This past week was #BannedBooksWeek, which is a big deal at the library where I work. We’ve been talking a lot about censorship and what it means to live in a free country and why sometimes people band together and try to get a book removed from their school or library or community.
Oftentimes, the people behind the call to ban a book are those who professes faith in Jesus, as I do.
I don’t want to cause division in the church, or stand against my brothers and sisters in Christ, but I think banning a book is wrong.
I think most Christians ban books as an attempt to be good parents, out of fear of what their children might be exposed to.
I’ve written before about the responsibility before God that parents have for their children. You carry this responsibility for your own children, not for other people’s. And if you’re worried that something is inappropriate for your son or daughter, then read it. Or read detailed reviews about it. And then, if you still have objections to the book, don’t let your child read it.
Parenting is full of hard choices, and only you really know if your child is old enough to handle the knowledge that some people don’t believe in God, or that some people use bad words, or things about drugs and alcohol or the occult or sexual immorality. But those things are in the world, and at some point, even though we are are to be separate from those things, we must be aware they are out there.
Sometimes, as Christians, we act like we can’t be exposed to anyone who doesn’t live the way we do – through our friendships, or our entertainment choices, and yes, even through the books we read. But is this what the Bible says? No.
Paul says to the Corinthians, “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people–not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral or greedy and swindlers or idolaters. In that case, you would have to leave the world” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10, emphasis added).
Right now, my kids are only 3 and 4. So there are very few books at their age level to which I object. I recognize that I’m not making a ton of hard decisions. Will I let my boys read the Harry Potter series when they are old enough? I don’t know. I will cross that bridge, prayerfully and thoughtfully, when I come to it. I want to do a good job of letting my children learn what sorts of things they will face in the world within the safety of our home so they want be blindsided when they are on their own. But I also want to be careful of not exposing them to too much too soon.
But I will be making that decision as a parent with the responsibility for my own two children. I refuse to try to exert control over other people’s children, especially those of people outside my church.
The Nazis controlled what people read. The USSR controlled what people read. Today, China controls what people within its borders read. When a group, especially the government or another public institution such as a library decides to reign in and exert authority over people’s entertainment choices, we come dangerously close to mirroring the choices of totalitarian governments.
And more importantly, telling people what to think is not the way of the church we see embodied in Acts. We are told the people at the church in Berea “were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). They didn’t follow anyone blindly. And they didn’t let Paul or anyone else tell them what to think. They listened to his words, and they measured them against the words of the Bible.
They were careful, but they didn’t put their heads in the sand. I want to be the same way.
Ideas can be dangerous. But the most dangerous idea of all is this one: that Jesus came in the flesh, died a criminal’s death as an innocent man, and rose from the dead so that sinful people could be in right relationship with a holy God.
The Bible is more subversive, more radical, and completely different than any other book that will ever be published.
The word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). What other book is?
All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Can you describe anything else you read with those words?
There are governments across the world today who are committed to preventing those God-breathed words from reaching the eyes and ears of their people. They want to see the message of the cross of Christ shut down, and the people who proclaim it silenced. Let us not be like them.
Let’s let the Koran and the Book of Mormon, and The DaVinci Code stand alongside our precious Bible to show the truth and power of what we believe. If we really know down in our hearts that the Bible is true, then it can stand up to that kind of scrutiny. I promise you: God’s word will not–cannot–be superseded.
If we truly believe that the Bible is the ONLY book that is inspired by God, and that it is infallible and authoritative, then let us allow it to stand for itself.