Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mark Thiessen Nation: Revival

The following video is the edited form of an interview I conducted with my theology professor at EMS, Mark Thiessen Nation. Mark is one of the leading scholars of John Howard Yoder, an influential theologian-ethicist from the latter third of the last century, who was also Mennonite. The first time I had Mark in class at seminary was one of my very first classes, "Christian Tradition," which he co-taught with two other wonderful professors. I was immediately drawn to Mark's sharp intellect and his clear articulation of theological concepts. As I've gotten to know him better, I've also come to appreciate his sense of humor.  He's a smart alec like me.

In this 15 min. video, Mark is essentially telling the story of his spiritual formation, which has led him to where he is now, vocationally: a theology professor at a seminary.

I enjoyed having this conversation with Mark. We laughed frequently and it felt very natural, even though there was a camera sitting there, pointed at his face the whole time.  I also enjoyed analyzing it. One thing that I came to appreciate is the centrality of the church in Mark's journey. Doing a simple word frequency analysis of the transcript showed that the word "church" came up more than anything else. Despite his vocational situation in the academy, Mark is still very much involved in the life of the church, and it continues to be where he situates his work. This is important for me to consider, as I'm in the midst of constantly discerning where my spiritual journey will take me next, vocationally.

Don't read into this deeply, but I laughed out loud when I saw this little statistic from the word frequency analysis of the transcript: the word "Jesus" and "Yoder" were mentioned the same number of times in our conversation. Again, I'm not trying to make any sort of critical statement by pointing this out, but my fellow students - or anyone familiar with Mark - will get a chuckle out of this. He is, as I said, a Yoder scholar. (e.g. a new book of Yoder essays he helped edit: The War of the Lamb: The Ethics of Nonviolence and Peacemaking)

Mark is also my neighbor. Last year, he and his wife, Mary, invited my family over for supper. I was immediately struck by how many books this man has. We entertained my daughter during discussion after supper by having her go through his shelves of biblical commentaries in the adjacent room and find ones that were out of order.  When she found one, she'd show it to Mark and he would reshelf it correctly.  So here's a picture to show you just one corner of his office and the bookshelves. But there are two other walls that you don't see...

I also get a kick out of the pictures hanging above his computer monitor. There are other family and personal pictures in his office, but these are the folks that are looking at him from the wall as he's working on his computer. I recognize John M. Perkins, Stanley Hauerwas (with whom Mark shares a friendship with), and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

I really like Mark, and I hope that came through in this post. He's a neat guy and I'm thrilled to be studying under his tutilege and it's a bummer that he's on sabbatical this year (although I'm sure he doesn't asses it this way). You might see some footage from the interview repeated in subsequent posts, as I'll be working with material from all four interviews I conducted with EMU faculty in a more collage-like fashion, exploring the similarities and differences in how these conversations went with more or less the same line of questioning.

No comments:

Post a Comment