The North Carolina Baptist church, Amazing Grace, will be hosting a book burning/barbeque (who knew that spiritual cleansing could double as the social event of the season?) on October 31 to destrroy what the congregation believes to be the works of Satan and the perversions of God's Word. That allows for any religious books or works that are not the old version of the King James Bible...meaning the new version of the King James Bible is gonna be choking on smoke. The believers will also burn samples of most genres of music, including contemporary Christian and Southern gospel.
Now, I am not writing this post to criticize these people's beliefs (although I really do have to openly and respectfully disagree with their position. I don't believe burning the offensive material is really accomplishing anything, especially in 2009, when probably 3,000,000 more copies of the "perversions" have already been distributed by the time you've dug the fire pit. But, I guess it's the principle of the thing). I was really just sort of surprised that people are still out there burning books. Like really, truly, burning them. I mean, who does that? I've never been to any kind of burning, not even a bra burning. Should I have met people like this by this point in my life? So I'm more intrigued by the idea of book burnings and the history behind them. It's very Farhenheit 451. Time to consult my dear friend Wikipedia. And Google, too. There's always room for you, Google.
Amazing Grace claims their tradition is just that -- a Christian tradition. They quote Acts 19:18-20 as their basis. Wikipedia says:
Book burning (a category of biblioclasm, or book destruction) is the practice of destroying, often ceremoniously, one or more copies of a book or other written material. In modern times, other forms of media, such as phonograph records, video tapes, and CDs have also been ceremoniously burned, torched, or shredded. The practice, usually carried out in public, is generally motivated by moral, religious, or political objections to the material.
(Really, I can't stand it with the hyper-hyperlinking. Why did we ever give up on books? I long for a simpler time.)
Apparently there have been a great many traumatic book burnings throughout history. Wikipedia cites several major book burnings that have happened over the course of centuries, the most famous probably being the Nazi book burnings (these were carried out by chapters of the German Student Association, which I did not realize). All citations refer to book burnings as horrific acts of war, as forms of violence against a people and culture, and "emblematic of a harsh and oppressive regime." They are efforts to suppress a viewpoint that challenges the prevailing order.
The earliest reference Wikipedia has to a book burning is from 367 AD, commissioned by the bishop of Alexandria. How many years ago was that? And we're still lighting matches.
Anthony Comstock founded The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1873, and boasted the destruction of "15 tons of books, 284,000 pounds of plates for printing such 'objectionable' books, and nearly 4,000,000 pictures." His reasoning? They were lewd.
In 1842, early books coded with braille were burned in Paris, France. At the city's school for the blind.
In 2001, a church in New Mexico invited its congregation to a book burning party. The guest of honor? Harry Potter. And God. The pastor hadn't read even one of J.K. Rowling's books.
What is it that gives books such power that we are so motivated to destroy them? They have to have power, because power is what makes us feel threatened. And what makes us so eager to blame the books? Why are the books the first thing we seek out when we're looking to quash ideas? I personally think it's because they are the physical manifestation of a person's opinions, theories, and maybe sometimes facts. Pieces of knowledge we don't agree with. And a book burning has got to be the easiest way to hurt and humiliate an author. Even today, it's not enough for people to just speak their minds. Humans are a species of action. We have to get as close as we can to destroying our perversions at their source.
But I guess author burning would be illegal.