The inexcusable scarcity of genuine political leadership around the globe has produced cynicism and anger in equal measures. On the one hand we have the emerging fascist nationalism in Italy, Britain and USA that scapegoats foreigners and migrants for all their nations’ failings. On the other we have liberal democrats who ply free choice as the ultimate God and goal while permitting tech giants and oligarchs like Amazon and Apple to determine values and control debate and information all in the name of free speech.
As a result, 26 billionaires own as much wealth as 50 per cent of the world’s population that is 3.8 billion. According to Oxfam, the number of billionaires has doubled in the last decade with a new billionaire created every second day and we call that democracy, progress and free trade. Is it any wonder that Donald Trump would have the audacity to ask Denmark to buy Greenland from them!
Global warning, killing of biodiversity of the planet, obliteration of our rain forests and pollution of our water resources is leading to the destruction of our planet. Yet it is only a 16-year-old Swedish girl Greta Thunberg and the 82-year-old Pontiff in the Vatican who demonstrate real concern and care about our common home. The dignity of creation and the human person as well as the common good don’t appear on any political agenda.
When the world tolerates racism, tribalism, liberalism and a variety of other isms we can be assured that we are heading for self destruction but probably anarchy before then. My concern here however is to ask what is the response of religion in the face of such imminent disaster and the famine in political leadership. Nigeria is reported to have the highest rate of extreme poverty, illiteracy, corruption and - wait for it - church attendance in the world. Kenya may not be too far behind on any of these spheres. It is not rocket science to see the disconnect here although sceptics might see a clear connection citing religion as the escape route to a better world in the hereafter from the insurmountable problems on this earth
Religious people frequently forget that long before the holy book was written there was the sacred book of creation written 14 billion years ago ‘whose letters are the multitude of created things in the universe’ (Pope Francis). Organised religion rarely touches on the mystery, beauty and connectedness of the whole of creation. Instead of walking with humility and respect on the sacred planet we rape, destroy, violate and defile it for our own selfish ends without ever thinking of the inheritance we pass on to our children.
We travel the country to witness miracle healing crusades and can’t see the miracle of everyday existence at our doorsteps and in our bodies. But of course creation is groaning under the weight of consumption, greed, disintegration of community life and over population. We would appear to have responded sufficiently some time ago to the Genesis directive ‘to fill the earth’. Now we are bursting at the seams as this week’s census will almost certainly confirm.
But there is an inherent link between the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. While 26 billionaires expand their empires and consume as they will without any care for the earth, climate change will most severely affect the poor of the planet who have no resources available to alleviate its damage. Meanwhile churchgoers dance themselves lame and sing themselves hoarse.
The world is awakening however to a new cosmology that is inclusive of all faiths and that views creation as single entity. There must be no single issues anymore. We are all in this together and the future is ours as family. There are one trillion galaxies in the universe each with billions of stars. Andromeda is our nearest galaxy and it is 2.5 million light years away. We share the mystery but never possess it and our knowledge is expanding every day.
Maybe that is the spirituality that the world needs today one of awe, wonder, searching, beauty and connectedness that reminds us that at this moment we are here together as sisters and brothers with the whole of creation. We need each other and cannot afford to lose our biodiversity or any species that God gave us with purpose and with love. So how does that connect with what you might have heard in church today?
- Gabriel Dolan [email protected] @GabrielDolan1
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