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Joe Chuman: ‘The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice.’ Does It Really?

By June 19, 2022 No Comments

This quote, much beloved by Barack Obama, was proclaimed by Martin Luther King. But it did not originate with King. It came from a speech given by the Unitarian minister, Theodore Parker, who was a firebrand of abolition in the years leading up to the Civil War.

It is an inspiring line to be sure. But how can humanists understand it? Is it a useful notion for us, or does it bespeak a determinism in the course of events which humanists usually eschew? We are at a very dark moment in our nation’s history. Is this insight something we can hold on to?

In my address of June 19th, I will investigate the history of the adage and whether it is worthy of our belief or promotes unwarranted optimism.

About Leader Joe Chuman

Dr. Joe Chuman started on his road to Ethical Leadership as a leader-in-Training here at the New York Society in 1969 and continued his training at the Bergen Society, after which he became Leader of the Essex County Society before returning to the Bergen Society, where he served as leader for 46 years, retiring in January 2021. Joe has been a leader at the New York Society Since 2008.

During his long career, Joe has worked as an academic, a social justice activist, a speaker, and a writer. He has been teaching human rights in the Graduate School at Columbia University for more than 20 years, teaches human rights at Hunter College, and has taught at the U. N. University for Peace in Costa Rica and at other colleges.

As an activist, Joe has advocated for civil liberties, human rights, and other progressive causes and has frequently testified before the New Jersey legislature on such issues as religious freedom, gun violence prevention, death penalty opposition, and immigrant rights. He founded the Northern New Jersey Coalition for Asylum Seekers 20 years ago and still serves as its president. Joe has written numerous book chapters, encyclopedia entrees, scores of Op-eds, and is the author of “Speaking of Ethics,” a compilation of essays on Ethical Culture.

Currently, he writes articles on political and socio-political issues on Substack and other social media outlets.

Monthly Collection: Destination Tomorrow


Sunday Platform is our most important and long-standing community event. These gatherings educate, stimulate personal growth, inspire reflection and action, and strengthen our community. Sunday meetings begin with music, followed by greetings and a talk given by a Society Leader, member, or guest.  Platforms cover a variety of topics that reflect current events, pressing social issues, and Humanist philosophy. Each Sunday meeting is followed by a luncheon and social hour.

To watch previous Sunday Platforms, visit our Videos page and YouTube channel.

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