They Have No Problem Banning the Bible

An image of a Bible, laying open on a table in an empty room.

Goddess above, it’s been a long time since I last wrote a blog post here on the site. But you see, I need to get this off my chest, because it’s been irritating me for a while. And it has to do with fundamentalist religion, book banning, and history.

When you read articles and the news about book banning in the United States, there’s often someone who pops up in a comment section or on social media and says something like “LOL! THESE IDIOTS WOULD BAN THEIR OWN BIBLE IF THEY STAYED TRUE TO THEIR RHETORIC! ROFLMAO! THESE PEOPLE ARE STUPID!”

I believe the truth is darker. Friends, I hear no dissonant chords in the Christian Right’s crusade (yes I used I that word) to ban books and, yes, that includes the Bible.

In 1428, Church authorities exhumed the body of a man who’d been dead for over forty years. They literally dug him up and burned his body for the sin of heresy. Now, what kind of theological crime would necessitate such a dramatic response? What did he do that angered the Church so much that they declared him a heretic in in 1415 and then burned his body years after his death?

The man’s name was John Wycliffe. His crime was translating the Bible into the vulgar language of the common people.

Before this, the Church decreed that the Bible must always be written in Latin, a language of the educated person and one that commoners did not know. It was a gatekeeping device. If you were a common merchant, or worse, a peasant, you were not to be instructed in the Latin language. And the Church benefited from this because, to the common person, the Bible remained a mystic book, full of mysteries and ancient tales of God, His miracles, and His wrath. The wisdom of the Book was passed down to the people through an intermediary, a priest. This man, and it was always man, was there to select the stories, provide interpretation, tell the tales, and deliver the Gospel. They believed that you, as a common person, should never be able to read the Bible and if you did, you’d never understand it.

And then Wycliffe (and others) translated it into common languages. Now everyone could read it and, as it turns out, many people did understand it… to a point. But then they had questions.

Very. Uncomfortable. Questions.

You can start with the first chapters of the first book of the Bible. In the Book of Genesis, you will notice right away that there are two stories about the creation of the universe. You may wonder why there are two, and which one is right? Wait, what’s with these mentions of “giants?” You’ll spot plot holes and contradictions and questions arise. The Church didn’t like questions, to the point that merely asking questions could be construed as heresy.

Translated Bibles were denounced, suppressed, and yes… they were banned.

And they were burned, just like the body of John Wycliffe.

I see no cognitive dissonance in right wing Christian fundamentalists wanting to ban the Bible from schools, libraries, and so on. Reading it leads to questions they cannot answer. It’d be very handy for them if you didn’t read it at all. Let someone else read it for you and tell you what it means.

Just like the old days.