Can you introduce yourself to our readers and give us an idea of what you do?
Certainly… I’m Jon Morgan and among a few other things (freelance designer, film fanatic, hat owner, lover-not-fighter, etc.) I’m an Honorary Research Fellow in the Centre for Biblical Studies at the University of Manchester and Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Chester.
Am I right in saying you have a PhD on the Bible and Ecology? What triggered your interest in that topic?
You sources are reliable, so far. I did indeed do my doctoral research on ecological-critical approaches to the Bible, and, just to make me even less popular at parties, I particularly focussed my efforts on Leviticus. I had long been interested in the place of the Bible in Christian ethics, and when I got the chance to do a PhD as part of a large project on the Bible and ecology, it seemed to make sense. The Leviticus bit was not my idea, but, despite its idiosyncrasies (and what/who of merit lacks those?), I became and remain profoundly fond of it.
Can you explain to us some of your main areas of research/ interest?
Despite occasional forays into other areas, I mostly work on interactions between the Bible and contemporary culture. I have a keen interest in the relationship between the Bible and film, and am currently working on representations of the Book of Job in recent cinema. I am also interested in the use of critical theory in biblical interpretation, and have let that interest loose in relation to work on biblical conceptions of time, and hermeneutics in dramaturgy, to name but both.
When did you start your design business and how did you get into it?
It started as a hobby, but around a year ago I began to be asked more and more to exchange designs for cash money, and it got to the point where it made sense to devote a proper slice of my time to it. However, I’m fairly terrible at doing the self-promotion thing, so I tend to persist at the custom-by-word-of-mouth level, which is a level that I like.
How did you get involved with Hidden Perspectives?
Well, Katie and I served together in the ‘Nam, and basically – to cut an extremely heroic story short – she owes me her life, so it makes sense that she would ask me to be involved. Plus, given that pretty much or possibly over a quarter of all my academic friends are on point in some capacity, I would have cried if I’d been left out.
The Hidden Perspectives design and branding is great! It’s got a really clear surface level meaning as well hidden layers of meaning that can just go on and on being interpreted and re-interpreted. Was this something you were aiming for?
Absolutely. I like to think of other people as thinking of me as the next great thing in design, and things like layers of meaning, especially hidden or, if you will occluded, ones are really important in relation to that.
Also I hear you will be photographing the Hidden Perspectives festival, how did you get into photography, is that something you’re looking forward to?
Taking pictures is another longstanding hobby that I occasionally get paid to do. My favourite things to photograph include tall and/or German designed buildings, spaces that invite movement, and patterns. I guess at the Hidden Perspectives festival it will mostly be people, which is fine.
Why do you think projects like Hidden Perspectives are important?
Well, I might need some more space for this one… Regardless what the average person on the street thinks about the Bible, the reality is that because of the (historical and continuing) political, social and cultural influence of Christianity in the West, those ancient texts, or more accurately certain interpretations thereof, have an oddly influential role in contemporary society. Claims to power are regularly made that implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) invoke certain claims about what the Bible says. Take, for example, the issue of same-sex marriage. Under current UK law, same-sex couples are prevented from accessing certain legal rights and cultural privileges because they cannot legally marry. A significant part of the political will that upholds that state of affairs does so partly on the basis of an interpretation of the biblical conception of marriage. As far as I’m concerned, the more that can be done to problematize the perceived normativity of such interpretations and open them up to discussion and debate, the better.
What are some of your hopes for the future of LGBT & Religion discussion?
Well, with regard to the discussion relating to Christianity and LGBT people (which is the only one on which I feel qualified to comment), if it could get beyond the ludicrous idea that the Bible offers a clear, unified and unproblematically normative perspective, then that would be good. As an interim measure, less hate-speech and fewer people forced into suicide and other expressions of misery seems like a decent and viable goal.