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Local professor discusses 9/11 book

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Franklin College professor of religion and philosophy David Carlson will discuss his book “Peace Be With You: Monastic Wisdom for a Terror-Filled World” Sunday at the Bartholomew County Public Library.

Carlson’s book, which was released in 2011, is the result of dozens of interviews with monks, abbots and nuns about their responses to the events of 9/11.

“It invites you in to get a sense of what these communities are like, and it is much different than what we imagine,” said Carlson, who said that his interview subjects watch very little television, and therefore aren’t heavily influenced by political


“I was afraid I would get 40 or 50 versions of ‘love thy neighbor’, but that wasn’t the case,” said Carlson. “There was virtually no repetition of ideas.”

Carlson said he was motivated to write the book by what he calls “three knocks on the door.”

The first knock came from students in his class on religion and violence at Franklin College.

“I think my students were thinking that by the end of the semester I would have an answer,” said Carlson. “But how to end religious violence is a vague concept.”

The second knock came from personal visits to monasteries, where several religious figures offered their thoughts about how each community was struggling to process the events of 9/11.

And while Carlson’s literary agent originally rejected the idea for the book when Carlson brought it up, his agent’s son expressed enthusiasm for the concept, providing the final “knock.”

The book served as a catalyst for the Shoulder to Shoulder in Interfaith Witness movement, which calls for peaceful gatherings of people of all faiths whenever an act of violence is committed in the name of religion.

Inspired by discussions with Carlson, the Interfaith Forum of Columbus had their first Shoulder to Shoulder gathering in the wake of a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in August. Since then, Carlson has met with groups in Franklin and Bloomington about establishing the Shoulder to Shoulder movement in other communities.

Carlson said that while the process of writing the book was emotionally taxing and even brought on a bout of depression, it has been — and continues to be — a life-changing experience.

“I feel a commitment to live this out,” said Carlson. “The journey of this book is not over.”

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