Not too long ago I read an article from the National Post called, “Children’s media use cuddly animals to reinforce ‘racist’ and ‘socially dominant norms,’ researcher says.” According to academics Nora Timmerman and Julia Ostertag, “Most animals portrayed in children’s books, songs and on clothing send a bad message.”
That bad message?
That animals only exist for human use, that humans are better than animals, that animals don’t have their own stories to tell, that it’s fine to “demean” them by cooing over their cuteness. Perhaps worst of all, they say, animals are anthropomorphized to reinforce “socially dominant norms” like nuclear families and gender stereotypes.
There’s not much point in responding to the article itself because, honestly, the whole conceit of their research borders on the preposterous. Heaven forbid, after all, that children should be encouraged to see nuclear families or having an understanding of the difference between boys and girls as a good thing. (Never mind the fact that they’re hardly the socially dominant norm…)
Research as described is just plain silly, but it does bring to mind something we too easily forget:
Sin makes even smart people kind of, well, stupid.
Remember Paul’s words in Romans 1:21, that in failing to acknowledge God, people became “futile in their thinking.” That word “futile” is important. When we use it, it means we’re talking about something that’s incapable of producing any sort of useful result. It’s pointless. I love how the HCSB translates this passage by saying that because of sin “their thinking became nonsense.”
And this is the state of mind the majority of the world—and the vast majority of people in my country—walk around in daily. Some are incredibly articulate and insightful, and yet they often squander their intellectual gifts on silly and futile endeavors (like the research I mentioned above).
Honestly, it’s easy to mock something like this, and sorely tempting. But for Christians, who have, by God’s grace, been given the Holy Spirit, who have the written Word of God at our fingertips, this is a reminder—and maybe a warning for us.
Many of us have spent years engaged in futile intellectual pursuits. If we’re academics, the pressure is so strong to have something “new” to say that common sense often goes out the window. This should never be for the believer. We need to diligently be in the word, to see our own thinking no longer be “conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2a). Grow in godliness. Grow in grace. Increase in understanding of the Scriptures.
Sin might make people stupid (or maybe a bit more accurately, it makes the intelligent foolish), but grace will make us wise.