As an undergrad at Harvard, I took an intro survey course on the Bible. It was supposed to be an easy-A course — as long as you paid attention, did the readings, and submitted your paper assignments, you were golden. At least, that was the expectation.

One of our papers asked us to do an analysis of the account of Sodom and Gomorrah (i.e., Qawm Lut). Throughout that unit, the professor, a prominent Biblical scholar, had been pushing this liberal interpretation of the verses, trying to convince the students that the verses could be seen as being about rape and not same-sex relations. Or maybe these verses are all about hospitality and that Sodom was destroyed because the people were so rude to the visiting angels, etc., etc.

Obviously, I wasn’t buying it. So I wrote my paper basically saying what I could tell from the apparent meaning of the text was that the main crime of the Sodomites was male-male intercourse.

Now keep in mind, this is an intro survey course. In a 5-page paper, you’re not exactly going to do groundbreaking analysis. Most of the students weren’t even in literature or religious studies, so the standards weren’t particularly high.

Nonetheless, my paper got a low grade, which for that class was basically a slap in the face. Everyone else I asked had an A grade, A- at worst, and they were shocked that I had received such a low mark. They, of course, had stuck to the professor’s exegesis of the verses.

When I asked for further clarification on the grading criteria, I was told that my textual analysis was “first level,” “unsophisticated,” “spurious,” “lacking intellectual and analytic rigor.” Needless to say, I was floored. Usually you don’t get such frank, demeaning feedback in that context for such a simple assignment. Clearly I had stepped on some toes.

Nonetheless, that’s what happens when you disagree with their scholarly consensus (their ijma` of sorts) and don’t fall in line with the dominant dogma. But never forget: it’s us who are the closed-minded ones.