Saturday, April 30, 2016

Why Tyrants Ban the Bible

Eric Metaxas, has a column at USA Today in which he suggests some answers to a couple of interesting questions: Why do tyrants almost always ban the Bible, and why do so many secular folks fear it? Whether one believes that the Bible is the literal word of God or is convinced that it's just a compilation of the literary and historical musings of people who lived in a long dead civilization, the questions should have resonance, in fact they should have special piquancy for those who hold the latter view of the Bible. Why would a book of ancient fables and superstitions be feared by those who seek to exercise mind-control over the people? Why not just treat it like we treat Aesop's Fables?

Anyway, here are some excerpts from what Metaxas says:
Every single year the Bible is the world’s best-selling book. In fact, it’s the number one best-selling book in history. But recently it made another, less-coveted list: the American Library Association’s “top 10 most-challenged books of 2015.” This means the Bible is among the most frequently requested to be removed from public libraries.

But what’s so threatening about it? Why could owning one in Stalin’s Russia get you sent to the Gulag, and why is owning one today in North Korea punishable by death? What makes it scarier to some people than anything by Stephen King?

We could start with the radical notion that all human beings are created by God in His image, and are equal in His eyes. This means every human being should be accorded equal dignity and respect. If the wrong people read that, trouble will be sure to follow. And some real troublemakers have read it.

One of them was George Whitefield, who discovered the Bible as a teenager and began preaching the ideas in it all across England. Then he crossed the Atlantic and preached it up and down the thirteen colonies until 80 percent of Americans had heard him in person. They came to see that all authority comes from God, not from any King, and saw it was their right and duty to resist being governed by a tyrant, which led to something we call the American Revolution.

Another historical troublemaker was the British Parliamentarian William Wilberforce. When he read the Bible, he saw that the African slave trade — which was a great boon to the British economy — was nonetheless evil. He spent decades years trying to stop it. Slave traders threatened to have him killed, but in 1807, he won his battle and the slave trade was abolished throughout the British Empire. In 1833, slavery itself was abolished too.

In the 20th century, an Indian lawyer named Mohandas Gandhi picked up some ideas from the Bible about non-violent resistance that influenced his views as he led the Indian people to independence. And who could deny the Bible’s impact on the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said the Bible led him to choose love and peaceful protest over hatred and violence? He cited the Sermon on the Mount as his inspiration for the Civil Rights movement, and his concept of the "creative suffering," endured by activists who withstood persecution and police brutality, came from his knowledge of Jesus’ trials and tribulations.
It could be added that a book that teaches that no earthly authority is ultimate, that men must obey God's law when it conflicts with man's law, that tyrants who abuse their power, which they all do, will answer for their evil, a book that says all that is not going to find favor with dictators.

But why is it often banned from public libraries in countries which ostensibly have freedom of speech? Perhaps one reason is that the Bible defies the secularist orthodoxy that "the cosmos is all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be" to quote Carl Sagan. Any book that says otherwise is simply not to be tolerated, even by those who claim to make a virtue of tolerance. These folks may not be tyrants of the sort who rule North Korea, but they share some aspects of the tyrannical spirit all the same.