Why Scholarship & Activism

the academy is self-perpetuating elitism

When I started my newsletter, it was after the 2016 election. I knew we needed to come together in the face of what shocked a lot of us, but I wasn't sure how to do that. Not long after the election, I left my faculty post in Berkeley, CA where I was teaching theology & ethics to graduate students and moved home to the American South and began making home in Nashville, TN. Almost four years later, I’m still in Nashville, growing roots and reconnecting with the roots of my Southern heritage!

At the time, I was using my newsletter to communicate my whereabouts, my travel schedule, and what I was reading at the time, but what I wasn’t doing was creating content, which I really want to be doing in 2020. It took me some time to figure out how I wanted to use an email list, and when Substack came across my desk, I thought: “perfect!” I know a few folks using this platform and decided to test-drive my email list here and began curating content for the public square. Of course, some content will be subscription-only, but others will be free for those who join the community!

But, why scholarship and activism?

I think because thinking only within an elitist context and developing ideas that are disconnected from lived experience tends to become what I call the academy: self-perpetuating elitism! I think my work of scholarship and activism works to dismantle that self-perpetuating elitism and works to collaborate and include as many people in the work, as possible.

For example, I launched my scholarship, which is focussed on being and becoming, as a collaborative project called The Activist Theology Project. You can read about that here. It’s a project dedicated to social healing and helping the dominant culture (read white folks) not only get their shit together around their own politics and life experience but also provide avenues of companionship and accompaniment for those who want it. Go ahead, check out our website!

Scholarship and activism has been far too separated and we are living in moments that desperately need both the brilliance of academia paired with the brilliance of activism. That’s what I hope to be doing with my time when I’m not writing on Substack, but what I hope to be doing on Substack is actually curating content that will mobilize culture shift. I’m not talking about a Right wing or Left wing culture shift; I’m talking about coming together as humans with deep empathy to build the kind of world we so desperately need. Where people have enough food, access to healthcare, resources, and so forth. Those are basic human rights.

We can’t achieve social change if we don’t figure out how to be together in this world. While I think we are living in the tyranny of the now, something I talk about in my book, Activist Theology, we need to also combine critical analysis with behavior and politics that ignite social change. I am hoping for a different world before I die.

That’s why I’m committed to scholarship and activism. I hope you’ll join me on this journey to bridge together the disparate parts of our life and come a little closer to the sweetness of our collective becoming! Or, what I also call a tiny revolution of becoming!