Wanted: Book Burners to Stamp Out Truth

I’m writing a rant today which you probably don’t give a rip about. If you’re not into reading hard copy books, skip this one. Tweet your friends about what you had for breakfast and have a wonderful day.

In Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451, books were outlawed. Firemen were sent to burn them. Truth was effectively bottled up.

We might as well have the same thing going on today. No, we don’t need official book banning or censorship to accomplish it. We’ve done it to ourselves. The Internet, smart phones and social media have combined to tear us from books and rewire our brains.

In fact, I heard a news item recently where a teacher suggested teaching children in school how to read material from print again–separately from online material. Children and young adults no longer have capacity to read content of much length.

But this is only part of why I’m writing this now. It lays the background for what I consider to be the crime of the century in my own little world.

My good friend Gerald, who has recovered from a heart attack and mild stroke nearly two years ago, is dying of terminal cancer. He’s ready, willing and eager to die and go to heaven. He is letting go of his worldly possessions. A few weeks ago he gave my wife and I permission to sell the possessions and property where he lived before his health crisis in 2012. The auction took place a few days ago as I write this.

Over his nearly 79 years, Gerald accumulated thousands of books. Most were in a 10′ x 20′ outbuilding. Others were in the trailer he lived in. Even after we culled a hundred or more books in the worst condition, enough remained to fill the shed’s shelves and long tables..

Gerald read about everything. A used book dealer described this eclectic collection as very unique. Few subjects were left out. Nearly all the books were nonfiction.

The book dealer, who only bought a couple dozen books, told us books don’t sell well, especially if they’re older. Besides, he said people can find similar info online. Others we spoke to said the same thing. I guarantee, many of Gerald’s books wouldn’t be online, or they’d be hard to track down at best.

A volunteer from the friends of our library, which is in a town of 100,000, said they had no interest in nonfiction books. The friends group is run by retired old ladies, and they certainly wouldn’t be going out to take a look at the books. Nor would they heft any boxes of them if they did want any for their annual book sale.

I tried putting an appeal on a book swap site I’m a member of, but I messed up, and the announcement didn’t go where it should have. Based on my correspondence with the forum’s moderator, there wasn’t a way I could have gotten past certain of the site’s restrictions anyway.

A fair portion of Gerald’s books were Bible study and Christian books. Many were on prophecy, particularly Daniel and Revelation. Some books focused on a dispensational view of theology–a view which has received unfair and inaccurate assessments in recent years. Some books dealt with the doctrines of grace–election and predestination. Well known authors of past decades from reputable seminaries and ministries were represented.

Of all the books amassed in the shed, I was most concerned that these Christian works find good homes. But I met with complete apathy. I can’t tell you how sad and angry this makes me.

I contacted two Bible believing churches in our area which I’ve attended at various times over the years. One never followed up on my phone call to the pastor. The other never acknowledged my e-mail. I contacted a Bible college two hours distant from us. Again, not so much as an acknowledgement of my e-mail, which was specifically directed to a certain faculty member. My e-mail to a Baptistic Christian radio station garnered no interest in the books whatsoever.

At the property auction, someone bought the whole book collection for $5. Talk about disgusting and humiliating! However, upon inquiry, we were told he won’t just throw them all away. At least that’s some small consolation. It would have made me heartsick for sure if we’d been forced to pitch them ourselves, for lack of a better outlet.

Before the books were removed, we went out for a look at the Christian books. I took a few, and we set aside several volumes for an upcoming church rummage sale. I told my wife the church didn’t deserve them because they were among those who showed no interest. Nonetheless, they’re going to get them. Perhaps someone will buy a volume that instructs and blesses. That’s all I can hope for.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t take many more of the precious Christian books for myself, space is one constraint. But I face a greater limitation because I’m blind, with some usable vision. Modern technology makes it possible for me to put printed material into accessible form, but it’s a rather laborious task. On the other hand, to indict myself, maybe that’s like complaining that it takes too long to heat a cup of tea in the microwave as opposed to over a campfire.

Years ago, when I was in Bible college, I was fortunate enough to have some of my textbooks recorded on cassette. But when the organization who recorded those tapes upgraded to digital audio files, an awfully lot of cassettes didn’t make the cut. Besides, they don’t care to read religious materials any longer. The few Christian audio libraries for the blind have a large amount of Christian fiction available, but to find truly good Bible study materials in their limited collections calls for discerning selection.

Maybe it’s all for the best though. What if people had shown an interest in Gerald’s Bible study books? They’d have learned something about that controversial book, the Bible. They’d begun to think on their own. Heaven forbid, they might have challenged their pastors and elders on a touchy subject. We can’t have that now, can we?

So, things are what they are. Book burners, unite!

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