As we look around the world today we can easily become depressed with all the dire happenings that degrade and threaten human life and the welfare of the planet.
Governments, obsessed with power, disregard the welfare of their people. Corporations, clouded by greed, continue to pollute the environment, poison us with all kinds of additives to our food – as well as paying their CEO’s obscene salaries. Internationally, oppression and injustice reigns. The cry of the people for a more humane and democratic government is met with violent resistance. Even religion enters the fray with much of the world’s turbulence being caused by fanatical beliefs.
There is another side to all this. Governments do a lot of good. Corporations provide us with the goods and services that make possible the amazing standard of living that we enjoy. And religions carry on an enormous amount of good works, justice seeking, and all things that express the compassion and love of our better nature.
But who today carries the moral authority and weight that pushes us toward the best that is in us? For eons it was the religions of the world that spelled out and encouraged the moral values that make us human. And they still uphold the values that their particular religion espouses. There are basic human values of justice and compassion that are common to all.
But in recent decades the religions, especially in the western world, no long carry the moral authority they once did. In the United Church experience it used to be that government officials would consult with church dignitaries on matters of public policy. That no longer happens. The reality is that the secular world pays little attention to the church.
That is not totally a bad thing. Now, on a global scale, the secular world is the carrier of human values and morality. Who carried the flag for accepting the equality of women? The church gave nods here and there, but it was an uprising of awareness throughout the secular community that was the big push. And the same is true for the acceptance of gay and transgendered people. Much of the church was, and still is, actively opposed.
There is now a secular consensus of human values, human rights, and human responsibilities. These values are being upheld and strengthened by countless groups and organizations. Some are religion based, most are not.
The United Nations, as the body that most represents the collective values of the world, now carries the moral mandate to call nations or institutions to account. The UN has confronted Canada on native issues. The government brushed off the accusations, but the opinion of the world is there for all to see.
In recent days, the UN has exposed the atrocities of North Korea. It has no power to do anything to correct the situation, but it puts it out there for all countries to know more clearly. And, wonder of wonders, the United Nations has called the Vatican to account for the ages of sexual abuse. Here is the world calling the church to account! The secular has taken over what was the purview of religion.
This great shift from heaven to earth, from external authority to internal authority, was dreamed of 2,500 years ago. The prophet Jeremiah spoke of “the law written in our hearts” (Jeremiah 31:31– 33). In other words, there would come a time when the moral values, and all that makes us human, would be in our hearts. Women and men would carry the human values within them. We are now seeing this hope of the prophets being carried out.
But “the law within” grows very slowly. The question still remains: will enough people make the leap of consciousness in time to save us from destroying ourselves? Will we grow enough to be responsible citizens of the earth, to take care for the environment and one another our top priority?
The spirit is moving. The forces are at work. Allow them to work within you, and within every institution, organization and religion that seeks to engender the values, which make a just, loving and creative family of humanity possible.
Don Murray is a retired united minister. He lives in Shortts Lake.