A few fast and hard figures will help situate me in the world, but the writing of an auto/biography demands a more integrative and integrated narrative. The first person helps in owning the story of oneself, and the third person is more professional and has a better ability to maintain a scholarly approach. I recognize the polarity and tension in attempting to write an auto/biography. Chiefly, the polarity and tension in deciding on which person to use: 1st or 3rd?
I find myself drawn to the dynamism of the first person, and the retention of the personal narrative despite the fact that the first person detracts from a more standard scholary approach. While this/my auto/biography will privilege the first person writing style, I am hopeful that I will produce an objective narrative with scholarly roots.
What does it mean for me to be a doctoral student in Denver, Colorado? It largely means that my life is constantly stimulated by scholarship: Religion, Theology, Ethics, and Biblical Interpretation. It also means that I am constantly reading–always have a book in my hand. I read without ceasing, it seems, and I write.
My narrative is situated largely in the Academy, but I have spent some time elsewhere. After finishing my first graduate degree, I was asking some important questions about the intersection of theory and method; real life and abstraction. These were the questions I was asking myself, first at Heartland Alliance doing anti-violence and anti-sexist work, and then at The Office of the Illinois Attorney General doing work on behalf of crime victims: what does it mean for me to be involved in the anti violence movement, and what does it mean to do the work of a human rights worker and anti-violence/anti-sexist advocate? What comes to mind in answering these questions is that the work of anti-violence and human rights work is the ongoing work of negotiation and resistance in a world dominated by white patriarchy. The work I did in between graduate programs was both difficult and humanizing; challenging and rewarding; sobering and ultimately unfulfilling. Integrating my interpersonal skills and incorporating all of who I am into this work was formative for me to understand that 1. I’m not an activist, 2. I’m much more comfortable dealing with issues related to the Academy., and 3. I prefer to deal with the concept of moral agency.
Having spent several years in ministry to students and various pastoral ministries in two baptist denominations, and having been trained as a feminist liberation theologian at a United Methodist Seminary, and now being (again) jointly at a United Methodist Seminary and Private University, I continue to become familiar with a different practices of resistance that is equally costly as the work of a minister and the practice of theology/ethics.
When I worked in the anti-violence movement in Chicago, IL, I was learning more about my own story, and the ways in which my training as a feminist and theologian contributed to this work and the academic work I wanted to pusue. Daily I would stand against the ideologies of violence, white privilege, and white patriarchy. Before going the the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, this is on the South side of Chicago, in the court room providing advocacy for [mostly] darker-skinned women petitioning for Orders of Protection.
This work also presented challenges: How do I reconcile my identity as a theologian (who thinks a lot about ethics and moral agency)? I learned during my 9-month residency as a chaplain that I am not the ideal person for direct-service on a full-time basis, though I maintain the belief that the work that I did is very important work and that it informs the scholarly work I presently pursue. My residency also sparked in me a different way to ask questions, particularly those related to Ethics and Society. My CPE surpervisor, a Unitarian Universalist, was amazing! The non-profit work which I participated in certainly informed the scholarly work I am pursuing, and therefore the work and work experience(s) is invaluable! In terms of reconciling my identity as a theologian, I am learning that my identity is the work of integration and constant negotiation.
I have learned that our lives are about integration; mine sure has been! The ways in which we identify provide us [has provided me] with the tools [and sometimes barriers] for further integration. I have sought to integrate my own bordered/mestiza reality/identity encompassing my bi-racial reality, gender identity, my queer-ness, my identity as a Christian Agnostic with Anabaptist leanings, my work as a minister, my training as a theologian/ethicist, and my professional work from the non-profit sector to the very public work of state government. Having migrated northward from northern Mexico, the Republic of Texas in 2002, and now living in the West (Atzlan) with a view of the Rocky Mountains in Denver, Colorado, I continue to work on the process of integration.