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Tag: Book Burning

Why Do Christian Fundamentalists Burn Books?

greg locke book burning

Recently, Evangelical pastor Greg Locke, pastor of Global Vision Bible Church in Juliet, Tennessee, was in the news for holding a book burning service. The Harry Potter books, Twilight books, other books, clothing, and things deemed Satanic were thrown on a pyre and burned.

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In 2019, Locke burned the book “The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American” by Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Andrew Seidel.

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Those uninitiated in Evangelical thinking may view Locke’s behavior as extreme, cultic, or the actions of a man mentally sick. However, Locke’s actions have a firm grounding in the inspired, inerrant, infallible Words of God. Further, I had book burnings too back in my Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) days.

The Bible says in Acts 19:11-20:

And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them. In certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

In this passage of Scripture, we find the Apostle Paul coming to the city of Ephesus to preach the gospel and work miracles. All told, Paul spent two years in Ephesus. Some of the people who were saved, those who practiced the “curious arts.” Evangelical theologian Matthew Henry explains “curious arts” this way (from E-Sword):

[people who] traded in the study of magic and divination, in books of judicial astrology, casting nativities, telling fortunes, raising and laying spirits, interpreting dreams, predicting future events, and the like.

Those delivered from these practices gathered up their magic and divination books and burned them. The Bible puts the value of these books at 50,000 pieces of silver. At $20 value for each piece of silver, that’s $1 million in today’s money. Does anyone else think this valuation is embellished (Greek for a lie)?

These verses provide a Biblical foundation for Greg Locke’s book burnings, and the two book burnings performed by me in 1984 and 1987.

In 1983, I resigned from Emmanuel Baptist Church in Buckeye Lake, Ohio, moving 30 miles to the start to plant a new IFB church in the rural community of Somerset. I would go on to pastor Somerset Baptist Church for eleven years.

In 1984, convicted by the Holy Ghost over church members listening to secular rock music, I called for a book burning. I preached a scathing sermon about worldliness and the Satanic nature of modern rock music. I asked church members to go through their homes, remove any music that was dishonoring to God, and bring it to church that night so we could make a symbolic offering to God by burning them. A handful of congregants brought cassette tapes, 8-tracks, and LPs to church so they could be burned. We gathered in the side yard of the church, kindled a fire, and burned the offending items. God was pleased, and all his children said, AMEN!

Three years later, I became under increasing conviction (guilt) over “worldly” entertainment, including TV, videotapes, and music. After several Sundays of sermons, I called on church members to bring their sinful wares to church so they could be burned. Few members felt as convicted as I did. At the appointed time, we started a fire in the churchyard and gathered up the offending items so they could be burned. I wanted to make a big impression on congregants, so I planned to destroy our 13-inch television with a sledgehammer. (Please see The Preacher and His TV) Just before I hit the TV, one church member said to me (in front of everyone), “hey preacher, if you don’t want that TV, I’ll take it!” He, of course, missed the point of my recent sermons. I angrily told him NO! and then I slew our TV in the name of the thrice Holy God.

Did you ever participate in a book-burning service? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Ban the Book, Banish the Pain (If You Can)

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

During the past week, these stories were in the news:

  1. A former University of Michigan football player suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a university physician. At age 45, he felt something was wrong with his prostate. But when the doctor snapped on his glove, the former gridiron hero leapt up from the table, yelling, “No, nobody is ever going to do that to me again!” He simply couldn’t allow himself to be penetrated again. Another fifteen years would pass before he could say that he was raped—and allow a doctor to perform the examination that would lead to a diagnosis of late-stage prostate cancer.
  2. In Tennessee, the McMinn County Board of Education decided to ban Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus. In its decision, Board members cited its “nudity” (mind you, animated and of animals), “offensive language” (Tell me, what eighth-grader hasn’t said, let alone heard, “bitch” or “god damn!”) and “disturbing content,” including suicide and people hanging from trees.

I read Maus not long after it was published. Like most other readers at the time, I learned of it by word-of-mouth: graphic novels weren’t yet taken seriously in the literary world. While it’s not the first I’d heard or read about the Holocaust, it related the story in a visceral way that academic works and even most conventional novels could not. If you’re not familiar with it, the Jews—including Spiegelman’s parents—are mice, the Nazis are cats and the Poles are pigs. Most important, though was the way the novel conveyed, not only the tragedy of the Holocaust, but the personal traumas of Auschwitz internees, including Spiegelman’s own parents—his mother would commit suicide years later– and of Spiegelman himself. In other words, it conveyed something of which, at the time, I had an inkling if not the language: intergenerational trauma.

While he was at Michigan, Chuck Christian did not tell anyone that Dr. Robert Anderson did things to him not warranted by a physical examination. Later, though, a friend several years older told him that one day, he found a note on his locker saying he couldn’t practice until he talked to the coach. Bo Schembechler, who wasn’t exaggerating when he claimed to be the most powerful man in the Wolverine State, had gotten word that he didn’t let Dr. Anderson complete the physical examination. The player said, yeah, “because he was trying to do this to me.” The coach bellowed, “Quit being a wimp and get it done.” He did—which included submitting to the rectal exam he was trying to avoid.

Schembechler would enjoy demi-god status for decades as the University of Michigan’s football coach and Athletic Director. For most of that time, Dr. Anderson also worked for the University. Christian and his friend were far from the only victims of Anderson’s sexual, and Schembechler’s psychological, abuse. Indeed, Schembechler’s stepson is also a plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit. He and Christian have incurred physical as well as mental health problems as a result of the abuse they suffered. It’s not difficult to imagine that some of the victims’ families, friends, co-workers and others have been affected by the trauma resulting from violence they could not name until long after they experienced it.

It’s also difficult not to think that Spiegelman’s mother committed suicide, and Spiegelman himself had a nervous breakdown, as a result of pain that could not be named. In the book, one gets the sense that Spiegelman’s father hadn’t talked much, if at all, about life and near-death under the Nazis before his conversation with his son.

In short, the pain Spiegelman, who is now as old as his father was in Maus, and Christian, who is dying from his illness, is, if not a result of, then at least related, to suppression of their truths, and of truth generally. I shudder to think of what damage McGinn County Board of Education members—who profess to Christian faith (and one of whom said he’d never seen the book but had read the reviews) –are doing to the children for whom they profess so much concern by suppressing an honest discussion of what violence, whether physical or emotional, does to people. I shudder because I see that damage in Charles Christian.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser