Don’t Burn the Bible. Read it.
By Mitiku Adisu
Burning the Bible is not new. Tyrants of every stripe have done it. Opponents of the Reformation in Medieval European church did it for fear the “book” could fall into the hands of the people and render them powerless. That was before the Gutenberg press made the backbreaking work of monastic copyists unnecessary and Scriptures accessible to the masses.
In more modern times Bible burning has added few features but remained basically the same. In the Fiji Islands of early 1900s conversion to Catholicism led a priest to burn Bibles and hymnals belonging to Methodists. In the Indian subcontinent and wherever Christians are in the minority such events have now become common occurrences.
Saudis confiscate Bibles right at ports of entry and consign them to a paper shredder. Never mind you are a foreign national (and a Christian) paying them a visit. The Bible is banned in Saudi. In the worst case scenario, you could be flogged for possessing the Bible or be deported or sent to jail or face all of the above. And yet, the Saudi government aggressively sponsors the building of mosques and Quraanic schools in places where Muslims are the minority and the society democratic. That is interesting.
In Britain, Christians and the Bible are routinely belittled. That is, the same Bible for which their forbears were burned at the stakes and is the basis for Western civilization. Americans take their freedom very seriously and show it once in a while by inviting the news media to witness a public burning of the Bible. The same, however, turn around to pontificate on the imperative of preserving knowledge and being tolerant of ideas however disagreeable those ideas may be.
Israel is currently in the middle of a row concerning a recent burning of Bibles distributed by Messianic Jews to Ethiopians (some 100,000 reside in Israel). Distributing Bibles, we are told, amounted to ‘proselytizing.’ And ‘proselytizing’ is not acceptable. You may distribute the Communist Manifesto, Dawkins’ The God Delusion, and the Quraan. Not the Bible. Ironically, Israel is touted as the only viable democracy in a sea of authoritarian Middle Eastern regimes—and also as the land of the “people of the Book.”
Not to be outdone, the Eritrean government recently made a bonfire out of 1500 Bibles confiscated from youth coming in for a mandatory national service; several were jailed for protesting. Burning the Bible and persecuting Bible-believing Christians was a major pastime for Ethiopian revolutionists during the Derg era. Here is how Dawit Wolde Giorgis (himself a ruling party member) documented one such incident [Red Tears, 1989, p.124-5]:
Anti-religious sentiment was particularly severe in Wollega province. The chief [party] representative, Negussie Tefferra [sic], rounded up the priests and ministers and asked them to burn their Bibles. When they refused, he himself collected several Bibles and burned them in public. Negussie was an uneducated corporal who was trying to prove to Mengistu [the party boss] that he was worthy of the position he had been given… it was … difficult to understand why Basazenew Bayissa, an educated man with a PhD from an American university and a former teacher at Haile Selassie University, joined him. Together they actively campaigned against religion, participating in more than one incident of Bible burning. Basazenew cried out for blood and in fact shot several people himself… later had a crisis of conscience and became insane. He is now confined to a mental institution.
Despite all this, the Bible remains the world’s bestseller with over 100 million selling every year. Please don’t burn the Bible. Read it.
It is, "… written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name … the Holy Scriptures … are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” [2 Timothy 3:15; John 20:31]
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