In my June 25 open forum (“Working With Moral Universe”), I mentioned Theodore Parker’s and Martin Luther King Jr.’s concept of “the moral universe,” and our call to work with it.

Prominent Unitarian pastor and anti-slavery activist, Theodore Parker, in an 1853 sermon titled, “Of Justice and the Conscience,” predicted the inevitable elimination of slavery. Parker preached: “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”

A century later, in several speeches, Martin Luther King, Jr. paraphrased these words: “I’m convinced that we shall overcome because the arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.” While president, Barack Obama had King’s words sewn into a White House rug. In 2016, Eric Holder cautioned that “the arc bends toward justice, but it only bends toward justice because people pull it towards justice. It doesn’t happen on its own.” I, of much less renown than any of the above, stated recently in a Faith in Action Zoom discussion that I hoped my heritage would be something as follows: “He hoped to bend the arc of the moral universe at least a bit toward peace and justice — and he died trying!”

Both King and Parker expressed their affirmations as statements of “faith,” believing in the God of the moral universe. They “divined it by conscience,” not by the “experience of sight.” Yet they would have agreed with Holder’s concern. Their “faith” did not mean sitting back and relaxing while the God of the moral universe delivered justice to humanity.

All of this raises two questions: a) whether the arc of the moral universe really bends toward justice, toward injustice, or is neutral, and b) who bends it — humans or God? The following quote introduces Parker’s answers to both questions: “God has made man with the instinctive love of justice in him which gradually gets developed in the world.”

The sentence which introduced his famous “moral universe” quote was: “Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right.” Even in the dark period of 1853, Parker cited the seeds of justice in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and developments in Europe against slavery. “Injustice cannot stand. ... Human nature is against it, and so is the nature of God.”

Parker had considerable quarrel with the religious right of his day — who preached about God’s power, while defending human slavery: “The popular clergy think miracles better than morality … and have even less justice than truth.”

Parker saw God as responsible for justice in human nature, and as the one who inspires humans to justice, while anticipating Eric Holder: “But in human affairs the justice of God must work by human means.”

Amen!

Bill Faw lives in Rockingham County.

(17) comments

Donald

“God has made man with the instinctive love of justice in him which gradually gets developed in the world.”

Balderdash. If Man has an instinctive love of anything, it is power. Now that is universal. Any ‘justice’ that is to be agreed upon by any group happens only when the desire for power is tempered by a need to survive as a group (requiring cooperation) or a reasoned philosophy agreed on by the group. Anything else is cult fantasy.

Donald

I find it quite ironic that Mr. Faw references Mr. Parker’s “seeds of justice” each of which is attributed to Western Man. Unfortunately, Today this would get Mr. Parker “cancelled”. Actually, it got him cancelled back in the day, as well.[cool]

LVW

If the arc of the universe (whatever that is) is bending toward justice, it sure is taking its dear sweet time.

Donald

Well, Mr. LVW, in reference to what his “arc of the universe” is, if I were to take a guess I would say that Mr. Parker’s claim of a moral universe simply means the totality of all that would be moral including that which is not yet recognized as being moral, and “a long arc” is his literary way of describing what us plebes would simply call a horizon – and any attempt to see beyond it with our natural eyes would fail because we see only a relatively short distance to that horizon beyond which we cannot physically see. Being limited to physically seeing only to the horizon he never the less claims that Man has in him the ability to use moral intuition to make the unsupported claim of being able to “see” what is beyond the horizon. He identifies it as increasing “justice” – I am guessing his version of justice might not coincide with someone else’s version so there may be a “universality” issue that will need to be ironed out. Winner take all?

The short version would be, “Man can imagine the ultimate perfectibility of Man by Man”.

The shorter version would be, “Trust me”.

Donald

By the way, unless preceded with “paraphrasing Theodore Parker”, Mr. King’s use of “…because the arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice” was plagiarism – something not unfamiliar to him.[wink]

prodigalson

Well LVW, in your universe, the arc always bends to the left.

LVW

LOL.

prodigalson

There is at least one very large "fly in your ointment" Mr. Faw. Slavery(both the version practiced in this country during the 18th and 19th centuries, and the variety practiced today in our inner city plantations), is promoted not by the religious right, but by the godless left. Slavery is an institution that was, is, and unfortunately, always will be supported by the Demokkkrat party. The reason? It's very simple really. The Demokkkrat party is not about God-given human freedom. Far from it. The Demokkkrat party is about worship of self, and by extension, big government. Their vision for America and the world is of a few elites at the top of the food chain (presumably them) controlling the masses through addiction to government largesse, and of course, if that doesn't work, through coercion. The Demokkkrat party is pure evil.

bishopsboy

As always, Prince Prodigal, I agree with you 100%.

Driller

Satan aka Royal Holer, I see another "Party" for you and prod.

bishopsboy

Dearest Driller, thank you for your kind words and thoughtful post. May you find peace and blessings in the new year my fellow traveler as you continue in your search for truth.

prodigalson

Thank you Mufalme Bishopsboy, my Royal Zambian Brother. It is truly amazing how much we agree.

LVW

Oh please stop spewing this nonsense.

prodigalson

Good afternoon LVW, and thank you once again for your kind words. Now please, put your mask back on, and get inside your circle. Your reckless actions are a danger to others.

sbsheridan

"The Demokkkrat party is about worship of self, and by extension, big government." WHAT? First of all, how does "self" become "big government" in your mind? Secondly, when most people think of worship of self, I'm sure that a large portion of them immediately think of Trump. Finally, "inner city plantations" ??? Bishopsboy may find this edifying, but I see it as absurd to the point of comedy. Also, you have made this point repeatedly over the last year, and the few people who are going to buy it did so long ago. Enough, already.

prodigalson

Good evening Mother Superior, and thank you for your kind and generous words. I'm curious, what happened to your promise to never post on this site again after January 1st, 2021? Was that a typical Demokkkrat promise like "if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor"? I wish you well, my misguided, communist Sister, in your search for Truth.

sbsheridan

First you promoted me to mother superior. Now you are giving my words the weight of a professional politician? I made no promises And, in the words of the great comic Steve Martin, I changed my mind.

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