Bryson White - Newest RS Faculty Member
The Religious Studies Department is thrilled to welcome the Rev. Bryson White to the faculty in Fall 2022. A native of Fresno, CA, Bryson holds Master’s degrees in theology and intercultural studies from Fuller Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.
Bryson’s vocation as a theologian grew out of his family’s longstanding background in public service and teaching. His mother served as a teacher for nearly 20 years, and his father worked as executive director of the Economic Opportunities Commission in Fresno, while his grandparents were pastors who founded churches. Given his upbringing in Fresno, the Central Valley has shaped Bryson’s interests. He has a long history of work in community organizing and frequently works with clergy and lay leaders on issues of mass incarceration, police accountability, housing reform, and gun violence reduction.
White’s research explores the relationship between whiteness and eschatology in the Christian tradition, with a particular focus on how Christian conceptions of punishment intersect with mass incarceration in Black communities. Reflecting on the origins of these interests, Bryson recalls bringing home a white Jesus when he was six years old. His Dad quickly explained to him how Jesus was Black, and a debate ensued! He sees this as representative of the culture in which we swim. When he was six years old, Bryson had already ingested the anti-Black logics that shape American culture. A later reflection recalls the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese Of Fresno telling him that there were more incarcerated persons in “Prison Alley” (within the Diocese) than in any other diocese in the world. His present work aims to unsettle and challenge these logics and foster the liberation of Black communities from the carceral state.
In the future, he hopes to explore the idea of “disappearance” in the U.S. carceral system and internationally. He also hopes to study (and teach classes on!) the connection between religion, anti-Blackness, and space travel, with a particular focus on how science fiction employs a colonial vision in thinking about extraterrestrial life.
As a teacher, Bryson hopes to awaken students’ religious and theological imaginations and to help them find their own voices in conversations about religion. He sees this as “returning the favor” he received from his mentors, who helped him to find his own theological voice. He also hopes to guide students to reflect on how the study of religion can materialize in the world, especially in the area of faith and justice. He hopes to help students “embrace the journey of deconstructing things that need deconstruction and holding on to things that need to be held on to, all the while raising new ideas” about Christian theology and its implications for today’s world.
White is also a kidney transplant recipient of 20 years. His experience as a transplant recipient confronted him with the fragility of life at a young age and inspired him to live life to the fullest—doing the deep work of finding who he is and calling him to make a positive impact in whatever ways he can.
For 10 years, Bryson has been married to Jennifer White of Richmond, CA. They are the parents of the wonderful Kairos Grey White, aged two-and-a-half.