Today’s Faculty Friday interview is with Dr. Ron Ruthruff, Associate Professor of Theology & Culture. Dr. Ruthruff has served homeless and street-involved youth and their families for the past 30 years. He has provided case management services, designed programs, and educated the community on the issues that impact this vulnerable population. Ron’s career goal is to empower persons to live lives of significance; to equip the church to love and serve its neighbors; and to engage communities in cross-cultural and global conversations.
Ron’s education is an eclectic blend of social work, counseling, and theological studies. Ron holds a Doctorate of Ministry in Complex Urban Settings from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston. His dissertation title, Welcoming Kids to the Table of Community: New Horizons Ministries as a Model of Service to Homeless Runaway Adolescents, addresses the psychosocial and spiritual issues surrounding homeless adolescents and describes a relationally based and theologically-supported delivery strategy to serve these marginalized young people.
Ron is a senior fellow with the Center for Transforming Mission, providing training and support for grassroots urban leaders serving youth and families in hard places around the world. Closer to home, Ron is on a regular preaching schedule at several local churches. He lives in the Rainier Valley, a multicultural neighborhood in the south end of Seattle with his wife, Linda, with whom he has served for nearly 30 years. Their two adult sons, Ben and Clayton, live close by.
Ron teaches courses focused on Biblical ethics, social justice and community development, such as “Being the Word on the Street,” “Engaging Global Partnerships,” and “Care of the Soul and the Call to Sacred Activism.”
What are you currently reading?
I almost hate to admit that this past year I have become more drawn to fiction than in any time over the past fifteen years, and I have also been reading a few memoirs. First, the memoirs– currently in the middle of Keith Richards’ Life. I love how Richards tells his story with an unapologetic endorsement of the Blues. His observations of Black musicians in the United States are quite interesting. The other memoir that I have loved is Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In by Phuc Tran. Tran is a man who arrived here with his family soon after the American War in Vietnam. He is a classic lit prof, a tattoo artist, and a punk rock music aficionado. His story of how he engaged the two worlds he navigated is a lesson for all of us. The two novels that stand out are The Removed by Brandon Hobson, and Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn. For me, these novels begin to unwrap meaning-making and allow me to hold new perspectives in a non-voyeuristic way. I have found these books very helpful in de-centering my own narrative and world view, and allowing me the gift of moving from frustration to fascination with difference.
What have you been listening to lately?
Records! Lots of records. Tyler Childers, Brandi Carlisle, and Bruce, and Marcus King are always on my playlist. Now that live music is happening, you’ll find me at the Tractor [Tavern] listening to alt-country and Americana music, or following my son’s band, Miss Prince, around. I love watching Clayton’s band play loud all over the city.
What research do you find yourself drawn to at the moment?
As I am still working on a third book, I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on whiteness, maleness, and identity. But I have reservations right now on saying it is a book project, as I feel far better served by listening well and marching behind others who are truly sparking a significant movement.
Any exciting summer plans?
I am always trying to be a more proficient motorcycle rider! Gardening with Linda. This July I am also speaking at the Wild Goose festival in North Carolina on the topic of white activism, and anti-racism: “Setting a Bigger Table : Fighting for Justice without Pushing People Around.”
If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would they be?
No question: Johnny Cash.
If you weren’t in your current profession, you’d be…?
I would love to own a tavern/BBQ joint that played blues and Americana music. I would also love to be a prison chaplain.
Who is your literary or living hero?
Arnold Spirit, in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Also, my sons: My oldest is an elementary school teacher. His way of teaching and connecting with kids, being attentive to social/emotional learning, and actively working to address the opportunity gap is inspiring. My youngest is an artist and musician. His art is filled with complexity, and his music is loud and truth-filled.