A Conversation with Robert Jensen
by Becky Garrison
Robert Jensen is an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism and author of the personal memoir All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, a compelling memoir that highlights the religious debate currently raging in the United States. I had the chance to contact Dr. Jensen to discuss some of the themes he raised in his book.
What prompted you to write All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice?
After many years of working in secular left/feminist political movements, during which I had always avoided religion, I met a radical minister in Austin, Jim Rigby, and started talking with him about progressive approaches to Christianity and religion. The more we talked, and the more we organized political events at the church, the more I started thinking about religion in new ways. I realized that my distaste for a religion had led me to ignore approaches to theology that would resonate with me. Those experiences led me to write the book, on the assumption that others are searching in similar ways.
How did your interest in politics motivate you to join St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church?
My initial interest was primarily political, part of a more general search for spaces in which people could come together to think about radical politics in a world structured by such profound inequality. I found St. Andrew's hospitable to that project, but I also realized that it was more than a place to organize political events.
When people call you a "Christian" how do you respond?
A lot of people want to know whether I'm a "real" Christian or not. By that, they want to know whether I hold supernatural beliefs (believing in the idea that God is an actual being, entity, or force; and believing that the resurrection of Christ was an actual historical event). Since I don't hold supernatural beliefs, and I approach Christianity as a belief system that makes use of myth, symbolism, and poetry, there's sometimes a lively discussion about whether I should call myself a Christian. For me, the point is not so much to answer the question as to start a discussion about what people believe and the consequences of belief for action in the world.