A Modern Parable

CNN reports that, “A church's plan for an old-fashioned book-burning” ran into an unexpected snag: the fire code.

Preachers and congregations throughout American history have built bonfires and tossed in books and other materials they believed offended God.

…just good ol' fashioned, traditional book-burning, who could object?

The Rev. Scott Breedlove, pastor of The Jesus Church, wanted to rekindle that tradition in a July 28 ceremony where books, CDs, videos and clothing would have been thrown into the flames.

…rekindle the tradition, geddit?

Not so fast, city officials said.

“We don't want a situation where people are burning rubbish as a recreational fire,” said Brad Brenneman, the fire department's district chief.

So it’s a rule of general application, not one aimed at political speech, and thus very likely consistent with the First Amendment.

I don’t know whether to be appalled at the idea of modern book-burning, amused at the effectiveness of this pettifogging regulatory obstacle, cheered by the thought of book-burners who can be stopped by an anti-pollution ordinance, or fearful of how this is going to be spun as a symbol of the evils of the modern regulatory state…

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7 Responses to A Modern Parable

  1. MP says:

    The left disapproves of a private religious event disposing of private property (junk), but uses the concept of privacy to protect the disposal of human life.

    This is no “modern bookburning”. The religious works of no particular group are being targeted, nor are any particular philosphic or political ideals. That is to say, so long as you don’t consider gangsta-rap and hoochie-mama skirts worn by pre-teens a “philosophic or political ideal”, although I do understand that some on the left consider those things “religion”.

    What typically happens is that prior to these events, parents take an inventory of their child’s clothing and music, disposing of anything that in the parent’s judgment is too sexually explicit or violent. The event merely dramatizes a reminder of the conflict between those items and the participant’s beliefs.

    Nonetheless, the toxic fumes are something we could all do without. Some groups use a giant trash compactor.

    What is really sad to me, is that time was taken to post this news, attacking a harmless religious event as midieval book burning, when far more serious religiously motivated violence takes place in the “civilized” world:
    http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/headline/world/2675015

  2. tex says:

    This story reminds me of this rather out-of-control burning frenzy:

    Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn Burn Banned Wigs

    People in the crowd said the gathering was not intended to provoke violence. “These are not riot fires; these are peaceful fires,” said David Wertzberger, 25, who observed the scene about 10 p.m. “It is not a violent situation.”

    But the demonstration was not without incident as a small group of police officers struggled to control the crowd.

    By 7:15 p.m., several piles of wigs had been strewn about and ignited. A ring of people formed around one fire, fueled by a cardboard box filled with wigs, and pressed so close that two officers stepped in, insisting that people move away from the flames.

    That led to pushing and shoving, as the two officers moved the crowd back. Then a man darted inside the ring of people to throw yet another wig on the fire, and he was restrained by the two officers and led to a waiting patrol car.

    By shortly before midnight, more than a dozen fires had been set at or near the intersection of Lee Avenue and Rodney Street.

    So, hey – prohibiting even religiously motivated fires on general fire code grounds isn’t unprecedented.

  3. fibo says:

    This _is_ a symbol of the evils of the modern regulatory state. I’m a private citizen, and if I take the appropriate safety precautions, I ought to be able to burn my own property on my own property. I see no reason why, at the very least, a permit couldn’t have been issued for this obviously religiously motivated ceremony. If Native Americans can use peyote, why can’t Christians pollute?

    BTW, MP, that story you posted might not have actually happened.

  4. MP says:

    “BTW, MP, that story you posted might not have actually happened.”

    It might not have happened exactly as the victim described, as is common with any assult. Interestingly the same article you give points out that crimes against Jews and others in France is double its rate from last year, so even if her case turns about to be a hoax, my point remains the same.

    In any case, I live near several churches, and I wouldn’t want toxic fumes from burning plastics and other synthetic materials coming onto my property. But I don’t equate them with the inquisition if they want to smash or otherwise symbolically “renounce” hip-hop garbage on their own property.

    If you really want to see modern day book burning, look at this:
    http://www.lawschool.com/natelson.htm

    I wonder if michael will sign a letter in support of this guy? Funny where he sees his parables.

  5. joshowitz5 says:

    I attended a book burning, and even threw in a couple of books. My mother was consistently angry about my determination to play RPGs, specifically AD&D. So, when the Second Edition Rules came out, I thought I had no use for the old books, so to make her happy, tossed the books (and a couple of old CDs I didn’t want) into the bonfire.

    The leader of the church was so excited to see me ‘turn a corner’ and realize the evil I supported by playing games and listening to music. My mother beamed at me for a week, until she found my 2nd Ed books. Luckily for me, there wasn’t another book-burning scheduled for a while, so I was able to get the books and some CDs I didn’t want to lose to an undisclosed location (a friend’s house).

    I still feel guilty for burning the books. But I can still remember that feeling of belonging to some great cause, even if I didn’t believe in the act itself. I was “one of them” and I was doing what The Creator wanted me to do. My eyes stung from the smoke and my face was flush from the heat, so I even looked the part; tears rolling down my feverish pink face as I tossed books filled with Satan into the cleansing fire.

    I can understand why religious leaders want to run these types of events. There is nothing like rallying around a big fire, chanting or singing to your god as you offer to him sacrifices symbolizing your changed or increased devotion. These days, book burnings do about the same as those crazy people pouring french wine, that they paid for, down the drain. The publishers of those books don’t feel hurt by it (after all, do they even know that one of their books was just consumed?) and in many cases (like mine), people ended up buying replacements.

    It is a heck of a rush, though.

  6. Em in Canada says:

    Joshowitz wow buddy – nice telling of what the burning was like. I really have to say though
    that while your direct creator (your mom) wanted you to burn the things she found innapropriate
    my ‘creator’ is nature more than it is anything or anyone who can attribute evil to another’s idea.
    musicians and writers have ideas – good for you for hearing them out. If my creator could make
    music and write it would be more like ‘Quit hurting me or you can’t live here anymore’. So I say
    take your books and your discman to the park, relax (don’t forget to pick up your trash to say thanks) and enjoy heaven.

  7. Em in Canada says:

    Joshowitz wow buddy – nice telling of what the burning was like. I really have to say though
    that while your direct creator (your mom) wanted you to burn the things she found innapropriate
    my ‘creator’ is nature more than it is anything or anyone who can attribute evil to another’s idea.
    musicians and writers have ideas – good for you for hearing them out. If my creator could make
    music and write it would be more like ‘Quit hurting me or you can’t live here anymore’. So I say
    take your books and your discman to the park, relax (don’t forget to pick up your trash to say thanks) and enjoy heaven.

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