Who knew you could burn books at the click of a mouse? Absurd as it may sound, a Web site, http://www.abunga.com, has found a way to do it.
The Christian-based bookstore/Facebook hybrid has gained notoriety for its innovative approach to online shopping: members vote for material that disturbs their fragile sensibilities and the administrators – who happily play the part of the ardent Nazi skipping to the book burning – find the offensive material and set it aflame.
So to speak, that is. I exaggerate the means, but the end is the same. There is, of course, no literal burning of books.
However, it does beg the question, “If a book burns in cyberspace, does it make a sound?”
So what is the motivation for doing such a thing? Why would a group of people choose to isolate itself from the rest of the world and start its own “Brave New World” shopping experience? The answer is, according to the Web site's founders, “to stop complaining about the moral decline of our nation and pool our experience to do something about it.”
The most recent victims of Abunga are the obvious ones: literature on the occult, pornographic materials and Phillip Pullman's anti-Christian novel “The Golden Compass.” However, titles that one wouldn't expect to offend one's sense of “family values” have been added to the site's list of recently blocked books.
“I Dare You: Embrace Life with Passion,” a self-help guide to leading a more enriching Christian life made the McCarthy-esque black list; and, most shocking of all, “It's Designed to Do What It Does Do,” a children's book about intelligent design has been given a digital “Fahrenheit 451” treatment.
Something is askew. The most plausible explanation is that those who are upset with the Web site's policy have been creating accounts and mass e-mailing requests to remove a plethora of Christian books – the Bible included. However, Abunga Chairman Lee Martin insists that the company carefully scrutinizes members' suggestions, to say nothing of the fact that it is easy to tell the difference between someone who wants to ban The Gospels as opposed to “How to Make Love like a Porn Star.”
True as that may be, it also does little for the site's credibility. Operating under the assumption that these Orwellian masterminds are aware of every frivolous request for banned materials, they still did away with the previously mentioned books consciously and maliciously.
This also means the administrators are on a slippery slope to a particularly dark kind of hubris: They are playing God. The only logical reason why a Christian group would ban a book on intelligent design is if it didn't mesh with the group's own warped vision of faith. This fact is evidenced by the pulling of “Evangelist of Desire: John Wesley and the Methodists,” a book on the formation of the second largest Protestant church in the country.
So it is that Lee Martin and company have become so distracted by the glow of their own electronic burn pile that they have strayed not only from the Constitution, but also from the very faith they claim inspired this Frankenstein's monster of an experiment.
Abunga has every right, of course, to participate in a free market as they see fit. However, they have also unwittingly embodied something that has gone very wrong with this country.
Americans have – especially those on the far-right – become so afraid of their own shadows that they feel it necessary to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. That's not good for anyone; not for the country, not for Christianity and certainly not for this Web site's dedicated following.
Because no matter what dark corner of the Internet anyone finds refuge in to huddle around the warmth of smoldering literature, there is one person who will always be able to hear the crackle of digital fire: God.Tweet
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