Bending the Arc of the Universe

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

In 1871, Unitarian minister Theodore Parker first spoke these words in opposition to slavery here in America.

In 1958 Dr Martin Luther King Jr. repeated them to a nation still fighting for equality for all its people.

In this day of uncertainty and grief, these words desperately need to be repeated again, though not as solace for weary spectators—but as battle cry for warriors.

We who occupy this space and time need to understand that the arc of the universe does not bend without us. It never has. It never will.

Humanity is the irresistible force shaping the crescent we stand upon together; every single life and every infinitesimal, seemingly unimportant decision adjusts its path in ways we can’t always perceive. With each decision, the curvature changes ever so slightly. It is changing in the seconds it takes me to type these words, and you to read them. Every single moment is a movement, one way or the other.

Friends, this means that we are the arc benders.

We are not passive victims of the difficult times in which we live, we are powerful participants in them; mighty co-authors of the story we find ourselves in, and together we can twist the plot. We can write something redemptive to mark this day on the planet.

With each beat of our bleeding hearts and every breath passing through our scorched lungs; as we speak and struggle, pushback and pray, resist and engage—the universe bows a bit more. With each act of love, each word of truth, each brave step, justice comes a little closer.

Yes, the arc of the moral universe is long, and we may not see all the movement we wish to see while we are here, but make no mistake—it will bend far less severely and far more slowly if we simply wait for it to do so.

And while we are waiting, others may decide that we are bending too quickly toward equality and diversity, and they may move in opposition, arching us away from the progress of our forebears. And if we are not diligent and relentless and steadfast with these moments, we risk leaving those who come after us, a world that is veering off course.

This is why we keep going now. It is why be brave the difficult conversations and the exhausting days and the sleepless nights. It’s why we don’t sit in the comfort of our privilege, and why we face this day with urgency: because people of love will hasten the bending if they choose to. 

And I choose to.

I want to be an arc bender.

I want to live leaned toward justice.

I want my choices in the small and the grand to contribute to the holy momentum of the planet.

I want my presence here to yield more compassion, more goodness, more decency than when I arrived.

I want my abundance and privilege to be spent on behalf of those who have less of such things.

I want to spend the remaining of my days shoulder to shoulder with other passionate, resolute arc benders, deliberately altering the curvature of the universe toward justice, by the sweat of our brows and the defiance of a love that will not cease.

We don’t wait for the Universe to bend, my friends.

We move together—and we bend it.

Blessed are the arc benders.

Be encouraged. 



82 thoughts on “Bending the Arc of the Universe

  1. Dear John P,

    Thank you for another wonderful piece. May it inspire many . May the Holy Spirit fill us with the love that never ceases so we can indeed deliberately bend the arc of the universe in the direction of justice for every single part of God’s creation.

    One way to do this is my FB group, Gloriamarie’s Progressive Stuff, where I post actions, petitions, info, actual news, evidence, facts. There’s a pinned post that I highly recommend people read. I also ask a screening question so I can keep the spammers and the trolls out. All who read this are invited.

  2. Of course, bending the arc of the universe toward justice for all of God’s creation is a hard work of faith. Faith needs to be cherished and nurtured.

    One place to cherish and nurture faith is the Facebook group ”Celebrate What Christians Have in Common” where a daily buffet is spread of Asceticism and art, cartoons and quotes, comics and contemplation, memes and meditations, music and musings, photographs and prayers, just about anything that is one of the many voices from the many flavors of Christianity.

    There is one discipline required of all who join: one must not utter a negative word because this space is a refuge, a respite, a place of peace and quiet. If one chooses to engage in discussion one may only write about one can affirm in the selection. No arguments, no vitriolic words, no spammers and trolls will be tolerated,

Please come and celebrate what Christians have in common and let us together remember our faith is based upon God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and not the actions and choices of frail, sinful human beings.

  3. Always always can count on John for an uplifting inclusive and authentic discourse on what it means to be a truly spiritually driven human groping with 21st century challenges.

  4. When Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel yesterday, I suspect Trump, his high-level campaign members, and the White House staff passed a brick sideways. The arc of the universe truly is long—and it does indeed bend toward justice.

    Mueller is incorruptible by anyone and and any thing. Another thing you might not be aware of, the Deputy Attorney General gave Mueller written orders to conduct a broad spectrum investigation of wrong doing—one not just limited to Trump campaign collusion with Russia alone. He is also authorized to investigate and push prosecution on the obstruction of justice charge vis-a-vis Comey. Furthermore, his written orders authorize him to investigate and push toward prosecution anything and everything else that he might incidentally discover along the way—things we do not know about yet that are completely unrelated to Russia collusion or the alleged obstruction of justice with Comey—and his firing. In other words, if Trump, his campaign, and his staff members have done anything else wrong in any quadrant of their behavior—Mueller can and will go after it and see that it is prosecuted. As David Gergen said last night, this is not going to be a fast process. It is going to go slowly until every layer of the Trump onion is peeled back and every corner is thoroughly dusted—and as more revelations are brought forward, this investigation will probably dominate the national news all the way up to and past the 2018 Congressional elections. As my friend Stephanie used to say: “He (Trump) just bit THE BIG ONE.”

    My Prediction: The first major act of the Special Counsel will be to subpoena the IRS for Trump’s complete income tax returns for each year over the past 10 years to see to what degree, if any, Russia figures into Trump’s finances and taxes.

    My Prediction: Trump will soon fire McGabe, Rosenstein, and Mueller in a fit of 2-year-old rage—and then declare that no more Special Counsels will be appointed because he will summarily fire each one that is appointed—even if they serially appoint 10, 50, or 100.

    If you have cable TV at your house, the best places to follow “The Donald Trump Show” are the CNN evening news broadcasts , beginning with The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer at 5:00 p.m. EST. CNN is a major part of the “arc of the universe” because the members of their investigative staff were the first ones to sniff out potential wrongdoing in the Trump campaign and administration. They have the best breaking news, coverage, and commentary by far.

    • So, Robert Mueller is going to be another Ken Starr, digging in every nook, cranny, fissure… everywhere.

      This is going to be very costly and it’s the taxpayers who are paying for it. And not the taxpayers who can most afford it either.

      I can’t help but think how much less costly it is when people do things ethically, legally, and morally.

      Can’t wait to find out what Trumop is hiding in his tax returns.

      • Charles, I have to confess that I have mixed feelings about this, and here’s why. If Trump ends up being canned before 2020, that leaves us with Pence in charge, which is equally as unfortunate – just in different ways. That said, amen to John for this beautiful reminder that we ALL have a part to play in bending the arc of justice. And if enough of us apply enough continual pressure, we may just win the day.

        • Susan wrote “And if enough of us apply enough continual pressure, we may just win the day.”

          AMEN. A clarion call to action.

    • Charles, if Trump gets rid of McGabe, Rosenstein, and Mueller this will whole saga will be called Watergate 2 and the mass firings a “massacre”.

      Pop the popcorn and watch the “Donald Trump Show”, entertaining and tragic at the same time.

  5. Dear John,

    Thank you for your consistent encouragement!

    I’ve subscribed for quite some time now and confess I have not been reading most of your posts, not because they were not worthy of my attention but because I had been allowing other things to occupy my attention. I’m determined to rectify that now.

    Just want to let you know I am praying for you, asking the Father to bless you as you speak from your heart and as you seek His heart for the sake of many whose hearts ache in these times.

    What came to mind as I read today’s post was from the Apostle Peter’s letter , Ch 2 vs 19 especially: ” ..and we have the prophetic word made firmer still.”

    Without doubt you will be blessed if you continue to place your confidence not in your abilities alone (which are considerable), but rather resolve to lift up the name of the One who came not to be served, but to serve, not to be esteemed of men (though it feels so good!), but to glorify his father in every step he took, in every word he spoke, in whatever/whenever/wherever and to whomsoever he directed his energies. It appears you have a handle on this, so kudos and keep on!

    Here’s a link to Jude’s letter. Verses 17 to the end especially.;CJB

    Journey on in the strength of the Lord, and do not concern yourself with vapid criticism. It’s time for all of us to walk carefully, listen even more carefully to what the spirit is saying to those who have ears to hear.

    Until we meet face to face,

    • Thanks for sharing Deirdre. The lines from the letter of Jude that speak to me in volumes and encourage me are verses 21-23

      “Stay always within the boundaries where God’s love can reach and bless you. Wait patiently for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you. Try to help those who argue against you. Be merciful to those who doubt. Save some by snatching them as from the very flames of hell itself. And as for others, help them to find the Lord by being kind to them, but be careful that you yourselves aren’t pulled along into their sins. Hate every trace of their sin while being merciful to them as sinners.”

      I think our battle is with– not being drawn in to hateful conflict and struggling to follow the same example of non-violent resistance that those like Martin Luther King demonstrated, thanks John Pavlovitz for mentioning this in your post.

      well that is my two cents, have a good day everyone.

      • Kathy A wrote “I think our battle is with– not being drawn in to hateful conflict and struggling to follow the same example of non-violent resistance that those like Martin Luther King demonstrated, thanks John Pavlovitz for mentioning this in your post.”

        Yup. Exactly.

      • My favorite verse in Jude is #3 “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” We do not just get it handed to us, we must “contend for it” IMHO.

        • Sandi, sorry but the apostle Jude is not talking about what you’re talking about here when he says, “Earnestly contend for the Faith that once and for all delivered unto the Saints”. His words are referring to the true nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His claims, not political correctness and nonsense! Because “HOLY PEOPLE” don’t engage in the murder and slaughter of the unborn, nor do they approve of what God says He hates: The “Abomination” of Homosexuality, and the redefining of the family and marriage. So please stop wrongly applying what it means to “contend” (In the Greek – literally means to Fight).

          • Sorry whichever “anonymous” you are, but you clearly have no idea what I’m talking about. I know what the words are referring to and that is why I like them.

            I know the true nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ is not what the Christian Right Political Party (you) represents. I know the claims and teachings of Jesus Christ are not about punishing, dividing and denying equality.

            HOLY PEOPLE engage, in EVERY WAY THEY CAN to solve every problem. And just like abortion, not just vote for the “God fearing” liar who promises to outlaw and punish it as the Christian Right Party does.

            HOLY PEOPLE engage, in EVERY WAY THEY CAN to create equality and equal protection under the law for ALL SINNERS even the ones they claim engage in “abomination”. Does this ring any bells? “Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.…”

            I am therefore, not the one “wrongly applying what it means “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” Not even close. But as always, thanks for playing!

          • The problem some of you are having is that you do not even understand the true nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You claim it, you believe you are saved by it, yet you clearly do not live it or represent it, so you must not understand it.

            Jude is warning against doctrines and dogma that put the gospel of Jesus Christ in peril. It was happening even that close to the life of Jesus, it is happening still. That peril comes from so-called Christians who do what they please and claim God is at the center of it when God is clearly not. When they use the Bible as a weapon of division and separation.

            Contending for our faith is hard work and we must be diligent that we are following Christ not interpreted doctrine or dogma. The Christian struggle is continuous, ongoing, self-propelled. It is not stagnant or “one and done”. It just isn’t.

            We have to individually value and work for our faith for it to sustain us. We do that when we give witness, share our good news with others who may be lost, and when we support those who honor the Word of God; ALL of the Word of God!

            We do not do that when we withhold our love, support or encouragement from those we might not feel comfortable with. We do not do that when we speak out against the truth John P reveals and the weakness in our faith he shows us.

            Being a Christian is not just about how we believe, it is how we live our lives. Maligning the LGBTQ community, immigrants, refugees, or liberals is not Christian. Seeking to gain the power in government to force your beliefs on others or to force other beliefs out is not Christian. The marriage of the Christian faith and the Republican Party is not Christian. Demanding a baby be born but not demanding that baby be fed, clothed, housed, educated and given opportunity is not Christian.

            Say whatever you like, I claim Jude was reminding Christians to follow Christ. The essential truths of the Gospels are true for ALL Christians, not just some of them.

            We must contend for our faith because there are dangerous people calling themselves Christians. Very dangerous. They drive people away from God. What could be a greater sin?

            • Sandi, from your posting, it is clear that you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about! Jude is not talking about what you’re talking about. And John P isn’t God’s spokes person to tell us “what is right”. He may very well be your spokes person, but certainly not the vast majority of serious Christian men and women. And yes, God demands that a Baby be born! Killing children isn’t Christian Ms. Snowflake. Amazingly, President Ronald Reagan was correct when he said: “Everybody that believes in abortion, have already been born!”

              • Tory D, proving your ignorance has no bearing.

                I have not said what you claim I have said, I am no snowflake unless you think Jesus was a snowflake too and I am not wrong that Christians are supposed to follow ALL of the teachings of Christ, not just the law you so cling to.

                John P is calling out the so-called Christians, and well he should. You either walk the walk or you are a Christian Right follower not a Christ follower. We clearly see where you and leslie m, stand.

              • Tory Dickens wrote “nd John P isn’t God’s spokes person to tell us “what is right”. ”

                Actually, Tory, that is exactly who Pavlovitz is. He has a gift of exhortation and he speaks prophetically, just like the prophets from the Hebrew Scriptures.

                His words act as a mirror and we may or may not like what is reflected there. When we like the reflection, our faith is challenged to grow and we are encouraged to take the next step in a Godwardly direction.

                People who don’t like the reflection they see in the mirror of John’s words usually react as you do, wanting to kill the messenger so to speak and write in very rude, name-calling terms.

                Given the nature of your response to Sandi, I ask you in the name of the Lord, to invite the Holy Spirit to illuminate John’s words.

                Because, really, in just about everything John writes, I read a call to holiness, to live a holy life.

            • Sandi, This was a well written response to Tory. Contending with the faith is what we need to do and like you said– what we believe matters ! If we push ourselves to contend with our faith from a position of error then our energy and hope is in vain. And I am not speaking about you personally rather I mean organized religion.

              The sad thing is some people only know the gospel from the fundamentalist side and therefore they think the faith they have ‘to contend with’ is the doctrines they adhere to.

              This is where we can make distinction between those who know better and those who are parroting what they have been told to believe.

              Sandi, your final statement hit home hard and I hear what you are saying,

              “We must contend for our faith because there are dangerous people calling themselves Christians. Very dangerous. They drive people away from God. What could be a greater sin?”

              Thanks for your comment Sandi.

              • And in your turn, Kathleen, well said.

                “This is where we can make distinction between those who know better and those who are parroting what they have been told to believe.”

                A concept that has fallen out of fashion with lay people is that of living a holy life. Every day I seek to live a holier life than I did the day before. And every single day I begin all over, as St. Benedict writes in his Rule.

                I am also remind of something Saint Therese, “The Little Flower”, wrote. She spoke of the holy life as a ladder and she counted it a success when we strive to get our foot on the first rung. We don’t even to actually get on that first rung, we just have to try to do it.

                So that’s how I contend for my faith.

  6. Oh, wow! JP wants to “lean towards justice”. And then he cites a Black man (Dr. King) to further his cause. Isn’t that nice? Well, since he wants to lean to justice, then I expect to hear from him and his flunkies concerning the lilly White police offier that just got off for killing an unarmed Black man, holding up his hands in surrender, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, cause “she feared for her life”. JP, I expect to see you do a write up about that very soon.

    • Welton Jones, no human being can take on every instance of injustice (or even know of them). You making that incident the same as the subject of this commentary or this blog and demanding John P “do a write up” just proves you do not get it.

    • Welton Jones, he did on May 8th. JP may or may not write about that particular injustice, since this is by no means the only injustice of this kind, but his post “White Friend, It Doesn’t Seem Like All Lives Matter to You” shows that he knows and cares about this injustices minorities face and the silence about them by the majority.

      Also, as you say, he quotes a black man, Martin Luther King, Jr., because he is the man that embodied the non-violent civil disobedience movement and the Theodore Parker quote is something MLK believed in strongly.

  7. I like this primarily because it speaks of action toward what is wanted. Whatever we want in life is accomplished by focusing on that which we want, which feels good, which is the right thing to do to benefit others as well.
    Abraham said it best -“You cannot notice what-is and complain about it, and be a vibrational match to the solution. “

  8. For me, ‘bending the arc’ just doesn’t ring true.

    I don’t think the ‘Universe bows to me’, or that I am a ‘co-author’ with God, or that I am able to ‘alter the curvature of the universe’.

    I know that ‘bending the arc of the Universe’ is God’s job, not the job of ersatz manipulators. [ If there is no set moral standard, then who is to say which ‘arc holder’ is superior?] And what about the law of physics –for every action there is an equal & opposite reaction’. Sounds like a Mobius strip to me.

    I got off the Mobius strip when I became a Christian. Rejoice! Jesus already did it.

    • We will just add it to the long and growing list of things in God’s universe that you are willfully ignorant of leslie m. We are quite used to it.

      But for those who might be inclined to think that John P is speaking of manipulating God’s plan or thwarting God’s will… this is not remotely, even a tiny bit, about thinking “the ‘Universe bows to me’, or that I am a ‘co-author’ with God, or that I am able to ‘alter the curvature of the universe’.”

      God and Jesus made it very clear that we have a role as stewards of the earth and followers of Christ toward other people and the earth we live on. We are to seek justice, love our neighbors, seek to help etc. If God’s people do not stand for equality, justice, honesty and integrity, they should not bother calling themselves ‘God’s people’!

      In other words, HOGWASH leslie m!

      • sandi.

        …but that’s what he said.

        The Unitarian’s quote about ‘the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice’ is true, inasmuch as it pertains to God as being Just, and a God that Judges.

        But, I think that Parker probably thought Man’s muscle had something to do with the outcome.

        Theodore Parker also said, ‘Humanity is the sin of God.’ So his theology is a different theology than the Bible. Universalists are a curious lot, as atheist & agnostics & believers are under the same umbrella. There are no distinctions. All is fair in love & war.

        • Do you have these little 3×5 cards on every religious faith and sect or individual and why you think that they are anathama, so that you can trot out these little facts for us and get each one into their proper box and adequately discredited? It seems like it.

          Easter blessings.

            • Charles, I was a fundie once. Typical fundies are broken people too. It was the kindness and love of others that helped me come out of a damaging religious organization.

              • I agree with you Kathy, it is the love that will bring many out of the dogma and doctrine they have accepted on faith. I try to show that my faith in Jesus is based on His love, His teachings, His commands and His path and therefore it cannot be right to push anyone away.

                Fundamentalists know that God wants us all to know his love. Indoctrination is hard to crack. But loving, knowing, respecting, or caring for someone in the maligned ranks, or just plain taking the leap to study other interpretations can be the catalyst for change. Which is why so many churches advise against other influences. Sunday School is one of the best tools on earth for that diversity of thought. When it is done right, it can open many minds and hearts.

                My Sunday School class went looking for some diversity and chose a couple lessons by Adam Hamilton and we became enthralled with his writing and how he presents the Gospel of Jesus. He is magical to me. I have several of his books and cannot recommend reading or listening to him highly enough!

                • True Sandi ! I am aware of Adam Hamilton. I found him after the election. Someone sent me a sermon of his. His level and patient understanding brought me back to a place of equilibrium after being off kilter and disillusioned by the election.

                  These are desperate times, I think– for America and for the whole world because of America’s wealth, power and influence.. From all appearences Trump is contributing to an instability that is unpredictable and worrisome.

                  • Adam Hamilton is good reading. I like he elaboration of the Cracker Barrel vs. Whole Foods values thing and that the UMC is trying to be a place for “and” not “or”. Unfortunately it is worse than that. There is a bifurcation happening in our country and I don’t know if we can even heal the division.

                    One talks of Constitutional rights and the other talks about traditional values.

                    One talks of inclusion and the other talks of heritage.

                    One talks of losing jobs and one talks of skills training and relocation.

                    One talks about helping the poor and the other talks about self sufficiency.

                    One talks of community and the other talks of individuality.

                    One talks of obedience and the other talks of liberty.

                    One talks about income inequality and the other talks about keeping their meager fruits of their labor.

                    One talks of education and the other talks of hard work.

                    Neither feel heard and neither feel they can get through as the disenchanting discourse continues to dampen the discussion.

      • “If God’s people do not stand for equality, justice, honesty and integrity, they should not bother calling themselves ‘God’s people’!”

        Amen, Sandi, Amen, amen, amen, amen

    • Perhaps St. Teresa of Avila can explain:

      Christ Has No Body

      By St Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

      Christ has no body but yours,
      no hands, no feet on earth but yours,
      yours are the eyes with which he looks
      compassion on this world,
      yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
      yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
      Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
      yours are the eyes, you are his body.
      Christ has no body now but yours,
      no hands, no feet on earth but yours,
      yours are the eyes with which he looks
      compassion on this world.
      Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

  9. You are encouraging brother, just knowing you are out there with your voice leading us. We will keep moving , holding fast standing strong. bringing hope, love, peace and encouragement to a broken world just as Jesus told us to do. Mary

  10. Sorry if everyone is sick to death of me commenting and running, I just don’t a damn any more. No really, I AM doing this on purpose and I do not care to listen to anyone’s reply.

    Anyway, my way of bending the universe’s arc is to just live a spiteful existence. I spite those who, for example, say that shouldn’t be with someone of my same sex (if I want to, anyway) by telling them to shut the hell up and get there own life. No thought of this nation’s brand of freedom comes to my mind.

    Numerous people have responded by labeling me the following: SJW, special snowflake, intolerant liberal, regressive leftist, homofascist, politically correct.

    I have no idea what the hell any of these phrases and terms mean and I honestly do not care to learn about them. In fact, I have decided to do what no person would ever dare to do and wear these labels proudly upon my sleeve, homofascist the most.

    And you know what?

    It’s made me very happy, so far. =)

    • “Numerous people have responded by labeling me the following: SJW, special snowflake, intolerant liberal, regressive leftist, homofascist,”

      Taylor, I am truly sorry that people have said these things to you. There are a number of people who comment who are trolls. Personally, I don’t read them and I would encourage you to figure out which ones are trolls and not read them either.

      I am glad you are here, hope you will stick around.

  11. Thank You!!! Tonight I am reading aloud for Toastmasters “A Brave And Startling Truth” by Maya Angelou. It fits so firmly and completely with your message. Again Thank you!

  12. Some people who think they are clever are just plain sick and deviant. How dare you impersonate Gloriamarie! You are twisted and unstable, clearly.

    • Thanks, Sandi. It’s been reported. Of course, it is also 9:30 PM on the east coast and John may not see the report until tomorrow.

      While I have no idea why I personally have been singled out for the very dubious honor of the constant stream of attacks, it is obvious something I do is hitting some nerve which probably needs to be hit.

      In the meantime, I think the best thing to do is to persist to resist.

      One way to persist in resistance is my FB group, Gloriamarie’s Progressive Stuff, where I post actions, petitions, info, actual news, evidence, facts. There’s a pinned post that I highly recommend people read. I also ask a screening question so I can keep the spammers and the trolls out. All who read this are invited.

  13. Incandescent! Looking like another dazzling day to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice for everyone, no exceptions. Thank you John for this fine post. Encouraging and uplifting and rings true.

  14. Thank you for reminding us that we all need to work to bend the arc. There are days when it seems too much but this is a wonderful reminder of what we need to be about. Thank your for being about encouraging all of us who have ears to hear. Peace and Love,

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