On My Way to SBL

That’s Society of Biblical Literature. The annual meeting is in New Orleans.

This is my first SBL. I think I am heading back into Hebrew Bible studies (my masters in 1998 from Emory was in this field) and with a concentration in Ezekiel.

There are a few hilarious papers. You have to understand thousands of papers are delivered at this conference and some are quite weird and many are very specialized and obscure.

My favorite weird ones:

(1) Lynn Huber, Elon University
What a Drag: How Queer Performance and Critique Can Contribute to Explorations of the Bible and Popular Culture

n the 2008 movie Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist an inebriated young woman calls her friend and proclaims, “I’ve found Jesus!” We see her look up, as she repeats, “Jesus! He’s much taller in person.” Standing next to her is an actor dressed as Jesus smoking a cigarette. We learn later that this Jesus is part of a holiday themed drag-show. Interestingly, the character dressed as the Son of God reads as male, perhaps alluding to the ambiguous gendering of Jesus in the biblical and Christian traditions. The drag Jesus, moreover, reminds us that drag, camp and other forms of queer performance and culture are often about more than entertainment for entertainment’s sake; rather, queer performance can be understood as a critique of dominant cultures, political, social, and religious, which inscribe heteronormativity and strict categories of gender and sexuality. In this vein, a drag Jesus might serve to challenge conservative Christian views of Jesus as a defender of “family values.” (A recent video featuring the actor Jack Black as a Jesus who challenges California’s Proposition 8 functioned similarly.) As a form of critique, the performances of queer culture often exist in tension with popular culture in general, critiquing the latter, while the latter seeks to embrace, constrain and commodify queer culture. In light of this messy relationship, this paper will highlight some of the ways that queer culture might contribute a critical and important voice to conversations about engaging the intersections between popular culture and the biblical texts and traditions.

(2) Tony Michael, York University
The Dark Knight as Prophetic Realism: A Minority Voice in American Super Hero Culture

Scholars Jewett & Lawrence argue that American civil religion is bifurcated by two contradictory traditions—zealous nationalism which seeks to redeem the world by the destruction of enemies and which dominates American behavior and prophetic realism which seeks to redeem the world for coexistence by the impartial enforcement of law. Recent big-budget films such as Superman Returns, Ironman and Spiderman perfectly demonstrate the dominant view as endemic to both narrative and character development whereas only The Dark Knight represents the minority tradition. This presentation will suggest that the minority voice can be seen in such a film in all of its parts (i.e., dialogue and visual). This apparent evidence of the Jewett & Lawrence position can be quite stunning.

Yeah! A little Batman Dark Knight mixing with Biblical studies. I’m sad I can’t see that one.

I am mostly looking forward to some Ezekiel papers, some papers on the Didache, some early Jewish-Christian relations research, and a session of papers on the Sabbath in early Judaism.

So watch out New Orleans, a collection of the world’s Bible scholars and students is about to descend.


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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2 Responses to On My Way to SBL

  1. toma4moshiach says:


    We will miss you in Gotham! The Dark Knight as Prophetic Realism sounds like a great one to see. I cannot believe you are missing it.

    I look forward to your thoughts on the meeting.

    Let it be a Blessing,


  2. timfretheim says:

    Derek, Your meet at SBL is very interesting! You tweeked my interest with the cultural stuff, though I’m sure that a drag Jesus is enough to create riot in some quarters. I'[m new to this and it has been a learning expereince. I led a group last night from our church and we discussed Replacenment theology – superseccessionism. Any thoughts on this? Thanks, Tim

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