Amazing Grace Book Burning

Via Matthew Paul Turner. One advantage of being Baptist is that you don’t have to be like other Baptists. One disadvantage of being Baptist is that you often hang your head in embarrassment at other Baptists, and have to explain “I am/we are not at all like those other Baptists.”

  • No_one_significant

    That was in Canton, NC in 2009. They’ve had some other note-worthy signs since.

  • dangjin

    I don’t know. Book burning may to be a sign of censorship but an act of free speech–people just didn’t like the author’s work

    • dangjin

      ‘to’ is supposed to be ‘not’

    • beau_quilter

      Yes, and the hate speech of the Ku Klux Klan is an act of free speech as well.

      And my act of free speech is to hang my head in embarrassment at other human beings – as James does at other Baptists.

    • arcseconds

      Given the history of how book-burning has been used, I don’t think book-burning as a symbolic act can be separated from censorship, just as a burning cross cannot be separated from racism. It’s certainly strongly associated with saying that the contents of the book are anathema, and should not be read.

  • Just me

    @James: Do you believe that, in the kingdom of God, books affirming satanism will be allowed to continue to grace the shelves of our libraries? If so, can you elaborate on the justification for such an assumption? If not, what method of removal would you prefer? Fire apparently offends you, so what would you recommend?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      If your notion of the kingdom of God is a place where the achievement of justice means little more than the elimination of books from libraries and the suppression of ideas through imposition, then I think the kingdom you are looking for has already dawned in Saudi Arabia and several other places, and you might like to take a look and see whether it is really everything that you hoped.

      • Just me

        @James: I don’t see an answer to my question in your response. Is it a difficult question for you to answer directly?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          I find your question frankly ridiculous, if taken literally. What do you know about libraries in the kingdom of God to base a discussion of this topic on? As someone inclined to burn books, you inevitably envisage it as a place where books you disapprove of have been disposed of. Personally the impression I have from the teaching of Jesus is that we should focus not on burning the books of others, but on ourselves. I notice your choice of bugbear was Satanism, but I find books from Christians who have completely ignored that whole thing about loving enemies to be far more pernicious.

          • Just me

            Then don’t take it literally. Will God allow something analogous to books promoting the torture of innocent children to grace our figurative bookshelves in his kingdom?

            BTW, I’m not inclined to burn books. I’ve never burned one yet, and don’t expect that I ever will. That’s not the point. The point is that there is nothing obviously “unchristian” about a desire to purge ourselves or our shelves of that which corrupts, so far as we are able to do so.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              So you are now trying to eliminate the Books of Deuteronomy and Joshua from the kingdom of God? Where will this end? And what leads you to think that it is those books that the church with the sign will burn, as opposed to something else expressing views they disagree with? If they are burning C. S. Lewis books for being too liberal, is that OK?

              • Just me

                I’m pointing out that in God’s kingdom we will be cleansed of corrupting influences, and that if righteousness is to dwell in all the land (literal or figurative; earthly or heavenly), then unrighteousness and that which reflects or promotes it will have to bee eliminated, by us or by God, or both.

                If your notion of the kingdom God is that it will be a place or state in which ungodly, heinous, sadistic, exploitative, pornographic, and/or other unrighteous ideas will be allowed to continue, then such a place or state is your own invention. There is no reason to believe that such ungodly influences will be permitted a place in God’s good kingdom, while there is reason to believe that such things will be eliminated. Whether God’s good kingdom includes a renewed earth, as the Bible indicates, IMO, or whether it involves a heavenly state of existence, there is reason to believe that there will be some cleaning up to do. The fact that you seem to believe otherwise is remarkable.

                My reaction to the sign was not a positive one either, and I wouldn’t attend such an event. The irony is that an analogous cleanup job will ultimately be needed if God is to be all in all, with both the heavens and the earth reflecting his righteousness.

                • beau_quilter

                  Maybe you are overestimating the ultimate power of sin. By your logic, heaven would have to be a place in which the knowledge of all sin (as recorded in books or minds) would have to be wiped clean. If the knowledge of sin is all that is required to corrupt heaven, then all who enter heaven would have to have their memories selectively erased. What a strange notion of heaven you have imagined.

                  Let me try to imagine another type of heaven for you. Imagine a heaven in which every inhabitant is granted such a wealth of advanced, eternal knowledge and wisdom, that even the most heinous sins on earth appear in retrospect as facile and powerless as a baby’s cry. The knowledge of those sins, as recorded in books, videos or other media, can no longer hurt or corrupt because they now exist as mere shadows to the eternal life of the heavenly realm.

                  In other words knowledge doesn’t have to be erased for heaven to survive. Heaven would so far surpass certain types of knowledge, that their power to tempt would become meaningless and far beneath the experience of heavenly existence. Not erased, not burned, just the dust beneath our feet.

                  … or maybe I’m just channeling C.S. Lewis …

      • Just me

        @James: I realize that you don’t believe in a literal Satan, so, if it would make the question easier for you, replace “books affirming Satanism” with “books affirming the joys of torturing innocent people” (obviously written for sadists). Will books affirming such abominable actions and ideas be allowed to grace our shelves in the kingdom of God?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Where would you draw the line? Can the Book of Job, about an innocent person being tortured, be included in the kingdom you are envisaging?

          • Just me

            Still answering questions — or should I say, avoiding answering questions — with questions, I see. Some things never change;-)

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              Sometimes it is the only appropriate sort of response. Will there be any books in the kingdom of heaven? Will all non-Christian books be gone? All non-Baptist ones?

              But I think in this case the most appropriate question is WBWJB?

              • Just me

                “But I think in this case the most appropriate question is WBWJB?”

                If I understand the acronym correctly, then my point involves that very question, and suggests the irony of our own negative reaction to book burning. Books are but a physical means of capturing, conveying, and preserving ideas, some ennobling, some corrupting. God expects us to preserve and promote that which is righteous, and to “burn” from our minds and hearts that which is corrupting.

            • beau_quilter

              No. He is revealing the shallow content of your questions.

              • Just me

                You’re welcome to your opinion. I personally find value in questioning assumptions from different angles, even if the assumptions remain unchanged after the period of reflection has passed.

                This issue is ironic at a couple of levels. Like James, I have a negative reaction to the notion of book burning, yet there isn’t anything obviously “unchristian” about it, at least not that I can see. It certainly goes against the grain of our cultural ideals, esp. in America where statements like “I may not like what you say, but I’ll fight and die for your right to say it” are met with nods of near reverential approval. It’s interesting that many who oppose the burning of books, which are merely non-sentient physical objects in which ideas are stored, often have no problem figuratively “burning” people who say or do things they don’t like.

                While we react negatively to the burning of physical objects in which ideas are written, for God that doesn’t go far enough: He expects us “burn” corrupting ideas from our minds and hearts.

                • beau_quilter

                  “Figuratively ‘burning’ people”. Do you mean criticizing what they say?

                  I’m glad that you have a negative reaction to the notion of book burning.

                  • Just me

                    “Do you mean criticizing what they say?”

                    No, I mean hurting people because we don’t like what they stand for, e.g. denying a restaurant owner the right to open a restaurant in your neighborhood because of his position on traditional marriage while publicly declaring him to be a bigot and a hater, or boycotting a state and seeking to hurt it financially because it merely wishes to enforce its own immigration laws, or putting public pressure on a book publisher to get them to refuse to publish a cookbook because the person said racist things 25 years ago (or however long it was). That last one is particularly ironic, don’t you think? What’s the difference between burning a book that’s been published and figuratively burning it by seeking to suppress its publication? If anything, the later is all the more troubling, because those holding the destructive flame weren’t seeking to destroy a book with unrighteous content, but they were vindictively seeking to punish someone for past sins, and executing the judgment that the God says belongs to him.

                    The most intolerant people around are often the ones screaming the loudest at others for their perceived intolerance, and they don’t leave their disagreements over ideas in the court of ideas, but instead set out to hurt people and make an example out of them.

                    • beau_quilter

                      A neighborhood that doesn’t stomach discriminatory restaurants, a group who decides to boycott a state (how successful was that), and a book publisher deciding who to publish.

                      Are you comparing these to the long history of brutal intolerance and discrimination in this country?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Indeed, it seems that those who think the kingdom of God is about burning people and their books if they don’t conform, are also quite likely to think that righteousness is about not serving _____________ (fill in the blank with black, Jews, gays, others, or all of the above). That they think this is somehow in keeping with their being followers of one who dined with sinners and hobnobbed with foreigners is more than ironic. It borders on the obscene. I’m just not quite sure which side of the border it is on.

                    • Just me

                      “Are you comparing these to the long history of brutal intolerance and discrimination in this country?”

                      No, it appears that you are comparing them with this country’s sad history of intolerance, apparently to justify the behaviors I mentioned.

                      Does your remarkable response indicate that you endorse hurting people either over behaviors of the past or opinions you find objectionable that are held in the present? Is your reluctance to criticize the treatment of those I mentioned because you happen to agree with those who hurt them? You don’t object to seeing people “burned” figuratively, but you object to the burning of books, or at least some books? You don’t object to the “burning” of a cookbook before publication because the author made discriminatory comments 25 years ago, and apologized for them, but you object in principal to the burning of other books? That is not tolerance.

                      I’d like to know how you harmonize the approval of “burning” a cookbook before publication with your contempt for burning other books after publication.
                      How do you hold these positions without experiencing cognitive dissonance?

                    • beau_quilter

                      What a bizarre little rant!

                      In the first place, I haven’t tried to “justify” your examples. In the second place, it’s not even clear what exactly your examples have to do with each other, except, perhaps, that you might see them as examples of what some people call “reverse discrimination”. I’m just asking if that’s what you mean – not telling.

                      I didn’t say I approved of Paula Deen’s loss of a book contract, despite your attempt to put words in my mouth; I said it did not compare. It is a lousy analogy. There’s no need for you to take offense on behalf of a state’s immigration law or Paula Deen. They don’t need your help, and I am not criticizing them. I am criticizing your ability to make a meaningful analogy.

                      I don’t have any particular insight about Paula Deen’s cooking empire. Did the media blow her past out of proportion? Sure they did – no argument from me. She’s making a comeback in my home state; she just held a two-day event in Houston garnering 400$ tickets and standing ovations. I’ve actually bought Paula Deen products in the past for family members, so I daresay, I’m doing more to help Paula Deen than your little rant has accomplished.

                      You might compare Paula Deen’s experience with her publisher to a figurative “book burning”. It’s a bit of a stretch but that’s fine with me. I don’t see what it adds or subtracts to conversation about book burning generally.

                      I could give you a much better example of a “figurative book burning”. When Salmon Rushdie published “The Satanic Verses”, a novel dealing with Quranic verses, the Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling on all Muslims to kill Rushdie and his publishers. He and his publishers had to go into hiding for years. The real tragedy of this event, is that Rushdie received far more hostility from politicians and the media for not being “sensitive to Muslim sensibilities” than the Ayatollah received for inciting murder.

                    • Just me

                      I don’t think you’re following the flow of thought, but that’s probably my fault. IMO, the analogy involving Paula Dean is actually very good for highlighting the hypocrisy that I noted, but if you find it deficient, that’s fine.

                      The main insight that I gleaned when I pondered James’s blog post is that while we object to book burnings, God actually expects us do do much, much more: He expects us to “burn” unrighteous thoughts and motivations from our very hearts and minds.

                    • beau_quilter

                      The Paula Dean analogy only highlights hypocrisy if you can show that the people who contributed to her loss of a contract are the same people who object to book burning. Since you yourself “have a negative reaction to the notion of book burning”, how does the analogy actually show hypocrisy? I (and, I would imagine, James) have no axe to grind against Paula Dean. It’s unclear what type of hypocrite you are trying to highlight – that’s what makes the analogy weak.

                      As far as using book burning to describe what God wants us to do with unrighteous thoughts, that is also a poor analogy. We can try to rid ourselves of evil desires (as you say, “motivations”), but we can’t rid ourselves of knowledge – if that were true, anyone who witnessed a crime would be guilty of the crime. Knowledge, like books, do not make a person good or evil.

                    • Just me

                      I think that the analogy only appears weak to you because you’re not disposed to think it through. Your disposition is out of my control, so I’ll leave you with the last word.

        • arcseconds

          What would happen if they did?

          If the Kingdom of God is a stable, healthy environment filled with good-willed people, then it seems to me there’s absolutely no problem having these books on the shelves.

          Either no-one will read them, or they will be used to research and inform people about the bad old days.


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