This past week, I was honoured to find myself on Maggi Dawn’s list of women writers of theology, spirituality and Christian history–especially as the list included women who have taught and inspired me over the years. I am no less grateful to Bryony Taylor for reading the list all the way to the bottom, and discovering my name near the end of an alphabetically-ordered postscript. Thanks, Bryony, for broadcasting your findings!
And I have been thinking about that list, and the women who have taught me. Because even though I have been taught by many more men than women, it is the women who have drawn me forward, pointed me toward the path I now tread. I wasn’t just being nice when I acknowledged my debt to feminism. (See my feminist paradox.) So today I am giving thanks for a few of these women .
As an undergraduate, I looked forward to the classes I had with Karen King. After class, I would grab my dictionary and look up the words I hadn’t heard before, which she used in class as ordinary and precise vocabulary. Her lectures were always interesting, and she was brilliant in the Q & A. Thanks, Karen. I knew as a junior at Oxy that I wanted to be like you when I grew up; I am still trying.
When I continued in my studies at Duke University, I encountered two particularly gifted and challenging teachers, who introduced me to worlds about which I had known very little. Elizabeth Clark taught me more through her silence at the beginning of seminars than many others could through eloquence: think, and learn to speak your mind carefully and clearly. We were expected to read and to make an intelligent contribution to the discussion. I fell in love with early Christianity because of Liz (and ended up married to Lewis as a result, perhaps). Thank you, Liz.
The teacher I have always most desired to emulate, however, didn’t teach me theology or anything about Christianity, really. Lynn Sumida Joy taught me the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. I avoided philosophy, too intimidated and unsure of myself, until I arrived at Duke and was forced to take ‘Theories of Religion’; I became intrigued by Kant, and signed up for Dr Joy’s seminar the next semester. Never mind that some prior study of philosophy, preferably of Kant’s philosophy, was really necessary for the seminar–if not listed as a formal prerequisite. I was baffled by Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, and turned up to class feeling that I had no idea what it was all about. By the time I left the classroom two hours later, I thought I grasped the basic point. She wasn’t just a teacher, she was a miracle worker. Thank you, Lynn (if I may).
For these women, and many more who have instructed, inspired, encouraged, and challenged me, I give thanks.