Pete Enns & The Bible for Normal People

7 things the SBL/AAR needs to learn from the NCAA

IMG_0584

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works.Tweets at @peteenns.

IMG_0584One of my roles at Eastern University is Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR), which is, among other things, something like a hostage negotiator between coaches and faculty when game schedules conflict with class time. There’s more to it than that, but I’m learning on the job.

A perk of this position is that I get to be a delegate at the NCAA annual convention, which is where I am at this very moment in San Antonio, TX.

So I’m walking around with my lanyard and ID badge and I get to thinking, “This is SBL/AAR for jocks” (the annual academic conference I go to). You see a lot of people scurrying to meetings, wearing badges, buying stuff, standing on long lines to get overpriced food, and going to hear lectures—although these lectures have names like “Division III Education Session: Student-Athlete Well-Being and Mental Health” as opposed to something like, “A Postcolonial (Re)presentation of the Hebrew Verbal System.”

So a lot of similarities, but also some key differences. There are things that the NCAA simply does better than when academics run a conference.

First of all, the ID badges. They have the vital info printed on both sides. SBL/AAR veterans know how annoying it is to look down after doing some serious book browsing only to see your lanyard twisted around with the blank side of the ID badge facing out! I am hoping SBL/AAR schedules several meetings to look into possibly adopting this technological advance.

Speaking of lanyards, you don’t just grab one from a pile like at SBL/AAR. Oh no. The NCAA hands you one fitting of your rank. They are color-coded and your color indicates whether you are able to vote on certain things or even to speak. This is brilliant. There are many, many people at SBL/AAR who shouldn’t be allowed to speak.

The people here, men and women, are generally far better looking than academics. I can’t stress this enough.

Each registrant gets a 25% off certificate for the NCAA gift shop. I got a really nice long-sleeve T-shirt for $3. I own nothing with the SBL logo on it, except for the same #!*@ bag they give you each year. This is such a problem it has it’s own Facebook page.

Some of the sessions are open only to invited guests. Lord I would give my right arm . . .

I’ve been here for a day and I have seen no badge sniffing. For the uninitiated, badge sniffing occurs when you are trying to inconspicuously size someone up by their ID badges to see which of you is the alpha—sort of like dogs sniffing each other’s pee. SBL/AAR takes this ritual very seriously and offers online tutorials.

They have this incredible conference app that is actually functional and glitch-free. It also features—get this—highlights ofStarbucks the day’s meetings. The one I’m staring at right now says, “Council changes date for students to remove names from NBA draft.” Perhaps one day the SBL/AAR app will give us highlights. “Veteran scholar reduces grad student to tears during Q&A in the Bultmann session.” “N. T. Wright and Bart Ehrman stare each other down for 5 full minutes.” “Line for Starbucks reaches record length.”

That’s it for now. I plan to pick up the blogging pace once this week is behind me.

Get smarter about the Bible and stuff.

Get insider updates + articles + podcast + more.