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Lessons in paying attention: Lao-Tzu and the Taoist tradition; Belden Lane, PhD

April 2, 2006

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.

Health care for the privileged few? Why not health care for all! Jim Hightower

March 26, 2006

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 https://mosp.missouri.org/.

How many earths? Eco-ethics; Kate Lovelady, Leader

March 19, 2006

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”?

Wal-Mart: Good, bad, or just there? Bill Brighoff

March 12, 2006

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.

The Religious Left and Civil Rights; Kate Lovelady, Leader

February 26, 2006

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

Lincoln’s Legacy: Our Logs; Joanne Kelly, Ann Ruger, Ruth Ann Cioci and Barbara Finch, Women’s Voices Raised For Social Justice

February 12, 2006

Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice https://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.

Yet, Miles To Go Before I Sleep; Norman R. Seay

February 5, 2006

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.

Imagining abundance: Ethical giving and growing; Kate Lovelady, Leader

January 29, 2006

One thing that separates successful institutions and movements from unsuccessful ones is the ability to talk straight about money. We often feel confused, conflicted, and guilty about how and how much we make and spend. Our discomfort with the topic keeps us from looking squarely at how we’re spending and what we’re really getting for our money. But if we’re unclear about the role of money in our lives, we’re easily manipulated into a cycle of unsatisfying purchases and equally unsatisfying charity. How can we move away from a defensive view that emphasizes scarcity and competition, and toward a view that recognizes the unprecedented abundance that now exists, and the power each of us has to make a difference?

Truthiness: the Vatican and the gay response; Sam Sinnett, DignityUSA

January 22, 2006

A panel of linguists recently decided that the word that best describes 2005 is “truthiness” — the quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts. While some Americans would relate that to current U.S. political issues and the war in Iraq it also describes the increasingly virulent statements of the Vatican, the pope and many US Roman Catholic bishops related to Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender (GLBT) issues. The Roman Catholic hierarchy may well be the most powerful anti-GLBT voice in the world with religious and political influence far beyond just Catholics. DignityUSA has long offered a counterbalancing voice must sought after and respected in the media, particularly in the USA but in other English speaking countries as well. DignityUSA, its local chapters and members publicly dissent from Catholic Church teaching that homosexual sexual orientation is objectively disordered and that gay and lesbian relationships are inherently evil. For this public dissent DignityUSA is in exile, not officially allowed to meet on Catholic Church property.

Sam Sinnett is a native Saint Louisan who is currently the national president of DignityUSA, www.DignityUSA.org – one of the oldest national gay and lesbian organizations – for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) Catholics. DignityUSA works for respect and justice for all GLBT persons in the Catholic Church and the world through education, advocacy and support. Sam grew up in Saint Louis, attended high school here and is a graduate of the Catholic Jesuit College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. He was married for over 18 years, has 3 children, came out as a gay man late in life, is currently divorced / single. He has recently appeared on or been quoted in our local press and media on Channels 2 and 4 and KMOX radio.

Where do we go from here? Malik Ahmed, of Better Family Life, Inc.

January 15, 2006

Malik Ahmed will develop the theme, “Where Do We Go From Here?”, an address delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967. His presentation will examine how today’s African American community is still challenged by many of the same menacing forces that were highlighted by Dr. King over 38 years ago.

Mr. Ahmed will highlight the inequality that persists in keeping many members of the African American community oppressed, evidenced by rising health costs, unemployment, poor education and racist institutional practices. He will conclude his address by urging the need for the continuation of the civil rights struggle. In Mr. Ahmed’s opinion, the new focus of the movement should be on the internal development of the African American family. Mr. Ahmed passionately believes the organization he founded in 1983 – Better Family Life, Inc. – offers a new and progressive initiative in the goal of uplifting the Black masses. BFL’s job training program for the chronically unemployed has graduated over 2,000 adults and has a 12-month job retention rate of 80%. The program received the Governor’s Award for the Most Innovative Training/Workforce Program in 2000 and the Cultural Competency Award in 2001, both from the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council of Governments. In 2002, BFL opened its third job training site. Under Mr. Ahmed’s leadership, BFL has developed youth, cultural arts and housing down payment assistance programs to serve low to moderate income residents throughout the metropolitan community. In 2005, BFL purchased the former Ralph Waldo Emerson School in St. Louis. The organization is currently in a capital campaign to raise $4 million for renovating the site as a cultural center and museum.

Malik Ahmed holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a Master’s degree in Public Administration/Policy Analysis. Prior to his involvement with BFL, he was a registered representative of The Moneta Group, a financial planning firm. He serves on several community and civic boards of directors.

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