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Meeting the Team: Jonathan Pichot

This week we meet Spectrum’s Drupal guru, a history and french major studying at Pacific Union College.
Question: How did you get involved with Spectrum and what are your responsibilities?
Answer: I became formally involved with Spectrum around December of 2007, but I had been reading Spectrum for about a year prior. During my freshman year at PUC I discovered the burgeoning Adventist blogosphere of which the Spectrum blog was an important part. It was exciting to discover a group of Adventists asking uncomfortable and important questions and discussing them openly and intelligently. Some of my favorite writers I discovered at that time were Ron Osborn, Alex Carpenter, and Julius Nam. I started my own blog, using it to contribute my own perspective on the topics being discussed. I ended up writing an article for the Spectrum blog on Adventist higher education which attracted a ton of comments. That hooked me to the conversation.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, the Spectrum team was moving forward on a redesign of their website built on Drupal, a content management system with which I was familiar. Sometime in late 2007, a member of the team discovered that I had some knowledge of Drupal and invited me in on the conversation as a consultant. They ended up giving me a contract to prepare the website for launch, and in the end hired me long-term to provide development and support. My current responsibilities are still primarily centered around Drupal, making visual and structural adjustments to the site. I also prepare the weekly email newsletter.
Question: Your family emigrated from France to Michigan a few years before you were born, moving to Berrien Springs, Michigan before you began grade school. What was it like growing up bi-cultural in such an insulated community?
Answer: Interestingly, I’ve only recently realized how insulated a community it was. Berrien Springs is an anomaly in Southwest Michigan. In our little village of less than 2000 people we have Southeast Asian, Korean, and Mexican food stores. On any given Saturday you can listen to a sermon in Spanish, Korean, Tagalog, Indonesian, French, and occasionally Serbian or Czech. It was commonplace to hear different languages in the halls of Andrews Academy. Sometimes, when my friends and I were feeling particularly reflective, we would realize that each of us had parents from another country: Rwanda, Philippines, Korea, Cameroon, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. Berrien Springs is not ethnically insulated; it is religiously insulated. My bi-cultural upbringing in Berrien Springs was not at all strange, it was the norm.
Question: You value your French heritage and went to live and study in Montpellier after your freshman year at Pacific Union College. What can you say about European Adventism and how it compares to American Adventism? Where do you find yourself as a French American?
Answer: The biggest difference with French Adventism is that it incorporates elements of French culture. I imagine Adventism blends with the culture of whatever country it is found in. One primary difference I’ve found uniformly across the church is its politics. I have yet to meet a center-right French Adventist. Every French Adventist I have met supports the French Socialist party, the largest left-wing party in France, which is roughly the equivalent to the Democrats in America. They understand the gospel to be fundamentally about helping the poor and underprivileged, leading them to support substantial social programs. The French concept of solidarity is very important to them. Remember, although France is certainly more socialist than the United States, the Socialist Party has not been the ruling party in France since 1993.
Yet the American-centric nature of Adventism does push French Adventists to look to America for religious inspiration. I have heard French Adventists wish that religion existed as publicly there as it does in the United States. They see the religiosity of Americans as a good thing compared to the staunch secularism of the French. Not too long ago, the French school week broke on Sunday and Wednesday, meaning Saturday was a school day. Many French Adventists would have to miss one day of school every week. I hear them talk wistfully of having a society that was more religious, that cared about the idea of God, and where the Adventist church had a larger presence. Most of the French churches are small and insular. It is not easy being young, single, and Adventist in France. My French cousins often wish they had Adventist university campuses like those that exist in the US.
Question: How are you experiencing the world of ideas now as an explorative young Adventist? Who are some of your favorite authors and how have they impacted your worldview?
Answer: Before I entered college I did some extensive reading on education. I became convinced of the importance of an education grounded in the classics, what some call the ‘great books.’ Some of my favorite authors from this time include Neil Postman, Mortimer Adler, Robert Maynard Hutchins, and Jacques Barzun. This led me to apply to schools with great books programs. I applied to PUC for its honors program, which was inspired by the program at St John’s College, which itself was built on the work already done at the University of Chicago. Since coming to college I haven’t had as much time to read on my own, but the honors program has not been a disappointment. It has exposed me to many new authors. Though I wasn’t sure freshman year that I chose the right school, I’m now very thankful that I ended up at PUC.
Question: Of all your experiences, what event or idea has had the deepest impact on your spiritual life?
Answer: I believed God was guiding me when I made my decision to attend PUC. Though I did regret the decision for some time, it has proved a good one. The thoughtful Adventists I encountered through the honors program there have helped me develop a healthy understanding of my church and community. In some ways, they saved my Adventism.
The class “Self & Society,” taught by Dr. Greg Schneider, stands out as one of the best classes I’ve taken since coming to PUC. It helped me frame my religious background so that I could freely embrace Adventism as a community while remaining skeptical of its truth claims. Such a class, for me, is Adventist education at its best. It’s a class for young Adventists who want to engage with their church but are not sure how they can believe in all it stands for.
Question: What are you doing at Pacific Union College and what are your professional goals? What on-campus clubs and activities are you involved with?
Answer: I am the online editor of the C2, the campus newsmagazine. I am also student senator representing off-campus students. Those activities keep me busy enough.
I’m not yet sure what I want to pursue out of college. I’ve been interested, to varying degrees, in journalism, government, academia, business, and law. Really, I have no idea what I want to do. I’m planning on spending a few years teaching English abroad, hopefully in Vietnam and then France. After that, I will likely apply to graduate school.
Question: What are some of your favorite hobbies?
Answer: I actually had more hobbies in high school. Since coming to college I haven’t had the time to keep up with them. Recently, I have been trying to start running again after two surgeries on my right knee. I also enjoy a good match of tennis every now and then. I am looking forward to the World Cup in 2010. I like keeping tabs on tech and media news and national and local Michigan politics. I recently bought an older BMW and I’ve enjoyed learning how to repair it with the help of a friend. And now that I live off campus, I’ve enjoyed learning to cook. Playing around with technology remains a hobby, and one that at least I can get paid for.

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