Social Justice Articles 1

F. Vernon Chandler is a Unitarian Universalist minister, former editor of the Universalist Herald and a member-at-large of the UFETA (Unitarian Universalists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) Board of Trustees. The above article appeared on the UFETA website and is reprinted in the Herald with permission of the author.


Ebony and Ivory
By Mark Morrison-Reed

Mark Morrison-Reed was caught in a tortuous shift in America.  Born on the South Side of Chicago in 1949 in a twilight zone between races, he was raised on the cusp of what was to come.  Raised in a predominately white Unitarian congregation he became a black hippie who tried to reconcile the “make love not war” ethos of the white counter-culture with the demands of awakening black consciousness.  He went on to marry an Anglo-Canadian and raise two multiracial children while serving the First Universalist Church of Rochester, NY.  In Between tells his story of being among the first to bring racial diversity to his neighborhood, school, church and ministry.

Mark is also the author of Black Pioneers in a White Denomination and co-editor of Been in the Storm So Long.  All three books are available at uua.org/bookstore or 1-800-215-9076.

The following is an excerpt from the book that focuses on the trials and triumphs of ministry in an interracial context:

Sometimes my race means everything, and sometimes it means nothing. And sometimes I delude myself.

I believe that when one soul encounters another, race is a tissue, a thin rather than substantive barrier.  The dying don’t care about the color of my skin when I hold their hand.  The suicidal don’t reject my counsel because I am black. My bleary-eyed jogging partners couldn’t care less as we groan about our aches and pains, our children and spouses. Days go by when the thought I am a black man never crosses my mind.  Sometimes I am allowed to be simply me - beyond categories and characterization.  Still, serving in the ministry, I never knew when one of my white parishioners, someone I had known for years, would surprise me.  Suddenly something hidden would grab me by the collar yet again.

One evening, having skipped dinner, I was lying in bed with a fever when a call came from a church member. “Mark? Please come. There’s been a fight.  Peter’s in his room and won’t come out.  Hurry, please!”

Five minutes later I was in my car, ten minutes after that at their front door.  I knocked.  It opened.  There was a fist-sized hole in the stairwell wall.I talked to the parents. I talked to Peter.  I comforted his sobbing sister.  I coaxed him downstairs.  We all talked.  I got them to listen to one another.  We worked out a plan of action. I forgot I was burning up.

When it was time to go I hugged the wife and she confessed, “I could never have imagined being held by a black man before.”

Suddenly I was not there; I had shifted out of my body.  I was looking down on this white woman and black man standing in the middle of the living room.  What the hell is going on?  I had not thought of my skin color or theirs for one instant.  What does my being black have to do with anything?

I half heard her explain something about her childhood, some story about her father’s extreme prejudice, a story she needed to tell. But at that moment, I was unable to listen. Why now?  

What is she really saying?

She had broken through some barrier, some barrier I hadn’t realized existed.  She called me, trusted me, and the emotional dissonance had educated her—and me.

I mouthed a quiet thank-you, offered a sad smile, said an awkward farewell, and stepped out the door.  Settling into my car, I shook my head more at the absurdity of it all than in bitterness. As I backed down the driveway, I glanced at the clock. It was nearly midnight. Abruptly aware that I was in a white suburb, I kept an eye out for the police as I drove home.


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Everyday Fear Factors of a Meat Based Diet By F. Vernon Chandler

I only watched one episode of NBC’s Fear Factor. Once was enough!  I found the show disgusting. Especially repulsive was a stunt requiring contestants to eat pastry filled with various live insects.  Ugh!!

More grotesque than this stunt are the everyday fear factors associated with the meat based diet of many humans.  Consider the very real fear factors of those who choose to consume animal flesh:

Fear Factor #1:
Go torture and kill a sentient being!

Eight billion animals are killed for food every year in the United States alone.  These are creatures with many of the same emotions and feelings as humans.  Many of these farm animals would be loyal and loving pets if raised as such.  Under the conditions of factory farming, animals suffer in crowded and filthy conditions until the terrifying day of their slaughter.  By purchasing and consuming factory farm animal products, you are supporting this cruel and inhumane system.

Fear Factor #2:
Have some antibiotics, hormone drugs and pesticides with your pastry!

Animals are pumped full of powerful antibiotics and hormone drugs to kill diseases resulting from filthy living conditions and to make them grow and produce faster. These same drugs can be found in the meat you eat.  Since pesticides become concentrated as they move up through the food chain, meat contains 14 times the amount of pesticides as plant food.

Fear Factor #3:
Increase your odds for developing a chronic or life threatening disease!

Overall, meat eaters have substantially increased risks for obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, and some forms of cancer - particularly lung and colon cancer.

Fear Factor #4:
Help starve a human child!

Every two seconds a child dies somewhere in the world from starvation.  Raising animals for food is an extremely inefficient way to feed a growing human population.  The livestock population of the United States consumes enough grain and soybeans to feed over five times the entire human population of the country.

We feed farm animals 80% of the corn we grow and over 95% of the oats.  It requires three-and-a-half acres to supply one person a meat based diet for a year, whereas it only requires one-sixth of an acre to feed a human a vegetarian diet.  If Americans reduced their meat consumption by only 10 percent, it would free 12 million tons of grain annually for human consumption. This alone would be sufficient to feed each of the 60 million people who starve to death each year.

Fear Factor #5:  Help destroy our planet!

You can’t be an environmentalist and eat a meat based diet.  Over half of the water used in the United States is for growing livestock feed.  It takes over 100 times as much water to produce meat than to produce the nutritionally equivalent in wheat.

U.S. livestock produces 250,000 pounds of waste per second.  This is 20 times more than humans. However, there are no sewage treatment facilities for this waste.  Animal waste washed into our rivers and lakes causes increased nitrates, phosphates, ammonia and bacteria. Oxygen content in water is decreased. Aquatic life is killed.  The meat industry creates three times as much organic waste as all other U.S. industries combined.

Who needs a reality based television show to bring fear factors into our homes?  Eating a meat based diet is a very real and an everyday source of sufficient fear for those who choose such a diet.  It has been 9 years since I made the conscious decision to follow a vegetarian diet.  

Going vegetarian has not only improved my health, but I now feel it was the best ethical and spiritual decision of my life.  I encourage other Unitarian Universalists to consider the benefits of following a vegetarian diet.  Can we really respect the interdependent web of existence of which we are all a part and not be vegetarian?

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More Social Justice Articles

Everyday Fear Factors Of A
Meat Based Diet

Ebony And Ivory

We Are All One In Christ Jesus,
But Help Me With The Chitlins!

Chemicals In Our Food And
Our World

Like Locusts We Are

Lowdown On The Farm

You’ve Got To Be
Carefully Taught


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