Happy New Year!

I survived the Mayan Apocalypse. Go Science!

To all who celebrate, I want to wish you a wonderful coming year.

You survived the Mayan Apocalypse and Jesus didn’t return. So in the coming year…

- May you discover much you didn’t know, and may you integrate that knowledge into your life.
- May you find that for which you seek, and find something you did not expect.
- May you learn Hebrew and Aramaic for all the right reasons.
- And, may your life be full of smiles, confident nods from across the room, sidecars, and scholarly publications.

Cheers, and onward!

Robert Cargill

Winners and Losers in the Emmanuel Christian Seminary Scandal

Dr. Christopher Rollston is kicked off the sinking Emmanuel Christian Seminary ship. Image by Daniel O. McClellan (http://danmcclellanart.wordpress.com)

Image by Daniel O. McClellan (http://danmcclellanart.wordpress.com)

It’s finally over. The Emmanuel Christian Seminary tenure scandal, stemming from Emmanuel’s attempt to fire (the very tenured) Dr. Chris Rollston, has been resolved.

Dr. Rollston has voluntarily resigned his position at Emmanuel Christian Seminary after completing the Fall 2012 semester. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that Dr. Rollston had accepted a Visiting Professorship at George Washington University in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations beginning in the spring of 2013.

Meanwhile, Dr. Michael Sweeney, President of Emmanuel Christian Seminary, announced that Emmanuel is taking steps toward being wholly acquired by neighboring Milligan College, but only after a donor forks over a substantial sum to alleviate Emmanuel’s existing debts.

All of this has caused me to reflect upon Emmanuel’s self-inflicted wounds in the form of an old Newsweek-style (remember them?) “Winners and Losers” post.


Winners

Chris Rollston – Some will spin argue that Dr. Rollston lost because Emmanuel ultimately got what it wanted: his departure. But those with eyes will see that this is a HUGE win for Dr. Rollston. He ended up with a better job at a much more prestigious university (had you ever heard of Emmanuel before the scandal?), with a faculty and administration that will protect, defend, and promote him, and, he won’t miss a day of teaching during the transition. He’ll have colleagues like Dr. Eric Cline with whom he can discuss his discipline, and he won’t have to worry about duplicitous “colleagues” on the thought police questioning his scholarship or divulging confidential personnel matters on Facebook. Dr. Rollston landed at better school, didn’t miss a day of work, and I’m guessing got paid for his troubles. (Again, please correct me if no cash was paid to Dr. Rollston as part of this “amicable resolution“). This is definitely a win for Chris Rollston.

George Washington University – What a steal! GWU got to hire an excellent professor the way that other ball clubs sign talented free agents out of Oakland or Miami. (Sorry, baseball joke.) AND, Eric Cline gets credit for stepping up with a great offer, which will earn him many points (as well as a few beers I’m guessing) with the academy. Big win for GWU!

Academic Freedom – It’s actually nice to see academic freedom win one every once in a while. With the deplorable treatment of excellent scholars by confessional schools over the past few years, it’s nice to see academic freedom, critical scholarship, and fundamental concepts like academic tenure come out on top now and then. It was nice to see Inside Higher Education get involved when Libby Nelson’s article broke the story onto the national scene. It was also nice to see the multitude of scholars line up to lend their voice and support to Dr. Rollston. It demonstrates that scholars must stick together to protest the underhanded workings of many confessional schools, who only hope that the academy will stand idly by and silently hold the coats of those attempting to dismiss good scholars because of their academic speech. This was a win for academic freedom.


Draw

Milligan CollegeMilligan will get to pick up the remaining Emmanuel assets during the forthcoming fire sale, and some quality professors to boot (if they choose to stay, but I’m guessing a few have updated their resumes and, let us say, have perhaps had some quiet conversations with colleagues at other schools during SBL last month). However, Milligan now has to deal with a fiscally problematic seminary with a tainted reputation. Will students will want to attend a place that fires their favorite (and very tenured) professors because said professors won’t toe a denominational line? Will students want to pay big private tuition dollars for a degree from a school now associated with the far right and the suppression of academic theological thought?

Still, the acquisition of the property across the 359 from Milligan (presently Emmanuel) should be seen as a opportunistic acquisition.


Losers

Emanuel Christian Seminary – Some will surely argue that Emmanuel won this standoff, and Emmanuel may attempt to spin this as a victory because they got what they ultimately wanted: the departure of Chris Rollston. However, the price they paid both in attempting to fire a tenured professor, and the price of the clumsily orchestrated and completely botched administrative handling of this scandal is so great, they must be characterized as losers. This is more than cutting off your nose to spite your face: this is sinking your own ship to spite your best professor.

Emmanuel may have avoided a law suit by paying off Rollston (allegedly), but the damage done to the Seminary’s reputation, coupled with their existing financial woes, ultimately doomed the school.

When all is said and done, Emmanuel Christian Seminary will cease to exist as an independent entity. It is desperately trying to get itself acquired by Milligan.

So sure, they got rid of a professor that a couple of people thought wasn’t doctrinally conservative enough, but in doing so, the school went under, and will have to be absorbed by Milligan College.

Ironically, that’s usually what happens when the good professors leave a school: it suffers and ultimately ceases to be. And this is probably not a bad thing, as the “Emmanuel brand” is so toxic right now, they essentially need to do like Philip Morris did and just change their name to Altria (or in this case, “Milligan”), start over, and hope no one notices (or at least that everyone forgets). The school will cease to be independent, they sullied their academic reputation, and they lost Chris Rollston. Three HUGE losses for Emmanuel.

Paul Blowers – Hardly anyone outside of Emmanuel had ever heard of Paul Blowers prior to the scandal. And now that the scandal is over, he’ll be forever known as the thought policeman who tried to get Chris Rollston fired. Lowlights include an awful article at Bible and Interpretation, in which he attempted to wiggle out of the mess he helped create (AKA trying to dig himself out of a hole), which generated a plethora of puns and the ever-puzzling “cheap seats” refrain, as well getting into an online shouting match with an undergraduate (and having it handed to him.) He disclosed confidential disciplinary proceedings on Facebook (proceedings some say he helped start), and was exposed for doing so. What’s more, it took Blowers far too long to put down the shovel and stop talking online. In trying to clean up his own mess and defend himself, he only made matters worse, and placed Emmanuel in a precarious legal position (which fortunately was “amicably re$olved”). BIG time loss.

Michael Sweeney – From attempting to fire a tenured professor, to not knowing how to handle a simple press release, this was an abject failure for President Sweeney and the Emmanuel administration. Dr. Sweeney successfully oversaw the demise of his seminary. It was an utter mess – one that will end with Milligan College having to step in and bail out what’s left of the school.


In the end, Dan McClellan‘s editorial cartoon captures it all in a single frame: Dr. Rollston improved his career, and Emmanuel will cease to be.

When all is said and done, it’s a victory for critical scholarship, tenure, and academic freedom. And for once, it’s nice to see the good guy win.

On the Difference Between Rendering to Caesar and Rendering to God

No Double Dipping

Let’s be very clear about one thing:

Mark 12:17 says:

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

It does NOT say:

“Render to God whatever you want, and Caesar must render to you a tax credit as if you rendered it to Caesar.”

Thank you to all who sent letters in support of Chris Rollston

Thank you noteI’d like to offer a very big THANK YOU to all who sent letters in support of Dr. Chris Rollston.

According to Professor Rollston, the case involving his attempted termination has been “amicably resolved”. (I’m guessing there was a substantial cash settlement involved that kept Emmanuel from a further embarrassing and certainly losing effort in court. Please correct me if there was no cash payment involved in said “amicable resolution”.)

I want to thank my colleagues who sent letters to this blog and/or posted them elsewhere in support of Dr. Rollston. It was wonderful to see so many members of the academy, graduate and undergraduate students, alums, and friends, from such a wide spectrum of religious, doctrinal, and disciplinary perspectives, from around both the county and around the world, all rally behind academic freedom and the gross mistreatment of one of their own.

Dr. Rollston has voluntarily resigned the Toyozo W. Nakarai Professorship of Old Testament and Semitic Studies at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, and has accepted an offer at George Washington University in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations beginning in the spring of 2013, where he can work with our colleague, Dr. Eric Cline, and the remarkable faculty there. This, too, is wonderful news!

Thank you again for standing up publicly, especially for matters as important as academic freedom, tenure integrity, and for someone as gracious, poised, and humble as Chris Rollston. Thank you.

“Myth of a Christian Nation” Question of the Day

I have a question regarding the myth that the United States was founded as a

I have a question regarding the myth that the United States was founded as a “Christian nation”.

Following up on Piers Morgan’s debate with Rick Warren, here’s your “Myth of a Christian Nation” question of the day.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Thus, in the U.S., you can worship any god you want to worship, and this is legal, acceptable, and protected by the Constitution.

However, Deuteronomy 13:12-16 says the following:

Deut. 13:12 If you hear it said about one of the towns that the LORD your God is giving you to live in,
Deut. 13:13 that scoundrels from among you have gone out and led the inhabitants of the town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods,” whom you have not known,
Deut. 13:14 then you shall inquire and make a thorough investigation. If the charge is established that such an abhorrent thing has been done among you,
Deut. 13:15 you shall put the inhabitants of that town to the sword, utterly destroying it and everything in it—even putting its livestock to the sword.
Deut. 13:16 All of its spoil you shall gather into its public square; then burn the town and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God. It shall remain a perpetual ruin, never to be rebuilt.

Now, we have heard many Christians say that the laws of the Old Testament have been “nailed to the cross” and are no longer binding. For instance, despite the fact that Lev. 11:10-12 clearly states that the children of God cannot eat shellfish:

Lev. 11:10 But anything in the seas or the streams that does not have fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and among all the other living creatures that are in the waters—they are detestable to you
Lev. 11:11 and detestable they shall remain. Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall regard as detestable.
Lev. 11:12 Everything in the waters that does not have fins and scales is detestable to you.

Christians will argue that Peter’s vision in Acts 10 “trumps” this law, allowing Christians to eat food previously deemed “unkosher”.

Acts 10:13 Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.”
Acts 10:14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.”
Acts 10:15 The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”

Likewise, despite the fact that Exodus 20:8-10 – one of the 10 Commandments no less – clearly states that one should not work on the Sabbath,

Ex. 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Ex. 20:9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
Ex. 20:10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.

the NT gospel of Mark 2:27-28 states:

Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath;
Mark 2:28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

and Christians use this text to argue that even though at one time God had people PUT TO DEATH for so much as picking up sticks on the Sabbath (cf. Num. 15:32-36:

Num. 15:32 When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day.
Num. 15:33 Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses, Aaron, and to the whole congregation.
Num. 15:34 They put him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him.
Num. 15:35 Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp.”
Num. 15:36 The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. )

despite this, Christians no longer have to keep the Sabbath.

So, because the NT “overrides” the OT, the laws in the OT don’t have to be kept anymore.

EXCEPT, of course, for those laws that are NOT overridden, or better yet, those that are REITERATED and RESTATED by none less than Jesus himself, well, THOSE laws (like condemning homosexuals in Lev. 18:22 and Lev. 20:13 AND in Rom. 1:26–27, 1 Cor. 6:9–10, and 1 Tim. 1:9–10) – these OT laws are to be KEPT and ENFORCED by Christians, because the condemnation was repeated in the NT.

Got all that?? So here’s my question:

Where in the NT does Jesus say it’s OK to worship other gods?

Where does Paul say it? Where does Peter say it? I mean, if we’re supposedly a “Christian nation”, and Deuteronomy 13:12-16 clearly states that anyone who worships another god must be put to death – THEY AND THEIR ENTIRE TOWN!! – because another god was worshiped somewhere in the land, and if not one, but three of the 10 Commandments clearly state:

Ex. 20:3 you shall have no other gods before me.
Ex. 20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Ex. 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,

then there must be someplace in the NT where Jesus or Paul or SOMEBODY says it’s OK to worship other gods (IF, that is, we’re a “Christian nation”.) Right? It must be there in the NT, because religious plurality would CLEARLY violate the commands of the eternal, omnipotent, infallible, inerrant God who clearly spells out in no uncertain terms that we’re NOT supposed to worship other gods, and yet our nation has legislated, nay, our nation was founded on the idea of religious plurality. That is, our nation is founded on a principle that is directly contradictory to one of the most fundamental biblical Christian principles: worship only God.

So it must be in there somewhere.

So where is it?

I can’t find it in Matt. 4:10:

Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

I don’t see it in Matt. 22:36-38:

Matt. 22:36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
Matt. 22:37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
Matt. 22:38 This is the greatest and first commandment.

I don’t read it in 1 Cor. 10:14:

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols.

So WHERE IS IT EXACTLY that the NT authorizes our United States of America to protect those who worship other gods from the very punishments prescribed and authorized by the Bible against those who do so??

(And if the founding document of the U.S. is going legislate AGAINST the first 4 Commandments, then how again were we established as a “Christian Nation”?)

(Or, could it be that our nation was established with some laws that happen to be congruent with some Christian teaching (as well as with many other religions’ and philosophies’ teachings), but was NOT established as a “Christian nation”, especially given the fact that many of the founders were avowed Deists who believed in the existence of a god – a “grand architect of the universe” – but one who revealed himself through the strict physical laws of the universe – Deists who openly chastised Christians and Christianity for its reliance on miracles and mythology that contradicted the very fixed physical principles of nature they felt revealed the nature of God?)

But I digress. Let’s stick to the initial question: Where in the NT does it authorize our United States of America to protect those who worship other gods, when the OT clearly condemns it, IF we were founded as a “Christian nation”?


For more on this topic, read my earlier post: we were NOT founded as a christian nation: thoughts on article 11 of the u.s. treaty with tripoli

Also check out nonstampcollector’s (blog, YouTube) video, which makes a similar point:

Comments welcome.

A Quick Thought on Claims of the Mayan Apocalypse

Mayan Grocery List

Mayan Grocery List

Here’s a quick thought on the Mayan Calendar, the so-called Mayan Apocalypse, and December 21, 2012:

“Claiming the world will end because the Mayans ran out of room on their calendar is like claiming an apocalyptic famine is coming because you ran out of room on your grocery list.” – Robert R. Cargill

It’s all nonsense. Watch this for more, credible information.

Mayan Calendar Joke

Mayan Calendar Joke

Response to Dr. James Dobson, who blames Sandy Hook school massacre on gays, abortion

Dr. James Dobson (right) with Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.

Dr. James Dobson (right) with Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.

For all of you who once respected him, we’ve unfortunately come to witness Dr. James Dobson devolve over the past several years into nothing more than a right wing fundamentalist.

Dobson recently said the following on his morning program, Family Talk, regarding the Sandy Hook massacre:

“I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition.  Believe me, that is going to have consequences too.

And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us.  I think that’s what’s going on.” (audio here)

Dear Mr. Dobson,

Please stop. Just stop. Please stop telling us what you think God thinks (which, not coincidentally, happens to be precisely what the Evangelical GOP talking points tell you to think). In fact, please contact Pat Robertson and come to some agreement to retire together, because you’ve both absolutely lost your minds!

There are plenty of quality, good-hearted, kind, loving, and yes, faithful teachers in our public schools, and they give their entire lives to and for their kids (as we’ve recently seen at Sandy Hook Elementary). Why insult them by failing to acknowledge their efforts? Why judge them just because the government won’t let you force non-Christian elementary school kids to pray to Jesus (otherwise known as that maddening drum you refer to as “School Prayer” that you incessantly beat)?

Are you so blind to the thousands of good and loving teachers in our public schools – many of whom are devout Christians! – that you’d say “we’ve” (and therefore, “they’ve“) “turned their backs on God” just because the guy you voted for lost the Presidency?

Will you REALLY blame gays and abortion for the Newtown shootings? Is your God so small, so weak, and so readily obliging that he is somehow forced to abide by US domestic policy? Is your God so childishly petulant that he throws a fit in the form of a schoolhouse slaughter when he’s not honored enough? Not praised enough?

Enough! Retire already. But whatever you do, please stop talking nonsense.

Or, here’s a thought: focus on your own damn family, and stop criticizing mine, you theologically impotent, thoughtless hack.

Sincerely,

Robert R. Cargill

Focus on your OWN damn family.

Letter from Dr. Matthew Suriano in Support of Chris Rollston

I received the following letter from Dr. Matthew J. Suriano of The University of Maryland, which I am posting below. I have added the letter to Dr. Rollston’s list of public supporters here.


Dr. Matthew J. Suriano

Dr. Matthew J. Suriano

Dear President Sweeney and Dean Holland,

I add my voice to those of my colleagues in asking that you halt the termination proceedings for Professor Christopher Rollston, Toyozo W. Nakarai Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Studies, at Emmanuel Christian Seminary.  Prof. Rollston is one of the most prominent Semitic epigraphers in our field, and his contributions are considerable.  Therefore, I should think that his services to your seminary be held in the proper esteem.  Indeed, I find your treatment of this scholar inappropriate, and moreover, unfitting for an institution that recently added “Christian Seminary” to its name.  I feel that such a name change would bring with it a sense of duty to operate with a higher standard of ethics that bear witness to the institution’s purpose.  Instead, the situation is such that I must write this letter to you protesting the unethical treatment of a member of your faculty.  Even more disturbing is the fact that Professor Rollston has done nothing that contradicts the basic tenets of Christianity.  I state this because it seems that the controversy you have created has little to do with higher education inside the confines of a confessional institution.  To the contrary, the situation is nothing more than the suppression of intellectual freedom for reasons that are less than academic.

I urge you to reverse these actions against Professor Rollston.  It should be clear to you that the very integrity of your seminary is at stake in this matter.

Sincerely,

Matthew J. Suriano
Assistant Professor
The Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies
University of Maryland
http://dev.profile.arhu.umd.edu/msuriano/

Conservative Christian Priorities

My Conservative Christian Priorities (by Robert R. Cargill, 2012)Conservative Christians have spent more time defending their right to assault weapons this week than I ever recall having seen them defend the hungry, the poor, the sick (except to oppose their proposed healthcare), or the imprisoned. (Cf. Matt. 25:31-45)

Priorities are very telling.

There are poor in the world: “Meh.”
We should create healthcare for them: “No way, socialist!”
You probably shouldn’t have semi-automatic assault weapons anymore: “Christian soldiers, to arms!”

It HAS to change. It’s ABOUT to change.

The guns Adam Lanza used to kill Sandy Hook Elementary School children were NOT “stolen”

Stolen guns.

Stolen guns.

For the record:

The weapons Adam Lanza used to slaughter children at Sandy Hook Elementary weren’t exactly “stolen from the owner”. I know those defending the ability to purchase and possess assault weaponry want these to be “stolen” guns, and keep referring to them as “stolen” guns, but that’s not really the case.

The guns were household items. According to reports, Adam Lanza had access to them while living at home. His mother reportedly took him to the range to shoot the weapons. The mother bragged about owning the weapons and made very clear the reason why she had them, had many of them, and had quick access to them.

These were not weapons, for instance, that were stolen from a gun shop and then used to commit a crime; they were household items to which the killer had regular access.

If while living at home, a kid takes his dad’s shovel from the shed (the one that he uses to do his usual yard work and chores) and instead uses it to kill the neighbor’s cat, it’s not a “stolen” shovel. It’s still a crime, but the shovel isn’t reported as “stolen”. The kid had regular access to it.

Photo from the Hillcrest Baptist Church

NOT “stolen” gun. Photo from the Hillcrest Baptist Church “Father-son Gun Shoot”. (NOTE: The weapons aren’t shotguns..)

Or if, let us say (completely hypothetically of course) that a church (likely Baptist – see link at right) held an annual father-son breakfast and gun shoot, and the kids were taught and encouraged (as some form of evangelism, Bible study, of parental bonding in the name of Jesus) to shoot weapons by their parents, and then if the kids, while living at home and while having access to the same guns they are accustomed to shooting, used these guns to commit a crime, you’d have a hard time arguing that the guns were “stolen”. (Of course, the parents might claim that the teenager “stole” the gun to avoid legal liability, but the guns would be better classified as “proud household items”, not items “stolen” from somewhere or someone else.)

[For more on the dangers of giving kids access to unnecessary assault weapons, read this very sad case.]

NOT

NOT “stolen” gun. (The proud parent is even taking a picture of his son shooting an Uzi.)

A better example is the terrible scenario of when a kid living at home takes mom’s car (which he has driven before with his mom, and alone with his mother’s permission), and hits someone with the car and kills them. The police don’t consider the car a “stolen” vehicle, especially if the kid is listed on the mom’s insurance, and especially if mom had given the car to her child in the past, and even taken him to the range to drive the car for practice. Again, the mom might claim that the car was “stolen” to avoid legal liability, but I’m pretty certain that the victim’s family would have success arguing that the child had regular access and permission to drive the family’s car.

Gun advocates want to frame the weapons used by Adam Lanza as “stolen” so they can argue that banning assault weapons won’t stop “thieves” from “stealing” legal assault weapons (say, those owned by law enforcement officials), and then using these “stolen” weapons to commit crimes. They want to classify the Adam Lanza’s weapons as “stolen” so they can make a rhetorical defense of assault weapons and argue that new legislation against assault weapons won’t stop “thieves” from “stealing” them.

The only problem is that the weapons that Adam Lanza used weren’t “stolen”. They were household goods, proudly passed down from generation to generation (as gun advocates are wont to say). They belonged to his family, just like the car. It may have been registered in mom’s name, but it was the family car. And they were the family’s weapons. She may have kept the guns locked (again, like the car, and like the shed), but they were still the family’s guns.

NOT "stolen" gun

NOT “stolen” gun

The fact that some would resort to the rhetorical reclassification of weapons used to commit a crime in order to defend the ownership of assault weapons is a not only a transparently fallacious argument, but it betrays the weakness of the advocates of assault-weapons’ position.

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