Our library has a summer reading program. One year my son took the “book bucks” he had earned and bought the audiobook Dairy Queen—because “It has a cow on it, Mommy, and I like milk!” This coming-of-age story followed a girl in a small town on a dairy farm. We listened together.
Partway through, I got a feeling.
You know that feeling, when you are pretty sure you know where the book is going with a character and her decisions. In this case, I paused the book and said, “We need to wait to listen until I find out more about this book.”
Once I got home, I looked up the book and discovered I was right. One of the characters in the book had a same-sex attraction crush.
Now I had a choice.
I could decide this book was too dangerous. Because this book opposed biblical principles, I could have us stop listening right then.
Or I could take the risky decision and keep listening with the kids, talking through what was happening in the book. At the time, my kids were about to enter middle school grades. Although we homeschool, that didn’t mean my kids weren’t living in the world. I knew that someday they would meet someone who holds different beliefs than us and believes the Bible is wrong.
I sat down and prayed and thought about the results I wanted.
Parent your child with the end in mind
I want children who have a strong faith. I want them to engage with the Bible and the world, and know why they believe God’s word.
So we finished the book. But before we started the book again, I said, “You may only listen to the story while I am there, and we’re going to talk about what happens. We’ll pause it and you can ask any questions you want.”
My kids shared a lot of questions about uncomfortable moments. None of the people in this book were believers. We followed a character who wanted a same-sex relationship. We also learned of fictional teenagers drinking and making out. So my kids and I talked about why we have different standards for behavior. We talked about how we can’t force other people to live with these same standards because God gave us all free will, leaving us free to make bad decisions.
You may have chosen differently. Christian parents have debated this for decades.
How I learned from the Percy Jackson controversy
This incident may not have been a big controversy in your circle of friends. However, in the homeschool world, this was a big deal. Parents had been excited about Rick Riordan’s books because their kids were interested in Greek mythology. Obviously, our kids need to know this mythology so they can understand English literature and language. Thanks to Percy Jackson, our kids wanted to learn more.
That all came to a halt when one of Riordan’s characters came out as “gay.”
Facebook threads were started. Alternative book suggestions were asked.
At the time, my kids weren’t yet reading these books. I had made the choice to delay them until middle school , because I wanted to have discussions on the series’ implicit approval of affairs. Instead of blindly saying “It’s okay, Zeus had sex with your mom,” I hoped to talk about the moral implications.
After the controversy, I read the controversial book everyone was ready to boycott. It turned out this character had a crush. That was it. He was a character you might meet in the real world. So I decided to let my kids read that series.
Now, we didn’t read the follow-up series, but only because I found the main character annoying! If I’m going to spend hours listening to a book with my children, I want to enjoy it. We also avoided the Magnus Chase books, at first because I felt the hero poorly copied Percy Jackson, only with less intelligence and more sarcastic quips. Later books revealed a “character” meant to teach a political ideology.
Today, a few years later, my kids have reached high school grades. This time if they wanted to read the Magnus Chase series, we would read the books together and talk about them. My kids have the maturity to see differences between a character and political ideas disguised as a character. That could make a good discussion.
Let your kids read books you disagree with
I want my kids to read dangerous books while they are still living in my home. I want them to read the Percy Jackson books and be challenged by the idea of Greek gods and adultery, thinking through the consequences of those events. And I want my kids to be wise and discern any political viewpoints dressed up like characters.
I also want my kids to see how Percy is willing to sacrifice everything for his friends and family. This is not a Gospel story, but it can give us hints of the Gospel story.
This way, we can turn back to the Bible. We can see why God has told us to live in certain ways, and know that if we break those rules, we face consequences. We can also look to Scripture and see stories of redemption. No matter how lost people become, their story isn’t over. We look at these true accounts written by fallen people and see how Christ saved them anyway.