It’s an old meme now. Every WWII film includes an obligatory cutaway scene of brown-shirted men feeding truckloads of books into raging bonfires on the Berlin cobblestone. There was even a recent bestseller turned movie, The Book Thief, the premise of which was knowledge-hungry kids saving books from the “Nazi book-burners.”
The narrative this underpins is that Rightism is anti-intellectual. As if the Germans were endeavoring to erase history, purge poetry, and render the world illiterate. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
Principally, the material they consigned to the fire was pornography, codexes of witchcraft, works of communism, anarchism, and Freudianism, anti-Christian works, and all things otherwise morbid, immoral, or subversive to German society. So the ‘intellectual’ material they destroyed was all the same sort of smut and lies which Christians still endeavor to keep away from the eyes of their children. And which we’d all prefer were not stocked at the public library, schools, and magazine racks.
The fact that such materials happened to be penned inordinately by Jews was and is rather beside the point, but censorship of Leftist material is, for this reason, typically met with allegations of antisemitism. Which, if you think about it, really tells you more about the identity and motives of the Left than the Right.
Far from anti-intellectual, true Rightism, based in Christlaw, taught the world to read and pioneered every area of intellectual endeavor.
But in light of the constant allusions to Nazism supplemented by liberal reinterpretations of ‘freedom of speech’ as a pretext to multicult pluralism, Christians have even demurred. Though most would still prefer their children not encounter such trash in their daily lives, they fall short of saying that it should be scoured from the face of the earth. Because not wanting your children exposed to pornography is antisemitic, after all. Only Nazis shelter their children from talk about “sex junk,” don’tcha know.
In the spirit of that compulsory philosemitism, post-war Christians anesthetized themselves with libertarian notions of the “marketplace of ideas”: so long as Shakespeare, Goethe, and Melville were allowed to compete on an even playing field against feminist sitcoms, vampire porn, and Heather Has Two Mommies, the cream would naturally rise to the top. Because the superior form, sentiment, and message of the former works in perfect tandem with the divine operation of capitalism, it would result in a natural and inexorable overwhelming of the bad by the good. Meritocracy itself, a pillar of the natural order, would, in the long run at least, prove infallible. As such, the Christian aesthetic would eventually corner the market, and all the subversive anti-Christian writings would fade away for lack of interest alone. So ran the argument.
But in magician fashion, while true axiology was held up to dazzle and misdirect, a Pelagian presupposition was tucked in the sleeve: this laissez-faire ‘marketplace of ideas’ took for granted that all men desire the true and the good, that none are truly irredeemable, and that the reprobate would abide the level playing field. All of which were falsehoods.
No, censorship is ultimately inescapable. The ascendant worldview, whatever it may be, always imposes anti-blasphemy codes. All law orders suppress the doctrines, and therefore the literature and arts that oppose it. It’s just that within the freewheeling ‘marketplace of ideas’ with which Christians presently console themselves, publishing houses discretely ashcan traditional ideals. Simultaneous to which, the libraries quietly cycle out the traditional works of previous generations and declare overt bans on many more to make room for strange and subversive works. In fact, Amazon (the biggest distributor of books online) recently announced a ban on all materials bearing any similitude of the Confederate Battle Flag! While some good books are gathered up into private collections, most important works are stored for posterity in the most secure depositories — landfills. And the bulk of these are not reprinted. So it is today that libraries and bookstores brimming with the printed word are devoid of anything fit to read.
These are the industrial-scale means of book-burning at play in the ‘free marketplace of ideas’. Because publication and distribution are all but entirely controlled by groups hostile to the Christian worldview. The are incrementally stanching the streams and filling the established wells, all in the name of the ‘marketplace of ideas’. This is the circumstance with which Christians must come to grips: it is imperative that we recover the Christian doctrine of censorship.
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.
~ Acts 19:19-20
Far from entertaining any egalitarian notions of free competition for necronomical works of their day, the early church, under the discipleship of the apostles, did indeed burn books. According to Scripture, mass book-burnings were an appointed (and thoroughly sanctioned) means by which the truth prevailed. This is, on the strength of the inspired Lucan witness, incontestable.
So it should come as no surprise that that pagan, heretical, and anti-Christian works were aggressively suppressed by Christians from the times of the early church throughout the medieval era.
Though the Reformers had incentive to plea for forbearance with their own writings, none postulated any consumer-driven ‘marketplace of ideas.’ Rather than bow to the arbitrary authoritarianism of Rome, they deferred to the authoritarian truth of God’s Word. Thus did Luther use papal bulls for kindling and the sundry works of the scholastics for logs, and demanded that Jewish works, wherever found, be burned. So too did the Scottish Presbyters burn works of popery and hedgewitchery. Just as the Puritans consigned to flames James’s notorious Book of Sports (for its mandate of athletic games on the Sabbath) and sundry heretical works.
No less than in Europe, this tradition was taken for granted in the American colonies, and continued well after the establishment of the republic under prerogative of private organizations as well as the regular administration of government. The mass burning of communist and like subversive materials was still commonplace in America up through the mid-twentieth century.
And speaking from firsthand experience, I know this tradition to have continued in mainstream churches up into the late twentieth century.
Today, however, it is extremely rare to hear of such practices in or out of the church. And when you do hear of it, it tends to make big news. Who can forget, after all, when Pastor Jones announced his intent to burn a Koran? His actions were met with choruses of condemnation from churches no less than the state. The pulpits of America were generally of one voice with the MSM and the menagerie of alphabet soup agencies in denouncement of Jones. The consensus being that burning a Koran was actually injurious to America, and therefore, approaching treason. And that that would make the Jesus they know cry.
Asinine, I know.
But so long as Christians persist in this new marketplace pluralism, tying their own hands in truce with evil while granting the enemy free rein to continue suppressing truth in these ways, we only cede the ground without contest. Or, at least, without the contest which we otherwise could level if it were treated as a true contest (Jude 1:3).
Either way, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is inevitable. If the humanists hold sway, all works of Christian virtue and truth shall, by stages, be contraband. The alternative to this — contending earnestly for the faith and Christ’s lordship — demands the suppression of its antithesis.