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Party With The Godly Honky Haters

No Whites Allowed at Luce Foundation-funded reception at major academic religion conference
Two men separated by red line

A reader calling himself or herself “Concerned Scholar” writes:

On numerous occasions, you have effectively shed light on corrupt crazy wokeness in academe. I am writing anonymously to share with you a particularly egregious instance of this. Yet it speaks to much broader currents in certain sectors of academe, especially religious studies and theology.

The American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) are the two main international professional guilds for scholars of religion. They host a meeting every year in a different location in North America. There are all kinds of meetings that happen at these, from conference papers and book discussions to receptions. Something happening at this meeting does not mean that AAR or SBL has actively approved it, so this is not on AAR or SBL, and I think once it comes to their attention will be recognized as the bigotry that it is.

The Political Theology Network is a major group of theology and religion scholars who study religion, theology, and politics. They are funded by a $350,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. This follows on the heels of a $200,000 grant they received from Luce in 2017. This is huge, huge money, especially for humanities, even more for theology.

How are they spending this money? Well, they are sponsoring a public ‘no whites allowed’ reception at this year’s AAR/SBL. 

Screenshot from American Academy of Religion 2019 conference website

The reader continues:

From 7-8 pm, non-whites will have their own private reception, free from the presence of whites. Then at 8 — and only at 8 — will whites be allowed in. What test will they apply to be sure that someone is officially not white? Will it be based on skin pigmentation? Proof of ancestry? I have seen a lot of insane stuff, but this may top it all.

To be clear, I am entirely supportive of groups that may exist primarily to advocate for this or that marginalized and underrepresented groups. There are good reasons to have these kinds of groups and to offer spaces for folks to make certain sorts of connections and have time with one another. And there are groups like that for African-Americans, women, and so on. These groups exist exactly for solidarity and fellowship among people who often feel or are excluded in various ways. But this is something else entirely.

This is supposed to be a network of scholars who study and research about politics and religion. Period. But instead it is taking its half a million dollars and hanging up a “no whites allowed” sign. This is absolutely disgusting and dangerous. It has to be stopped or it’s going to get worse and worse. The fact is versions of this are already happening in academe but it is rarely so explicit.

Well, I guess it depends on who counts as a member of an “Under-represented Group.” Are straight black men allowed? Anyway, Concerned Scholar says that the Luce Foundation surely doesn’t know about this, because, in CS’s words, “There is no way that Luce would want to pay for racist parties.”

CS adds:

You should also know that even pointing this out or asking a question about it would itself be career-ending and make one a permanent pariah.

It’s crazy that even calling attention to the fact that there is a reception where white people aren’t allowed to go because of the color of their skin would be “career-ending.” But that’s academia today. Non-white scholars have to be protected from defilement by the ick of whiteness — and they’re doing it on a foundation’s dime.

Here, from the PTN website, is its self-description:

The Political Theology Network aims to be a hub for exploring the intersection of religious and political ideas and practices. The Network is interdisciplinary, publicly engaged, and committed to building links between theologians, practitioners, and humanities scholars. Riding a wave of scholarly interest in political theology that itself follows the increasing visibility of religion in public life, the Network seeks to create the infrastructure that will allow this interest to flourish in the long term, supporting discussions of political theology in the classroom, in scholarly research, and in the public arena. By bringing scholars thinking with the term “political theology” from throughout the humanities together with scholars of religious traditions, we aim to thicken the appreciation of religion’s complexity among the former while sharpening the critical edge of the latter.

With support from a major grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, the Political Theology Network is organizing three sorts of activities. A biennial conference, the first of which was held at Emory University in February 2018, brings together scholars of political theology from various disciplines who would not have the opportunity to connect at their own disciplinary association meetings. This website and the podcast hosted here offer an entry-point into scholarly conversations about political theology and reflect the orientation of the Network as a whole toward social justice and public engagement. Finally, through dissertation workshops, a mentoring program for underrepresented graduate students, and outreach to other professional associations, the Network seeks to broaden the field of political theology while securing diversity and inclusivity as core values.

Emphasis mine. Social justice! I just knew it. The cult is everywhere.

By the way, PTN is based at Villanova, whose theology department is home to Katie Grimes, America’s Theological Sweetheart™. I don’t know what Prof. Katie Grimes is going to do with her white self from 7 to 8 pm on Saturday night at the conference.




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