Today's commentary is a little bit different. In overview it contains two short videos interspersed with a bit of commentary from the editor of Catholica, Brian Coyne, and it concludes with a lengthy paper delivered to the British Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) in March of this year by Mr Jeremy Rifkin. As a suggestion you might like to skim read through Brian Coyne's comments to get a quick overview of what this commentary is discussing before starting at the top again and re-reading it in the context of the videos.
Because this commentary is a little bit different to the norm I ask you to bear with me while I explain where it all comes from. Over the weekend I took a short private retreat. I ended up reading and thinking about where we've ended up and where we seem to be going. I write that in the three senses of the personal — where myself and my wife are; where this Catholica community is; and in the global sense of where our world seems headed.
Frankly I've come to the conclusion that in the personal sense the institution under its present leadership no longer offers me hope or even some prospect of "salvation" however you might define that. As I've written before, I think Benedict will achieve his aim of a "smaller, purer Church" that caters only for one small psychological subset in humanity — that subset that places a premium on the search for certitude and security over all else including, ultimately, even truth itself. The rest of us are offered the prospect of "hell in a handbasket". The institutional leadership no longer cares anything whatsoever about the needs of the great masses of people in society. If society is not prepared to step into the mindset of Benedict and the small subset in society that processes the meaning of life through the certitudes he and his ilk offer, the institution is no longer interested in serving or even listening to us. I think I actually joined the 86% some time ago.
In the midst of my mulling on the quite extensive media reports, largely triggered by the forthcoming trip to the United Kingdom, analysing the pontificate of Benedict and where he seems headed, two interesting emails arrived in my inbox. The first from my daughter, Phoebe, drew my attention to an address given to the British Royal Society for the Arts in March this year by one Jeremy Rifkin who, I confess with considerable shame, I had never heard of. Also attached to the email was a link to an animation based on Jeremy Rifkin's ideas that has been floating around the internet for a while and is now featured on TED (the video channel other luminaries such as Karen Armstrong have graced). To get you in the groove for what I really want to draw your attention to today here is the video...
VIDEO: The Empathic Civilisation...
Also arriving in my inbox over the weekend was an email from Dr Luis T. Gutierrez. About 18 months ago we published a commentary on Catholica by Luis entitled "Creating a Sense of Community" [LINK]. Luis is a researcher and writer in the realms of sustainable development — perhaps the single greatest moral challenge facing humankind in our immediate future. His current newsletter has a focus on a forthcoming global summit in New York hosted by the United Nations reviewing the Millennium Development Goals — the hope expressed on the floor of the United Nations for humankind to end global poverty by 2015. Here's a short United Nations' video promoting the Millennium Development Goals.
VIDEO: The Millennium Development Goals...
As fascinating and as packed with information as Luis Gutierrez's. website is, I'm not advocating that you spend extensive time exploring it today. I will return to that in later commentaries in the coming weeks. What I am really seeking to point to here is a rising trend in society to a set of values that are quasi-religious in nature but which are today in significant, even large part, being driven by forces outside institutionalised religion. Institutionalised religion seems to have become focused on appeasing the insecure in its own ranks and trying to reassure them that its dogmas are still the answer to the problems facing humanity and the answer to the insecurities that dog the individual human person. The larger population, at least in the developed world, is "moving on" to explore how we might make our world a better place through other assemblies and forums.
What I really want to draw your attention to today is the thought-provoking paper by Jeremy Rifkin delivered to the British Royal Society for the Arts in March this year: "The Empathic Civilisation". Rifkin argues in this paper we (human society) are in a transition from the Age of Faith and the Age of Reason to an Age of Empathy. You may not agree with all he writes but this is a deeply sensible analysis of why traditional, institutionalised religion is breaking down and how the perspective of society is changing. As I mentioned earlier, my own daughter sent me this paper. I think it reflects in some way the aspirations of many young people I encounter today who are seeking a more intelligent way of responding to the challenges posed by life, creation and the God who created it all if you continue to believe that Creation required a Creator.
You can watch and listen to the address in this video or read it in the pdf document on the Royal Society for the Arts website accessible at the link below the video.
VIDEO: The Empathic Civilisation (full lecture)...
To read the address in a pdf document click on this link:
Links for further study and reading: