A) A person of deep personal faith beliefs
B) A strong advocate for teens
C) A voracious reader
D) A defender of libraries
E) An outspoken defender of free speech and celebrant of Banned Books Week
F) All of the above
It was while majoring in Youth Ministry (Christian Education) at Mount Vernon Nazarene College (now Mount Vernon Nazarene University) that I became a loud mouth against censorship. Yep, there I was at a conservative Christian college putting up an awesome display for Banned Books Week on the outside of my dorm room door (it truly was epic). While I sat in chapel and learned how the Bible says we should be "in the world but not of it", I also came to understand that in order for me - or anyone - to truly be a person of faith, we had to be able to have access to the information we needed to make that decision for ourselves. Information (and the free access to it) is the cornerstone of personal, authentic decision making.
So I came up with a plan! Already working as a paraprofessional as a young adult services assistant (under the tutelage of my truly amazing mentor), I would become a teen services librarian because that WAS my ministry (radical thinking!). And I developed a new model for the 3 Rs in the life of a teenager: Radical, Rebellious and Righteous.
adjective. fundamental - drastic (from Google.com)
I know many people are afraid of rebelliousness (especially in teenagers - gasp). And we frown upon being radical (conformity is such a valued trait I can't help but notice). But when you stop for a moment and think about it, radical rebelliousness is the hallmark and backbone of America. We exist because those English blokes (and whatever the female counterpart for blokes is) threw all the tea overboard and said No! Then we grew a little bit more because an amazing woman sat, I imagine tired and with throbbing feet, and refused to give up her seat (you know I am speaking of Rosa Parks, right?). Our history books and science journals are full of stories of radical people (and ideas) being rebellious. And sometimes, there is a little rigtheousness thrown in, whether it be the righteousness of faith or the righteous indignation that causes people to stand up and fight for truth and justice (thank you Martin Luther King, Jr.)
mutinous - insurgent - rebel - seditious (from Google.com)
That is what Banned Books Week is about, reminding people everywhere that it is okay for the words on the page to be shocking or questioning or - gasp - radical, rebellious born of a righteous indignation. We don't have to agree with them, we don't have to like them, but it's the basic hallmark of what we call "The American Way" that we don't get to decide that for others. Okay, technically parents get to decide it for their kids, but you don't get to decide it for MY kids. Or for me.
Banned Books Week is a reminder: There are people out there who want to be the "thought police" (with deference to Mr. George Orwell). And the truth is, those who control the information control the world. Oddly enough, we need only to look at the history of faith to be reminded of this: The church fought long and hard to keep the Bible in a language that only few could understand because that power to interpret and lord God's wrath over the populace gave them tremendous power (and wealth). When Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the church door and the Bible was made available to us all, it shifted the power and gave us, each individual, the opportunity to interact with God on a more personal level and to decide what our faith means to us. Or what faith we want to have, if any.
just - right - upright - rightful - fair - honest (from Google.com)
We can try and control our teens and really monitor what they read. Or . . . we can help them develop critical thinking skills, nurture a love of story, and let them be the next generation of radical thinkers who help us find a cure for cancer, write the next Harry Potter that inspires a generation, or stands on the footpath of history and challenges us to be a more humane people. We don't really fear the words on the page, we fear the fact that they challenge us to really examine what we think we know and feel and believe and that in the end, we may come out on the other side believing (or thinking or feeling) something different. And yet, history has proven time and time again that is not always a bad thing (see all the examples listed above). But think of how much stronger we are when we read those words on the page, turn the last page, and reaffirm who we are and where we stand in the world.
I celebrate Banned Books Week and stand against censorship because I believe that being radical, rebellious and righteous is sometimes exactly what we need and is the heart of one's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
P.S., in case you haven't figured it out. Karen Jensen is F - all of the above!!! Leave a comment letting me know which of the above you are and why.
Join us all week for Banned Books Week posts, including one from the author of Pretty Amy, Lisa Burstein.
What if Amy wasn't Pretty?
What if Amy wasn't Pretty?