This is a renewal of the "20Q" series where members reveal a bit about themselves to us. This is from one of our "deepest" and most most intellectually accomplished "AA.orgers": Kresge. Enjoy!! MBM
20Q with Kresge
1. How did you find AfricanAmerica.org?
I honestly do not remember the specifics regarding my finding the site. I think that I might have followed a link from the Black Commentator.
2. What is your first memory of your race and that it somehow made you different?
My first memory of race is probably going shopping for clothes for Easter as a small child. I know that I was not yet school age. My parents took my sister and me to Goldstein's department store in downtown Murfreesboro, TN (my hometown). My mom explained to me that we were going to Goldstein's because they were one of the only stores in town that treated black folk with respect. As a little girl, this was where her father took her to get her shoes. They would actually measure her foot and let her try them own. She said that none of the other stores in town would allow black folk to do that.
3. Is there any appropriate intersection between faith and science?
I am not sure if I would use the term intersection as opposed to saying that ideally that there should be a complementarity between the two. For the most part, I think that they are asking fundamentally different questions. Faith in its various expressions and manifestations, is attempting to deal with issues of meaning, where as science is about explanation. There are numerous ways that one might articulate this distinction. I often use the metaphorical language of faith is about finding answers to the question ˜why' while science is primarily concerned with ˜how.' It is important to not that the why I am referring to here is a teleological ˜why' or rather the kind of ˜why' that has to do with purpose. They are two very powerful methods of knowing that human beings avail themselves of as they encounter the world.
Given that they are dealing with fundamentally different questions, I am not one to see that there is an antagonistic relationship between the two. Such problems arise when either method infringes on the domain of the other.
4. What is your most prized possession?
I have a first edition of the complete works of Paul Lawrence Dunbar that belonged to my mother's mother. I remember her reading from it. It is written in Negro dialect, which many may not consider politically correct or particularly edifying today, but I think that Dunbar was a genius and was trying to capture almost certain intangibles in black life that might be lost if one where to render them in standard English. This was certainly the case with the transcribing and scoring of Negro spirituals.
What is even more interesting about the book is that my grandmother found poems of Dunbar that where not in the collection and glued them in the back. She also kept a copy of his obituary in the volume.
5. What single person has had the most influence on you outside your family?
If I were to name only one person outside of my family, it would have to be W.E.B. Du Bois. He is for me the paradigmatic African American intellectual. This is not to say that he was by any means a perfect human being. He, like most of us, was seriously flawed. Yet, for me, he embodies a mix of intelligence, creativity, and activism that continues to inspire me.
6. How did you come to study the things that you have?
My fundamental desire for as long as I can remember has been to try to understand the world. Referring to the earlier dichotomy to which I alluded, I have always wanted to know the answers to both ˜how' and ˜why'. Moreover, I was never willing simply to take some other persons word that such and such was the case. My general disposition toward the world has always been analytical.
My first love was science in general, and physics in particular. It seemed to me that this route would be the most fruitful for the quest that I felt was somehow my lot in life, my calling. I also thought that things like feelings and emotion were at best suspect, and at worst, destructive. Reason and logic were the essentials for living a productive life. However, I was raised in a quite pious family, where church was an integral part of life. As a small child, I was told how my family had literally been responsible for constructing the church where we worshiped. My first pastor was my great uncle. But this religion stuff did not make a whole lot of sense to me, especially the feeling and emotional part of it. It was somewhat paradoxical, therefore, when I underwent a "conversion experience" between my junior and senior year of high school while at a National Science Foundation summer camp. This would send me down a somewhat fundamentalist track in terms of faith, a course that would last for almost a decade.
I would go on to obtain a B.S. in Physics and Mathematics from Vanderbilt and a master's in physics from the University of California at Berkeley before make what for many was a radical departure shift to pursue a Master of Divinity at Union Theological Seminary in New York. It was at Union where I finally began to analyze my faith, in many respects applying some of the critical faculties that I had gained from my previous studies. It was also at Union where I became interested in ministry in an academic setting, doing my field placement as Associate Baptist Chaplain at Columbia University. I would serve as a campus minister/chaplain at three other institutions over the next eleven years. During that period, I would also have the opportunity to teach as an adjunct professor. I quickly came to love the classroom more than the pulpit. Realizing that there was little hope of a tenure track position without a doctorate, I found myself back in school in 2003 pursuing a Ph.D. in Religion.
7. What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be a professor of philosophy of religion/religious studies when I grow up. Right now, my preference is for a small liberal arts college, but there is a possibility that I might consider a position at a larger research university. At this point, I am a bit skeptical about how I would be received by many denominational seminaries. I would be particularly concerned with their commitment to academic freedom.
8. How different is the theological Jesus from the historical Jesus?
There is remarkable little known about the historical Jesus. As noted by Albert Schweitzer in his seminal text, The Quest for the Historical Jesus, most attempts to reconstruct the life of this first century Jew result in anachronistic portrayals that, in truth, miraculously confirm the assumptions of the ˜would-be" biographer.
While I find the various "quests" that arise from time to time in search of "the real Jesus" somewhat interesting, I think that they are ultimately of little consequence. Once one realizes that what we mean by history as a discipline is only a couple of centuries old, and that historical consciousness is thus a modern construct, the reality is that the historical Jesus has meant very little in terms of the lived faith of two millennia of Christians. Much more important than the "Jesus of history" is what scholars refer to as the "Christ of faith," which I take to be synonymous with "the theological Jesus."
I would assert that it is the Christ of faith that transforms people's lives. The Christ of faith is the one that is encountered in the scriptures as well as in the gathered community of believers/disciples. I am greatly indebted to contemporary literary theory and philosophy in terms of how I understand the narrative of birth, death, and resurrection of this "person." I believe that religious stories and religious language are metaphorical and symbolic, multilayered and multivalent, and dynamic. Thus, we are talking about something beyond facticity. Indeed, facticity offers a greatly denuded and reified version of what it is to be human. It is necessary, but by no means sufficient.
9. What would Christ think of Christianity?
Firstly, let me say that by Christ, I do not mean a first century Palestinian Jew. Christ is more than that. As a Christian, I understand Christ as a particular aspect of the Divine, of God, and of God consciousness. Christ is that part of the Divine that is experienced incarnationally, and thereby is immanently present in human history and immanently acquainted with human beingness.
That said, I think that Christ would have ambivalent feelings about Christianity. I think that to the extent that Christianity has attempted to convey that God, the Divine, Ultimate Reality is fundamentally agapic (loving, compassionate, selfless), that is an instrument for good, it is in this sense consistent with the spirit of Christ. Conversely, to the extent that Christianity is divisive, exclusivist, and exceptionalist; that it has been a vehicle for oppression, subjugation, and death; Christianity is repellent and an offense to Christ.
10. You are hosting a dinner party but you can only invite people who are dead. You can choose anyone from history. You have six choices. Who do you choose and why?
W.E.B Du Bois – I have already written at length about Du Bois. As I said above, he is to me the epitome of the organic intellectual. His intellect and insight is astounding.
Anton Wilhelm Amo – The first Sub-Saharan African to attend a European university, and in so doing, obtained the equivalent of a Ph.D. in Philosophy. He embodied a refutation of developing theories of race and African inferiority that had gained traction in Post Enlightenment Europe.
Augustine of Hippo – One of the most significant and influential thinkers in the Christian tradition. A resident of North Africa
Howard Thurman – Philosopher, theologian, mystic. I would characterize Thurman after the fashion of a famous characterization of Baruch Spinoza, as a God-intoxicated man. When I read Thurman, I am compelled and convicted by his attunement to Ultimate Reality. It is an attunement that results in his encountering "God" in the immediacy of life.
Jesus – As a Christian minister, I almost feel obliged to include him. Nevertheless, it certainly would be interesting to break bread with the historical Jesus, to see him face to face, to be in his presence, and to obtain a glimpse of why this individual has had such a profound impact on humanity.
Sojourner Truth – Outspoken abolitionist and feminist, "commissioned by God." In her words is an intensity and clarity that I find powerful and compelling.
FIRST THOUGHT: give me the first thought that comes to mind for the following words:
11. "The Struggle"
12. Popular Culture
Superficial, vulgar, delusion, opiate
13. The Future
14. Prosperity Preaching
Contemporary expression of alienation
16. You have to give up either TV or the internet for one year. Which do you choose and why?
Easy, it would be TV. I really do not watch much of it as is. In my opinion, there is not really much worth watching.
17. Which will come first: will humans colonize Mars or will humanity completely erase racism?
I am not sure. If I were a betting man, I would probably put money on a Mars colony. I would grant that this answer is somewhat pessimistic, but strictly interpreting the question, which posits "completely erasing racism", I chose the former rather than the latter. I do see a future where racism is almost completely rooted out. This is not to say that there will not be other discourses, ideologies, or expressions of power used to oppress, marginalize, or even dehumanize "others"; e.g., class, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or culture.
18. Clarence Thomas and Condoleeza Rice casually walk into the bar you are relaxing in. You have to have a drink with one. Which do you choose and why?
I would probably choose Condoleezza Rice. She is more the enigma for me than Clarence. She strikes me as the brighter of the two. I really want to know whether she has a conscience and if so, what its parameters are. Is she conflicted at all about the choices that she makes? Is she at all a reflective and introspective person?
19. As a people, are we (African America) moving forward or backward??
By now, it is probably apparent that I am resistant to binaries classifications, so I have to answer, that I think that a more apt image or metaphor for African Americans is that we, collectively, are "dwelling in the wilderness." Following the biblical allusion of Exodus, like the Hebrew people, we have been "emancipated", but also like them, I contend that we are wanderers. At times, it looks like we are headed toward Zion - a place of promise but also uncertainty - while at other times; we wax nostalgic for Egypt – a known entity albeit one that for the majority of our people was oppressive and life denying. I must confess that I am not as sure as Martin King that we will get to the Promised Land, whatever that might be.
20. You've been framed for a white collar crime and sentenced to either 4 years house arrest or 1 year in state prison. Which do you choose and why?
I would choose the 1 year in the state prison. I would do so in part based on my experience as a volunteer prison chaplain for three years. Some of the most remarkable people I have had the privilege of knowing in my life, were incarcerated. I would probably try to make some connections with the lifers, because, from my experience, they are the stabilizing factor in these institutions.
I would also choose the one year to get things over with more quickly.
Finally, when I worked in a prison, there was what I would describe as a kind of monastic/cloistered sensibility. I do not think that it is simply a coincidence that some people find this atmosphere conducive to spiritual transformation. I would thus try to make the most of this aspect of being removed from the larger society, e.g., I might use this time to pursue a course or reading and writing.