Feedback express: Why does the Library have offensive books?

In The God Delusion, evolutionary biologist and evangelist of atheism Richard Dawkins informs his readers that “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (p. 31).

From time-to-time the Library receives the question, “Why does a Christian library have such and such a book on its shelves?”

There are several reasons for collecting books with false or even offensive content:

The American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights affirms that libraries have a responsibility to provide materials from all points of view:

  1. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
  2. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

A statement in the University Library’s Resource Development Policy also speaks directly to this issue: “The University Library attempts to provide collections supporting the free exchange of ideas. The collections are available to all patrons of the Library and offer the widest range of viewpoints and treatment, regardless of the popularity of those viewpoints or of the sex, religion, political philosophy, or national origin of their authors. The sole test of the suitability of any item is its contribution, direct or indirect, to the academic programs of the university and to the research and information needs of library users.”

A second reason for collecting books that advocate non-Christian or even anti-Christian ideas has to do with the University’s unique mission: If Regent graduates are to fulfill their calling to change the world, they must be able to engage with the multitude of viewpoints held in the world. One need look no further than the opening chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians to see how important to his missionary success was his ability to speak with Jews and Greeks on their own terms: “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1: 22-24).

What Samuel Johnson (a great Christian) wrote about literature is also true in a way of all books, even ones filled with error and falsehood: “Literature is a kind of intellectual light which, like the light of the sun, enables us to see what we do not like; but who would wish to escape unpleasing objects, by condemning himself to perpetual darkness?”

Image Credit:  http://studentsforlife.tumblr.com/post/43431754815/truth-will-ultimately-prevail-where-there-is

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