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  • Reverend James Squire

Justice, Kindness, Humility



Each year our school would gather ideas from everyone in the school community regarding a theme for the next academic year. The key question that was behind someone choosing their nomination for the theme was to answer the question, “What does our community need to have as a focus for conversation and chapel addresses during the next academic year.” The theme offered guidelines for our community wide discussions. It was student run. The process ended with a meeting of the Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School student spiritual leaders gathering together to come up with the final theme recommendation. All the student leaders were involved in this decision and they never failed to provide one that wasn’t taken to heart by the school community.


One year our theme was from the book of Micah 6:8. “He has told you, O man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you, to do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with your God?”


We live in hyper partisan days where this central guideline of Micah has been forgotten by most. These are the elements of justice, kindness, and humility. We all witnessed the case presentation of the house managers and Castor, Vanderveen, and Schoen for the defense. I read a recent statement of what was going on with Trump’s team behind the scenes. There was a jockeying for power among the three, strong disagreements where people quit only to come back to the defense team, and a President who threw in ideas of how he wanted them to proceed. It struck me that there were bruised egos all around. When Castor and Vanderveen returned to Philly, they were not welcomed back as they thought they might be. Protestors and threats were what they received. Vanderveen had to hire a security firm. Schoen wrote a letter of apology to the people of Philadelphia for things that he said. Trump declared victory with a less than humble declaration of being acquitted of another witch hunt.


Vanderveen concluded his thoughts with a statement that “I never want to be involved in the politics of this country again as perverted as it has become”. I think that Ghandi may have made a stronger statement when he said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”


There was a lot of complaint and not a lot of compromise after the trial. When I was Head Chaplain at EA, some of my colleagues referred to me as the Complaint Department. Someone would call when they felt that another avenue had closed. My agenda was to get them back to that avenue where they felt cut off. One parent called and complained that another parent had a “strong personality”. I responded quickly that “all my parents have strong personalities.” The woman who called broke into laughter. The same can be said about the strong personalities of politicians.


You can have a strong personality as we saw in the Impeachment Trial Part 2 but still seek justice and be kind and humble. If our Philly lawyers had a similar reaction to how badly they were treated, we need to have politics “as unusual” to take the place of conflict.


Unfortunately, a campaign for governor of Utah didn’t get enough notice in the national bipartisan attacks. 14 days before the election Republican Spencer Cox and Democrat Chris Peterson, candidates for the office of Governor, decided on campaigning in an “unusual” way. They did joint campaign adds. “We can debate without degrading each other,” Peterson said. “We can disagree without hating each other”, said Cox. “Win or lose, we will work together. Let’s show the country there is a better way.” said Peterson.


These two showed that it can be done. I would like to think that they read Micah 6:8 for their whole approach was based in justice, kindness, and humility.


When I began my Ethics course each term, I indicated to the students that there would be no ad hominen (against the person) attacks. They could fiercely debate a topic but never attack the person who was making a point. If someone else was talking, no one else could interrupt. I told them that this would be “civil discourse”. Our national culture of conflict made this difficult for the first few days, but once they felt safe, which was part of my job, they quickly got into this “Micah pattern”. They called the course “full contact ethics”. Once you entered the classroom you couldn’t sit back and not voice an opinion. The class goal was to have every person speak at least once during each class in these usually large diverse classes. Mentioning anyone by name in or outside the class was forbidden unless they were a public figure.


They sought justice in the issues, were kind to one another, and humble in their approach to some difficult topics. When they evaluated me and the course at the end of the term, it was not unusual for me to read, “I never knew that so many people could have so many different views where we could talk about our own opinions and feel safe to do so."


Kids love to argue. If they can walk the path with Micah and the Utah candidates, maybe Washington can do the same. Politicians need to channel Micah and change their ways. Both candidates for the Governor of Utah said that “it’s time to reforge a national commitment to decency and our democratic Republic.” 74% of Americans said they want a return to civility.


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