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During one of our weekly staff meetings several months before my sabbatical began, our Minister of Religious Education, Dan Harper, said, “Well, not that you’re looking for another sabbatical project, but if you were . . . ” It turns out that he sees a real need for a book of stories from the Bible for Unitarian Universalist kids around nine or ten years old. There are UU curricula introducing kids to this heritage (e.g., Timeless Themes), but he would love to have a volume to give each of our Religious Education students at that age. We could publish it ourselves, as he has done with his early history of Unitarians in Palo Alto and the Yuletide Song and Carol Book. In fact, we have funding for such a project thanks to a memorial book fund generously created by the family and friends of Sherwood Sullivan, a former president of our congregation who died late last year.

I wasn’t particularly in search of a project. Living in another country, learning Spanish, making lots of art, meeting regularly with my spiritual director, and expanding a program to teach Unitarian Universalists about modern slavery seemed like enough to grow on for six months. However, this idea sparked my imagination. The book Bible Stories retold by David Kossoff was a staple of my childhood, with its beautiful painted illustrations by Gino d’Achille and the writer’s vivid, down-to-earth voice. For example, when I think of the story of Absalom, who was killed as a traitor in the civil war he’d launched against his father King David, I always, always hear how Kossoff prefaced the famous passage:

The news was brought to David, and the people saw no triumph, no elation. Just a heartbroken man who’d lost a son. “O, Absalom,” they heard him say. “Would to God I had died instead of you. O, Absalom, my son, my son.”

(You can actually hear Kossoff himself, who was an actor as well, reading some of these stories on YouTube–see link below.)

As a religious educator, Unitarian Universalist, minister, parent, and lover of literature, I also have a voice to bring to these ancient, abiding, disturbing, inspiring, confusing tales. When Dan mentioned the idea, I immediately thought of some of the religious questions and ideas I’d developed around the age of nine or ten, and the stories that inspired them. I’d have to tell the story of Jonah, who is one of the most humanly flawed, and thus one of my favorite, characters in the Bible: a prophet, called to summon people to repentance, who is angry and disappointed when they actually do repent and gain forgiveness. And the story of Abraham bargaining with God to gain mercy for the people of Gomorrah and Sodom, which our Hebrew School teachers taught us as evidence that Jews’ God does not desire unthinking obedience, but respects a principled argument–in other words, that we are meant to use our reason and conscience to challenge even the God who gave them to us.

The fact that the same God, four chapters later, told the same man to sacrifice his beloved son like a sheep, and honored him for being willing to do it, raised so many painful questions. Were we supposed to be obedient after all? What the hell kind of God would ask such a thing? How did Isaac feel about it?

How will I introduce “texts of terror” like this? . . . that’s one of the many questions before me. But however I manage it, encouraging children’s questions and independent thinking is one of my goals for this book. Whether they’re UUs or just curious, engaged thinkers, they should wrestle with the text and the tradition, just as the Biblical Jacob wrestled with his brother, God, and himself–another story that will probably need to be included.

And I’ve got a reader on hand to raise questions and give me feedback from the target readership: a bright, questioning Unitarian Universalist nine-year-old. She’s also interested in creating illustrations, which I have promised she may do. I might do a few of my own as well, if the spirit so moves.

What stories would you include?

Bible Stories: the story of David, part 1, as read by the reteller

Yesterday I had the great honor of preaching the sermon at the ordination of, as we may now call her, the Reverend Pam Gehrke. The sermon means a lot to me, and I’ve posted it here.

I want to thank Pam for the invitation, and Sally Ahnger, Sarah Moldenhauer-Salazar and Rachel Anderson, who added a great deal to the details just by being honest. The sermon is dedicated to Dan Kane and all the saints who from their labors rest.

And my wife, Joy, is just the kind of editor I need: a close reader who brings up small and large matters, who honors what I want to say whether or not she agrees with it, and who knows me well enough to say when she doesn’t think what I wrote is what I really believe, and be right. She made this a much better sermon. Thank you, sweetie.

The leader of last weekend’s retreat, process philosopher and poet Christina Hutchins, invited us to write poems, prompted by and including a question by Pablo Neruda. She posted a dozen around the room, and as soon as I saw this one I knew it was posed to my soul. It’s been over 30 years since I wrote a poem, and my internal response when she announced the plan was “oh, crap,” but I was pleasantly surprised.

No title has occurred to me yet.

————————————————–

And why do they strike the rock
with so much wasted passion?
                                     –Pablo Neruda

Passion wasted–
Why do I?
     Strike the rock, and strike, and be struck and stuck
When I can rock with passion,
Rock my soul, rock and roll
Right downhill past the waste into the wastes of the wished-for world
Speeding and spinning, singing and sinking
My lips into the sweet
Sweet rolling singing rocking succulence?

The rock yearns to be rolled,
The passion to be spent,
The world to be rocked.

The February Quest for Meaning is out, with this sermon of mine that I gave a couple of years ago. It was almost Christmas, and I was all set to preach about how the heart of Christianity was the simple command to love one another, and why we forget that. Then I turned on Facebook and saw posts like “Oh my God . . . Prayers for the people of Newtown,” and the Universalist message of love for all was severely tested. That’s when the writing got real.

The rest of the issue is here.

A homily given at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, Christmas Eve, 2013

What are we to make of these angels? What are we supposed to think about all these angels?

There’s a lot in this lovely little story of Christmas that is hard for the rational mind to believe. But you can explain most of it away—the miraculous birth, the amazing star. But not angels. They are a whole different kind of creature that populates the Bible, something between the human and the divine. People have invented a whole field of study called “angelology” and explained all the various ranks and types, which only makes it all harder to believe for me.

But the meaning of the word “angel” in the Bible that I was taught as a child and that means the most to me today is something very simple and grounded in our real lives. An angel is a messenger. Someone who comes from God to a person, carrying a message. Someone who tells us something we need to know about the holy.

What is the holy? Well, according to the Unitarian Universalist songwriter Peter Mayer, everything—and I see no reason to doubt him. Which would seem to suggest that everything is or can be a messenger of the holy also. Anything that helps goodness, wisdom, hope, get from out there to inside here, is an angel of a kind. Anything that brings us a message that the holy is the holy is an angel.

It doesn’t have to be a beautiful young woman straight out of a Renaissance painting, with classical features, flowing long hair, and wings. When you’re sick and scared in the hospital, and an overworked, overweight, aging nursing assistant puts a reassuring hand on your shoulder and smiles, and you look into his eyes and feel a flame of hope come to life inside you—he’s an angel.

It doesn’t have to be a human being. When you are filled with despair and there seems to be nothing except barren ground and hard edges, and you stumble home and your cat rubs her cheeks against your ankles, and you remember that there is something soft and loving in the world—she’s an angel.

It doesn’t have to be alive. A shooting star, the Badlands of South Dakota, a sand dollar shell washed up on the beach, the ocean itself . . . these have all been known to whisper messages of hope, harmony, beauty.

Whenever a message comes that reminds you of holiness, you have met an angel.

The messages don’t always have to be pleasant, either. We may hear that people are dying in South Sudan (radio as angel). We may be informed that we have hurt someone’s feelings (angry friend as angel). We may suddenly grasp that we are going the wrong way and have been going the wrong way for years (road sign as angel). If these messages awaken in us compassion, love, greater understanding, or a thirst for justice, then they are the holy speaking to us.

Everything is holy; anyone, anything, can be an angel.

And so the unknown writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers; for by so doing, some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).

This, to me, means: be open to the unexpected, the unknown, the apparently uninteresting. It may be the messenger bearing a note for your ear.  And we are reminded in particular to be open to those would-be messengers that we turn away because they bear messages we don’t want to hear. After all, when the holy breaks into our awareness, it can make us have to change our lives. It can turn everything upside down.

A message implies that there is something we now must do. Here’s a text message that says, “Call me, it’s urgent.” Here’s a messenger of God saying, “Joseph, marry your fiancee,” or “Shepherds, go to Bethlehem and look for the baby who will be King of the Jews.” Here’s an angel saying, “I bring glad tidings of peace on earth, goodwill to all people.” Wait a second. As the first carol we sang tonight, “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” says, there hasn’t been peace on earth. People have not extended goodwill to each other. What has followed that message has been “two thousand years of wrong.” That’s because the message is never just a point of information; it’s a command. Go and do something. Make this a world of peace. Make goodwill between yourself and your neighbor. Hear the angels sing and take their messages to heart.

So the messages that come our way can be disruptive, reassuring, joyful, scary, exhilarating . . . . it depends on what we do with them. One thing is certain. When the holy speaks to us, whatever form the holy takes, whatever form its messenger takes, that angel is always bearing good news.

I’m posting audio of my sermons as often as possible from now on. I’m hoping these will be on the UUCPA website or blog soon, but until then this is a simple way to get them out there. I welcome your responses regarding format as well as content. How do you like to get your audio? Is this format providing that?

“Free and Responsible,” given at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, August 25, 2013

I’ve posted my Easter sermon here on this blog, and also on UUCPA’s blog. It will soon be up at the church website.

In personal news, I did not keep to my Lenten practice of drawing at all. I drew on Monday mornings as usual, and besides that I did only a handful of drawings. I think I should just acknowledge that I’m at my limit for daily practices, between reading my Dickinson poem (today is #220, and next week’s sermon is on the journey so far) and exercising and following the various necessary family routines.

Two years ago I had a late-night brainstorm and stayed up completing a fun, entirely unsolicited project: a “hope calendar,” modeled on an advent calendar, on which each day between Thanksgiving and Christmas had a fact or question about the work of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC). The idea was to use it during Guest at Your Table (GAYT), the several autumn weeks when we raise awareness of, and money for, the UUSC. It was especially geared toward families with kids from about age 8 to 14. I e-mailed it to our parents and teachers, made a bunch of copies of my calendar and put them out on the day of our GAYT kickoff, and had no idea whether anyone used it.

I also e-mailed it to the UUSC, which compiles ideas from congregations on how to promote Guest at Your Table. This fall, they asked if they could adapt my calendar, crediting me for the concept of course, and of course I said yes. Their very nifty version is here. I hope lots of families find it a useful way to learn about the work of this terrific organization.

Based on my own experiences, I accept it as a given that rich, lasting relationships can arise through online connections, via social media and the internet. On Sunday I’ll be talking about that and what it says about the nature of community, and asking how we might expand our sense of connection by using these technologies more as a congregation, just as many (almost all) of us are using them more in the rest of our lives.

How do you currently use social networking and the internet that would translate well to congregational life?

One for election season. Given at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, CA
September 30, 2012

Readings

from “The Mad Farmer, Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, Secedes from the Union,” Wendell Berry

From the union of power and money,
from the union of power and secrecy,
from the union of government and science,
from the union of government and art,
from the union of science and money,
from the union of ambition and ignorance,
from the union of genius and war,
from the union of outer space and inner vacuity,
the Mad Farmer walks quietly away.

There is only one of him, but he goes.
He returns to the small country he calls home,
his own nation small enough to walk across.

. . . .

Calling his neighbors together into the sanctity
of their lives separate and together
in the one life of their commonwealth and home,
in their own nation small enough for a story
or song to travel across in an hour, he cries:

Come all ye conservatives and liberals
who want to conserve the good things and be free,
come away from the merchants of big answers,
whose hands are metalled with power;
from the union of anywhere and everywhere
by the purchase of everything from everybody at the lowest price
and the sale of anything to anybody at the highest price;
from the union of work and debt, work and despair;
from the wage-slavery of the helplessly well-employed.

From the union of self-gratification and self-annihilation,
secede into care for one another
and for the good gifts of Heaven and Earth.

from The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt (Random House, 2012; all citations are from the eBook version)

If you really want to change someone’s mind on a moral or political matter, you’ll need to see things from that person’s angle as well as your own. And if you do truly see it the other person’s way—deeply and intuitively—you might even find your own mind opening in response. Empathy is an antidote to righteousness, although it’s very difficult to empathize across a moral divide. (79-80)

Sermon “From Righteousness to Right” Amy Zucker Morgenstern

It’s thirty-seven days to the Election Day, but who’s counting? And if you are like 95 to 97 percent of likely voters (and I certainly hope you are a likely voter), you’ve already made up your mind about the presidential ticket. So you don’t have a lot to do between now and then. Today I am proposing some homework to fill the empty hours.

I’m joking, of course—there’s a lot to do in the next 37 days, and I’m going to propose some specific things two Sundays from now that we all might do to help with the democratic process. But this assignment is just as important. In fact, I believe that doing this is as important to the future of our country as the outcome of the election. It is quite simple:

Pay attention to what people on “the other side” are saying and try, as Jonathan Haidt recommends, to see things from their angle.

Okay, now, you only have to do it for 37 days. It’s not the end of the world.

(And please forgive me, but for simplicity’s sake I am speaking mostly in binaries, as if there were only two parties and two basic worldviews, which is of course not true. The reasons for listening to other’s views apply more broadly, so feel free to translate.)

Why should we do this? Three basic reasons. To increase the chances of all of us making the best decisions; to stop demonizing our political opposites and realize that our concerns overlap with theirs much more than we knew; and to create a national community that is better than the flawed and struggling one we have created so far.

So, to the first point. Do we want to feel right, to have the security of never doubting our own positions? Or do we want to be right? That is, do we want to advocate the public policies that are best for the people of our country and for the world, as best as we can tell? Then we need to make wise decisions. And here Jonathan Haidt has some news for us. He is a psychologist who researches moral decisionmaking, especially in the realm of political decisions, and in the book The Righteous Mind, he gives ample evidence that human beings don’t use reason to reach our moral and political decisions nearly as much as we think we do.

This summer, in a sermon on the religious implications of neuroscience, Dan referred to this fact, and gave the example of reflexes and near-reflexes, such as moving our foot toward the brake before we’re consciously aware of the need to stop. It goes way beyond reflexes. Haidt cites ample research, his own and many other people’s, to prove that to a large extent, we do not reach our moral decisions by reasoning. For example, research subjects are asked to respond to a story in which someone breaks a taboo. They are all alone in the house and doing housework, and, having run out of rags, use a worn old American flag to clean the bathroom. Or in another story, the family dog is killed by a car and the family decides to eat it. The subjects reach a conclusion almost instantly. Most are unable to explain their opposition to these acts in terms of their usual moral categories: no one was harmed, there was no injustice or infringement of someone’s freedom. They can’t give a reason to support their intuition. But they try, they try . . . They invent reasons, such as that someone might see the woman using the American flag to clean with, even though the story explicitly says no one sees her or ever finds out what she did. It appears that, faced with moral choices, we react, almost like that foot on the brake, and then we invent explanations and justifications for our reactions. Haidt concludes:

If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out the truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you . . . They’re mostly post hoc constructions made up on the fly, crafted to advance one or more strategic objectives. (12-13 eBook)

I’m sorry to tell you this, but I’m not just talking about that cousin or neighbor or friend of yours with the crazy political opinions. I’m talking about you. I’m talking about us all.

Haidt’s metaphor for how we actually make moral decisions is that of a rider, the reason, astride an elephant, the intuition. Our intuitions drive a great deal of our decisionmaking, just as an elephant who wants to go to the left or the right is likely to get her way. The rider can steer, but when the elephant heads one way or another, the momentum to keep going that way is powerful. In fact, it turns out that our riders, our reasoning selves, do an awful lot of rationalizing: not reasoning our way to a good decision, but filling in plausible explanations for why we are making the decision we are, when the real reason is that the elephant led us that way.

Other examples abound. For example, people are given a simple cognitive exercise in which wrong answers are common. What is telling about the research is that

when people are told up front what the answer is and asked to explain why that answer is correct, they can do it. But amazingly, they are just as able to offer an explanation, and just as confident in their reasoning, whether they are told the right answer . . . or the popular but wrong answer. (70, emphasis added)

The same appears to true for moral reasoning. “Moral reasons are the tail wagged by the intuitive dog,” he writes (78, emphasis in the original). “You can’t make a dog happy by forcibly wagging its tail. And you can’t change people’s minds by utterly refuting their arguments” (ibid). So Haidt advises, “Keep your eye on the intuitions, and don’t take people’s moral arguments at face value”—and I would add, including, and most especially, your own. Because if you or I think we’d have done better in these research studies, well, the evidence is not with us. Liberals and conservatives are equally skilled at inventing after-the-fact rationalizations for our intuitive opinions.

And, conservative and liberal, we are particularly bad at looking for evidence that will contradict what we already believe. I will confess right here and now that if I see a story on the web that appears to be going to confirm my opinion, I’m much more likely to click on it than on one that appears to be going to challenge my opinion. I’m more likely to click on a story about some stupid thing done by the person I’m planning to vote against than on a similar story about someone I’m planning to vote for. Research suggests that I am not unusual.

What does this have to do with listening to other people? Well, it is possible to strengthen our inner rider in making real, reasoned decisions instead of rationalizations, and one of the main ways to do so is to encounter thoughtful, challenging opposition to our elephant’s wishes, our intuitions. The friction of conversation, of engagement, rubs off those assumptions and first-intuitions. Good news: studies support this assertion too.

So if we are to make good decisions on these questions that matter so much, then we need to interact with people who disagree with us. This is also supported by my own experience. When I do read the story that supports a different point of view, I come away with a more nuanced view, myself. It doesn’t necessarily change my mind, and I doubt anything I could read would change my mind about whom to vote for for President five weeks from Tuesday. But it helps me to reach a more thoughtful conclusion and, over time, to think things through with more care and complexity.

Unfortunately, interacting with people we disagree with is really not fun. And you may be asking right now, “Do I have to invite creative friction into my life? I hate friction. It feels awful. It’s uncomfortable and unpleasant and makes me want to throw ______ across the room. (Fill in the blank here—“the magazine,” “the newspaper,” “the radio,” “my computer,” “my brother-in-law.”) Can’t we just carry on with our no-politics rule and keep everything civil? That way we’ll all get along and the next family gathering will be much more pleasant.”

Well, I’m glad you asked. Because it brings me to my second reason for engaging with the enemy, I mean, with people of opposing political views, which is that it helps us to understand that we are much more similar to them than we might have thought, and it helps us to honor our own values.

Our first similarity is that we’re all flawed decisionmakers: “very small rider[s] on . . . large elephant[s]” (420). We already knew that others make decisions illogically. When we know the same about ourselves, we can listen to them with more compassion.

And then we might make an even more important discovery: that the moral divide between us is not as great as we think.

You see, we tend to take political beliefs and generalize grand moral views from them. Political differences mean someone is deficient in morals. Republicans are hesitant to support social programs, which must prove that they don’t care about compassion. Democrats are eager to place restrictions on how someone earns and spends their money, which must prove that they don’t care about freedom. And when we know someone who is otherwise very nice and whom we generally respect, and yet whose views are very different from ours, we surmise that they are being foolish or misled.

Haidt proposes that there are six different moral categories, areas of consideration that we use in making our moral, and therefore our political, judgments: caring for the vulnerable and protecting them from harm; fairness; and freedom from oppression; loyalty, a respect for authority, and purity, or what Haidt calls sanctity. (I think he is probably leaving out one or two.) Which ones you draw upon is a good indicator of your political positions; interestingly, conservatives tend to draw upon all six fairly evenly, while liberals draw heavily only on the first three. And there is much more research about this, with many interesting implications we don’t have time for this morning. But what I want to focus on today is that they are moral categories. Someone who has a political viewpoint that we find bewildering probably arrived at it not because they are bad or thoughtless, but because it supports a moral value that they hold dear. And furthermore, when we look at these moral values in this light, we may realize that we share them more than we thought we did.

For example, one of the distinctions between conservative and liberal is how much we are troubled by freeloading. I often think it is the major distinction. If you set up a social program—for example, food stamps—then some people will use it who don’t really need it. This tends to drive conservatives crazy, to the point that they would rather not have the program at all; liberals, on the other hand, tend to consider it a necessary evil and would rather keep the program and tolerate some freeloading. But where I get really concerned, for myself and, here I’ll pick on other liberals, is that we stop caring about freeloading, or even acknowledging that it is a problem. We can’t afford to admit it. If we did, we might allow a chink in the armor around social programs. We might have to concede something to the opponent. That’s how it looks when we are in combat instead of in conversation.

And yet, if I step out of combat and into my own experience, I can say honestly that freeloading drives me crazy too. For example, I hate this: I’m in heavy traffic on the highway, so heavy that it’s practically at a standstill. I and all the other responsible drivers have been sitting there for half an hour. Now along comes someone speeding along the shoulder, in which it is illegal to drive except in an emergency—just zooming past all the rest of us—and he wants to cut in front of me to get back into a lane. No way! I’ve been playing by the rules, like the hundreds of other cars here, and we all want to get where we’re going just as much as this guy does, and no way am I going to let him delay us one moment more. He can darn well get to the back of the line. Geez, every schoolkid knows this: you don’t cut in line.

What if I were to say to my conservative friends, who are so incensed by the prospects of one welfare recipient having a Cadillac or a hidden income on the side: “That makes me angry too”? What might happen? It would be more honest, for one thing. I’d be opening up a part of myself that I had denied, and that’s always good for making better decisions. We would feel less alienated from each other. Maybe we could have a constructive conversation about how to meet our shared goals: get help to those who really need it, minimize cheating by those who don’t. And maybe we would all honor all our values a little more.

We tend to assume that the people whose political views differ from ours have very different moral convictions than we do, and some of Haidt’s work suggests that we do tend to draw on different areas of moral consideration. But let’s look for a moment at the song we sang as our opening hymn. Does “If I Had a Hammer” express liberal or conservative values? You may know the politics of the writers already—hint, they were blacklisted during the McCarthy years—but if you didn’t, could you guess from the words? A vision of our land being one of justice, freedom, and love, where we think of ourselves as family, and where we see danger that calls for a warning? If you think your side has these values but the other one doesn’t, you’re not even going to want to talk to them. If you think these are the values only of the other side, then you might invent reasons that they’re bad. For example—this is for the liberals out there—what if I told you that the songwriters were not leftists but actually very conservative? Would you start thinking that there was something a little fishy about their supposed devotion to justice, freedom, and love?—maybe that those terms meant something very different for the songwriters than they do for you?

Are you finding yourself wanting to know Haidt’s own political views? If you learned they differed significantly from yours, would you be less inclined even to consider the findings of his research?

The research, sadly, says yes. We are less likely to notice facts that contradict our beliefs than those that affirm them, and when presented with contradictory facts, we are more likely to ignore them. Left to ourselves, we sit in an echo chamber, calling out our own convictions and happily listening to them confirm what we already believe.

Which, again, is why we need to listen to people with whom we disagree. Now, there’s no need to go to extremes. Just find a responsible, thoughtful source that has a different political bent than your own. If you’re liberal, don’t start watching Fox News or reading the Drudge Report; try reading the Wall Street Journal or The Economist. If you’re conservative, don’t start logging in daily to Talking Points Memo or watching Jon Stewart; just try getting your news from the New York Times or the Washington Post. Don’t lift the ban on talking politics with the person who thinks you are going to hell for your convictions, or taking the country there. Instead, find that reasonable friend or family member, the one about whom you’ve wondered, “How can someone so smart and kind have opinions like that?,” and ask them, for real, not rhetorically: “What makes you reach that decision? What values are behind it?” And listen, without thinking of how to change their minds or what’s wrong with what they’re saying. What might be very hard is that they might not be ready to listen to you. It’s okay. This is a first step. Just listen.

It will not only improve your relationship, it will improve our country. That’s my third reason for making this recommendation. Not only will we make better decisions if we strengthen our riders by having to reason, not just rationalize; not only will we be truer to ourselves if we acknowledge the many values that go into our decisions, not just one or two or three; but we will be a stronger, better society if we build on all of the moral foundations that we and our neighbors value. A society cannot stand just on a couple of our values—it needs all of the six that Haidt outlines, and maybe more. Too little respect for authority will make our streets unsafe and our schools and workplaces combat zones of all against all. Too little care will create a society that knows only justice and no mercy or kindness. Too many freeloaders will break the system. We need not just the love between our brothers and sisters, not just freedom, not just justice, but all three, and more. Among us all we hold a great deal of moral capital, without which the most wonderful dreams of left or right can’t survive.

As Haidt writes, “Social order is extremely precious and difficult to achieve” (364); “Moral communities are hard to build and easy to destroy” (392). As we move through the difficult next five weeks, at those moments when we feel despair that this country can ever be united or that goodness can ever prevail, let us turn not to the shelter of our own righteousness and self-righteousness, but to our neighbors, all of them, and ask them, “What moral values do you hold most dear?” Let us be ready for what they say to surprise us, hearten us, and challenge us. Let us be prepared to see beyond the walls we have built and find something of value on the other side. Maybe then we can build, together, despite our differences, because of our differences, a society that will be good, and do good, for the world and the future.

(c) 2012 Amy Zucker Morgenstern

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