This is an edited transcript of a talk given for HUUmanists at the 2006 General Assembly, along with some of the Q&A that followed. Woodruff is the author of Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue, which was the subject of Kendyl Gibbons’ article in Volume XXXVI # 2, Summer/Fall 2004.
Reverence fosters community in many ways, but it also helps support individual ethical decisions. I don’t think that there’s any way you can understand reverence correctly that will lead to clear black and white answers to ethical questions, though I think some of the answers are pretty clear. Reverence, like most virtues, is basically an adverb. If you want to know how reverence bears on a certain moral decision, ask yourself, could I do this in a reverent fashion? Could I do this reverently? Could I reverently go to war?