Many years ago Fahrenheit 451 became one of my favorite literary novels. I’m not sure why, but the story to me was captivating and even my young, uninformed mind could comprehend author Ray Bradbury’s undertones. Such a storyline of fireman creating fires instead of ceasing them, specifically to burn an entire disallowed form of media (books) seemed preposterous. 22 years later and the suppressing of ideas makes Bradbury’s world closer to reality than I ever imagined.
From Hong Kong this week, we learn of the closure of a small bookstore unknown to most of the world. Business open and close all of the time with little notice, so why should a bookstore in an unfamiliar country capture attention? Because it was the last bookstore to sell titles that were banned under the oppressive regime from mainland China (1). Furthermore, it is suspected that owner Paul Tang closed his shop due to governmental pressure.
With a few well-placed restrictions the ability to suppress the free expression of ideologies and beliefs is effortless. These types of regulations should generate a level of concern from all people. The regulation of how people should believe and behave limits our ability to exercise the very things that make us human.
Christians should also find themselves among concerned individuals. Recently it was reported that China had banned the online sales of Bibles (2). In a show of curtailing religious activities outside of the state, there have been negotiations with the Pope, destruction of churches, and the disbanding of known groups. This show of force against religion is not exclusive to China; even the banning of religious texts such as the Bible is not exclusive. Earlier this year, masquerading as a commerce bill, California tried to also tighten controls on anyone who taught counter to the secular ideologies being embraced in this progressive culture (to see my previous articles on this topic, click the links below in footnote 3). While the bill was eventually withdrawn, the stance by particular representatives was similar to authoritative China.
A secular mindset that seeks to limit the expression of religion in these ways is concerning on two levels. First, because it bans access to the very heart of Christianity, which is access to the truth. Additionally, it also limits the expression of the Christian faith. Because so many of us lack the discipline to memorize Scripture, taking away access to a physical copy leaves us without a tool to discern, guide, and walk according to the truth in a culture hostile to truth.
Because of its size and influence, China has become one of the premier examples of oppressive leadership. Furthermore, that suppression of truth is not far from any of us no matter where we live. The closing of a small bookshop in Hong Kong has little impact on many people around the world, but it underscores the need for us to be observant of what is taking place and be involved.
Interestingly, an attack on religious freedom for Christians theoretically should be an attack on the religion of secularism as well, but few make that connection. Regardless, the battle is not between us and them. The battle is to preserve the glory of God by preserving the gospel of God. Without access to the gospel, there is no hope from the gospel, there is no salvation, and lives are lost.
(1) “A chapter closes: last Hong Kong bookshop selling titles banned in China shuts.” The Guardian. October 30, 2018.
(2) “China Bans Online Bible Sales as It Tightens Religious Controls.” The New York Times. April 5, 2018.