Alissa Wilkinson jokes that one of her hobbies is "overcommitting myself." She's not kidding. Her job, as a writing teacher and student adviser at The King's College, in New York City, consumes at least 40 hours a week. Another 5 to 10 hours are spent editing Comment, a Christian thought journal, and another 8 are spent writing. Add another hour or two per day reading, plus time with husband Tom (a location scout for filmmakers shooting in New York), and her slate is clearly full.
Through those outlets, Wilkinson is leaving her mark. King's grads typically go on to "transform society," says new president Dinesh D'Souza, by shaping and leading "strategic public and private institutions." And Comment—until recently helmed by Gideon Strauss, president of the Center for Public Justice—influences those influencers with essays on the intersection of faith and work, public policy, civic duty, social justice, the arts, and more. Wilkinson occasionally writes articles for Comment but mostly edits those from its many contributors, including Richard Mouw, Charles Colson, James Davison Hunter, David Batstone, and Stanley Hauerwas.
Wilkinson says her worldview is rooted in Abraham Kuyper's notion that "every square inch of this world is Christ's, and our role is to seek the redemption of all creation."
Question & Answer
What are your biggest challenges teaching students?
They are incredibly intelligent, but many have poor preparation in writing, particularly syntax, style, and structure. Some blame this on texting and the Internet; I believe the primary problem is that many haven't read and absorbed a lot of great literature for its text, not just its meaning. Many have been taught to view literature as a riddle to be solved, not an art form to be appreciated and emulated.
Even those who read a lot [maintain] a false dichotomy between what they read and how they write, as if the two weren't related. In my classes, we read and discuss good literature, trying to figure out what makes it work. My favorite part of my work is helping shape these future leaders into people who don't stop thinking and reading when they walk out my door.
What is Comment's mission?
To take seriously the idea that God's reign extends into our daily work and play, and to grapple with how that affects institutions like cities, economic orders, the arts, and marriage. In our articles, we hope to convince our readers to apply the same concept to their own lives. Working with [former editor] Gideon Strauss has taught me how to wholeheartedly grapple with what it means to love justice and mercy.
I've especially been thinking about how millennials' practices in faith and in everyday life affect the way they think. And I'm trying to grasp how better to interact with and create art.
What should Christian artists be about?
As I argued in my master's thesis, Christian artists ought to be less fixated on "message" and instead steep themselves in artistic training, good theology, great literature, and a supportive community—and trust the Holy Spirit to handle the communication. And Christians who view art ought to recognize that even if they don't agree with "the message" of a work, they can still enjoy the art itself.
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Previous "Who's Next" sections featured Jamie Tworkowski, Bryan Jennings, L. L. Barkat, Robert Gelinas, Nicole Baker Fulgham, Gideon Strauss, W. David O. Taylor, Crystal Renaud, Eve Nunez, Adam Taylor, Matthew Lee Anderson, Margaret Feinberg, and Jonathan Merritt.
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