Monday, October 05, 2009

Banned Books

I have always been an avid reader. It started in the 2nd Grade when my teacher, Miss Cooley, gave me The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverley Cleary. I still have that book. It was followed by Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and I probably spent the next 2-3 years wishing I was Laura living on the prairie. All I can say now is "Thank God I was born in this Century!"

My love affair with reading began. I use 'love affair' because it was something that consumed me, took priority over other things I should have been taking care of and I would literally tune out the world around me. I could respond to conversations directed at me while I was reading and later have no recollection - very frustrating for my mom. Now that I'm a mom, I understand. In fact, I make my kids look me in the eye so that their focus is on me and not the book or TV.

I have actually 'trained myself' if you will, as an adult, to prevent compulsive reading from getting in the way of other things. I can leave a new book alone for weeks waiting for the right time. In between, I read things that are shorter in content or biographies which don't grab me the way other books do. Bart would probably disagree but may acknowledge I sit at the computer more than with a book lately. Trading one compulsion for another?

Well, the Yahoo! homepage had the notice for Banned Book week up last week. Although I had heard of this, I've never looked at the banned book lists and wondered what books were banned and from where?

Found that it relates mostly to school libraries and there are a variety of reasons various people and/or groups have made formal objections to books. I was expecting a list of books along the lines of The S_____c Verses by S. Rushdi but was suprised to find I had read quite a few of the books on the list. A lot of them in high school/college (Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, Grapes of Wrath, Catcher in the Rye, etc...). So then I had to know why these books were on the list - see, the whole compulsive reading thing....

Many were asked to be banned because of certain words used that would be considered offensive in today's society. Or used language or situations that someone took offense to. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those. Yes, the book I just wove into a post a couple weeks ago. A book I still love. On the banned list!

Before I keep going I will say, there are certainly books that I would not feel are appropriate for school libraries - even at the High School level. But my intent here is not to discuss what I feel is appropriate or not but how I feel about books and what they mean to me and in my view, society.

In the video we watched for Bible Study a few weeks ago, Beth Moore talks about how "you cannot amputate your history from your destiny." All the baggage and good experience we carry with us through life, has an impact on our future. The decisions we make. How we make them. Why we make them? For us as Christians, we have a hope and faith that God has His hand in all of this - "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.." Jer. 29:11

What I have behind me is what I bring with me into the future.

What we have behind us as a society and people is also important.

Books reflect our history and the times. As mentioned, some of the books on that list are there for language or content/context that people are offended by. Are we supposed to quit reading these books just because the "times" have changed? Are we supposed to "clean them up" because we don't like the ugliness portrayed? Should authors "clean up" the language when they (authors) are reflecting the way people actually speak and use language?

I find that books such as To Kill a Mockingbird teach us so much. Where we have been as a society, how people viewed life around them and the process of change. How the changes are small and differ from generation to generation. That's why I cry when I read it - so thankful we've made strides, however big or small, in our treatment of our fellow man. We take that history into the future with us.

"You cannot amputate your history from your destiny."

A book not on the list: the Bible - at least not that I've found. When I think of my activities and compulsive love for written word, I often think of this verse:
"All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." 1 Corinthians 6:12

The context of this verse has to do with the body and difference between life under the Law (Old Testament Law as given to Moses and the prophets) and freedom from the Law through faith in Jesus Christ (New Testament). That our freedom in Christ is intertwined with our response of worship in the treatment of our body because of His sacrifice for us.

However, I often apply this verse to things that distract me from priorities and responsibilities I've set for myself - housework, time with the kids, time with Bart. Avoiding compulsive projects in order to take care of what really matters. Because what I do now will have an impact on the future.

So I will continue to enjoy several books on the Banned list for what they teach me. And I will get off this computer to take care of some things that really matter. :)

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