My local paper is the Tyler Morning Telegraph. It is rather conservative as newspapers go. On its opinion page (which is one of the few things I find interesting in a newspaper) one will usually find conservative and/or libertarian opinions. Among the regular columnists are Cal Thomas, John Stossel, and Walter Williams. This past Sunday morning I picked it up and was blessed to read one of the best editorials I have read in a long time. I do not know who the author is, but here it is as it was run in Sunday's paper and I will also link you to it, here.
Late today, a church in Canton, N.C., reportedly will host a bonfire and barbecue. Into the bonfire, they'll be tossing "Satan's books," including all versions of the Bible that aren't the King James version.
"Pastor Marc Grizzard claims the King James version of the Bible is the only true word of God, and that all other versions are 'satanic' and 'perversions' of God's word," Fox News reports.
That includes more up-to-date translations such as the New International Version.
"On Halloween night, Grizzard and the 14 members of the Amazing Grace Baptist Church will set fire to other versions of the scripture, as well as music and books by Christian authors," the report adds.
These include authors such as Billy Graham and Rick Warren.
"We are burning books that we believe to be Satanic," Grizzard said. "I believe the King James version is God's preserved, inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God for English-speaking people."
It's not this or any newspaper's place to tell a religious body how best to worship God. But the event planned for this evening illustrates that some important things seem to be missing in our culture -- dialogue, disputation and debate.
Ideas are things to be engaged, tried, tested and weighed. They're not things to be exterminated.
The early church fathers didn't shy from disputation. Neither did Jesus. He engaged the ideas of the Pharisees, for example.
Yet as a society, we do shy from disputation.
We see it in the White House, which has chosen to answer the critical coverage from Fox News not with better arguments, but by claiming Fox News isn't a legitimate news outlet.
ABC News reports, "On Sept. 20, President Obama appeared on all the major Sunday morning news programs except Fox News. Last week, White House communications director Anita Dunn asserted 'Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.'"
This is a logical fallacy called "poisoning the well."
"If the White House could persuade moderates that any story originating with Fox is politically motivated and hence suspect, it might reduce the initial impact of Fox-generated content," says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. "What the White House appears to be trying to do is reduce the migration of stories from Fox to other cable, broadcast, and print."
But those stories -- which include the ACORN scandal and "Green Jobs Czar" Van Jones -- have migrated.
A far better response to criticism is to answer the charges, point for point. Engage the ideas. Dispute your opponents. If your ideas are better, you win.
That's the point the Amazing Grace Baptist Church and pastor Marc Grizzard are missing. The ideas contained in those books they're burning won't be extinguished. In a perverse way, they'll become all the more attractive to those young people the church wants to protect.
It's much better to face those ideas, weigh them and debate them.
That's what Jesus would do.