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Review: The Education of Shelby Knox

Over the weekend I watched a documentary titled: The Education of Shelby Knox. The documentary is about a teenaged girl’s attempt to bring comprehensive sex education to the fundamentalist controlled city of Lubbock, Texas.

Shelby Knox is a Christian. Her whole family is Christian and the film portrays the city as being almost entirely fundamentalist Christian. Throughout the film, she starts to have doubts about her religion as she continues to push for comprehensive sex education in her school and as she begins to get involved with the gay rights movement. While she never breaks from her religion entirely in the film, she does become much more liberal as a Christian.

I found her wrestling with fundamentalist Christian positions to be interesting. The religious people she talks to are quick to quote the Bible to her and all she can say is that a loving God wouldn’t act in those ways. Sadly, she never makes the connection that the Christian God is not a loving god.

As far as the main focus of the film goes, Lubbock, Texas has a rather large teen pregnancy problem and a problem with sexually transmitted deceases. The city is convinced however that abstinence only education is the only solution to these problems.

Knox works with the City Youth Council to campaign for a more effective method in dealing with these issues. The church and those who are more fundamentalist in their beliefs (which is almost everyone) campaign against her and threaten to end the City Youth Council completely if they don’t end their campaign on this issue.

But just when you think that the kids of the City Youth Council are the good guys in the film, the budding gay rights fight enters the stage and shows that even the more progressive people in the town seem to hate gays just as much as the adult fundamentalists that they are fighting against on the abstinence only front.

Only Shelby seems willing to work with the gay community and finds herself at odds with her parents and with her friends on the City Youth Council.

I think this is a great movie which really shows how fundamentalist Christianity shapes and controls politics for the harm of society. The Education of Shelby Knox is well worth watching.

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  • 1225truth

    Thank you!

    The documentary and information about it has been featured on PBS.

  • http://avangelism.com Vince @ Avangelism Project

    I actually saw her on The Today Show three years ago almost to the day, where she was arguing against “Purity Balls”– prom-like events where Christian dads take their teenage daughters on romantic dates and the girls make pledges to be virginal brides.

    Shelby went through it and now despises it. She exposed it for the patriarchy that it is: Until you’re married you belong to your dad. Then you belong to your husband.

    Matt Lauer asked why she made the pledge if she didn’t want to do it. Her answer was that she was only 15 and didn’t know what she wanted sexually, only that “my family and my church” wanted me to do this so badly that they had a ball and that “her adoring dad” was expecting it.

    Lauer asked Shelby why so many girls “fail” at keeping the pledge (it sounded innocent enough; bad language, but no intent). She jumped right on him, indicating making your own decisions is not failure. Good stuff.

    I made a mental note then to watch the documentary and forgot all about it. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Pingback: Dangerous Talk: Shelby Knox and Smut for Smut | Avangelism.com

  • SmilodonsRetreat

    I filled out that form and put very on that question. Dawkins’ The God Delusion was instrumental in my deconversion. I was already an agnostic, but that book convinced me that religion was wrong and that atheism was the correct route.

  • Barry Ritter

    My de-conversion began with the eventual realization that all religious (I was Christian) form some concept of their own faith and practice it individually. They may join with other likeminded folk either geographically (i.e. Parish) or philosophically. Everyone just makes it all up. They are indoctrinated as children or converted as teens or young adults and then gravitate to whatever story works for them.

    Changing faith groups from Lutheran to Charismatic to Pentecostal and then all the way to Roman Catholic I found within all these groups sincere believers who believed many things just opposite of what others believed. Most of the bible is ridiculous when you take it at face value. All the Christians use some of the bible to back their beliefs and let much of it go as not pertinent. I had great friends, great fellowship and many encounters with a zillion points of view all fervently held and practiced. I eventually thought it must all be just made up. It was just too crazy to be true.

    My story involved indoctrination into “hearing” God’s voice and following it. This proved disastrous as the voice I listened to, devoutly believing it was God the Father or Jesus Christ wasn’t very good at dishing sound advice. I wound up broke and not very educated. I did stumble into a career that is at least paying the bills now, but having been a pastor and a priest for years I’ve saved little to nothing and face want in the retirement years to come.

    I didn’t want the voices to have been me being crazy, but I could no longer follow the “Master” as he was by now obviously an idiot. I decided to read what atheists had to say. If they were reasoned, rational people as they were being portrayed in a variety of media, I wanted to see where their reasoned thought came from and where it led.

    I started reading Ebon Musings (Adam Lee’s old website) and was just amazed. I found the atheist’s or at least this Ebon dude was finding the same holes in the bible I had. He was debunking the bad logic of faith that I couldn’t argue against. He introduced me to more and more science that proved the physicality of “spiritual” experience. It is perfectly normal human behavior to have faith in unseen agents once you assign agency to them via indoctrination systems. Hearing voices and assigning agency to these are completely physiological neurological scientifically proven brain activity.

    Learning about temporal lobe transients and the way the brain connects synapses was a great comfort to me. I wasn’t crazy I was normal. Learning to see the way my brain processed the “spiritual events” of my life made more sense than continuing to assign agency to these events.

    Next I read as much as I could on evolution, Talk Origins website helped, and Aron Ra’s video series on why creationism is wrong. I discovered John Loftus and read everything he’s written online. I read Sam Harris and Dawkins books. The reading has put the legs on the table of understanding to the reasonableness of letting go of the need for god(s) and has given me the facts to stand on. Lately I start my day with a good dose of Godless Spellchecker on twitter followed by a daily reading of this Skeptic Ink blog. Thanks to all you who willing let the cat out of the bag for me to poke.

  • ragingrev

    My deconversion began with the courage to ask difficult questions about concepts and ideas about my faith that I took for granted. Things that now sound silly and insignificant as an unbeliever were things that took incredible bravery for me to eventually question and overcome:

    “How do I know the Bible is True?”
    “Was Jesus Really God?”
    “How do I know anything at all if I don’t know this?”

    With these questions came answers that I wasn’t ready for or expecting, and so I had to again choose to either face the uncomfortable truth or retreat back and attempt to forget that I had ever ventured into this territory.

    I didn’t retreat.

    And this process was repeated, over and over – with different questions and concepts about my god and my faith until eventually no part of it was left standing. There was no magic moment where a Richard Dawkins quote made a lightbulb ding on above my head, it was self determination to discover what was true and to deconstruct what I believed and to accept that regardless of what it meant.

    From the first question until the last took two years, my god was ultimately destroyed in the process. Because my god and my own ego were so intimately intertwined that process became incredibly difficult for me and required a number of years of grief before I could finally become free of the grip of that loss – of the death of god.

    I was instrumental in leaving my faith. My strength. My courage. My desire for truth. No one gets that credit but me.