A “Privileged” Life

As the nation pauses on Monday to honor the vision and efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., some professors at Gordon are also considering his impact on their work. Katie Knudsen, adjunct professor of Christian Theology, and The Great Conversations, and Coordinator of Academically-Based Service-Learning in the Office of Community Engagement, offers the following personal essay in recognition of the issues Dr. King raised as he pursued racial reconciliation.

A “Privileged” Life

photo.cfmBy Katie Knudsen

I grew up in suburban New Jersey in a conservative Jewish home. My town was largely white, but more diverse by far than the area I currently call home, the North Shore of Massachusetts. My best friends were some fellow Jews, a Korean and an African American from my neighborhood. Even so, I never thought much about race and was never really confronted with it. When we celebrated MLK Day, I was content knowing my ancestors were busy being harassed in Eastern Europe during the time of slavery and Jim Crow.

Clearly, it was a naive response.

College, however, was an awakening. At Duke University in North Carolina, far from home and the culture to which I was accustomed, I became the first Jew a few of my classmates had ever met. There was an enormous population of African Americans, which was exciting for me. I loved getting to know black students, listening to their music in our freshmen dorm, learning from them how to straighten my very-curly hair.

Some things were more unsettling. Every single cook, janitor, and landscaper I met at Duke was African American. It was uncomfortable always being served by black people, but they were the people in the area who needed the jobs, so some sort of “affirmative action” for white service people would have been inappropriate. I began to wonder, though, why so many African Americans were seeking such low-paying work.

Which brings me to the most emotionally-draining, yet life-changing class of my educational career. The year before graduation, I registered for “Race and Education in America,” a class my now-husband and I quickly renamed “Why White People Suck.” The first few weeks in the class were difficult. My Black and Latino peers behaved differently in this class than I was used to them behaving. Many were angry and combative, and they frequently focused on this thing called “white privilege.” Continue reading

Lazarus, John’s Gospel, and Friendship in South Africa

Steve Hunt in Cape Town, South Africa, at the end of his trip.

The last thing Steve Hunt, professor of biblical studies and Christian ministries, thought when he began his scholarship on the Gospel of John was that it would take him around the world, to South Africa to be exact. 

But since 2009, Hunt has been working on a book with D. Francois Tolmie, dean and professor of New Testament at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa, entitled, Character Studies in the Fourth Gospel: Narrative Approaches to Sixty-Seven Figures in John (to be published by Mohr Siebeck in 2013).  As a result, Tolmie invited Hunt to his homeland—his first trip to South Africa—from October 6-13, 2012, where the two worked on their book and Hunt guest lectured for a large audience on, “Lazarus: Jesus’ Beloved Disciple in the Gospel of John.” A revised version of the lecture will be published in one of two South African theological journals, Acta Theologica or Neotestamentica, late next year. Below is Hunt‘s abstract on Lazarus: 

“The question related to the Beloved Disciple’s identity in the Gospel of John has confounded interpreters for centuries. No doubt, part of the confusion here issues from the rather muddled traditions related to this Gospel which originated in the second century A.D.

The internal evidence of the Gospel, on the other hand, is relatively clear. Based on Wolfgang Iser’s literary theory of ‘consistency building,’ only one person can be identified as Jesus’ beloved disciple in the Gospel called ‘John,’ and that person is Lazarus. Building on the narrator’s repeated references to Jesus’ love for Lazarus in ch. 11, I’m trying to show how the rest of the Gospel makes eminently good sense when one re-reads it in light of this identification. The study is more than an exercise in curiosity, however, as the ramifications of the proposal for the re-interpretation of the Fourth Gospel are enormous. Consider, for example, that instead of the Gospel originating with one of Jesus’ ‘Twelve Disciples’, the Fourth Gospel actually originates within an anti-temple Judean community which celebrated ‘the other disciple’ of Jesus—his Beloved Disciple, Lazarus.”

Salvation Army Honors Roger Green with Rare Citation

On August 20, 1917, Bramwell Booth, the eldest son of William and Catherine Booth and the person who succeeded William as the General of The Salvation Army, inaugurated The Order of the Founder to honor his father. Millions of members of the Salvation Army have lived and died since the Order was established, but it has been presented to only about 250 people.  It is an honor that is given sparingly.

On the first Saturday in June 2012, Roger Green, professor and chair of biblical studies and Christian ministries, was granted the Order at a gathering of 4,500 Salvationists. Born into a Salvation Army family with grandparents and parents both serving as ministers, Green has written numerous works on the Army and his biblical scholarship is extensive. Green admits to being “completely surprised” by the award; even more so when he saw that the Organization had flown in his younger brother and his wife from Kentucky, and their older brother and his wife from Chicago to celebrate the award with him and his wife.

Linda Bond, the current General of the Salvation Army, would have presented Green with the Order personally during her visit to the Old Orchard Beach Camp Meetings July 29, but Green will be in Chicago then participating in ministry with the Army there. Instead, she sent this citation: Continue reading

What Young People Offer the Church

Youth ministry needs a new way of thinking, says Sharon Ketcham, associate professor of Christian ministries. On April 5, the national organization Youth Specialties sent an independent videographer to Gordon to interview Ketcham for an upcoming training event aimed at youth workers. Ketcham’s scholarship explores biblical and theological perspectives on the role of community in shaping the faith of young people, and how the local church can best address adolescent faith development. She speaks and teaches often on the topic. Here’s a snapshot of what Ketcham said last week:

“The community of faith has an inherent purpose to it, one that addresses the questions many young people ask today. But does the community of faith offer today’s youth a sense of that purpose in such a way that they are captured by the story and that they can be invited to be a part of that story themselves? Are kids contributing to that community, or are they merely expected to be passive recipients of the faith that’s being transferred to them? If the church or ministry is only a service provider, one that doesn’t recognize the contributions of its youth, why would they want to continue to be a part of that faith tradition? If Jesus is just another commodity they consume in our culture, then really the Christian faith becomes nothing more than anything else they consume in our culture. And as consumers we easily discard. Genuine Christian faith, though, as seen throughout the biblical story of God’s people, is an invitation into a community to be an active contributor and participator, and that happens as young as a little one can walk across the floor of the church building. The question we need to ask, then, is whether our church ethos is one that honors the contributions of our young people.”

Advent and Ministry: Scholars in the Public Square

This week, two Gordon professors had articles appear in mainstream publications.

Timothy Sherratt, professor of political science, offers an advent reflection on political power and divine weakness. See his article in Capital Commentary here.


Paul Borthwick, adjunct professor of Christian Ministries, wrote in Decision Magazine about sowing the seeds of the Gospel. Read his article “Everyday Witnesses” here.

Ketcham Recognized for Excellence in Teaching

Ketcham_Sharon_2008_11_19_02_50_371_2009_09_16_05_14_04Sharon Ketcham, assistant professor of Christian ministries, was honored as the fourth recipient of the Marv Wilson Award for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities. Established in 2006 through a generous donation from alum Betsy Gage Pea ’79, the Marv Wilson Award recognizes annually one faculty member from the Humanities Division or the Department of History “whose teaching exemplifies excellence in the classroom, a deep commitment to inspiring students to realize the ideals of careful scholarship in their own work, and the integration of the Christian faith and learning in the Humanities.”

Ketcham, who is completing her seventh year of service at the College, received the award in front of her peers at a May 4th faculty meeting. In presenting the award, department chair Roger Green drew attention to Sharon’s work in developing the College’s new Core course in Christian Theology: “You have worked closely with your colleagues in the course, inspiring them in their contributions, and have provided an invaluable experience for the students taking this course as the pilot course for what is to come in the future.  You have constantly encouraged students in the course to understand their own theological assumptions against Scriptural standards and the traditional teachings of the Church.”