How To Know If A Book Has Been Banned

Hint: in modern day America, it probably hasn’t been banned.

If it’s been deemed unnecessary to a curriculum, taken off a recommendation list, removed from a school library, or determined to be inappropriate for a certain age group, then it has not been banned.

If the author is still alive and well; if the author has not been exiled; if the bookstore still sells the book; if still sells it; if it’s not illegal to own a copy; if high-ranking government officials and well-known authors are telling you to seek it out elsewhere; and if those “protesting” it’s removal from a school are not imprisoned but rather awarded for their “bravery” then the book has not been banned.

Has it been thrown into a pile and burned? Is it risky to even mention the name of the book and its author? Will you be imprisoned, tortured, or killed for associating with the author or owning the book? No? Then the book has not been banned.

In the same way that you would be furious if a virtual stranger sat your ten-year-old down and made or encouraged them to watch Saw III, it is completely understandable that there are parents, teachers, and school boards unwilling to give or suggest risky, sexually explicit, or controversial reading material to some children. As of now, all “book bans” have merely been discernment in action. For most people these days, the wisdom and virtue of discernment is a concept all too foreign, so we have grown adults melting down over nothing.

Yes, book bans are bad. But we have yet to see one. A real one, that is. Is it unfortunate if certain books are not readily available in the classroom? Perhaps. But if the child can simply go to the library and check it out, then it’s time to admit that it hasn’t actually been banned. More importantly, it’s vital to recognize the distinction so we are not victims of a boy-who-cried-wolf scenario and therefore unable to recognize true tyranny when it inevitably shows up on our doorstep.

Books, information, and the truth must be readily available if free speech is to have any place in a law-abiding society. But absolute free speech has its downfalls. There will always be things that should not be said and topics that should not be covered for certain age groups. Libel will always exist (hopefully) and it will always be obscene and inappropriate to broach sexually explicit, violent, or overtly radical topics and opinions with minors and young children. This should never change. We simply need discernment (and God’s wisdom) to guide us in what is appropriate, good, true, and beautiful.

What’s more, my biggest fear amidst all the crying, gnashing of teeth, and garment rending that’s been going on about books being “banned” from classrooms is that, when the day comes, all those “brave” protesters will be nowhere to be found. In the face of actual tyranny, when there are very real, very dark, very horrific threats against them and their family if they dare speak up, the award-winning protesters will be nowhere. Their “bravery” today is nothing because they have nothing at stake. There’s nothing to lose. In fact, they know that they will be rewarded and get pats on the back. Their family, their friends, their teachers, their government, major corporations, and huge, nationally funded organizations are on their side. Heck, their own school board cowered in front of them. What are they actually pushing against? I have no faith that any of the teenagers protesting their school today will fight for anything when no one stands with them.

The white pill of all of this is that, right now, we are not experiencing book bans. There are books that should never darken the doorways of schools. It’s good to keep them out and not explicitly encourage children to read them. But they have not been banned. There are books that are completely fine for all age groups, but simply not included in recommendation lists or curricula. But they have not been banned. We need to recognize the difference.

Believe me—and the millions of people who have lived and died under tyrannical regimes—no books have been banned in America. God willing, we will never see that day.