WOLVES IN THE CLASSROOM – The Lightning Thief Unmasked

“The gods of Olympus are alive and well in the 21st Century! They still fall in love with mortals and have children who are half-god, half-human, like the heroes of the old Greek myths. Could you be one of those children?”

[Rick Riordan – introducing his novel, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief]

The American people have accepted the fact that our public school system should be totally “secular” in nature.  We expect public schools to avoid teaching anything deemed overtly religious for fear that our children will become indoctrinated into a particular worldview rather than educated.  This means of course that anything even remotely considered “Christian” has been completely banned from the classroom.  Most parents are okay with this perceived exclusion of religion since there are certainly plenty of other avenues to teach religion outside of the public school system.  Yet, what most parents don’t understand is that there is no such thing as a spiritual vacuum, and while Jesus Christ, or the God of the Bible, may not be mentioned in the public school classroom, plenty of other “gods” have been welcomed with open arms.

On February 29, 2012, my daughter came home from school and complained that her sixth grade reading assignment was “really creepy and weird”.   As a concerned parent, I began to investigate the material for myself.  What I found was extremely disturbing.   Just reading the first chapter of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, in which the Greek “god” Cronus is described as eating his own children, convinced me that my daughter was right.  The first sentence in Chapter 1 starts out by telling young readers that “your parents told you lies about your birth”.  This declaration sets the stage for all the violence, adultery, and New Age beliefs promoted in this fantasy novel.

My wife and I ended up registering a formal challenge against the curriculum. We labored through a six month labyrinth of school district policies and curriculum review procedures before deciding that it was necessary to remove our daughter from the public school system.

I have compiled and self-published a journal which documents everything that transpired.  Some of it is almost beyond belief, and could be the subject for a novel in itself.  My journal includes copies of all the written correspondence between myself and various school district officials, legal professionals, notes from meetings and numerous internet links to the extensive research that I conducted supporting our objections to the curriculum as well as the final school district decision.   As a result of our efforts, the district did make some changes by requiring teachers to provide a list of alternate reading materials where none were available previously, and also will now require a notation in the reading list alerting parents that this specific material has been challenged.  Additionally the district will no longer allow the movie version of The Lightning Thief to be shown at school.  However, we felt the district’s changes did not go far enough to address all of the issues we raised.  This brief blog article is merely intended to encourage parents to become more involved in their children’s education, become better informed,  ask questions, and if necessary, challenge what is being taught.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dd/Rubens_saturn.jpg
Cronus Devouring One of His Children – oil on canvas by Peter Paul Rubens

In literature, the fantasy genre is a catch-all category that uses fiction to describe events that occur outside the parameters of everyday reality.   Fantasy is a form of storytelling that provides a representation of something which is considered impossible in real life.  It is defined as a story that departs from the accepted rules by which individuals perceive the world around them. Such literature often incorporates magic, talking animals, paranormal activity, supernatural forces and unexplained events. We’ve all read fantasy literature and watched fantasy movies.  Most of us retain the ability to separate fact from fiction and understand the concept of “make believe” and are not harmed by the experience.  Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians book series is designed as a middle-school reading curriculum that enjoys widespread acceptance in public schools across the United States and Canada.  But Riordan’s books are much more than just fantasy entertainment.  Sort of like Harry Potter on steroids, the Percy Jackson series goes far beyond witchcraft by elevating humanity to the level of the divine.

Typically requiring a full semester or longer to complete, The Lightning Thief reading unit depicts paganism, graphic violence, hallucinogenic drug use, promiscuity, adultery, bestiality, and incest. (I can cite chapters and page numbers upon request.)  The Las Vegas scene in the movie version is nothing less than a modern depiction of the so-called “Dionysian mysteries”, a drug and sex fest that was quite popular in ancient Greek society.  In the Las Vegas scene, Percy and his two companions, including a Satyr named Grover, spend five days imbibing drugs while Gover is depicted enjoying the affections of a troupe of Las Vegas showgirls.

Grover also gets to spend a week in Hades with the beautiful and exceptionally lustful Persephone, who exclaims upon meeting him, “I’ve never had a Satyr!”  After emerging from a strongly implied sex-filled week with Persephone, Grover has matured considerably as revealed by his new grown set of horns.  Who would consider this appropriate material for twelve year old boys and girls in a sixth grade classroom?  Despite our objections, the principle at my daughter’s elementary school insisted on showing the movie version as a reward for completing the reading unit just as he had done the year before, and the year before that.

[Official HD movie trailer can be viewed here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpP7sRZxlNQ]

Video games, movie posters, and multiple sequels are all part of the Percy Jackson hype.  Some would argue that Rick Riordian’s Percy Jackson series, which purports to be a modern retelling of classical Greek mythology, is no worse than a lot of other books and movies we allow our children to be exposed to. But that kind of rationalization only confirms how successful the major publishing houses and Hollywood studios have been at promoting and marketing evil.

But even more disturbing than the skewed sexuality and violence in the movie is the fact that the book and accompanying study aids, comprehension tests, and teacher instruction materials, create a near total immersion experience into the worldview known as Theosophy, a worldview that teaches that each individual is divine and has the power and authority to decide what is right or wrong for himself.  Theosophy, for those who may not be familiar with the term, can most succinctly be described as the philosophy of “self worship”.

The Lightning Thief curriculum crosses the line between teaching Greek mythology from  a subjective historical viewpoint and promotes an overtly religious or theological viewpoint intended to indoctrinate young students.  The author uses Greek mythology as a setting to promote his view that in a universe populated with a host of unreliable “gods”, all of whom are competing with each other for our attention, it is far better to concentrate on bringing out the divine potential within one’s own self rather than rely on some powerful, yet petty deity for guidance or salvation.

The main theme of the Percy Jackson series is that all of the so-called “gods” are selfish, arbitrary, arrogant, lustful  prone to wrath, jealousy, envy, strife, etc.  They are constantly cheating on each other, having sex with men or impregnating human females, and causing mischief on the earth.  The heroes of the series are decent, self-controlled human beings who have come to realize that they themselves are endowed with a divine nature, half human and half “god”.   It should also be noted that Rick Riordan not only writes children’s fantasy novels, but has also authored numerous x-rated “adult” books.

The author himself holds two diametrically opposed views about the religious content of his children’s fiction.  In a public interview available on the author’s own website, Riordan stated that nobody believes this stuff [Greek mythology] anymore, claiming that it has “long stopped being any kind of serious religion”, yet he also repeatedly emphasizes that the ancient Greek “gods” and the myths surrounding them, as well as the pagan practices they inspired, “are part of our heritage… and deeply embedded in and inseparable from Western thought.” 

In The Lightning Thief book, one of Percy’s teachers, Mr. Brunner, (a.k. a. the “god” Chiron) instructs Percy to take a closer look at the foundation of America, to take a closer look at the evidence plainly visible:

 “Look at your symbol, the eagle of Zeus.  Look at the statue of Prometheus in Rockefeller Center, the Greek facades of your government buildings in Washington.  I defy you to find any city [in America] where the Olympians are not prominently displayed in multiple places.  Like it or not, and believe me, plenty of people weren’t very fond of Rome, either, America is now the heart of the flame.  It is the great power of the West. And so Olympus is here.  And we [the “gods” of Olympus] are here.”

[Mr. Brunner, a.k.a. the “god” Chiron in The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, p. 73]

Indeed, if there is any agreement between myself and Mr. Riordan, it is on this very point. The Greek “gods” are here. We are surrounded by them.  But unlike Mr. Riordan, I don’t consider such entities to be “gods”, nor do I want to associate or equate myself with them.  There is only one God, and His name is above all names and greatly to be praised.


7 thoughts on “WOLVES IN THE CLASSROOM – The Lightning Thief Unmasked

  1. This morning’s devotional from ICR…

    July 22, 2013
    The Sin of the Devil
    “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them.” (Exodus 18:11)

    This is the first mention in the Bible of the sin of pride, and it appropriately refers to the primeval sin of the “gods”—that is, the supposed deities of the heathen.

    Led by Lucifer, a great host of the created angels had rebelled against their Creator, seeking also to be “gods” like Him. Lucifer, later to be called Satan (i.e., “adversary”), thought he could become the highest of all. “O Lucifer . . . thou hast said in thine heart, I will . . . exalt my throne above the stars of God: . . . I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell” (Isaiah 14:12-15).

    Satan’s sin—and that of the other self-proclaimed “gods”—was that of “being lifted up with pride . . . the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6). But they shall all, with him, eventually “be brought down to hell” and the “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

    This was also the sin of Adam and Eve, for Satan had seduced them with the promise “ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5).

    It is also the sin of all humanists and evolutionary pantheists, from Adam’s day to our day, for they seek to do away with God and make “gods” out of “corruptible man.” They have “worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator” (Romans 1:23, 25).

    But “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Our Lord of creation is “above all gods,” even in that “thing wherein they dealt proudly.” The sin of pride was the very first sin and is still the most difficult sin to overcome, but “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). HMM

  2. Dawn

    Hi, I’m so glad I found your website tonight. I had a similar experience 3 years ago when my oldest son entered 6th grade. We are Christians and he was told in public school that he had to read The Lightning Thief. He began reading it and came to me soon after saying that it made him feel uncomfortable. I looked up the reviews and summaries of the book and thought it was ridiculous that they assigned this to 11 year olds. I spoke to the department head of the ELA dept. and my son was able to opt out of reading it. However, he had to sit outside the classroom while the students in his class discussed the book. They didn’t send him to the library, he literally had to sit on the floor outside the classroom. I had begun working at a Christian private school so that February I transferred all my sons to this school. Although I loved the people I worked with, working full-time with 3 boys put too much strain on my family life, so after 3 years I resigned and we put the boys back into public school. They always had good experiences, except for that one situation. Anyway, my middle son just started 7th grade at the same school that my oldest was in when that occurred, and it is the second week of school and they are again talking about Percy Jackson and demigods! Here we go again. I was researching tonight looking for Christian reviews of these books, and not many people feel the same way that I do. I am so grateful to have read your article so that I know that I am not alone. Thank you!

  3. Dawn, You (we) are not alone. I had several private conversations with the woman in charge of curriculum for our local public school district. She told me privately what she could not say publicly, which is that she also was disturbed by the Percy Jackson reading curriculum, but didn’t know why or exactly what bothered her about it until after hearing my wife and I present our challenge (which took the better part of 6 months to complete). She was very grateful for the “education”, as were many others, (2 librarians, and one H.S. principle), who attended the “hearings”. Positive changes were made, specifically re making alternative reading materials available. I am not at all surprised to hear that your son sat in the hallway, as that is a typical ostracizing tactic employed to make “trouble makers” feel uncomfortable. Our daughter was also “excused” from the classroom when the Percy Jackson book was discussed. She sat in the hallway for a portion of 45 days total. My daughter didn’t mind though, and while the kids were indoctrinated into ONE WORLD VIEW, she read a total of 12 books, including some in the fantasy category, i.e. the entire Chronicles of Narnia series.

  4. Jasmine

    Is it ok if I use you, and your book challenging in a report on banning/challenging books?
    If so, could you tell me what school you challenged the curriculum at? I have to know where the book was challenged for the report, even a town name would suffice. Maybe even a state of you feel uncomfortable about disclosing the location.

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