• Guy Nave, Professor of Religion

    "I choose to study religion because I feel we spend too little time on understanding how religious beliefs, convictions, and practices shape our decisions."

Guy Nave

A Mentor Makes an Impact

When Guy Nave was working on his master’s degree, a faculty mentor took an interest in him. “He encouraged me to think about pursuing a Ph.D. and entering into academics,” Nave says. “Not only had the thought never entered my mind, I actually told that faculty person that I had no interest in academics because I was interested in community organizing and social activism, and I thought people in academics spent too much time thinking about stuff and not doing anything.”

Over the next couple years, his mentor helped him better understand the contributions one can make as an educator. “And while I previously taught at a Division I research institution, one year of teaching at a liberal arts institution convinced me that my passions were best suited for the liberal arts,” Nave says.

Why He Likes Religious Studies

Nave served as a pastor for many years before entering academics. During that time, he discovered that he had a strong interest in how religious beliefs, convictions, and practices intersect with society and the public sector.

“We live in a world where all of these factors often play a major role in shaping and influencing social beliefs and practices,” Nave says, “Unfortunately, however, we often fail to engage in critical reflection and analysis of those religious beliefs, convictions, and practices, whereby failing to consider the larger societal implications and consequences of religious beliefs, convictions, and practices. I choose to study religion because I feel we spend too little time on understanding how religious beliefs, convictions, and practices shape our decisions.”

Involvement in Study Abroad

Nave regularly teaches two J-term courses,  “Reconciliation in South Africa” and “Christianity, Slavery, and Christian Imagery in African Literature” (taught in South Africa and Ghana, West Africa). “I also had the opportunity to teach a summer study abroad course in Hawaii called ‘Practicing Embodiment,’” he says. “All three courses are Paideia 450 courses and deal explicitly with moral dilemmas and ethical decision-making.”

Nave wishes every college student could experience studying in another culture. “I’ve taught study abroad courses throughout my 15 years at Luther and every time students express how the experiences radically challenge and transform them,” he says.

Before He Arrived at Luther

While completing his Ph.D. at Yale University, Nave served as an associate minister at a church and as executive director at a nonprofit in New Haven, Conn., focusing on job training and combating forms of environmental racism in the inner city. He also worked as an adjunct professor teaching courses at Yale and Hartford Theological Seminary. Nave is currently part of Luther's Religion Department.


What’s most rewarding about being a professor is the never-ending opportunity to engage deeply and thoughtfully with students. My role lets me experience a transformative deepening of faith and learning with intellectual partners (students) from around the world.

Guy Nave

Nave is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the Society for the Study of Black Religion. He’s also an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.