Interview: Corinna Guerrero

CorrinaGuerreroCorinna Guerrero is lecturer at Santa Clara University and Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies at American Baptist Seminary of the West. She is also a Ph.D. Candidate in Biblical Studies at Graduate Theological Union. Guerrero earned a B.A. in Comparative Religious Studies from San José State University and M.A. in Biblical Languages from Graduate Theological Union and Jesuit School of Theology. She can be found online at her page on Academia.edu or on Twitter.

How did you decide to become a biblical scholar? Share your autobiographical journey.

It wasn’t until actually doing the jobs of a biblical scholar that I was certain I wanted to be one. I have been blessed with the best advisor and mentor a woman could ask for, LeAnn Snow Flesher, Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament at the American Baptist Seminary of the West, a consortial member school of the Graduate Theological Union. She took me under her wing very early in my doctoral studies as a junior scholar, a teaching assistant, and as a mentee. I credit Dr. Flesher with my decision to become a biblical scholar.

Every few month she would give me more responsibilities as a teaching assistant or present a new research opportunity. At each stage of my development something inevitably happened and I would ask, “How do you do this? Why would someone say or do [fill in the blank]?” She would first ask, “Why do you think?” I describe that moment to first-year doctoral students as being on the edge of the nest as a baby bird, then the mother-bird comes by, puts a foot in your behind, and yells “FLY CHICKIE!” You know it has to happen, but you never see it coming until the moment you’re headed face-first toward the pavement, flapping your wings to save your life, praying you’re strong enough to fly on your own. Little do you know that the whole time she fully expects you to fly. There is no doubt in her mind that you will. After every flailing Dr. Flesher, LeAnn, would sit me down in her office or take me to coffee, lunch, or dinner, and take the proverbial polish off the apple. It was in those moments she would share her experience in order to help me see beyond my initial point of confusion or frustration in order to elucidate the fact that practically each and every situation was part of the job of a biblical scholar.

Tell us about your work (past and current). What are you most excited about right now? What do you hope your work will contribute?

My research interests are at the intersection of expressions of violence in the Bible, trauma studies, and minority criticism. In short, I tell my students that I am committed to reading the parts of the Bible that people might read past or look away from in favor of more notable or “comforting” passages. At the moment I am eyeballs deep in my dissertation, where I track a particular pair of mutilation motifs in the book of Judges. It’s a personally exhausting project because of the topic, but it has opened me up to the potential intersections for discussions of trauma and the Bible.

I recently stepped out of the dissertation comfort zone and contributed to a collection of interreligious feminist essays called Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay. The book is part of the I Speak for Myself Series published by White Cloud Press and to be released this August.

 Who has most influenced you as a scholar? Tells us a bit about it.

I’m hesitant to list names because I’m almost certain I would regret not mentioning someone or the way their work influenced my outlook, direction in coursework or research. I will share, though, that I had the pleasure to meet Elsa Tamez casually at November’s Society of Biblical Literature meeting in San Diego. It was in between sessions and through a mutual colleague. I had read her book Bible of the Oppressed some years before , and I just never presumed I would ever meet her. I had never considered the affect her work had on me until that moment because I actually teared up. I know. I might have been the most surprised person in the group that that had happened. I am not an emotional person. Of course everyone laughed and gave me a hard time, but that’s when I knew I wanted to write in ways that touch people.

What are the most pressing issues or concerns you have related to the broader field of biblical studies?

For good or for ill, religion is in the news regularly. Scholars of religion, however, are not. A more fair statement would be that scholars of religions are not in the news to the same degree as religious violence and polarizing bills or policies connected to religious belief. I would like to see more scholars write for the public, highlighting intersections between biblical interpretation and public policy. I think we can help communities navigate the complexities of biblical interpretation.

 Why study the scriptures/biblical text?

This is a great question. I am a Lecturer at Santa Clara University, a Jesuit Catholic university, where our undergraduate students are required to take three courses from the Religious Studies Department. I tell my students in week one that to not have an informed opinion about the Bible in this day and age is a dangerous thing. It is always better to have as strong a sense as possible from where someone might be coming, even if their position might be 180 degree from where yours might be.

What do you like to do for fun?

My interests shift, but right now I enjoy painting, family outings, and dominoes.

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