By Marcia Bosscher

Voices: Janine Giordano Drake

In this regular feature at The Well, we hear the stories of women seeking to follow Christ in the university and professional worlds.

A Voice at The Well: Janine Giordano Drake

Where are you from: suburbs of New York City

Where are you studying: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

What is your field of interest?

Modern US History

What specific research are you involved in?

My dissertation explores the late nineteenth and early twentieth century working class Christians. I explore their tensions between making their home in the churches and making their home in the socialist and labor movements of their day.

What do you enjoy about your area of study?

History is the art and science of explaining how a certain thing came to be. I study social, political and religious history because I am interested in how and why certain problems present themselves in our contemporary society as they do. Because of the very subjective nature of research about the past, the practice of history is frequently a conversation about the present. I love the opportunity to engage others in discussions about the world around us.

How does your faith connect with your study?

I think that being a Christian is about realizing our very limited ability to comprehend. We don’t usually know why God works the way he does — why he allows terrible things to happen to some but not to others, nor why he exalts some people and allows others to suffer. Historians (who wouldn’t, and couldn’t, make such judgments about the present) are sometimes tempted, even expected, to draw conclusions of this magnitude about the past. As a Christian, I must remind myself how limitedly I will ever truly comprehend a world I only observe with my five senses. In doing so, I try to lead others to have more empathy before they condemn others for causing their problems.

What would you like others to know about your family life or background?

My parents separated when I was in ninth grade and divorced when I graduated from college. I realized then what different ways there were to look at the same event, what different ways there were to describe the same reality. This has been a great help in studying history and understanding there are many points of view.

What do you do when you aren’t studying?

I love to run, cook healthy food, attend Bible studies and book discussions, and generally engage in interesting conversation with friends. This summer I’m endeavoring to get through a particular stack of academic books and another stack of books on the history of Christian theology. In the fall I hope to teach an adult Christian Formation class at my church that explores the foundations of many of our evangelical Christian notions of what the Church is and what it does.

I also hang out with my husband, Josh Drake! We met through an InterVarsity book discussion that I was leading about two years ago, and got married this past September. Before we met, he was a network engineer (IT guy) for InterVarsity at Cedar Campus. He works in Information Technology here in Urbana.

What is the latest book you’ve read for pleasure or outside of your field of study or what book would you like to recommend?

Outside my field of study? That might be too hard a question. I can recommend a few books for people interested in the intersection of religion, economics and politics:

Nell Irvin Painter, Standing at Armageddeon: A Grassroots History of the Progressive Era

Kathleen A. Tobin, The American Religious Debate over Birth Control

Betty DeBerg, Ungodly Women: Gender and the First Wave of American Fundamentalism

Bethany Moreton, To Serve God and Wal-mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise

William C. Martin, With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America

And some other personal favorites:

Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus

Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling

 

See Janine Giordano’s guest blog at the Emerging Scholars Network as she explores the struggle of younger scholars to cultivate both an authoritative voice and an audience.

About the Interviewee

Janine Giordano Drake is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Great Falls (Great Falls, Montana) where she teaches US History, Global History, and Political Theory courses. She is coeditor of The Pew and the Picket Line: Christianity and the American Working Class (Illinios Press, 2016) and finalizing a manuscript on the demise of Christian Socialists in the US in the twentieth century. It is tentatively entitled, They Have Stolen Jesus From Us: Christian Socialism and the American Protestant Churches, 1880-1920. In her spare time, Janine runs, swims, and plays with her two daughters. She fantasizes about someday writing children's stories about girls in American history, and about someday learning to sew.

About the Interviewer

Marcia Bosscher is the former editor of The Well and now an associate with InterVarsity's Faculty Ministry. Having been married to a professor and sharing life with grad students and faculty in a campus church, she has a deep interest and care for those in the academy. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with a golden-retriever mix and a diverse array of lodgers and travelers.

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