On Banning Books

Evidently it’s Banned Books Week. The idea of it makes me smile. It brings back good memories. While I am not in favor of banning books, I am a great fan of the spirit that comes from the opposition. The spirit that says we can wade through the muck of ideas to find kernels of truth….and we support the right to do it.

I haven’t heard much about books being banned for a long time, but they were certainly banned in Iredell County during my growing up years. When book banning was discussed at school board meetings, my mother made sure she was there, and we were, too. (She, the one against banning books, usually took her knitting.) As an adult I know the effort that attending those meetings took. Mom worked and was raising a relatively large family, but still thought it was important to take the time to be involved in these decisions that impacted children’s lives. Not just for her children, because she could certainly allow us to read whatever she wanted, but other children also. She believed in encouraging us to read, and not to discourage it. In our house ideas were not taboo…even when someone, or everyone, disagreed with them. They held great value. We were allowed to read anything, as long as our parents knew what we were reading. Even as adults, all five of us, and our parents, are readers. We get great pleasure from books, we get great pleasure from ideas. I don’t necessarily look at life the same way as the rest of my family, or the rest of the world for that matter, but we respect the right to have different points of view.

These book banning meetings were interesting to me, even exciting, but a bit odd. Being a rather conservative Christian, with many friends who were also conservative Christians, they often meant that I was on the opposite “side” of friends I liked and respected. Some of their families looked at things differently than mine did. Some of their parents wanted to shelter and protect them from ideas that were different from those they believed in. My family probably held tight to the exact same core values as their families, but we were raised a bit differently. We also were somewhat sheltered, but not from ideas. We talked a lot, we argued a lot, and learned to form our own opinions. Our opinions could be different than those of our parents. We could change our mind, and were encouraged to do just that when the ideas supported it. Ideas and opinions were not stone, instead they were water. They flowed, they drifted, and they changed things. Including our minds.

My mother would buy us any book that was banned, if we agreed to read it. She said that was the positive of book banning in her mind…..it made her kids want to read. The books were discussed… why people wanted them banned, and whether we agreed with their reasons. We never did. We always found value in the ideas they provoked, and often even found that the books that were banned actually supported the ideas of the people who were against them. I remember when Brave New World by Aldous Huxley was banned for being anti-God, anti-family. In our house the reading was the opposite. Huxley was a satirist, and was himself dismayed by a world in which people worshipped things, lived promiscuously, and didn’t think for themselves. We thought he had a good point.

We must not be threatened by ideas that are different than ours. We must not be afraid of disagreements. We must not be afraid of looking at a subject from a different angle or filtered through a different point of view. That is how we learn, that is how we grow. Sometimes our current point of view is right. But sometimes, quite often really, something that we would have bet the farm on is just downright wrong. The prize to entertaining that possibility is finding truth. And finding truth, that is what life is all about.

So during this Banned Books week, consider whether you need to be a rebel. Read a book that just may be outside of your comfort zone. Be a bit naughty and read a book that has been banned. Hear the ideas of someone who thinks things through in a different way than you. Really hear the voice of someone who does not share your mind and thoughtfully consider what they have to say. If we applied the same reasons for why books that have been banned to the Bible, we’d knock it off our reading list. It would be the most banned book out there. You know something…. worldwide I do believe it is.

Ideas that change people, ideas that challenge people, ideas that inspire people…..many fear them. God knew the power of the written word and was confident that in the end man would see truth. It is when our minds are closed that we stop the process of growing and changing and learning how to discuss differing opinions. We fail to find valuable nuggets…..and share them. We limit who we are and why we were created. So let’s use those minds, and believe that for active minds truth will eventually show itself. Let’s fight for the ideas to flow and not lock them up and ban them from consideration. It’s pretty difficult to change someone’s mind if we don’t listen to their point if view. I do believe there are at times fragile minds that may need to be protected…..but most of us were given hearty minds that were made to be work horses. Let’s get out those horses and exercise them!

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