Banning Books for Christ in Republic, Missouri

Jul 31 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Burning Books

It’s interesting how we can’t have anything in our public or school libraries that doesn’t perpetuate Christian myth, or to be more precise, is in some way deemed to contradict Christian myth. We’ve seen this time and again, dating back to the earliest days of Christianity, “unfriendly” texts burned out of existence, and sometimes the author for having written it.

We may not burn authors any more, but books are still burned, and when they are not burned they are banned. This is what happened in Republic, Missouri, when two books were deemed “inappropriate” for high school students. The books? Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer was removed from the school’s library, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five from the school’s curriculum.

And here’s where Christian intolerance for other viewpoints comes into play.

The school board claimed that the books were banned because they were not “age-appropriate” (Slaughterhouse Five has too much swearing, as though kids these days can’t surpass Vonnegut even on an off-day and Twenty Boy Summer has too much sex, as though kids need a sex-primer to “do it”) but according to the original complaint the problem was not age at all, but the Bible. Wesley Scroggins, a Republic resident, charged in the complaint that got the whole ball rolling that the books “teach principles contrary to the Bible.”

Another book Scroggins wanted banned was Speak, by Laurie Halsey Anderson, a young adult novel about date rape. The school board decided to keep that one. Given how full or rape the Bible is, and the Bible’s endorsement of rape, it s difficult to see how anything dealing with rape could be against biblical principles.

The narrow-minded Scroggins (perhaps we should investigate his life to see how in accord it is with Biblical principles) said, “I congratulate them for doing what’s right and removing the two books.” The Christian bigot had to suffer his share of disappointment as well: “It’s unfortunate they chose to keep the other book.”

Of course, only one of the voting board members had actually read all three books. In this they seem to have a lot in common with our Republican members of congress.

This of course is not the first or only instance of book banning based on religion. I’ll note just a few examples here.  Americans United for Separation of Church and State reports that

In 1995, Religious Right activists in Virginia tried to start a new group targeting public libraries. They called it “Family Friendly Libraries.” The organization, which was in cahoots with Focus on the Family, proposed taking all of the books fundamentalist Christians didn’t like – tomes dealing with human sexuality, “the occult,” “non-traditional” families and so on – and isolating them in a special room or getting rid of them entirely.

Back in 2002 in Texas Christian activists banned a sex-ed book banned from school libraries for allegedly “teaching homosexuality.” A very well known case is that of Sarah Palin, while Mayor of Wassila. Although it has been argued by that Palin did not actually try to fire the librarian for not getting rid of books Palin wanted banned, she did inquire about banning books. As relates,

But, as the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman (Wasilla’s local paper) reported at the time, Palin asked general questions about what Emmons would say if Palin requested that a book be banned. According to Emmons, Palin “was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can’t be in the library.” Emmons reported that Palin pressed the issue, asking whether Emmons’ position would change if residents were picketing the library. Wasilla resident Anne Kilkenny, who was at the meeting, corroborates Emmons’ story, telling the Chicago Tribune that “Sarah said to Mary Ellen, ‘What would your response be if I asked you to remove some books from the collection?’ “

I’ve always been astounded by the claim that Christianity saved Western Civilization.[1] Part of this claim is the assertion, incredible though it may seem, that Christianity actually saved and passed on Classical learning, the very Classical learning it is itself responsible, with malice aforethought, for systematically destroying!

After eradicating nearly every manuscript it found inconvenient, dangerous or not in some way useful, and redacting what survived until it fit Christianity’s needs, it now attempts to take credit for preserving what little remains to us out of the countless millions of books, letters and tracts that in the period of a few hundred years, it ruthlessly destroyed.[2]

The problem is best expressed by Ramsay MacMullen:

Very little of whatever there once was from  non-Christian authors has survived. The Christians, not only in their triumphant exaggerations but in their sheer bulk, today, seriously misrepresent the true proportions of religious history.[3]

The true proportions of religious history are to be given a battering again based on Republican political theology being pushed by the likes of David Barton and others, including Mr. Scroggins. The simple fact is that how a book relates to the Bible or its teachings is completely irrelevant.  The school board can “finesse” the reasons it bans this or that book but the complaint cited the Bible. And that is a violation of the First Amendment; the school is essentially legislating the Christian religion by banning books that are not Bible-friendly.

The goal of course is to control where our thoughts can travel. If we can’t be exposed to new ideas, or to different ideas, then (the thinking goes) Americans will be forced down the “right” path; between revisionist publications and banned books we will see another misrepresentation of the proportions of religious history, and the real history of America and the world will be kept from our children in order to promote a narrow, bigoted, Bible-based worldview. Because in the end, nobody has a right to be a non-Christian. As the Borg said, you will be assimilated.

Image from the Springfield News-Leader


[1] An example of this is to be found in Philip J. Sampson, 6 Modern Myths about Christianity and Western Civilization (InterVarsity Press, 2001), an apologetic attempt to refute the crimes of Christianity against civilization and science. See also Thomas E. Woods, Jr. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization (Regnery Publishing, Inc, 2005). Woods apparently feels we should ignore the destruction wrought by Christianity and thank Catholicism for replacing it with a syncretistic amalgam of its own creation. These books (and Christianity itself) are in open defiance of the well proven credo, “if it isn’t broke; don’t fix it.”

[2] The process was simple: books were outright burned, or were not recopied, or were reused. This latter process, that of the palimpsest, vellum pages of older works were scraped and washed and the surfaces reused. In this way, many ancient texts were destroyed.  Sometimes, these lost texts come to light, as in the case of the Archimedes Palimpsest, a 10th century manuscript of several treatises by that 3d century mathematician, which had been “palimpsested” by a 12th century monk and reused to write down Greek Orthodox prayers. It would be disingenuous at the least to argue that this is an example of Christianity saving ancient learning. Felicia R. Lee, “A Layered Look Reveals Ancient Greek Texts,” NY Times, November 27, 2006. See also the project website at

[3] Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries (Yale University Press, 1997), 3.

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