It was recently reported that the Westmont Hilltop School District in Pennsylvania faced a challenge to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. The report came from a variety of sources but the Tribune-Democrat reported, “… the president of the school board, said that each of the many complaints he’s received about the book fell into one or more of three categories – complaints about the foul language it contains, complaints that its profane use of God’s name offends Christian sensibilities and complaints that it includes a negative portrayal of a character with autism or a similar disorder.”
Now, in the past we’ve seen that a lot of books that have been challenged are often done so on moral grounds. And, sadly, a lot of complaints and challenges about books will come from more “Christian-leaning” men and women. Yet, as a Christian, I find it a bit worrying that people whose main concern in this world is to serve their fellow men and women, to share the gospel, to be holy and a light to others take all of this to mean they should embark on a crusade of censorship.
While the board in the Westmont Hilltop School District said they would keep The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on their suggested reading list, it’s still stunning for me this was even an issue over something not even marked as “required reading”. Reports talk about people who complained about the book saying that “using the Lord’s name in vain” was something they just couldn’t get past. Or, in similar instances, swear words are the tipping point for people like this who want a book thrown out entirely. Are they perhaps missing the point of the novel? Aren’t they missing a potential great read, especially when classics are challenged, because they don’t like the language of the characters?
The truth is people do say irreverent things, they swear and cuss, but people, especially when it comes to religion, need to step back from their outrage, perhaps ask themselves if they’re not brandishing an air of false piety, and understand that while they shouldn’t partake in certain things (like using the Lord’s name in vain), other people can and do. So, again, we’re at a point where people who have challenged books like this are likely missing the entire point of a story because they are getting bogged down in the realness of its language and they feel they must cast anything that “offends” them out of the public eye.
While, again, these people could always use these “offensive” books as a lesson to talk about how their worldview and the worldview of characters in a book may differ, it seems to be something these challengers are unwilling to do. Mind you, I’m not a huge fan of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time but I’m glad to see, in the case I ran across, that censorship was defeated.