Good morning everyone!
The theme this month is “Legacy” so I suggested to James that I give opening words on this topic on behalf of the Legacy Committee. For those who may not know what it is, the Legacy Committee was set up to manage the financial gifts that the Ethical Society has received over the years. These gifts have been in the millions of dollars and form a critical part of the financial structure of the Ethical Society.
It would take me a long time to enumerate these gifts, but I would just like to paraphrase from a recent email sent to me from our treasurer Steve Harris:
I think it would be useful to remind our members about the large amount of our annual operating budget (over 20%) that comes from money donated by former and present members over many years. A short list of specific uses beyond the operating budget would include the Becker donation to revamp the HVAC system, the Rotkowski bequest to improve the audiovisual features in the auditorium, the Fisher bequest to buy the Boston upright piano, and the use of gift annuity money from over 20 people to build the family bathroom, among other things.Steve Harris
The last time I gave opening words, I dressed as the grim reaper and tried to give a humorous pitch to remind people that we are all eventually going to die and so we ought to be thinking of the Ethical Society when we do our estate planning. I had no idea then of the coming pandemic and that we would all be meeting on Zoom instead of in person. This has been a stressful time for all of us and I personally really miss meeting with all of you in person instead of in this Zoom “room” that we now do.
I also realize that some people may have lost their jobs and hence their income, so this is also a financial disaster for probably at least some of you. But eventually the pandemic will be over with and hopefully things will get back to more or less “normal.” And the Ethical Society will still be here.
So, I wanted to briefly tell you all a little of what the Ethical Society means to me personally. Aside from the simple fact that I feel that the members of this congregation are some of the most intelligent and really the warmest group of people I’ve ever met, I really appreciate what the Ethical Society stands for and represents. For me, that includes a commitment to rational dialogue and concern for our fellow humans regardless of what race they are, their sexual orientation, or their ethnic background.
In short, the Ethical Society is dedicated to not only celebrating this life and enjoying what it has to offer, but it also represents a way of thinking that looks to the future and to what we all might do together to make the world a better place. My hope is that all of you will take a little time to consider what your legacy will be and how you might help to keep this community going in the future.
NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.(more…)
News about the Society in a video by Leader Dr James Croft.
My name is Dara Strickland, my pronouns are she/her. I’ve been a member at the Ethical Society for a year. Today I want to tell you about the Confederate monument in my hometown.
I want to make one thing completely clear: I hate this stupid statue. It’s a life-size Italian marble statue of a Confederate soldier on a giant obelisk in the town square in front of the county courthouse. It has a dumb nickname. The day it comes down like so many others are coming down in the past few weeks, I am going to drink champagne.
It’s not just important to press for the statue to come down, though; we have to remember how it got up there in the first place.
The Confederate monument was placed in my town in 1899 and it cost almost $85,000 in today’s dollars, all of which was raised by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. That’s an impressive amount by any standard, but UDC hadn’t been pooling their nickels and dimes since the war ended – it had only existed for 5 years at that point. In fact, the UDC or closely-connected groups put up more than 60 memorials like the one in my hometown in the first 20 years of the 20th century. Very few of these commemorate specific people or battles, and almost none of them are in cemeteries. The vast majority of them are in front of county courthouses where black citizens serve jury duty, pay their property taxes, and stand trial.
The UDC did much more than just put up these statues. It also focused enormous amounts of time and money into establishing and maintaining Confederate cemeteries, gathering oral histories, and publishing books that supported the Lost Cause narrative of the Civil War. If the deaths of those soldiers were noble, then what they were fighting to preserve – a lifestyle built on the lifetime enslavement of millions of people – must have been noble, too.
Rednecks didn’t put those statues up. Ignorance didn’t record and publish hundreds of first-hand accounts that glorified Confederate soldiers and the women waiting for them at home. Educated white women with access to wealth and privilege did this as a way to assert political power. They were so successful at it that we are still somehow debating whether the statues private citizens put up on public land to advance an unambiguous agenda of white supremacy should be allowed to stand.
As happy as I am that I will live to see the statue in my hometown come down, I don’t want it to be destroyed. I mentioned before that it has a dumb nickname, which is “Chip.” On the day it was put in place, it was damaged – a big chip of marble came off the front brim of the hat. Although the statue has been cleaned and restored many times, it has never been repaired or replaced. “Broken from day one” is particularly fitting not just for the whole Confederate monument concept but because of what my hometown, Franklin Tennessee, teaches about the Civil War.
The Battle of Franklin in 1864 is generally referred to in my town as the “five bloodiest hours of the Civil War.” That’s a weird thing that a lot of battle sites do, narrowing the scope of time so they have “more casualties per hour than Gettysburg” or are “the little Bull Run.” The fact is that 50,000 soldiers fought and a few hours later almost 2,000 of them were dead, another 5,000 too wounded to continue, and 2,000 more missing or captured. It wasn’t what you’re probably picturing from movies, with orderly lines of soldiers in a field shooting while the line behind them reloads. The battle was a chaotic struggle in the dark and most of the fighting was hand-to-hand with guns used more for their bayonets than their bullets. Almost all of the fighting was in the town itself.
As a public school student, I went every year, even in early elementary years, to the houses that were in the middle of the fighting. Volunteer guides talked to us not just about the movements of troops but about the experiences of people who were there. The battle was always presented to us as a disaster that happened to the people who lived in the town, both free and enslaved, and to the soldiers on both sides. The clear villain of the story was always John Bell Hood, the Confederate general who ordered his men to attack the entrenched Union army. It was something to be remembered but not celebrated.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized most towns with a similar history are not like Franklin. It seems there are very few Franklins thanks to organizations like the DAC.
But that’s what gives me hope, too. In the face of a systemic, organized, well-funded narrative that glorified a war in order to support white supremacy, in my town a different narrative won out. That dumb statue is still sitting in the town square in front of the courthouse, but the first thing that will be pointed out to you is the chip out of its hat.
As people, we may not be able to march or to donate money right now, but as humanists we can always hold space for and elevate the lived experiences of people who live under the weight of racism and police brutality. We can put our efforts into teaching the narratives that create Franklins; those that remark that the monuments of inequality are broken – and they always have been.
NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.(more…)
The American Ethical Union (AEU) enthusiastically endorses the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling in favor of gay, lesbian, and transgender people’s right to work free from discrimination. This ruling is a long overdue affirmation of the Constitutional and statutory rights of millions of citizens as guaranteed under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The ruling written by Justice Neil Gorsuch was straightforward and unambiguous: “We must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear,” Gorsuch wrote. “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
The AEU has long called for equality regarding sex, gender, orientation, and identity, including: Reaffirming Support for Equal Rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, and Queer People (2010); supporting Same-Sex Marriage (2004) and Legalization of Gay Marriage (1996); condemning discrimination against Homosexuals (in 1979 and 1972); and, calling for an end to Sex Discrimination (1971). This ruling moves our country one step closer to the day when the full dignity of LGBTQIA+ Americans is recognized in law.
We now call on the Department of Labor’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Justice to step up their defense of the rights just reaffirmed by the highest court in the land. The AEU calls on the Trump Administration, which recently moved to ban transgender people from serving in the military and backtracked on medical protections for transgender Americans, to declare its intention to enforce this important ruling. We stress that no assertion of “religious freedom” should be allowed to enable employers to evade or ignore the intent of the court’s ruling. Further, we call for full protections for LGBTQIA+ people in public accommodations, healthcare, and every area of US life.
This is a day to celebrate an important step forward in the protection of the rights of all in the LGBTQ+ community—but much work remains to be done. The American Ethical Union cheers the decision in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and celebrates the work of the lawyers and activists who made this day possible. At the same time, we dedicate ourselves to the fights still ahead. Discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people is an attack on their inherent worth and dignity, and should be outlawed in every sphere of life. Ethical Humanists continue to fight for a world in which LGBTQIA+ people are wholly free.
News about the Society in a video by Leader Dr James Croft.
News about the Society in a video by Leader Dr James Croft.
Hi, everyone. Happy Sunday!
This month’s theme of Beginnings and Endings hits home for me especially this weekend, which is graduation for so many kiddos. After teaching school for 20 years, the month of May tastes bittersweet to me, because my 8 th grade students are not just growing up but they are also young adults growing away. As their teacher, I want to hold on to them – these amazing 13 and 14 years-olds who have finally let down their guards, learned to trust me, and risked sharing from places of vulnerability – but I can’t hold on to them. My job is to prepare them to move on: on to the next grade level, on to their next adventure. I love the people they are now, but I cannot trap them into being those people forever. They are growing into the people they are becoming, which means this year’s interactions are but a stepping stone in their development of becoming their future selves.(more…)
Good morning, everyone. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately. Maybe it’s the pandemic, maybe it’s having to postpone my wedding that was supposed to be held today, maybe it’s my general anxiety, or maybe it’s just a natural part of transitions like wrapping up my time as Board President here at the Society. Honestly, it’s probably all of these things and much more. So, what have I discovered in my most recent ruminations? There are a few things that stand out.(more…)
Like many things these days, our upcoming Annual Membership Meeting will look a bit different. This year, we will gather together online via Zoom instead of in person. Unfortunately, this means we will miss sharing our tasty dessert potluck. But if you plan accordingly, you can have your own sweet treat at home during the meeting.
The meeting date and time is the same (Thursday, May 14 from 7p-9p). We will review the past year, plan for the upcoming year, and vote on our Board nominees, budget, and bylaw changes. We are required to have at least 10% of our membership present, so please plan on joining us for this important gathering! I promise to do my best to make it both informative and enjoyable.
In preparation for the meeting, I encourage you to check out the annual report ahead of time. We have changed the format of this as well to make it much shorter and more accessible. Voting will also take place electronically this year. The same online ballot may be used to vote at the meeting or as an absentee ballot. If you prefer to mail in your ballot, a pdf version is also available for download. You can download, review, and access the annual report and ballot at https://ethicalstl.org/annualmeeting.
If you have any questions about the Annual Membership Meeting, please let me know. I look forward to seeing you there!
Amanda Verbeck, Board President
Hello and good morning.
I have been coming to the Ethical Society for about seven years now. We started when my son Rhys was in Kindergarten and wanted to join the boy scouts. I was opposed to this because at the time they didn’t allow gay or atheist scout leaders and I was already one of those and who knows what they future will bring. A friend of mine, Ellen Wilson told me about the Navigators chapter that was organizing here and that was my gateway to ethical. I have greatly enjoyed my time here, but I have a secret. A dark secret. That I have dared not share with you. They say that the truth will set you free, and so I thought in this time where you can not physically throttle me, I would finally share this shameful part of me with you.(more…)
Good morning! My name is Nathan Schrenk, my pronouns are he/him. I’ve been a member of the Ethical Society for almost 4 years. I’ve been a member of the Society’s End Racism Team, and recently I’ve been nominated to serve on the Society’s board as a trustee in the upcoming year.
I’ve been thinking about how I’ve been spending time, specifically volunteering or on activism.(more…)
We are a fortunate community in so many ways. And one of the best things about the Society is how we support one another, in good times and in bad. Some of us are financially weathering this storm easier than others. The good news is that the Ethical Society has a fund to provide emergency financial aid to members. If you are in a position to make a donation to help support our members in financial crisis, please mail checks made out to the Ethical Society of Saint Louis, with “Member Relief Fund” in the memo line. To apply for member relief, please contact Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for supporting each other through this time of need!
– Amanda Verbeck, Board President
A summary of the work of the Second Leader Search Task Force.
The Ethical Society of St. Louis has benefited from having two Leaders for the last five years or more. Kate Lovelady and James Croft have worked together well. It has been wonderful for those of us members to have two of our own Leaders as gifted platform speakers.(more…)
Want to know more about cultural and political changes around the World? Here’s your chance! The Tuesday Women’s Association and American Association of University Women invite you to learn from experts about the most critical issues affecting our global community via Zoom.us!
Annually, for 90 years, this Series has put a spotlight on forces driving world news events. Lectures are free & open to the public. Donations are gratefully accepted.
Guest lecturers speak approximately 45 minutes, and field questions afterward for about 15 minutes. Attendees are invited to bring lunch & stay to discuss the day’s topic. Each event of the Series will begin promptly at 10:45 a.m. the second Tuesday of the month, January to April.
Denise Lieberman, J.D.
“Voter Suppression Tactics”
January 14, 2020 – 10:45 a.m.
Thomas Lovejoy, PH.D.
“Triple Threat of Global Warming”
February 11, 2020 – 10:45 a.m.
Joe Scherrer – Director
“Cybersecurity Strategic Initiative Cyber (UN)Security”
March 10, 2020 – 10:45 a.m.
Debra Leiter, Ph.D.
“The New Populism: Identity Politics & the Rise of Us-Against-Them Leadership”
April 14, 2020 – 10:45 a.m.
Many of our events and groups are now being hosted on the free video chat platform Zoom. To join us use our permanent meeting code
Ethical Society Zoom meeting code 384 422 5785.
(That’s ETHICALSTL spelled out on a phone.)
- Download and install Zoom (free download) on the computer, smartphone, or tablet that you want to use. You can find it on https://zoom.us/download.
- Test your microphone and camera (if you wish to use it) to make sure everything works.
- Enter the meeting code into Zoom 384 422 5785
Want more assistance? Watch how to use Zoom for Ethical Society programs on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msmkxw6o5zg.
My name is Cy Henningsen. My pronouns are he / him / his, and I’ve been a member of the Society for 8 years.
First I’d like to thank Mayor Krewson for her leadership during this difficult time. On March 12th the Mayor ordered the Water Department to stop all water shut-offs until at least May. On March 12th I wasn’t sure COVID-19 was going to be anything at all, but the Mayor had the foresight to realize how large of an issue this was going to be and made sure we have the water needed to wash our hands, a key way to slow the spread of COVID-19, as well as having water to drink and cook with and everything else. More recently both Spire and Ameren have announced they have also stop shutting off utilities and Spectrum is offering free internet access to all students in St. Louis. All of these efforts are major changes for larger organizations and signs that we can pull together during this challenge.
Now, switching hears entirely, Opening Words is often a time for members and friends of the Society to reflect. A month ago I turned 40. People asked me what I thought about that, and generally I gave a non-answer of, “Oh, it’s fine” or “No big deal.” But there was a feeling in me, something which was making me feel uncomfortable. I sat with the discomfort and realized what it was – the idea that the best part of my life might be over. That it was all down hill from here.
I’ve thought about it more though and decided this is the wrong way to think about things. Rather, at least for me, it is better to focus on various aspects of my life, and what I am making better in my life.
When I was a teen I could hike for half a day, and besides getting rather sweaty, I was fine. Now, I find a 30 minute to an hour hike is about my limit where I am still enjoying the experience. But that doesn’t mean I can’t hike – I just have to plan shorter ones.
Long gone are the days when I eat all day and not gain a pound [pat belly]. But, I am much better at cooking now that I used to be – and while social distancing is causing many changes for everyone, it’s giving me time to cook more, and that I’ve been enjoying.
Relationships – oh a big one – unvoiced assumptions – I had no idea they were so harmful. I know I’ve been mad at past partners for doing or not doing something I never even told them about. Telling those you care about what you’d like sounds so simple – but it’s taken me a very long time to realize how necessary it is. And how sometimes you have to ask what partners’ wants and needs are when you realize they are upset, but don’t know why.
So yes I am 40; and perhaps the best part of certain aspects of my life are behind me. But the best parts of so much more are still ahead – and there will always be things I can get better at, always be groups that can use my help, always things I can enjoy.
Focus on those things you want improve my friends, and the best days of your life are always ahead of you.
NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.
Dear Ethical Society members,
Right now, every one of us is in the midst of coping with the effects of the coronavirus. The circumstances are changing rapidly, and the impact on our daily lives is immense. It is my sincere hope that you are all well. The pandemic is central in all of our minds, but there is still work to be done. With that said, I wanted to send an update regarding our Second Leader search.
As you know, a group of dedicated Society members has been actively searching for a new Second Leader over the last several months. This task force has done AMAZING work! After reviewing applications and conducting interviews, they came to the Board with an excellent candidate recommendation. With unanimous support from our task force, Leaders, and Board members, I reached out to the candidate to discuss next steps. Unfortunately, having such a highly qualified candidate meant they were in high demand. We were not the only congregation to express interest, and they decided to accept a position elsewhere.
I know this is disappointing news for all of us, especially right now. It can feel disheartening to go through such an extensive search and not have it end with the position filled. Even if the outcome isn’t what we hoped for, we feel good about the steps that were taken and the process as a whole. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard on this search!
So what happens now? The March 29 candidate Platform address and Board forum will not happen as planned, and the Special Member Meeting on April 19 has been cancelled. For now, we will conclude this search, and we will take steps to explore options in the interim before starting another search. In the longer term, we have some time to take a deep breath and regroup. As we know more, we will let you know.
Our goals remain the same. We want to continue to have strong Leaders in our community. We want the transition of Kate’s departure to go as smoothly as possible. We want to make sure the needs of our congregation are met. Know that we will continue to support each other as a community, and together we will make it through!
All the best,
Ethical Society Board President
Twenty-five years ago Carl Sagan used “Science as a Candle in the Dark” as the subtitle to his best-selling book, “The Demon-Haunted World.” Dr. Sagan encouraged us to look to science for guidance, to use the evidence it presents to inform our decisions, and to question claims – especially those that are extraordinary in nature. As the emergence of the 2019 novel coronavirus causes drastic changes to the lifestyle and livelihoods of people around the world, the undersigned science-based organizations of St. Louis urge everyone to turn to science for answers to their questions, and for treatment of the disease. While medical doctors may not have all the answers about this new virus, the ones they do have are based upon the evidence at hand, and offer the best measures to protect ourselves and our communities.
Times like these make us vulnerable to extraordinary claims, especially those which promise illness prevention, hold out hope of miracle cures, offer financial assistance, or weave insidious stories about the virus’ origin. In order to protect ourselves from manipulation, it is important to remember Dr. Sagan’s words of wisdom: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Pandemics have occurred throughout human history and do not require a conspiratorial explanation. While the ability of asymptomatic carriers to transmit the virus is unusual, it is not implausible. Be wary of statements claiming to know the reason “why” this virus emerged, or which suggest that it was manufactured as part of a conspiracy. Scientific evidence has proven that viruses can be transmitted from animal to human and that viruses mutate, which is what allows this transmission to occur – no conspiracy required.
In addition, conspiracies about “Big Pharma” and “Big Medical” abound in our social media feeds, in advertisements, and on websites. These conspiracies erode trust in medical and scientific experts, often leading people to embrace “miracle cures” that claim to work for COVID-19, but do not. As we navigate these challenging times, be certain to ask for the evidence required to prove the claims you hear. Even asking yourself “Is this too good to be true?” can go a long way toward preventing the medical and financial scams that are sure to arise throughout the next few months.
To protect yourself and your family, we advise turning to science to light your way in the dark. Consult the information provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), your local health departments, and your primary care doctors to make informed decisions regarding your and your family’s health. We are all hoping for a quick end to this scary and uncertain time, and it is tempting to reach for the first “solution” offered, even if there is no evidence to support it. But remember the words of Carl Sagan: “Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact.” We need facts now, not fancy. We will all be safer if we stay skeptical.
The Skeptical Society of St. Louis, Missy Rung-Blue, President,
The Ethical Society of Saint Louis, James Croft, Outreach Coordinator
Skepticon, Lauren Lane, Founder & Executive Director,
March for Science – STL, Brian Carthans, President,
Ethical Society – Mid Rivers, Sarah Vehige, Board President,
The Rationalist Society of Saint Louis, Kathleen Kelly, President
350 STL, Ken Denson & Rita Fitzjarrell, Co-Leaders,
The Society is currently closed do to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, thanks to the artist’s generosity, the show has been made available on the internet (https://www.dropbox.com/sh/wathovuduozejc3/AABnkfvDAdKzlcY816RZ0Xaea?dl=0).
Jim Rhodes is a local amateur photographer who has been taking photographs since the early 1970s. His favorite subjects for photography include animal and nature photography, people, and travel in both color and black and white. His current major interest in photography is doing portraits in a formal setting. Most of the photographs in this show were taken with a digital camera although a few where scanned from old 35mm color slides. Jim uses a Pentax DSLR with various lenses and, for editing, he uses the Adobe program Lightroom.
Jim is a retired environmental engineer who worked for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources up until he retired in 2014. He is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but he also lived in Virginia between 1985 and 1987. He has been an active member of the Ethical Society since 1991. He is married to Stephanie Sigala and they live in Webster Groves.
This show will run from March 13 through April 26, with a reception on Sunday, March 15, 12:30 to 2:30.