Saturday, December 8, 2012

academic heresy

Hal Pepinsky,,
December 8, 2012
                I outed my religious self in last Sunday’s blog on No More Taking Sides, when I gave thanks for being guided while grounded at home to a radio program that answered that most serious of questions that had just been posed during mediation week in Trinidad: What about murder?  I am now forty years a “professor.”  By attributing my understanding of transformation of violence to superhuman, undetectable energy flows in which the world as I know it exists, the equivalent of declaring that I am guided by my belief in God, I have for the first time in three generations in my family committed academic heresy.  I have believed in the divinity of what people get when they build trust that their relations are respectful and dignified for as long as I can remember.  A primary reason for peer rejections of my manuscripts from the outset was that they were written in the first person and anecdotal.  Early in my studies I explored philosophies of knowledge widely, but I could never “scientifically” justify my “knowledge” beyond claiming that it worked for me and for others.  Basic academic training engrained a separation of science and faith.  In public discourse, I spent a long time trying to defend what I felt I knew on accepted “scientific” grounds.  Some would say that because I have no particular faith in any religious institution, I am spiritual.  I see no reason to separate the two.  Whatever knowledge I have of the ways of human relations is faith based.  I feel no less religious in practice and belief than my clerical sisters and brothers.  Bottom line: my knowledge of all our relations is religious.
                Recent trips tipped me over into “professional” disclosure.  Aleksandras Dobryninas, who had introduced me, closed discussion of my “peacemaking journey” by asking: Are you religious?  And so I said yes, and gave some examples of the supernatural in my own life, which is fortunate, because Aleks well knew that I had called “peacemaking” in criminology a union of religion and rationality in 1991.  Then in Trinidad I found overt invocation of God’s blessing in a remarkably religiously diverse country.  I thought of all the people I know earnestly sharing a calling to understand how to build trust, empathy and compassion who wear overt religious symbols.  And so in a moment of professional recklessness, I have decided to acknowledge that if a religious foundation discredits one’s claims to knowledge in and of itself, I know essentially nothing about violence and its transformation.
                On the other hand, I no longer want to pretend to know more than religious inspiration shows me.  I owe that to sisters and brothers who don’t hide their religiosity either.  I halfway expected how silent the lists to which I sent the last post have become (except for job ads).  I have broken a largely unspoken academic taboo:  I mix religion and science.  It took me a long time to get up the courage to say so in public.    Love and peace--hal

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