celebrating the freedom to read

The last week of September is Banned Books Week. Banning books is always a hot topic, and I’ve read some very thoughtful essays on the subject today. Of course, I fall on the “against” side of the argument, but I’m always intrigued by the debate that banning books (or any kind of art) is not exactly censorship or even unconstitutional. I’m fascinated that this is still a debate in this day and age. I’m fascinated that book burning still exists. That limiting any expression of freedom or creativity still exists. I struggle with using my own morals and values to judge another person’s beliefs. And as a Christian in America, it’s a difficult thing to explain how to live a missional life without someone interpreting that as restricting another’s right to religious freedom. There is a way to be a servant of Christ and desire that all of humanity know Him without forcing people to walk and talk and think as I do. It’s our God-given differences that make this world so incredible and so exciting. Censoring any aspect of a person’s expression just isn’t the answer to anything.
I’m especially surprised by the banning of media, though. A book taken from a library’s shelf does nothing more than direct people’s attention to the book itself. For a community to restrict access to a work isn’t the answer to protecting children. That job lies in the hands of parents and guardians, not governments or social organizations. I do believe that some things are not appropriate for some people, and most especially when those people are children, but I don’t believe the solution is a ban. I believe the solution is a frank conversation about what concerns people in a book or movie or album of music, and then allowing every person to decide for himself and herself. And I agree with this post that banning a creative work because it shines a negative light on a group or a period of time is not going to change the fact that such history exists. America is a flawed nation. We have a tumultuous history. It’s not pretty and some aspects are truly shameful. But to ban a book that points out those aspects of history is to deny how far we’ve come (or how far we have left to go). Those creative works are the best tools for remembering. If we don’t remember our horrible moments, we are certainly destined to repeat them. We need visual reminders. We need books and movies and music to keep us honest.
So this week I celebrate the many books that have been banned throughout the years. I don’t like all of them, I certainly haven’t read most of them, but I am thankful to live in a country where we are all free to create what is in our hearts. I’m thankful that I have the freedom to choose for myself and to decide what is good and righteous and honorable. For myself. If you are in America, you have that freedom, too. And even if our values differ, I’m thankful that we are allowed to develop them for ourselves.

Banned/Challenged Authors Whose Work I Have Enjoyed
Maya Angelou
Judy Blume
Eric Carle
Lewis Carroll
Willa Cather
Kate Chopin
William Faulkner
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Anne Frank
Benjamin Franklin
John Grisham
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Ernest Hemingway
S.E. Hinton
Stephen King
Madeleine L’Engle
Harper Lee
D.H. Lawrence
W. Somerset Maugham
Arthur Miller
Toni Morrison
Iris Murdoch
Katherine Paterson
Sylvia Plath
Anne Rice
Margaret Sanger
William Shakespeare
Shel Silverstein
John Steinbeck
J.R.R. Tolkien
Mark Twain
Alice Walker
Edith Wharton
Walt Whitman

Check out the lists for yourself, then pick a title and read it. Judge for yourself.
Most Frequently Challenged Books:    2000-2009     1990-1999     Classic Literature

About Jules Q

sharing stories of life, faith, and love for pop culture

Posted on 28 September 2010, in Lists I Keep, What I Read and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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