Saturday, September 4, 2021

2021 Under Armour Charles Street 12

The Under Armour Charles Street 12 is a 12-mile road race down Charles Street through the center of Baltimore. This year it was held on Saturday, September 4th, at 7:30 am. The weather was a bit chilly at starting time, about 63 degrees, but by about 9 am, it was warm and sunny, almost 80 degrees. 
      The race started at the Shops at Kenilworth in Towson, going west along Kenilworth Drive to Charles Street, and then south down Charles Street to the Inner Harbor, continuing down Light Street to Key Highway, and then onto the Key Highway Extension to TidePoint, finishing in front of Under Armour's Headquarters at Locust Point.
      The course had a fairly difficult uphill in the first mile, then another  uphill at miles two and three, but from there it was mostly downhill until the last three miles, which were mostly flat.
      The overall men's winner was Ryan Fan, age 24, from Baltimore, MD, who finished with a time of 1:07:15.0, for a pace of 5:36 per mile. The overall women's winner was Suzie Jakes, age 36, from White Hall, MD, who had a time of 1:09:48.3, for a pace of 5:49 per mile, in fourth place overall among 952 runners (473 male and 479 female).
      I finished with a time of 1:44:33.8, for a pace of 8:43 per mile, which was 2nd of 34 in my age group (60-69), and 284th out of 952 overall. I was very pleased. I had just been hoping to break 2 hours. The downhills really helped me. The men's winner in my division, Hank Reiser, from Edgewater, MD, finished in a time of 1:43:37.8, for a pace of 8:38 per mile.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Moralism

Moralism may be defined in a variety of ways. It may be a tendency to see all things in moral terms or from a moral perspective and to believe that all (or almost all) things have moral dimensions. It may also be a tendency to believe that all (or almost all) our actions have (or should have) moral motivations and serve (or should serve) moral purposes. It may also be an obsessiveness or zealousness about the application of moral principles to the empirical (natural, or social) world. It may also be a habit of moralizing or making moral judgments about other people's behavior.
     Moralism may also be an absolutism or dogmatism about moral principles or standards, as opposed to a relativism or skepticism. It may be both descriptivist and prescriptivist in its scope and application. It may also be cognitivist in asserting that there are moral facts and that moral knowledge is possible.
      A moralist may be someone who tends to make or express moral judgments in or through their speech or writing. They may be someone who tends to look for moral meanings and moral explanations for things, and to make moral inferences or draw moral conclusions from them.
      To be moralistic may be to be focused on morality, to the point of seeing things only for what they say about some other person's or group's morality and ignoring any other non-moral meanings those things may have.
      A moralizer may be a person who says "I told you so" or who scolds you for not having listened to their advice. They may also be someone who subjects others to public ridicule or shame for having acted wrongly. They may also be someone who likes to gossip, and who makes veiled (or not so veiled) allegations through insinuation or innuendo about others' behavior.
      On the other hand, someone who consciously avoids making moral judgments about things (or who avoids moralizing or avoids being moralistic) may do so as an expression of the view that not all things can be explained in moral terms, and that moralizing may be inappropriate in some situations. They may be someone who recognizes that there may be deeper explanations for some things than those provided by conventional notions of morality.
      While scientism may hold that all (meaningful) questions are ultimately scientific questions, moralism may hold that all (meaningful) questions are ultimately moral questions. While scientism may hold that all questions can be answered scientifically, moralism may hold that all questions can be answered morally.
      In Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alice meets a Duchess who tells her there's a moral lesson to be learned from everything; we have only to discover what that moral lesson is. The Duchess may thus be a moralizer.  "Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it," she says. One of these morals is: "Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves."1 (In other words, if we truly attend to the meaning of something, then we'll most likely find some way of expressing that meaning.)
      Alfred Archer (2017) explains that moralism involves an inflated sense of the extent to which moral criticism is appropriate.2 Thus, moral criticism of individuals who've performed actions that are morally indifferent may be inappropriate, as may be criticism of individuals who haven't performed actions that are supererogatory. So also may criticism of individuals who've acted wrongly be inappropriate, if there are exculpatory circumstances.3 
      Craig Taylor (2012) notes that when we accuse others of moralizing, we ourselves may be moralizing. When we accuse others of moralism, we ourselves may be guilty of moralism. So we must do more than merely point a moral finger at those who point a moral finger at others.4
      According to Taylor, a defect of moralism is that it may involve a failure to recognize or acknowledge the full humanity of those who are criticized, as well as their nature as morally accountable beings.5 Another defect of moralism is that it may involve a distorted conception of morality, insofar as it means taking some things as a moral matter when they actually are not.6 
     Phillip Rieff, in Freud: The Mind of the Moralist (1959), describes Freud as a moralist, in the sense that Freud divides the self into three psychic agencies, the id (or instinct), the ego (or reason), and the superego (or conscience), thereby assigning control over the id to the ego, and control over the ego to the superego. Each of these three psychic agencies has moral dimensions, and can be described in moral terms.
      According to Noël Carroll (1966), radical moralism in the evaluation of art is the theory that the purpose of art is to express moral values. Radical moralism holds that the aesthetic value of an artwork depends on the moral values it expresses. The moral virtues of an artwork are always aesthetic virtues, and the moral defects of an artwork are always aesthetic defects. Moderate moralism. on the other hand, holds that the aesthetic value of an artwork may partly depend on the moral values it expresses. The moral virtues of an artwork may sometimes be aesthetic virtues, and the moral defects of an artwork may sometimes be aesthetic defects; however, not all moral virtues of an artwork are necessarily aesthetic virtues, and not all moral defects of an artwork are necessarily aesthetic defects.7
      Other theories of moral and aesthetic criticism, as described by Carroll, include radical autonomism, which holds that moral values and aesthetic values are totally autonomous and separate from each other, and moderate autonomism, which holds that moral values and aesthetic values are autonomous and separate, but that artworks may be evaluated for their moral as well as aesthetic virtues or defects.8


FOOTNOTES

1Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass [1865] (New York: Bantam Books, 1981), p. 68.
2Alfred Archer, "The Problem with Moralism," in Ratio (July 2017), p. 1, online at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318288004_The_problem_with_moralism
3Ibid. p. 3
4Craig Taylor, Moralism: A Study of a Vice (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2012), p. 11.
5Ibid., p. 34.
6Ibid., p. 58.
7Noël Carroll, "Moderate Moralism versus Moderate Autonomism," in The British Journal of Aesthetics, Vol. 38 (Oct 1998), p. 419.
8Noël Carroll, "Moderate Moralism," in The British Journal of Aesthetics, Vol. 36, No. 3 (July 1996), p. 230.

OTHER REFERENCES

Phillip Rieff, Freud: The Mind of the Moralist (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1959).




Sunday, June 6, 2021

Baltimore 10 Miler, 2021

The Baltimore 10 Miler was held Saturday, June 5th, 2021. This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the race organizers were unable to obtain a permit from Baltimore City, and the race was held in Hunt Valley, about 15 minutes north of Baltimore. 
      The weather was warm and sunny, about 70 degrees at 7 am, and 80 degrees by 9 am. The course route was hilly, with a few fairly steep uphills and downhills.
      The overall men's winner, Jeremy Ardanuy, age 28, who won the race two years ago, finished in a time of 56:05, with a pace of 5:37 per mile. The overall women's winner, Robyn Mildren, age 30, finished in a time of 59:39, with a pace of 5:58 per mile. Natalie Atabek, age 29, who won the women's division two years ago, finished second in a time of 1:03:52, with a pace of 6:27 per mile.
      My son Douglas and I ran together the whole race, finishing in a time of 1:31:06, with a pace of 9:07 per mile. I finished 4th out of 21 runners in my age group, 364th out of 1465 runners overall. Doug finished 48th out of 128 runners in his age group, but he'd only been training for a few weeks due to his work schedule. I thought I actually ran better than I did two years ago, when I had a time of 1:19:09, but the hills along the course were probably a factor in my slower time. The men's winner in my division, Tom Heid, finished in a time of 1:25:15, with a pace of 8:31 per mile.

Doug and I crossing the finish line.


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Moral Authority

The following is a reflection I shared with my fellow parishioners at the "Faith at Eight" online service of our church, on Sunday, January 31, 2021.

The first two verses of today's reading from The Gospel According to Mark tell us that Jesus taught in the synagogue at Capernaum, and that when he had finished, the crowd was astonished by his teaching, because he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes (Mark 1:21-22). I was struck by the second of these two verses, because it also appears in The Gospel According to Matthew, which tells us that when Jesus finished his Sermon on the Mount, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, "for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes" (Matthew 7:29).
      Why was the crowd astonished, and what does it mean that Jesus taught as one who had authority? I think it means the crowd was astonished because they recognized that Jesus was not merely a teacher or interpreter of the law, he was the fulfillment of the law. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets, I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matthew 5:17); and in Luke chapter 4, when Jesus comes to the synagogue in Nazareth, he reads from the book of the prophet Isaiah, where it's written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord," and when Jesus closes the book, he says to the gathering in the synagogue, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:16-22).
      So how was Jesus the fulfillment of the law? I think he fulfilled the law because he obeyed the law, and he fulfilled the law and prophesies given to the Jewish people by Moses and the prophets. He also fulfilled the law because he was a lawgiver; he gave us the law in the form of his two commandments, "Your shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-39).
      Jesus also fulfilled the law because he was an embodiment of the law. He not only obeyed the law, but also, by redeeming us from our sins, enabled us to obey the law. I think the crowds were astonished by his teaching because it was apparent to them that he was the incarnation of the Word of God.
      I think perhaps some contemporary parallels to this kind of astonishment might occur when youthful prodigies appear in our midst and we're astonished by their admonishment of us for not having acted like we should. I"m thinking of the sense of astonishment we felt when young people like Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg began to speak publicly at various places around the world about issues like the importance of providing educational opportunities for girls and the importance of dealing with climate change. I'm also thinking of young people like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who, after a gunman killed seventeen people at the school in 2018, became nationally recognized advocates for gun control. I think we were astonished because we recognized they had the moral authority to speak out as they did. We were astonished because young people like Malala, Greta, Emma, David, and others spoke to us in a way that no one had ever spoken to us before, and we recognized that we had to respond by trying to make the world a better place.
      Another example of moral authority might be when someone undergoes great suffering and yet has the capacity to transcend that suffering and show us the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. I'm thinking of Nelson Mandela who, after being imprisoned for twenty-seven years by the brutal apartheid regime in South Africa, had the moral authority to lead his nation through a process of truth-telling and reconciliation that led to the end of apartheid.
      Much of the influence of historical figures such as Jesus, the Buddha, Confucius, St. Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and other icons of saintliness and compassion may be due to their being recognized as having the moral authority to teach and guide us.
      What are the sources of such moral authority? Individuals who embody such moral virtues as love, compassion, understanding, honesty, generosity, unselfishness, and humility may be recognized as having moral authority. Thus, the personal exemplification of moral virtue may be a source of moral authority. Another source of moral authority may reside in the social roles that people play. Thus, authority figures such as parents, teachers, priests, rabbis, gurus, spiritual advisers, employers, and elected officials may have moral authority, insofar as they're able to shape or influence the moral decisions, judgments, and actions of others. Another source of moral authority may reside in social institutions, such as the church, the legal system, the educational system, and the healthcare system, insofar as they're able to promote human dignity, freedom, security, and well-being. Thus, the ability of social institutions to promote moral ideals or social goods may be a source of moral authority.
      The nature of moral authority may be an important subject for us to consider at this juncture in the history of our nation, given the recent events of political and social unrest. Our country, through its ongoing social conflict and division, seems to have lost much of its moral authority in the world. We're often mistaken in assuming that we as individuals, as a society, and as a nation have the moral authority to serve as an example for others. Our moral authority as a nation may depend on such things as our ability to promote human rights, our ability to promote the rule of law, our ability to promote fairness and impartiality in the application of the law, and our ability to promote legal, economic, and social justice.
      Defiance of authority may have various motivations, including anger, resentment, frustration, and discontent caused by unfair or inequitable distribution of social goods, arbitrary or inconsistent application of disciplinary practices, and imposition of excessive and oppressive social constraints. Resistance to authority may also be motivated by the need to protest bigotry, discrimination, infringements on civil liberties, and violations of human rights.
      Moral authority may be distinguished from epistemic authority, insofar as moral authority is authority relating to morality, while epistemic authority is authority relating to knowledge. Theodore L. Brown, professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Illinois, says in a book entitled Imperfect Oracle: The Epistemic and Moral Authority of Science (2009) that while epistemic authority is "the capacity to convince others how the world is," moral authority is "the capacity to convince others how the world should be."1
      Linda Zagzebski, professor of philosophy at the University of Oklahoma, describes an epistemic authority as an expert, a person who's a reliable source of information in some domain.2 We may accept the truth of a statement on the authority of another person if she's presumed to be an expert in the domain about which she's speaking. The fact that she holds a belief about something within her field of expertise may be an authoritative reason for us to hold that belief. If we trust not only in the expert's authority, but also in her sincerity, then we may have good reason to believe what she's saying.3
      Dr. Anthony Fauci is a good example of both epistemic and moral authority. He has epistemic authority, because he's a scientific expert and a reliable source of information, but he also has moral authority, because he wants to provide us with the facts about the COVID-19 pandemic and won't let himself be manipulated into covering them up or providing misinformation. And people trust him because of that.
      Marianne Janack, professor of philosophy at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, calls attention to the need to distinguish between epistemic authority and epistemic privilege. Epistemic privilege refers to the privileged standpoint that the experience of marginalized groups, such as women, racial minorities, disabled people, and gender nonconforming people, may confer on them regarding what it means to be oppressed. Such groups may be in an epistemically advantageous position to know what it means to be oppressed. Epistemic authority, on the other hand, may depend on various assumptions about the epistemic position of the person in question, including assumptions based on the perceived class, race, gender, or sexual orientation of that person, and may thus be subject to implicit bias. Janack says, "People who appear to be white, male, upper middle or middle class, and well educated generally carry more epistemic authority on their shirtsleeves. While those of us who are not upper-middle-class white men may be epistemic authorities in some circumstances...our authority is usually trumped by [so-called] "experts"--who are often upper-middle-class white men."4 Thus, "Epistemic authority is conferred in a social context as a result of other people's judgment of our sincerity, reliability, trustworthiness, and [perceived] "objectivity."5
      Another subject that may be important for us to consider is the relative priority we should give to various kinds of authority. For example, when should we give moral authority priority over legal authority, and when should we give civil authority priority over religious authority? How should we resolve conflicts between moral and legal authority, and between civil and religious authority?
      What does Jesus tell us to do?
      Another question we might consider is: Has the Church lost its moral authority? When evangelical Christians support the kinds of lies and falsehoods propagated by Donald Trump, how can they claim to have any moral authority? To them, it makes no difference that he's a habitual liar, that he attacks the news media as "fake" whenever the media provide unfavorable coverage of him, that he threatens to jail his political opponents, that as a matter of policy he separates immigrant children from their parents at the Mexico border, that he says neo-Nazis are "very fine people," that he tries to subvert the outcome of a presidential election by making baseless claims of voter fraud, and that he incites his supporters to storm the Capitol. What must be done for the Church to regain its moral authority?


FOOTNOTES

1Theodore L. Brown, Imperfect Oracle: The Epistemic and Moral Authority of Science (University Park, PA, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2009).
2Linda Zagzebski, Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 5.
3 Ibid., p.107.
4Marianne Janack,"Standpoint Epistemology Without the Standpoint?: An Examination of Epistemic Privilege and Epistemic Authority," Hypatia, vol. 12, no. 2 (1997), p. 132.
5Ibid., p. 133.
      

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Provocation

The following is a reflection I shared with my fellow parishioners at the "Faith at Eight" online service of our church on Sunday, November 15, 2020.

The epistle reading this morning is from the First Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians (5:1-11), and it speaks of remaining awake, so that we won't be surprised by the coming of the Lord and can find our salvation. 
      The gospel reading this morning is from Matthew (25:14-30), and it's The Parable of the Talents, describing how a wealthy man gives one of his servants five talents, another servant two talents, and another servant one talent, with the expectation that they'll return his money to him when he returns. The first two servants invest their money profitably, but the third servant buries his one talent in the ground because he's afraid of losing it, and when the master returns, the master is angry because the servant hasn't invested his money profitably, and the master calls the servant lazy and worthless and will have nothing further to do with him. 
      For me, the lectionary readings the last few weeks have been a series of provocations. There's something wrong with each of them. So I'd like to discuss what they do, rather than what they mean. We can discuss their meaning later.
      In the Old Testament reading last week from The Book of Joshua (24:14-25), Joshua described the Lord as " a holy God, a jealous God." Do we really believe in a jealous God?
      And in the gospel reading last week from Matthew (25:1-13), the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, five bridesmaids were denied entry to the wedding banquet because they had forgotten to replenish their lamps with oil, and their oil had run out, and when they asked the bridegroom to be admitted, he told them, "Truly, I say to you, I do not know you." Is this any way to treat those who've come to celebrate your wedding?
      And in the epistle reading today from Thessalonians, Paul says "the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." Really? Like a thief in the night?
      And in today's gospel reading from Matthew, The Parable of the Talents, are we really supposed to accept the implication that the wealthy should rightfully receive a greater share and reap more profit from the distribution of society's resources than those who are poor?
      The parables of Jesus are often puzzling and paradoxical. They teach us about justice by describing injustice. They're provocations that cause us to question our assumptions, to look at the world differently, and to think differently about God.
      A dictionary definition of the word "provocation" is that it's something that incites, instigates, arouses, or stimulates.It may be designed to elicit a particular kind of response, and it may be intended to elicit strong feelings (such as rage, anger, or resentment) in the viewer, reader, or listener. Provocative acts may also be iconoclastic, offensive, transgressive, or sexually suggestive.
      Provocation may be a psychological, social, aesthetic, legal, military, or political phenomenon. Examples of aesthetic provocations include controversial paintings, sculptures, songs, dramas, or novels. Examples of military provocations include unlawful encroachments on territorial boundaries, launching of short- or long-range ballistic missiles, and testing of nuclear weapons. Examples of political provocations include demonstrations against infringements on civil liberties, and protests against violations of human rights.
      How should provocation intersect or interact with tactfulness and discretion? When should we be forgiving and conciliatory rather than demanding and provocative?
      An example of provocation in Jesus's ministry might be his response to the Pharisees who bring him a woman who has been caught in adultery and ask him if she should be stoned. Jesus tells them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7).
      Another example of provocation might be Jesus's response to the young man who asks him what he should do in order to have eternal life. Jesus tells him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." The young man walks away sorrowfully, because he can't bring himself to part with his wealth and possessions (Matthew 19:16-22).
      Another example of provocation might be when Jesus drives the moneylenders out of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus makes a whip of cords, and drives the moneylenders out of the temple, overturning their tables, and saying, "Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade" (John 2:13-16).
      Still another example of provocation might be Jesus's response to Caiphas, the high priest, after being arrested and brought before him for judgment. Caiphas says to Jesus, "I adjure you by the living God, tell me if you are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus replies, "You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven." Caiphas is so angered, he tears his own robes apart, and says, "He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need?" (Matthew 26:57-65).
      Acts of provocation may have a variety of motivations. They may be strategies for teaching and communication. They may be acts of protest against social hypocrisy and political inequality. They may be acts of resistance against social injustice. They may also be acts intended to elicit a retaliatory response from those in power, thus revealing the brutality, corruption, or oppressiveness of a prevailing social or political regime. They may also in some cases be acts intended to offend people or to make them react angrily or violently.
      Provocation played a role in the American civil rights movement, and it has played a role in other human rights movements as well. Thus, the lunch counter sit-ins protesting segregation is Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960 were acts of provocation, as was Rosa Parks's refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, leading to her arrest and the subsequent Montgomery Bus Boycott. The pro-democracy Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, China in 1989 were acts of provocation, as was the defiant act of an unidentified protester who stood in front of a column of tanks (I'm sure you'll recall that famous photograph of the protester in Tiananmen Square standing in front of the column of tanks), blocking their path as they were leaving the square, on June 5th, 1989, the day after armed troops had killed hundreds of protesters in what has been called the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
      Controversies regarding the nature and importance of provocation as a motivating factor for human behavior may be produced by the fact that people may vary in their opinions as to what constitutes provocation and what kinds of responses to provocation are appropriate. An example may be the divergent responses to the cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad that were published in 2006 by the French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo. The cartoons were viewed by some as merely an example of freedom of expression, but by others as a vicious attack on Islam. French President Jacques Chirac condemned the cartoons as "overt provocations" that could dangerously fuel passions, and he said that freedom of expression should always be exercised in a spirit of responsibility.2 In 2012, Charlie Hebdo published more crude caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, naked and in sexual poses, which the magazine must have known would be extremely offensive to Muslims. The responses to this renewed provocation varied from public indignation and outrage to violent terrorist attacks, one of which, in 2015, killed twelve people.
      Jesus teaches us how to respond to attempts to provoke us into acts of resentment or anger. He says, in the Sermon on the Mount, "If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matthew 5:39). He also says, "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father, who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45).  And the apostle Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, says, "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
      What actually started me thinking about the concept of provocation is the fact that a Black Lives Matter banner hangs over the front door of our church. When I first saw the banner, I thought, "Gee, that's great!", just as I thought "Gee, that's great!" when I first saw a Black Lives Matter banner hanging over the front door of the Cathedral of the Incarnation a few years ago. But in view of the results of the recent presidential election, in which 81 million people voted for Biden and 74 million people voted for Trump, it's clear that "Black Lives Matter" is a message that doesn't resonate with a large percentage of the American people, particularly white male voters, and that alienates them. So I'm wondering whether the banner over the front door of our church may be viewed by many Americans as offensive or as a provocation to some act of denial or rejection. Indeed, many "Black Lives Matter" banners in front of churches across the country have been vandalized in the last few years. Should we, as members of Memorial Episcopal Church, be promoting a message that many Americans feel is divisive and overly confrontational? Is our message consistent with our saying we're a church that welcomes everyone? It may be easy to hang a "Black Lives Matter" banner in front of our church, and to feel good about ourselves for doing so, but it may be more difficult to actually translate that message into social action. Shouldn't we consider the extent to which we've actually shown in our actions that Black Lives Matter, and reflect on what we could do to better promote social understanding and equality? I don't think we've discussed the meaning of our having a "Black Lives Matter" banner in front of our church. Perhaps, in the context of the history of our church and the revelation that the founders of our church were slave owners, the banner needs to be there.
      I'd like to conclude by quoting the Rev. Tim Kutzmark of the Unitarian Universalist Church, Fresno, California, who explains why his church displays "Black Lives Matter" banners. He says, 
"As a predominantly white congregation in a predominantly white section of Fresno, we are committed to doing whatever we can to disrupt the deep roots and present reality of racism; we also know that work must start with our own congregation...
      For two years our congregation has been intentionally educating ourselves on the history of race in America and current racial injustice...
      Like most majority white institutions, we’ve learned our faith tradition has its own shameful history of racism...
      We affirm Black Lives Matter along with hundreds of Unitarian Universalist Churches across the country because affirming and promoting the worth and dignity of all people is a core tenant of our faith. It calls us to act for justice.
      The Rev. Louise Green captures this spirit: “To display the sign, Black Lives Matter, is an act of public witness . . . to keep the spotlight on the complex set of issues affecting black people in this country..."
      Black Lives Matter is the next chapter in the civil rights movement. There was fierce white resistance to the earlier civil rights movement. There is fierce white resistance now. Our banners were first defaced and then ripped down. We’ve replaced them.
      Black Lives Matter is not a terrorist group, nor is it anti-white or anti-police. It is against policing practices that lead to the death of too many unarmed black women and men. It is against mass incarceration of black and brown lives in prisons...
      Affirming the rights of Black people and People of Color does not take rights away from white people. There should be enough to go around."3
      So I hope I've provoked you into sharing some of your thoughts about the readings this morning, and I hope we can talk about those thoughts together.


FOOTNOTES

1Merriam-Webster Dictionary, online at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/provocation.
2Anne Penketh, "Chirac condemns 'overtly provocative' cartoons," Independent, February 9, 2006, online at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/chirac-condemns-overtly-provocative-cartoons-466018.html.
3Rev.Tim Kutzmark, "Why we display the 'Black Lives Matter' banners," Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno, September 30 2017, online at https://uufresno.org/black-lives-matter/.