Thursday, January 29, 2009

The New Global Civility

Part 1

“And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ.

“Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all. May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you.”*



“….the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace….

"What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility--a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."



Welcome to the new era of global "civility,” the emergence of a civic “common ground” happening at the global level. It is no accident that Rick Warren was invited to deliver the invocation at President Obama’s Inaugural. “Civility” is a term laden with special meaning to those who have goals to change the governance structures of society at the international level. To the average American, “civility” is one of those mantra-type buzz words that invokes nice feelings of camaraderie, implying polite disagreements. But in the new order of things “civility” is destined to become a way to shut off the more polarizing aspects of culture and theology. In this series Herescope will conduct an in-depth look at this issue.


Rick Warren's Global P.E.A.C.E. Civility

Since Rick Warren is at the forefront of the new global civility movement, it is important to investigate what this might mean. His newly formed Saddleback Civil Forums leaped onto the global stage when he brought in the nation’s presidential candidates for a high-profile joint appearance, described by Warren as “a civil and thoughtful format absent the partisan 'gotcha' questions that typically produce heat instead of light.”[1] This particular Civil Forum was said to be Warren's:

latest attempt to introduce civility into public discourse, even if it irks some of his fellow evangelicals. Warren faced biting criticism in 2006 when Obama spoke at his church for a global AIDS summit. Last year Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) appeared at another AIDS conference at the church. [2]

New civility of this nature is accompanied by a shift in political alignment. One article commented, “The 54-year-old pastor, they say, is emblematic of a new breed of evangelicals who put social justice ahead of partisan politics….”[3] But already Warren has run afoul of this maneuver, managing to alienate both the Left and the Right on the gay marriage and abortion issues. Nevertheless, the old polarizing political debates are destined to subside when the new era of global civility takes over. Existentially one will be permitted to hold their own beliefs, but beliefs are not to become manifest in the public square unless they fit the prefabricated criteria of "tolerance," "justice" and "responsibility." And it must all be done under the banner of a mushy feel-good “love,” accompanied by the prerequisite community service

"Jesus told us to love our neighbor," Warren said, "even if they don't agree with you." [4]

Rick Warren describes the new civility as entailing “responsibility” and “credibility,” however these terms come to be defined:

“these Civil Forums further my three other life goals: helping individuals accept responsibility, helping the Church regain credibility and encouraging our society to return to civility....” [5]

Another reason for this new civility is exemplified by the catch-phrase “common ground for the common good.” A press release by A. Larry Ross described the joint appearance by Obama and McCain at the Saddleback Civil Forum as “Pastor Rick Warren Stakes Out Common Ground for the Common Good in Presumptive Presidential Nominees First Joint Appearance.”[6]

The Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health, held in Washington, D.C. this past November, honored President George W. Bush on World AIDS Day with a newly minted “International Medal of PEACE” award for his “Humanitarian Initiatives.” This award was said to be “given on behalf of Rick Warren’s newly created Global PEACE Coalition,” which is described as “a plan of epic ambition, to turn at least half of the world's tens of millions of Christian churches into a giant "network of networks" dedicated to relieving the poverty and misery of the developing world.” [7] A "network of networks" is precisely what the 3-legged stool looks like at the global level - an interlocking and interconnecting collaborative hub. Obviously, if the church is supposed to "get along" with everybody and everything, it helps if all of the sharp edges have been removed so that no one can become offended by the Gospel. This Washington-based Saddleback “civility” event was described as including all three legs of the 3-legged stool:

Leading representatives from the U.S. Congress; faith- and community-based organizations; non-governmental organizations; the diplomatic community; multilateral groups; foundations; local churches and representatives from other private sector entities are being invited to attend this invitation-only, ticketed event. [8]

In fact, the new civility requires the building of the 3-legged stool, a mammoth endeavor to bridge networks of public, private and corporate entities into a single international system. The easiest way to do this is through various crises in healthcare. For example, according to another A. Larry Ross press release, Rick and Kay Warren

“moderated a panel of Rwandan government and church leaders; business and medical experts; and Saddleback HIV/AIDS Initiative directors… to address the issue of global partnership ventures to help people living with HIV/AIDS in a satellite session titled, “Government, Faith and Business: Building Effective Multi-Sector Partnerships,” was held …Tuesday, August 5, 2008… as part of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City”

The press release stated that “community health” would be the platform and the “common purpose” for building this collaborative networking 3-legged hub.

“This satellite session differed from all others during the six-day, biennial conference in that it focused on a revolutionary concept of transforming health care delivery through the full engagement of the local church linked to existing health care systems to work together for the common purpose of community health.”

“Both a one-legged and a two-legged stool will fall over, but a three-legged stool will stand,” Pastor Warren explained. “There is a public sector role of government and NGOs; there is the private or profit sector role of businesses; and there is the faith sector role of churches and houses of worship.”
[9]

Giving an indication of how his “Second Reformation” concept ties in to the new era of global civility, Rick Warren, speaking at a Sunday Forum at the Washington National Cathedral a year ago on the topic of “A New Century: A New Reformation,” linked “religious pluralism” to the idea of “trying to increase civility in the world”– something he refers to as “promote reconciliation through service” as part of his Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan. [10]

Rick Warren also signed the “Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to 'A Common Word Between Us and You'” document, which is a study in the emerging global civility of pluralism and ecumenism.[11] This document sets the stage for what are rapidly becoming civic religions, i.e. historic faiths denuded of their foundational theological trappings and propped up in the public square as laudable examples of intentional ambiguity and saccharine tolerance. “A Common Word” has been described by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation as a

“letter issued by 138 Muslim clerics, scholars and intellectuals, addressed to all Christian leaders across the globe, in October 2007. It was prompted by a deep concern over the state of Christian-Muslim relations and a firm conviction that Christians and Muslims are bound together by a common belief in the Unity of God and a shared commitment to the dual commands to love both God and neighbour. It invited dialogue on that basis.” [12]


Tony Blair's Global Civic Religion

In fact, Tony Blair is leading the way with creating a more tolerant global civic religion. Describing a Yale Divinity School Center for Faith and Culture conference on the topic of finding common ground between the faiths, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, explained several key tenets of the new common ground: 1) Your faith can no longer be private, and 2) It must serve the common good.

"Religion is not simply a private affair, a common misconception in the West in particular, but a force with profound implications for the public arena.... Prince Ghazi stressed that this was not an attempt to create an artificial union between the two faiths but an endeavour to find an essential common ground, the better to ensure that religions are part of the solution and not an impediment." [13]

According to one news account, the participants at this Yale Conference "unanimously approved a cooperative statement that signaled a new beginning of collaboration between Christians and Muslims where stronger assertions of faith would be not just be allowed but required." [14]

Note that this emerging religion of civility requires collaboration and cooperation. The 3-legged stool isn't optional, it is mandatory. Tony Blair described his ongoing exploration of the "multiple aspects of faith and globalisation" at Yale University, where his Faith Foundation is now situated. In an e-mail dated December 17, 2008, he explained how

"religious faith and economic and social globalisation are partners – globalisation needs values to succeed. In pushing people together, globalisation has made multicultural and multi-religious societies, and it is necessary now for human capital and spiritual capital to link. This, combined with an increased need for multi-faith dialogue and action, will in time be seen as a defining question, and perhaps the leading question of the 21st century." [15]

Clearly, this new civic faith is being used as a tool to facilitate the expansion of globalization, i.e. global governance. It is therefore significant that Rick Warren sits on the Advisory Board of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.[16] The offensive concept of "human capital" - that man has an economic worth to Society - is linked to "spiritual capital" in this quotation by Blair above; and one must ask how "spiritual capital" will be assessed. TIME Magazine reported that Tony Blair thinks

faith can be used to induce ignorance, fear and a withdrawal of communities into mutually antagonistic spheres at just the time that globalization is breaking down barriers between peoples and nations. "Faith is part of our future," Blair says, "and faith and the values it brings with it are an essential part of making globalization work." For Blair, the goal is to rescue faith from the twin challenges of irrelevance—the idea that religion is no more than an interesting aspect of history—and extremism. [17]

The opposite of this kind of civility according to these definitions, then, is ignorance, fear, or extremism. To accomplish these aims, Blair is also piggybacking his ideals onto the global community healthcare agenda, utilizing the 3-legged stool. His “group has received donations and pledges in the tens of millions of dollars from individuals, charitable groups, companies and governments.[18] His goals sound very similar to those of Rick Warren.

Blair now wants to tap into the global links that have been built between development activists and people of faith. "Faith," he says, "can be a civilizing force in globalization," which will doubtless be the theme of the course on the topic that he will be teaching at Yale this fall. His foundation will seek to partner with organizations to advance the U.N.'s eight Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000. Blair's first target is malaria, which kills around 850,000 children each year; many of these deaths could be easily avoided by prophylactic bedding. "If you got churches and mosques and those of the Jewish faith working together to provide the bed nets that are necessary to eliminate malaria," says Blair, "what a fantastic thing that would be. That would show faith in action, it would show the importance of cooperation between faiths, and it would show what faith can do for progress." [19]

The new global civility includes supporting the United Nations, being enthusiastic for the "cooperation between faiths," and being willing to partner with just about anyone and anything in order to solve problems like the global healthcare crises. It isn't just a matter of agreeing with the principles, however. Each and every global citizen will soon be called upon to "show faith in action."

Stay tuned for Part 2. . . .


The Truth:

"For they stumbled at that stumblingstone." (Romans 9:32b)


*All bold in quotations throughout this article has been added.

Endnotes:
1. http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/07-21-2008/0004852126&EDATE=
"Presumed Presidential Nominees McCain and Obama to Make First Joint Campaign Appearance on August 16 at Saddleback Church."

2. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-warren13-2008aug13,0,5700586, "Visits by McCain, Obama to Orange County church underscore Pastor Rick Warren's prominence," by Duke Helfand, Los Angeles Times, August 13, 2008.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. http://www.rickwarrennews.com/docs/081124_civil_forum.pdf "SADDLEBACK CIVIL FORUM ON GLOBAL HEALTH TO HONOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH ON WORLD AIDS DAY: President to Receive First ‘International Medal of PEACE’ for Humanitarian Initiatives," A Larry Ross press release, 11/24/08.
6. A. Larry Ross press release, 8/16/08, http://www.rickwarrennews.com/docs/080816_civil_forum_wrap.pdf

7. TIME Magazine, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1809833,00.html "Rick Warren Goes Global," by David Van Biema, May. 27, 2008.
8.
http://www.rickwarrennews.com/docs/081124_civil_forum.pdf "SADDLEBACK CIVIL FORUM ON GLOBAL HEALTH TO HONOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH ON WORLD AIDS DAY: President to Receive First ‘International Medal of PEACE’ for Humanitarian Initiatives," A Larry Ross press release, 11/24/08.
9. Cited in article http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2008/s08080030.htm August 6, 2008, Pastor Rick & Kay Warren Bring Together Leaders To Discuss Unification Of Expertise To Stop HIV/AIDS: Saddleback Church Hosts International AIDS Conference Satellite Session on the Partnership of Government, Business & the Church, by Dan Wooding.
10. http://www.cathedral.org/cathedral/centennial/SF080127.shtml
11.
See Herescope post http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/11/rethinking-peace-loving-god-and.html "Rethinking P.E.A.C.E. - Loving God and Neighbor Together," 11/26/07.
12. "A Further Step Forward for Muslim-Christian Relations," 8/8/08, http://tonyblairfaithfoundation.org/2008/08/a-further-step-forward-for-mus.html
13. Ibid.
14. "Christian-Muslim Statement Among First Fruits of 'Common Word' Gathering," 8/3/08, http://www.christianpost.com/article/20080803/christian-muslim-statement-among-first-fruits-of-common-word-gathering.htm
15. http://dotm1.net/cr.aspx?hval=%2fB4gYBhIdAO9qORMvNrNpHbRo4M%3d%40%3a%40787414%40%3a%40468392003
16. http://tonyblairfaithfoundation.org/about-us/who-we-are/advisory-council.html
17.
"Tony Blair's Leap of Faith," by Michael Elliott/Bethlehem, TIME Magazine, 5/28/09, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1810020,00.html
18.
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/05/30/america/REL-Blair-Religion.php
19. "Tony Blair's Leap of Faith," by Michael Elliott/Bethlehem, TIME Magazine, 5/28/09, link added. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1810020,00.html