Today we finish up a three-part interview with Julie Canlis on her award-winning book, Calvin’s Ladder. Part 1 of the interview is an introduction to Julie’s work and a personal account of the five-year-sprint she ran to make her academic contribution. Part 2 highlights the significance her theological work has on scholarship and daily life.
Here Julie recounts the excitement of receiving the Christianity Today award and offers advice to women who also aspire to pursue academic work in theological or biblical studies.
Q 6: Can you describe what it was like for you when Calvin’s Ladder received the coveted Christianity Today award of merit in theology and ethics this year?
I found out while I was trying to (simultaneously) fold laundry and tuck kids into bed. Matt called around twenty friends in the parish (most of whom have never heard of John Calvin) and they all came on a twenty-five minute notice to pop champagne corks and dance.
The children never went to bed after all . . .
While I was caad aff me stotter (caught off guard, as they say around here), the next morning was the usual rush of making lunches and shooing the older children off to school. There is nothing like home life to keep you rooted!
Q 7: As you are no doubt aware, even today there are comparatively few women (and even fewer young mothers) doing academic work in theological or biblical studies. What advice would you give to other women hoping to do what you do?
My advice is to never choose a “career” path that will force you to sacrifice the quality of your relationship with your husband and children. Never. I know this sounds controversial. I know this is difficult in a world — particularly the Christian academic community! — that it is becoming more inflexible, less relational, and more orientated toward what you publish and how often. The reason I’m not teaching anywhere at the moment (save for summer stints at Regent College) is because I have yet to find an institution that will not force me to compromise my family life. So we women are faced, in some ways, with an identity that is much more connected to our biology than we want to admit. We’ve tried to overcome that in the past century, and many of the advances have been a blessing. But others have not forced us to ask the questions that we need to be asking ourselves. Just because we can make use of a daycare, or hire a gardener, or have a housecleaner . . . does this mean we should? Just because I can teach remotely, or can fill up my CV with academic articles, or can position myself to be noticed by such-and-such an academic institution, does it mean I should? These are the questions I am constantly asking myself. I am an opportunity-addict, and so the “enforced Sabbath rest” of the past five years of living in a rural Scottish parish has been a wonderful “desert” experience for me. Male or female, if seeking to live well in our relationships is not a significant aspect of our decision-making (for our career and home-life alike), then there will certainly be a disconnect between our theology and our praxis.
Q 8: What’s next for you, Julie Canlis?
Living in a small village does quiet things to you under the surface. Even though my days are spent primarily between the kitchen and walking to the village school up the hill, I don’t think anything is being wasted. I don’t feel I am getting “behind” in my career. I suppose I am exactly where I am supposed to be from a “vocational” point of view. I don’t know if I am being prepared for something else, or if this is to be the context from which I will write and possibly teach in the future. I am just thankful to have the time to let things soak in, and perhaps to be able to live a bit of the glorious stuff that I studied.