Evils of Harry Potter and the Rest
Join the Sorry History of Book Burnings
The 19th Century Jewish, German poet Heinrich Heine wrote prophetically, in 1822, “Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too.”
Then came May 10, 1933, when student groups at universities across Germany carried out a series of book burnings of works that students and leading Nazi party members associated with an “un-German spirit.” Crowds cheered and watched the conflagration of books by Brecht, Einstein, Freud, Mann and Remarque, among many other well-known intellectuals, scientists and cultural figures, many of whom were Jewish.
In Berlin, scene of the largest book bonfires, an estimated 40,000 people heard propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels pronounce that “Jewish intellectualism is dead” and endorsed the students’ “right to clean up the debris of the past.” Among the books to go up in flames were the works of Heine. And within six years, the Second World War had begun and soon the holocaust was underway along with the eventual murder of 6 million Jews.
Now, 89 years later, free speech is again under fire, literally, as books were ceremoniously burned in protest of what some see as liberal decay and Democratic attacks on the Christian way of life. The Rev. Greg Locke, who doubles as a trump supporter and anti-vaccine, anti-mask conspiracist, led the burning on Feb. 2 at the Global Vision Bible Church in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., as large crowds watched while participants threw in copies of the Harry Potter and Twilight series , among other books, into a fire.
The event was livestreamed on Facebook and comes in the wake of last month’s decision by a Tennessee school district to ban teaching “Maus,” an animated novel about the Holocaust. The American Library Association said it has recently seen an “unprecedented” rise in book ban requests, with 330 books that were challenged as objectionable in the fall of 2021 compared to 156 in all of 2020.
Sermonizing before the burning, Locke said that he was fighting the “Free Mason devils” and that “I ain’t gonna be suiciding myself no time soon.”
“I ain’t messing with witches no more, I ain’t messing with witchcraft…I ain’t messing with demons… I’ll call all of them out in the name of Jesus Christ,” said Locke, to the cheers and applause of parishioners.
In a facebook post, Locke said “We are well aware what we are stepping into. Bring it all. Stop allowing demonic influences into your home. We will be in our continued series on ‘Deliverance from Demons.’ We have stuff coming in from all over that we will be burning. We’re not playing games. Witchcraft and accursed things must go.”
Locke and the Rev. Ken Peters, founder of the Patriot Church in Knoxville, Tenn., are part of a movement known as Christian Nationalism and also adhere to a loose-knit group known as the Black Robe Regiment, taking their name and inspiration from colonial pastors in the 18th century who supported the fight against Britain during the Revolutionary War. Both groups believe the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation and must remain one, no matter the cost. As unholy trump supporters, the two pastors prevailed on Facebook for congregants to travel to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, to protest what the pastors called the illegal election of President Joe Biden.
“Be part of what we’re calling the Black Robe Regiment. Ok, quit being a yellow robe preacher, you coward, and start being a black robe preacher and stand up and be willing to lead your people into battle. We are in a battle for the soul of our family and for this nation,” Locke posted, adding “Dear America, Masks do not work. The death count has been manipulated. The vaccine is a dangerous scam. The virus is a political ram rod. Fear is the true sickness. Your freedoms are being taken. It’s all fake. The media is lying.”
Peters, who has 2.2 million followers on Facebook, and live-streams his Sunday sermons, posted to believers, “Biden never won. They hid him in a basement while they cheated.”
Christian nationalism advocates that public policy should be formed strictly by Christian beliefs, such as imposing legal restrictions against abortion, same sex marriage and a halt to extending rights to LGBTQ people. Christian nationalism believes that the federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation, should advocate “Christian values,” should not enforce the strict separation of church and state, should allow religious symbols in public spaces. should state that the success of the United States is part of God’s plan and that the federal government should allow prayer in public schools.
The pastors’ agenda is part of an overarching philosophy that opposes liberalism that they see must be battled in the schools, religious places and government, as part of the ongoing culture war. Often the lines are blurred and overlap between religion and government, as seen by the relationships between right wing legislators and evangelicals.
The latest Congressional voice came from Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who has announced a conservative blueprint for Republicans if they win back the Congressional majorities this fall. Among Scott’s priorities are completing the border wall and naming it after trump, declaring “there are two genders,” ending any reference to ethnicity on government forms, continue opposing teaching of critical race theory in schools and requiring children to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.
Along with book burnings, Christian teaching in public schools a proposal in Florida would further turn back the clock on gender freedom and would require schools to inform parents within six weeks after a school learns that a student is not straight. The proposal would be an amendment to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill that bars educators from talking about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary schools. Parents would be able to take legal action against school districts they believe have violated the measure.
Democratic state Rep. Ana Eskamani has proposed an amendment that would allow students to sue the Florida Department of Education for damages for “irreparable harm” caused by the disclosure of their sexual orientation. The full bill is supported by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and is set for a vote in the Florida House this week.