A quote I read recently in Eric Metaxas’s biography Bonhoeffer helped remind me of one of the reasons why I think books are so awesome. But first, a little background information is in order:
During the reign of the Third Reich in Germany, a pro-Nazi religious sect called the German Christians tried several ways to force their ideology on the German church. One of their methods for remaking the church in their image was to de-emphasize the importance of the Bible. They pointed out the fact that Jesus Christ, while He was on earth, never wrote any books as if that meant that Jesus did not trust books and neither should Christians. They then issued this warning to the faithful: “A demon always resides in the written word.”*
Now, every now and then, tyrants and power-grabbers get a little clumsy. They say more than they meant to and, in the process, let us know a little more about how their minds work. That is the case with this quote. Here, the Nazis make it perfectly clear that their problem was not with “immorality” in literature or even with anti-German propaganda, it was with books themselves. Why? Because books can start a revolution—out in the world or in people’s hearts—faster than anything. Because books contain ideas and unlike men, ideas can’t be forced to conform. They can’t be shot, they can’t be tortured into submission, and they can’t be worked to death in a prison camp. Once they are out there, there is no stopping them.
Ideas are the best, most beautiful, and most dangerous things in the world. Everything in the world, everything that matters, started with an idea. That’s why we read books, and that’s why no one is going to stop us.
*Metaxas, Eric. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010. Print. Pg. 173.
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