“As a young person, to already have the courage to face the pitiless glare, to overcome the fear of death, and to regain respect for death – this is the task of this young generation. And thus you do well in this midnight hour to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past. This is a strong, great and symbolic deed – a deed which should document the following for the world to know”.
The above words formed part of a speech which was aimed at calling people to a return to morality and social decency. This address given to university students was of course delivered by Joseph Goebbels directly before one of the most infamous book burning scenes in history.
During the rise of Nazism in the 1930s, purging the population of dissenting ideas was seen as an essential step. The Säuberung or cleansing included destroying religious and political texts that didn’t conform to the new normal.
The destruction of books is as old as literature. Hate is a strong motivator, as is fear. To be honest, there are plenty of books that I believe are dangerous, and I’m happy to warn people about their messages. There is a vast difference though between informing people about a book’s content and removing those same volume’s from libraries and blowing their ashes into the wind.
The Age is tonight reporting,
“Books by prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy figures have become unavailable in the Chinese-ruled city’s public libraries, days after Beijing introduced sweeping national security legislation, according to online records and one activist.”
A search for books by young activist Joshua Wong or pro-democracy politician Tanya Chan on the public libraries website showed the books, including Unfree Speech, co-authored by Wong, either unavailable or under review.
“The national security law … imposes a mainland-style censorship regime upon this international financial city,” Wong tweeted on Saturday, adding his titles “are now prone to book censorship.”
…It is unclear how many books are under review. Two titles by Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning political dissident Liu Xiaobo were still available, according to the online”
This isn’t the first attempt by the Chinese Government to eradicate writings that don’t support the State’s unbending ideologies.
In 2018, the Government began work on a new version of the Bible, to ensure that the Bible affirms ‘socialism’ and doesn’t contain ideas that might subvert the Government. One can imagine how distorted the Holy Scriptures will become once this atheistic, militant, and totalitarian, regime has finished their rewriting project. In many regions of China it is already difficult to own and read a Bible, let alone teach this book in a semi-public setting. Preaching ‘Jesus is Lord’ is likely to end in arrest and possible imprisonment.
“without the permission of the authorities, you can’t organize a Bible study. And if you do get permission, you’d better hold it in a Party-approved religious venue, at a Party-approved time, with a Party-approved leader and using the new Party-approved Bible, which contains quotations from Confucius and, of course, Xi Jinping.”
Not even Christians are permitted to change the words of Scripture, let alone a Government who wishes to change and control its message.
“For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18)
“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:24-25)
Let’s shine the camera on ourselves. 2020 is the year of cancelling. We might look at China with disgust and growing wariness of their geo-political agenda, but our own background is a growing mound of buried careers, reputations, and lives. We have long lost the will to disagree with other, even with passion. The mob demands destruction of any idea that is not representative of new morality and decency.
Let’s not forget, even the beautiful State of Victoria has faced the Government’s axe. In 2016, Christian programs were removed from State schools in light of many Christian ideas being deemed inappropriate. The same Government has recently reaffirmed its commitment to ban conversion practices (which under their current definition will probably include Christian teachings on sexuality. This includes normal Christian teaching and prayer that takes place in Churches). It would be silly to equate this situation with China, for the two are not the same. The point is simply, our own societies are not entirely blameless.
The Chinese Government is afraid of the Bible, and so are we. Perhaps we ought, for it is no small thing to contest the Sovereign God who made the universe and whose word says he will judge all the living and the dead.
Hong Kong libraries are beginning to experience what is commonplace in China and what religious groups have been forced to do for generations, hide their precious books under the bed because the bookshelf isn’t safe.
No society should take their literature for granted, especially the words that give eternal life.
Put away the matches, because as cancel culture is demonstrating, once it starts, it very easily burns out of control. Perhaps we, who want to preserve the freedom to read and teach our texts, ought to show a little humility toward those who prefer and magnify a different set of books. Let’s argue with words not by deleting them.
Correction: I originally said ABC when it should have read The Age