07.30.18

People to Know: Dr. Christena Cleveland

Unless you live under a rock, you probably already know the name Christena Cleveland. But in case you don’t know her, it seems fitting to introduce you to the sister in her own words from her website:

Christena Cleveland is a social psychologist, public theologian, author and professor. She is an Associate Professor of the Practice of Organizational Studies at Duke University’s Divinity School and the author of Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart.

As a child growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Christena was exposed to the richness of cultural difference. The kids on her neighborhood block represented 9 different nationalities, where she quickly discovered that, “Be there in 5 minutes,” means different things depending on who’s saying it. At the multi-ethnic church that her parents planted, she learned that different cultures experience and perceive God differently – and that is a good thing.

When she wasn’t heading off to an Oakland A’s game to catch the Bash Brothers in action, she was studying – ultimately attending Dartmouth College where she double-majored in psychological and brain sciences and sociology, and UC Santa Barbara, where she earned a Ph.D. in social psychology. Recently named one of “5 online shepherds to follow” by JET magazine, Christena has devoted much of her vocation to teaching in higher educational institutions as well as serving the Church and broader society by regularly writing, speaking and consulting with organizations. Now at Duke Divinity School, Christena teaches classes on race, reconciliation, and conflict, and leads a research team that is investigating self-compassion as a buffer for racial stress.

She’s also finishing her second book which examines inequality and offers a practical theology of privilege.

I had the privilege of interviewing Christena on her book, Disunity in Christ. It continues to be one of the best things out there for understanding the dynamics behind our struggle to achieve deeper lived unity in the body of Christ.

Christena peaks a great deal about justice and related themes. She provides a winsome, articulate and challenging voice in today’s confusing and contentious culture. Here’s a TedTalk-styled presentation she did at Duke called “Paying Privilege Forward”:

You can find more of her talks here. If you haven’t already, get to know Dr. Cleveland’s work. It will challenge and encourage you.

Thabiti Anyabwile
Thabiti Anyabwile serves as a pastor of Anacostia River Church (Washington DC). He is the happy husband of Kristie and the adoring father of two daughters and one son. Holler at him on Twitter: @ThabitiAnyabwil

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