Who Decides What America Reads?
- Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Great minds, including ministers and statesmen, built our earliest libraries for the purposes of improving and serving the public. The library belongs to the public and should represent fairly the needs and beliefs of the population. What does our population believe? In 2001, according to the American Religious Identification Survey (http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_prac2.htm), 77 percent of Americans consider themselves Christians. That means that 77 percent of the taxpayers in this country hold these Christian values. Library collections simply do not reflect the flavor of the American public, nor do they indicate that our tax dollars are being spent in a way with which we agree.
The implications extend beyond the obvious. Ephesians 6:11-13 puts this into perspective: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Satan wants our hearts as well as the hearts of our children. He will use every tactic possible to snatch a soul, and what better way than through entertaining or educational books?
Consider this quote by Nobel Literature Prize winner, Saul Bellow: “There is only one way to defeat the enemy, and that is to write as well as one can. The best argument is an undeniably good book.” This statement holds true whether the information you present is truth or fiction, whether it is uplifting or demoralizing. Words move people’s souls and change value systems. European dictator Adolph Hitler realized this while striving to bring East Germany and all of Europe under his iron grip. He believed firmly in the power of the written word, as is seen in this quote from his autobiography, Mein Kampf (www.hitler.org/writings/mein_kampf): “For even propaganda is no more than a weapon, though a frightful one in the hand of an expert.”
Should homeschooling parents today care? Is it our place to restore balance to libraries, or do we take an indifferent stance? In an informal survey, I asked over one hundred parents, “Are libraries important tools in affecting the moral climate of the public?” One woman responded, “Personally, I think the library should be there to impart information, not morals.” Is this even possible? Can libraries present information on religion, history, science, or politics without imparting morals? I contend that when a child encounters the 215 books on witches and witchcraft in the Palmdale Library, the words therein will affect his morals. Karl Marx believed that the power to change society lay within the confines of the written word when he proclaimed, “Give me twenty-six lead soldiers and I will conquer the world.”
The news isn’t all bad, however! We can help remedy this imbalance in our library system. I do not suggest we censor undesirable materials, only that we stop the existing censorship. We possess the same weapon the enemy has brandished so effectively—the written word, combined with our applied energies. The following steps will allow individuals or groups to make changes in their own communities:
Prayer: The Front Line
Prayer is every Christian’s first line of defense (see Philippians 4:6 and Proverbs 15:29). As we are told in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Prayer should not be merely our first line of defense, however. We should keep on praying, if our requests are clearly lined up with His will (see Luke 18:1).
Meet With Like-Minded Individuals
The goal of meeting with other concerned individuals is to share a vision to improve libraries and to help them attain a more balanced collection. These meetings provide an excellent forum to develop ideas regarding how to approach library staff, how to gather information about the local library, and how to compose book recommendation lists that match our criteria, as addressed in a later paragraph.
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