Moral Issues and Ethics

Essay by Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox on 27 September 2018 7 Comments

To love oneself truly is also to love others—not only because we are societal animals and need community to serve, laugh, offer criticism, assist, but also because we literally can’t survive without others. And by others I don’t mean just other two-legged ones but the others who are of different species—the plants and the animals, the sun and the moon, the waters and the winged ones and the insects and the planets and the supernovas that burst and spread the elements that render our existence possible, etc. etc. Who is our neighbor? Well, all these beings are.

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Question

Can this (Christian) faith create a new institutional form that fosters a truth-seeking, universal community?

Answer

Dear Reader,

I don’t believe that any one spiritual tool, practice or teaching will satisfy the needs of everyone on the planet. A universal community under the umbrella of one religion is a Utopian ideal.

Pluralism and religious diversity increasingly allows for the inclusion of many voices and has shown us the promise of a world where those voices live side-by-side. Conversely, the corruption and abuse of power within the ranks of Catholicism (universal church) has shown this and future generations the dangers of gathering too tightly under one umbrella and ceding our values to a powerful few – something Jesus himself warned against.

Secondly, if by “truth” we mean the domain of the empirical and verifiable facts, then we have miles to go. We have now entered the era of “post-truth,” where all opinions are valid and all perspectives may be politicized. Seeking the “truth“ means that we must agree the truth exists – that we can both look up at the sky and agree that it is blue based on testable data. The post-truth era has already caused seismic change in things like science, media, ecology, climate, social justice, race/gender studies, women’s rights and religion.

The “enlightenment” of the 17th century allowed us to separate and integrate the value spheres of beautiful, good and true. It allowed us to speak three different languages, from three distinct perspectives (I, We and It). It protected and preserved the realms of spirituality, law and science. It has kept people like Robert Mapplethorpe and Rob Bell from being burned at the stake and it has allowed things like natural science, astronomy and philosophy to flourish.

But, seeking a personal “Truth” is a dangerous proposition in post-modern times. White Christian males (those who have long held political and religious power) are being threatened by diversity and are crying out that they are the ones being victimized.

If Christianity – the full spectrum of religious experience and expression, its institutions, teachings, writings, sacraments, icons, saints, symbols, etc. – expects to survive postmodernism, it must let go of the “universal” idea and embrace the pain and discomfort of transformation.

~ Joran Slane Oppelt

 

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