Heinrich Heine. I've been reading Eric Metaxis' book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy in which much is detailed about the early days of Hitler's rise to power. One of Hitler's biggest issues was the authority of the church, which was one of his first conquests after being elected into power. Another first act was to have many books burned that could be used to subvert his own authority. Heine's books were among those burned, ironically. Why am I pointing all this out? Read on.
This past year, Terry Jones, a pastor of a small church in Florida took it upon himself to burn the Qur'an, despite a lot of opposition. A church in North Carolina held a non-KJV Bible burning in 2009. The church in NC also burned music and books by popular Christian authors as well. Of course, book burning is "protected" as free speech by the United States Constitution, supposedly, but I would ask, to what extent? Is book burning inherently wrong? Heine's words proved prophetic in that the Nazi's did burn people as well.
I'm not saying that Terry Jones or the pastor in NC intend to set people on fire, but have we come so far in America, that we would claim free speech while stifling the very freedoms our nation was built upon? Generally speaking, book burnings are un-American. Protesting the building of religious buildings in the name of freedom of religion is also un-American. Yet, these same people claim to be great Americans and great Christians. We need to remember that the Nazis built their platform on being good Germans. We need to be careful, lest we do the same thing.
I do believe there are or should be limits to free speech, particularly when it comes to our matters of conscience. Congress has, for years, attempted to pass a flag desecration amendment, which has continued to fail, in the name of free speech. I think books rate higher than the flag, simply because of the information we can glean from them. The burning of books is an anti-intellectual exercise to stifle free speech. It smacks of a totalitarian belief that others who don't believe the way you do should be oppressed and forced to your point of view.
As Christians, we are not called to suppress other people's viewpoints, but we are encouraged to tell them about the Word, that is Jesus Christ. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word. We must proclaim this. We speak of burning Qur'ans, and yet, even the Muslims would not dare to burn the Bible. We must not stoop lower than our opponent, whether in the name of free speech or even in the name of Jesus. That is not what Jesus would have us do. He has called us to make disciples, not burn books.