It was 1989, and my wife and I took a trip to Cincinnati to find housing. We were moving there for a 3-year stint (turned out to be 4) for her ophthalmology residency, and I was going to serve a very part-time church with no parsonage. It also happened to be the time the Mapplethorpe Exhibit was taking place, and the uproar was tremendous. We would find out later that Cincinnati was not an LGBTQ-friendly place (I’m being kind), and people were protesting for that reason alone. Of course, since we were being told how sinful the exhibit was, we had to check it out. Robert Mapplethorpe was a gifted photographer who had died the year before. He was kind of the Ansel Adams of the human body. He photographed a lot of different kinds of relationships, and these were at the core of kerfuffle. What the protestors didn’t tell you was that the truly racy photos were in an 18+ area, so only adults were allowed in. And for good reason. There are some things children should not see or read or hear, and this was done really well. The balance was, to me, appropriate.

The same can be said for drag queen events. I do not believe children should be going to these events in bars, or places with adult themed imagery or art on the walls; in fact, it doesn’t matter what the event is, children should not be in adult spaces like that. But when my friend Miss Amy does her swe et storytelling and singing events, they are wholesome and kind and loving, something that many churches have missed in their presentation of the gospel. They are far more appropriate for children than many parts of the Bible. The idea that children should not grow up too fast is an old but true adage, and it is a real concern. The church is often careful about this, but not always. The stories of King David alone are not fit for the under 13 crowd, and some should be put in the room with the racy Mapplethorpe pictures. We need balance when teaching the faith to children.

Some years ago, my son (an adult then) and I went to see a really gory 3-D kung fu movie. It was pretty gross (but also excellent!) About 30 minutes into the movie, we realized that there was a couple with a young child in the section behind us (they looked like his grandparents). I was astounded that any adult would bring a child that young into an R-rated movie like this and said so to the attendant on our way out. It seems that we are less worried about children watching murder and mayhem than we are about them seeing two men in love holding hands (a consistent Mapplethorpe theme). 

I am thankful that our culture has calmed down and accepted diversity on a larger scale, but I am also concerned that we often go too far in what we let children experience. They are, after all, only children for a short time. That time should be filled with positive experiences that help them become healthy and good and kind. We are out of balance, and I think we need our kids to experience more Miss Amy and less Freddie Krueger. They might end up being better people than those of us who came before them.

Prayer – We need balance in our lives, God of all creation, and we need to see You in every kind of person. Open our hearts and minds and eyes to all that is good and teach us to shun that which harms us. Amen.

Today’s art is “Jack in the Pulpit” (1988) by Robert Mapplethorpe.