Good Politics, Bad Character

In my years as an activist many of my core values have stayed the same. I am still committed to maximal liberty of the individual, compatible with others’ rights. I am still for government intervention to help people get more free. I am still enraged by injustice and willing to fight against it. One area my views have developed, though, regards the importance of individual character. “Character” feels like an old-fashioned word, perhaps even a conservative one. When people speak… Read more

What Words Should Activists Use?

Write or say anything about a currently-controversial political topic, and you are likely to swiftly be drawn into a discussion about words: “I don’t think you/we should use word x. We should use word y instead! It’s more understandable / welcoming / less threatening / more common.” These discussions can be frustrating: often I want to discuss the issues my words are referring to, rather than the words I have chosen to describe the issue. Sometimes, these discussions are enraging, because by disagreeing… Read more

Humanism Has Limits. Obviously.

Yesterday I wrote that if you’re not for racial justice you’re not a Humanist. That (to me) uncontroversial statement provoked a predictable backlash among some “Humanists,” who prefer their worldview racial justice-free. The critics seemed to have two main objections. The first is standard racial obliviousness: the idea that colorblindness is, in fact, the best way to deal with racism, and the only way consistent with Humanism. For, this line of thinking goes, what could be more Humanist than treating everyone… Read more

If You’re Not for Racial Justice, You’re Not a Humanist

I just finished reading Prof. Anthony Pinn’s book When Colorblindness Isn’t the Answer: Humanism and the Challenge of Race. It’s excellent. It’s a fantastic exploration of race and racial justice from a Humanist perspective, for Humanists. In a series of short chapters Pinn explores issues like the complex role of belief in god in African American history; the position of African Americans vis-a-vis movement Humanism; the nature of white privilege; and hip hop culture as a source of inspiration for Humanists. Pinn’s… Read more

Five Things I Learned from Cleve Jones

This Pride Cleve Jones came to St. Louis. The Cleve Jones. Cleve Jones of the AIDS Memorial Quilt and When We Rise, legendary LGBTQIA+ activist and total badass. He was in town to be Grand Marshal of our Pride Parade and to speak about his new book (also called When We Rise), and it was at his book talk where I heard him speak and he re-energized me for the fights ahead. The past three years have been a tough time to be… Read more

PFLAGGED

I experience a lot of emotional situations in my work. I’m a clergy person, and I sit with people as they wrestle with questions of life and death. I’m an activist, and I have had more than my share of tense and scary moments on the streets. But tonight’s panel on religion and LGBTQIA+ issues, convened jointly by PFLAG St. Charles and Growing American Youth was one of the most intense emotional roller-coasters of my life, and I sit here crying hot… Read more

“Best Choice” Not the Best Choice for St. Louis-Area Public Schools

A Double Shot of Paranoia I’m at Starbucks to meet Joy Maxwell. Maxwell is Curriculum Coordinator for the increasingly controversial “Best Choice” sex education program, a project operated by ThriVe St. Louis and taught in public schools in and around the Midwestern city. In recent weeks, Best Choice has been the subject of numerous articles – and even protests – questioning its scientific accuracy and its promotion of conservative Christian moral attitudes about sex. I’ve been offered the opportunity to review the… Read more

In Defense of Debates

Last week I debated god. Not as in “I had a debate with the Creator of the Universe,” although that would have been cool. Rather as in “I had a debate about the existence of god with a Christian apologist.” This was new to me. While I enjoy debates immensely, and while I’ve been a Humanist activist for some time, I’ve never before been asked to debate the existence of god directly. Usually I’m asked to debate some topic from… Read more

Justice Without God

“Tzedek, tzedek tirdof” – “Justice, justice you will pursue.” This phrase, which I learnt from my Jewish clergy colleagues while protesting together in Ferguson, lies at the heart of faith for many. Almost all religious traditions, somewhere in their scriptures or practices, make a call to justice. From the Muslim call from god “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice”, to the Mormon injunction “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly?”, the pursuit of… Read more

Oppression Is Not Magic

Whenever I write about oppression, I can predict one typical response: “What is this mystical “oppression” you speak of? Can you point to it? Are you talking about discriminatory laws? But there are no laws prohibiting this thing – so how can people be oppressed in that arena?” The question, which is so common, seems to assume that unless a prejudice is enshrined in law or has other easily visible institutional manifestations, it cannot have any effects – and that to… Read more

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