Volume 31
Issue 1/2
Spring 2008

 

 

PCR Program 2008 AAR Meeting in Chicago

Presessions:
Friday, October 30, 2008

Friday, October 30, 2008
Location TBA

2:00- 3:45
Book Panel: Mourning Religion
Bill Parsons, Diane Jonte-Pace and Susan Henking, Eds.,

4:00-5:00 pm
Heavenly Services: Psychological Reflections on Today’s Attractiveness of Angels
Sebastian Murken, University of Trier, Germany

5:15-6:15 pm
PRAXIS REFLECTION:
Knowing through Becoming - Exercises in Documentary Theater:
Reflections on "Red Books: Our Search for Ellen White"
A. Gregory Schneider, Pacific Union College, Angwin, California
Mei Ann Teo, Artist-in-Residence, Pacific Union College

7:30-9:30 pm
PCR Dinner

Saturday, Nov 1, 2008
Location TBA

9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
Works in Progress

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
PCR Business Meeting/ Elections

 

Regular Sessions: Locations TBA

Time & place TBA
Psychological and Religious Reflections on Terror and Anxiety

Time & Place TBA
Psychologies and/of Race

 

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PCR Changes Its Name: To PCR!

At the 2007 business meeting of the PCR group, the decision was made to change our name slightly but significantly—from “Person, Culture, and Religion” to “Psychology, Culture, and Religion.”  The main rationale was to clarify the identity of our group as the AAR’s primary forum for the discussion of psychology and religion.   Many PCR members said they regularly find themselves having to explain to other people that the Person, Culture, and Religion group is, in fact, devoted to psychology and religion, although in a broader interdisciplinary fashion than is usually found in the psychology of religion.  By changing our name, the hope is that we will more easily attract AAR scholars looking for psychological resources and insights.  The decision was not made lightly, and some PCR members spoke on behalf of “Person” as a more adequate indicator of the way our group tends to approach psychology.  In the end, the desire to simplify our discussions with colleagues and raise our profile in the AAR community won out. 

Comments on the name change are welcome and will be printed in the next newsletter. 

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PCR Steering Committee News

No steering committee slots opened up this year, so the composition of our group’s leadership remains the same until the 2008 AAR meeting in Chicago.  At that time, several decisions will need to be made.  Our current co-chairs, Pamela Cooper-White and Kathleen Bishop, will finish their second three-year term, and so will SC member Felicity Kelcourse.  We will need to choose replacements for each of them.  Hetty Zock will finish her first three-year term on the SC, and will be eligible for reelection in 2008. 

For future planning purposes, in 2009 Greg Schneider and Lallene Rector will finish their second three-year terms on the SC, and Kirk Bingaman and Lisa Cataldo will complete their first three-year terms.

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News from PCR Members

Kirk Bingaman (Fordham University) contributed a book chapter, "The Paradoxical Freud" to the edited volume, Icons of Unbelief, edited by S.T. Joshi and due to be published at the end of 2008 by Greenwood Press. "Icons of Unbelief" will be part of the Greenwood Press "Icons" series, a new reference format and approach to popular culture. Other volumes include: "Icons of the American West", "Icons of Rock", "Icons of Evolution", and "Icons of Business."

Andrew Kille (Bible Workbench) has been recuperating from a fractured pelvis, the result of a fall suffered while hiking on Christmas day. Although the surgery on his hip was quite successful, other complications have slowed his recovery. After two months in the hospital and another in a rehab center, he is now home and undergoing physical therapy twice a week to regain use of his left leg. Progress is steady, if slow. On a more celebratory side, Andy was recently named as Editor of The Bible Workbench, a study resource for groups and individuals which brings group process, psychological sensitivity and a focus on story to the weekly lectionary readings.

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PCR Commentary

Moral Reasoning
in the Jury Box    

When I got home from Thanksgiving vacation I was anxious to get working on several post-AAR conference projects, some of them with very short deadlines.  Upon opening the family calendar, however, I saw a notation made many weeks earlier: “Monday: KB jury duty.” 

A quick inner debate ensued:

OK, no problem, I’ll just postpone it.  Again.  If they let me.  Hmm.  If I don’t do it now, I’ll just get called again, and probably at a worse time.  When are those AAR deadlines?  Maybe I’ll show up and they won’t choose me.  But what if they do, and it’s a long trial?  I could try a reverse gender maneuver, tell them I’m primary caregiver for my children and can’t be torn away from my duties in the domestic sphere….

At 8:30 a.m. on the Monday morning after Thanksgiving I showed up at the California State Superior Courthouse in Richmond, looking as scruffy and disreputable as I could manage.  I sat in the back row of the reception room and kept my head down.  I conspicuously rubbed my unshaved chin.  None of it mattered.  According to my answers on the entrance survey, I was a middle-aged (sigh) white male, a rare demographic type in the juror pool that day.  I soon found myself in the first group of potential jurors taken to a courtroom, where I was the fifth person evaluated for suitability to serve in that particular trial.

The very first question posed by the judge to our group was whether we knew her, the defendant, or the attorneys.  Anyone who answered yes was excused from the courtroom.  Those of us who answered no remained for further questioning.

Rawls’ veil of ignorance had descended upon us.  We met as a group of perfect strangers.

The judge started by asking each potential juror some questions about his or her personal life, with a few moments of pleasant chit-chat before getting into the trial-related questions about our experiences with the police, crime, and the justice system.  After the judge finished with us, the two attorneys each asked their own questions, many of which elicited uncomfortable, contentious responses.  

As this process moved along, I found myself thinking about a PCR presentation from the previous week’s AAR conference that suddenly took on surprising relevance—Kevin O’Connell’s discussion of Lawrence Kohlberg’s and Carol Gilligan’s theories of moral development as tools for analyzing the types of moral argumentation used in Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth and the text of the Earth Charter.  What struck me, sitting there in juror’s chair #5, was that the Kohlberg/Gilligan stage model approach provided a beautiful explanation of what was unfolding in the courtroom.  To put it in simplest terms, the judge and lawyers were establishing a regime of conventional, stage 4 moral reasoning (in Kohlberg’s terms).  They skillfully probed each prospective juror for deviations into pre- or post-conventional moral thinking, and they removed anyone incapable of functioning within a strictly conventional moral framework.  At the same time, the judge did her best to create a broader discourse of ethical mutuality and interpersonal responsibility in the courtroom, much like the third and highest stage of Gilligan’s theory of psychological development.   

To be honest, I haven’t done much with the stage theories of Kohlberg, Gilligan, Erikson, Piaget, Fowler, Kegan, etc. since graduate school. I’ve always felt the complexity of human development is poorly represented by fixed stages and pre-ordained categories.  But O’Connell’s AAR presentation was so interesting because he used the theories as tools for analyzing types of moral argument rather than types of people.  Adapting Kohlberg’s theory in this way, his six stages of reasoning look like this:

Pre-Conventional
1. An appeal to the fear of being personally harmed or punished.
2. An appeal to personal identity, interest, gain, desire, safety, comfort.
Conventional
3. An appeal to interpersonal ties, family bonds, group identity.
4. An appeal to established rules, laws, and social order.
Post-Conventional
5. An appeal to pragmatic flexibility and shared notions of the collective good.
6. An appeal to ultimate values of justice and fairness.

The goal of the juror questioning process was exactly this, to weed out people who were unable to adopt a sufficiently conventional, stage 4 moral attitude during the trial.  People were excused from the courtroom for failing on either end of the spectrum, either too pre-conventional or too post-conventional, sometimes through no fault of their own.  A woman who retired recently from a long career in the U.S. Customs Service was pushed by the lawyers and judge to admit she would favor the testimony of a law enforcement official over that of an ordinary individual.  This was understandable given her professional identity, but as a consequence she seemed incapable of evaluating the case impartially, separate from her personal perspective—out she went. 

A late teen/early 20’s college student who still lived at home with her parents confessed that she felt pretty sure most defendants in court are guilty.  When asked why, she said that’s the way it usually happens on TV.  I’m not sure she knew how absurd she sounded, but the lawyers and judge made it clear by their responses to the young woman that the rest of us would be expected to function at a much higher level of moral reasoning. 

But not too high.  An older woman told the judge she was an acupuncturist, and the two of them had a few moments of cheerful discussion around the topics of stress, healing, and new approaches to medicine.  But then the question came up of the older woman’s feelings about law enforcement, and she launched into an lengthy critique of the American justice system: condemning its racial and economic inequities, deploring police brutality, attacking the trial process, and recommending a book analyzing how and why juries go wrong.  It was an excellent performance of stage 6 moral analysis and reasoning, and it made her entirely incapable of playing the role of juror.  

The judge’s response at this point impressed me.  She could have simply excused the acupuncturist from the courtroom and moved on.  But instead she collected herself, looked straight at the older woman, and took up the stage 6 argument.  The judge said yes, the history of the American justice system has been plagued with racial and economic unfairness, and many problems remain today.  She told of her own personal uncertainties about judicial decisions she’s made. But then she pushed back hard on the value of the jury system as a way of drawing on the wisdom of ordinary citizens to make tough decisions about the practical application of abstract notions of justice.  I don’t think the older woman was persuaded, and she soon left our company.  But the judge had succeeded in establishing a stronger sense of moral self-understanding in the courtroom.  She showed us that post-conventional moral beliefs and ideals were not forbidden, but they needed to conform for the sake of a fair trial to the standards of conventional, rule-bound moral reasoning.

I don’t know if I was right about any of this, but thinking about it gave me some measure of comfort as the official scrutiny of the courtroom turned to me.

Just talk like a stage 4.  Be a stage 4.  You can do it.  Conventional, everything conventional.

 First question from the judge: “So Mr. Bulkeley, you’re a writer.  What do you write about?”

Doh!  No conventional answer to that one.

“I mostly write academic books about dream research, your honor.”

Her eyebrows rose, and she laughed.  “Oh!  I could tell you some dreams!”

Now that would be interesting, a research project studying judges’ dreams….

Instinctively I tried to think of a way to get her to say something more, but then stopped myself.

Watch those stage 2 impulses!  

“I once read a book,” the judge went on, “called The Promise of Sleep.  I can’t remember the author’s name….”

Quick, back to stage 4.  “William Dement,” I said.  I almost gave her a full recitation of the book’s publication details.  

“That’s right,” she said, bestowing me with an approving smile.  “It was a very big book.”

I nodded and smiled back.  “Yes, very.” 

In most other situations, I would find a way to ask if the person was having trouble sleeping, since those who take the time to read a huge text like Dement’s are probably looking for help along those lines.  But in this case, asking the judge details about her private life didn’t seem like the best stage 4 move to make.

She noted my comments on the entrance survey about disagreeing with the death penalty and the war on drugs.  Unfortunately, my stage 6 principles were not an obstacle in this case. As far as she was concerned, I was good to go.

The emotional temperature of the courtroom rose dramatically when the lawyers began their questioning of the potential jurors.  Their brazen maneuvering for early rhetorical advantage put everyone on edge.  Suddenly we realized how vulnerable we were—under oath to tell the truth, subject to the rulings of a judge, guarded by an armed bailiff establishing stage 1 order.  The prosecutor and defense attorney were free to question us in as much detail as they wanted, and they clearly had no compunction about using an individual’s personal responses as object lessons for the rest of the group.  Instead of stage 4 moral agents, we were being treated as pawns serving the lawyers’ pre-conventional moral interests, a captive means to their competitive ends.

I did my best to mind my own business, but the defense attorney was sharp.  He spent a lot of time interrogating the TV-watching college student, prompting her to describe in more detail her biases against people accused of crime.  She happened to occupy seat #4 to my immediate right, and at one point the defense attorney suddenly looked at me.

“Mr. Bulkeley, I saw you nodding as juror #4 told us her thoughts.  Do you share any of her beliefs?”

Darn!  Caught in a deviation from the norm!

“No, not at all.”

He waited for more.

Do I really have to say what was going through my mind?

“Uh, I was nodding because I was admiring the way you were asking your questions.”

Which I was, as I thought more and more about this whole Kohlberg-Gilligan line of interpretation.  The defense attorney had just told the young woman a story about jury trials in the old Perry Mason TV shows, and I thought he made a graceful rhetorical move in “descending” to her pre-conventional perspective to make a larger point about the presumption of innocence in real trials. 

The defense attorney looked at me funny, unsure if I was complimenting him or not.  There was a bit of laughter.

Uh oh.  That was NOT a very conventional thing to say.  Too meta, too meta!  Am I going to get in trouble for thinking too much about what’s going on? 

He shook his head, and moved on to another person. 

It was clear from the lawyers’ questions that the case before us involved a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.  A few moments after busting me for straying into post-conventional territory, the defense attorney caught me trying to hide in the other direction. 

“How many of you,” he asked us as a group, “have family or friends who have been affected by alcohol?” 

Several hands went up.  After a fractional hesitation (am I really going to open up my family history in this kind of setting?  This is NOT a safe transitional space, no matter how nice the judge is), I raised my hand.

“Mr. Bulkeley, I see you weren’t sure about raising your hand.” 

I can’t believe this is happening….

He took a step toward me and readied himself to listen.

That’s weird….His head is perfectly haloed by the clock on the courtroom wall behind him….

“Can you tell me why?”

Deep breath.  “Sure.”

In the next few moments I revealed to a group of complete strangers information about my family that, while no longer secret, is not something I try to broadcast to the world.  I’m not sure how my responses sounded—he had definitely struck a pre-conventional nerve, which I guess was the point.  I answered everything he asked honestly, but minimally, and he left me alone once I’d agreed that I could rule fairly in a trial involving alcohol use.

Was that really necessary?

Maybe it was….

Filling in the full slate of twelve jurors and two alternates took the rest of the afternoon.  The trial began the next morning and lasted a day and a half.  Suffice it to say that it was a case in which the “innocent until proven guilty” principle made all the difference.  We weren’t sure if we could believe the defendant’s story, and it was undeniable he had badly misbehaved during the incident in question.  But the prosecutor gave us paltry evidence of any actual crime being committed, and we were all suspicious about the racial dynamics of the case (the defendant was black, the main witness against him white).  That made it fairly easy to reach a stage 4 moral decision that “the people” had failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Easy for most of us, anyway.  Nine of us voted for immediate acquittal (what a relief! I wasn’t the only one feeling this way), while the other three were leaning toward conviction on a lesser charge.  

Those of us in the majority could have forced the issue right away, but it was early in the afternoon, we had a loaf of homemade pumpkin bread to nibble on (another savvy move by the judge), and there was much to talk about. Without explicitly saying so, we set aside the stage four task of reaching a verdict and took advantage of the liminal space offered by the jury room to engage in an open-ended, free associational discussion ranging across the developmental spectrum, from theories about the ultimate meaning of “reasonable doubt” to personal stories of alcohol abuse, from emotional expressions of gut feeling to thoughtful arguments in favor of common moral ground.  More than anything, we wanted to know the narrative truth, the real story of what happened, but this desire for narrative coherence was frustrated by the attorneys, whose job was to provide us with only enough information to make their case.  Stories don’t matter for stage 4 reasoning.

At the end, what pushed us over the top was a pre-conventional concern about the clock: if we didn’t decide by 4:45 pm, we would have to come back the next morning for further deliberations.  Nobody wanted that.  We took one final vote, and it was unanimous. And with that, we were done.

The verdict was read in court, and the defendant and his attorney were suitably pleased.  The prosecutor showed no reaction one way or another.  The judge smiled, and thanked us for our service. 

We filed out of the courthouse, and went our separate ways.

 

Kelly Bulkeley
The Graduate Theological Union

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Thanks to Our Members

Those who have paid dues for the `07-`08 year include: Steve Bauman; Duane Bidwell; Lucy Bregman; Kelly Bulkeley; Marcia J. Bunge; Nathan Carlin; Francis Charet; Pamela Cooper-White; Al Dueck; Nancy Grace; John Haule; Jim Higginbotham; Mary Huie-Jolly; James W. Jones; Diane Jonte-Pace; Joo Hyung Lee; Daniel Merkur; Hester Oberman; Michael Oppenheim; Lewis Rambo; Martha Robbins; Karen Scheib; Raynard Smith; Angela Son; Judith Van Herik; Hendrika Vande Kemp; Trevor Watt; Hetty Zock.

Membership dues in PCR support resources for audio-visual equipment at the Annual Meeting. These costs, imposed by the host city hotels, have been increasing steadily over the past several years. Feel the warm glow of knowing that you're helping to enhance PCR sessions, subsidize grad students' attendance at the PCR dinner and to distribute PCR-related information to scholars, clinicians, and clergy members interested in our work.

$25.00 Regular Membership; $15.00 Student Membership (with copy of student ID). Checks should be payable to Person, Culture, & Religion Group. Send to: Kelly Bulkeley, Secretary/Treasurer, 226 Amherst Avenue, Kensington CA 94708; Phone: 510-528-0226; Fax is same; E-mail: kellybulkeley@earthlink.net

 

Psychology, Culture & Religion News Volume 31, Issue 1/2

Editor: Kelly Bulkeley; Layout: D. Andrew Kille

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