Look out for the Jesus professing Al Gore greenback
December 17, 2002
Hate is infesting the public libraries of Maine. If you are easily offended, you probably do not want to do your research on the campuses of Bowdoin College, Bates College, Colby College or any number of public libraries in the state. Should you find yourself among the stacks of these repositories of knowledge, keep an eye out for the Jesus professing Al Gore greenback.
Thousands of “counterfeit” one hundred-dollar bills are showing up in books throughout these libraries. This has been going on for nearly five years. The most recent infestation is a bill with the bearded face of Al Gore where the Ben Franklin should be. On closer inspection, you will read the words, “This is counterfeit but Jesus is the real thing.” On the other side of the bill you read, “Jesus Loves You.”
My personal opinion is that this is not the best way to proselytize. Most of the campus libraries have rules that ban pamphleteering (I wonder what Thomas Paine would think of that?) and such actions are considered vandalism. If the concern of the librarians stopped with the annoyance factor and the breaking of rules, I would be all for them and this probably would not be a story.
However, as is normally the case, the actions of the anonymous pamphleteers are being given a more sinister motive than simply trying to spread the love of Jesus. The Chronicle of Higher Education gives us this quotation, “This is very serious,” says Sherrie S. Bergman, Bowdoin College’s chief librarian. “I think it has hateful implications.”
I’m looking at the bill right now. I’m searching for the hateful implications. There’s Al. Hmmmm, the beard actually doesn’t look that bad. Now that he has bowed out of the 2004 race I’m beginning to like the guy more and more. Let’s see . . . I’m now looking at the messages on the bill . . . “This is counterfeit,” now, that would make me upset. Just think how disappointed you would be if you thought you had found a $100 bill only to end up seeing Al Gore smiling at you. Still, don’t think that is really hateful. “Jesus is the real thing” and “Jesus loves you” are the only options left. Well, it doesn’t even say anything like “You’re going to burn in Hell!!!” or “Accept Christianity or we will unleash a Jihad against you and your nasty neighbors” (oops, wrong religion).
So, how is it that this particular pamphlet is becoming equated with “hate speech?” It would appear that some of the fake bills are ending up in books in sections on the topics of the Holocaust, gay and lesbian studies, and women’s studies. The Chronicle of Higher Education informs us that these actions have “some librarians worried.” The strategic placement of these bills is what has librarians such as Ms. Bergman concerned for the safety of her patrons.
Further research on this story shows that the placement isn’t so strategic. The Chronicle does not quote Suanne Muehlner, director of Colby libraries. She tells The Morning Sentinel that “the bills were everywhere.” Also, the Chronicle fails to report that the pamphlets have been appearing in various libraries for over five years.
The Chronicle’s implication is clear. Whoever is placing these pamphlets hates Jews (or maybe they hate Nazis—what are we to infer from the bills being placed in books on the Holocaust?), homosexuals and women’s rights activists. It doesn’t matter that no where in the literature is there a threat against any of these groups. Taking the words at face value, it says quite the opposite. However, as it is with most liberal thinkers (I mean liberal in its political sense) it is not what you say, but why the liberal thinks you are saying it. No, I didn’t say, “why you are saying it.” I said, “why the liberal thinks you are saying it.”
Don’t worry, though, the Chronicle assures us that the “surreptitious distribution of religious quotations is not considered a hate crime by campus authorities.” It is nice to know that they don’t think it is a hate crime, but I would conclude that someone must since the question has been raised. How long will it be before the campus authorities do consider it a hate crime? The whole article screams that there should be a “yet” in the above quotation.
On many of our college campuses free speech is being turned upside down. All manners of unimportant issues and “expressions” must be protected. However, so often the most important discussions must be controlled or banned outright. Words are to be protected. Thoughts are to be controlled.
Certainly, words should be protected, but that was not the intent of the Bill of Rights. The intent was to protect ideas and the expression of those ideas—primarily those ideas that might be unpopular. Now, we fight over what words will be allowed, but don’t blink an eye when ideas are squelched.
A favorite method today for removing an idea from a public debate is to brand it as “hate speech.” All expressions are okay except for hate speech. This sounds palpable to most of us. However, who defines hate speech? The parameters keep changing though the direction has been set.
Take for instance the implications contained in the Chronicle in regards to homosexuality. Is the preacher who preaches from his pulpit that homosexuality is a sin and that homosexuals are in need of a Savior spewing hate speech? There are people today who would say so. Next, is the preacher who preaches from his pulpit that adultery is a sin and that adulterers are in need of a Savior spewing hate speech? Next, is the preacher who preaches from his pulpit that all men are sinners and that all men are in need of a Savior spewing hate speech?
We don’t have to agree on everything. We should be free to offend each other. The only thing that we really need to come together on is our right to express where we agree and disagree. To disagree does not necessarily equal hatred. To say that homosexuality is a sin, is not equal to hatred. Of course, it really isn’t important what exists in a person’s heart, what is important is what the “thought police” determine exists in a person’s heart.
Mr. Gene Wiemers, head librarian for Maine’s Bates College, sums it up for the Chronicle of Higher Education, “If you have a building open 111 hours a week for the public—a place for free thought and speech—occasionally things happen that are on the edge.”
We are on the edge, all right. “Jesus loves you” will soon be hate speech.