Opening Words from Sun. July 14 by Dave Gutekunst

August 1, 2019

Good morning! July’s theme is “Bringing out the Best”, and oddly, that made me think of government bureaucracy. 

For the last several years, I haven’t seen much connection between goodness and government or politics. Quite the opposite: I feel shocked daily at the monstrous inhumanity perpetrated by our government.

This affects my psyche, and maybe yours, too. If you live near Tower Grove, you may sometimes hear muffled, profane shrieking around 6:00AM. That’s me, screaming into the void as I read the news each morning. (I’m exaggerating, but just barely…) It’s worst for my poor dog, who is developing some strange Pavlovian conditioning: she’s learned that when I am swearing at my laptop, breakfast is imminent. 

So, I’m frustrated about our government. The challenge is focusing on productive action and avoiding cynicism and disillusionment.

I’m lucky that a small part of my work as a professor at SLU lets me see the good that government still does. For the last few years, I’ve been going to Washington twice a year to serve as a grant reviewer for federal research funding through the Veterans Administration (VA).

I thought it might be heartening to hear about the process by which government agencies (VA, NIH, NSF, etc.) decide who gets federal research dollars. I contend that it brings out our best.

To be clear, this doesn’t counterbalance the horrible things being done in our names. 

  • People are still in cages. 
  • Systemic racism still pervades law enforcement and the legal system.  
  • Survivors of sexual abuse still observe that if their assailants are rich and powerful enough, justice will be slow, if it ever comes at all.

But this is a tiny piece of good news. It’s a reminder that governments are people (my friends), and that it is possible to build institutions based on ethical values.

Here goes: the process begins when research teams submit their applications. Each application represents several months of work by teams of researchers, built on decades of scholarship. Based on the topic, each application is assigned to a review section and 3-5 specific experts. My review section focuses on rehabilitation for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, amputation, etc. 

As the “experts”, we pore over the applications, focusing on scientific rigor, the importance of the problem they’re trying to address, and the likelihood that the research will improve treatment outcomes or lead to new technologies. 

Then, in February and August, we gather in nondescript conference rooms in DC and argue it out. We take it seriously. The end result is a set of detailed critical reviews that inform funding decisions and are also returned to the researchers. Only 10-20% of grants are funded, so the feedback helps researchers decide whether to resubmit or move on to another idea. 

The whole process is built on principles of transparency, accountability, and competition, with strict guidelines to limit bias and conflicts of interest. Every session begins with a VA administrator reiterating the mission of the review process: that we are contributing to the distribution of the people’s money, and that we are gathered to act on behalf of our fellow citizens to decide how to use some of our collective wealth. It’s a reminder that we are all in this together. 

I’ve heard this half a dozen times, and it still gets to me. It provides a ray of hope in this dark historical moment. As I hear it, I recognize that I will probably go back to cursing at the news, but it’s a moment of hope, and that’s valuable. 

If we get through our current situation with our democracy intact, we will need to rebuild many of our institutions, and to reestablish the ethical foundations on which they’re based. 

So if you also find yourself screaming at your laptop, try to remember that in tiny puddles deep within “The Swamp”, there are dedicated, talented people working to bring out the best.

Thank you.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Opening Words from Sun. July 21 by Susan Hurt

July 23, 2019

Good morning, my name is Susan Hurt, and I’m fairly new to the Ethical Society. Prior to becoming a psychiatrist, I was introduced to the theories of Erik Erikson in college, and this is what I want to talk about today.

Erik Erikson was a developmental psychologist who maintained that personality develops through eight stages of psychosocial development, beginning in infancy and lasting throughout adulthood.

Based on Erikson’s ideas, the field of psychology re-conceptualized the way that the later periods of life are viewed. They are now considered active and significant times of personal growth.

I’m going to skip over the first 6 stages of development that Erikson described and review the 2 later adult stages, as this is my area of focus today.

Generativity vs. Stagnation is the seventh stage of Erik Erikson’s theory. This stage takes place during ages 40 to 65 yrs.

Generativity refers to “making your mark” on the world through creating or nurturing things that will outlast you as an individual.

Examples include raising children, productive work, and involvement in community organizations.

Those who fail to contribute during these years may feel unproductive, disconnected, or uninvolved with their community – don’t worry, there’s hope if you have difficulty in this stage.

Ego Integrity vs. Despair is the eighth and final stage and begins at age 65.

It is during this time that people slow down, contemplate their accomplishments, and develop integrity if they believe that they have led a successful life.

If individuals see their lives as unproductive or feel guilt about their past, they may be dissatisfied with their lives and despair.

Erik Erikson’s wife Joan had much to say about stage 8 when she was in her nineties.

In particular, Joan stressed the great value of the elderly given their wisdom and the considerable contributions they can make when successfully integrated into society. She worried that the elderly today are too much cut off from others, and that this marginalization is harmful to everyone.

Now, I wanted to talk about Erik Erikson today because he addresses all ages, including adults of advancing years. And here at the Ethical Society we have this month’s theme as “Bring out your Best.” Well, I think it’s a great theme, because we don’t ever want to lose sight of the fact that we the have the best – those with wisdom and memory – right here amongst us.

It’s important also to realize that, according to Erikson, if any of his 8 life stages are not completed successfully during its specified age range, it can be completed successfully at a later time. It just takes a supportive community – which we have right here – and the inspiration that personal growth is always possible. I think this gives hope to us all.

Thank you.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Art Show – Women in Focus

July 6, 2019

Women in Focus St. Louis presents “Beauty All Around” at the Ethical Society gallery, with the opening July 21 from 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. The show remains on display and available for viewing through Friday, August 30.

As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Confucius said “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it”. Photographers can experience a state of meditation as they move through the world behind the lens of their cameras. And, photographers can share a vision of the world with the viewer by capturing a single, solitary moment in time. We always hope that vision will touch your heart and open your eyes to a different way of seeing and perceiving. Ultimately, art can make the world itself a more beautiful place. We hope you enjoy the beauty we share with you in this show.

Women in Focus is a St. Louis branch of similar organizations in Atlanta, Chicago and Las Vegas. As our founder traveled and lived in these different cities, she gathered groups of women together to share their passion for photography. We claim as our mission joining together to support and promote photography, as well as share in the camaraderie that comes from joining together as women to share our artistic visions.

There will be a reception for the photography group Women in Focus, July 21 from 12:30-2:30 p.m. in the Foyer.  The Ethical Society will exhibit some of the group’s work from July 21 through August 30.

Diversity, While Challenging, Is Worthwhile

July 5, 2019
Leader Kate Lovelady gives a Platform on “The Challenges of Diversity” June 16, 2019.

A Post-Platform Reflection by Adrien Gojko

Kate Lovelady’s Platform address of June 16, dubbed “The Challenges of Diversity,” covered quite a bit of ground.

She went over how “diversity is essential to ethical living.” Explaining in a candid yet kind manner, she discussed how we’ve “moved beyond tolerating diversity” and into “appreciating” diversity and how it makes communities more interesting, more beautiful, and healthier.

She briefly brought up cultural relativism and the differing ideas surrounding it. In all honesty, I had to look up that term. My understanding is that cultural relativism is the “cure” to ethnocentrism.

Ethnocentrism, a term I’ve learned from taking University-level anthropology classes, is when you judge other cultures based only on your own experience. Essentially, it’s assuming your experience is the “default” and all others are “incorrect.”

Cultural relativism is all about trying your best to emphasize with people of other cultures by using your imagination muscles to envision things through their lenses. It means looking into other people’s worlds through the context of their experiences.

Then, she brought up the problem of civil, human, and minority rights briefly, before she announced that she wanted to focus on the issue of diversity within the Ethical Society itself.

I, personally, have many feelings about diversity within ethical culture (or, frankly, the lack thereof), so this statement certainly piqued my interest. Kate said how ethical societies should reflect the world around us.

I definitely don’t always feel like ours does. I don’t feel I get much variety of people from our Society – especially people like me (queer, disabled). I want to see that change and to help that process.

Kate made it a point to bring up our Society’s first annual report card on diversity and inclusion was given by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Ethical Society reported how “we still have a lot of work to do.”

I hate to say that I definitely agree. I’m hoping to help bring a change in our Society and in diversifying our Platform and Forum speakers and membership.

She said that we need to learn to recognize the form(s) of privilege that we have, and how ours and others’ lack thereof effects our dynamics with each other.

Kate brought up that she strongly advised looking up information about a culture before grilling someone of that culture about their opinions. If this had been at a rowdy church setting, I might have gotten up out of my seat right there and shouted, “AMEN, AMEN!!”

She went over how important and wonderful diversity is for us, and for others. How we need each other, but also to respect the dignity of others too.

A great point brought up was how a lot of the older white people tend to ask where the younger folx and diversity are – and why they aren’t bringing in their own friends of younger ages and diverse races, sexualities, genders, etc.

As much as I love the community here at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, I will be the first to admit I’ve felt hurt sometimes by some members here. I’m fully aware that the actions of a few don’t reflect the whole, but I think saying this could be a good learning opportunity for many.

I use they/them pronouns and identify as gender-fluid. I make it a point to correct most of y’all when you use the incorrect pronouns. Most of the time, it’s okay and we move on. However, some of you have approached me and turned it into an intellectual debate or asked me about the grammar.

I’m not an English major nor an on-call queer rights activist. It isn’t my job to educate every member of the Ethical Society about how gender and language are social constructs. I wouldn’t mind, except it keeps repeating and becomes tiring.

I’m not a case study. I’m a human being and want to be treated as such. The reason we’re all here is to cultivate a community. Please, I don’t want to feel like an outsider anymore. I want to be treated as human too – by EVERYONE in our community.

I’m sure there are other minorities that come into our Society and feel the same way. I want to watch our Society flourish with fresh ideas, being mentored by those of you that have been around for awhile.

My call of action to you is to ask yourself this one question before talking to someone – a guest or member – that is different from you: ‘Will what I’m about to say make this person feel subhuman?’

When in doubt, take Kate’s suggestion from the Platform and try Google.

Adrein Gojko is a social media intern for the Ethical Society of St. Louis.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Humanist Words at PrideFest Interfaith Service

July 2, 2019
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These words were offered by our Outreach Director, James Croft, to close the Interfaith Service at PrideFest St. Louis 2019. Photo by Philip Dietch.

We Humanists don’t have scriptures, but we have poems. This poem, A Call to the Living, was written by Algernon Black, who was once leader of the Ethical Society in New York.

This is a call to the living,
To those who refuse to make peace with evil,
With the suffering and the waste of the world.

This is a call to the human,
Not the perfect,
To those who know their own prejudices,
Who have no intention
Of becoming prisoners of their own limitations.

This is a call to those who remember the dreams of their youth,
Who know what it means to share food and shelter,
The care of children and those who are troubled,
To reach beyond barriers of the past
Bringing people to communion.

This is a call
To the never ending spirit
Of the common person,
Our essential decency
Our integrity beyond all education and wealth,
Our unending capacity to suffer and endure,
To face death and destruction
And to rise again
And build from the ruins of life.

This is the greatest call of all
The call to a faith in people.

I don’t know about you, but my faith in people has been shaken recently. Seeing the vicious divisions within our own movement which have surfaced over the past few weeks, it certainly feels to me like we are becoming prisoners of our own limitations. This week, for the first time since I came out almost ten years ago, I considered skipping Pride. I feel disappointed in my own community, and angry, and it doesn’t make me feel very proud.

Yet I look out across this crows – and I see children dancing to the music up front, people clamoring to hear our words from outside the barriers, members of every part of our LGBTQIA+ community – I am reminded: I am still alive. I am still morally and spiritually alive, and I refuse to make peace with evil. And I think that is true of many of us here today. Is that you? Do you refuse to make peace with evil? I thought so.

We’re here at PrideFest – at this service so very early in the morning on a Pride weekend, on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall – because we understand that Pride is more than a party. Pride is more than a celebration. Pride is the assertion of our dignity in the face of a challenging world, a declaration that despite our suffering despite the prejudice, despite what the world has done to us we are still alive.

That means we have to keep on living. We must keep living into the challenges we face as a community. And I think our challenge today is to do precisely what Algernon Black’s poem calls us to do: we must remember the dreams of our movement’s youth. Because whatever the people were fighting for at Stonewall I guarantee it wasn’t the police marching in the Pride Parade and our trans community retiring from it. It wasn’t corporations who give money to PrideFest one day, and then to homophobic politicians the next. It wasn’t our community at each other’s throats because we are not listening to the most marginalized among us.

That’s not why Marsha P. Johnson, on the second day of the Stonewall riots, climb up a lamppost and dropped a handbag – filled with a brick! – onto a cop car’s windshield. That’s not why homeless street kids – kids who had nothing – risked everything in a running battle with police through the streets of New York, fighting to protect the only place that felt like home. That’s not why Harvey Milk was shot, in an office in San Francisco, for proclaiming a message of hope.

We must remember the dreams of our youth.

So my call to the LGBTQIA+ community of St. Louis is to rise again. To rise from the death and destruction of our time – young people becoming less accepting of LGBTQIA+ folks than previous generations; a surge in hate crimes across the nation; a political establishment taking away rights we fought so hard to win – and build from these ruins something new. That would be a Pride we could all be proud of.

Why the Ethical Society Won’t be Marching Downtown This Year

June 26, 2019
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The core value of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, as a Humanist congregation, is the worth and dignity of every person. Our community exists to help create a world in which the inherent dignity of everyone is recognized and respected. This is why the Ethical Society has supported the equal dignity of LGBTQIA+ people for decades: long before other congregations were “open and affirming,” the Ethical Movement was loudly proclaiming that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and all other queer people should be treated with respect and afforded equal civil rights. This is why our movement has trained and hired openly queer clergy leaders and staff for decades: indeed, of the current staff of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, half are members of the LGBTQIA+ community including our two Leaders! This is why Kate Lovelady, our senior clergy person, for many years refused to perform marriage ceremonies while the law discriminated against same sex couples. This is why we have marched in the Pride Parade for many years, proudly carrying our banner and supporting our LGBTQIA+ members.

And this is why it was so difficult when we decided not to march in the Pride Parade this year, following the decision to readmit armed and uniformed police officers after they had agreed to march out of uniform instead. Since I have received many questions from our members and from the broader community about this decision, I’d like to take a moment to share some of the context, to explain why we came to the decision we made.

Over the past few years there has been increasing tension between the LGBTQIA+ community (particularly transgender people and queer people of color) in St. Louis and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Numerous incidents have led to a total breakdown of trust, including but not limited to:

Many local LGBTQIA+ activists feel that these incidents are demonstrative of profound problems within the STLMPD – problems which threaten the liberty and safety not only of LGBTQIA+ people, but of all residents in the city. These concerns are shared by groups such as the ACLU, which sued the city police in 2017 over its unconstitutional behavior. Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Missouri wrote in 2018:

“Officers used vague and perplexing ordinances to demand arbitrarily that free speech activity end when they decided. They used pepper spray and tear gas to punish people they disagreed with. And they destroyed phones and cameras and deleted files to avoid being caught engaging in such nefarious acts…A large group of St. Louis police officers wielding batons provocatively chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!” the night of the infamous kettling incident. Earlier, they made unlawful arrests and used illegal force against protesters.”

This is not, then, a problem of a “few bad apples” poisoning the reputation of an otherwise fine police force. Rather, it is indicative of a deeply broken culture of policing, in which the police see portions of the community – including members of the LGBTQIA+ community – as an enemy to be violently subdued rather than citizens to be served. This is entirely incompatible with the core values of the Ethical Society. The STLMPD is failing in its duty to recognize and respect the equal dignity of the citizens who employ them, meting out “justice” in a highly politicized manner based on their own judgment regarding who is worthy of protection and who is not. I believe it is our ethical duty, as those who seek to stand for the dignity of all people, to speak out when one of our most important and powerful social institutions so spectacularly loses its way.

This, I imagine, is part of the reason why a number of our LGBTQIA+ members expressed deep concern when the police reneged on their agreement not to march in uniform in this year’s pride parade. To be clear: the Chief of Police, the Mayor, and the Pride Board had come to an agreementthat, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall (an uprising against police brutality which Pride Parades commemorate), police would march in the parade without uniform and without firearms. This agreement coincided with the decision by the Pride Board to make the Metro Trans Umbrella Group (a group representing the trans and gender non-conforming residents of the St. Louis Metro area) the Grand Marshal of the Parade. MTUG agreed to march on the condition that police would not be in uniform, due to the continued harassment faced by trans people at the hands of the police, and the many problems listed above. Less than two weeks before the Parade, the police, Mayor, and Pride Board broke that agreement, betraying the trans community’s trust and leaving MTUG in the lurch. This led to a number of Ethical Society members requesting that we withdraw from participation in PrideFest entirely: they feel betrayed, angry, and unsafe, and they no longer wished us to be present.

However, I was aware that likely not every LGBTQIA+ member of the Ethical Society likely shared those concerns, so instead of making a decision based only on the feelings of those who had contacted me, I decided to ask our LGBTQIA+ members to discuss our options in an open forum where they could air their views. We had that meeting on Sunday, and on the basis of this meeting, the Ethical Society decided that we will 1) not pull out of PrideFest entirely, but rather maintain an institutional presence at PrideFest, keeping our table and participating in the interfaith service; 2) invite our members to march, instead of in the parade downtown, in a separate march organized by the trans members of our community on Friday evening; and 3) encourage our members to march with other organizations in the Pride Parade if they wish.

The Ethical Society of course believes that police officers should be treated with dignity and respect as human beings. Everybody, of every profession and regardless of their actions, should be treated in accordance with their inherent worth and dignity. Police officers choose to do work which is difficult and often dangerous – I am particularly conscious of this in a week in which a North County officer was fatally shot in the line of duty. But asking police to march in a Pride Parade without their uniforms or weapons – essentially asking them to conform to a dress code – is not demeaning or a threat to their dignity. Police were still welcome to march as individuals, and were never (as was erroneously reported) banned from the parade. Community groups like Pride must be allowed to set the parameters for participation in their own events – otherwise communities lose control of the very events which are meant to celebrate them. Furthermore, the numerous deep-seated problems with the STLMPD – problems which the force has been incredibly slow to address, while resisting meaningful oversight – do not augur well for any future changes.

I feel for LGBTQIA+ police officers who may have been put in a challenging and unpleasant position. Sometimes, when we are called to make difficult moral judgments, it is not always easy to see how the dignity of all people involved can be respected – and I think this is one of those cases. But it is clear to me that the Ethical Society’s responsibility is to 1) respect the wishes of our LGBTQIA+ members and 2) to follow the lead of the people most affected by this issue. Today, the Metro Trans Umbrella Group announced that they have resigned as Grand Marshal for the parade, and instead will march only on Friday evening. The Ethical Society will be marching with them.

Opening Words from Sun. June 23 by Krystal White

June 23, 2019

Good morning! My name is Krystal White, my pronouns are she/her, and I define myself as a READER! I read more than 100 books a year – I’ve read more than 80 so far in 2019 – and this should give perspective when I share that Trevor Noah’s autobiography, Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, was the best book I have read in the last three years. Will you raise your hand if you’ve read Born a Crime before? Each of these folks will tell you – the book is thought-provoking, emotionally touching, and hilarious! The End Racism Team encourages everyone to pick it up and give it a try this summer so that we all can discuss it together in August and September.


Art Show – Diana A. Bose

June 3, 2019

Diana A. Bose, St. Louis native, resident of University City,  member of St. Louis Artists Guild, discovered painting quite by accident.  Diana began with a drawing class at Forest Park Community College and now finds painting a way of life.

Not Yours

May 31, 2019

Yesterday Kayla Vaughan, Mary Ann Tipton and I attended the emergency rally to keep the last abortion care provider in Missouri open.  We stood in the shadow of the arch and in the shadow of grim things going on for reproductive justice.

Allison Hile, and Mary Ann Tipton, at pro choice rally.
Ethical Society members Kayla Vaughn, Allison Hile, and Mary Ann Tipton, at pro choice rally.

I had sex in high school, before it was legal to get birth control unless you were married.  My mother said to me, “Young lady, if you get pregnant, you will be on the next plane to New York.”  At the time I had no idea what she meant; how would seeing a play help?  Fortunately my physics teacher, in whose classroom many of us ate lunch, responded quickly when he heard I was going through a pregnancy scare.  The next day he kept me after class, handed me a brown paper sac filled with foam and condoms, and said, “Use these!”  I remain eternally grateful to him and the risk he took in helping me.

I became a sexuality educator and counselor and worked for nearly three decades at the Hope Clinic for Women, just across the river in Granite City, IL.  My career allowed me to speak to thousands of high school and college students about sexuality and hold hundreds of women’s hands during their brief abortion procedures. In counseling women and couples, I have declined to co-sign consent forms for those who said they thought they would burn in hell for ending a pregnancy.  Who would want anyone to live their life believing that?  In working with religious couples who terminated a much wanted pregnancy for medical reasons, I have joined hands with them and prayed (yes prayed, it can’t hurt) that God would take better care of their little one in heaven than they could on earth.  Clinic staff often called on me to talk to angry mothers who brought their daughters to the clinic but whose daughters did not want abortions.  Sometimes that ended in me receiving baby pictures and sometimes it was graduation pictures, but always it protected the mother daughter relationship.

Having avoided pregnancy in high school and college, the need for abortion did not come up again in my personal life until Matthew and I found out during our first pregnancy that the fetus I was carrying had severe abnormalities.  Working in abortion care, I was pretty well connected.  Hope Clinic provides care to 24 weeks and I was beyond that limit.  I called Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, who was a friend of mine, but he replied his clinic had been firebombed two weeks earlier and he was not able to help me.  My private Ob/Gyn at Barnes said she could not do a procedure that advanced.  After she endured a month in the Neonatal intensive care unit, we removed life support from our very sick daughter. No parent should ever be faced with this.  And still the protesters who yelled at me on my way into work every day shouted, “Babies are murdered up until the day before delivery!”

I do this work because I cannot not do it.  Ask my family and they will tell you stories of me providing education on airplanes, in checkout lines, and in Verizon stores. My main retirement project is being on the board of the Gateway Women’s Access Fund, which in the three years we have existed as a 501(c)(3) has (with many donations from Ethical Society Members) helped pay for over 1,400 Missourians’ abortion care. The fund, by the way, will shortly be changing its name to Missouri Abortion Fund.

Yesterday, Kayla marched with a banner she made and carried in marches prior to Roe v Wade.  Mary Ann marched with the same pin she wore to the 1992 Women’s March in DC. I marched like I always do, happy to recognize others in the crowd and grateful for all the new faces I don’t recognize.

We may have gotten a Temporary Restraining Order today to keep the St. Louis clinic open, but this fight we thought was compromised by Roe v Wade is just beginning. 

Allison M Hile, MA

Opening Words from Sun. May 19 by Gayle Wilson Rose

May 19, 2019

They say it’s not good to make generalizations about people but this morning I’m going to make an exception…

Most of us…

Most of us get plenty to eat every day.

Most of us don’t know what it’s like to have to decide between paying a utility bill and having food on the table.

Most of us don’t know what it feels like to try to fall asleep with an empty growling stomach and nothing to fill it.

Most of us…

are pretty privileged.


Opening Words from Sun. May 12 by Billie Teneau: “A Tribute to My Step-Mother”

May 18, 2019

“The little girl needs a Mother,” my father wrote in his life story. My Mother died when I was six years old. My father, my two teen-age sisters, and the neighbors, more-or-less, took care of me. Realizing that I was growing up, my Dad began to look around for a suitable step-mother (and a suitable wife for him).


Ethical Society Blood Drive

May 17, 2019

Want to take an ethical action? Give blood through the American Red Cross at the Ethical Society.

To schedule an appointment please call 1-800-Red-Cross (1-800-733-2767) or visit and enter “EthicalSociety” to schedule an appointment.

Revere the World

April 20, 2019

This is a series of guest essays by Ethical Society member Bobbi Linkemer. You can find all her essays at this link.

How we interpret anything we see depends on our perspective. Take the earth, for example. From a human perspective, wherever we stand, the world seems immense. Even in a plane, at 30,000 feet, we can’t see all of it. From space, according to Carl Sagan, the earth looks like a pale blue dot. So, what we see depends on where we are in relation to what we’re looking at.

The second way to think about earth is from a scientific perspective. Our earth is considered an insignificant planet that orbits an insignificant star in our solar system. Our sun is only one star among the billions of other stars in the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of 200 billion galaxies in our universe. There is also the possibility of multiple universes besides our own.

However you view the earth—as too big to fathom its size or too inconsequential to attract much attention—one thing is clear: it is home to 7.7 billion people. Since we are unaware of life anywhere else in our solar system or beyond it, and we haven’t yet mastered the art of intergalactic travel, this the only home we have.

The earth is 4.5 billion years old, and for most of that time, any major changes to it were the result of nature’s fluctuations. But new research indicates that humans have actually been reshaping the planet for thousands of years. For those of us who don’t believe that climate change is a hoax, we can see the evidence all around us. According to Wired magazine, these are some of the most dramatic signs:

  • Temperatures are already breaking records around the world, and the earth could warm by six degrees this century.
  • According to climate scientists around the world, climate change is real and poses a serious threat to the planet.
  • Arctic sea ice and glaciers are melting; sea levels are rising at their fastest rate in two thousand years; and global flooding could triple by 2030.
  • More greenhouse gases are in our atmosphere than any time in human history, and  two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef has been damaged because of climate change.

Those are frightening predictions. Perhaps it’s easier to believe that none of this is true than to face the enormity of what lies ahead if we don’t wake up and do something. According to a recent exhaustively-researched report, time is running out for humans to stop the damage and reverse our destructive course of action. When the choice is between saving the only home we have and continuing to contribute to its demise, that sounds like a no-brainer.

But apparently, this choice is more complicated than that. To put the brakes on our lifestyles and reverse course requires, first, that we admit we have a problem and, second, that we are committed to working together to solve it. How do we convince people who believe this is not happening that it really IS happening? And how do we convince governments and businesses and multimillionaires that these predictions may not materialize in their lifetimes but will most certainly affect the next generation and the one after that and who knows how many more?

Native American tribes understood that everything they did would have unforeseen consequences in the future. We would do well to adopt their Seventh-Generation philosophy, which mandated that tribal decision-makers consider the effects of their actions and decisions on their descendants seven generations into the future. If we are to have seven more generations, we must begin to revere the world we are leaving to them.

Art Show – Don Beere

April 19, 2019

Don Beere grew up in an artistic household. His mother always had a painting in process and talked to her children about what she was doing. She worked in several mediums:  oils, acrylics, watercolors and sculpting. She and six other artists ran a gallery. When he was a teenager in the early 1960s, she started the San Dieguito Art Guild in San Diego County. During those teenage years, Don accompanied her to art shows and art museums where she critiqued what they were viewing. At that time, Don had no interest in art but obviously absorbed her lessons. His sister, Susan Beere ( also learned from their mother and has been a professional artist her whole life.

When he was in his 20s, Don unsuccessfully tried his hand at drawing and concluded he could never be an artist. However, in his 40s, Don discovered his love of photography, and, in particular, his eye for composition. Photography became a medium through which he could express his artistic bent. Other than what he learned from his mother, Don developed his skills naturalistically.

In the 1990s, while living in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, Don’s photographs were juried into shows and were included in numerous local art shows. Don’s subject matter, then, was exclusively nature, and his love of nature comes through in those pieces. He later expanded his work to include other subject matter.

The thirty-two photographs displayed here fall into four groups: nature, abstract, “Reflections,” and other. Of note are the photographs titled “Reflections.” Don and his wife Carole were moving from Minneapolis in 2001. On an early, sunny morning in late July, she suggested he photograph the downtown area where they had lived for two years. Most of the photographs Don took that morning are reflections in the windows of the downtown skyscrapers, titled here as “Reflections.” [Commentary about these photos is linked to specific pieces.] This series, which actually includes more than forty photographs, marked a significant transition in Don’s approach to photography. He had already been moving toward abstract photography and this series solidified that change.  “These photographs taught me the principles of abstract photography,” he says.

Don has a diverse academic background with bachelor’s degrees in physics and philosophy, a master’s degree in experimental psychology and a doctorate in clinical psychology. He was a psychology professor for 29 years at Central Michigan University where he trained doctoral students.  As well, he had a clinical practice for 42 years, the last 13 years having a full-time solo practice.  He was internationally known for his work on trauma, dissociation, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). He retired in 2013, and he and his wife moved to St. Louis since their daughter lives here. Ironically, his mother, Mary-Sue (Susan) Shallcross Beere, was born in Kirkwood. In 2019, he will publish his first novel, Blue Sky, Deadly Secrets, a psychological thriller. He has been learning, practicing and teaching Tai Chi for 45 years and currently teaches at the Ethical Society. His website is

His artist reception will be Sunday, May 5, 12:30 to 2:30.

Opening Words from Sun. April 14 by Eleanor Sullivan

April 14, 2019

We all know we’re going to die…eventually. Most of us, most of the time, push the thought away. After all. we can do little about its inevitability. We try to eat healthy, exercise moderately (shrug), and sluff off stress. Besides, it seems a long way in the future…no matter how old we are.

But I was faced with an opportunity to come close.

Opening Words from Sun. March 24 by Stephanie Sigala

March 25, 2019

If this were the Channel 9 News Hour, we’d call this segment “Brief and Unspectacular.” I have a few words to say about the dignity of being an old woman.


Board Nominees – 2019

March 20, 2019

The Nominating Committee members – Bob Pickard, Carol Bartell, Carole Beere, Alan Easton, and Ann Eggebrecht – are pleased to submit to the Board and to the membership the following nominees for the Ethical Society Board of Trustees:

Stephanie Sigala – President-Elect

Stephanie Sigala joined the Ethical Society in 1996, meeting and marrying her member husband, Jim Rhodes here. She has been active at Ethical ‘out of the box’ : participating in, chairing and coordinating over 10 committees. Her last Board participation was 2010-13. She is now Usher Co-Chair and will chair the Lay Leadership Development Committee.

Stephanie worked as an art historian, professor, and administrator at several Midwest colleges before moving to St. Louis in the 1980s. She retired as Senior Educator at the St. Louis Art Museum in 2007. She now volunteers as a Master Gardener and MBG docent, for Kirkwood Library, and for Senior Connections. In all these things, the Ethical Society is central to her core interest in the creative and ethical potential of every person.

Tom Draney – Secretary

Currently on the Board and serving as Secretary.

Ray Preston – Trustee

Ray Preston was born and raised in St. Louis.  To answer the ultimate St. Louis question–he graduated from Normandy High School in north St. Louis County.  Before he graduated from college he dropped out for a semester and backpacked around Europe with a college buddy.  They crashed on couches, hitchhiked, caught rides with friends of friends and sometimes slept in train stations.  It was a great coming-of-age experience.  After returning to Mizzou he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in History and then went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Journalism at the University of Missouri.  For the past 32 years he has worked as a journalist.  He has been a reporter, photographer, editor, producer and/or news anchor at television stations in Amarillo, TX, Salinas, CA, Springfield, MO and Oklahoma City.  For the past 22 years he has worked at KMOV (CBS) in St. Louis. He is married to Lisa Manzo-Preston, a Content Manager at Ameren.  In 2013 they were looking for a welcoming, open-minded community and were attracted to the Ethical Society of St. Louis.  They joined a short time later.  Ray and Lisa have two children.  Their son lives in Denver and their daughter is a very grown-up middle schooler.

Kayla Vaughan – Trustee

Kayla Vaughan and her husband Dennis Roach joined the Ethical Society in 1991, when their sons were 2 and 5 years old.  Kayla retired from practicing law in 2007. Her career included serving as a housing staff attorney and family managing attorney at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and a term as municipal judge for the City of St. Louis in its environmental court division.  She now works part-time as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor at the Y.  She has been active in a variety of roles at the Society over the years and presently serves as a planning coordinator for the Tuesday Women’s Association, co-leads Laughter Yoga, coordinates 2nd Sunday Greeters, and participates in many other Ethical Society groups and regular activities.  Kayla loves the Ethical Society.

Note:  Ethical Society By-Laws allow for additional nominations to the Board, via petition.  Members in good standing may be nominated to open Board positions by written petition, signed by at least ten active members and filed at the Society office at least 30 days prior to the Annual Membership Meeting (May 15, 2019).  If the nominee-by-petition is running to be an officer of the Board, the position must be specified.

AEU on New Zealand Terrorist Attack

March 17, 2019
Category: ,

The American Ethical Union utterly condemns the evil act of violence that took 49 lives and injured 48 people in Christchurch, New Zealand. Murder is always wrong, but atrocities which target a group of people because of their religion or ethnicity compound that wrong by harming not just the victims themselves but their entire community. People should not have to live in fear because of their faith, ethnicity, or race, yet for many Muslims, and many immigrants, fear is a daily reality.

This mass killing is a terrifying reminder of the power of hatred to move people to take the lives of others. It is reported that the shooter espoused racist and white nationalist views and published a document online outlining his motivations in which he expressed extremist, right-wing, anti-immigrant sentiments. Though New Zealand is geographically distant from the USA, we cannot deny and must not forget that similar sentiments are festering in the hearts of too many Americans, sometimes provoked by prominent political figures who scapegoat immigrants and demean Muslims for political gain. The killer’s own actions demonstrate that racist right-wing extremism is a global phenomenon: in his “manifesto” he praised white supremacist terrorist Dylann Roof.

Hatred has consequences, and the atrocity in Christchurch should serve as a call to all of us to actively resist hatred in our own communities. We must condemn Islamophobia, the wicked insinuation that Islam is a uniquely dangerous and alien religion. We must condemn racist anti-immigrant rhetoric, which wrongly suggests that only a select class of people deserve respect, dignity, and protection. Muslims are full members of our human community and deserve a world in which their dignity is cherished. We at the American Ethical Union commit ourselves to working in solidarity with the victims wounded in these attacks and with the families of those who were killed to create such a world-a world in which today’s events would be unthinkable.

Read the original statement on the American Ethical Union’s web site.

‘Brexit: A Guide for Confused Americans’ March 14

March 11, 2019

Brexit. For years that word has dominated international headlines as people throughout the world follow the seemingly endless saga of Britain’s quest to leave the European Union.

“Brexit is one of the most significant international affairs in many decades: it impacts the world economy and the politics and culture of every country in one of the most powerful regions of the earth,” said Ethical Society Outreach Director James Croft. “The dream of the European Union was that closer economic and cultural integration of nations would prevent further atrocities like the Second World War: with Brexit, that dream is starting to unravel.”

But what is Brexit, exactly? Why did it happen, and what does it mean for the United Kingdom and for the world? How could Brexit affect the USA, and what similar political and cultural currents are flowing in this country?

“When Britain leaves the European Union, the USA could be affected in numerous ways,” Croft said. “Right now, some US vacationers might be delighted that the fall in the value of the pound is making their trips to the UK cheaper. But the long-term picture is much more troubling: the exit of the UK from the EU could cause the economic growth of the EU to slow, which would hurt US exports and therefore the economy. Britain’s exit may embolden nationalist elements in other nations to push for their countries to leave too, which would compound this problem.”

Join Croft, a bona fide British person and long-time political activist, during “Brexit: A Guide for Confused Americans” at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at the Ethical Society of St. Louis 9001 Clayton Road St. Louis, Missouri. He will guide guests on a funny and informative tour through the strange world of British politics.

Afterward, attendees will be able to buy a selection of relevant titles curated by Left Bank Books, which is co-sponsoring this event.

“Brexit can be seen as part of a troubling trend toward nationalism and isolationism which is spreading across the globe,” Ethical Society Outreach Director James Croft said. “Numerous nations – including the US – are grappling with their self-image and trying to determine what sort of country they want to be. The competition between open and welcoming internationalist perspectives and closed and paranoid nationalist ones will, I think, be a defining feature of political and cultural discourse for decades.”

Opening Words from Sun. February 24 by Krystal White

February 24, 2019

Good morning. Two months ago, Leader Kate Lovelady announced she would step down from the Ministry Team Leader position, effective June 2020. I would like to update you on actions the Board has taken since that announcement. (more…)