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Latest update: September 26, 2000
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Why Include the Study of Religion?

Essay by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Part of Peacemaking Identity Series
Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata, June 2000. "Fair Use" encouraged.

This is a brief summary of a lecture in Theory on Monday, September 25, 2000, at CSUDH. Tina Juen, a CSUDH student who has sent in some very provocative stories from the Internet, wrote something at the end of last week like: "Do we really need to go there, jeanne. Religion is so personal." On Monday, in class, I assured Tina that, yes, I meant to go there. We have to, for religion, spirituality, morality, ethics, humanism, aesthetics, and every other name by which we call the spiritual component of our selves is a major component of who and what humans are that has been ignored by scientism far too long.

The stories of The Adversarial Professor and The Teacher Who Practiced Love highlight our need for what Fellman calls mutuality. They are "chicken soup" stories for the soul. Literature, and art, and music, and architecture, and every other creative endeavor in which humans engage are the non-rational, non-objective, non-scientific, incommensurable means by which we express our souls.

Money and power have come in the late twentieth century to dominate the language of relationships. (Habermas, passim.) Somewhere there is still a language of relationships, of mutuality, of caring that Habermas has long regarded as the only legitimate arena in which we may find peace and justice and some version of "enlightenment" in our time, in our world.

This means, Tina, that if I elect to avoid the language of relationships, of "spirituality," that I am taking part in the almost universal denial of this fundamental language and system by which we know humanity. Habermas would say that is to deny legitimacy, for the worlds of money and power are not the ones Habermas see as providing hope for the future. Habermas sees the system of law as the direction in which we must go. And the law must be informed, if it is to be "legitimate" in Habermas' sense, by the spiritual and transcendent, which remain always partially unknown and unknowable.

Maybe the simplest way to say it, Tina, is that if I do not include religion and spirituality as foundations upon which must be included in our building of theory and praxis, then I have chosen not to STAND UP..) And standing up for what we believe is one of the ways to transform discourse so that the expression of feelings and beliefs may become socially acceptable, and so that we may move towards a climate of mutuality, as Fellman insists we must.

Michael Planck told me of what Sister Wendy has said of "religion" and "spirituality," defining religion as more constrained by doctrine and "spirituality" as more non-constraining. Michael, you need to write that up for us, and give the appropriate references so that we can cite them in academic discussions on the issue.

More later as you write in your comments. jeanne. September 26, 2000.