Encyclopedia Editor Claims Critics Motivated by “The Devil”

From the Guardian:

 Academic publisher Blackwell has been accused of attempting to “dechristianise” the Encyclopedia of Christian Civilisation it was due to publish in order to make it politically correct.

The Encyclopedia’s editor-in-chief, George Kurian, claims that under pressure from an anti-Christian lobby, Blackwell decided that entries in the four-volume book were “too Christian, too orthodox, too anti-secular and too anti-Muslim and not politically correct enough for being used in universities”. Kurian also claims that the press wants to delete words including “Antichrist”, “Virgin Birth”, “Resurrection”, “Evangelism” and “Beloved Disciple” from the book, as well as objecting to “historical references to the persecution and massacres of Christians by Muslims”.

“To make the treatment ‘more balanced’, they also want the insertion of material denigrating Christianity in some form or fashion,” Kurian wrote in a letter he circulated to contributors criticising Blackwell’s actions. “This is the most blatant form of censorship in the history of religious publishing.”

Well, that puts the Vatican’s Index of Forbidden Books in its place.

Kurian is the editor of many encyclopedias, and he runs a company called George T. Kurian Reference Books. His attack on Blackwell was made a week ago in an email; blog Clavi Non Defixi has posted the text, which is astonishing in its hyperbole. Kurian claims that “the devil” is behind concerns raised by members of the editorial board about the work’s scholarship, and he wants us to believe that the phrase “not politically correct enough” was a direct quote. Here it is:

I am sorry to report a looming crisis in the publication of the Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization.

ECC was successfully completed in September 2008. It was completed a year ahead of schedule and in four volumes instead of the contractual three. It was edited, copyedited, factchecked, proofread and finally approved by Blackwell’s editorial team. It was printed and bound and then launched at AAR and SBL where it received high praise. It was also lauded and endorsed by Edwin Yamauchi and Mark Noll and others. I have a copy of the set with me.

Then the devil struck in the form of a wrecking crew of seven malcontents led by David Morgan and Bernard McGinn and some members of the editorial board. They determined that the Introduction and many of the entries were “too Christian, too orthodox, too anti-secular and too anti-Muslim and not politically correct enough for being used in universities.” Under mounting pressure from the powerful anti-Christian lobby, Blackwell Religion publisher, Rebecca Harkin and Editorial Director Philip Carpenter agreed with this assessment and (illegally) suspended the publication and began proceedings to pulp the entire edition of several thousand copies of the four-volume set just because there are a dozen references to which they do not subscribe and which ran counter to their philosophy and agenda. This is probably the first instance of mass book-burning in the 21st century.

Carpenter and Harkin now demand that not merely the Introduction but also all the other 1,450 entries should be “dechristianized” to make it politically correct before it can be reprinted. This is the most blatant form of censorship in the history of religious publishing. Carpenter, Harkin, Morgan, McGinn and others are not merely censors but also intellectual vandals and arsonists who destroy other people’s intellectual property. They do so because of an innate hatred of orthodox Christian ideas which they view as subversive of their own universe.

Carpenter and Harkin are working hard to sabotage the project and strip it of its Christian content. Among the words or passages they want deleted are “Antichrist”, “Enemy” (as referring to Satan), BC/AD (as chronological markers), “Beloved Disciple,” “Gates of Hell,” “Witness,” “Virgin Birth,” “Resurrection,” “Evangelism” “Harvest,” and any reference with an “evangelical tone” or citing the “uniqueness of Christ and Christianity”. They also object to historical references to the persecution and massacres of Christians by Muslims, but at the same time want references favorable to Islam. To make the treatment “more balanced”, they also want the insertion of material denigrating Christianity in some form or fashion. All these I have refused to do. So long as there are people like Carpenter, Harkin, Morgan or McGinn and publishers like Wiley-Blackwell, there will be no freedom for Christian ideas or the expression thereof. Therefore, to paraphrase Churchill, I shall fight and expose them in the courts, fight and expose them in the libraries, fight and expose them in the academia and fight and expose them in the media.

In this struggle I am seeking your support and your prayers. Specifically, I need you to do three things:

1. I am instituting two legal suits against Blackwell for this highhanded act of censorship. One is a class action suit on behalf of nearly 400 contributors who had worked hard for two years on this project. The suit will seek specific performance, that is, it will require Wiley-Blackwell to publish the book as originally approved and printed, without change and without censorship of its Christian content, tone and character. Blackwell has not paid any of the contributors even one cent but rather promised them copies of the set and also free online subscription. Now they will get neither. By law contributors are entitled to seek restitution for the lost income as well as penal damages for breach of contract. Beyond the financial aspects of the suit, it will send a strong message to the politically-correct establishment that we will not allow the the freedom of Christian expression to be abridged, muzzled, denied or trampled upon. I am also filing a separate breach of contract suit on my behalf.

If you would like to join in the class action suit please send me an e-mail stating your intention to do so and I will have the attorneys send you within three months all the necessary papers. You will incur no financial costs but will share in any settlement. Please also e-mail a copy of your letter to William Pesce, president of Wiley (Wpesce@wiley.com) and Eric Swanson, vice president (eswanson@wiley.com)

2. I shall appreciate writing to your colleagues, students, university librarians, editors and friends in the media and radio and television stations about this censorship and suppression of Christian expression. I shall also welcome your ideas and suggestions on helpful resources.

3. If you have received a set or any volume in the four-volume set of ECC, please do not return it to Blackwell under any circumstances.

Blessings in His Name,

George Thomas Kurian
Editor in chief, Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization
President, Christian Heritage Society
President, Forum Against PC Censorship

The “Christian Heritage Society” and the “Forum Against PC Censorship” have no internet presence other than this letter. One suspects he is the President and Sole Member of both.

Obviously, this foolish and hysterical screed destroys any academic credibility Kurian might claim to have; the suggestion that the distinguished Bernard McGinn – who has collaborated with scholars such as John Meyendorff and is the author of a five-volume study of Christian mysticism, among much else – is part of an “anti-Christian lobby” is both vulgar and absurd. It’s tellling that while Kurian piles up this coarse vilification, he fails to discuss any actual specific criticisms.

As it happens, I have a couple of friends involved with producing work for Blackwell in the field of religion – why should they see their work devalued by association with such a ridiculous person?

(Hat tip: Bulldada Newsblog)