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An SBL Statement on Recent SBL Statements on Past SBL Statements

November 17th, 2023 | 3 min read

By The Mad Theologian Collective

Dear SBL Members:

In these unprecedented times, we, as the committee representing this academic society committed to scholarly study of the past—which unfortunately lacks precedent for these unprecedented times—both apologize for, and stand by, our recent statement clarifying recent statements on past statements.

We do not wish to issue further statements on the substantive matters involved, and are holding a moment of silence at this year's meeting. You can also simply observe silence wherever you are, as your schedule allows. Silence might seem like an unscholarly activity. However, at a time when words often do more harm than good, taking time to reflect has the potential to refocus our work. May these reflective moments give us the room and strength to meet our current challenges.

We also recognize that both issuing further statements and withholding future statements, both speaking and silence, represent a form of violence and a failure. We do not claim moral equivalencies. In fact, we do not claim any morality whatsoever; as a guild we are committed simultaneously to (1) objective, disinterested, values-free inquiry and arguments about theology and history, (2) bringing the margins to the center and decolonizing our academic society by way of post-modern/critical interrogation of objectivist ideologies, and (3) ameliorating the most progressive takes posted on social media, especially from members connected to major research universities and grant organizations that materially underwrite our academic society.

We as a committee have agonized over how best to express compassion and empathy for all people, but it seems that satisfying one group necessarily involves disquieting another. In good faith, we issued multiple statements. We have committed to stay in the room and work through the pain so many of us and our members are feeling. We urge all members of SBL to stay in the room with us and work towards a scholarly and intellectual means of working towards realization of the goals of our Society. 

The members of Council are aware of the rise of anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, anti-Muslim, and anti-Palestinian sentiments, as well as verbal and even physical attacks, especially on Jews, Israelis, Muslims, and Palestinians on college campuses in the United States. The Society will make every effort to provide adequate security for those attending the Annual Meeting in San Antonio. We are committed to having an inclusive environment in the Annual Meeting. We also remain fiercely committed to full reproductive freedom and full inclusion of all sexual and gender identity expressions. So deep is our commitment that we are considering never meeting in the state of Texas again after 2023.

Our committee expresses sympathy with all members of the Society who continue to be deeply affected by the lack of clarity in our statement. Even if we have not gotten our wording right in every instance, be sure that we remain committed to our values of inclusivity, transparency, equity, accountability, diversity, critical inquiry, scholarly integrity, and openness to change.

We are a plural society, and a single statement will never capture all facets of our diversity. In these extremely difficult times, a learned society must maintain its mission and core values to think about how our varied scholarly pursuits can contribute to the world at large.

Despite the violence inherent both to silence and to issuing further statements to clarify recent statements, this will be our final word on the matters in question — however, further unprecedented times might call for extreme measures.

SBL Council

Note: This is a joke.