Janell A. Johnson
I teach because I don’t ever want to leave college and its conversations, and I teach at Mercer because its conversation about life and what it means to be a Christian and a good citizen of this world inspires me!
I have spent most of my life in school, studying with some amazing professors and students. After graduating from Mars Hill College in 1983, I headed to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas for a Masters in Family Counseling, not being sure at that point if I could aspire to a degree in biblical studies as a woman. Nearly ten years later, after starting a family, I headed back to school at Union Seminary in Virginia to get an MDiv, then on to Princeton Seminary for a PhD in Biblical Studies with a specialty in Hebrew Bible. For me, seeing students confront a text that they thought they knew, only to discover something new and exciting, is an incredible thrill.
Studying the text and the claims it makes on its readers would be meaningless were it not for life lessons and experiences that make it all real. I have a family, three daughters, who keep me up-to-date, technologically and otherwise, about the world as seen by their generation. And I am challenged to consider how the biblical text speaks to them, if at all. I have Baptist ties that keep me grounded in a tradition that frames my own view of the world and allows me to explore my own and others’ questions about meaning. I have had experiences as a woman in church life and in academia that push me to work for change in the way the church models the kingdom of God. My position as Chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Mercer has grown out of these experiences. And I have many foster dogs at my house who remind me of the untold suffering of God’s creatures all over this planet and who model unconditional love. Most importantly, I have a love of words and an undying curiosity about what the Bible’s words mean.