Faculty Spotlight: Jon Manning

“Faculty Spotlight” is a weekly column dedicated to conversations made with Point Loma Nazarene University’s faculty and staff members. The purpose of this column is for readers to get to know faculty and staff members better through lighthearted questions. For the first edition, theology professor Jon Manning was interviewed via email. Manning, who teaches in the School of Theology and Christian Ministries on PLNU’s campus, is also the director of the Learning Experiences for Academic Progress program for PLNU freshmen. Here’s a look into the mind of professor Manning:

1. What do you love most about being a professor at PLNU?

  • It is certainly not grading all of the papers and exams. I deeply value getting the chance to know my students better as people and getting the chance to holistically support students in their growth and development, both in and out of class. I love getting an opportunity to read a text together with a class and talk about what it might possibly mean. I love the gift of colleagues who have also fully dedicated themselves to this project of liberal arts education that we’ve been pursuing at Point Loma for a very long time, with the understanding that we can know God better by learning in many different ways about this incredible, multifaceted world that God has created.

2. Do you have a favorite book to read and if so, what is it and why is it your favorite?

  • I’m obsessed with “Watership Down” by Richard Adams. This is one of the only novels, perhaps alongside Harry Potter, that when I arrived at the end of it, I felt so sad to have to part with the characters who had all become dear, beloved friends. Except in “Watership Down,” all the main characters are rabbits, so that certainly sets the book apart from Harry Potter. The author even develops a particular rabbit vocabulary and even a rabbit mythology that the reader learns as they read, which adds depth and meaning to the narrative. 6/5 strongly recommended.

3. If you were able to choose a movie to live in, which movie would it be?

  • As someone who enjoys horror films, I can not say that genre provides a lot of great candidates for a movie in which I would care to live. I suppose many people are actually darkly fascinated by the idea of living in a zombie apocalypse, which is why we have so many movies and games based on that trope. But outside of the horror genre, sign me up to live inside the world of My Neighbor Totoro.

4. What is one word you would choose to describe yourself and why?

  • Distractible – particularly since the onset of COVID-19 and the proliferation of remote and zoom experiences, is there anyone left who is not just highly distracted all of the time? Does anyone find it effortless to focus themself and get stuff done? I sure do not!

5. What is one piece of scripture or a meaningful quote that has stuck with you?

  • Did you just ask a Bible professor to name some scripture that feels meaningful? Honestly, how much time do you have? One of the first things that comes to mind is Psalm 23, which is the famous psalm that begins “The LORD is my shepherd…” In 23:4, the NRSV text reads, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley (shout-out to the King James “valley of the shadow of death”), I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff–they comfort me.” But the word “comfort” here is super interesting. Am I comforted because my shepherd has these tools (rod and staff) which can be used as weapons to protect us both? Perhaps. But the Greek translation of this word “comfort” also means something akin to being encouraged, i.e., prodded along. So maybe I’m walking through that deathly valley because the shepherd is poking me to keep going, even when I don’t want to.