At the risk of pouring vinegar on an open wound, there is something I must say about the controversy currently beclouding Emmanuel Christian Seminary: I feel ashamed of some of the treatment of Paul Blowers and of ECS coming out of the biblioblogosphere. We “overheard” Paul question Chris Rollston’s character (or at least some of his decisions)—and some of us responded by impugning Paul’s character. We “learned” that the “public opinion” held by ECS’s denominational constituency (including actual or potential donors) might influence ECS’s institutional behavior—and some of us responded by trying to leverage the “public opinion” held by “the academy” (of which we appointed ourselves spokespeople) to influence ECS’s institutional behavior.
I find these actions embarrassing. I find them self-referentially inconsistent. I find them lacking in both Christian and academic graces and virtues. Perhaps even more to the point, I find them completely inconsistent with Chris Rollston’s character. I cannot imagine that he would want anyone to defend him by attacking Paul Blowers, Michael Sweeney, or ECS as an institution.
Many Higgaion readers will already have found themselves knee-deep (or deeper) in the brouhaha surrounding Christopher Rollston’s article “The Marginalization of Women: A Biblical Value We Don’t Like to Talk About” (Huffington Post, August 31, 2012). I admit that when I finished my first reading of Chris’s article (the same day it was published), I didn’t give it much additional thought—Chris didn’t break any new ground in the piece. He simply reported, to a mass audience, things that biblical scholars should already know. But then Paul Blowers, Chris’s colleague at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, criticized Chris for the article in a Facebook post that Paul (inadvertently?) made public … and leading bibliobloggers jumped to Chris’s defense, in turn prompting other bloggers and Paul himself to defend the criticism.
I’ve watched with mounting sadness as the online argument between Chris’s critics and defenders has heated up. I’ve held back on any commentary of my own until now, largely because the last ten days or so have been so hectic that I’ve barely had time to breathe, let alone think. The dustup also reminded me, to my shame, of some of my own prior “conversations” with Jim West—and when I recently rebooted Higgaion, I pledged to myself to cultivate a kinder, gentler, more constructive, more Christian web presence. But now, on a quiet Friday afternoon, I find myself drawn back to the conversation around Chris’s HuffPo piece, albeit as a late entrant (and perhaps only in the service of my own catharsis).