Banned Books Week: How to Decide

Here’s a great cartoon by Grant Snider that I got from Book Keeping:

Ban This Book?

Embedded in this cartoon is the assumption that people who ban books are ignorant, non-readers. Maybe this is true. But I think it’s more likely that they are just concerned parents and neighbors who genuinely want to keep their community safe. Book banners, it pains me to say, are probably actually very good people. But, perhaps, fearful. Because the root of the impulse to ban a book isn’t actually hate or its prejudicial siblings: racism, homophobia, sexism, etc. It’s fear. This is a reasonable fear, I think, because books really can have a tremendous effect on people. But it is needless, I think. Fear typically is.

In the Bible, we read: “God hath not given us the Spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). So we shouldn’t make our decisions based on our fears, but based on our faith in Christ (or the goodness of humanity, or whatever empowering beliefs we have). We are also told, “Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16).  So how can we make wise decisions about what we read? By practicing. We may make some mistakes in the process. There have been quite a few books I’ve read, and then wished I hadn’t afterwards. But that happens less and less now, as I’ve become more familiar with what my personal standards need to be. I definitely think there are books out there that are dangerous– not in a good, “upset the status quo to reveal its injustices” sort of way, but in a “this will destroy your soul” kind of way. Ever read a book and then wanted to bleach your brain afterwards? Felt all slimy all over? Yeah, don’t read that kind of book. (Books on my Never Will Read list include Portnoy’s Complaint and Lolita, in case you were wondering.) As we’ve discussed already this week, the books that require brain bleaching are different for everyone, so I’m not in favor of banning anything outright. I’m just in favor of readers making informed, responsible decisions about what they’re going to read. The more we read and the better we know ourselves, the better our decisions will be. So we don’t need to be afraid. We just need to learn

Anyone want to share some of their never reads or personal standards, or how they’ve made those decisions?

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