"Everything is not okay, people" announced the street-preacher through a megaphone at the corner of Decatur and Canal Street. I had to smile. Many of the well-dressed academics jay-walking between the New Orleans Marriott and Sheraton were Christians. No doubt some on this Friday afternoon were themselves of the "evangelical" persuasion, and were making the transition between the ETS meetings that had just concluded and the IBR meetings that were about to begin.
But everything is not okay, people: Where else but at SBL and its affiliated societies, is the study of Christianity's sacred text combined so thoroughly with pride, envy, greed, and rank ambition--to the point where we can no longer tell the difference between soli deo gloria and self-promotion?
This, of course, is a distortion of the ideal, which for the SBL is "to foster biblical scholarship." In theory, we connect with other scholars and put our best work forward in academic publications and conference presentations not to make a name for ourselves or get noticed, but to serve the discipline, hone our craft, improve our teaching--in short, to honour our subject. For Christian scholars of everything from biology to biblical studies, careful disciplined study of God's world is, finally, a way of serving its creator.
But the temptations are real, a distorted "rat race" mentality all too common. I remind myself of them here because they are temptations to which I am prone. Κύριε ἐλέησον.
P.S. One of my roommates bought the street preacher lunch at Arby's. I walked by on the other side.