Mary Poplin is a professor of education and Dean of the School of Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University. After attending a Methodist church as a child, Poplin began searching other spiritual traditions, including Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation, even telepathic attempts to bend spoons. She began teaching at Claremont, where a Christian friend encouraged her spiritual journey. Eventually in 1993, she became a Christian. Poplin then sought to integrate her faith with her teaching and academic career following a trip to work with Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Charity in 1996. She is now working on a book to tell her story.
You were raised in a Christian home and experimented with Zen. You were into anything except what was familiar. What was it about Christianity that was a non-starter for you?
I was working in the area of liberation, education of the poor, education of people of color, and so I just accepted that what I'd been told—Christianity was terrible for women. It never occurred to me to look around the world and see where women were the freest and note that those were countries dominated by Christianity. But I didn't think that way.
What moved you towards a different and more compelling view of Christianity?
One of the main reasons was a graduate student who I knew. He lived his life differently. First of all, he prayed for me for eight years. And he would say irritating things like, "If you ever want to do anything with your spiritual life, I'd like to help you." That was irritating because I thought I was doing plenty with my spiritual life. You know, I was bending spoons.
And the other, more distressing thing is, he would ask me questions like, "Do you believe in evil?" And I would realize that ...1