Duke Conference on Archaeology, Politics, and the Media: DAY 2

Friday, April 24, 2009

8:15-8:40 am

Nina Burleigh
“Inside the Collector’s Lair and Other Tales from the Biblical Antiquities Trade in Israel and the USA”

Burleigh read excerpts from her book and spoke about the Oded Golan affair and forgeries in Israel.


8:50-9:15 am

Mark Pinsky
“The Holy Land Experience”

The journalist Pinsky spoke about the phenomenon of the Holy Land Experience to Evangelicals.

The HLE was the creation of a man named Marvin Rosenthal.

Jews and Gentiles were welcome to work there, but no Pentecostals.


9:25-9:50 am

Tony Cartledge
“Walk about Jerusalem: Protestant Pilgrims in the Holy Land”

Cartledge spoke about the difference between religious tourists and Christian pilgrims.

He spoke about the media’s coverage of pilgrim activity in Jerusalem.

Pilgrimage is set within a concept of power. Pilgrimage drives religious, nationalist, ethnic, and financial groups over others.

He displayed several organizations that prey on pilgrims to make money and to push evangelical ideology, particularly premillennialism.

Provenance and history lend more value to antiquities. If scholars write articles or letters talking about the importance of the object, it makes the object worth more.


10:20-10:40 am

Tom Davis, CAARI (Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute)
“What is a Cypriot? Archaeology and Identity”

Archaeology can become props for political interests, aiding governments in recreating history they way they want for political purposes.

Davis discussed the cultural and ethnic diversity of Cyprus over time, and the wealth of archaeological information available throughout the island.


10:40-10:50 am

Response by Donald Haggis, UNC Chapel Hill

Cypress instigates multiple identities of the past.

Archaeology can be used to alienate a people from another, as well as to combat government propaganda intended to divide people by promoting particular histories over another.

It is difficult for archaeologists to dig and to engage the community to help inform them about their own real past because of the time required and the risk of political retribution form governments in the form of withholding permits, etc.


11:00-11:20 am

Bert de Vries, Calvin College
“Umm el-Jimal”

Dr. de Vries gave a very good summary of the use of media in the Umm el-Jimal to promote knowledge about the site not only to the archaeological community, but to the local community. By working with the local government officials, archaeology can be used not noly by foreigners to dig holes in the ground and then leave, but to bolster the local community’s identity. De Vries displayed the site’s visually compelling website, and it use of images, video, and digital reconstruction to teach about the site.


11:20-11:30 am

Response by S. Thomas Parker, North Carolina State

Made two brief comments on general discussion from the day before.

1. ASOR cannot serve as an arbiter of archaeological fact vs. fiction because it does not speak with a unanimous voice.

2. Half of the people won’t care what we decide.


11:40 am – 12:00 pm

Eric Meyers, Duke
“The Quest for the Temple Mount: The Settler Movement and National Parks in Israel”

The reporting and publishing (and funding for) the reconstruction of archaeological discoveries is as important as the digging itself. Unfortunately, many times the reporting of sites by governments and NGOs is often inaccurate, or contrary to the archaeologist’s findings, favoring a propagandistic or nationalistic interpretation of the data for political purposes.

In the case of the City of David, reconstruction and publication is being used as a weapon by Jewish settlers to promote Zionist motives, evict Palestinian residents from their homes in the Silwan valley, and promote Jewish identity in East Jerusalem.

The IAA has ceded authority to do archaeology in the Silwan valley to Elad, an organization dedicated to redefining the area as a Jewish enclave. Elad administers the dig, without oversight. Publication is paid for by the IAA, Elad, and private donations from Jewish Zionist groups and Christian Fundamentalist Premillennialist Evangelicals.

Whose collective memories can be culled form these activities?

Meyers offered the website http://www.alt-arch.org as an alternative to archaeology driven by nationalistic and political ideology.


12:00-12:10 pm

Response by Rebecca Stein, Duke

The ongoing archaeological excavation in Silwan is a form of occupation. Archaeology is being used as a weapon to displace Palestinians in this East Jerusalem enclave.

Post war tourism was a way by which to promote public involvement in the Israeli investment in the occupation of Palestine.


12:30-1:45 pm

Roundtable Lunch Discussion: Where do we go from here?

Paul Flesher: Introduction

-Where do we go from here. Practical solutions to some of these problems.

Question 1: Personnel. Who would be willing to do what?

Paul says that Eric says we should create a body within ASOR as a vehicle to move things forward. Whether we call it a media committee or task force. A good model would be a committee of people who are willing to meet regularly and other people who are wiling to help out on certain kinds of things.

-passing around a sheet of paper, if you are interested and want to be involved in some level, on an occasional level or on a regular committee.

-name, email, things you’re interested in, kind of commitment you are willing make

Question 2: Now: return to practical steps

Robert Cargill: what forms of technology are there for us to use to inform and to partner with different organizations, specifically with different media organizations. But also with ourselves, how can we harness the technology out there to promote archaeology. Mentions analogies with Business School etc. Discusses UCLA Center for Digital Humanities. Robert offers the same service to this group here as his job for UCLA. How can we then take this technology, partner with strategic people within the media, to push a better, healthier view of archaeology.

1. Byron McCane: Two suggestions.
a. Readily practical: More of us start blogging
b. Dream: CNN hires a Sanje Gupta of archaeology

2. Carole Lazio: Three suggestions
a. organize a digital news feed; a way that people could post information about their sites; someone would need to study what the newsfeeds would appreciate having
b. having someone attend meetings and educate people on media relations; AAA has been doing this for years.

3. Bob Cargill says “ Here’s how you do an interview” he had friends in the media who gave him the backside about how interviews are conducted and to what end.
-suggests we provide a course on how to do interviews. partner with a media person. Here’s how you sit, speak, present yourself, can and can’t do, can and can’t expect.

4. Ray Bruce agrees with Bob. If you have some people who are media literate they will use you more often, can do it faster, trust is built up sooner. So easily done.

5. Moira Bucciarelli responds to Ray saying that SBL is already planning a session on media training

6. Rachel Hallote: not just media training, but what we say to the media. As academic s and biblical archaeologists we’ve been battling away with the bible for 50 years. Always telling people they haven’t found what they claim. They don’t want to hear that. We have to meet them half way. We need to reengage the bible which is what is pulling the media along.

7. Bob says people tell him. “you always debunk” and then people’s view of scholarship is that you are skepticism. Try to do your skepticism in a positive form (here’s what we do know) rather than negative (we can’t know that).
-Bob follows up suggesting we suggest our friends. When we deal with media reps we also give referrals. We should put together a networking model for areas of expertise. The more we can refer people that we know and trust and who are really publishing, the more we can promote those names, they don’t need to call someone they’ve found on google. Media list. Maybe that is the same clearinghouse we use to publish our credible ideas on a website. He does think you should involve a website.

8. Eric Powell: AIA is developing a training program and a list of experts, like a media go-to list.
-Bob notes that law schools do regularly contain a media contact list.

Quit looking down on the media, embrace them, and maybe they will come to us more often.

9. Mark Pinsky: says this kind of course not that complicated; you should ask them “how long is the bite” “never refer to previous answer” if you don’t like your answer you can say “lets try it again” Find out where they are going with this. If you know where they are going, you can provide the narrative spine. The more you can go where they want you to go, they more they will use your face.

10. Ethan Bronner: before you get to documentary you will start with newspaper. Notes that peer review can take a long time if you refuse to discuss your findings with the media until they are peer reviewed. You as professionals need to know how the cascading set of exposures work. List of experts is good idea. List of subspecialities is a good idea (jesus era guy but also known to believe X about what we know about that moment). Says media people are not necessarily “moneymad”. They are also interested. Still a kind of arbiter of the public (newspapers) of something no one is trying to sell you. My job is to be filter between the jerk who is trying to sell something and what is true.

11. Mark Pinsky: NYT has become the cerebrum of the industry. The producers are doing their thinking based on what is on the front of the NYT. If you can begin with Ethan or with NPR you won’t have to go those (bad) producers (because they are based on NYT any way).

12. Andy Vaughn: one of my concerns or fears in developing a list of people who can speak to a topic and to the media is that we need to find a way to build in junior scholars, women, people of color. Make sure that we are bringing all sorts of people in.

13. Paul Flesher responds: Eric is talking about the ‘good housekeeping seal’ but if you don’t get it, it creates a lot of hard feelings. Easier for ASOR to create a list of members with their specialities, publication area, where you are working.

14. Andy: if we have a list that is long and not weeded out you don’t necessary accomplish the goal. We need a list that a grammar school librarian can turn to to tell a teacher in 8th grade. We don’t want to list everyone. However, from an admin. standpoint, as soon as we start ticking people off the list, that becomes hard.

15. Moira B.: do the journalists use religion source?

16. Mark P.: outside of the big three or four, everything is very local

17. Jodi Magness: in the ASOR and SBL session on media a couple of points that came up, in terms of TV docs we have to be diligent about the kinds of people that we collaborate with. Ultimately it is the studio or the executive who has the ultimate say.
-Can see the sensitivity of putting up a list of names. Doesn’t think she would want her name on an internet list where everyone can get her information. Thinks a media committee could formulate a list, but not necessarily post or advertise it. The organization could have a link that suggests please contact us at this number.

18. Bob: Ideal thing would be to put the list in the hands of the producers. Otherwise, its’ going to be those of us who live in LA or NY .

19. Rachel H.: Most of her local tv and journalist appearances were because they used profnet. Could ASOR contact the different institutions where the members are teaching. Brings in the University PR departments.

20.Eric Meyers: what if our society might think about things that would be appropriate for production and we approach journalists?

21. Ray Bruce: says brilliant. He gets a lot of his ideas from people that he knows who ring him up. So it would be a two way thing and proactive.

22. Eric M. says: that would give us the opportunity to go to NEA to underwrite a film with a grant.
-Bob says that this is exactly what fringe scholars do.

23. Bob: Begin to use the ASOR blog ahead of time when we know something is coming. Be the first to post.

24. Mark Goodacre: Content. Using Bob’s exposure of the Golb scandal, he didn’t get polemical. He just calmly wrote the facts. Avoid the polemic.

What makes someone unusable for TV: won’t repeat anything and so unpleasant.

We should try to be calm and pleasant. To make ourselves useful and not to be perceived as hostile, grumpy, skeptical people be calm collected and just get the content out there.

25. Bob: the blogs that are the most successful are the blogs that are there everyday. very fresh.

26. Ethan B.: It is often the case that people throw a press conference. It is better to use a reporter and walk that reporter through over a series of hours because a press conference is awful. It launches it with less control over it as opposed to a reporter about whom you can be confident.
-second advantage is that paper will give it prominence because it is an exclusive.

27. Mark Pinsky: might want to choose someone who is a bit more gullible but someone who might be less skeptical. May get a better hit or better play if you pick a regional media person.

28. Byron M.: at another conference a journalist made a point that “I am not the media.” “We are all the media.”


2:00-2:50 pm

Featured Speaker: Ethan Bronner, NYT Bureau Chief, Jerusalem
“Archaeology, Politics, and the Media: A View from Jerusalem”

Began with Israel Knoll and the Hazon Gabriel

Bronner wrote a story about the Vision of Gabriel and told the audience about the feedback he got from various groups.

Talked about interviewing some archaeologists that are funded by Zionist organizations that tell the story of Israel from 1000BC to 70 CE, and then skip to 1947 CE.

Although the Jewish/Zionist approach to history and archaeology is problematic, the Palestinian is worse. Arafat denied any Jewish history, especially that there was ever a Temple on the Haram. The later leader of the Palestinian antiquities, (Araquat), told a story about how Arafat denied any Jewish presence, and that the Palestinians will continue to deny the presence of a Temple. Palestinians refusal to acknowledge any Jewish archaeological heritage drives the Jewish desire to find Jewish heritage.

The Palestinians are just as culpable as Israel in the use of archaeology for nationalism, and for the denial of cultural heritage.


3:45-3:55 pm

Ray Bruce, Head of Programmes, CTVC

Bruce was asked to hang around and observe and offered feedback from the world of tele.

The job of the tv docu producer is managing expectations. Expectations of crew, expectations of producers, and expectations of talent in front of the camera.

Expectations of the broadcaster: what will keep an audience glued to a tv for ½ hour. Noise around their shows. Noisy, risky, thought provoking shows with awards and press conferences and tie ins.

Scholars must decide whether or not we want to play the tele game or not.

Different channels are looking for different things. The BBC wants something different than ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5.

Thank God for Dan Brown. Because, up to four years ago, most people wouldn’t be discussing the council of Nicea, or whether was Judas was actually good guy.

Dan Brown raises the question and provides the opportunities for scholars to respond and educate the public.

Archaeologists are not familiar with the grammar and politics of tv production.

Bruce says he is a little bit nervous about ‘controlling the subject,’ ‘black lists,’ etc. The same is true about the rogue archaeologists. Who decides who is a rogue? The guild needs auditing, but needs to be done carefully.

The media do not know the players, but neither do most archaeologists know the players in the media.

Why not make use of media departments in us universities?


3:55-4:05 pm

Moira Bucciarelli, Public Initiatives Coordinator, SBL

Scholars feel that their views are being passed by or ignored or exploited.

One good way to improve this is to utilize/establish a media relations dept.

How do we keep a list of experts? Do we have a central list or do we keep individual lists?

Don’t leave the audience empty-handed. Don’t be absolutist, don be academic. Take them on the journey.

How do we stop the public from getting all their news from popular (and poor) websites?

Should we introduce a blog on the SBL website? Rotating authorship?

Speaker is creating a monthly newsletter for high school teachers about archaeology.

Do we need a ‘fact or fiction’ website? YES!

How can scholars avoid being in the position of only reacting to sensational archaeology.

“Nuancing the stone” will be a memorable phrase.


4:05-4:15 pm

Eric Powell, Deputy Editor of Archaeology Magazine

Discussed the American Institute of Archaeology

Powell encouraged the scholar audience to write for Archaeology Magazine?

Reasons to pause (or why scholars pause) to write for Archaeology Magazine.

The distortion of a scholar’s work often causes scholars never to work with media again.

Powell encouraged scholars to take better photographs.

Joint statements form the AIA, ASOR, SBL will go far to combat bad science.


4:15-4:25 pm

Andy Vaughn – ASOR
“Summary of the Conference”

Two competing cultures in archaeology and media.

1. The collegial culture that says that professors view that peer-reviewed articles are most important.

2. The administrator culture that says that enrollments and bottom line is essential.

The same is true for media and archaeology.

Do media not care about truth and accuracy? And do professors not care about the Bottom line and entertainment?

Archaeology is by nature an interdisciplinary endeavor. And when budgets are cut, the departments focus on departmental matters.

The tension that exists between history and re-enactment.

Archaeology cannot prove the bible, but it can support and disprove what we believe about the bible.

Scientific method is by nature negative. Science only disproves, never proves.

Re-enactment, on the other hand, provide a positive image for what we do know.

Archaeology and historical research can bring the ‘historical imagination’ alive. Without passing judgment on the historical truth of the a claim, the re-enactment and the historical imagination can be informed.

The dream of a ASOR website. ASORpedia.

A Wikipedia of archaeological and historical sites throughout the eastern Mediterranean.

FAQ section
Fact or Fiction section
Experts section
Moderated blog section

The site must be something the teachers can trust.

Continuing funding can come in the form of ads.

Elementary schools are looking for authoritative sites that students can cite.

Duke Conference on Archaeology, Politics, and the Media: DAY 1

i was asked by eric meyers to blog 2009 duke conference on archaeology, politics, and the media as an observer. even though my comments below are posted the monday after the conference ended, i recorded my comments as live notes, as one would live blog or twitter an event. my job was not to offer a polished report on the conference but rather to blog the sessions in a live manner. i’ve also added additional comments at places throughout.  -bc


Duke University Conference on

Archaeology, Politics, and the Media

April 23-24, 2009

The conference began with an introductory lecture by Eric Meyers and Michael J. Schoenfeld, Duke VP for Public Affairs and Gov’t Relations.

1:00 pm – 1:15 pm

Eric Meyers gave an introduction on the origin of the conference.

Meyers told the story of his first experience with archaeology and the media.

His discovery of an object in the Galilee was reported as: “Lost Ark Found in Wilderness of Galilee.”

His excavation’s “Sepphoris Mosaic” became the “Mona Lisa of the Middle East.”

Meyers told a brief history of the “James Ossuary,” and how Hershel Shanks, Simcha Jacobovich, and the ROM promoted and sponsored the James Ossuary exhibit in Toronto. SBL then held a special session on the James Ossuary.

Meyers concluded with the ongoing trial of Oded Golan, the power of the media, PR representatives, lawyers, the IAA, and others, and lamented the fact that these side-shows continue to take away from the work of reeal archaeology and archaeologists.

Michael Schoenfeld welcomed the attendees and gave an introduction to Duke. Schoenfeld provided reasons why he felt it was important that Duke University addressed issues of Archaeology, Politics, and the Media.

1:15-1:35pm

Joel Marcus, professor at Duke, introduced the first speaker, Byron McCane.

Byron McCane – Prof. of Religion and Chair at Wofford College.
“Scholars Behaving Badly: Sensationalism and Archaeology in the Media.”

McCane discussed the Talpiot Tomb’s discovery and subsequent media blitz.

Wed, Oct. 3, 1945 was the actual first media blitz of the Talpiot Tomb. McCane told it as if it were the introduction to the recent Jacobovichi/Cameron endeavor (which, of course, it was not).

Earlier, on Sept. 10, 1945 Sukenik, Nachman Avigad, Yigael Yadin, excavated the Talpiot tomb for the first time.

McCane then told the story of the original discovery of the “Jesus Tomb.” Although he initially saw the possibility of Christian discipleship, Sukenik gave several interviews explaining the nature of the discovery, tempered sensational news reports, and published a formal, peer-reviewed report to the academy, which was received negatively. Scholars responded to the publishing negatively, and Sukenik received the criticism without protest. That is, he behaved like a scholar should, and took the high road, accepting the judgment of his peers.

Prof. McCane lamented the growing trend to report any archaeology discovery as a sensational, straight-to-media promotion, without the consultation of the academy.

2004 – Cave of John the Baptist
2007 – Talpiot again
2007 – Netzer discovered the Tomb of Herod the Great
2009 – Easter, Who really killed Jesus, found the house of Caiaphas.

Spate of sensationalism is surely the fault of the media.

But, (!)

Most documentary makers are careful and responsible, although speaking to a popular audience.

They attempt to catch the eye, challenge the mind, and touch the heart.

The responsibility also lies with scholars.

We have been entrusted with great responsibility like tenure, and the opportunity to educate the public’s children.

The responsibility of the scholar on TV is not to use it as an opportunity to promote our own pet theories, but to provide an informed scholarly consensus, or bring about a sense of the academic debate.

“We should never present to the media any theory that has not already been published in a peer-review journal. Put frankly, if you can’t get it published in a peer-review journals like BASOR and JBL, then don’t say it in front of a camera when the little red light is on.”

McCane concluded by stating that sensationalism gives the public the impression that the Middle East is a place where religious battles can be fought and won, and takes away from what the Middle East might someday be.

1:35-1:55pm

Milton Moreland, Assoc. Prof of Religious Studies at Rhodes College
“Forged by a Genius: Scholarly Responses to History Channel Meets CSI”

Religiously-inspired video productions are incredibly popular in the US.

The Religion documentary has arguably replaced the book as the method of archaeological dissemination of information to the public.

Moreland did a study on the public reception of religious TV docs with his class and shared some of the results.

Biblical scholars and archaeologists need to take these documentaries VERY seriously.

Where inspiration once came from thousands of hours of scholarly work, the public now receives the bulk of its information about archaeology from film studios.

The archaeologists and biblical scholars MUST continue to engage the documentary industry to counter the sensational misinformation of the fringe, conspiracy-laden documentaries.

Moreland stated that there are no crises of faith in the archaeological record except those manufactured by the popular media.

How did we get from John Grierson to Simcha Jacobovichi? How did something so educational go so wrong?

Docs once had a high level of trust and an expectation of truth.

PBS/BBC – May have been boring, but were associated with truth.
Frontline – Investigative Documentaries became seekers of truth and chief debunker of fantastic stories.
Ken Burns – Provided a model for filmmakers for biblical documentary makers.

In a final proposal, Moreland suggested that we must treat doc filmmaking in the way we treat other scholarly print. We must respond in a formal and timely manner to the sensational claims of the doc filmmaker.

Cargill note:

  • The journey of documentaries into a lesser level of truth and more entertainment is tied to its association to reality TV. This is why History doesn’t show history shows anymore. History and Discovery show “Ice Road Truckers” and “Deadliest Catch” and “Axe Men,” and have changed their slogan to “History in the Making” in order to cash in on the reality TV craze. Note that the Emmy Award category is now “Reality/Documentary” – both of which are scripted for maximum entertainment, often at the expense of truth. By the way, that’s almost done and it’s about to change.

1:55-2:15pm

Christopher Rollston, Emmanuel School of Religion
“An Ancient Medium in the Modern Media: Stages of Semitic Inscriptions”

Rollston gave a paper that, in keeping with his style and traditional subject matter, was an erudite specialist paper on NWS epigraphy.

Rollston described the discovery of the Mesha Inscription and the media that surrounded it. He noted that there never has been any doubt about its authenticity.

Rollston suggested three categories of archaeological inscriptions:

1. Forgery
2. Apologetic Usage
3. Sober Reflections by Scholars

For the Jehoash Inscription, Rollston stated:

1. Forgery (by the public)
2. Genuine (only by non-epigraphers)
3. Sober Reflection (forgery)

Rollston spoke about Jacobovichi and the Talpiot Tomb sham.

Rollston called for “All hands on deck!” We need to address the documentary sensationalism put forth by filmmakers, and not think ourselves above it.

Regarding the Jezebel seal, Rollston believes it’s a forgery. For many previously published reasons, and reason that there is no (other) 9th century seal in Canaan.

Following the outline he provided, Rollston then dealt with sensationalism surrounding other epigraphic discoveries.

1. The Media at Sea Sans Compass
a. Jesus Family Tomb

2. All Trained, Restrained Hands on Deck: The Sagacity of Methodological Doubt and Field Expertise
a. Jezebel Seal
b. Goliath Inscription
c. Temeh Seal to Shlmt Seal
d. John the Baptist Cave: No Epigraphic Data
e. Pierced Messiah
f. Baruch Bulla

3. Recalibrate the Ship’s Rudder: A Case Study in Retraction
a. Ebla Tablets and the Cities of the Plain

4. Navigating for Placid Waters

Methodological Doubt must be our M.O.

Be suspicious comes from the antiquities market.

2:15-2:35pm

Jonathan Reed, Professor of Religion at University of LaVerne
“The Lure of Proof and the Legacy of Biblical Archaeology: Scholars and the Media”

Reed gave an excellent talk and accompanying powerpoint presentation on Pseudo science and Biblical Archaeology. He discussed his class that teaches critical method and historicity.

The lure of proof coupled with the lure of mammon drives much of popular media.

Hoaxes:

The Cardiff Giant – The petrified stone remains of a giant.
The Shroud of Turin –
Head of John the Baptist
Three Heads of the Magi
The Feather of the Holy Spirit
The Foreskin of Jesus (no image available)

The James Ossuary – there’s a sucker born every minute

How to create a sensationalistic (and profitable) claim:

Prey on the public’s thirst for proof
Use scholarly skepticism
There is money to be made
Use twists of logic
Make reason for doubt

Reed noted that archaeology is made to be the arbiter of faith and fact. Should this be the case?

Biblical pool (Silwan) found in Jerusalem.

The lag time between discovery and publication is suspect.

Public dissemination of the story and the earlier academic discussion are often disconnected.

The purpose of late (NT) archaeology is not to ‘prove’ the biblical narrative, but more to illuminate the social context of the world that produced the biblical narrative.

What should scholars do with regard to the media? Good teachers can use a stupid question to answer a rephrased form of that question and communicate a better bit of information, shedding light on the questions we should be asking.

2:35-3:00pm

Question and Answer Period

Is it better to anticipate in the media or to ignore and remain above the media?

Skepticism is growing. Skepticism follows sensationalism.

Today’s kids are more skeptical of things because we all know how to Photoshop, YouTube, blog, and manipulate the Internet (AND catch those that do it). Like a cat and mouse, the public (especially younger generations) are learning to be highly skeptical of sensational claims, and use the new set of research tools at their disposal to verify claims. This is why sensational archaeologists are making better use of websites, Wikipedia, and YouTube, to beat the scholars to the media.

Cargill notes:

  • We must engage the popular media.
  • Archaeologists must participate in these docs at the very least as debunkers and at best as authorities on the subject.
  • Archaeologists must form a consortium that offers some equivalent of a “seal of approval.”
  • There must be a group dedicated to discussing archaeology and the media. We have editorial boards for peer-review journals. Where is our editorial board for television production?
  • Likewise, the respected authorities/scholars within the field must embrace those bloggers and legit websites that are attempting to combat junk science by making guest posts on the sites.
  • It’s time to stop claiming that the academy is above television media. If we don’t speak to the public, they will.
  • One of us needs to get in, take root, and invite the others in.
  • Documentary filmmaking has merged with reality television. That means, the audience is getting younger. Thus, the more media savvy, younger generation of scholars will begin to get asked to participate. Where are they/we? Why am I the youngest person here?)
  • The other thing is that peer-review publication is the ‘radio’ of television media. That is, tv docs are always looking for people who are “camera friendly”. “Camera Friendly” can be defined as good looking, fit, or eccentric. Scholars need to do a better job of learning to speak and appear in ‘camera friendly’ ways, so that they will become more likely to be used on camera.

3:20-3:40 pm

Eric Cline, George Washington University
“Fabulous Finds and Fantastic Forgeries: The Distortion of Archaeology by the Media Pseudoarchaeology”

Cline began with a “study” that declared the types of breakfast cereals one eats influences the gender of children produced by the one eating the cereal. Even though the claim was later refuted by science, the legend remained.

The game is played by issuing a fantastic claim and couching it as possible.

When facts are later refuted, they are not as popular as the original fantastic claim.

We have already taken the first steps towards reclaiming the field archaeology from junk science and fantastic claims.

Cline suggests creating a “war room” to respond to junk science.

Cline used the example where he and Robert Cargill called out Randall Price and his search for Noah’s Ark on the ASOR website. He also noted his quick response to defend himself once he had been called out, showing that these junk scientists are using and monitoring the media and know of the power of legitimate scholars responding to them.

Cline noted that the AIA created a combat/refutation site.

Cline also described the Raphael/Norman Golb affair and their misuse of the Internet to promote marginal views of Norman Golb. He described how Robert Cargill used the Internet to track and ultimately expose the media campaign.

Cline suggested we should create something like a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for documentary makers.

Cline also suggested that ASOR should create a page for the media in which a list of specialists who are willing to appear on camera might appear.

3:40-3:50pm

Response by Joe Zias, Science and Archaeology Group

Zias discussed how this issue has been around since the 70’s with Erich von Däniken.

He also discussed how the media exploits religion and vice versa.

Zias described a story of how Hershel Shanks published an article about the James Ossuary, and told the real story behind the abuses of the ossuary and the media coverage of it.

During the discussion period, Eric Cline stated that 30 years ago, there were a few nuts and a few outlets. Today, there are more outlets (Internet) and therefore more nuts making unverified claims. The lure of an unknown amateur making a discovery missed by the professionals is appealing to the reality TV/American Idol public audience.

Robert Cargill asked whether this “crisis” is based upon this second American trend of self-publication? As newspapers fail and blogging increases, the definition of ‘credible’ resources is again in question. Credible scholars must embrace credible bloggers or create a central, authoritative one of their own.

4:00-4:20pm

Morag Kersel, University of Toronto
“The Power of the Press Release and Popular Magazines on the Antiquities Trade”

Kersel spoke about archaeology and the ethics of antiquities sales. She discussed the practice of looting and its relation to the antiquities market.

Kersel did original research in the form of interviews to determine how consumer demand drives antiquities dealers’ desire to acquire objects.

AAMD issued guidelines for press releases that limit publication of items after the 1970 threshold date to those that have a demonstrable history of ownership or context.

Archaeological context is not about history of ownership, but about actual in situ context. We need to wage a social war against those who advocate for the collection of antiquities. Only education as to the supply and demand of this trade will curb the desire to collect objects.

4:20-4:30pm

Response by Annabel Wharton, Duke University

Wharton agreed with Kersel and argued that dealers and collectors drive the market and harm archaeology and despoil it of its own history by removing it from its context.

As an example, Wharton shows the claims about the “Tomb of David” in Jerusalem.

4:40-5:00pm

Jodi Magness, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
“Confessions of an Archaeologist: Lessons I Learned from Talpiyot Tomb Fiasco and Other Media Encounters”

Magness told many stories about her participation in public documentaries.

People are most interested in issues of Egyptology (mummies, pyramids, etc.), and anything related to Jesus.

The web has blurred the lines between scholarly credibility and popular junk science.

It is impossible to explain in a 60-second sound bite why some archaeological claims are simply invalid. Sensationalist claims can be made in a moment. Disproving a claim scientifically takes more time, more effort, a more patient and understanding audience, and therefore are not usually as received as the initial claim.

Some filmmakers use their connections and capital to promote false claims, in spite of archaeologists counter claims. They do it knowingly for ratings.

Magness wished that ASOR, SBL, and the AIA had issued swift claims denouncing many of these false claims.

Archaeologists have a responsibility to communicate their findings to the public. This means that scholars need to learn to speak in sound bites and become more media savvy.

5:00-5:10pm

Response by Chad Spigel, Trinity University

Academics have had tremendous difficulty responding to and refuting sensationalist claims.

Are scholars offering the kind of expertise that the public thinks it is receiving?

Academics don’t always agree with each other, and history is always interpretation.

Irresponsible uses of the media can be used as teaching moments in the classroom.

Cargill notes:

  • The number one thing interviewers say to me is, “Can you say that again, but say it more definitively? You keep saying ‘It is possible’ or ‘some scholars believe’ before everything. Can you say it again and just say it factually?” The fact is that scholars can’t, because scholars live in a world of probability, doubt, and preponderance of evidence, while junk science and peddlers of sensationalism live in a world where any data is definitive, and any possibility, no matter how remote, is fodder for investigatory entertainment.

5:20-5:40pm

Mark Goodacre, Duke Professor of the NT

“The Talpiot Tomb and the Bloggers”

Dr. Goodacre talked about the role of blogging in the Talpiot Tomb affair.

Goodacre demonstrated the successes and failures of blogging in their role in countering the claims of the Jesus Tomb doc.

The key is a consistent presence, which builds trust and confidence in the source, as well as a presence within Internet searches.

5:40-5:50pm

Response by A.K.M. Adam, Duke University

Mark Goodacre’s “Talpiot mistakes” page is not as much of a failure as he thinks it is. Goodacre should be credited with an early and consistent voice against the Jacobovichi’s claims, as well as a platform for others to voice their concerns and opinions.

We need to learn to address other media outlets other than blogs.

We need to engage all forms of media and get ahead of the curve.

7:45 Plenary Session

Patty Gerstenblith, DePaul University; Director of the Center for Art, Museum and Cultural Heritage Law; President, Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation
“Legal and Ethical Aspects of Cultural Heritage”

The earliest form of looting is the booty of war.

The French were required to return the plunder of war after the Napoleonic War.

Only about half of the objects were returned.

Leber Doctrine – Cultural objects captured during war were to be returned and not destroyed. First codified set of rules regarding artifacts.

1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict

Art. 3. Safeguard Cultural Property

Art. 4. Respect for Cultural Property

  • Section 1. The High Contracting Parties undertake to…
  • Section 2. The obligations mentioned in paragraph 1…may be waived only in cases where military necessity imperatively requires….

Art. 5. Occupation

  • Section 1. Any High Contracting Party in occupation of the whole or part of the territory…

Art. 7. Military Measures

Hague Convention Blue Shield

First Protocol

  • Section 1. An occupying power should prevent export from occupied territory.

Second Protocol (1999)

Narrows “military necessity” waiver

Art. 9. Preserves cultural property

Status of the Hague Convention as of 2003

105 States Parties to main Convention
87 to First Protocol
U.S. had signed, but not ratified the treaty

Following WWII, the antiquities market surpassed war as the leading cause of looting.

Fakes and Looting became the two main ways to appease the demand for artifacts.

Market and looting encourage damage to artifacts. The mosaics in Northern Syria were given as an example.

Gerstenblith spoke of the story of the excavation:

Proliferation of Aramaic incantation bowls in Israel post-2003. Under the conventions, Israel should return the bowls (if proved to be authentic) to Iraq.

How did US military break the conventions?

Sites looted for objects are worse than looting the museum. Because in a museum, at least the objects are recorded.

Recent developments:

1970 UNESCO Convention ratifications: UK, Suisse, Germany, Belgium
1954 Hague Convention.
UK proposed ratification of convention
Germany implementing legislating
US ratification in 13 March, 2009.

The Qumran Digital Model: SBL Joint Session Book Review

Nov 21-24, 2009. Dr. Cargill will be a respondent in a joint session panel that will review his new book, “The Qumran Digital Model: An Argument for Archaeological Reconstruction in Virtual Reality” (Gorgias Press, 2009) at the 2009 Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting. The panel will discuss the author’s conclusion that Qumran was originally established as a Hasmonean fortress that was reoccupied by a sectarian Jewish group, as well as Dr. Cargill’s methodology for using virtual reality and other technologies to aid archaeology. Dr. Robert Mullins (APU) will moderate the joint session. Panelists include Dr. Jodi Magness (UNC), Yuval Peleg (IAA), Dr. Lawrence Schiffman (NYU), and Dr. Eric Cline (GWU). Dr. Robert Cargill (UCLA) will offer a response, and the presentations will be followed by a question and answer period.

Full Text of Dr. Cargill’s Remarks at the Pepperdine GSEP Panel Discussion on Racism and Homophobia

Remarks for Pepperdine GSEP Panel Discussion Entitled:

Promoting Social Justice: Confronting Racism and Homophobia

By Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.

March 24, 2009

Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology

WLA campus – Howard Hughes Center

6100 Center Dr., Los Angeles, 90045 (Room 203)

Before I begin my prepared remarks this evening, let me first extend my thanks to Pepperdine University, to the Graduate School of Education and Psychology, to Dean Margaret Weber for her leadership, and to those who worked hard behind the scenes like Vanessa Jahn to bring about this event. I want to publicly praise Dr. Weber and GSEP for their interest in an open dialogue about the issues of homophobia and racism, and the Christian’s role in this debate. I believe the only way we will ever come to terms with issues like gay marriage and California Proposition 8, racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of social injustice, is to participate in open, professional, respectful, and constructive discussions with those individuals and groups with whom we disagree. I commend this forum, the other panelists, and GSEP’s willingness to discuss this topic in the midst of the ongoing debate. Thank you for your invitation, and I appreciate the opportunity to address you this evening and participate in this panel.

And now to my prepared remarks.

On March 5, 2009, Pepperdine University School of Law Dean Kenneth Starr, a former U.S. Solicitor General, and Independent Counsel investigating President Clinton, presented oral arguments before the California State Supreme Court in defense of California Proposition 8. Dean Starr’s arguments were given in response to a legal challenge brought by several gay rights organizations as well as state Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office seeking to overturn the November 2008 California ballot measure Proposition 8, which overturned an earlier 2008 California Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in the state of California. The fourteen-word proposition read simply: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” And while this proposition was intentionally terse and simply stated, its repercussions are far-reaching and unambiguous.

The November 2008 vote resulted in a simple majority of Californians overturning state law, and amending the state constitution to prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages. In filing their legal challenge, the state Attorney General’s office asked the court to invalidate Proposition 8 on the grounds that certain fundamental rights, including the right to marry, are inalienable, and that the civil rights of a group in a minority cannot be dictated by the mere popular vote of a majority. For his part, Dean Starr’s argument focused less upon gay marriage, and more upon the legal issue of whether the people of California have the right under the California constitution to amend the constitution and overturn a specific decision of the California Supreme Court.

The outcome of this legal drama is yet to be determined. The California Supreme Court has 90 days from the date of the oral arguments, March 6, to rule on the case. But regardless of the outcome, we can be assured that one side will protest the ruling, and seek to have yet another ballot measure placed on the California ballot.

While this legal battle wages on, we, as people of faith and citizens of the state must wrestle with additional issues pertaining to same-sex marriage, including, but not limited to issues of social justice, the alienation of those ruled against, and what will be the counseling of and ministering to what could be thousands of families having divorce forced upon them by the state due to the passage and subsequent legal upholding of Proposition 8.

Those of us who are committed to serving, defending, and advocating on behalf of those experiencing social injustice must, to the best of our ability, attempt to maintain certain levels of trustworthiness, consistency, and credibility with society. If we fail to act with compassion and empathy toward those affected by the coming legal decisions, regardless of our opinion of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, we risk not only losing effectiveness as individual counselors, confidants, educators, therapists, and advocates, but we risk causing further harm to the already rapidly diminishing reputations of institutions of faith, be it Christianity, Judaism or other faith-based traditions, and increased skepticism of their effectiveness, and dare I say, relevance in today’s society. As professionals, we must maintain a focused level of service to those who are suffering first and foremost, and only then, in a secondary place, to issues of public policy and political position taking.

Unfortunately, this will be more difficult for members of the Pepperdine community, due to the unfortunate events that played out during the 2008 campaign. Pepperdine was thrust into the midst of this debate due in no small part to the advocacy of School of Law Professor Richard Peterson and his very public, very televised advocacy for Proposition 8 and the campaign in favor of “traditional” marriage.

Now, I respect Richard Peterson, and I respect his right to advocate on behalf of the issues in which he believes strongly. For that matter, I respect tremendously Dean Ken Starr and his professional and thoughtful arguments in support of Proposition 8. These men have the right to speak in support of issues they feel important to them, as do I.

But the Pepperdine community found itself thrust into a debate that it tried strongly to avoid. Despite the repeated efforts in the form of press releases and emails to the Pepperdine community to declare a position of political neutrality with regard to Proposition 8, President Andrew Benton could not help but watch the public, the media, and the nation, cast Pepperdine as a fundamentalist, religiously right, politically conservative opponent of same-sex marriage. Despite the fact that the School of Law held open discussions for and against gay marriage, in spite of repeated pronouncements that Pepperdine took no official position on the issue of gay marriage, and despite the fact that there are scores of Pepperdine faculty members and students that opposed and voted against Proposition 8, Pepperdine, its faculty, and most unfortunately, its students were typecast as strident opponents of gay marriage, largely because of the very public role played by Professor Peterson, who became the de facto “Yes on 8″ spokesperson.

The Pepperdine community, and specifically those of you in this room committed to working with those potentially affected by Proposition 8, have your work cut out for you. The dilemma for Pepperdine, a prominent Christian University in Southern California, and its students is one of trust and credibility with regard to counseling and ministry to marginalized communities, including homosexuals. How can a Christian university be trusted to counsel and minister to those harmed by the state’s decision to ban same-sex marriage if two of the major legal operatives for the “Yes on 8″ campaign are prominent Pepperdine employees? And how do we deal with those who feel some degree of anger, resentment, and frustration towards us because of our affiliation with Pepperdine?

As a scholar in the field of Biblical Studies, I have addressed ways in which we can approach the issues of “biblical sanction” for marriage, if such a thing can be said to exist. For the sake of time, I shall reserve comments on the specifics of my arguments for the discussion period. For a detailed analysis of this issue, please see my essay entitled, “It is OK for Christians to Vote No on Prop 8” on my website, bobcargill.com. In my remaining time, I shall offer only a summary of my argument.

The key to counseling those affected by racism or homophobia from a standpoint of faith is to approach the biblical text with a hermeneutic (or way of reading the Bible) that is thematic, as opposed to fundamentalist or literal, and which understands the Bible as a narrative about individuals of faith written by individuals of faith within a particular social context in a given period in history. This means approaching the Bible not as a blueprint, or as a set of rules, but as a document that records the earliest attempts by people of faith to demonstrate the presence of God through ministry towards the marginalized.

When we approach the text as a body of law to which we appeal in order to draw support for our predetermined positions, we rip verses from their textual and social contexts, and can make the Bible say pretty much whatever we want it to say. This is called prooftexting, and leads to countless problems theologically as well as practically. The alternative is to understand the text as an attempt to communicate a knowledge of God and a care for the suffering to others. This approach sees the text not only as the word of God, but also as a product of the various cultures in which they were written, including Canaanite, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman. The statutes and directives offered by the biblical text are understood not as rules binding all peoples of all cultures for all time, but as directives for a particular audience in a particular social setting. Approaching the biblical text in this thematic and social way not only allows for the biblical text to remain relevant to societies as they evolve and develop over time, but guards against glaring inconsistencies stemming from fundamentalist readings of the text.

To illustrate the problems encountered by attempting to apply the “rules” of the Bible to all societies for all time, I shall offer a few examples. The examples I have chosen for this exercise have special importance to the issue of marriage, especially those arguing for a “traditional” or even a “Christian” model of marriage.

First, the idea that there exists a singular “biblical” model for marriage is a myth. The Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) clearly demonstrates that polygamy was the acceptable marital norm, and that acceptable ways of procuring a wife included working fourteen years for your uncle in exchange for his two daughters (Jacob in Gen. 29), demanding your parents bring you the wife of your choice (Samson in Judg. 14), hiding in the bushes and snatching dancing women (Benjamites of Judg. 21), collecting 200 foreskins of your father-in-law’s enemies in exchange for a wife (David in 1 Sam. 18), killing a man and taking his wife (David again in 2 Sam. 11), marrying a prostitute (Hosea 1), getting a woman as a part of  a land purchase (Boaz in Ruth 4), and of course, just having God make you a wife while you sleep (Adam in Gen 2).

As far as the New Testament is concerned, the apostle Paul clearly states in 1 Cor. 7 that if a Christian ideal exists, it is life as an unwed, single person. Paul goes so far as to offer the timeless wisdom of 1 Cor. 7:28 when he states, “But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”

Second, Christians have learned to address other social prohibitions mentioned in the Bible in alternative ways. I shall offer three brief examples. The first is that of the social institution of slavery. Col. 3:22 states, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly.” 1 Pet. 2:18 says that slaves should obey even harsh slave masters, stating, “Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.” Eph. 6:5 goes so far as to equate one’s service to one’s master with service to Jesus himself, stating, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ.” Not only does the Bible not view the social institution of slavery as a sin, but on several occasions endorses the practice, adjuring slaves to comply with the institution of slavery. Additionally, in the biblical letter of Philemon, the apostle Paul insists that a runaway slave named Onesimus return to his slave master Philemon. Far from any “I have a dream” speech, the Bible appears to consistently endorse the practice of slavery, that is, if the Bible is read fundamentally.

It is important to underscore the fact that these biblical passages did not magically disappear from the Bible during the early abolitionist movement or throughout the Civil War. In fact, it was conservative, fundamentalist Christians that were openly advocating for the continuation of slavery, citing both tradition and the biblical precedent of the practice of slavery as evidence of “God’s plan” and approval of the continued suppression of the civil rights of certain individuals.

Fortunately, by the time the civil rights movement arrived in the 1960’s, a majority of Americans were prepared to grant equal rights to African-Americans. However in the southern Bible Belt, where a more fundamentalist reading of the Bible is espoused, the integration of public schools had to be forced upon the populace with the landmark judgment in the case of Oliver Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka. Thus, the issue of slavery offers us a perfect example of a social practice where the Bible clearly states a position (an endorsement of and comfort with the practice of slavery) that our modern democracy has rejected outright. Modern people of faith have learned to read the biblical verses pertaining to slavery as products of a 2000-year old social environment, and not as eternal mandates for all peoples for all time, and rightly so.

Let us look at another example: the portrayal of the role of women in the Bible. On several occasions in the Bible, women are instructed to “remain silent” and to “submit to their husbands.” 1 Cor. 14:34 states, “Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says,” demonstrating that the early church simply accepted existing laws ordering women to remain subject to men. 1 Tim. 2:12 states, “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent,” again reinforcing the notion that women are subject to men’s authority. Col. 3:18 reminds women, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord,” noting that a wife’s submission to her husband is ordained by God. Eph. 5:22-23 makes the case for a hierarchy among men and women more clearly, stating, “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church.”

There is clear traditional and biblical evidence that argues that women should remain in their “God given” roles as secondary to men. And yet, many Christians have rightly learned to understand these prohibitions as a result of a long history of subjugation of women, including the Greco-Roman period, in which the New Testament was composed. Thus, despite the biblical injunctions adjuring women to remain silent, most Christians have allowed women equal rights, at least in the civic arena, where the issue of Proposition 8 and gay marriage is being debated.

I shall also point out the tremendous irony that women have achieved in civil society what they are still struggling to achieve in the church. Despite Gal. 3:28’s conclusion that “in Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female,” it is precisely “in Christ” (that is, in the church) that women still do not enjoy the same levels of equality as they experience in the secular world. Clearly, there is still much work for Christians to do with regard to the role of women in the church.

The third manner in which Christians have learned to reinterpret biblical passages pertaining specifically to marriage that they find to their dislike is with regard to verses addressing divorce. If a definition of “biblical sin” is the standard by which some Christians are denying same-sex couples the civil rights that accompany marriage, then why are other actions described as “sins” in the Bible, such as divorce, not also grounds for the denial of the right to marry? The Bible speaks plainly about divorce, stating in 1 Cor. 7:11 that a divorced individual should be reconciled to his or her spouse or should not remarry. There is no doubt that in most cases, divorce negatively affects child rearing and gender roles (or lack thereof) in divorced, single parent homes—an argument repeatedly made by proponents of Prop 8 as to why same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry. Why is same-sex marriage treated differently than divorce, when both are given as reasons not to marry in the Bible? To most Christians, divorce is just as much a sin as homosexuality, yet, despite clear biblical injunctions against divorced individuals remarrying, we do not see a group dedicated to “protecting traditional marriage” introducing ballot measures and constitutional amendments calling for the prohibition of same-sex marriages, nor for the dissolution of those marriages that have already taken place in which one of those being wed was divorced. Likewise, there is no proposed state proposition that would prohibit divorced individuals seeking to remarry from receiving state marriage benefits. This is because, as far as divorce is concerned, Christians have learned to separate the scriptural teachings on divorce from the civil and state ramifications of it. Divorced individuals have the legal right to remarry in this state, even though the Bible prohibits it. Why should it be any different for same-sex couples seeking to get married?

Issues such as the practice of slavery, women’s role in society, and issues of divorce clearly demonstrate that Christians can and have learned to separate biblical teachings concerning social issues from modern state law. Despite the Bible’s prohibition or endorsement of certain social practices in the first two centuries of the Common Era, Christians have gradually accepted that the attitudes towards some of these social practices have changed, and have allowed the state to legislate accordingly.

If Christians continue to impose a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible upon state law, not only do we open ourselves to much deserved accusations of blatant hypocrisy, but we risk imposing upon the state the very real threat of a Christian equivalent of Sharia Law—the very thing we condemn in fundamentalist Islamic countries.

But for those of us seeking to live out lives of advocacy for social justice, the issue is not only one of legality, but also one of service and support of all those affected by the same-sex marriage debate on both sides of the issue. Those of us that counsel, teach, and minister from standpoints of faith must overcome this additional societal skepticism. Whether or not one believes homosexuality to be a “sin,” we must all agree that we are to seek opportunities to serve all those marginalized by our state’s decisions, whatever they might be. Regardless of our stance on same-sex marriage, we must commit ourselves to patience, understanding, and support of all those affected by this very real debate.

I want the Pepperdine community to hear me on this: It is simply not enough to declare political neutrality on issues that adversely affect the daily lives of so many of those that live and work among us! For those faculty members and students in the Pepperdine community who oppose Proposition 8, there needs to be a more public and vocal effort made to defend the rights of those being discriminated against and to serve them, even if you happen to disagree with their system of beliefs.

Those Pepperdine employees who promoted and defended Proposition 8 were vociferous and adamant about their position. It is not enough for those Pepperdine faculty members and students who oppose Prop 8 to stand idly by and hold the coats of those who promote Prop 8, and who openly advocate for constitutional discrimination against homosexuals!

The Christian that argues that the prohibitions against homosexuals are effective for all cultures and for all time must also be prepared to declare equally and consistently that the directives endorsing slavery and the subjugation of women, as well as the prohibition against allowing divorced individuals to remarry are equally valid for all times. Anything less than an equally vociferous campaign against allowing women to have authority over men, or in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban divorced individuals from remarrying, lacks consistency, loses all credibility, and well deserves the label of unapologetic hypocrite!

But those of us who seek to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God, will learn to approach the Bible as we do those whom we serve: with patience, forgiveness, empathy, and the kind of service and support that cares for the person, and not for the political position. Of course, some will argue that issues of slavery and the suppression of women are “different” than the present debate over same-sex marriage. They will argue that those were different times, and that we now live in a different society, far removed from the atrocities of slavery and the subjugation of women. And yet, at some point in history, those past issues were the present, and those debates and battles became riots and unfortunately, a civil war. It is my prayer that we do not look back 40 years from now at what we are doing to homosexuals today in the same way we now look back 40 years ago in disgust at what our nation did to African-Americans. Because yesterday’s “they” is today’s “we,” and we now have the opportunity to remedy the discrimination “we” have recently set into law in the name of “tradition.” May we continue to advocate against this grave injustice, and may we do so before any more lives and loving relationships are asked to take a second-class seat at the back of the bus.

Thank you.

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