The Empire Strikes Back

Dear Colleague,

The 2016 SBL Annual Meeting is one month away. I trust you are looking forward to it, and I wish you safe travels. The program you have prepared through your session planning and paper submissions is a rich one.

I want to take this opportunity to remind you of your ownership and responsibility in SBL.

SBL is a membership organization, whose institutional mission is to provide opportunities for mutual support, intellectual growth, and professional development through its programs and services, including the upcoming Annual Meeting. In a membership organization, every person is a stakeholder, with responsibilities to hold each other accountable to its professional standards of intellectual inquiry and professional conduct. Over 3,000 of SBL’s 8,100 members volunteer in some capacity (including committees, boards, and program units), but all of us are accountable to each other for the quality and integrity of scholarship in the SBL community.

Every year, each participant in the Annual Meeting receives a letter when a proposal is accepted into the program. The letter states the following:

Please note that, by submitting a paper proposal or accepting a role in any affiliate organization or program unit session at the Annual or International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, you agree to participate in an open academic discussion guided by a common standard of scholarly discourse that engages your subject through critical inquiry and investigation.

In point of fact, we ask every registrant to accept this responsibility, namely, to support free inquiry and critical investigation, to support broad and inclusive participation from diverse scholarly points of view, and to act in a manner consistent with SBL’s mission statement and core values, as well as its policies on nondiscrimination, harassment, and professional conduct. You do this in formal sessions and informal interactions.

In regards to professional conduct, remember that we are in this together. Watch out for each other. We are mutually responsible for maintaining an atmosphere and culture free of harassment and discrimination. We are also corporately responsible for ensuring that any member reporting harassment or discrimination will be heard and respected.

It is my annual pleasure to see this scholarly community gathered in such large numbers. However, this works best—perhaps only—when you exercise your stake in the Society of Biblical Literature.

See you there.

Best,

John F. Kutsko

What’s it mean?  Well first it means that, unlike any time leading up to any other National Meeting (that I can recall- and I’ve been a member of SBL since the early 1980’s) the SBL believes it needs to make the point of inclusivity.  But that’s an odd word for inclusivity doesn’t mean the glad hearing of all points of view (like those represented by Intervarsity Christian Fellowship nor its publishing cousin Intervarsity Press).  Rather, it means a particular ideological point of view most commonly held by persons on the left of the ideological spectrum.  In short, what it means is that SBL is doing its very best to include views best represented by persons on the ideological left and at the same time it means the silencing or marginalization of people and organizations which hold views to the ideological right.  Dissent won’t be tolerated in the new environment of toleration.

John writes, interestingly,

We are mutually responsible for maintaining an atmosphere and culture free of harassment and discrimination. We are also corporately responsible for ensuring that any member reporting harassment or discrimination will be heard and respected.

Are we?  Is it really true that the ideological left is to be held to the same ‘harassment free’ and ‘discrimination free’ standards as the ideological right?  If so, then why did Kutsko tell IVP Academic that it was his intention to recommend that they be refused booth space at the 2017 Annual Meeting thanks to views on marriage held by their cousins over at IVF?

I think not.  Indeed, to verify this simply substitute any left leaning publishing house for IVP Academic as the object of a potential revocation of annual meeting attendance privileges and see if it rings true that anti-discrimination is really a two way street.

Kutsko opines that the SBL is a place which should be free of discrimination.  I could not agree more.  No one deserves to be discriminated against.  For any reason.

So why is SBL discriminating against IVP Academic?  That’s the question that needs to be answered.