Annoyed Librarian
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Hillbillies Burning Bibles

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.




  1. Since nobody else is commenting I will. King James is a version not strictly a translation. That is, it is translated from the Latin Vulgate, not the original Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, etc. So, to consider it more accurate than say, the New International which is translated from the original languages is ludicrous. I remember having to explain this to my reference for religion class instructor. She didn’t know the difference.

    Of course this is even discounting how ridiculous it is even on the face of it and I will refrain from personal opinions about whether letters written hundreds of years after Christ died are errant or inerrant. Oops I guess I did give away my opinion.

  2. so then Plato’s works found many, many hundreds of years after they were originally written might not be fully complete/correct/inerrant either.

    Not many originals out there for any classic Greek or Roman works. We take it on faith that we’re reading the works exactly as written (minus translation differences) don’t we? If you actually look at it on the whole, many of the extant epistles are closer to their original writers than are the surviving classics of Greece and Rome.

  3. Not that it matters for this, but the KJV was in fact a translation from the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. It’s the Douay-Rheims which was translated from the Latin Vulgate, which itself was translated from various Greek, Hebrew, and previous Latin manuscripts. I think that’s part of the joke, that the Douay Bible, which is the Catholic Bible sort of equivalent to the KJV, is the more authoritative. No conservative Baptist would accept that.

    This guy is obviously ridiculous, but the issue with the KJV is that some of the language is archaic and that we have more and better Greek and Hebrew manuscripts from which to work from these days than the KJV translators did, which is why the KJV has itself been revised at least three times.

    However, I don’t think this preacher cares about things like evidence.

  4. Yes, you are correct and I mistakenly gave the wrong info. Sorry. Anyway, you are also right about the archaic language. However, growing up reading this version made reading Shakespeare a cakewalk for me.

    And nobody claims Plato is inerrant.

  5. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    I think the biggest problem about the KJV is that is the KJV. He had it edited to suit his political religious goals. Regardless of what language its in its a politically censored abridged bible. But yea what does it matter if I believe in it its real to me. Anyone who goes as far as burning other bibles must believe hard. The funny thing is I know Southern Baptist ministers who are very upset over this. It was the last thing this group needed.

  6. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    I am a Texan and therefore technically a Southerner. And there are hillbillies in my family tree several generations back. Thankfully we abandoned Southern stupidity in the previous generation and the family has been Methodist, LDS, Episcopalian, agnostic and atheist. It’s been an embarrassing day to be living in the south …

  7. [re: Greek and Latin classics] “We take it on faith that we’re reading the works exactly as written (minus translation differences) don’t we?”

    No. That’s why we have such things as critical editions. The spirit of your question, however, is well-taken.

    “If you actually look at it on the whole, many of the extant epistles are closer to their original writers than are the surviving classics of Greece and Rome.”

    That’s true. Take Alexander the Great for example – the ancient source closest in time to him is f***ing Arrian – of several centuries later. There’s plenty of other examples as well. If you want to criticize the New Testament as reliable source materail you certainly can and with good reason. It’s just that the same criticisms will apply to an even greater degree to just about every other source and event in the ancient world.

    I agree that the bookburning Baptist guy is a goof, but I’m not ashamed of the South per se….just sorry that too many idiots live down here. There are, however, plenty of good things too (music, other cultural events, sports, universities, etc.)

  8. Southern Librarian says:

    I didn’t take this as an attack on the south necessarily, not that I think of myself as “quaint.” Usually pieces like this are used to make fun of religious people, as if everyone who ever goes to church is equivalent to this pastor.

  9. srts5: Wow, hope you’re not a reference librarian or a teacher. Seeing as you do not have your facts correct regarding the different translations of the Bible, I’ll totally discount your ‘opinion’ regarding the inerrant word of God also. If I’m wrong, no big deal, but if you are, well. . . . You have my sympathies.

  10. AlwaysWanted2B says:

    I am a Southerner as well and I really don’t think of this situation as embarrassing. It is just plain stupid. Well we have all seen the results of too many family members marrying their sisters. Now Alabama Senator Jeff Session’s comments about rape are embarrassing and appalling.

  11. NotMariantheLibrarian says:

    The comments regarding DeMint from a North Carolina Republican county committee were embarrassing and appalling too.

  12. Catholic Librarian says:

    The Catholic church hasn’t used the Douay-Rheims translation for years. We use The New American Bible (which is clunky if you ask me). I much prefer the RSV-Catholic Version.

    Oh yes, this guy is a nut pure and simple.

  13. SomeoneintheLibrary says:


    And yet, every Texan I’ve talked to since getting here has warned me to definitely NOT call Texan’s Southerners. :P

  14. LibrarianWhoDoesntCare says:

    I don’t know what this has to do with being a librarian. I could care less if anyone wants to hold a book burning. Personally, I think there are plenty of books that should be burned — especially all books written by Danielle Steel and James Patterson!

  15. I can’t believe I’m the first one to ask the truly important question–what’s the recipe for the pumpkin cocktail?

  16. catherine says:

    It’s a shame that we have people who still put people of the South down. We are not hillbillies and this is just another way to put Southerns down. This person has the right to his beliefs just as you have the right to yours. If you would read your Bible you might have compassion instead of putting others down. I might not totally agree with this pastor but I don’t have the right to judge him either. We live in the bible belt and I think God that this is where I was born and raised. If we are such hillbillies then why would you want to come and live in our great state?

  17. I Like Books says:

    I’m amazed that anyone still considers book burnings to be a good PR move, given the immediate association with some unsavory characters in history who’ve enjoyed the same sport.

  18. preacherryder says:

    As a church planter in the Western North Carolina area this has been an issue I have run into with many of the peope we have invited to our church. Even people that haven’t been to church in 20 years will ask, when invited to a service, “What version of the bible do you use?”, and when I ask why they always respond “KJV is the only authorized bible.” I think many of the people here in the mountains just say that because thats what their grandparents told them in Sunday School. This area even has a KJV radio station that makes the same assertions, of KJV only, that this pastor has made on the evening news. I find it irronic that on the churches sign it says “Television is a monster of Satan”, and yet he is using TV to deliver his story. Are we worshiping the bible and it’s content or the One who inspired men to iniscribe the Good News?

  19. I think they say something incomplete. They forget that everything on this earth is both good and evil. Just as TV or technology is good but it is also bad…just depend on how it is used…I don’t think so that pastor is bad….if they forced on people to get all their New translation to get burned etc…that’s different…I think that’s just an expression to becareful what we read …

  20. I think we should not put down people…I really don’t think so all southerners are worth to be put down…because there are not so good people in every state or anywhere on the planet earth….

  21. KyLibrarian says:

    The most offensive and annoying aspect of this article is the constant usage of the ‘ignorant hillbillies’ theme. Why is this still acceptable? Annoyed Librarian needs to deal with his/her own ugly stereotypes and prejudices.

  22. Are the last few comments serious? “I really don’t think so all southerners are worth to be put down.” This is just weird.

  23. KyLibrarian says:

    Just pretend this article constantly referred to ‘lazy Hispanics’ or ‘immoral gays’ or ‘over-sexed Negroes’ and you might understand my anger.

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