Wish: the Charter for Compassion

Ahanu

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,110
Reaction score
519
Points
108
Joedjr earlier said:

I would like to suggest there be a world meeting of all religions. Especially invited to attend are those that feel their way is the only way. This meeting should go on for as long as it takes for them to come up with some common thread or agreement on just what the truth is about religion.

http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/the-one-oneness-and-not-8680.html

You may get your wish, but it is up to you! Before I go any further, if you have not seen the video, click below.

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/234

Also, on the site you will find Karen Armstrong's wish

“I wish that you would help with the creation, launch and propagation of a Charter for Compassion, crafted by a group of leading inspirational thinkers from the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and based on the fundamental principles of universal justice and respect.”

http://www.ted.com/index.php/pages/view/id/190

I exchanged a couple of messages with David on here a while back and he asked for me to make a post on Karen Armstrong's work. Well, this work requires that all people participate to make it happen. As Karen says in the video, and has been said by others, the golden rule which emphasizes compassion is the common thread running through the three monotheistic religions. However, over time these bright lights have been shaded by oppression through fanaticism and hatred. It is up to the adherents of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam “to come up with some common thread or agreement on just what the truth is about religion.”

Check out the site!
 
Ahanu,

thanks for the post.

I did watch the video and Karen is quite good at sharing quality information.

An email was sent to her agent in support of the program.

The idea that is interesting is that she recognizes most of the other religions are not at conflict, by simply focusing on the abrahamic sects.
 
Joedjr earlier said:



http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/the-one-oneness-and-not-8680.html

You may get your wish, but it is up to you! Before I go any further, if you have not seen the video, click below.

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/234

Also, on the site you will find Karen Armstrong's wish

“I wish that you would help with the creation, launch and propagation of a Charter for Compassion, crafted by a group of leading inspirational thinkers from the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and based on the fundamental principles of universal justice and respect.”

http://www.ted.com/index.php/pages/view/id/190

I exchanged a couple of messages with David on here a while back and he asked for me to make a post on Karen Armstrong's work. Well, this work requires that all people participate to make it happen. As Karen says in the video, and has been said by others, the golden rule which emphasizes compassion is the common thread running through the three monotheistic religions. However, over time these bright lights have been shaded by oppression through fanaticism and hatred. It is up to the adherents of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam “to come up with some common thread or agreement on just what the truth is about religion.”

Check out the site!

Okay, this is going to sound like being harsh to a nice lady with good intentions. The problem is that such good intentions have always been there and been expressed, but their effectiveness has always been limited since they don’t face the problem head-on.

I’m familiar with Armstrong’s work. I wouldn’t claim that she doesn’t have a fair understanding of the difficulties involved. But her zeal to address the problems of fundamentalism and religious violence leads her to paper-over and mythologize the issues. She’s certainly aware of the difficulties in the texts, but far too often she leaves the impression that the only real problem is the bad motives of the people who misuse them. This is evasion, pure and simple. Sooner or later, one has to wrestle with the texts themselves.

Another kind of evasion she promotes is that religious extremism, literalism, fundamentalism is a modern problem, beginning in the 17th century. Now there is some basis to that in that humanist learning, coupled with the influence of the exact sciences, led to a demand for a new precision in biblical scholarship. This in turn contributed to the Reformation, sola scriptura, etc. So I think it’s true that pre-Reformation Christendom was not as ideologically rigid as some of the Protestant sects that followed. But the fact is that there was ideological rigor from the beginnings of the organized church, certainly from its imperial phase under Constantine. It may be true that the Reformation and the Counter Reformation exacerbated the ideological problem, but there was no mythic time of Christianity where “belief” meant something distinctly different and distinctly softer than what we mean today. Christianity did not suddenly become ideological in the 17th century.

She also ignores the fact that ideological extremism isn’t just a matter of belief and doctrine, that is, orthodoxy; it’s also a question of religious practice, or orthopraxy. Imperial Islam like imperial Christianity had and has no problem applying ideological rigor, though it is based on the orthopraxy of sharia rather than the orthodoxy of the Christian creeds. Just “doing” rather than “believing” may appear to be the solution to some of us in historically Christian cultures, weary of the creeds. But Islam shows you that there is no escape into practice until you’ve addressed the underlying problem of ideology.

As for getting people to affirm the value of compassion: no problem; they’ll do that any day of the week. But here again Armstrong evades. She takes a particular reading of the gospels and projects it back into Judaism and forward into Islam, over-simplifying, even obscuring the true nature of each, and even the true nature of orthodox Christianity.

I think a Jewish responder on the site made this point very well. Armstrong in her talk brings up Rabbi Hillel and his enunciation of the golden rule: that’s the law, he said, the rest is commentary. But to leave the impression that the rest of the law can be thus so lightly minimized is a Christian not a Jewish perspective. Rabbi Hillel knew his law very well, thank you very much, and would hardly have been happy with this ancient sound bite.

The Abrahamic tradition was not set up in the first instance to promote compassion, whatever importance it played in the whole mix. Abrahamic religion in the first instance is about power. God’s power, it is always to be hoped.

The core question is not about compassion. It’s about how this power is to be used. Is it to be used in the service of the oppressed, as social gospel, as liberation theology, as black theology; is it to be used as it was in the abolition movement, in movements for workers’ rights, etc.?

Or is this spiritual power to be assimilated to political, imperial power to justify hierarchy, the rich, the hegemonic; as it was used to justify slavery, Jim Crow, and now the return of the caliphate?

This is the dual legacy of the Abrahamic tradition. This is the true core of what makes the tradition unique. It’s only commonsense that this is where we need to look to address its core problems.

So I wouldn’t press the leaders of the Abrahamic faiths to affirm the importance of compassion – I take that as a given. And I think the Jews have no dog in this fight – I don’t think it distorts the position of most Jews that while they may hold universalist ideas, their mission is not to impose those ideas but only to be a light to the Gentiles. But orthodox and orthoprax Christians and Muslims do have universalist pretensions and requirements to actively spread or defend these pretensions. In other words, they are at the core militant religions. To ask therefore for anything like true pluralism is of course out of the question. But here are two affirmations I would ask:

1. That they direct their militancy always in support of the oppressed and powerless and definitively abandon the hegemonic and powerful.
2. That in their advocacy of the oppressed they renounce all violence and incitements to violence.

That in my view would be a very simple but logical start to the defense of the Abrahamic faiths, their continued relevance and future vitality – which is of course the second part of Armstrong’s two part agenda.
 
Okay, this is going to sound like being harsh to a nice lady with good intentions. The problem is that such good intentions have always been there and been expressed, but their effectiveness has always been limited since they don’t face the problem head-on.

I’m familiar with Armstrong’s work. I wouldn’t claim that she doesn’t have a fair understanding of the difficulties involved. But her zeal to address the problems of fundamentalism and religious violence leads her to paper-over and mythologize the issues. She’s certainly aware of the difficulties in the texts, but far too often she leaves the impression that the only real problem is the bad motives of the people who misuse them. This is evasion, pure and simple. Sooner or later, one has to wrestle with the texts themselves.

Another kind of evasion she promotes is that religious extremism, literalism, fundamentalism is a modern problem, beginning in the 17th century. Now there is some basis to that in that humanist learning, coupled with the influence of the exact sciences, led to a demand for a new precision in biblical scholarship. This in turn contributed to the Reformation, sola scriptura, etc. So I think it’s true that pre-Reformation Christendom was not as ideologically rigid as some of the Protestant sects that followed. But the fact is that there was ideological rigor from the beginnings of the organized church, certainly from its imperial phase under Constantine. It may be true that the Reformation and the Counter Reformation exacerbated the ideological problem, but there was no mythic time of Christianity where “belief” meant something distinctly different and distinctly softer than what we mean today. Christianity did not suddenly become ideological in the 17th century.

She also ignores the fact that ideological extremism isn’t just a matter of belief and doctrine, that is, orthodoxy; it’s also a question of religious practice, or orthopraxy. Imperial Islam like imperial Christianity had and has no problem applying ideological rigor, though it is based on the orthopraxy of sharia rather than the orthodoxy of the Christian creeds. Just “doing” rather than “believing” may appear to be the solution to some of us in historically Christian cultures, weary of the creeds. But Islam shows you that there is no escape into practice until you’ve addressed the underlying problem of ideology.

As for getting people to affirm the value of compassion: no problem; they’ll do that any day of the week. But here again Armstrong evades. She takes a particular reading of the gospels and projects it back into Judaism and forward into Islam, over-simplifying, even obscuring the true nature of each, and even the true nature of orthodox Christianity.

I think a Jewish responder on the site made this point very well. Armstrong in her talk brings up Rabbi Hillel and his enunciation of the golden rule: that’s the law, he said, the rest is commentary. But to leave the impression that the rest of the law can be thus so lightly minimized is a Christian not a Jewish perspective. Rabbi Hillel knew his law very well, thank you very much, and would hardly have been happy with this ancient sound bite.

The Abrahamic tradition was not set up in the first instance to promote compassion, whatever importance it played in the whole mix. Abrahamic religion in the first instance is about power. God’s power, it is always to be hoped.

The core question is not about compassion. It’s about how this power is to be used. Is it to be used in the service of the oppressed, as social gospel, as liberation theology, as black theology; is it to be used as it was in the abolition movement, in movements for workers’ rights, etc.?

Or is this spiritual power to be assimilated to political, imperial power to justify hierarchy, the rich, the hegemonic; as it was used to justify slavery, Jim Crow, and now the return of the caliphate?

This is the dual legacy of the Abrahamic tradition. This is the true core of what makes the tradition unique. It’s only commonsense that this is where we need to look to address its core problems.

So I wouldn’t press the leaders of the Abrahamic faiths to affirm the importance of compassion – I take that as a given. And I think the Jews have no dog in this fight – I don’t think it distorts the position of most Jews that while they may hold universalist ideas, their mission is not to impose those ideas but only to be a light to the Gentiles. But orthodox and orthoprax Christians and Muslims do have universalist pretensions and requirements to actively spread or defend these pretensions. In other words, they are at the core militant religions. To ask therefore for anything like true pluralism is of course out of the question. But here are two affirmations I would ask:

1. That they direct their militancy always in support of the oppressed and powerless and definitively abandon the hegemonic and powerful.
2. That in their advocacy of the oppressed they renounce all violence and incitements to violence.

That in my view would be a very simple but logical start to the defense of the Abrahamic faiths, their continued relevance and future vitality – which is of course the second part of Armstrong’s two part agenda.



Hi Vimalakirti. Excellent post, but I do have to take issue with
several points:

1. You seem to tie Abrahamic religion exclusively to left
wing politics. Are you saying that the only true followers of
Abraham are lefties?

2. Also, you ignore other benefits of these faiths, great
art for example. Is this only about politics?

3. You accuse Armstrong of reading Christianity into the
other Abrahamic faiths.Yet you call on Muslims to renounce
violence in defense of the oppressed, as you put it. Doesn’t
this run counter to the fundamental engagements of Islam?

4. I’ve followed your checkered career here on CR, since
you joined in something like 1968. You obviously feel that the
problem of ideology and power in the Abrahamic faiths is
critical to their future viability. And yet it’s clear by now
that there’s little interest here in discussing this problem.
(Though you may have noticed a few of my posts along similar
lines.) Why do you persist?

Sincerely, Devadatta
 
Hi Vimalakirti. Excellent post, but I do have to take issue with
several points:

1. You seem to tie Abrahamic religion exclusively to left
wing politics. Are you saying that the only true followers of
Abraham are lefties?

2. Also, you ignore other benefits of these faiths, great
art for example. Is this only about politics?

3. You accuse Armstrong of reading Christianity into the
other Abrahamic faiths.Yet you call on Muslims to renounce
violence in defense of the oppressed, as you put it. Doesn’t
this run counter to the fundamental engagements of Islam?

4. I’ve followed your checkered career here on CR, since
you joined in something like 1968. You obviously feel that the
problem of ideology and power in the Abrahamic faiths is
critical to their future viability. And yet it’s clear by now
that there’s little interest here in discussing this problem.
(Though you may have noticed a few of my posts along similar
lines.) Why do you persist?

Sincerely, Devadatta

Hi Devadatta. I have indeed noticed that we share very similar points of view. It’s almost like we’re the same person. But to answer your objections:

1. You’re right that I may have left the impression of a certain kind of politics. But I think the real point is not the relative terms of “left” or “right”, “liberal or “conservative”, but the absolute engagement on the side of the powerless and against the powerful. In Abrahamic terms, God I think should always be on the side of the oppressed, and never provide warrant to the oppressor.

2. Good point on art, etc. Religion in general allows us to explore deeper, more nuanced engagements with reality than any reductionist philosophy ever could. That’s why it’s a shame to see religion done in by its own ideology.

3. I agree it’s true that non-violence can hardly be said to be part of the Muslim DNA. And yet Muslims only need to recognize that the conditions obtaining in 7th century Arabia are not the same as those obtaining today. I can’t presume to tell Muslims how to figure this out, but I think it can be done. But you may be right that here I’m just as Pollyanna as Armstrong.

4. As for my returning to the same hobbyhorse of ideology, you’re trying to get me in trouble, aren’t you? The fact is I have found some agreement among a few members here. But it’s true that the prevailing mood is definitely taking this question seriously. And if it’s true that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is a sign of madness, then I’m certifiably nuts.

I guess I came to these forums with a Joseph Campbell-like optimism about the meaning of comparative religion. I’ve been surprised to see how little “comparison” actually takes place here. Rather, the rule tends to be mutually exclusive discourses. Finally, I guess I’ve just been fascinated by the fact that while members of virtually all traditions agree that ultimate reality is beyond all verbal formulation, very few people manage to get past their metaphors. I’ve yet to get my head around that.

There, Devadatta, you sower of discord. You’ve no doubt got me in trouble.

Regards, V
 
Hi Devadatta. I have indeed noticed that we share very similar points of view. It’s almost like we’re the same person. But to answer your objections:

1. You’re right that I may have left the impression of a certain kind of politics. But I think the real point is not the relative terms of “left” or “right”, “liberal or “conservative”, but the absolute engagement on the side of the powerless and against the powerful. In Abrahamic terms, God I think should always be on the side of the oppressed, and never provide warrant to the oppressor.

2. Good point on art, etc. Religion in general allows us to explore deeper, more nuanced engagements with reality than any reductionist philosophy ever could. That’s why it’s a shame to see religion done in by its own ideology.

3. I agree it’s true that non-violence can hardly be said to be part of the Muslim DNA. And yet Muslims only need to recognize that the conditions obtaining in 7th century Arabia are not the same as those obtaining today. I can’t presume to tell Muslims how to figure this out, but I think it can be done. But you may be right that here I’m just as Pollyanna as Armstrong.

4. As for my returning to the same hobbyhorse of ideology, you’re trying to get me in trouble, aren’t you? The fact is I have found some agreement among a few members here. But it’s true that the prevailing mood is definitely taking this question seriously. And if it’s true that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is a sign of madness, then I’m certifiably nuts.

I guess I came to these forums with a Joseph Campbell-like optimism about the meaning of comparative religion. I’ve been surprised to see how little “comparison” actually takes place here. Rather, the rule tends to be mutually exclusive discourses. Finally, I guess I’ve just been fascinated by the fact that while members of virtually all traditions agree that ultimate reality is beyond all verbal formulation, very few people manage to get past their metaphors. I’ve yet to get my head around that.

There, Devadatta, you sower of discord. You’ve no doubt got me in trouble.

Regards, V

But perhaps you misunderstand. Devadatta is the conch shell, the battle horn of Arjuna. It’s always on the side of Dharma, and can never be a sower of discord.

Sincerely, Devadatta.
 
But perhaps you misunderstand. Devadatta is the conch shell, the battle horn of Arjuna. It’s always on the side of Dharma, and can never be a sower of discord.

Sincerely, Devadatta.


That's reassuring.

BTW, I should note a typo: in point #4 above it should read AGAINST taking this question seriously...
 
But here are two affirmations I would ask:

1. That they direct their militancy always in support of the oppressed and powerless and definitively abandon the hegemonic and powerful.
2. That in their advocacy of the oppressed they renounce all violence and incitements to violence.

Well, did you vote for the 12 religious leaders you would like to see being apart of this? They can also consist of leaders outside of the Abrahamic religions who will listen to your views.

Oh, and I read the comment that you are talking about. Well, here is what I understand from Hillel's exegesis. First, it is reported that Rabbi Hillel was not talking to just any person, but a pagan. Second, as Rabbi Hillel gave his version of the Golden Rule to his pagan listener, he said: "all else is commentary." "The rabbis," says Karen, "called scripture miqra: a 'summons' that called the Jewish people to action." So the pagan was actively called to "go study!" How can this be applied today? Scholars today place much importance on what the text originally meant. For example, rather than finding something new, we have Christian's today, especially in the bible belt of the United States, going back to the fundamentals of Christianity. These are who we originally call Christian fundamentalists. In the pursuit of certainty this sometimes leads up to disregarding compassion, right? So, as was pointed out in the video, religious people tend to think it is more important to be right than wrong. Compassion falls from the center of importance of what Jesus and Muhammad, for instance, stood for. So, when these exegetes, like Hillel, looked into the scriptures, they were looking for something new to revitalize it. This is why Hillel's students are found to be changing the meaning of a text after there was no temple left to go to, however; they still placed importance on compassion. If no radically new reinterpretation could be made from the scriptures for the needs of the day, then they were dead. I like the idea of a common hermenuetics between the three Abrahamic religions which would be guided by compassion. This charter could be in a church and mosque near you.
 
I like the idea of a common hermenuetics between the three Abrahamic religions which would be guided by compassion. This charter could be in a church and mosque near you.



Hi Ahanu.

I like the idea too, but again I question how realistic it is given the fundamental focus of Abrahamic religion. I've expressed this focus as "ideology", which many believers find unacceptable or even offensive. They may prefer such phrases as "God's sovereignty and power", “the Kingdom of God”, etc., and many others that you hear in church every Sunday, but it doesn't change the fact that Abrahamic monotheism is in the first instance a structure of authority, not a generalized impulse to practice compassion.

Look, I'm not trying to be mean-spirited here. The emphasis on power and authority is the natural extension of all tribal religions. It's a question of survival. The finer feelings of compassion, sympathetic joy, loving kindness, etc., may have always existed in some form, but they could never have been first in importance when mere survival, of person, of family, of clan, of tribe was always in question. The Abrahamic faiths did not develop their absolutist ideologies by accident.

And this isn't confined to Abrahamic faiths. As a point of comparison, consider Buddhism, where compassion is ostensibly given a preponderant emphasis. In fact, if you examine the fundamental scriptures, the Pali Suttas, for example, you find that compassion is not at all the primary focus. The primary focus is escape from suffering, compassion being only one of the means in achieving that escape, and not even the first in importance. Here again, it's the existential fact of suffering that is the primary fact in Buddhism, as the existential fact of tribal survival is the primary fact of the Abrahamic faiths.

So again, I'm sympathetic to the cause. I'm only saying that the orthodox/orthoprax Christians and Muslims in question here do indeed need to be "right" in some sense or another in order to be compassionate, that without an overarching structure of authority and power compassion for them doesn't have much meaning. Simply promoting compassion, therefore, appears to them as limp-wristed, new-age, cafeteria Catholic - the list goes on.

That's why I've pointed to the social gospel and analogous concepts as the way out. That line of thinking has a long pedigree in the bible, and in the gospels in particular. Christians and Muslims - at least the ones at issue here - must always be at war. Not to be at war would make their faith meaningless. It's a matter of making sure those wars are just, as the old phrase goes, non-violent, spiritual, and so truly directed to God in the highest sense of that word.

Thank you for responding to my reply. Cheers.
 
Hi Vimalakirti. Excellent post, but I do have to take issue with
several points:

1. You seem to tie Abrahamic religion exclusively to left
wing politics. Are you saying that the only true followers of
Abraham are lefties?

2. Also, you ignore other benefits of these faiths, great
art for example. Is this only about politics?

3. You accuse Armstrong of reading Christianity into the
other Abrahamic faiths.Yet you call on Muslims to renounce
violence in defense of the oppressed, as you put it. Doesn’t
this run counter to the fundamental engagements of Islam?

4. I’ve followed your checkered career here on CR, since
you joined in something like 1968. You obviously feel that the
problem of ideology and power in the Abrahamic faiths is
critical to their future viability. And yet it’s clear by now
that there’s little interest here in discussing this problem.
(Though you may have noticed a few of my posts along similar
lines.) Why do you persist?

Sincerely, Devadatta


LOL! You obviously need to talk to yourself to keep the conversation on track! Good to see you back D/V. :D
 
LOL! You obviously need to talk to yourself to keep the conversation on track! Good to see you back D/V. :D


Hi Luna. Hope all is well with you and yours. Yes, the fool has put in another appearence. Lucky we're all fools here, each in his or her own way - and I'd be disappointed if it were otherwise.:rolleyes:
 
As a point of comparison, consider Buddhism, where compassion is ostensibly given a preponderant emphasis. In fact, if you examine the fundamental scriptures, the Pali Suttas, for example, you find that compassion is not at all the primary focus. The primary focus is escape from suffering, compassion being only one of the means in achieving that escape, and not even the first in importance. Here again, it's the existential fact of suffering that is the primary fact in Buddhism, as the existential fact of tribal survival is the primary fact of the Abrahamic faiths.

Well….the “driver” of the Buddha’s search for enlightenment, was compassion for all beings so in that sense it is fundamental to his teaching (the Dharma), even if one restricts oneself to the Pali Canon. You may be right however to suggest that the Pali Suttas focus on suffering and its ending, the “single taste” of the Dharma. But when one looks to the Mahayana with its broader scope perhaps, one often finds that the dual focus is both compassion and wisdom, as exemplified by the bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Manjusri.

s.
 
Fairly or otherwise, in my studies I have come to realise there are two distinct strata of scholarship.

One I would call 'academic', and the other I would call 'populist', by which I mean the latter author is not bound by the conventions of scholastic rigour and requirement. Aimed at a wider, general (and often less informed) audience, they tend to make sweeping, generalised statements and claims, sometimes more or less 'wide of the mark', and sometimes (their publishers hope) somewhat 'theatrical' or 'controversial' ...

I only make this point because, wish as much as Karen Armstrong might wish for "a Charter for Compassion ... based on the fundamental principles of universal justice and respect” the simple fact is that such documents do exist, and have existed for some many years.

And I'm sure Ms Armstrong is well aware of that fact.

Interfaith dialogue does not seek soundbite attention nor the dramatic but invariably ephemeral gestures made by those who court publicity as a means of oxygen ... but it does go on. Not only between the Abrahamic Traditions, but between the great Spiritual Traditions of the world.

Populism allows authors to make bold and sweeping statements, in the sure knowledge they will never be obliged to implement the advice they so readily offer to others.

Recently I asked one of my daughters what she wants to do for a living. "Something that makes people happy," she replied. I love her, and applaud her sentiment ... I only wish it was as easy as that.

Thomas
 
Back
Top