The right to freedom of speech is a cornerstone of democracy. It allows for the open exchange of ideas and allows for criticism of the government. This right is also important for Christians. We should stand up against censorship because it can hide history and may be a threat to the ideals which we hold dear. Ideas contrary to Christian thought should also be protected. Censorship can be used to hide information from the public and to control what people can say.
I remember growing up how many book lovers, artists, writers, and librarians stood strongly against censorship and when there were efforts from some fundamentalist Christian groups to remove books seen as profane or a threat to society. Sadly, we live in a world where those same voices that stood up for the freedom of speech and expression decades ago are now purposely pulling books from the bookshelves that express ideas with which they disagree. These same people who once decried any effort to limit the expression of profane thought and ideas are calling for the silencing of voices with which they disagree.
As Christians, this should trouble us greatly. I was not one that was in agreement with the shutting down of ideas or expression that were once called for in the past. I didn’t and don’t necessarily agree with the things that were being spoken about by the writers that the voices of the past wished to remove from the shelves of public libraries. I still believe in the right for them to be published and for those who desire to read to have them available. With that being said, I also agree that certain materials may not be appropriate for children and should not be in a school library with access to all students, but they do and should have a place in a public library. Yet, I do believe that any actions should be taken with thoughtfulness even in a school library. Why? We need to make sure that the decision is being made not by a librarian or a small group of decision makers but should be in dialogue with the community.
I first began to think about this when the news came that the “Graphic Novel” Maus by Art Spiegelman was being removed from a Tennessee school library. The knee-jerk reaction to this action I found quite ironic in the age we are in as the same people decrying this action have called for the removal of ideas from the media and the world that they deem to be “misinformation.” The great issue with this newly coined term is that it takes away objectivity and establishes a subjective understanding which meets a narrative that has also been established by the views of one group of people. The great issue with this campaign against misinformation is that it is just as guilty of spreading misinformation. The thing about truth is that it does not require one side to protect it.
The thing about truth is that it rings true and is clearer the more information that is made available. I remember after the election of 2020 and the time leading up and just past January 6, 2021, the number of things that were sent to me from various friends and parishioners asking for my opinion. These things did not ring true, but because of the major squeeze of information that was being put out by Facebook, Twitter, and the Mainstream Media it was very intriguing. Personally, it did not ring true to me, and I had to be very careful in how I addressed it because there were things that were also being reported that did not ring true either.
Fact-checkers and the like were once internal units in Media organizations to protect News Organizations from engaging in libel. Unfortunately, because there were challenges to the Mainstream Media that began to challenge the ideas that were being presented because there were those that began to see the shift of the Mainstream Media from being an agency that simply reported the News but began to editorialize and explain how we should believe and understand what was going on. This is not the first time that this happened as we have seen a narrowing of the field of media narratives established by a group that holds the power to guide a people to follow a certain ideal. We should be cautious because movements like this led to unintended dangers and will again.
I will say that I am not opposed to Maus, but I, personally, don’t feel that it is the most appropriate book to have in a school library. This is more that it is a Graphic Novel written for adults which is just another name for adult comic books, and I feel that there are a lot of much better books out there that teach the history of the Holocaust that is truly historical and not just an artistic representation. I would rather my child learn about the horrors of the Holocaust in reading The Diary of Anne Frank or Night by Elie Wiesel. Those two are two powerful books written by people who actually lived in it. I think that Maus can be beneficial if some would like to read it and I don’t think it should be removed from Public Libraries. Sadly, I see greater threats occurring that don’t get reported and may be happening without common knowledge. It is out there that there are librarians in schools that are removing books on history that have been on the shelves for years that are being removed because it is felt that they do not teach the “true” history. The teaching of Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project are also attempting to rewrite much of that history and further the movement to make certain commonly taught history unacceptable.
The sad reality of our society today is that we are slowly moving from being a critically thinking society to one that is being told what to believe and there are those that do not like the questioning of ideas with which they agree. I am very familiar with the CRT movement as I was exposed to the early roots of it while in Seminary and saw the issues developing from it, yet I find the information that I learned to be because it made me more aware of what was beginning to enter into the narrative. The issue is that we have a lot of people being told to believe without question and any that challenge the current narrative are beginning to be deemed as misinformation.
So, what is the risk of censorship? It creates a narrowing of information which can be dangerous for us as followers of Christ. Some may argue in the faith that we should not stand with a voice about this issue because it does not have a direct connection with the Gospel. The issue with this mindset is that we already can see the difficult with that as we stand for traditional Christian and biblical ideals like marriage is a union set apart for a man and a woman or we are born as two genders – male and female – we are becoming a fringe group in the eyes of those that are pushing the narrative and seen as being narrow in our thinking and may even be deemed as hateful. Not to mention when we stand for the concept that there is only one way to Heaven which comes to us through Jesus Christ. So, we, as Christians, should see it as necessary to stand up for the freedom of expression and stand against censorship even when we disagree with the ideas being expressed. We can freely express our views and should stand for others to do so also while knowing that we are also free to disagree. That is the nature of our world and while we may find that some earlier historical understandings were not necessarily faithful to the full story that we can and should hold them in parity in order that all may know the full story.
Censorship is the act of hiding or suppressing ideas and information. It can be a threat to the ideals which we hold dear because it can hide history and prevent us from learning from our mistakes. It can also be used to control the population and suppress dissent. Let us stand together and stand for the freedom that allows us to freely worship as well as gives us the power to share the Gospel. Let us pray for our nation and our world that the truth will always reveal itself.