National Organization For Marriage: New Ad Features “Confused” Children

When I saw this story about the National Organization for Marriage’s new ad, I had just visited a Weblog that channels the Catholic Church’s official position about homosexuality and other issues. On May 9, Gil Bailie, the blog owner, wrote effusively about a Seattle man who is raising his small son in the Faith. The boy, named Asher, recently accompanied his father to a lecture that Gil gave in one of the Seattle churches. Apparently, Asher sat coloring with crayons at his father’s side while Gil was speaking. Afterwards, he presented his drawing to Gil. It depicts Jesus hanging on the cross. Gil writes, without the slightest trace of irony or self-consciousness: “Ah, it’s little moments like this.”

Asher's drawing

Though I was raised as a Southern Baptist, I can remember my own confusion when I learned about the crucifixion and saw depictions of it. The idea that a good man could be nailed to a cross by other men and left to die was terrifying, as was the idea of eternal suffering in a place called Hell. These images and ideas disturbed me for many years until I eventually discussed them with a therapist. Now, when I hear of small children being shown iconography about the crucifixion and hell, I am saddened and alarmed for them.

As an occasional artist myself, I know that drawing can be a kind of meditation on something that fascinates or troubles us. It sometimes serves as a form of self-therapy, relieving anxiety and promoting healing. Children who have experienced the trauma of violence in their family or society are often encouraged by therapists to make drawings of troubling events or scenes. When I learn that a small child has spent some time drawing a crucifixion scene, I sense that he has been thinking deeply about crucifixion during those moments and that there is something about it that troubles him.

Indeed, why wouldn’t Asher be troubled by the story of Jesus’ death and crucifixion? Why do his father and the other adults talk so much about this man on the cross, and why do they worship him? “Is that man good because he was crucified?” he may have asked himself. “If I am good, will I be crucified? And, if I am crucified, will people worship me, too?” I fear this boy may spend far too much of his life pondering such questions.

And now cut to a scene in which a father is explaining to his six-year-old son that their neighbors–two men–are “married, just like mommie and me.” If the boy is old enough to understand the concept of marriage, he will quickly expand its definition to include same-sex couples, and voila! Can we have some ice-cream, now?

Indeed, why should love between two men be troubling to a child unless it is presented in a highly sexualized manner? What could be more natural, even inspiring, than the love between David and Jonathan in the Bible? And how can parents be so cavalier about exposing their small children to the graphic and fetishistic depictions of violence that we see in crucifixion scenes?

POSTSCRIPT (10/11/09): Daoud Hari, in his 2008 memoir (The Translator) about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan describes what it was like to be on the ground witnessing some of the worst human rights abuses in human memory. Hari worked as a translator for various international organizations that sought to help displaced civilians. After listening to so many horrific stories from survivors about the butcheries practiced on their families, Hari was unable to sleep, and he writes,

…their stories swirled through my near-sleepless nights. I found that if I made little drawings of the scenes described to me, it would sometimes get the stories out of my head long enough for me to get some sleep. I would wake and make these drawings, and then I could sleep a little. These stories from the camps, mixed with things I had seen with my own eyes, such as the young mother hanging in a tree and her children with skin like brown paper and mothers carrying their dead babies and not letting them go … I was thankful that I could not draw them very well—stick figures, really. Even so, it helped.

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