What’s wrong with this picture?

The image introducing this blog post is from a human anatomy and physiology course lecture at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. It is a rather typical photo that might be taken at any college campus. Typical, that is, except for the topic of this professor’s lecture displayed on the screen – Biology and Human Rights: A) The Singularity of Race | B) Sexual Identity.

Some folks may question what an empirical science-centered and fact-based biology course on anatomy and physiology has to do with the philosophical and theological ethics-oriented and morally-grounded issue of human rights. Some may ask, are they not strange bed fellows, anomalous to one another? Is it even possible and proper to hybridize hard core natural science such as Biology with social sciences and humanities? Is this educator not stepping outside the boundaries of his discipline, thinking outside the box and coloring outside the lines?

And then there are some folks (like me) who will see everything that we deem to be right with this atypical image and applaud its abnormality.

  • We see a picture featuring a broad minded educator, scientist and humanitarian who is willing and able, motivated and capable of revealing the full blossom of the flower that is Biology.
  • We see the big picture of the symbiotic, interdependent web of life that is integral to the health of a thriving planet and the quest for the common good and that “more perfect Union.”
  • We see beyond boundaries concocted to separate and protect, to wide open spaces where diversity supplants monoculture and reason and truth trump ignorance and deceit.
  • We see beyond divisiveness that fosters rancor to inclusivity that sows seeds that produce the fruits of the spirit. We see beyond Wordsworth’s “world that is too much with us,” to a vision of MLK Jr’s “Beloved Community,” a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and love of one’s fellow human beings.

This is the broad, bold picture, the vision of society that is also shared by Professor Emeritus, John Mecham. Up until last week I knew John primarily as a local artist and proprietor of Liquidambar Gallery and Gifts in Pittsboro along with his multi-talented wife, Kitty. John and Kitty graciously sell the annual Grand Trees of Chatham Naturally Chatham photo calendar that I produce as a fund raiser for the not-for-profit organization. I stopped by to pick up the proceeds from the sales, and John began sharing some of his academic pursuits when the store had been closed during the pandemic. He mentioned the lecture and the video that had been made of it, and I asked permission to view it. Permission granted.

I was thinking of the twin themes of John’s lecture yesterday for a couple of reasons.

  • First of all, March 7 marked the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when the late Rep. John Lewis led a 600-person march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. That fateful march in which he was beaten to within an inch of his life proved to be a catalyst to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. For generations it worked to widen and improve American democracy until in 2013 when the Supreme Court gutted it under the false premise that racism was just a thing of the past. It wasn’t, and it isn’t. That’s why a biology professor injecting a scientific lesson on the false premise of “race” is good medicine for an under-educated and biased society.
  • Secondly, it was yesterday that Connie and I received information from her son that he and his husband were one step closer to becoming adoptive parents.  For the majority of my years on this planet the news of a gay married couple, much less a gay married couple with a child would have been inconceivable. And while we’ve come a long way, baby, on the road to gay rights and honoring sexual identity, there is still a large segment of society, and especially within Christendom, that remains blind to the science of sexual orientation and gender identity. That’s why we still need educators like John to peel back the blinders and do both the scientific, spiritual and ethical work of restoring sight to those blinded by ignorance, bias and prejudice.

If you’ve read this far, then its time that you treat yourself to viewing John’s lecture. You have his permission and my encouragement to settle back and get schooled on the atypical topic of Biology and Human Rights.