chasing-- God's heart yet he still managed to sleep with a woman who was not only not his wife, but the wife of one of his thirty closest associates, had him conveniently done away with, and even after his adultery and murder, David still found restoration and hope in the power and grace of God.

Similarly, there might be a girl in one of those classes who reads Speak and finds the courage to deal with what might have happened to her. The ability to find hope and restoration and maybe the voice someone else stole from her. If that doesn't sound like it has our God's fingerprints all over it, well, then I recommend you open your bible, meet with other believers or find a new church. Because you are missing out, my friend.

My point? Do not put our God in a box. The scriptures (and my own life experience) tell me that He doesn't like it. I don't know about you, but these words ring true for me, "Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood." Do not forget that there are people in your community, whether they claim to be Christian or not, who are strangers to God.

Do you want to be the one who keeps them from seeing Him? Seriously? Christ died for you; do you really want to be *that* guy-- the one who spits in His face by withholding the keys to the kingdom that were so freely given to you?

grace & peace,

Lindsey Roth Culli

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