Sancta Colloquia Episode 405 ft. Dr. Dirk von der Horst
In this episode of Sancta Colloquia I get to have a conversation with a dear friend (seriously, he’s walked with me through some tough times), an excellent scholar, a compassionate human, and all time great addition to the world Dr. Dirk von der Horst (@dirkster42_). The discussion is a bit different than normal because when I discussed with Dirk coming on the show, he then mailed me three books to read: Stand Your Ground by Kelly Brown Douglas, Doing Theology in the Age of Trump edited by Jeffrey W. Robbins and Clayton Crockett, and Religion and Violence by Robert McAfee Brown. At first I thought that maybe he was under the impression that I was enrolling in one of his classes. Far from it, in reality. The books were to form the skeleton on our conversation while allowing Dirk a means to address and engage with a topic he’s very passionate and informed about: race, religion, whiteness, and violence. And it’s these things we discuss in the hour we talk to each other.
Dr. von der Horst is the consummate teacher, always with an eye toward edifying anyone he’s engaged with whether student, friend, or family member; this is also why he sent me those three books mentioned and listed above. And this is something that stood out to me while we were talking. Dirk is eager to assist others in changing their narrative, changing the words they use, changing the way they think. It’s why he does the job he does, and why he’s good at what he does. Good teachers change narratives or they assist in the process by which we change the narratives and the scripts we’ve lived too long with. And the most striking thing for me in this conversation is the repeated emphasis on getting back to the thing that clogs up our storm drains (a reference from the episode, you’ll have to listen to understand more, *chuckles).
Excited? You Should be. Listen here:
Dr. Dirk von der Horst is an instructor of Religious Studies at Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles, Ca. He holds an MTS in Old Testament Interpretation, an MA in Critical and Comparative Studies in Music, and a PhD in Theology, Ethics, and Culture. His research interests center on the sexual politics of musical settings of biblical texts. This intersection brings him into dialogue with feminist theology, queer theology, biblical studies and musicology. Two of his more notable publications are Jonathan’s Loves, David’s Laments, and as co-editor with Emily Leah Silverman and Whitney Bauman, Voices of Feminist Liberation: Writings in Celebration of Rosemary Radford Reuther.
In this episode of Sancta Colloquia, I had the honor of listening to Susan Vincent (@susanv) tell me her story. All of our stories are rather remarkable and the remarkable aspect of Susan’s story (for me) was that she was raised in an evangelical, conservative, charismatic environment, home-schooled by evangelical academics. And here she is now working to defend the voiceless, the oppressed, and the disenfranchised, working to dismantle systems of injustice and systemic oppression. I believe the Lord works in mysterious ways and Susan’s story encourages that belief: out of a conservative evangelical environment is born a woman who asks the important questions and thinks critically about her faith and how faith and life and social and political ethics work together. Susan explains in beautiful terms that the events that challenge and interrupt us and our status-quo are better conceived as invitations to experience God and others anew, to experience life anew. Rather than defensive reactions and clinging dogmatically to things as we once knew them, we should ask, “Can I make my response one of curiosity?” Essentially, according to Susan, when events encounter us that challenge and interrupt our way of seeing things, we are encouraged to take up the invitation to open ourselves and broaden our conceptions. I don’t know about you, but this is death into new life; and I’m all about dying to the old and finding life in the new. And not once but daily. I am grateful to Susan for her willingness to sit with me and chat on a Saturday afternoon. I learned so much from her and am very excited to share this sacred conversation with you. To quote Susan, “Faith allows us to open ourselves to the unknown.” Damn straight it does.
And, as a heads up, I took copious notes as she was talking. So, I’d recommend getting a pen and some paper and feel free to pause the track if you need you…and you may need to.
A huge THANK YOU to my friend and producer Sean Duregger (Twitter: @seanCduregger) and Screaming Pods (Twitter: @ScreamingPods) for hosting Sancta Colloquia (Twitter: @SanctaColloquia).
Here’s the video I referenced by Liam Miller featuring The Rev. Dr. John Flett:
Susan grew up in Huntsville, Alabama (aka Rocket City USA). She was homeschooled K-12 with her three younger sisters. During that time learned to play several instruments and developed a love of reading. Growing up she attended a non-denominational church with her family, where she learned to speak the language of Christianity with an evangelical/charismatic accent.
Susan received her Bachelor of Science in Mass Media Communication from Oral Roberts University. At ORU she participated in the MultiMedia Institute, the Honors Program, and the Missions & Community Outreach Department. She traveled with ORU Outreach to Poland, Ukraine, India, China, Japan, and Kenya.
Not yet ready to give up travel or higher education, Susan went on to earn her Juris Doctor and Master of Dispute Resolution degrees from Pepperdine School of Law. While in law school she assisted in developing negotiation trainings at the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution in London, volunteered as a mediator in small claims court, advised the Supreme Court of Rwanda on case management and alternative dispute resolution, and interned with a trial judge in the Family Court division of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
After taking the bar, Susan spent a year in Kampala, Uganda through the Nootbaar Legal Fellowship. While there, she served as a court-appointed mediator in the Commercial Court and managed plea bargaining initiatives in the juvenile and criminal courts. She also earned a Certificate in Development Project Management, helped develop remand and diversion programs with the Children Justice Initiative, and learned to love African tea.
Susan returned to California to work at Christian Legal Aid of Los Angeles, where she supervised legal clinics, developed partnerships with organizations like Homeboy Industries and local senior centers, coordinated pro bono services and volunteers, administered the internship program, and generally nerded out managing tech & systems issues. She also provided counsel and advice to low-income clients on legal matters such as post-conviction relief, immigration, housing, consumer law, and estate planning.
While acclimating to life in Los Angeles, Susan had the chance to re-examine many of the theological and political frameworks that she had grown up with in light of the people and real-life challenges she saw on a daily basis. Through friendships, books, and online conversations, she developed a new vocabulary of justice. These words and perspectives would serve her well during the initial process of coming out and navigating its complex relational & theological effects.
Susan currently works as a Managing Attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, where she leads a diverse team of legal and service professionals to connect community members with the Foundation’s many programs and offices. She also attends The Loft LA at Westwood United Methodist Church, spends (wastes? invests?) a remarkable amount of time on Twitter, and is perpetually finding new things to add to her reading list.
Recommended Reading/Works Mentioned in the Podcast: