I read at my university’s banned books reading tonight. Banned Books Week originates with the American Library Association. My university has been participating for several years, but this was my first experience with it. Considering that many books have been banned for language and sexual content, I was afraid that both would be evident in the readings. I voiced my concerns at the meeting of the English honor society (we were sponsoring the reading). Our faculty advisor mentioned that people have read from the Bible in the past. Well, of course they have! The Bible has been banned across the globe over the past centuries. In Christian England, in fact, from the 13th to 15th centuries, the Bible was banned in England for such things as translation into the vernacular or non-clergy possession. I reported at the reading that I had found research stating the Bible is currently banned in Eritrea and North Korea, but I may have been mistaken. While there are recent persecution stories from those countries, the most significant story I have found regarding possession of a bible concerns a woman executed in 2009 in North Korea for distributing Bibles. Nevertheless, North Korea officially claims it is not intolerant of religious freedom.
In any case, I chose to read tonight from 3 John. After much praying, searching, and tabbing of my favorite parts, I chose 3 John for its simple human representation. It is a letter from John to his friend Gaius in another church. In the epistle John thanks Gaius for his faithfulness and encourages him to give hospitality to travelling Christians. He also acknowledges the disturbing behavior of another church leader, and says that he (John) will certainly deal with the situation when he visits. It ends in such a familiar way: “your friends here send their greetings; please give mine to my friends there.” It struck me when I first read it that people have not changed much at all in 2000 years. John could be a modern person sending an email or private Facebook message. I hope that my audience felt that, too.
I followed the reading of 3 John with one that lent itself to a bit of dramatic hyperbole, which I thoroughly enjoyed: Dr. Suess’s Green Eggs and Ham. To my surprise, it had been banned in The People’s Republic of China in 1961 for nearly thirty years. I had great fun reading it, and got a few laughs out of the audience as well.
In the end, we all had fun and nobody chose a passage with a recognizably bad word. The event gave both faculty and students an opportunity to read in public, which is always good practice for further reading in public. That is always handy practice for English majors.