The Six Major Issues Challenging Civilization
Recently we spoke with an old friend, Father Rudolph Cleare, about what he has identified as the six most difficult issues facing our world right now. He warned us that too often we do not "stop to think, or think to care" about others and our world. We use the ideas shared by Father Cleare as a springboard for conversation.
Rabbi: Father Cleare suggests that there are six dire threats of a nearly apocalyptic nature that have come to the forefront of global culture. He suggests that they are at the core of what ails world civilization right now. The first one he identifies is "Physiological Sexism." This is a huge issue, and it is certainly brought to the forefront of our current international conversation through the #MeToo movement. Women have been objectified systematically throughout history. This continues to be a huge, and growing, problem.
Imam: Cleare identifies the problem of "Cultural Racism" as well. This is also an international problem. It is made unique only by specific place and culture. To focus on the United States, our problem goes back to the time of slavery. We have failed to deal with this in meaningful ways, and now we are reaping the whirlwind of its calamitous effects. This is dealt with by not only the African American community, but also by any community that is different from white, patriarchal, colonialized culture. Many have called the 2016 election of Donald Trump the result of "white-lash."
Rev: Also, Cleare suggests that we are living in a time of rising "Economic Classism." Anyone who looks carefully at the data of our American economic system knows that this is absolutely true on several fronts. The shorthand for this is "the poor get poorer, while the rich get richer." It is seen through stagnant wage increases for the past 40 years, a shrinking middle class and a tax cut for the wealthy, which represents the largest transfer of wealth from poor, middle-income and high-earning Americans to the bank accounts of the uber-wealthy. And all of this is bolstered by the mythology of a notion held by this economic class of meritocracy.
Rabbi: The fourth significant threat he identifies to the very fabric of our world civilization is "Social Elitism." This one is particularly insidious from my perspective as a rabbi. It is this very notion, coupled with cultural racism, that lays the groundwork for any process whereby we see the other as "not fully human." Social elitism suggests that there is a natural order to social standing. Those who are considered to be a member of a higher social order are naturally entitled to and deserving of special or better treatment. It then stands to reason in their mind that others are undeserving. This can eventually -- in its most heinous form -- lead to decisions of mass genocide and the destruction of those who are not considered to be "worthy." This one, like all the rest, is a pointedly dangerous threat to human civilization.
Imam: Cleare identifies "Religious Fundamentalism" as the fifth great threat to our world. This one is of particular interest to me. I have consistently denounced violent extremism within my own religion of Islam. As I have said, you cannot be a Muslim and commit acts of terror, and there is absolutely nothing in our faith that promotes or endorses such behavior. But also, my community and I have been the targets of the hateful rhetoric and actions of religious fundamentalists from other religious traditions. These individuals hold misguided notions regarding their own faith traditions. Religious fundamentalists are some of the most dangerous people in the world today, no matter the religious group with which they identify.
Rabbi: Finally, Cleare talks about the problem of "Political Absolutism." We are disturbingly replete with this notion in our own political system. Certainly, we cannot paint with a broad brush and say that everyone in both of the major political parties in the United States thinks this way. However, far too many of those in political leadership in our country have this kind of belief. It makes the possibility of moving forward on solving critical problems that need to be dealt with almost impossible. It is, in religious terms, both arrogant and foolish.
Rev: Cleare suggests that we are in a particularly precarious moment in history. I must agree. These six major challenges, which I believe he has accurately identified as the major and most substantial threats to civilized society and to the future, represent several disturbing trends around the world. They certainly contribute to an unthinking and uncaring approach to community and life together. Until we can address these in meaningful ways, we will continue on a very unhealthy path into the future.
Imam: As the Rabbi said, the arrogance and foolishness of these behaviors and ideas is well attested to throughout history. But good faith teaches us to humbly seek wisdom. We must pray for that for ourselves and our leaders. And our actions must reflect that commitment if we are to find our way forward in hope and in peace.
The Rev. Bryan Fulwider, Rabbi Steven Engel and Imam Muhammad Musri are The Three Wise Guys. Their website is at http://twgradio.com/. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2019 Rabbi Steven Engel, Imam Muhammad Musri and Rev. Bryan Fulwider
Distributed by King Features Syndicate