Book Burning Unnecessary

There were some interesting responses to a post I shared recently with a church sign advertising a book burning session (for members only). One commenter asked about the burning of books in the kingdom of God. I found the question profoundly ironic, since the only people I can imagine finding the question meaningful, or answerable, are people who are sure that no one who will enter the kingdom of God would ever under any circumstances read those sort of books anyway. And as it turned out, the commenter in question gave natural expression to the worldview that goes hand in hand with bookburning. If you will deprive books and people of the right to be in the kingdom of God in the future, you will happily also deprive them of the privilege of being served by your business in the present.

Book burning, and the much more common ignoring of books, is an expression of fear – fear that the people you disagree with have lives that are so fulfilled, and arguments that are so compelling, that the only solution is to burn their books when possible to prevent anyone from reading them, but at the very least to be sure not to read them yourself. The corresponding view of the kingdom of God then becomes one in which people live eternal lives of upright morality, apparently filled deep down with resentment for all the fun things that they had to and have to give up in order to be there.

The irony is that those who are actually committed to justice, to caring, to compassion, to the values that we understand to be associated with the kingdom of God, do not experience it that way. I doubt that any of us would prefer to have an extra bite of food than to see the smile on a hungry person’s face when we give something to them instead of eating it ourselves.

If burning books, or ignoring them, is what you think piety is, don’t be so sure that you’ve understood this whole kingdom of God business. You actually think that the kingdom of God is about divine authority being imposed against the will of people who would otherwise much rather do something else, when in fact it is about the transformation of people and their values, so that where you once valued burning books and people you disagreed with, now you want to serve them and to see them experience the same redemption that has transformed your own life and made it seem more rewarding than the one you previously lived in fear and resentment.

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  • AtalantaBethulia

    Triple word score for some great phrase-turning zingers.

  • David Evans

    Does anyone know which books were actually burned by the church whose sign you were discussing? It seems relevant to an understanding of their motives.

  • Nu Mil 3 Design

    Hate and fear. Where does it start? Where does it end?

    Find an answer in my poem:

    Dread Locks: a Poem to Remind

    Lest we forget.

  • Just me

    This is really a remarkable post, James. I’m not sure it’s possible to more thoroughly misconstrue and misapply what someone else said than you have here in response to me.

    If you keep this up you may end up inspiring the introduction of a new word in the English language. When a dialogue participant finds that an opponent has misconstrued what he said by passing it through the filter of his or her own biases, then used the the dialogue participant’s misconstrued point as a springboard to offer a misapplication to further the opponent’s own speculations or agenda, then that dialogue participant has been “McGrath’d”.

    • James F. McGrath

      This is a remarkable comment. Rather that explain where you believe I misrepresented you, or attempt to set matters straight, you simply accuse and insult. It is almost as though you can’t even grasp the impression your words give to those who read them.

      • Just me

        You should have attempted to interact with me more in the other thread before posting this, which may have saved you from making a very bad impression on at least one person (me) by using my comments as you have. In light of your skill at putting those with whom you disagree in the worst possible light, I’m reluctant to comment further about this on your blog. God only knows how you’ll use any additional comments I offer.

        • James F. McGrath

          I did interact with you there. I still have the impression that you made your meaning unambiguously clear. But if you prefer not to clarify, then by all means let’s just let people click through, read what you wrote, and make up their own minds.

          • Just me

            “But if you prefer not to clarify, then by all means let’s just let
            people click through, read what you wrote, and make up their own minds.”

            That’s my only real option, unfortunately. I could attempt to restate and clarify my position, but my limited free time coupled with your expertise in (a) avoiding questions put to you while (b) twisting what your opponents say and turning your twisted version of their beliefs against them, suggests that such an undertaking is pretty well doomed to failure. The only thing I’d be confident of going in is the likelihood that I’d find myself “McGrath’d” again. Best to just leave things where they are, I think.

          • James F. McGrath

            Since you continue to offer insults and accusations when the evidence clearly does not support your claims, I am happy to rest my case.

          • Just me

            The word “McGrath’d” is merely a way of describing what those on the receiving end of your misrepresentations and clever tactics employed at the expense of others have to put up with. If you find that use of your name insulting, then you should find the behavior you display that gave rise to it equally insulting. I won’t hold my breath expecting you to reform the way you misuse and misapply the words of others, though.

          • James F. McGrath

            You are anonymous, so your reputation is not being impacted – you commented here using a different nickname in the past, so you are not merely anonymous but deliberately obscuring even your identity as a particular pseudonymed commenter! And beyond that, you are neither retracting what you wrote nor correcting how it has been understood, and so it sounds as thought you are unhappy that someone has shown the implications of your views, not that they have been misrepresented. And your choice to insult a person’s name rather than engage in substantive discussion of issues reinforces that view.

            And so perhaps it is time that you either drop this childish name-calling, or actually decide to discuss the substantive content of what you wrote and its implications?

        • Beau Quilter

          What a laughable remark.

          While James addresses your comments without even mentioning your internet “handle”, you attempt to turn his actual name into an insult, all the while hiding behind the anonymous handle “Just Me”.

          What an insult to our intelligence. How can you fret over James putting you in the “worst possible light”, when nobody can even tell who “you” are?!

          James has the decency to sign his posts. You hide behind anonymity and use his name against him.