of Loving Kindness:
A Meta Religion to bridge chasms and celebrate creative spiritual diversity
Ingrid Shafer 1974
Date: Fri, 22 Aug 1997 01:48:39 -0500
Sender: The Global Ethic Project
From: Ingrid Shafer <ihs@IONET.NET>
Dear Vatican2ites and G-Ethicists:
I am digging through old boxes. The following draft comes from a 1974 layer, an especially painful period of my life. It seems relevant to the concerns of both lists. Besides, it's been buried for 23 years!
The time has come for a new religion--not to supplant or replace the religions of old, but to connect, complete, and complement them. The time is ripe for a new faith--a faith without a church, without an anointed priesthood, without offerings and buildings and material trappings, without all the symbols of wealth and power which have polluted the waters of religious intention since times immemorial. This new faith transcends all religions by accepting their partial validity while denying that there is any One True Path or exclusive mode of salvation. This new faith can be followed by adherents of all religions and none, simply by appealing to their own basic tenets of love and mutual cooperation. It demands of them only a deepening of their commitment to the highest ideals of their particular faith (in the broadest sense to include secular humanism, for example) and the willingness to accept truth both as having a transcendent ground and as an organic, dynamic function of space and time.
This new faith is a way of life to be practiced every moment of every day according to one's capabilities. It assumes that everyone, even the most hardened criminal and social outcast, knows occasional moments of goodness, and knows them for what they are deep in his heart. It does not demand but invite--invite to love, to share, to forgive, to care--as much or as little as one can for the time being without causing excessive discomfort to oneself. It is not a faith for martyrs and demands no feats of self denial and self-flagellating altruism. It simply reminds us to attempt to live up to the best we can be at any given moment, and it assumes that as human beings we can, in fact, be centers of love and light. It does not saddle us with shame and guilt and secret fears. Because we are human we may fail; because we are human we can succeed!
Today is the first day of the rest of our lives; the past has no power over us; we can atone for the sins of our past in and through the positive thoughts and actions of the present and future.
There are no church services, no sacraments, no sermons, no specific commandments--apart from the insistence on leading our lives in the spirit of truth and love, and on treating others fairly, as equals, as persons worthy of respect, the way we would want them to deal with us. There are no prayers for personal gain or miraculous intercession into the inexorable workings of nature. The only prayer which followers might find helpful is a quick thought which requires no particular bodily attitude or sacred environment: "Divine source of love and truth, be my guide through darkness and confusion." This prayer should be repeated as many times during the day as opportunities for rash and unloving actions arise. The thought alone might stop the lying word, the destructive act, the vengeful plot.
We shall never know how far our influence extends. Like engenders like. If we do good we not only develop a personal habit of doing good but we plant a seed which might fall into fertile soil and take root in the minds and hearts of others. If we do evil we also plant a seed, and it too can grow within us and the soul-soil of others. Let us determine today to plant as many seeds of loving kindness as we can. Let us envision those seeds taking root and growing into a forest of healthy trees which will crowd out the tangled underbrush of envy, hatred, and deceit.
I sent the preceding article to a couple of internet e-mail lists in August 1997. The essay engendered some discussion in the Global Ethic online forum, and was severely criticized by a short-term subscriber, Rick Barber, who wrote:
Date: Fri, 22 Aug 1997 10:05:20 -0500"Sincerely in love"! I cannot help but wonder whether Rick joined the G-Ethic discussion group in order to gather information for those opposed to interreligious peace and harmony. I have since discovered that portions of this exchange are being selectively quoted in Despatch Magazine, an Australian apocalyptic publication (apparently both hard copy and online), in an effort to discredit The Religion and Cultural Diversity Conference held in Melbourne in July 1977, the United Nations, interfaith dialogue, ecumenism in general, the Parliament of the World's Religions, the United Religions project, the Right Reverend David Silk, Bishop of Ballarat, The Council of Faiths, Leicester, UK, the Catholic Church, Hans Küng, Leonard Swidler, and the ongoing efforts to develop a Global Ethic. The overall sense one receives of the Australian publication is one of a fearful, intolerant siege mentality. In addition, intellectual property rights and academic conventions of giving credit to sources appear to mean nothing to the authors. Rick A Barber is identified fully as "a Christian man" and my essay is mis-identified as residing in the Global Ethic website. I am listed as author only by first name and by implication. Listmembers who are quoted are dismissed as "New Agers." There is no link to the essay in its entirety, and no easy way for readers to examine the evidence for themselves. A picture I took of Leonard Swidler during a conference in May 1995 was taken from the Vatican2 webpage and simply inserted in one of the articles. No permission was asked and no credit is given.
Sender: The Global Ethic Project <G-ETHIC@VM.TEMPLE.EDU>
From: Rick A Barber <rickb71@JUNO.COM>
Subject: New World Religion
This new faith transcends all religions by accepting their partial validity while denying that there is any One True Path or exclusive mode of salvation.
And pray tell, where does this (quote) "new world religion" leave Christians? Where does this "religion" leave us, who know that there is only One Way, and that is Jesus Christ, Messiah and Son of the One True God? Where does that leave us who will not hesitate to point out the error of your way.
Because it is impossible for us to receive your way, in that we will never abandon our Way, you exclude us from the very religion religion you wish to make universal?
How would your religion handle such people? People who will never in any way accept your deception as truth?
Sincerely in love,
Ecumene.org is envisioned as a gentle antidote to the kind of fanaticism and religious rigidity that inspires those who publish such websites as Despatch Magazine:
Posted 31 December 1998
Last revised 17 September, 2000