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Psychology professor Richard Beck shapes lives in and out of the classroom


richard beck with study abroad students in leipzig
Dr. Richard Beck talks with Study Abroad students in Leipzig, Germany.

Photo by Scott Delony

You may see Dr. Richard Beck, chair of ACU’s psychology department, pedaling his bike across campus, wearing overalls and sporting windblown hair, or cooped up in his office windows feverishly writing his next big (or small) idea with a marker. You may read his work on his blog, pick up one of his books, or stumble upon one of his posts as a guest blogger. And if you really love psychology, you may be familiar with the chapter he wrote (with his former ACU graduate student Andrea Haugen) on surveying Christian faith in Volume One of the APA Handbook of Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality. Just kidding, you haven’t read that: it costs $550, weighs 9 pounds and is nearly 1,500 pages.

His passion for educating students for Christian service shines brightly and is one of the reasons he has received such honors as ACU Teacher of the Year, Honors College Teacher of the Year, and College of Arts and Sciences Classroom Teaching and Faith Integration award.

But here’s what you really need to know about Beck: He loves to see Jesus transforming the lives of those who live in the “margins” of society.

The psychology professor leads a weekly Bible study at a maximum-security prison north of town and preaches at Freedom Fellowship, a church planted by Highland Church of Christ that welcomes the homeless, the mentally disabled, the criminal, the addicted, the hungry and the abandoned.

“Freedom is in a poor, run-down part of town and many of the people who come to worship with us, who I count as my friends, are homeless or on the edge of homelessness,” Beck says. “Many people who come to Freedom are also struggling with a host of disabilities, from the cognitive to the psychiatric to the physical. Many suffer from addictions of various sorts. Many have been in prison.

“[They] are at the absolute bottom of society. And they know it. But in the midst of worship and during the proclamation of the gospel they are transformed. They become citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. They are infused with an incandescent dignity that they cannot find in the soul-crushing meritocracy of American life.”

Beck says he started working with inmates at the French-Robertson Prison for the same reason he joined Freedom Fellowship: obedience to Jesus.

“Jesus said visit prisoners. Said that’s how you’d find him. So I went to the prison,” Beck explains. “I told the 30 men that participate in the study that I came to prison not to bring them God but to find God in their midst. And I have. Beyond worshiping at Freedom, I feel closest to God singing, praying and studying the Bible with the men at the prison. I am constantly surprised by the way God moves among these men who are living in such a brutal, hostile and violent world.”

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