Especially in the past few years, I have detected a more widespread fragmenting of the Biblical Studies academy. We have become quick to retreat into our in-group clubs of theology, ideology, and other “0logies.” And then we attack “the other,” accusing them of being evil or stupid, sometimes both. I admit, I did let myself indulge in this for a while (especially satire on social media; satire has its place, but it ought not be our “default” setting), because it feels noble and self-assuring. But ultimately it is unhelpful and even self-destructive for academics for two reasons: (1) it creates no greater change in word or deed and (2) it is antithetical to the training we should have received in responsible academic engagement. When I see “hate the other” or “you idiot!” rhetoric on social media or in other outlets written by academics, I often wonder: what are we teaching our students? We have taught them passion, but too often at the cost of civility.
The danger to ourselves is self-delusion, presuming “I” am the smartest person in the room. But academic righteousness, if such a thing exists, cannot be achieved through slander. I am worried the academy is becoming like Lewis’ proverbial “grey town” (The Great Divorce), where the irascible inhabitants can’t stop fighting so they keep moving further and further away from each other, until all the towns are desolate.