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 their 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 service delivery strategy to serve these marginalized young people.

Ron is an associate 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 practical theology, 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?

This spring and summer, I’ve read some great stuff. Bell Hooks’ book, All About Love, treats love as a verb and I found it great as a man to listen to her reflections on love. I also read Queer Theology by Linn Marie Tonstad, and as a cisgender, heterosexual male, this book was so helpful in deconstructing the binaries many already have thought were false or at the least socially constructed. I spent a significant amount of time in Kelly Brown Douglas’ book, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God. Brown’s chapter titled Jesus and Trayvon does a great job of challenging some standard views on atonement.

What have you been listening to lately?

My musical taste gets more nostalgic the older I get, so Margo Price, Chris Stapleton, and lots of Steve Earle. We saw Yola Carte at the Neptune right before COVID—she is an English born singer-songwriter who now lives in Texas. Brandi Carlisle also warmed up for her. It was a great show!

What research do you find yourself drawn to at the moment?

As I am 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! Hoping to see us be cautious and caring enough to take collective responsibility to get through this pandemic.

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 Biography of a Part-time Indian. Also, my sons: My oldest is an elementary school teacher. His way of connecting and teaching 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.