Sermon on being human

welcoming statements and ask for phones to be turned off or to vibrate.

Chalice lighting:
J.K. Rowling
“To hurt is as human as to breathe.”

Opening music ( )

Today I’m going to talk about what it means to be human, from several different perspectives.

The opening music selection was from an anime about people who have developed prosthetics to the point that bodies can be replaced with replacement powered units that look like human bodies but only have a human brain as their sole biologic component, and that brain can be augmented by additional electronic add-ons that can bypass damaged bits to the point that very little of the original human brain remains. The question arises then at what point does the cybernetic body and augmented brain cease to be a human being and become something else? The question is never answered in the show although it might be in the manga that I haven’t had a chance to read. I may do so at some time in the future. But anyway as an anime it is mostly an action sci-fi cyberpunk thriller, but all 3 of the versions I have seen devote significant time to the question of what it means to be human when everything biologic in you can be replaced.

Another pop culture maybe-human is the pop culture zombie (which is not really a zombie but a ghoul, but semantics…) As a formerly-dead person myself I get highly offended at the portrayal of those of us who have died but walk again. We don’t all shuffle along looking for braaaaiinnnnsss [cough] brains.

There are actually several different flavors of the “undead” with different levels of sentience from the mindless shambling corpses of the “Night of the Living Dead” to the cooperative swarms of speedy formerly-dead of “World War Z”, and the photosensitive angry night-walkers of “I Am Legend”. Somewhere along the spectrum they are still human. My call is the “I Am Legend” version who don’t actually die before changing to whatever they are, as they retain language and the ability to plan ahead and work together.

And there I think is the dividing line on that end of the spectrum, retaining the use of language and the ability to plan ahead. We have a lot of people that don’t have that any more that we still call human.

Of course there is another flavor of not-dead in popular culture we haven’t dealt with yet, the blood-drinking undead. Vampires, nosferatu and the like, who live forever as long as they drink the blood of the living. I’m not sure how they fall under the human/not-human spectrum. On the one hand, they’re sentient, use language, and plan ahead. On the other hand they kinda see not-vampire humans as a food supply more than as companions or someone to talk to on a bad day.

You might ask at this point, where is this going? Why is this important?

Among the seven principles of UUism is the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. Well what does that really mean? Where is the cut off for inherent worth and dignity? Are we going far enough down the line in worth and dignity or is our justice “just us”? When does a person cease to be a person and become a thing that no longer has inherent worth and dignity? Where, short of a corpse, does it end? Was Terri Schiavo still inherently worth dignity after her brain death or deserving of the media circus that surrounded her still breathing corpse? Is inherent worth and dignity reserved for those who can ask for it, or everyone who walks or has walked, or could walk some time in the future?

Offeratory music ( )

The church is not this building, but it sure is nice to have heat in the winter, AC in the summer, and a roof over our heads when it rains.


Closing music ( )

Please turn on your phones so other humans can get in touch with you.


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