“The AME Church opposes legislation that threatens the traditional family structure and erodes Bermuda society as a whole. This amendment does both.
“Since the Bible is clear that a relationship involving sexual intimacy is to be between a man and a
woman withinthe bounds of marriage, legislation that endorses homosexuality violates God’s Word and gives up a Christian’s conscientious obligation to obey it.
“The AME Church believes that all people are made in God’s image, including those affected by same sex attraction. The Church will defend human dignity because of the Church’s commitment to godly principles. However, the AME Church unapologetically resists this amendment and appeals to those of like-mind to do the same.”
So I elected to buy a Canon Selphy ES-30 which is a compact dye sublimation photo printer that can also print gold and silver foil. It was listed as having Macintosh support, which is good because I don't do windows. It's a cute little thing, and takes its printing supplies as little cartridges that contain both the paper and the dye sub ink sheets. This makes it easy to switch between different media, and ensures that the ink and paper stay in synch and are compatible. They're specialized enough that they'll only ever be available from Canon, and they're not particularly cheap. But that's fine, it's cost effective for my occasional use.
But then it turns out that the Macintosh support is only partial - you can print color or black and white, but no gold or silver foil. It is my opinion that if you claim to "support" a computer for a product, that you support all the product's capabilities. Otherwise, it's partial support at best, and this should be stated clearly in all sales literature. Otherwise, you are lying to me, and I do not appreciate being lied to.
I waited a while to see if there would be an update that would add foil support, but none was forthcoming. Then I wrote Canon and asked if they would send me the protocol, so I could implement this myself.
They refused, saying the information was proprietary. What? Why? You're not selling printer drivers, you're selling printers, or more to the point, you're selling printer supplies. The more people who can use your printers, the more printers and supplies you will sell. Keeping the protocol a secret is nonsense. I offered to sign an NDA, but no reply at all. I realize that companies avoid giving out technical information because it might lead to more support questions. I explained that I would not ask for further support, nor use the information in a way that would cause this to happen.
Do you know what would have happened, if you had furnished the interface specification? I would have extended the existing Gutenprint Canon Selphy support to include the ES-30, including its metal foil printing capabilities. I would have provided my changes back to the Gutenprint project for inclusion in their core software. This would have given Canon ES-30 support to Linux and BSD users, and since Apple uses Gutenprint to provide their third-party printer drivers, you would have gotten Macintosh support for free. Better yet, customer support for this driver would have come from the Gutenprint project and Apple — saving you support money. I would have written a positive review of the printer, and all my adoring readers would have gone out and bought them. The underserved Macintosh, Linux, and BSD communities would have bought the now-supported printer, and supplies for it. As the cartridges are not easy to replicate (unlike refilling inkjet cartridges), you would have had a solid revenue stream for years to come, that no one could take away from you. You would have enjoyed a positive mindshare in a large, geeky customer base - and their friends, families, and employers.
But no. You decided to take the low road, keep things secret for no reason, and now you're stuck with unpreferred vendor status. I'll buy my cameræ from Nikon, Fuji, and Olympus. I'll buy my printers from Epson and HP. And I'll tell all my friends how you refused to play nice.
Your pointless corporate decision will end up costing you a surprising amount of lost revenue over the years.
We have called Superintendent Murphy's phone and said: "We want you to know that we hold you and the entire Archdiocese in the Light. We are fully aware of how difficult this must be for Archbishop Sheehan who grew up being taught if you have a penis you are a boy, and if you have a vagina you are a girl."
"Unfortunately, just as the human genome project has proven unequivocally that there is no genetic variation between the races, science is proving gender and sexuality are not so simply defined. We fully appreciate that growth is uncomfortable and extremely difficult."
"William posted a photo stating: If you want to change, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable. All growth is uncomfortable, whether it is the growing pains of bones growing faster than muscle, or the pain of accepting a new definition of human sexuality. We respect your difficulties and hold you in love and Light as you go through this difficult time. We have faith that Archbishop Sheehan will make the right decision in Christ's love: To allow Damian to walk with his graduating class in black robes."
We encourage everyone to give Archbishop Sheehan and Superintendent Murphy this message. The message that decisions made out of love, instead of fear, pave the way to a loving and peaceful planet.
The Moorman family, Cat Provost, and the Garcia family
This is a no brainer situation. Damian identifies as a male, has been presenting as one for over a year, and his classmates, faculty and family recognize him as one.
You only graduate from high school once, so why not let Damian walk in the black male gown?
may never have been crushingly bad at any academic subject, whereas by definition we're going to be teaching people with a range of abilities and levels of motivation, not just those who excel and love the subject and go on to become experts in our fields. It's really, really good for me to remember what it feels like to be a beginner, to be too scared of making mistakes to actually make progress. I know I have students who find, say, immunology as arcane and jargon-filled and arbitrary as I'm finding Git right now (like I said, the programming is going fine so far, it's the version control I'm struggling with). And they're not "stupid" and they're not deliberately refusing to try just to be awkward, they're beginners, or they're people who have succeeded at somewhat related skills (such as A-Level biology) but find that this particular intellectual field doesn't quite fit with the way their brain works.
From a New York Times news story:
Mr. Pfeiffer [a senior adviser to Obama] accused Republicans of exploiting three issues — I.R.S. political targeting; the attack in Benghazi, Libya; and the Justice Department’s subpoenaing of phone records from The Associated Press — for political purposes, even as he urged them to work with the administration on legislation to revamp the immigration system and trim the budget deficit.
In Pfeiffer's view, having a political purpose is a bad thing. This is a view which is born of pragmatism, the idea that "what works" is all that matters, and that a systematic or principled approach is wrong. We heard the same view in Hillary Clinton's "What difference does it make?" in response to questions about why the administration spread false information about the cause of Ambassador Stevens' murder in Benghazi. Obama declared, shortly after taking office, that "we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards" as a justification for ignoring the Bush administration's crimes. In this viewpoint, there is no wrongdoing; at worst, "mistakes were made."
Usually pragmatism is invoked selectively, to avoid being challenged on principle. Should the power of the IRS be sharply curtailed? Should speech be made less free because there are allegedly vast mobs of Muslims who will rampage and kill whenever they're offended? Should the administration be able to bypass the courts to go on fishing expeditions against journalists? These are political issues. But in the pragmatist approach, there's only deal-making and compromise. This often comes down to "You want other people's money? I'll help you if you help me."
That last is what "politics" often means in ordinary use. From originally meaning the philosophy and art of government, it's come to mean the art of deception and lying. But what Pfeiffer was talking about was having a "political purpose" in the sense of establishing principles of right and wrong in government. Lots of people agree with him, at least to the extent that as long as the Democratic Party is more likely to provide them goodies, they won't criticize Democrats' actions. But when there's nothing left but a chase for goodies at other people's expense, where are they going to come from?
Once a friend of mine said that a family member told him, "You can't eat principles." He replied, "You can't eat without them."
When people who “heed the guidance of reason and the results of science” arrive at a diversity of answers, it may be that they are asking different questions. Three ethical frameworks help us to make sense of our moral choices. This sermon was written for the UUs of Fallston, May 19, 2013.
My children are curious about how the world works. They will turn three years old this summer, and have learned how to design and implement experiments to test their hypotheses about parental behavior. The other night, we heard them on the monitor conversing about their strategy. “I think we should fuss about our toys,” said one. “Good idea,” said the other one. (“Fuss about our toys” means asking for even more stuffed animals to have in bed with them.) They paused, then lifted up a chorus designed to try to draw one of us into the nursery. It didn’t work. Like true scientists, they continue to refine their hypotheses and research methods.
As parents, we’ve had to be mindful of the examples we set in terms of right and wrong behavior. We also have to consider the ethics of how we guide their behavior. I do want them to show respect to adults and to take on age-appropriate responsibilities. I’m not sure I want to reinforce “because I said so” as a rational argument (although I haven’t ruled it out). We tell them all the time, “Be a mensch,” which is Yiddish for “a person of good character.” The traits we’re usually looking for at that point are self-control and kindness. What I don’t want is for them to become perfectionists, trying to reach an impossible standard. I want them to learn cause and effect, so we talk about natural consequences that follow their actions. “You used that toy as a hammer. Now it is broken.” We know that anticipating results is advanced for their age, so we’re mostly laying the groundwork for later with that one. What I don’t want is for them to become too anxious about possible outcomes to initiate any choices.
The questions we’re asking with those three strategies are common to all kinds of ethics. First, there’s the respect and responsibility angle. Moral choices are anchored in the framework of duty. From this perspective, a person aims to do the “right” thing, regardless of what might happen next. The big question is, “What are my obligations in this situation?” The fancy name for this is deontology.
Next, there’s the “be a mensch” angle, anchoring your moral choices in a set of virtues. Character building is the essential aim in this framework. A person works to develop a set of desirable traits and to figure out what traits are operating in others. The goal is to become a more fully virtuous person.
Finally, cause and effect figure into ethics. In this framework, a person balances the potential for help and harm in every action. Moral choices lead to the best outcomes, or at least good enough outcomes. Philosophers call this consequentialism.
As UU’s, we “heed the guidance of reason and the results of science.” Even so, we sometimes advocate for different moral choices, especially in questions about actions we should take as a community. Sometimes, we may step back and realize that we arrive at different answers because we are asking different questions. Exploring these three ethical frameworks may help us understand each other.
Wake Now My Conscience: Rational Thought and Duty
My senior year of college, I moved into an apartment with a friend. It was my first grownup place to live. Packing up my whole room and getting heavy furniture to the new apartment seemed like an overwhelming task. I asked a few friends to help, and they turned out in droves. My parents’ house was full of friends from school, from work, and from science fiction conventions. I’m not sure what my parents thought about all of the odd people coming out of the woodwork to help launch their oldest child. Actually, I do know one of their thoughts: “We have guests, let’s feed them.”
Having been through way move moves than I care to count since then, I am all the more appreciative that my friends showed up for me. I realize that, even when people want to help, sometimes they are prevented by injury or other obligations, so I was lucky that my friends were both willing and able. For those who had the capacity to help, the most likely reason I can think of that they showed up is because they believed that’s what friends in their early twenties do for each other. The sense of duty prevailed. These were some of the same friends who took pleasure in challenging each other’s opinions, solving technical problems together, and coaching each other in obscure skills like fencing or costuming just for fun. There was a set of social expectations around supporting each other’s exploration, learning, and growth.
In some times and cultures, there are thoroughly defined roles and sets of expectations for everyone, and people behave a certain way because that’s just what people do in that time and place. In twenty-first century United States pluralistic society, there are a lot of conflicting ideas about a person’s duties and responsibilities. No one can accomplish all of the things a person “ought” to do. Because there’s no clear agreement about what our social obligations actually are, we face the danger of either ignoring them or over-identifying them and getting overwhelmed with impossible and unhealthy expectations.
Duty is important, yet it needs to be balanced with other perspectives. When social obligation conflicts with the goals we have as individuals or a society, or when responsibility doesn’t match the virtues we hope to develop, we run into trouble. An ethic of duty has also contributed to oppression, where women and people of color are trained to think that it’s our/their responsibility to uphold a system that benefits white men at our/their own expense.
I think the framework of obligations, also known as deontological ethics, is helpful as a first response. Being drawn toward duty is an invitation to think about what our choices mean. If we have a gut feeling that we should respond a certain way to a disruption in civil rights or to care for our seniors, let’s research and see if strategic thinking and the group most affected by the situation agree with that impulse.
Here in this congregation, we help each other bear emotionally heavy things, even if some of us aren’t as able to lift futon frames as we used to. I think we do have a sense of duty that helps us know when to show up for each other. In other contexts, showing up might look like giving assurances about spiritual truths, but that’s not generally a UU’s first response. We affirm the guidance of reason, so our support comes in forms such as practical assistance, giving evidence-based suggestions when asked, and joining in shared exploration.
Reason and duty go hand-in-hand here. We each travel the spiritual path in our own way, and we might each see the set of obligations a bit differently. That could theoretically cause some friction if we have different assumptions about duty. In this congregation, we’re pretty good at giving each other the benefit of the doubt. I believe every person here has an authentic commitment. The Membership Committee is considering a “Continuing On the Path” refresher class next year, which would help seasoned members discuss shared expectations. Meanwhile, let’s continue to show up, to meet our mutual expectations as the caring and supportive congregation we are.
Wake Now My Reason: Rational Thought and Virtue Ethics
The second lens for ethical decision-making has to do with character traits or virtues. Viewing our UU Principles and Sources as virtues to work toward rather than everyday standards is appealing. I can’t perfectly behave with respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person all the time, but I can work toward that as a character-building goal, and I can celebrate progress. I think defining the person we want to be is worthwhile, although I realize that virtue is culture-bound.
The source of our living tradition that we’re talking about today is “Humanist teachings with counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.” Let’s look at that through the lens of virtue ethics. The quality we would be aiming to develop in ourselves and to encourage in others has to do with our ability to check evidence and to change our minds; in other words, critical thinking is a UU virtue. I don’t mean critical as in negative, I mean critical as in analytical. We seek ways to stretch our minds and spirits so that we can develop this characteristic, and we seek ways to make it possible for other people to develop it to the best of their abilities. This is why scientific learning is incorporated into worship themes, and why science is a major component in our children’s Religious Education.
This virtue is absolutely at work in UU congregations that are able to sponsor “Our Whole Lives (OWL),” comprehensive sex education classes that incorporate practical information as well as opportunities to develop relational values. OWL deals directly with diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity, and provides facts about birth control. “Idolatries of the mind and spirit” motivate some communities to block this information from reaching teens, despite overwhelming evidence that health outcomes are improved for youth who receive comprehensive sexuality education. Reason guides us to promote health.
I don’t have experience as an OWL teacher, but I am guilty of luring young minds into the arts. In my professional life before I became a minister, I did public relations and administration for a few arts organizations. I believe appreciation and practice of the arts is a virtue in itself. Aside from that, disciplines like music, dance, sculpture, drama, painting, and fiber arts help people train their minds and bodies for analytical thought and focused attention.
When I worked in the education department of a university art museum, our docents were trained to help school groups really look at a painting or a print and ask, “What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can we find?” (Docents and staff received training in the Visual Thinking Strategies curriculum by Philip Yenawine and Abigail Housen) Part of the point was to help the children work together, listening to and building on each other’s ideas. The docents would go to at least three different galleries so that the children could find similarities and differences across time periods and cultures.
It was my job to set up the tours with the teachers and to help them find information and materials to prepare their class for the visit. Some of the teachers were really concerned that their students wouldn’t get to see everything in the museum. This was their one shot at a field trip, and the teachers envisioned a whirlwind tour, stuffed full of information. I shared with them the evidence that students were more likely to retain information from an interactive tour focused on a few highlights.
Other teachers wanted to stay in one gallery, such as Native American art or the 19th century American art, depending on their social studies standards for that grade level. They worried that covering material that students wouldn’t be tested on that year was a waste of time. Anxiety about having students pass their state-mandated testing is understandable. Usually we were able to put together a tour that worked.
If a tour was just not going to meet the teacher’s goals, I suggested self-directed gallery activities for their group. For instance, I helped put together a “scavenger hunt” map, which invited the visitor to search for certain small details in works of art all over the museum. In any case, we offered students a chance to practice close observation and problem-solving. Even among educators who value analytical skills, barriers of time and resources (not to mention pressure from a memorization-based testing industry) compete with developing critical thinking as a virtue.
As I said, virtue is culture-bound. Not everyone agrees that the capacity to reason is a desirable trait. The practice of training young people to engage in critical thought is being attacked in some circles as a threat to parental and religious authority. When analytical skills are not being directly attacked, they are being de-valued as resources are shifted away from children and poor communities. If we are a faith that heeds the guidance of reason, let’s put our backs and shoulders into it, campaigning for and providing resources that ignite the flame of critical thought.
As UU’s, reason is a major pathway by which we “reach out to the new.” (This is a quote from “Wake Now My Senses,” the hymn we will sing in a few minutes.) The guidance of reason is not just a dry imperative, but fuel for our spiritual exploration. Let us open doors for developing critical thinking among ourselves and in our community.
Wake Now My Vision: Applying Reason to Consequences
The third and possibly most popular ethical framework for us as UUs is consequentialism, examining the potential results of our actions. We’ve talked about duties and virtues as two options for focusing our moral discernment. There is more to it. We want to grow our cities and towns into just, peaceful, and free communities. We want to relieve suffering with compassion. According to the hymn, we “work toward a planet transformed by our care.” Those wants are results-oriented.
Consequentialism does have drawbacks. We can cause harm when we decide that the ends justify the means, or through unintended consequences. We can devolve into considering people and ecosystems as utilitarian objects in our calculations. Our goals need to account for the pitfalls of consequentialism, explicitly figuring human dignity and ecological health into the equation. In an ethical framework that asks about the potential outcomes of our moral choices, we have to decide which results are most desirable and how we measure them.
Preserving the possibility for sustaining human life on this planet seems like a fairly desirable end. How people respond to global climate change is deeply affected by attitudes toward “the guidance of reason and the results of science.” Humanity needs drastic changes in public policy, a revolution in the practices of multinational corporations, and a seismic shift in the daily lives of those of us who consume the most. For people who trust other sources of authority more than they trust science, or for people who don’t believe that sustaining life on earth is important, there is no motivation to make these changes. Religion can be a force for the declining status quo or a force for ecological healing and justice.
UUs tend to have a broad consensus on environmental issues. Respect for the interdependent web is part of our tradition. Within that broad consensus, there are UU interest groups that help us continue to uncover information and who help congregations make plans for ecological action. Organizations like UU’s for Social Justice in the National Capital region and UU Ministry for Earth have taken the data about consequences, combined it with their confidence in science, and translated that into a spiritual mission to heal our relationship with the planet.
People who have felt a calling to environmental justice as a UU religious witness have helped our faith movement maintain awareness, even when international progress has been slow. Delegates to the 2006 UUA General Assembly, which is our annual meeting of congregations, adopted a “Statement of Conscience on the Threat of Global Warming and Climate Change.” The statement articulated spiritual motivations, described scientific evidence, and outlined actions that could be taken on individual, congregational, denominational, and national levels. The statement also named the disproportionate negative effects of climate change experienced by poor communities and developing countries. In part, the statement said:
We declare by this Statement of Conscience that we will not acquiesce to the ongoing degradation and destruction of life that human actions are leaving to our children and grandchildren. We as Unitarian Universalists are called to join with others to halt practices that fuel global warming/climate change, to instigate sustainable alternatives, and to mitigate the impending effects of global warming/climate change with just and ethical responses. As a people of faith, we commit to a renewed reverence for life and respect for the interdependent web of all existence.
So ends the excerpt. The last sentence I quoted mentioned “reverence for life and respect for the interdependent web of all existence.” That part appeals to our sense of duty. In addition, the statement as a whole was very clear about the current and expected consequences for human activity. We can allow things to continue as they are in the direction of devastation, or we can take action toward spiritual, social, and ecological healing. That’s a consequentialist argument. Even if you don’t feel the deep power of the Spirit of Life moving in your soul, there are still moral and religious arguments for action because: science.
Members of congregations from across the country drafted and voted on the Statement of Conscience. While it is not binding for us as a congregation, it does help us to articulate the way our faith might inform our actions. The statement also gives the UUA Board and staff some idea about what the congregations they serve need in terms of leadership and resources.
The 2006 Statement of Conscience wasn’t the last word. UU’s are still involved in research, writing letters to the editor, showing up in legislators’ offices, and organizing public rallies for the planet. UU Ministry for Earth has collected ideas for congregation-sized sustainability projects, developed an adult religious education curriculum, and produced CDs with action ideas and worship resources. There is a river of strength in our faith movement flowing toward environmental justice; any one of us can join any time.
The consequentialist arm of ethics has its drawbacks, but one of its advantages is that it lends itself to a vision of the future. We have something to work toward. We have hypotheses to test, outcomes to reach, and dreams to manifest. May our love for future generations continue to guide us toward positive choices.
Two years ago, this congregation worked together on a vision statement. We considered our values, our role as a member in the community, and the goals we hope to achieve. In other words, we used all three ethical frameworks. Here is the vision statement that the members came up with:
As UUs of Fallston, we strive to be a welcoming and diverse community that cares for the needs of others and the stewardship of the environment.
We promote lifelong spiritual growth and inquiry, the growth and sustainment of the UUF community, and the advocacy of social justice.
I think coming to a consensus about our vision as a community is something to be proud of, especially when you were so thorough about considering the moral implications from all sides. Even if people start from the same framework, it’s not easy to agree on which set of duties or which virtues or which outcomes are most important. As we meet today and beyond to consider the congregation’s future directions, I continue to be impressed with your ability to respect each other and to listen. You have a good foundation for determining the future moral and ethical decisions for this church as a body.
Individually and in our families, we have a number of tools for applying “Humanist teachings which counsel s to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.” We can look at the evidence about things like human development and global climate change to help us discern our ethical obligations as neighbors and as members of the interdependent web. That’s deontology, or the framework of duty. We can articulate the virtues we’d like to see in ourselves and listen for the values that are motivating others. If reason is one of the traits we favor, let’s work to develop it in ourselves and make sure others have the opportunity to do the same. That’s virtue ethics, or the framework of character building. We can make hypotheses based on evidence and reason about the potential effects of our actions, and make choices that promote healthy people, healing for the planet, and justice in our communities. That’s consequentialist ethics, the framework of outcomes.
Whether we base our decisions on one of these or a combination, realizing that there are different frameworks beneath all of our moral choices may help us understand each other when we end up with multiple perspectives. Part of why we reach different conclusions, even though we all use reason, is because we are asking different questions. May we listen each other into speech, strengthening the bonds of fellowship and the practice of peace.
So be it. Blessed be. Amen.