Friday, October 9, 2009

An Outrage

No, I'm not referring to Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize, although giving a Peace Prize to the Warmaker in Chief is a bloody rude slap in the face to all the people around the world bearing the brunt of US military shock and awe or just plain meddling.

No, I'm referring to the news I received this morning via Facebook that the University of Sheffield in the UK is planning to close undergraduate programs in the Department of Biblical Studies there. As Jim West says, "The Department is one of the finest in the UK with a fantastic reputation around the world- staffed, as it is, by many of the leading scholars of the field" It also appears that this is being done on the sly with everyone being kept in the dark by the University. However, the students have been organising. There's a Facebook group here and people are being urged to email the Vice Chancellor at to protest this disgraceful injustice.

The decision is incomprehensible because, again to quote Jim, "The Department is one of the finest in the UK with a fantastic reputation around the world- staffed, as it is, by many of the leading scholars of the field." Such secrecy and willingness to axe a whole undergraduate area seem too much part and parcel of Universities these days. No longer a community of scholars, unversities are all managerialised and corporatised these days.

Here's some more from the Facebook group:

This Facebook group has three main concerns:

1) We have not yet been officially informed, and would not have been until it was too late if it wasn't for the Union of Students. We do not consider the University's 'consultation process' regarding the closure to have been sufficiently thorough, and will are urging the University to choose 'no' at the deciding vote until this process has been properly carried out.

2) Regardless of the promises of the University, the quality of teaching WILL suffer. Take, for example, first-year dual honours students doing four-year degrees. Does the University seriously expect a department catering to one or two students to offer the necessary expertise and teaching? Postgraduate research, which is to continue in the department, will also suffer with staff cuts and the lack of research environment.

3) We are shocked that the University wants to close such a prestigious and internationally recognised department, also home to the JSNT and JSOT journals and Sheffield Phoenix Press. Sheffield offers the only Biblical Studies undergraduate course in the UK, and we believe the department to be a great asset to the University and to the wider field of biblical research.

A lot came up at the meeting today so if there's something you'd like me to put up on this group send me a message and I'll do it. Thanks to the Student Union for their help so far, and also to Alison and the rest of the Bibs staff for being generally awesome (and somewhat caught in the middle of all this)."

There's more at Sans Blogue here and at Baptist Bookworm here.

FURTHER UPDATE You can also check out this site that has been set up in support of the Dept. It gives some more background and you can cast your vote in support of the Dept's undegraduate progreams continuing.


  1. I'm not so surprised. It belongs with a rapidly growing disrespect in UK and even secularist war against all things religious, especially Christian.

    It has quickly risen to lunatic levels like recently a couple of hotel owners who were asked their opinion about Mohammed in a dining room conversation and said they didn't like he was a warlord have been charged by police for "public disorder" because a Muslim lady present said the warlord opinion was insulting to her all Muslims. So the couple are up for trial in December.

    Despite all the fuss to get a nurse who
    asked if she could pray for a patient off the hook and then the eventual vindication of an airhostess's right to wear a tiny cross on a flight to Egypt lest Muslims be offended (Christians have few real rights in Egypt), there is now a case against a nurse in Exeter because her small cross she's been wearing for 30 years would be "unhygenic" for patients and she must remove it.

    The Daily Mail, a popular paper that has highighted this case, says there are now numerous cases like it and that Christians are being sidelined or semi-persecuted. This isn't exaggeration; even Tony Blair freely admitted after he retired from being PM that he never discussed or protested anything religious while in power lest he be thought "a nutter", because that's how you'll be treated in UK today (it sounds rather cowardly in a PM to me). And I forget what leading journalist has said to be Christian is to be sidelined in British society.

    So there is a very real problem here but some Christians are so naive and blind to the erosion of religous rights in Europe that those as at the Ecclesia group play into the hands of secularists saying there's too much religion around and there should be disestablishment of the C of E (isn't it already as good as disestablished anyway?) and Christianity should be a protest movement. At the rate things are going it won't be free to be anything else in UK soon because Christians will be losing life savings just going to courts trying to defend their most basic rights to be or say anything at all, including of course their rights to say anything in the pulpit about gays and homosexuality - gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, has said protection of gay rights in Britain is simply too extreme and threatens free speech itself. (You can theoretically be jailed for years if you offend gays so that soon there will be cases like the admittedly silly elderly pastor in Sweden who got jailed for his sermon....) Anyway, I am sure that this cavalier treatment of a leading religious studies dept belongs to this whole new politically correct, aggressively secularist mindset that is overtaking things and which would consider study of religion a waste of time, money and energy in the brave new world.

  2. Maybe, Rollan. Although the Dept itself is pretty secular in its overall approach. I suspect it's more the general attack on the Humanities that's unfolded as universities have become more managerialist and corporate. Cost-cutting is the name of the game.

  3. While I'm sure cost-cutting is something to do with it, you will find that in UK the growing discrimination against religion is almost never direct as in the case I mentioned of the nurse's cross being "unhygenic". There is always some other, indirect, covering, plausible reason. But it's secularism by stealth and those who are secularist aren't interested in distinctions like fundamentalist or liberal though they may be a bit more against the former than the latter which is easier to detect and attack. But basically it's all the same superstition to be got rid of.

  4. I don't see how a claim that Christianity is being persecuted and hounded out of public life in the UK can be supported when it is, after all, the very public state religion.

    The Daily Mail is simply whipping up populist Islamophobia and xenophobia that fits in well with the notion of bedeviled little post-Empire Britain. The 'persecuted Christians' line has the same political agenda and truth-value of the 'refugees are taking all the public housing' or the 'Poles are eating all the swans in Hyde Park' lines.

    Blair never wanted to look like a religious nut for the very good reason that he was using religious justifications and invoking the will of God to argue for the Iraq war. It's not a sign of militant secularisation for people to be more than a little skeptical about going to war on the basis of Tony's Talks With God - which would be a nice name for a kid's book.

  5. Oh twaddle. I'm sick of hearing such half brained, resentful, cynical lazy talk. The cases mentioned, one or two among many are really serious violations of religious rights and you should know it. Some people are never able to see when this is happening. Rather just sleep away and do the cynical while Nazi propoganda against Jews or whatever builds force. Life and history are full of it. One should take each issue on its merits, not come up with some preferred narrative, left, right, postmodern or whatever.