Ethical Humanism part one

I just got an advance copy of the fall Dialogue, the newsletter of the American Ethical Union. As usual, there are several good articles from Ethical Culture Leaders and lay leaders across the country, as well as an in-depth piece on the AEU Lay Leadership Summer School, where I was fortunate enough to be teaching and counseling this past summer. It’s strange for me now to see the picture of the Summer School class and remember that only 6 years ago I was a student there, just beginning to wonder if I’d make a good Ethical Leader. (Jury’s still out on that, of course.)

Also in this Dialogue are opposing responses to a previous article on religious language—whether Ethical Societies should use terms such as “spiritual,” “holy,” “faith,” etc. As a form of religious humanism, should Ethical Culture use and redefine traditional religious words, and/or create new terms, and/or use poetic but secular terms? I’m wary of the language discussion, as talking about talking further distracts us from doing, but it is a discussion that needs to be had periodically. Here at the St Louis Society we have just replaced the traditional opening quote from Felix Adler—“The place where people meet to seek the highest is holy ground” with another Adler quote: “May the humanity that is within every human being be held more and more precious, and be regarded with ever deepening reverence.” I suggested this change in part because many people think “holy” is too churchy and “highest” is too vague, but more because the old quote focuses on place whereas the new quote focuses on people. I’m not content with the new quote, as “humanity” and “reverence” are also somewhat slippery and perhaps churchy, but it’s a step toward a common language to inspire us all to act more ethically.

Coming up in Part Two, is Ethical Culture a form of religious humanism, as I just-so-casually stated? Or is that just another Creed that we should eschew in favor of Deed?