Words Have Consequences...a letter from FASPE

Words Have Consequences
A Failure of Ethical Leadership

Friends of FASPE:

How does an organization whose mission focuses on professional ethics and ethical leadership respond to the events of the past week? How does an organization that studies the perpetrators in the professions in Nazi Germany respond to the events of the past week?

The murders that took place in Pittsburgh and in Louisville, and the delivery of bombs to individuals and institutions, are not random, inexplicable, unpredictable acts of depraved individuals. We must now acknowledge that these unspeakable acts are part of a progression that began with a conscious rejection of the pluralistic and democratic norms that govern our daily lives and that define the way that we interact with each other.

Hate speech is unacceptable. And speech that promotes hate is dangerous. Yes, perhaps only depraved people actually convert that hate into murderous acts. But, we cannot ignore the reality that promoting hate has the consequence (intended or not) of hateful acts. One leads inexorably to the other.

We expect, we demand, that our leaders practice ethical leadership. They set the tone for our great country. They are our voice, our conscience and our clarion. Words and actions that promote hate reflect the absence of ethical leadership. This is not a partisan statement. We are permitted, even encouraged, to disagree (and argue) about the regulation of weapons, about abortion, about capital punishment, about immigration policy – that is the beauty of a democratic society. If the majority wants tax relief, we have tax relief. If a majority wants weapons regulations, we have weapons regulations.

However, we do not vilify the opposition. We do not criminalize the opposition. We do not intentionally make up facts, i.e. lie, in order to promote our political positions. We do not encourage violence against the opposition. That is unethical leadership.

Back to professional ethics and ethical leadership. Back to the professionals in Nazi Germany. FASPE does not seek analogies to Nazi Germany. To analogize or even to suggest a path of analogies can be destructive and unacceptable. It risks engaging in the demagoguery and hate that has become too much part of the discourse in America.

Instead, FASPE studies the perpetrators in Nazi Germany in order to display the role that our leaders, the professionals, must play in a civil society. The professional class in Nazi Germany did not object, they did not stand in the way. They enabled even by their silence. Staying quiet in the face of unethical behavior, large or small, is unacceptable.

FASPE asks that as a responsibility of professional ethics and ethical leadership, we, as leaders in our respective communities, speak out against the hatred that is clearly being condoned and encouraged. There is a direct line between speech that promotes hate and hateful actions. We must be clear and unequivocal in our non-partisan objection to this behavior. That is the lesson of history: the absolute requirement that the leaders and influencers in our communities, our clergy, doctors, teachers, journalists, lawyers, business executives – those and more – speak out against hatred. We must demand ethical behavior with our own voices and from our own pulpits, bully or otherwise.

We do not have to ask why anyone feels compelled to spew such hate. However, we can ask that we learn from history and demand a return to civility, to the rule of law, to the norms that we expect from our leaders.

David Goldman
Founder and Chairman, FASPE

Holy Week Scripture Readings & Reflections

Dear Friends,

It’s hard to believe that Holy Week begins in almost a few days! For Christians around the world this is indeed the most Holiest of weeks on the Christian Liturgical Calendar. See below the meaning of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday:

Passion/Palm Sunday

Recounted in all four Gospels, Jesus (the Christ) road on a young colt through Jerusalem known as the enactment of the royal processional and prophecy found in Zechariah 9: 9-10 (“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal on a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.”) The Gospel according Luke 19:28-40 recounts Jesus riding down through Jerusalem—“people kept spreading their cloaks [and palm branches] on the road. As he was approaching the path down from Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice . . . saying ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’”  

Maundy (Commandment) Thursday

“Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’ (Luke 22:8) ‘When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘this cup is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood . . . (a short while after the Lord’s Supper, “A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But [Jesus] said to them, ‘The kings of Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.’” Luke 22:14-20, 24-27

Good Friday

“Pilate called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, ‘you brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him . . . Then they all shouted out together, ‘Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us! Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify him!” A third time Pilate went to the people, but their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted . . . and he handed Jesus over as they wished.’” Luke 23:13-25

“Two others also, who were criminals were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘he saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ One of the criminals said to Jesus, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ [Jesus] replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’” Luke 23:32-43

“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’” Luke 23:44-48

Easter Sunday

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they [the women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.” Luke 24:1-9

Peace to you my friends,

Chaplain Paul

Reflective Excerpts from "When Bad Things Happen To Good People" in light of the Parkland Shootings - from Executive Director, Chaplain Daniel Davila

Reflective Excerpts from “When Bad Things Happen To Good People” in light of the Parkland Shootings - from Executive Director, Daniel Dávila

At a time of pain and sorrow because of another tragedy, we wonder, “how then shall we express ourselves?” Before we get too analytical, moralistic or judgmental, let us listen to each other and respond with compassion, care and understanding. Here are some thoughts from Rabbi Kushner’s book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”  Three basic overlapping questions in the book:

1.What should you do or say when someone you care about faces tragedy?

"It is hard to know what to say to a person who has been struck by tragedy, but it is easier to know what not to say. Anything critical of the mourner ('don't take it so hard,' 'try to hold back your tears, you're upsetting people') is wrong. Anything which tries to minimize the mourner's pain ('it's probably for the best,' 'it could be a lot worse,' 'she's better off now') is likely to be misguided and unappreciated. Anything which asks the mourner to disguise or reject his feelings ('we have no right to question God,' 'God must love you to have selected you for this burden') is wrong as well." [page 89]

"I said to Barry, as I feel religious people should say to those who have been hurt by life, 'This was not your fault. You are a good, decent person who deserves better. I can understand that you feel hurt, confused, angry at what happened, but there is no reason why you should feel guilty. As a man of faith, I have come to you in God's name, not to judge you, but to help you. Will you let me help you?'" [page 104]

2.How should you think about and react to the tragedy in your own life?

"Is there an answer to the question of why bad things happen to good people? That depends on what we mean by 'answer'. If we mean 'Is there an explanation which will make sense of it all?'… then there probably is no satisfying answer. We can offer learned explanations, but in the end, when we have covered all the squares on the game board and are feeling very proud of our cleverness, the pain and the anguish and the sense of unfairness will still be there. But the word 'answer' can also mean 'response' as well as 'explanation,' and in that sense, there may well be a satisfying answer to the tragedies in our lives. The response would be Job's response in MacLeish's version of the biblical story-to forgive the world for not being perfect, to forgive God for not making a better world, to reach out to the people around us, and to go on living despite it all." [page 147]

"What do we do with our anger when we have been hurt? The goal, if we can achieve it, would be to be angry at the situation, rather than at ourselves, or at those who might have prevented it or are close to us trying to help us, or at God who let it happen. Getting angry at ourselves makes us depressed. Being angry at other people scares them away and makes it harder for them to help us. Being angry at God erects a barrier between us and all the sustaining, comforting resources of religion that are there to help us at such times. But being angry at the situation, recognizing it as something rotten, unfair, and totally undeserved, shouting about it, denouncing it crying over it, permits us to discharge the anger which is a part of being hurt, without making it harder for us to be helped." [pages 108-109]

"All we can do is try to rise beyond the question 'why did it happen?' and begin to ask the question 'what do I do now that it has happened?'" [page 71]

3.What kind of God can we believe in when bad things can happen to good people?

"Let me suggest that the author of the Book of Job takes the position which neither Job nor his friends take. He believes in God's goodness and in Job's goodness, and is prepared to give up his belief in proposition (A): that God is all-powerful." [page 42]

"If God is God of justice and not of power, then He can still be on our side when bad things happen to us. He can know that we are good and honest people who deserve better. Our misfortunes are none of His doing, and so we can turn to Him for help." [page 44]

"The God I believe in doesn't send us the problem; He gives us the strength to cope with the problem." [page 127]

"The conventional explanation, that God sends us the burden because He knows that we are strong enough to handle it, has it all wrong. Fate, not God, sends us the problem. When we try to deal with it, we find out that we are not strong. We are weak; we get tired, we get angry, overwhelmed. We begin to wonder how we will ever make it through all the years. But when we reach the limits of our own strength and courage, something unexpected happens. We find reinforcement coming from a source outside ourselves. And in the knowledge that we are not alone, that God is on our side, we manage to go on." [page 129]


A Valentine's Ash Wednesday by Chaplain Paul Kraus

Dear Friends,

I don’t recall in the past, at least in my life time, when Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday both fell on February 14th. Next week is the case. So of course, this has gotten me to ponder the meaning of both and what perhaps they have in common. Well, I have written several articles on the meaning of both so allow me to share and intersect them:

As the song goes, “Love is in the air…” I think Love reaches new heights just in time for Valentine’s Day (actually the whole month of February). Many of us just hover a few inches above ground as we go about our day. Love lifts us above all reality. In other words, there’s not too much thinking going on these days, just day dreaming . . . I guess that’s not all that bad. 

You know love does have a way of knocking our legs out from underneath of us. It’s amazing to me that the One who invented Love in the first place was not only the first to love us but the One who keeps on loving us! Now that will keep my feet off the ground for sure! In fact, I John 10 says, “. . . not that we loved God, but that God first loved us. . .” God never gives up on us. I wonder how many times we give up on God. The same goes with our human relationships. Is our love for that special someone pure and unconditional, or are we waiting for him/her to make the first call? Paul (the apostle) after writing a lengthy list about what characterizes love says in verse 8 of I Corinthians 13 “Love never ends.” Couples during their wedding ceremony cherish these three words (at least for the first 24 hours). 

I’m glad that God’s Love never ends. Although God is infinite and we are finite we can learn to be more like God. I wonder how our relationships would improve if we would try loving others the way God loves us. “Love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” I Cor. 13:4-7 

Sometimes we push ourselves to the limit as we care for others. As we give the deepest part of our selves in helping others I hope you find ways to push the pause button every once in a while to reflect, meditate, and contemplate. 

Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. Let this day begin a new process for you to rejuvenate, refresh, restore, recreate, and replenish. You may not include Ash Wednesday among your practices and rituals, but perhaps from a different tradition or perspective you can still take a moment to reflect on your life. Are there changes that need to be made; People to forgive; Forgiveness for you; Stressors that need to be reduced? As you restore your spiritual well, clear waters will naturally flow making your human existence whole again.  
Ash Wednesday Explained

According to the Liturgical Calendar of the Christian tradition, next Wednesday, February 14th  is Ash Wednesday. Christians from around the world mark this day as the first of forty days of Lent. Ashes are distributed and placed on believers’ foreheads in a shape of a cross to signify the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice, death (passion) and resurrection for each believer. The ashes become a sign of humanity’s mortality (limitedness and finitude) and our need to be dependent on God who is limitless and infinite.  
Self-examination and repentance by prayer, fasting, and self-denial is at the heart of the meaning of this first day in the Lenten Season. Ashes are used as symbols of the Christian faith (ashes are gathered after the Palm Crosses from the previous year's Palm Sunday are burned and are then used to mark the sign of the cross on the believer’s forehead). In other words, the ashes help us literally and symbolically get in touch with a deeper understanding of our human existence. It is the Church’s way to remind believers that we are not God. We strive to be like God, but we will never be God. Our good nature which was created from the very beginning of time purposely and appropriately includes being imperfect, limited, and finite. 

Next Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) helps us to celebrate and embrace our humanity with all its imperfections; and it also reminds us that our goal is never to be God. Lastly, Christians celebrate their true dependence on our Creator knowing that when it comes down to it we are mere dust in the ground in comparison to who God is. This is why Christians receive these words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return—(Genesis 3:19) Turn away from sin and be faithful to God.”

Now to bring them together. Valentine’s day usually brings couples together to celebrate their love for each other. Roses and/or a box of chocolates is the fragrance and sweetness that symbolizes the relationship between them. Ash Wednesday is a day to begin or re-establish a life long journey of the love we have for God and humans. Ashes are symbolic of our re-dedication of our relationships through self-examination and humility. 

I believe both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday helps us to be grounded. How many times has our significant relationships gone bitter due to power struggles or the lack of forgiveness? Why has it come to this? The underside of believing we have power over our significant other is the fear of having no power. Similarly, what lies behind the lack of forgiveness is the risk that forgiveness brings with it the lack of power. If Ash Wednesday does not teach us anything else, it is does teach us the life of humility. It is how (in most religious traditions) that God was able to identify with humans in a much more meaningful way. If God (our Maker) finds humility to be the substance for a significant relationship I can only imagine that it is true for human relationships. So I encourage us to unite these symbolic days together by finding ways to reduce the powers we have over or under each other, by committing to empower each other with a love that goes deeper than roses and chocolates, but with a love that never ends! 

Chaplain Paul