White privilege is invisible to white people, just like water is invisible to fish. The case of some friends of mine is instructive. They are white as you like, Kiwi through and through (though whether Pakeha or plain vanilla Tauiwi I am seldom sure – I have an ‘English’ immigrant friend who did all his schooling in NZ, yet still does not have citizenship)1 when one has to attach labels race is complicated).
These friends are kindly folk, so decades ago they fostered ‘difficult’ children. Treated them as part of the family, I don’t know if they adopted them… Now, being difficult children one grew up to be a complicated adult. So CYPHS intervened to take their children from them. Being ‘part of the family’ my friends adopted the CYPHS children. Because they ‘adopted’ them rather than (like sensible white folks) simply ‘long-term fostering’ them they get little or no support from CYPHS and now beyond retirement age seek to give the kids as good a life as they can. Their problem is that our government and society are organised by and for white folks. The default assumptions are the capitalist individualist assumptions of white folk, not those brown folk make. Brown folk (almost all of them and of whatever race know the importance of whanaungatanga. My friends’ mistake was to learn this virtue too well. The system assumes that if you adopt chilkdren it is because they bring you satisfaction and pleasure, they help you flourish and feel good about yourself – so, of course, you should bear the cost each individual (or couple) is responsible for themselves and their own decisions. Whanaungatanga says those kids are family, we can’t leave them to be fostered and cared for by strangers, let’s adopt them and give them security and stability.
The system is organised by and for white folks – or at least people who think like white folks!
It’s nice that CYPHS has got a nice Māori name now, but when will they learn whanaungatanga?
I put ‘English’ in scare quotes because though, I suppose faut de mieux his nationality is English his culture and speech are pure Pakeha. [↩]
I have been forwarded a copy of the email the Society for Biblical Literature sent to its members about moving the Review of Biblical Literature into its members-only space.1 I will comment on that email here, trying to point out why I see this as a significant and retrograde move.
But first some background. I have been an SBL member since the early 80s, I retained membership for a few years after I retired from Carey thanks to the generosity of SBL who allowed me to pay as a Student Member. I recently allowed that membership to lapse, though if the new means-tested membership fees had been announced at that time I would probably have renewed. I have attended a number of International (since 1986) and annual meetings of the Society (since the mid-90s), usually giving papers. I stopped attending after retiring from Carey because of the cost of airfares. (I never used the official expensive hotels). I greatly value the Society for its role as the largest and often the most innovative scholarly society in the discipline of biblical studies.
The email opens “In order to solidify RBL’s status as a valuable resource produced primarily by SBL members for SBL members, we will be moving RBL behind the SBL member login.” The heart of this sentence is largely true. RBL is “a valuable resource produced primarily by SBL members for SBL members”. However, the key word is the adverb. Since RBL moved to free open publication on the web it has not been used exclusively by SBL members. Biblical scholars in majority world contexts, who cannot afford to attend the Society’s meetings, or even perhaps membership in the society, used the resource. Students, at least the good clever sensible students we all love to teach, used it. (How better to evaluate, and get a feel for, a new area of study than to read a few reviews of key texts?)
Such users are now banned and access is only for those willing and able to pay for SBL membership. 2
Apparently the reason for the move is to increase funding for RBL. “Our hope is that, after this period,3these individuals will join the SBL at least at the public membership level, if not full membership. In addition to significant investment from SBL, the increased financial support thus provided will help fund a number of highly desired upgrades to and expansions of the RBL architecture.”
I doubt those students I mentioned, or indeed many of the majority world scholars will follow this perhaps wise hope. I wonder if SBL is measuring the flood of new memberships? A question on the application form would be informative!
Yet my core objection is not that the move will probably fail to achieve its stated objective, but rather what such a move says about the Society which makes it. What shall it profit a scholarly society if it gain the whole Google, but lose its soul?4 If “scholarly information exchange” continues to be privatised with ownership increasingly divided between big international publishing companies5 and scholarly societies then those societies that get in on that act will have lost their raison d’être and may as well shut up shop. If learning is privatised they become mere secret societies for rich-world bible scholars (with a few charity cases on the margins).
Meanwhile biblical scholarship in the two-thirds world will become more and more indebted to the Fundamentalists or dilettantes :(
I have not seen any explanation for the new closed status of RBL on the RBL’s website, though I did not hunt for it when I was refused entry. [↩]
In other news the membership fee has been scaled according to reduced income and is only US$45 for those earning $10,000-25,000. This reduction does allow more majority world scholars to join the society and is a welcome move. [↩]
Of continued access for individuals who subscribed to the RBL email newsletter but are not SBL members. [↩]
If, in the interests of literary allusion, my non-religious readers will permit this word, if not just read “spirit”. [↩]
I note the recently announced closure of Sheffield Phoenix Press [↩]
The series of which this “volume” is a part has an ambitious but mixed goal:
The series is designed to be a research tool. Each guide presents a wide range of interpretive issues raised by Bible scholars. These resources meet the needs of those studying the Bible in academic settings, but the broad scope of coverage also makes them useful for preaching preparation. 1
In fact, limitations of referencing (almost?) only works available in the Logos system limits it’s usefulness for scholarship, and so the work is in some ways better suited to the practical needs of a pastor or other seriously minded Bible reader.
Integration of the text with the Logos library system is of course a great strength of such this type of electronic publication, but there are times when the implementation of this integration serves Logos’ commercial ends better than it serves the user. For example when I read: “Mathews uses the analogy of a stained glass window to describe the literary complexity of Gen 1–11…” The name “Matthews” is, as one would expect in an electronic text, a hyperlink. If the user already owns the cited work by Mathews in Logos format, then I assume2 they are taken to the reference. If one does not own the work in Logos format one is offered the chance to buy it. However, if one does not already own the Logos edition, the link to the Logos sales site does inform the user what work is being referred to, enabling a search on a local library catalogue, Worldcat or Google Books.
There is however a welcome but odd inconsistency, when the references are to further reading suggestions offered as bullet points rather than inline citations, they do give at least the title of the work, without need to access the Logos.com website.3
Hypertext links also provide convenient popup explanations of technical terms, enhancing further the educative possibilities of the text, and making it accessible to a wider range of “lay” readers. They also enable jump navigation within the text, and this is enhanced by a preview popup showing the beginning of the text of the section to which the link leads.
The work offers a neat clear and concise overview of (almost always, but not exclusively, Evangelical) scholarship on the issues and passages treated. This is a superb resource to begin studying a passage or topic, Mangum et al. Offer clear concise summaries of important issues that will be really useful to any pastor or amateur biblical scholar. They are also potentially really useful to students and their teachers, though this usefulness would be enhanced by referencing that included some mention of work not published in Logos format..
Within the limits of works published in Logos format (I have yet to find any reference to other work) these summaries and the suggested readings are very useful. The restriction of the references to the Logosworld generates the restriction noted above to predominantly only Evangelical scholarship, and very predominantly American scholars4 This parochialism is sad!
A byproduct of this limitation is scholarship that is also very predominantly male and white. Since women and non-Caucasian scholars are more likely to have significant work in journals and less likely to have breached the portals of book length works with publishers who make their list available in Logos format.
On the other hand, the fact that such a useful compendium can be offered despite this restriction of horizon to Logosworld is a tribute to the extent (if not always variety) of that world today. Logos is not yet a universal biblical studies library, but it is far closer than one might have expected only a few years ago.
A student today will need to seriously consider whether to accept the limitations of horizon imposed by the choice of Logos as their exclusive supplier, wholeheartedly making Logos their library system, or on the other hand if financial constraints or a desire to be open to a wider world of scholarship will severely limit the usefulness of a work such as this. I wonder how long it is before Logos offers a subscription service modeled on Amazon’s “Prime”?5
Without such a service, or without the financial resources to pay to own an extensive private Logos library, users are given a glimpse of the world of American Evangelical scholarship, but taking a closer look is made difficult by the exclusively in house referencing.
In short this work highlights the huge usefulness and potential of the Logos system (for those rich enough, and selfish enough, to be willing to spend enough on a library devoted to their private use). It also highlights the exclusive nature of this system by making the use of external resources (in an institutional or public library, or on Google books, for example) more difficult even than it would be in an obsolescent print codex.
Douglas Mangum et al., Genesis 1–11 (, Lexham Bible GuideBellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012). [↩]
I have yet to find a reference to a work that I spotted as being included in my Gold collection, or among the other works and texts I have bought. So I could not check this assumption. [↩]
The news from Egypt (indeed all the “Middle East”) over recent months has varied between being silence (most of the time) and shock-horror (when some new tragedy/atrocity manages to break through Western media’s apathy about the rest of the world.
When more than 85 Churches and institutions were viciously attacked and burned (a profound blow of disgrace and humiliation in this culture of ‘honour’), the non-retaliation of Christians was both unexpected and unprecedented.
If you haven’t heard about this please read his post! In fact do yourself a favour subscribe to his blog, or visit it regularly. It is constantly sensible and provocative a difficult balance given the topics he covers.
Gavin (at Otagosh) has a post puffing, 95 year old, Lloyd Geering’s new book From the Big Bang to God. I have not read Geering’s writing, I’m an OT scholar and John Robinson was the theological thinker frightening the horses when I was young (at least in the UK). But Gavin’s post and especially one of the comments got me thinking about why such extreme forms of theology the ones that are a whisker away from Atheology don’t work for me.
It’s all to do with worldview. In the film “Titanic” there’s a nice scene that sums up some popular1 worldviews . Jack a hobo won his ticket (3rd class) in a poker game, but is invited to dinner in first class2 and in course of conversation tells how he won his ticket.
One rich buffer responds, in suitably plummy accent: “I think life’s a game of chance.” This, it’s all about luck, worldview is remarkably convenient for the comfortable, for there is nothing you can do about luck except enjoy it. And if life, the universe, and everything are just luck then there are no inconvenient moral rules – do as you like as long as it “works for you”.
Another RB trumps that: “Real men make their own luck!” This view of life is even better for the comfortable, it means that somehow I deserve my privilege.
In contrast to the Lucky Bastards and the Bootstrappers3 Jack’s worldview is simple and works. “I think life’s a gift.”
That’s how I experience it. What the Bible and traditional theologians, often call “grace”. I get what I don’t deserve. Now this worldview both requires, demands forcefully even, moral thinking, because gifts make relationships and relationships impose obligations. But if life is a gift, then who is the ‘giver’? Because ‘gift’ differs from ‘luck’ only in the ‘giver’.
Thankfulness is at the heart of my faith, I try to make it a heart of my living, and it is why (despite everything else) and all the powerful Atheist arguments and all that (some) Christians can do to discredit ‘him’ I am a Theist, I believe in God – the giver of life.
So I guess for me theology starts with the ‘Spirit’ (the giver of life), and moves via the ‘Father’ the Creator to recognising Jesus as their expression in creaturely form.
As we’ll see at least in the modern Western world and elsewhere among the rich and powerful. [↩]
Vinoth Ramachandra does it again. In Food for Thought he points up several matters of real significance, and suggests if “Lent” is to be a real and worthwhile fast (cf. Isaiah 58: 6-7) rather than e.g. giving up coffee it would be better to spend time researching the coffee trade…
Amen, amen, amen!
Now that would make a sensible exercise in penitence and justice, or if coffee is too overdone, choose another aspect of his list… doing it as a group would be even better…
Two friends have recently spoken well of the recent pastoral letter from Dhiloraj Canagasabey, the Anglican Bishop of Colombo. Both in different ways, and for different reasons call it prophetic.
After succinctly and clearly explaining what “the rule of law” means:
The rule of law means that we as a nation are governed by a system of laws to which the lawmakers themselves are subject. This is a way of ensuring that power is not concentrated in the hands of one person (or group of persons) and exercised arbitrarily…
He explains in briefly and in unemotional language why Christians have a special call to speak out when as currently in Sri Lanka this safeguard is threatened. But far from merely asking for political action or protest he moves to call the churches first to self-examination and lament. The process he proposed began yesterday, and continues today with meetings in the cathedral and other churches. Which will extend into:
a series of Bible studies, reflections and discussions during Lent. Which is traditionally a period of self-examination and penitence, to reflect on what it means to live as a faithful disciple-community of Jesus in the context of our nation today.
One of my friends wrote:
We are so grateful for a leader who seems to be finally speaking out to the church along biblical lines. Thought you might be interested to see what he says (I’ve attached a copy of the letter in case you haven’t seen it already). I believe this is an important first step in mobilising the church to do one of the most important things that we are meant to do – intercede. Some churches from other denominations have also decided to adopt the concept.
We should join her in prayer that this will happen, and that the process will be filled with the blessing of the presence of the Holy Spirit working powerfully among Sri Lankan Christians during this critical time.
Paul Windsor (ex-principal of Carey now working with Langham Preaching) adds the more specific prayer:
that the preachers being trained through Langham will develop a prophetic edge that will speak up and speak out on matters of injustice.
I have several times over the last few years linked to Vinodth Ramachandra’s clear-sighted, incisive criticisms of Western Christians ongoing synchretism with materialism. It is with sadness made deeper by our recent visit to Sri Lanka (the Beautiful Isle) that I now also link to his post “A Political Obituary” it is thought-provoking reading.
Podcasting logoi from http://podcastlogo.lemotox.de/
There is an interesting (if somewhat restricted) discussion on the SBL’s Facebook page about the possibility of podcasting (some) sessions from the annual meeting.
The suggestion is simple. Record sessions (unless the speaker asks not to be recorded). Make the recordings available on the web.
The advantages are clear. Much wider access to this forum of scholarly conversation. Currently many of us are either geographically rich (i.e. we are so far from Chicago that tickets and time to get there are difficult) or economically poor (we simply cannot afford to attend) that we miss out on this means of keeping up with current and emerging thinking in our areas.
SBL has a fine history of making efforts to widen the circle, scholarships for attending the meetings for emerging and distant scholars are a good (if expensive) example. SBL is also developing a reputation for using technology to make access wider (think of e-publications and RBL online), even sponsoring open access scholarship. Podcasting (even some of) the Annual and International Meetings would be a huge step in this direction that would cost little. (A few MP3 players and a few days of work.)
The argument so far advanced as a possible objection, that some scholars might not wish their presentation to receive this wider audience is easily covered by making participation optional. The other objection, that people who might otherwise attend would decide to stay at home misses the point, that social interaction (not to mention book exhibits ;) is a big part of the reason people attend. I’d be surprised if numbers attending dropped significantly as a result of podcasting, and this year numbers are so high they have had to arrange extra hotels :)
John Douglas posted this video on Facebook. I’d seen the research before, I’ve even commented on similar work (Giving up on Church)
This time it struck me again forcefully how often “Christians” major on the minors. Blow up things of little importance, but forget the vital stuff. Many of us prattle on about how gay marriage is wrong, but we fail to put real effort into supporting the couples who marry in church, so they can stick together becoming one flesh across the years. Some of us even mount campaigns aimed at persuading people into believing that the world was started in 4004BC, rather than spending the money and energy on helping people celebrate the wondrous creation and so its wonderful creator. We preach and sing interminably about how God is nice and loves us, but fail to address the big questions. Which usually begin with “why”.
To be fair one of the reasons I like South City is because from time to time we have a service where people are invited to drop big questions in the box, and the next week those questions are addressed. Last time examples were:
Sometimes when people pray someone is healed, sometimes they are not, why?
Is it wrong for Christians to spend dollars on expensive holidays and trips? Are there scriptures to teach us how to use our
God provided Money? Other than being good stewards, helping the poor and widows orphans tithing etc.