- It will affirm the reality of that Mystery for convenience called ‘GOD’, by some Jews ‘ha shem’ (the name) and by Muslims ‘al lah’ (the god), without endeavouring to box this in dogma and doctrine. It will place a confident and intellectually respectable emphasis on the Transcendent – in whatever terms we elect to use, honouring the faithful testimony of other faiths and religious traditions.
- It will affirm the place of Jesus as ‘the god-informed person par excellence’ (as per the late Professor Arthur Peacocke), and teacher of the art of living.
- It will evoke and energise pro-social behaviour. It will affirm the essential goodness of persons and help them un-learn what interferes with this. Recent research, e.g. in Yale University’s ‘Baby Lab’, suggests that infants as young as three months prefer pro-social and cooperative situations to aggressive and antagonistic. ‘Original sin’, as a doctrine, is soundly repudiated!
- It will provide criteria for social critique, and energise the pursuit of just and compassionate society. A major resource (not to the exclusion of other wisdom) will be the ethical teachings of Jesus, as found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chapters 5-7) and elucidated in recent works like Parkinson’s The World According to Jesus.
- It will embrace the role for humanity as custodian and carer of the planet. It will recognise that ‘Gaia’ (James Lovelock’s personification of Earth) is our only habitation, and the only habitation of our fellow humans and the animals. In this it will be informed by the classic directive in a mythic account of creation, where God commissions the man to ‘name’ the animals (Gen.2:19-20); to take responsibility for ‘the farm’!
- It will hold before humanity, and seek to embody in its own ‘followers of the way’, the dream of a functional planetary community in which there is no place for hostile distinctions based on ethnic, religious, gender or other differences; in other words, the dream of a world at peace.
- It will be the warrant for a full appreciation of the body – a valuing of sensual pleasure, of the nexus between spirituality and health, and of sexual diversity. It will not limit sexual orthodoxy and legitimacy to the lifelong, one-on-one male-female relationship nor treat other expressions of sexuality as deviant or ‘warped’ – as a Catholic bishop put it on the ABC’s “Q&A” (April 2, 2013)
- It will strive to support fruitful integration of all intellectual disciplines. In particular, it will take with absolute seriousness the ongoing dialogue between godtalk and science, and be unafraid of this delivering changes to its ways of thinking about God, humanity and the cosmos.
- It will put a premium on what is today called ‘spirituality’, setting out to enable in every human being an awareness of and attentiveness to this Mystery around them and within.
- It will find ways, intellectually and aesthetically worthy, for collective celebration of the foregoing (i.e. ‘worship’), based on the conviction that
THE IRREDUCIBLE MINIMUM FOR A RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY
IS THE RITUAL OF SUBLIMITY:
THE EVENT IN WHICH MEMBERS
REACH UP SYMBOLICALLY
TO THE HIGHEST THEY KNOW
AND WHICH ORIENTS THEM TO THIS WHEN THEY DISPERSE.
This statement is the intellectual property of Dr John Bodycomb, but it may be reproduced with acknowledgement of authorship.
The header image is from Anna Halprin/Workshop & Performance: Planetary Dance