Speak Loudly – In Defense of Laurie Halse Anderson

(Note: This is a repost from my old blog. There are a lot of comments worth reading there, so here’s the link to the original.)

I’m choosing to speak loudly. 

Up front, this is a blog post that I’m afraid to write. I’m afraid because I fully agree with the policy of treating the internet like a cocktail party: no sex, politics or religion. 

 
But I’m about to break policy. 
 
I’m a Christian. Have been since I was eight. To me, being a Christian means that I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. To reiterate, A PERSONAL relationship with Jesus Christ. I read the Bible. I have attended a weekly Bible study for the past five years so I KNOW what the Bible says. To reiterate, so I KNOW what the Bible says. 
 
Not what someone else tells me it says. 
 
Part of the reason it took me so long to finally write a book is because I had a really hard time reconciling my faith with the kind of story I wanted to tell. My characters would most likely make mistakes, do things they weren’t supposed to do. Not be a shining Christian example, in other words. I wondered how that would impact the Christian example I’m supposed to set. My witness, for those familiar with the vernacular. The turning point came when I had a long conversation with my Bible study leader. During it, I asked this question. 
 
Me: What if my characters have to … cuss?
 
Bible study leader: Do you cuss? 
 
Me: Quite proficiently. 
 
Bible study leader: Hell, yeah you do. Write the story. 
 
That question and answer stuck with me. I thought about it for a long, long time. The conclusion I came to was this. Some people are Christians. All Christians are people. People. Human. Fallible. 

Not ONE SINGLE CHRISTIAN DOES IT RIGHT. NOT. ONE. That’s biblical.

Not all people have easy lives. None of us end up exactly where we start out. Some of us are horribly broken, experience terrible things, and are damaged by other people. 

 
Just because there are stories out there that aren’t “Christian” doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be told. 
 
Lots of shit (I used that word on purpose. Think about why.) is going down on the internet today because some asshat wrote an article defaming, among other books, Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK. 
 
Here’s what Wesley Scroggins said: As the main character in the book is alone with a boy who is touching her female parts, she makes the statement that this is what high school is supposed to feel like. The boy then rapes her on the next page. Actually, the book and movie both contain two rape scenes.
 
Here’s what Amazon says about SPEAK: Laurie Halse Anderson’s award-winning, highly acclaimed, and controversial novel about a teenager who chooses not to speak rather than to give voice to what really happened to her.
 
The challenger also says this: This [allowing these books in the school system] is unacceptable, considering that most of the school board members and administrators claim to be Christian. How can Christian men and women expose children to such immorality? Parents, it is time you get involved!

 

I’m not going to make a judgement call on this guy’s faith. I’m not supposed to. It’s not my business. That’s biblical. 
 
I am going to make a judgement call about this book and the things it contains. 
 
Rape is immoral – it’s a sin. IT IS NOT THE SIN OF THE VICTIM. A young girl feeling like she has to keep quiet about a terrible thing that happens to her is immoral – it’s a sin. NOT THE SIN OF THE VICTIM. It’s the sin of the society that makes it so. 
 
A society that contains citizens like Mr. Scroggins. 
 
What Mr. Scroggins is asking Laurie Halse Anderson to do – as well as the kids who identify with her books to do – is SHUT UP. 
 
I’m crying right now. Here’s another reason I don’t like to talk about religion to a vast, unknown public. Emotion is involved. You don’t know my heart intimately. I can’t discuss this with you. I can’t look into your eyes and touch your hand and tell you that all people who “claim to be Christians” aren’t like this. I can’t live out life with you day to day and show you all my mistakes and my sin. Because I am sinful. I am trying, but I WILL NEVER GET IT RIGHT. That’s biblical. 
 
I don’t want this man to be the mouthpiece for what I believe. I don’t want to be lumped in his category. So, afraid or not, I’m speaking loudly today.
 
First, I just bought five copies of SPEAK. If you’re interested in putting your money where your mouth (or heart) is, maybe you should do the same. How about we get it back on the best-seller list? 
 
Second, I want applaud Laurie Halse Anderson for her work, her bravery, in telling such a heartbreaking story. If you do too, check out the #SpeakLoudly hashtag on Twitter. Thank you, Mr. Paul Hankins, for stepping up and starting it.
 
I do not find SPEAK immoral. As for the other books Mr. Scroggins mentions, he seems to have forgotten one thing. These are secular books. Secular books are allowed in a public school system. If this is an issue for Mr. Scroggins, maybe he should consider a Christian education for his children. HIS children are his business. Other Christian parents can make their own call on whether or not they do the same. 
 
Because for Christians, there is one Boss. Mr. Scroggins might need to surrender his Junior God badge. 
 
Third, we’re not all Christians. But we are all people. People have value. 
 
All people have stories, and those stories have the right to be told. More importantly, EVERY STORY has the right to be HEARD.
 
 
 
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