Gregory McKenzie has lived a life full of unique experiences, which include serving in the Army and working for Homeland Security.
Me: Where did you grow up?
Mr. McKenzie: I spent the majority of my young childhood years in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. I moved to Pensacola, Florida when I was about eleven. I stayed there until I graduated from the University of West Florida and joined the Army.
Me: What drew your interest to Intelligence Studies in college?
Mr. McKenzie: Having already attained my Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida, and having been in the Army for several years as a combat reconnaissance officer, it was a logical step for career advancement in the US Intelligence Community and the military. Essentially, it was part of a career transition within the military from a combat role to an intelligence analysis role. I had recently graduated from the US Military Intelligence Career Course. Attaining the Master’s Degree in Intelligence Studies is the next step in the academic realm for professional development.
Me: What are your most prominent memories from serving in the Army?
Mr. McKenzie: There are several prominent memories from my deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Like many others, I had a few “close calls” and events about which I can say truly that it is by God’s grace that I am around to tell the tale. Other than the combat experiences, the many hours of training during field exercises and memories from my former colleagues stick out. On a more personal and spiritual level, the main thing I remember about my time in the Army is how radically different my life is now compared to back then. My time in the military was a spiritually dark time and my life only manifested lots of bad fruit, but God used that time to bring me to where I am today.
Me: What sort of things did you do as an intelligence officer in Homeland Security?
Mr. McKenzie: My job was quite interesting and demanding, as it required real-time analysis with potentially severe consequences should the analysts fail. It consisted of an analysis of airline passengers against intelligence community watchlists among other tools to determine if terrorists were attempting to use deception to board aircraft bound for, or flying over, the United States.
Me: Why did you decide to pursue a Ph.D.?
Mr. McKenzie: I am actually in my 2nd attempt at a Ph.D. My first attempt followed my job with Homeland Security when I got accepted to do a Ph.D. in Political Philosophy at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. I wanted to do this Ph.D. primarily because, during the course of my military and intelligence career, I began to notice that the methods used for intelligence and security and the philosophies behind intelligence collection can be severely out of alignment with the ideals of liberty and free society. It was during this time in New Zealand that the Lord convicted me concerning how to actually solve the problem I was trying to solve. I came to the conclusion that political philosophy is the right handmaiden of theology. What I mean by that is that all political philosophy and science shows its true colors by its theology. To put political philosophy first is to put the cart before the horse. In essence, whether it accepts biblical moral norms and the existence of the one true God is demonstrated in how it views man, and how it treats and governs imago Dei.
This realization drove me to switch my degree in political philosophy to theology. I was accepted to Liberty University’s Ph.D. in Theology and Apologetics program. I should be in the dissertation phase of my studies next year.
My preliminary dissertation topic combines my theological and political/intelligence backgrounds to equip modern Christians to respond to challenges unique to our technological society. Sub-topics include Christian responses to Artificial Intelligence and techno-social changes (what it means to be human at the height of the technological age, in light of possible change with human-machine interface such as that presented by Elon Musk’s Neurolink), Christian challenges to technological moral epistemology in the face of propaganda and deep fake technology (how can we know what is true and make authentic moral decisions if the majority of our information is fabricated by government or other entities, or if conflicting information suppressed by online censorship), and Christian responses to changes in governance, such as China’s advancement of the Social Credit System among other algorithmic governing systems.
Me: When did you start teaching for TPS? How did you hear about it?
Mr. McKenzie: I reached out to TPS in late 2018 and got an offer for the AP Human Geography position in 2019. I actually heard about TPS from a host at an Airbnb I was staying was while attending a class at Liberty University. We had gotten into a conversation because my wife and I homeschool our children. My Airbnb host also homeschooled, but the older kids attended classes with TPS. After that conversation, I researched TPS and saw the opening for Human Geography. Considering my political and theological background, I thought I would be a good fit for teaching the position.
Me: How would you describe your Human Geography course?
Mr. McKenzie: Human Geography is a unique course, in that it attempts to synthesize data from several disciplines in order to explain why things are the way they are, starting at the local level and culminating in the understanding of interconnections worldwide. It is the study of human activity and institutions (cities and economic activity, governments, states, ethnic groups, religious groups, languages, etc.) and where they are located, but most importantly why they are there. Students of this course engage in the study of the patterns, processes, and interconnections that shape human understanding, use, and transformation of the earth’s surface. As such we investigate several major themes of human civilization – population, culture (language and religion), political organization, agricultural land use, industrialization, and urban land use.
AP Human Geography ultimately prepares students to excel on the AP Human Geography exam. However, this course meets several critical needs that are absent from most Human Geography courses. This is done primarily by applying a consistent biblical Christian worldview to Human Geography. I have designed the course to include both geographic and theological rationale in order to give students the necessary skills to determine why events happen and how the world-system operates. Being able to interact with the different patterns, processes, and interconnections of Human Geography will give students greater knowledge on why people act the way they do (based on culture, economics, religion, and philosophy), but also teach them how to engage others more effectively in evangelism and apologetics.
I really enjoyed learning more about one of TPS’s amazing teachers! Reading about his experiences and studies has been super interesting and I hope he continues to teach TPS students for years to come.