I haven't been blogging too much lately because I have been up to my neck in research on the Gospel of John as I am preparing for the upcoming Hidden God, Hidden Histories conference. This research has been both enlightening and depressing, a sort of high and low of my academic journey.
I have known for a long time that traditions are conservative and self-interested, but what is coming home for me in a very real way is just how much the traditions are safe-guarded by the dominant group - be it the mainstream churches or the academy - and how far the dominant group will go to protect them. The interests and preservation of those interests often become the end-all, even at the expense of historical truth. The rationalizations, the apologies, the 'buts', the tortured exegesis, the negative labeling, the side-stepping, the illogical claims accumulate until they create an insurmountable wall that preserves both church and academy, which remain (uncomfortably so for me) symbiotic.
The entrenchment of the academy is particularly worrisome for me. Scholars' works are often spun by other scholars, not to really engage in authentic critical debate or review, but to cast the works in such a way that they can be dismissed (if they don't support the entrenchment) or engaged (if they do). In other words, fair reproduction of the author's position and engagement with it does not seem to me to be the top priority. The quest for historical knowledge does not appear to me to be the major concern. It usually plays back seat to other issues including the self-preservation of the ideas and traditions of the dominant parties - those who control the churches, and the academy with its long history of alliance with the churches.
I already know that what I have to say about the critical history of the Gospel of John and the origins of Christianity is going to be countered with the full force of the church and academic tradition that has built up around the fourth gospel a secure armor of 'correct' and 'permitted' interpretation, an exegetical tradition as old as the Johannine epistles that has worked to normalize, to deradicalize, to tame the beast. What I have to say is 'not allowed' speech, 'can't be' talk.
Even so I continue to study and write, to speak the unspeakable in my quest to remain fully engaged with the critical investigation of Christian history.