The Books We Ban

I was a bit surprised when I heard my friend and mentor tell me that he often had to watch who he quoted in his sermons. He had quoted some people that were deemed objectionable before, and had received push back from those quotes. I’m not really sure why I was so surprised, but I was. I guess I tended to agree and disagree based on the quote or idea itself, not simply by who wrote or spoke it.

To be honest, this was often because I didn’t always pay too much attention to who the authors I read were. For some reason it bothers me that this was the case, but due to this I didn’t really have a good grasp of who would have been considered acceptable or unacceptable to those around me. This reality tended to make me deal more with the ideas of the author rather than navigating based on the author’s name alone.

In a more indirect sense I’ve seen people complain only based on who endorsed the book. The endorsement of certain people appeared to make that book toxic. I guess I just didn’t understand that. Does the fact that somebody who thinks a little different than me liked a book mean that there is nothing in that book for me? It seemed a very silly way to approach books and life in general. It still does.

I kind of understand the reasoning. You believe that a certain person is teaching something wrong about Christianity or whatever topic you’re focused on and you want to avoid it. However, I think this only works if you’ve found someone that you completely agree with about whatever the topic is. Which is troublesome for a couple reasons.

One is that, as I’ve written about before, I haven’t found anyone that I agree with completely. I’m not even saying that this is a bad thing. It’s just that I have yet to find an author that I agree with absolutely everything they write. Sometimes it is because I don’t have a view on what they’re presenting, so I have to start forming an opinion. Other times, it is that I have a different opinion going into reading it. I imagine that this is true for most of us, that we agree and disagree with various things as we read any book.

If we don’t that leads to the other problem. If we have someone who agrees fully with everything we already believe what’s the point of reading them? To just bolster our already held opinion? To fill our quiver with arrows and be able to fire off names of those in agreement to our stance? What happens if we’re wrong on this? If we’re not willing to think that our beliefs could be incorrect, I find that a little suspect.

Admittedly, my experience with this attitude has largely been from the conservative side of things. The authors warned against were largely from the “liberal”, “emergent”, or “progressive” side of things. I’ve seen it in the infamous “Farewell”-ing of Rob Bell. Read it in reviews of books by Rachel Held Evans that take her out of context because they disagree with some of her ideas.

I’m not so naive to think this doesn’t happen in other circles though. I imagine each group has their own banned books or authors. It may not ever be verbalized, but it would probably be there. For whatever reason it seems that there are people who like it better if the people they disagreed with never had solid ideas or interesting ways of looking at a topic.

Which I guess leads to what bothers me most underneath all of this. We aren’t just silencing authors and disliking books, but we’re opening up a door to ignoring and belittling anyone who doesn’t think like we do. To present ideas that we disagree with is not welcome, or is only welcome to a certain degree. I know for a fact I don’t want to be treated that way, and I want to try my best to treat others in a way that tries to understand their ideas, even if I think they’re wrong. No matter if the setting is as disconnected as reading a book or within a personal relationship.


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