Monday, December 7, 2009

Lisa Schirch: Make it walk

Lisa taught the first class I took at the CJP in the fall of last year: Analysis - Understanding Conflict. While I was new in the program, there were other students with me who were not only new to the program but also new to American culture in general. Yet somehow the class quickly formed its own identity that was very close-knit, familiar, and friendly. In the midst of learning all sorts of conflict analysis tools, using them to analyze case studies such as post-election violence in Kenya in late 2007 (with two men from Kenya who had experienced it themselves), Lisa presided over all this with a wisdom and intelligence that flowed seamlessly into the classroom and the students, in the elicitive manner that I've come to understand as distinctly CJP. I knew from this class and from this instructor that this was not a typical graduate academic program.

Later that academic year, this past spring, Lisa and I participated in a facilitated round-table discussion on the topic of theology and peacebuilding, in which she made her case for the deep level of resonance that her faith has had in her peacebuilding practice and the deep overlap and common ground she sees between the two. (Aside: Mark Thiessen Nation and Peter Dula were also participants in this discussion.)

It was for these reasons that I wanted to interview Lisa as part of this project: my deep respect and admiration for her, as well as her continuing efforts toward integrating theology in her work as a peacebuilder. She is the only faculty member that I interviewed who isn't dealing specifically with theology in her role at the university. In this video, Lisa reflects on the joys and trials of being in a multi-faith peacebuilding program connected to a Christian, Anabaptist, Mennonite university:

To borrow terminology from Stuart Murray's excellent book, "Biblical Interpretation in the Anabaptist Tradition," I see in Lisa a strong focus on the very Anabaptist quality of a "hermeneutic of obedience," where how well someone is interpreting Scripture is measured by how they're living their life. This is a bit of an oversimplification of both Murray's book and Lisa's theology, but it's a helpful analogy for me.

Thank you, Lisa, for such an honest and even (at times) emotionally challenging interview, as well as good encouragement for the challenges of my "dual citizenship" here at EMU.

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