Professors are People Too: Dr. Michael Crews

Dr. Michael Crews joined Regent’s faculty in 2014 and is now head of the Humanities Department, overseeing majors in the fields of English and History. He received both his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Texas at El Paso, where he taught. He continued his education at Baylor University, earning his doctorate before coming to Regent. He is the author of “Books Are Made Out of Books: A Guide to Cormac McCarthy’s Literary Influences,” published by University of Texas Press. He currently resides in Portsmouth with his wife, Denise, who also works at Regent and their two kids.

What’s something you love about literature?

“Literature is the imagination. It’s one of the means available to human beings to try to understand the world and ourselves. The imagination can also help us to understand biblical truths in a more rich, nuanced way. Literature can never replace Scripture; the Bible helps us to interpret literature and life in general. But if we’re grounded in Scripture, literature becomes another means of understanding the human condition.”

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

“I had a teacher once say, ‘There’s no learning without embarrassment,’ and I think that’s a great point. I got an assignment back from that same teacher with a T.S. Eliot quote written on the top: ‘Your prose is like a patient etherized upon the table.’ 

It’s clear his comment was meant to embarrass me, and it did. It made me realize what I wrote wasn’t dynamic or engaging. If you take that as advice, it means you have to be capable of embarrassment, which is good. You have to care about doing things right to improve. People who are incapable of embarrassment are also people that aren’t very trustworthy because their standards are low. To say ‘there’s no learning without embarrassment’ is another way of saying keep your standards high enough that you’ll miss those standards. If you’re embarrassed, you want to move up to that next level. It’s the only way to learn. Think of how embarrassed Peter must have felt when Jesus said, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” It’s a harsh rebuke but powerfully instructive.

Of course, you don’t want to go to the other extreme either of belittling or demeaning students. But I think coddling them leads to that condition where they don’t know what it feels like to be embarrassed that they got something wrong so they don’t feel the spur to do better. In the past, education has always been focused on encouraging high standards for those desiring knowledge and learning. It hasn’t been about personal self-esteem.

Did you have a favorite car growing up?

“You know, I’ve never really been into cars, which is funny because my eight-year-old son is obsessed with them. He can name them all, but to me, a car was always something that got me from Point A to Point B. I think, because I’m not mechanically inclined, maybe I never caught the romance of cars. However, I can kind of see it through my son’s eyes now because he has such a love of them, and I can see some cars kind of have an aesthetic appeal. If I have a favorite, it’s probably Mustangs because my dad had one. It was a beautiful car, a beautiful machine, so I’d say the ’64 Mustang.”

What do you think of the journalism profession?

“It’s an important profession and vital to a democratic society. I think it’s gone downhill quite rapidly within the last decade or so. It’s not really journalism anymore. What used to be journalism is now just different camps of people whose reporting is geared towards their camp and their audience. Now there’s probably always been some bias in journalism; it’s likely impossible to report with such objectivity that your own personal views are completely bracketed out. But I think in the past that was an ideal. If you couldn’t achieve it perfectly, you at least aimed for it and you tried to look at both sides of an issue and be fair when reporting on it. I think that’s pretty much gone or very hard to find today.”

What are some unique things on your bucket list?

“I would like to travel a little bit more in the coming years. My wife and I keep talking about going to Ireland and England. So, I would definitely like to do that in the next few years.”

What’s a lasting impact that you would like to leave on your students?

“The most important thing is to follow Christ. I want to leave students with the thought that whatever they do and pursue in life, its meaning is contingent on their relationship to Christ. That’s the fundamental thing. Everything else, no matter how important it may be, is ancillary to that primary thing. A relationship with Christ is the quintessential thing.”