Vol 29 No. 1 (2010)
The world is undergoing significant social and political changes reminiscent of the turbulence and chaos that accompanied the transition from the feudal world order to the early modern period. But, how do adherents of world religions perceive this transition and what specific conceptions of world order do they proffer. This article uses the eschatological teachings of major world religions – the world’s great contemplative traditions -- to understand the forces that brought the extant world order into being in the first place and the forces responsible for its transformation or demise. Drawing specifically from the various “millenarian” belief traditions -which focus on spiritual rejuvenation after a period of turbulence, the article ends with an important metaphorical question: Is it possible that this new millennium will usher in a new ‘golden age?’ Are we on the verge of witnessing the advent of a new world order?
Think Globally, Pray Locally [+] 25-30
Religious beliefs have become increasingly global in scope, as new technologies reduce distance between places and people. However, this heightened interconnectedness does not supplant local concerns, be they family, jobs, or communities, rather it reinforces tensions between local and global forces that have become a central feature of our time. These tensions, between the “proximate” and the “distant,” have two contrary tendencies: one, integration, and the other, fragmentation. The first points to prospect for world order whereas the second signals dangers of world disorder. Using the concept of “fragmegration”- the interactive dynamics between these two tendencies- this article examines how, on the one hand, the global spread of religious forces breeds religious fundamentalism while on the other encourages tolerance between disparate beliefs. It suggests that religious beliefs will be an important part of world order if equilibrium is maintained between the forces of integration and fragmentation. When such a balance is maintained, the devotees of world religions will think globally even as they pray locally, their beliefs will be a source of order not just for their ‘world’, but for the globe as a whole.
In spite of the global process of secularization, religion has remained important in the lives of people, countries and also in international relations. This article discusses the role of organized religion and communities of believers in shaping world orders and influencing their function. It reveals that religious organizations, particularly those with thousand of years of traditions, are not only different expressions of human beings in their relations to a spiritual world, but also a complex global network with varying influence on different societies. However, given its long history of strained and often confrontational relationships with the secular world, the contemporary role of religious denominations begs a fundamental question. Will the different doctrines, social teaching and norms promote progress toward “globalization with human face” or will they simply aggravate global division and confrontations in an already divided world?
The paper presents three different visions of eschatology and argues that the dominant rabbinic Judaic view is of an eschatology that does not deal with the end of days but with ruptures within history. Further, the real threat to historical improvement and the nation-state system that is the backbone of a pluralistic system of nation-states comes from various visions of a universal and unified world order. The fundamental Jewish system which is at the basis of the modern era as defined by the first modern nation-state, Holland, is of a system of nation-states. All efforts to supercede this system are usually carried out by utopian visionaries and they threaten the basis of a system that thrives on small but steady improvements in the nation-state system.
Catholic Christianity and World Order [+] 63-80
Christian conceptualizations of world order have been fraught with differences in scriptural interpretations and doctrinal disagreements about the church’s responses to the global challenges of modernity. This article explores the Catholic Christian perspective of the papacy with regard to world order, and compares and contrasts it with the views of liberal Catholic Christian theologian Hans Kueng. It concludes that most liberal Catholics and Protestants share the Kuengian approach to world order while most conservative Protestants and Orthodox Christians would agree with some of the Vatican’s positions. Notwithstanding these disagreements, dialogue in action among Christians and members of other world religions continues to occur on many occasions. As long as understanding and knowledge about “the other” is sought without unacknowledged group biases, interreligious dialogue can result in a process that inspires a structure of peace among the religions—whether the participants accept pluralism as an ultimate truth about religion or not.
Hinduism and the Global Village [+] 81-92
As the world evolves into a “global village,” a community in which people of different religious persuasions, ethnic and cultural diversities functioning together with common goals is being formed. However, this movement stretches the theological and traditional resources of adherents of religions whose doctrines have hitherto been silent on “believers versus non-believers” or “insiders versus outsiders” relationships. Against this backdrop, this article examines the challenges that Hindus in diaspora communities face, especially the inevitability of interacting with other members outside the Hindu faith. It is concluded that the notion of a “global village” presents an opportunity to explore the possible resources and dynamism of the Hindu tradition for a community living, where the community is constituted of members of diverse religious groups.
The failure of “universal secular visions” to bridge global material and cultural divides as well as stem widespread ecological damage has precipitated the need to draw upon the untapped spiritual resources and enduring wisdom of the world’s great contemplative traditions. Drawing from the essential precepts and doctrines of Sufism, this article presents a response to the challenges presented by contemporary world politics and global disorder. It calls for a consensus-based and cooperative approach to global issues based on eight principles stemming from Sufi tradition; principles that could contribute to the foundation of a new world order. Sufism’s vision of tawhid, inner freedom, spiritual elevation, and human wholeness can provide a compelling basis for responding to contemporary challenges of a materialist global life. Furthermore, its capacity to inspire human solidarity and deeply ecumenical spirituality can greatly expedite the emergence of a global peace culture. However, translating the principles of Sufism into practice within the context of the present world order requires effort to advance four interrelated processes of change: promoting a global system of checks and balances, strengthening global civil society, promoting human rights and cultural diversity, and developing a broad consensus of peoples and governments.
At the core of Buddhist eschatological tradition is the concept of dharma -an ordering principle of an unending and beginningless universe, oscillating in a “cyclic existence” of creation and dissolution. But how does this cosmological principle shape Buddhist understanding and interpretation of the contemporary world order? This article relates Buddha’s dharma, with its primary themes of suffering and impermanence, to sociopolitical conditions in the realm of human affairs. Pointing out the dichotomy between the mundane (societal) and the super-mundane (cosmological), the article argues that world order is a process of dissolution and re-emergence based on the differentiation of environmental conditions and human dispositions. It concludes that although Buddhist tradition departs from the normal “end of things” eschatology, relative eschatologies have developed within the varied conditions in which Buddhism has flourished.
Like most world religions, the Bahá’í Faith provides a vision of a promised age of the future. According to Baha’u’llah, the prophet founder of the Bahá’í religion, this promised future age is characterized by the progressive spiritualization of the individual and collective life of humanity, global peace, and the explicit recognition of the fundamental oneness of humanity. But the very fact that the Bahá’í Faith provides such a specific model of world order raises an essential question – is Baha’u’llah’s vision of a new world order rooted in a power-claim, which will assert the legitimacy of a future Bahá’í political hegemony? This article explores this question, and the aspects of Bahá’í theology, doctrine, and political thought which assist in answering it. It concludes that this “new World Order” is not to claim future temporal power, but to lay out a general architecture for the structuring and exercise of power that strives to reflect the principle of oneness of religion and oneness of humanity. It is not a claim to power, but a claim about power including, its proper uses, manifestations, and limitations in a truly global society.