Let’s fill some trucks with books, drive them downtown and burn them in front of the Chicago Public Library. Let’s drive other trucks to the regional libraries and burn them, too . . . I mean the books, not the libraries, though libraries are the source of the problem. If it weren’t for the libraries, it would be hard for innocent young people to be corrupted by the filth pouring out of the country’s printers.
Instead of burning books or libraries, perhaps we ought to start smashing printing presses. They have served as tools of sin and the devil since Herr Gutenberg invented them.
When the radical evangelicals take over the White House, lists of books that one shouldn’t read or in fact are forbidden to read will spread around the country like wildfire, you should excuse the expression. Unless a much tighter control is imposed on distribution of books, the morals of the country will continue to deteriorate, which will in turn weaken us in the long war on terror.
I say that as a member of and indeed a priest in a denomination that originated lists of forbidden books. I don’t know whether we ever piled them up in front of cathedrals and set them on fire, but I can’t imagine that a tradition that has always valued dramatic rites could miss the possibilities of an auto da fe against books. If you’d burn humans at the stake, why not books?
The so-called “fundamentalists” came into existence to destroy one book in particular — Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. As one of their 19th century leaders remarked, “If we don’t resist Darwin, we lose the Bible.”
Oh ye of little faith! Why must ye think that the power of the biblical stories depends on their literal, word-for-word inerrancy? Why can’t you see that those men and women who study it so closely actually enhance its wonder? Why instead must ye wander through the desert searching for the pillar of salt that was Lot’s wife? Why can’t ye understand that ye continue the battle between science and religion with thy concern about routing evolution from the classrooms? Don’t ye realize that ye reinforce the paradigm, so loved by thy friends in the national media, of the battle between science and religion? When the results finally leak out about the European Organization for Nuclear Research experiments in Switzerland, just watch the stories confronting religious ideas about creation with “scientific” knowledge.
The religious truth is that the universe was created from nothing, indeed in a huge explosion that is still going on and preceding according to complex mathematical formulae around which we are still trying to wrap our brains? Isn’t that wonderful enough for you? Why do you have to postulate a God who set up evidence that there were dinosaurs to test thy faith?
The real argument against listing books for possible burning (or removing from a library) is that, as we Catholics learned, it doesn’t work. Tell humans that they can’t read something and of course they will find ways of reading it — as the Stalinists learned from Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. You could burn all the copies of Harry Potter, and young people would still read these classic stories of the triumph of good over evil. Get rid of Catcher in the Rye from your parish library and kids will pass around mimeographed copies of it. Banish The Canterbury Tales and you will enhance Geoffrey Chaucer’s readership.
Do I really think the Supreme Court would permit such violation of human rights, should an evangelical become president? The Supreme Court, as Mr. Dooley said, follows the election returns. Haven’t you noticed?