Globalisation and Community: The BECs challenge the Modern World

There is nothing wrong with science and technology. The media of communications and their globalisation are making the creation of one global community possible.

Jan 26, 2019

What shall We Do?
What are we the Church, the BECs are called to do in such a situation? How can we challenges the world to change? What will be those challenges? Would we also challenge ourselves since we too are a part of this world, interiorising its values and benefiting by it in various ways?

Let us look at the world again. Its problems are multi dimensional: economical, political, social, personal/psychological, cultural and religious. As Church we cannot offer the world economic, political or social solutions. Religions operate at the level of meaning. They offer a world view and attitudes, a value system and ways of behaviour.

A Dualistic World view
The world view today is dichotomous. God is cut off from the world. In a creationist perspective in which God is seen as maker of things it is easy to do away with the creator and declare the world autonomous. We objectify the material world. It is something to be dominated and used and thrown away. Science and technology help us to do so. Such an utilitarian mentality also affects the way we look at nature and the human. Nature is not seen as a part of our being human, to which we are related through our bodies. It is objectified and exploited. This attitude then extends to other consumer goods. Women, and sometimes men, are made sexual objects. Given a culture of sexual inequality, the women suffer more than the men.

Individualism and Egoism

Human behaviour is dictated by individual and collective egoism. The others become our enemies. In a competitive atmosphere traditional community structures like the family and neighbourhood are breaking down. It is each one for him/herself, the survival of the fittest. Relationships are breaking down. There is a lot of talk about human rights. The focus tends to be on individual, not on social or economic rights. No one seems to bother about duties. People speak very little about social justice. There is no longer a sense or experience of community. The state is a political framework meant to encourage individual initiative. Profit making is the motive that seems to guide choices in life and work.

Slaves of Machines
There is nothing wrong with science and technology. The media of communications and their globalisation are making the creation of one global community possible. These have made life easy in many ways. Diseases have cures, production has increased, distribution is made easy and rapid. The many gadgets have freed the humans to be busy with more creative and pleasurable pursuits. But the human beings have become slaves of a global machine. The facilities of science, technology and communications seem primarily to be used to exploit the majority of the people for the benefit of some. The few rich who control the machines also become their slaves in some way. So the humans on the whole have lost their agency and freedom.

Modernity and Tradition in Asia
Modernity, however, is not a uniform phenomenon. What I have said above would apply fully only to the Euro-American centre of the contemporary global world. In Asia, however, the various countries with their own religions and cultures are encountering modernity led by science, technology and the media of communications in their own way. We should say that they are caught up in the tension between their traditions and modernity. Asia is a religious continent, having given birth to all the living religions of the world. The South and East Asian religions are also different from the West Asian monotheisms. Family and social values are still strong in this part of the world. On the other hand, democracy has not really taken deep roots with feudalism still playing a big role. Ethical concerns like rights and duties and social justice do not yet dominate public discussion. But modernity is taking deep roots also in Asia, though its interaction with Asia need not and may not be the same as with Christianity and Euro-American culture.

What are the challenges of the Church and the BECs in Asia to this modern world? One problem is that the Christians in Asia are really caught between the East and the West or Euro-America. They have inherited an Euro-American Christianity and their faith reflection and expression tend to be still Euro-American. At the level of practice there may be a certain, or even a large, amount of popular religiosity. But at the level of reflection Euro-American perspectives tend to dominate. So the Churches in Asia need to be inculturated. For the present discussion I shall speak as if the Churches in Asia are already inculturated and are Asian Churches. This does not involve an abandonment of Christian faith or the Scriptures. But it does mean a distancing from some forms of expression that Christianity takes in Euro-America. It involves also a re-interpretation of the Scriptures in the Asian context. But at the moment this is not a given, but something we can realistically hope for. And I would like to place myself there.

A Holistic Perspective
The first and the most important perspective that Asia can offer is a holistic perspective on God and the world. The EuroAmerican view of the universe is dualistic and dichotomous. One speaks of God and the world, God and the humans, body and spirit, humans and nature. These are all separate from each other and we have to bring them together with great difficulty.

The Asian perspective is more holistic. Differences are acknowledged, but a basic unity is affirmed. The Chinese tradition saw the whole of reality as a dynamic movement of the yin and the yang, the feminine and the masculine. Mahayana Buddhism speaks of the inter-dependence of all beings. It calls the dynamic process as dependent coarising. Based on this Bhikku Buddhadsa of Thailand speaks of Dhammic socialism, because everything is inter-related and coresponsible. Everyone should be ego-less. Thich Nhat Hanh of Vietnam speaks of inter-being. There is mutual involvement is being. It is based on such inter-being that he builds up a vision of peace and harmony.

The Hindu tradition in India speaks of the advaita or non-duality of being. God and the world are not two, because the world is totally dependent on God. Without God the world will not exist.Such a holistic perspective will help us not to objectify the body and the material world, to see the human as a spirit-in-body with its root in creation, to accept the masculine and the feminine as two dimensions of one being, and to explore the possibility of the divinisation of the human following Jesus the God-Man.

We have such organic and holistic images in the New Testament. Jesus tells the disciples: “I am the vine, you are branches.” (Jn 15:5) He speaks of mutual indwelling (cf. Jn 15:7-10) that leads to ultimate communion in God: “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us.” Sin may indeed introduce some differentiation and tension, but it can never be a total break till the last moment of life. Paul speaks of the body of Christ. (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-31) The Eucharist is a celebration of cosmic communion where Christ integrates in his divine body the humans and the cosmos, thanks to the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.

Such a holistic perspective of the universe will be a strong anti-dote to the separations and objectifications of the modern world. The Church and the BECs around the Eucharistic table can experience and celebrate this cosmic communion. St Ignatius of Loyola used to speak of “finding God in all things and all things in God”. From such a holistic perspective the objectification and exploitation of the humans, particularly the women, and nature can be avoided in Asia and in the world. Such a holistic perspective should lead us to live in harmony. First of all we have to live in harmony with nature. When people talk of ecology and the preservation of nature, the people in the richer countries seem more worried about the pollution/ cleanliness of the atmosphere and the quality of life. They are not bothered about the exploitation and destruction of nature and of its unequal consumption depriving the majority of their rightful share now and in the future. The poorer people will be more concerned about such questions of justice.

Beyond these issues we have to evoke the need to live in harmony with the body and nature, limiting consumption to what is necessary and protecting nature because it is an integral part of one’s being in the world.

A harmonious life would also involve living in harmony with one’s body and sex. This would mean avoiding excessive consumerism and respecting the complementarity of the sexes, experiencing their interaction in oneself.--By Fr Michael Amaladoss, SJ

Source: Institute of Dialogue with Cultures and Religions, Chennai, India.


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