Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
I am not really surprise to learn that conservative Christian groups and “family values” lobbyists in America are now on the warpath against the very popular “Harry Potter “ series of children’s fantasy novels by British writer J.K. Rowling, agitating to get the books banned from public and school libraries. These are the same people who over the years have been stirred to similar aggravation by the likes of Mark Twain, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Dungeons and Dragons game, and sought to pursue intellectual censorship in America in order to foist their interpretation of wholesomeness and family-friendly social mores on the rest of society.
I think what mostly gets under the skin of conservative religious is mass-produced popular culture material about magic, sorcery and other flights of the imagination. I want to suggest, however, that if any book should be a candidate for censorship from libraries and the impressionable minds of the young, then it is the holy Bible itself! Take a close look at it. No other book has ever been written, or compiled, that is more steeped in sex, murder, violence, blood, treachery, hatred, racism and sexism.
As far as family values are concerned, it doesn’t take a powerful brainiac to see that it is in our families that we first learn all the social pathologies that plague us: hatred, jealously and envy - the works.
Published on Wednesday, March 29, 2000 as “Family values and the Bible.”
This turned out to be a very exciting letter. As a direct result, I received hate mail from Peter S. Ruckman, a fundamentalist Christian in Pensacola, Florida. The Bible Baptist Church of Pensacola apparently had a branch church in the city of Funabashi, called the Tokyo Bible Believing Church. The pastor of the Tokyo branch - “Pastor Emile” - was drawn to the title of this letter and forwarded it to the home church in Pensacola. Mr. Ruckman’s response to my letter was dated May 18, 2000 although I did not receive it at my home until June 16th.
He sent a three-page screed to The Japan Times newspaper, addressed to me. The newspaper - which has my address and telephone number as a condition of submitting letters for publication - forwarded it to my home in a big, moderately thick envelope. When I received the envelope I was very excited, thinking that maybe the newspaper realized that I was such a good writer that they were offering me a contract as an occasional writer, which was my dream. But no such luck.
I opened the envelope and read, then re-read the man’s letter, trying to understand it. I grew cold with the slow realization that I had just received hate mail. Only once or twice in later years did I re-read it, each time with much greater animosity than the first reading. But I often mentioned it to friends and acquaintances and showed it around.
Mr. Ruckman’s letter bore his church’s letterhead with an address (a Post Office Box), telephone and fax number. So I had his address, although he did not have mine. I took advantage of that and immediately typed and mailed a response letter which, even now, I think is witty and cute.
Then, periodically during the 2000s I continued to send letters and Christmas greetings to Mr. Ruckman - never with a return address, never with the assurance that they would actually be delivered in the U.S. without a return address (especially after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in that country), and never answered. Too bad, because I do not hold being a fundamentalist against him, and we could have had a good correspondence on a number of social and church issues.
Saturday, June 17, 2000.
Dear Mr. Ruckman:
Thank you for your letter dated May 18, 2000, which I received yesterday, forwarded to my home by The Japan Timesnewspaper. It was such a great joy and pleasure to read your eloquent thoughts that I will remember them always, and show your letter to all my English-speaking friends and acquaintances.
You can be assured that I strongly believe that neither the Bible, nor any other book for that matter, should be banned from any library. Furthermore, I strongly advocate reading the Bible, as it is the most worthwhile and important of books.
This advocacy even predates my study and graduation from a Baptist divinity college. Perhaps if you spent less time with Greek grammar and more with English grammar you will discover your most obvious and glaring false supposition about my letter of March 29, 2000. I refer your attention to the preposition “if.”
I pray that all of your exegesis is not similarly incompetent. You wouldn’t live in a trailer park by any chance, would you?
Sincerely in Christ,