The way to win over a culture is to capture the minds and hearts of its young people. The gay-rights movement has certainly learned that lesson, which helps explain a current trend in youth literature. Anyone who reads books for teens these days will tell you that portrayals of gay relationships and characters are rapidly increasing.
In fact, they’re increasing to the point where they’re all out of proportion to reality. If you know the statistics on rates of homosexuality in the real world, you know that it’s somewhere around 3 percent, maybe less. Not so in the world of Young Adult fiction; there, it’s far more pervasive.
Book reviewers on the Youth Reads page at our website BreakPoint.org, are noticing that the subject is coming up in more and more contemporary teen novels. It doesn’t matter if they’re romances or fantasy novels or any other genre—the theme runs through all kinds of books for this age group. Acclaimed author Rainbow Rowell is just one prominent recent example. She wrote a bestselling young adult book about a college girl who writes stories about a gay couple—and then Rowell wrote her own young adult book about the gay couple in her character’s stories!
Given the state of the culture, all this isn’t surprising, but it’s worth a closer look. There are two main factors at work here. Authors who work to normalize homosexuality are trying to promote what they see as compassion, understanding, and acceptance. I believe they’re also trying to break down sexual boundaries of all kinds, to push what they see as “freedom” as far as they possibly can.
The result is far from healthy or edifying for young readers. Even when there are no explicit descriptions, sexual themes are often introduced before kids are ready to deal with them in a mature way. Moreover, the way they’re introduced can be confusing to vulnerable and impressionable readers. For instance, many authors show characters “discovering” their homosexuality by realizing that they have romantic feelings for a close friend. (This was the case in “The Girl at Midnight,” a book recently reviewed on our Youth Reads page.) Portrayals like this can leave kids wondering if their own friendships are really friendships or something else.
As C. S. Lewis wrote, almost prophetically, in his book “The Four Loves,” “It has actually become necessary in our time to rebut the theory that every firm and serious friendship is really homosexual.” He went on to warn that such an obsession with sexuality can warp the way we look at all our relationships: “Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend.”
So the push for homosexuality in kids’ books is dangerous in more ways than one. But having said all that, let me also say this: I do not think Christians are supposed to run in fear, or try to live in a bubble. It’s no good pretending these books don’t exist: If our kids don’t read them, they’ll hear kids at school talking about them, and of course they can easily pick up the same themes from TV or movies or music or school. To try to shield them from every cultural influence is unhealthy in a different way. Instead, we ourselves need to be aware of these themes, and make sure to talk to our kids about them in a loving and sensitive way.
That’s why I invite you to come to BreakPoint.org and take a look at the Youth Reads page, which was designed to help parents be aware of what’s in the books that teens and preteens are reading.
Wise guidance from Christian parents can help inoculate kids against unhealthy influences, and prepare them to think about sexuality from a Christian point of view.
— by Eric Metaxas
Metaxas is the voice of Breakpoint, a radio commentary (www.breakpoint.org). Copyright© 2015 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.