TLDR: Everyone take a deep breath.
Over the past few weeks I have been in Germany on a research break. It is going surprisingly well with a large portion of the book now written. While we have been here we have not, of course, been away from the internet and social media, however healthful that choice might have been. You know I enjoy posting pictures and following what our friends are doing this summer. I have been sadly disappointed, however, to see the behavior in the world of online SBL-folks.
I am not one to wag my finger and lecture other people, especially when it comes to online behavior. By and large I am content to allow the current of the internet flow past, observing that it often reveals the baser instincts of many and occasionally engenders genuine good will and generosity of spirit from some.
In the wake of many events this summer, not least the Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges, many bibliobloggers and other SBL folks on Facebook and Twitter have gotten on their high-horses such that the interwebs look like the Calgary Stampede if every contestant were Paul Bunyan.1 I know many of you personally and consider you my friends. Yet I have to say, the behavior I have seen by so many in our community over the last weeks is disheartening, to say the least. This is true of people from all perspectives and “sides” of the arguments du jour. The behavior exhibited by some who are leaders in our scholarly community, whether a leader by dint of their academic production, title, or simply frequency of presence in conversations, is an embarrassment.
We come from various backgrounds and perspectives, to say the least. So I know that sharing something that Paul wrote will not motivate everyone, but it was this morning’s epistle from Morning Prayer that caused me to finally write this message. It is from Romans 9 and many of you do consider this text sacred. I think everyone, however, can recognize that it contains some good, basic advice for how we ought to live in a community. And we are, we are a tremendous community that I have been incredibly grateful for over the years.
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
None of us are perfect and I am not picking up any stones to throw, but maybe we could give this a try. We may not be able to reverse the flow of this river, but perhaps we can become a tidal pool in which beautiful, diverse things can thrive.
- Yes, I know Paul rode Babe the blue ox and not a horse, but who ever heard of a “high ox”? [↩]