It’s almost Christmas time and I usually travel. Not this year. It has me thinking longer than usual on the following, a passage from the Gospel According to Mark, chapter six. It resonates on a personal level, because I left home at the age of 18 a committed pantheist anti-Christian. I came back once or twice a year for the next decade or so, studying more and more in the intervals, to mostly colder receptions from the people that had respected me most before I left. I had gained notoriety among my peers in high school for my relentless public criticism of authority and proclaimed intention of destroying the Catholic Church. So I went off to study the history of Western Civilization—“to know my enemy,” as I said.
The last straw, obviously and starkly, was my conversion to Christianity about four years later. It was hard to watch people take me less and less seriously, to assume that I held opinions that were associated in their minds with my expressed opinions (whether or not there was any logical reason for doing so), to listen less and less, to be less willing to engage in rational discourse about historical and philosophical questions, the more I learned about the subjects in question.
I don’t claim to be a prophet. But it is interesting to see how in professional life I have often seen people of equal talent respected and valued more and more according as they are home-grown or from abroad. Sometimes it’s just a foreign accent, or an eastern European-sounding last name.
I’ve been the beneficiary of such prejudice in my own career.
ουκ εστιν προφητης ατιμος ει μη εν τη πατριδι αυτου και εν τοις συγγενευσιν αυτου και εν τη οικια αυτου
(I use the version I read on my Kindle, without breathing marks, accent marks, iota subscripts, punctuation, or capitalization, and often without spaces between words, because I prefer to read it like the ancients read it. I recently saw a Byzantine codex of the Gospel of John and it was, except for the lack of spaces between words, almost the same reading experience.)
A prophet is not without honor except in his own fatherland and among his kin and at his home.
Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for being the gadfly of my discipline.