It’s Banned Books Week. Celebrate by reading a banned book. (This is kind of a perfect activity as the weather turns cooler and we begin to spend more time indoors.)
My favorite banned book is A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle who was one of the first authors to really let me know that I was not alone in the universe. When my fifth grade class had to pick an author to write to, I wrote to her. Although she was a devout Episcopalian, Ms. L’Engle wrote about Witches who were a lot like angels and understood that the entire universe is shot through with divinity. If you haven’t read her books, or if you haven’t read them to the young people in your life, now’s a good time to start.
Why was it banned?
A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by at least 26 publishers, because it was, in L’Engle’s words, “too different” due to it having a female hero as a lead character- something unheard of at the time; and because it “deals overtly with the problem of evil, was too difficult for children, and was it a children’s or an adults’ book, anyhow?”
Some early accusations centered around rhetoric that it was pro-communist- a hot-button issue for the politically-unstable 1960’s.
A Wrinkle in Time has been mostly banned by various religious groups. Chief among them, the Jerry Falwell ministries, accuse the book of containing offensive language, and argue that it undermines religious beliefs and challenges their idea of God.
Some people think it’s too Christian, while others think it is not Christian enough.
In addition to quotes from various philosophers, poets, and playwrights (notably Shakespeare), the novel contains several references to Biblical verses. L’Engle was the official writer-in-residence at New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which is known for being in the liberal wing of the Episcopal Church. Her Christian viewpoint shows throughout much of her fantasy series in much the same way as C.S. Lewis’ did in his works.
Her “liberal Christianity” has been the target of criticism from other, more conservative, Christians, especially with respect to certain elements of A Wrinkle in Time; marking another similarity between her and Lewis.
L’Engle [didn't] feel that any of her books have specific Christian messages, as she doesn’t want to limit her books to Christian readers. If her books have any message, sa[id] L’Engle, it’s that “the universe is basically benign.”
Ironically, while religious extremists like Falwell spend so much time and energy trying to ban books, America’s largest Christian publisher, Zondervan Publishing House, circulates a guide to teenage literature for Christian families called Read for Your Life that actually gives praise for several books that are common targets of the Religious Right, including A Wrinkle in Time. The guide lists it as one of the Top Ten Christian fiction stories of all time.
One of the main concepts in the book is the struggle between good and evil. The book is also about love, friendship, honor, loyalty, and family; yet, ironically, critics cry of supposedly Satanic undertones.
The school system of Anniston, Alabama, challenged it in 1990 because someone objected to the book’s citing the name of Jesus together with the names of other artists, philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders who defended Earth against evil.
Religious groups have challenged the book because its female characters- Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which- use magical powers to take Meg and her brother, Charles, on a space trip through the fifth dimension. Objecting parents and pastors claimed that the characters are really [W]itches practicing black magic under the guise of “New Age” religion, based on Hindu and Buddhist cultures. They claim that children are being indoctrinated with Eastern religions and mystical practices by the references and imagery of crystal balls, psychic healing, astral travel, and telepathy.
Citizens for Excellence in Education in Waterloo, Iowa, accused L’Engle of promoting occult practices, employing Satanic suggestions, sadism, and “implying that Christ was not divine” by comparing him to the world’s other great leaders of peace.
Most efforts to ban A Wrinkle in Time have failed, but the novel is nevertheless listed at number 23 of the 100 most-challenged books of 1990-1999 and at number 90 for 2000-2009, according to the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom.*
One of the messages I received from my Equinox meditation is that monoculture is the one really big problem we need to address. Not just in agriculture — although the message came from some very emphatic mycelia — but in our culture, our thought, our overwhelming adoption of duality. One of THE most important themes in A Wrinkle in Time is just how WRONG monoculture — in all its forms — is. Ms. L’Engle taught me something I’m still learning.
May it be so for you.
*More found here.
Picture found here.