Biblical Hermeneutics site: mostly harmful

The Stack Exchange network has many great Q&A sites, several of which I'm pretty heavily involved with. (I just passed 100k reputation network-wide.) My first and favorite site is Mi Yodeya, the site for Jewish questions and answers. The quality level is very high; I've learned a lot.

SE started with Stack Overflow, for expert programmers, and then added sites for other technical subjects -- programming, system administration, database administration, and the like. Over the years the scope has broadened to include all sorts of topics -- religions, languages, math, cooking, writing, and many more (over 130 of them at the moment). One of these sites is Biblical Hermeneutics (BH).

When BH first showed up I asked why this topic wasn't already covered by the site for Christianity, and I was assured that, in contrast to the religion sites (Mi Yodeya and Christianity, at the time), BH didn't have a doctrinal basis -- the goal was something more akin to the religious-studies department at a secular university. In other words, this was a site for bible geeks, not zealots. I'm a bible (well, torah) geek, so I jumped in.

It didn't work, despite the best efforts of some excellent users -- shining examples of how people should behave there, some of whom I count as friends. Over the three and a half years that it has existed BH has moved from respectful discourse to quite a bit of Christian evangelism and presumption. When nearly every question about the Hebrew bible is answered with the claim that it's talking about Jesus, no matter how inappropriate, it can get pretty frustrating.

BH is a Christian site. Its users refuse to bracket their bias, to write descriptively rather than prescriptively, and to rein in the preaching and truth claims. Opinions masquerade as answers, supported by those who share the opinions and don't stop to ask if an answer actually supported its claims. When that happens you don't have an academic site; you have a church bible-study group. Most people there seem to be fine with that; it's not likely to change.

The site actively recruited Jews. Originally they welcomed us, but the evangelists and those who support them have driven nearly all of us out now by creating a hostile environment. (Last I checked, there was one known Jew there.) It kind of feels like we've been invited to a medieval disputation, except that we, unlike our ancestors, can actually opt out.

In explaining why I no longer felt comfortable there, I wrote:

I don't have a problem with Christians. I have a problem with Christian axioms -- or any other religion's axioms -- being treated as givens on a site that claims to welcome all. I thought we could keep that in check, but now I wonder. [...] I came to teach and learn in a classroom. But people brought in an altar, crucifix, and communion wafers, and the caretakers gave them directions.

That was in 2013. Not only did those words fall on deaf ears, but things got worse. I (belatedly) sought rabbinic advice, and it became clear that BH.SE is no place for Jews. I left the site, made (and later updated) this post on Mi Yodeya's discussion (meta) site, and ultimately deleted an account with over 10k reputation.

Other Jews from Mi Yodeya were smart enough to not get very involved there in the first place. But for the sake of other Jews who might come across that site (and this post) I leave this warning: participating there comes with hazards. Please consult your rabbi first.

I'll stay in touch with friends from there in other ways. I wish them the best of luck in trying to bring the site back on track, Herculean task though that may be. I hope it doesn't hurt them. But I'm done.

(I was not planning to make a public post in this journal about this, but some discussions with other SE folks after the deletion of my account persuaded me that I should make one post here.)