Halloween is almost upon us. It’s one of my favorite holidays. Every year I put my hair in a bun, don some thick glasses with library chains, and wear my dowdy librarian outfit as I venture out to parties. It’s becoming as much of a Halloween tradition as carving pumpkins or pretending I’m not home when the trick-or-treaters arrive.
We all have Halloween traditions. Down in North Carolina there’s a Baptist church whose pastor wants to start a new Halloween tradition: book burning! A kind reader sent the story to me. It’s all over the news right now, but I’ll point you to this article because I love the last sentence.
This pastor, and the fourteen members of his Amazing Grace Baptist Church, believe that the King James Version of the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God "for English speaking people" (if you want to call what he’s speaking English), and that all other translations are heretical and inspired by Satan. This is the sort of thing that happens when schools and libraries fail in their educational mission. Obviously the King James Version isn’t the inspired, inerrant word of God for English-speaking people. That’s the Douay-Rheims, of course. Heck, the KJV isn’t even complete, so how inerrant could it be? That pastor must be terribly confused whenever he’s in an art museum and encounters a painting of Judith andHolofernes.
So the pastor and his minuscule flock are going to burn a bunch of other English translations of the Bible, plus works by heretical Christian writers like Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, and TimLaHaye. Tim LaHaye is just way too liberal for this church. You could check out the long list of heretics whose works he wants to burn, but the church website was gone when I looked for it. (Maybe the Internet host didn’t want to provide space for ignorant hillbillies. The ALA should look into charges of "censorship"!) He wants to attract new cult members with the Bible burning, too. The Daily Telegraph puts it well: "The book-burning is hoped to be a social event, with a barbecue laid on for attendees. It is not clear whether the meat will be grilled over the heat of burning Gospels."
According to some librarians, there’s censorship everywhere. Librarians do so like a crisis to respond to, so if there’s no crisis, they’ll invent one. This isn’t taking place in a library, but as librarians book-burning is certainly something we should be concerned with. Haywood County, where the church is located, has a library system and probably has some non-KJV Bibles and almost certainly some of the Left Behind books. Those good country people like their Christian fiction. At the very least, the librarians there should make sure this clown isn’t burning library copies of Billy Graham books. After all, if all those books are the works of Satan, he probably wouldn’t want any copies available in the library. Also, I’d be willing to bet this church isn’t exactly affluent. He many books could this guy afford to burn? Of course, I’d be surprised if the pastor and his flock had library cards, but then again I’m surprised they can read.
Librarians get upset if a concerned parent wants some sexy book relocated to the adult section of the library, or some rube doesn’t like gay penguins. Surely, that’s small beer compared to this hillbilly actually burning books. And yet, both are equally unimportant. The news sites are all over this story because it’s so ridiculous. No one takes this hillbilly seriously, just as we shouldn’t take seriously the vast majority of "challenges" or the people who make them or the people who get all hot and bothered over them.
Southerners are quaint, and sometimes a little sensitive when others make fun of their crazy antics. So to be fair, I tried to find a better story about books coming out of North Carolina, and I did. 200 miles and apparently a world away from this little church and its looney pastor, a school librarian from Winston-Salem has put together a list of children’s books to share at Halloween. What’s a holiday without a picture book, she asks. The obvious answer is, "grown up." Nevertheless, reading Boo to You is a much more wholesome way to spend Halloween than burning Bibles, and it’s our duty as librarians to promote reading and literacy. Maybe the librarians in Haywood County can go to the bonfire and persuade that guy not to burn Bibles. That would be a charitable mission. I’d do it myself, but I’m going to be busy with my dowdy librarian costume and my pumpkin flavored cocktail.