Liberty and Equity

“Liberty is not liberty when it functions at the expense of equity.”

Liberty is not liberty when it functions at the expense of equity.  This is the basic premise of my research.

My field is ethics with a specific focus on how religion and equity interact with individuals and society.  Considering the volatility of our current political climate, it seems clear that I have a great deal of work ahead of me.  The more I learn about the basis for the ideas and principles on which the framers of the Constitution were working (albeit in within the context of their highly limited world views), the more I recognize how true this statement must be in order for our democratic republic to function properly.

The religiously conservative direction our national abortion policy has now convulsed is one example of a direct contradiction to this spirit.  The contradictions will only continue to grow and be normalized if we allow sectarian doctrine framed as “Religious Liberty” to work against gender and sexuality rights as well.  This strategy of weaponizing individual liberty against shared equity is also evident when examining policies related to policing, gun rights and health care.  There must be a better working analysis that resists pitting “conservative” against “progressive” and instead works for a sustainable equilibrium between differing concepts of what individuals need to feel safe and whole.

‘Liberty cannot function at the expense of equity’ is also the basic principle behind why I believe the former President must be held to account.  Whether or not you agree with his policies, like him or dislike him, a rational society must recognize that his individual liberty, while it needs to be respected, cannot be weaponized as a political tool. Neither can his liberty be accessed as an opportunistic platform nor can it elevate him above the same standards to which the rest of our society of order is held.  I’m not the first person to point out that justice is equity in action and that individual liberty cannot be used as an exemption or a literal “get out of jail free” card.  This nation’s history of slavery, native erasure and other sometimes violent marginalization reminds us that liberty as a tool of oppression and privilege is the worst kind of perversion of the principles on which the United States was formed.

Our challenge in the United States, in our time of fractured politics and dysfunctional government is to remember that our commitments to precious individual liberties must be held within our commitments to enriching community equities.  Without this balance, the American experiment will always fail.


A Brand New Day

“on grounds”

“All I ask is no hate.  I’m on the path to be a minister and I’m living a life that is dedicated to love.  Although I draw much of my own personal theology from Christian teaching, I recognize that my way is not the only way.  Every faith base has something to offer to the conversation and I welcome engaging you all on a variety of topics…volatile and not.

So here goes, laying it out there and looking forward to hearing from you all…

Adam” – July 18, 2012 –

That is how I began this blog 10 years ago.  I stand by those words and I continue to build on them.  Not only am I now an ordained member of clergy, I have just completed 5 important years as the Lead Minister of the historic First Parish in Cambridge Unitarian Universalist congregation as well as being a chaplain and instructor at Harvard.  I have been involved in community and worked hard to get my church through a global pandemic, the presidency of Donald Trump and the early throes of a long overdue racial awakening in the United States.

And now a new chapter begins.  Today, I leave for Charlottesville, VA where I will begin studying at the University of Virginia for a PhD in Ethics and Society focused on the intersection of equity, religion and embodiment.  This is literally the dream of a lifetime for me and the culmination of the last 10 years of work, study, practice and exploration.

I have not shared this publicly with many people, both friends and family and I offer my apologies to all of you who are a caught off guard by the news.  I’ve kept mum because this has also been an extremely emotional time. To take a career crowning situation like the one I’ve been fortunate to have in Cambridge for the last 5 years and totally upend it to go back to the bottom of yet another mountain is daunting.  Yet, while this has been both the most difficult decision, it has been the most grown up and true decision I’ve ever made.  I recognize that the path ahead is not easy from an academic standpoint, and I am even more aware that with the state of religion today, particularly where it manifests in politics and policy, I am walking into the fire.  By situating myself in Virginia…in Charlottesville…I am in the belly of the beast.  And it is where I most want to be.

So here goes, once again, I’m laying it out there, dedicated to a public life rooted in love, eager to find new understanding and possibilities in myself and to help a better world emerge for us all.



When I visited Charlottesville in 2019, seeing the resting place of enslaved black ancestors (not mine), next to Jefferson’s palatial tribute to himself demonstrated a foundational national inequity that told me I needed to come back here someday and figure out how to do something.