Monday, July 30, 2007

On censoring what other people write

I am gradually losing patience with the ongoing movement in some corners of Christianity to ban writings without giving them a fair examination. A few days ago I saw a really pathetic example of this.

sgntim-th.JPGWhile I was having a cup of coffee in a coffee shop I saw two elderly men walk in, approach a rack of free literature, deposit a stack of magazines called "Signs of the Times", and then leave without buying anything. (I've seen these magazines in the shop before, but never saw who put them there. The magazine is a Seventh Day Adventist publication; some of the articles are interesting, but some of them leave me cold.)

A little bit later, a man who was an adherent of a rival Christian sect, came into the shop, saw the magazines, and removed the whole stack from the shop. His justification for taking them was that they were free. I don't think he needed twenty copies for his "reference library." I don't think he planned to read it twenty times and needed a fresh copy for each read-through. He just wanted to stop other people from reading the magazine. How sad.

It is ironic that the magazine featured as its lead story an article about the dangers of reading Harry Potter books. The article pointed out the incompatibility of Christianity with witchcraft and sorcery (I'll buy that much) and went on to argue that the Harry Potter books might get young readers to want to read more about Wicca (It's a bit of a stretch, but even accepting it for the sake of argument, I find it hard to picture children seeking a real-world Hogwarts being satisfied by the rituals of Wicca. And when do those Wiccans play Quidditch?).

The writer closed by saying that his son would grow up not reading Harry Potter. I disagree with the article's author about the risks of reading these books, but he is nevertheless exercising his own parental control over what his child reads or watches on TV. He is not making a general attempt to silence people with whom he disagrees. He is simply offering to the reading public his own reasons for avoiding the Potter series.

The self-appointed magazine-confiscator is a different story, stretching the commandment against theft to permit him to try to control what other adults are able to read and weigh for themselves. What a shame that he does not offer his own viewpoints on whatever makes the Sevent-Day Adventist magazines so threatening to him.

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