Yesterday, before I’d had a chance to find it myself, my husband pointed out a column on the editorial page of our local paper about banned books.
Banned Books Week was first celebrated (if “celebrated” is the right word) in 1982. The annual event responds to the efforts of some to remove certain books from classrooms, school libraries, etc. The intent is to highlight Americans’ free and open access to information and draw attention to the dangers of censorship.
Ever read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451? The novel was written in the early 1950s, but the issues it illustrates remain relevant today. Though things didn’t progress the way Bradbury envisioned, burning – or banning – books is still not to be taken lightly.
In the column referenced above, Kevin Frisch’s discussion on the subject is clear and practical. If a kid reads a book containing casual profanity, is he exposing himself to anything he doesn’t hear elsewhere? Is she likely to be introduced to something in a book that she doesn’t already see on TV? Is any visual in a book more graphic than a day at the local pool?
As a Christian, a mother, and a grandmother, I understand the desire to protect our children. But there’s a difference between protecting them from evil and throwing a blanket over their heads. It’s a wicked world out there, and they need to be taught how to deal with it.
Ignorance is no protection. Denying the presence of sin doesn’t eliminate it; it merely cloaks it. And the devil loves that.
Exposing our children to the world in age-appropriate doses teaches them discernment. It helps them make wise choices when they have to make their own decisions – and that point comes sooner than we’d like.
I’m not talking about giving porn to twelve-year-olds. I’m talking about letting our kids see things like the hopeless emptiness of a life without Christ, as is grippingly depicted in, for instance, The Catcher in the Rye. That novel is on the list of most-challenged books, though it was required reading in my high school Modern Novels class in 1971. And guess what? Despite the profanity scattered throughout, I didn’t notice anyone’s language habits change as a result of reading it.
The world of literature is a world of ideas – and not all ideas are created equal. But is it wise to restrict the ideas we expose ourselves to? How can we make a decision without knowing the options? How can we determine what’s true until we know what’s possible? How can we relate to others if we don’t know what they’re thinking?
Caution and good sense are always warranted. But let’s not be hysterical.
Look at it this way: Jesus never banned a book. He offered the truth, and gave His hearers the freedom to accept or reject it as each saw fit. Shouldn’t we do the same?