Recordings of Sunday Platform addresses
I chose the title “Faith in Science” for Sunday’s platform to address two misuses and misunderstandings of science the attempt to impose on science non-science-based beliefs (something done by both the Fundamentalist right and the New-Age left), and the belief in science itself as a type of savior. Empirical research and the scientific method are crucial to helping us learn about human nature and make ethical decisions. Yet biology and even evolution are not necessary destiny, and what is technologically possible is not always wise. What are the promises and limitations of science?
Fred Rottnek, MD, MAHCM, has been chosen to receive the 2006 Humanist of the Year (now termed Ethics in Action) award. This prestigious award was established 30 years ago by James S. McDonnell in honor of Jeff Hornback, then the Leader of the Ethical Society of St. Louis.
Dr. Rottnek’s life integrates the practice of medicine with his love of teaching, commitment to social justice, spirituality, and theology. His patients are the homeless and those incarcerated in St. Louis County. Dr. Rottnek works with many local homeless shelters and nonprofit agencies, providing direct, on-site health care services to people in shelters and other locations where they go to obtain goods and services needed for their day-to-day survival. In St. Louis County, he was the first physician to utilize community volunteers to establish a hospice environment for prisoners approaching death.
In addition to his work with the incarcerated and coordinating care for as many as 50 patients in an evening at a homeless shelter, he has organized many other physicians, nurses, psychologists, and social workers to use their time and talents to deliver health care to people living outside the fringes of the work-a-day world. He inspires a myriad of professionals to understand their importance and value to the patients they serve.
“The quality of all of our lives depends on the quality of the lives of those who have the least.” – Dr. Fred Rottnek
The concept of adulthood and maturity has been changing in America, for both good and bad. Many older people are more active than ever, while many younger people are putting off responsibility, or just not finding room for themselves with all these active older folks still in charge. At the same time, America’s mass-market culture is more youth oriented than ever. What does it mean to have an adolescent national culture? What are the thoughts and feelings that keep us from growing up, as individuals or as a culture? What can we do to support the positive evolution of ourselves, our kids, and our nation?
“We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until we move from the passive voice to the active voice — that is, until we stop saying ‘It got lost,’ and say ‘I lost it.'” – Sydney J. Harris
Dr. Lane will draw on stories from the Taoist and Buddhist traditions in talking about some of the central paradoxes in the spiritual teachings of the Tao Te Ching. These include the mystery of wordlessness, the importance of doing for the sake of doing, the power of acting as not-acting, and the effectiveness of leading without ego. The presentation will suggest how these can be lived out in practice, pointing out parallels between Lao-tzu and Jesus Christ, between the Way of the Tao and the Way of the Lilies (as Jesus speaks of this in the Sermon on the Mount).
Dr. Belden C. Lane is Professor of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University. His books include Landscapes of the Sacred: Geography and Narrative in American Spirituality (2001) and The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality (1998). He was introduced some time ago as a Presbyterian minister teaching at a Jesuit University telling Jewish stories at the Vedanta Society.
The health care crisis in the United States affects everyone. With costs outpacing most peoples wages, only the wealthy can easily afford decent health care. Nearly 1.4 million people joined the ranks of uninsured in the last year, bringing the number of Americans without health care to 45 million. Seventy-four percent of those without insurance come from working families and 8.5 million children in the United States have no health care. Jim Hightower has spent three decades doing battle with the powers that be on behalf of just plain folks. Speaking out on behalf of consumers, working families, environmentalists and small businesses, Hightower is a leading voice for the public who find themselves living and working in an America that is vastly different than the one inhabited by politicians in Washington and the Wall Street elite. He broadcasts daily radio commentaries that are carried in more than 120 commercial and public stations, on the web, on Armed Forces Radio, Radio for Peace International, One World Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio.
His monthly populist newsletter, “The Hightower Lowdown“, is the fastest growing political publication in America with more that 100,000 subscribers and his newspaper column is carried in more than 75 independent newspapers, magazines, and other publications. He also writes a monthly column for The Nation, Americas leading progressive journal.
Hightower is the best-selling author of Thieves In High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country And Its Time To Take It Back (Viking Press). His previous books are If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates; There’s Nothing In the Middle of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos; Eat Your Heart Out; and Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times.
Jim Hightower’s appearance is part of Health Care Weekend and sponsored by Missourians for Single Payer (MOSP) and the Ethical Society. MOSP is a coalition of diverse organizations and individuals working to promote universal health care through a single payer system. For more information about their mission and activities, please visit http://mosp.missouri.org/.
March 20 is the first day of spring, Earth Day as celebrated by the U.N. (April 22 is also celebrated as Earth Day by other groups). As a community that seeks to “act with reverence and commitment toward the natural world,” we will take this Sunday to mark the Spring Equinox and renew our promise to protect our environment. Last year, at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, I saw a road show by former Vice President Al Gore about global warming. I’ll share some information from that experience, and also explore how we educate ourselves and others about ecological ethical issues. What are the barriers to our understanding and action? Can we overcome some of those barriers by approaching the issues differently? How can we talk about the environment so that people listen, and how do we get beyond the false choice of “the environment vs. the economy”?
That is not a rhetorical question, but one that every thinking person should answer. It has been answered widely by many people, but seldom is there an in-depth analysis of the wide variety of factors that should be considered. Tens of thousands of Americans have lost good jobs – but tens of millions of Chinese have escaped starvation. Your values, experiences, and philosophies will determine your answers, but have you asked all the questions?
Bill Brighoff has been a member of the Ethical Society of St. Louis for more than a dozen years. Presently, he is an officiant and a board member, but mostly he is known for being the husband of Carol Bartell. In past lives, he has been a carpenter and a lawyer, but now he ekes out a living as a high school teacher in the St. Louis Public Schools.
This Sunday we’ll look at the basic differences in attitudes and beliefs that lead those on the religious right and left to embrace their respective values and to translate those values into specific social positions. Given that this weekend St. Louis is hosting an anti-gay conference by religious right groups, we’ll also examine the real-life consequences of religious beliefs on people’s lives, as well as why the religious right is so threatened by the women’s and gay rights movements, and how Ethical Culture as part of the religious left can respond to the critical civil rights issues of our time.
There are two visions of America. One precedes our founding fathers and finds its roots in the harshness of our puritan past. It is very suspicious of freedom, uncomfortable with diversity, hostile to science, unfriendly to reason, contemptuous of personal autonomy. It sees America as a religious nation. It views patriotism as allegiance to God. It secretly adores coercion and conformity. Despite our constitution, despite the legacy of the Enlightenment, it appeals to millions of Americans and threatens our freedom.
The other vision finds its roots in the spirit of our founding revolution and in the leaders of this nation who embraced the age of reason. It loves freedom, encourages diversity, embraces science and affirms the dignity and rights of every individual. It sees America as a moral nation, neither completely religious nor completely secular. It defines patriotism as love of country and of the people who make it strong. It defends all citizens against unjust coercion and irrational conformity.”
– Rabbi Sherwin Wine
Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice http://womensvoicesraised.org is a new St. Louis organization founded by four women discouraged and fearful for their country, who decided to quit complaining and do something about it. They will discuss their struggles to overcome fears and frustrations and to summon the courage, self-confidence and energy to move forward and found Women’s Voices. They will explain what the organization has accomplished, some of their hopes for its future and the impact of the experience on one of them as an individual.
The four founders of Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, now retired, have various backgrounds: Joanne Kelly was a teacher, counselor and administrator in several St. Louis County school districts. Ann Ruger was a project director, grant writer and editor for several St. Louis-based child advocacy organizations. Ruth Ann Cioci was Kirkwood’s office manager and vice president of Laura McCarthy, Inc. Realtors Barbara Finch is a retired public relations consultant who taught creative writing for Springboard to Learning for three years.
Borrowing a line from a Robert Frost poem, Norman Seay will reflect upon some earlier relationships between the Ethical Society and segments of the black community during the days of overt and transitional discrimination and segregation. He will also identify some current issues of exclusion.
A challenge will be presented for people of good will to again promote the philosophy and implement practices of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others as the quest to achieve justice, peace and fair play continues in the current sophisticated and capitalistic environment.
Norman R. Seay, a prominent civil rights activist, is a founding member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in St. Louis and a former president of the NAACP of Montgomery County, Maryland. In the 1960s, CORE was instrumental in forcing places of public accommodations to serve and employ blacks in greater St. Louis. In 1963 he spent 90 days in jail as part of the effort to force banking and other financial institutions to employ African Americans in white-collar positions. Mr. Seay is President of the Federation of Block Units of Metropolitan St. Louis, Director Emeritus of the Office of Equal Opportunity at the University of Missouri – St. Louis and on the Executive Committee of the St. Louis NAACP.
New to the Ethical Society?These podcasts will help:
Discuss our Platforms on Facebook.
If you like what you hear, please make a tax-deductible donation to support the Society.