Governing An Emergent Global Ethos
Religious-based principles and ideas expressed in this article are adaptable to almost any culture and social grouping, religious-affiliated or non-affiliated, indigenous or non-indigenous. It challenges us to remain open and receptive because a biased mind reaps no rewards.
At this stage in human evolution as the planet ‘shrinks ever smaller’ because of advances in travel and communication technologies, we must recognize and appreciate the people now found at our doorsteps for their potential to advance human endeavors. The article you are about to read advances the theme of an emergent global ethos and ways we can make it more manageable.
Framing the Global Ethos. Max L. Stackhouse. Theology Today, Vol. 66 (2010): 415-429. The reference focuses on “…the tasks of theology and the implicit roles of the church in view of the pervasive dynamics of globalization in every sphere of social life”, presented by Max Lynn Stackhouse (29 Jul 1935—30 Jan 2016), a renowned Christian theologian, and the ‘Rimmer and Ruth de Vries Professor of Reformed Theology and Public Life Emeritus’ at Princeton Theological Seminary. Ordained: United Church of Christ. He was the president of the Berkshire Institute for Theology and the Arts.
Our purpose is to expand upon several views presented in the material relating to processes and procedures that are driving globalization. The commentary raises several interesting points about challenges now confronting humanity in this transitional phase from a social individualism to a more pluralistic, integrated, interrelated, and interdependent world.
We do not challenge the author’s assumptions about the tasks of theology and the roles of the church in the process but use them as a basis to express our more expansive view of globalization. We desire to present it in a much broader context within a holistic approach that recognizes the diversity of interacting elements that are driving the process. The focus here is on moral and spiritual values that operate synchronously with scientific knowledge to provide effective means to reduce the turbulence associated with adolescent expression within the sphere of globalization. In this way, we foster those sustainable pathways able to secure progressive futures.
Snippets from the referenced text are italicized followed by my input.
(a) Religious convictions, sustained by being rationally ordered into theological systems, shape the cultural and social ethos in ways that predispose contexts to form in one way rather than another.
In the annals of human history religion has always been a major contributor of guidance and a dispenser of solaces for many, and in ways that helped to shape the “cultural and social ethos” that morphed into uniquely complex modes of dynamic experiences now observable in multitudinous societies globally. This does not mean we are oblivious to the misappropriation of religion. However, that does not invalidate its worth nor the points of view expressed in this post.
(b) A new transactional public ethos is emerging in the complex dynamics of globalization. Religiously laden and legitimated by an indirect but distinct and discernable theological symbol set, this new ethos is essentially ethical in nature and is taking shape in an international cluster of civil society institutions that have outstripped political developments. Thereby, major implications follow for the possible emergence of a worldwide civilization and that this new ethos has been generated and is being framed and guided by religious convictions.
To foster viable relationships among current and future global human development protagonists, I give consideration to understanding the individual and his/her role in society.
We believe that humanity’s inherent values, especially those of a moral and spiritual nature, that when operating with scientific truths foster transformative primaries that can then influence the formation of new knowledge, concepts, principals, and methodologies from which deeper understandings of human nature will evolve along with an abiding appreciation for, and viable use of, humanity’s vast and complex diversity.
An emerging “new transactional public ethos” might also mean a process that has strong materialistic underpinnings and is a scourge to society. If sanctioned and driven by a “discernable theological symbol set”, “of an ethical nature”—if a dichotomy, then at this moment the scourge of materialism seems the stronger. Perhaps extended time-horizons will witness phases of systemic peaceful and stable transitions with ethical foundations supporting the globalizing process and will guide and manage an emerging ethos.
(c) Many complex issued are forcing us to modulate our understandings of some religious symbol sets such as “ecological peril, nuclear threats, militant conflicts, racist and sexist domination, continued poverty, failed economic ideologies, and they are all taking place within the comprehending dynamics of globalization.
(d) Globalization is a massive ethos shift that fosters the growth of new worldwide technological, communication, and regulative developments. These reflect an emerging moral infrastructure and bear the possibility of a new transactional civil society. This means that civil society increasingly comprehends and surpasses all previous national, ethnic, political, economic, and cultural contexts in a new mix of complexity. This development portends a cosmopolitan possibility that modernity promised but could not deliver because its spiritual core was too weak.
(f) The novel patterns of a radical extended civil society make certain economic changes possible and others necessary, and make national policies less effective. They also leave systems in transition open to corruption and exploitation, even as they make the growth of the world’s middle classes more likely, extending to many peoples who were long desperately poor an exodus from enslaving fatalism, subsistence, and powerlessness.
(g) These changes enable wider global participation without homogenization in the emerging ethos and are deeply stamped by religious influences. New participants usually adopt the ethical patterns of life that formed or legitimated the desired results and then selectively adapt the religious patterns that generated the ethos to their needs and pre-understandings of what is sacred—which makes for hybrid cultures and a richer menu of theological options. This amplifies the spiritual core of the ethos, which is refined by theological critique and reflection over time.
(h) Because of the significance of religious, ethical, and cultural transformations such as these, any substantive critique or embrace of these global developments will demand attention to a theology able to elucidate, form, or reform the inner moral fabric of the globalization process so that its ethos can be adopted in various cultures and be adapted by multiple societies.
We need not have fear nor concern about the purity of religion at its core. We need only to fear its misappropriation, not those core moral, ethical and spiritual values that it espouses. As the author rightly explains, these values are the basis upon which to secure “the inner moral fabric of the globalization process”. Religious differences are mainly misunderstandings and faulty interruptions by many who seek status through position. When reading (c) through (h) above, we gain an understanding to place greater emphasis on improving the human psychic in ways that foster more acceptable and inclusive unions in society.
Human history is awash with social, national, and international antagonisms; conflicts that most times have led to all-out war with untold millions slaughtered. In this ‘new age’ of globalized integration where advances in science and technologies make total extinction of life on this planet possible, the need is great to emphasize inherent human commonalities of moral and spiritual nature to improve the human psychic in ways that foster more creative, acceptable, and inclusive unions.
(i) The question is no longer whether religions have shaped the formation of societies and civilizations in concert with other forces. That is beyond serious doubt. Instead, the key question is whether religion has—or better still, which religious possibilities have the power to shape complex civilizations and thus should guide our thinking and actions with regard to the dynamics of globalization.
This means that the way forward is conditional and will require reflection and reconsideration about religion and its influence on humanity.
We should not focus on a specific religion, but instead on those internal drivers of a moral and spiritual nature common to ALL major religions. This bedrock has sustained the human species throughout its existence and affords the opportunity to avoid disunity and religious dissent.
Consider that humanity lives scientifically comfortable in its oneness as a species—which directly breaks the cycle of generational dogmatism and relegate it to history’s dustbin. This principle, fortified by the above bedrock, provides the guidance needed to spearhead paradigmatic changes in thought that revolutionize human behavior.
(j) That a Divine Being has something to do with creation, providence, and salvation there are those who would find it difficult to argue the case in the negative regarding globalization. The author promotes Christianity as being the primary driver in globalization, or, if not, then its main influence. He also believes that the globalizing developments humanity faces signal a change as significant as the major shifts that previously occurred in the historic annals of humanity’s social and economic development.
The task before us is how to effect paradigmatic shifts in thinking in ways that promote awareness, understanding, and appreciation for human diversity, its values and commonalities, its cultures and social complexities, and the viability of religious influence in its heritage. Inspired by the willingness to learn, we can break recurring cycles of generational dogmatism.