by Rev. Leland Stewart, B.S.E., B.T.
We live today in a time of transition between the end of western civilization and the emergence of a global civilization. One of the major reasons for the vast amount of chaos and confusion on our planet is due to this fact. The values that sustained the earlier society, which were centered in Europe and the early days of the United States of America, are being superseded by the coming together of the nations and peoples of the world. The religious control of western civilization was centered largely in Christianity, whereas the global civilization requires the coming together of the rich diversity of the religions as a whole.
This transition has not been an easy one. It included two world wars and the struggle to prevent a third one. The United Nations was born in 1945, which was around the ending years of the second world war. The U.N. has had an important influence in preventing a third world war, but its power to move further in the direction of establishing the new civilization has been limited by the United States and by the complications of setting up an effective global government. Many people think that having a global form of government is either impossible or too risky.
At the present time, the United Nations is limited in its effectiveness. Its visibility as a global form of government is not accepted sufficiently by the nations of the world or by the world’s peoples. We are now in the 77th year of the U.N., and its Security Council is still ruled by the five nations which were established at its birth: the United States, England, France,Russia, and China. The same veto power which was established around 1945 is still in existence, so that if one of the five above-mentioned nations vetoes any legislation, it cannot be passed. The world’s conditions have changed in many ways since 1945, yet the U.N. has not been able to keep up with the changes.
While the nations of the world struggle to work together and to make vital decisions that will make a global civilization possible, the religions of the world also have a most important role to play. Prof. Hans Kunz, a German scholar who has taken part in the Parliament of the World’s Religions, said that in order for world peace to be possible, the religions of the world must come together and learn how to cooperate for the good of the whole. The term “interfaith” has come to the forefront in the last few decades as the center of a trend toward the religions starting to recognize each other and to work in cooperation. Not only is there now a Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. There is a worldwide organization called United Religions Initiative, and there are an ever-increasing number of interfaith organizations and interfaith events around the world.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, author of The Philosophy of Civilization, pointed out in the second part of the book that every civilization has to have a vital ethic to sustain itself. It happened that I was reading this book while sitting in the office of theHarvard Business School, where I had been planning to study in preparation for going into the business world. When I came upon a statement by Schweitzer that many people could have done what he did with his life if they were free enough to do so. All of a sudden I knew that I was not going to the Business School, so I transferred over to the HarvardDivinity School and spent the next three years studying for the ministry.
One factor that is helping the global civilization to come into being is that we now can see the globe as a whole. It therefore becomes possible to visualize the world as one entity, and it follows that this entity needs to be unified as a planetary whole. All the civilizations of the past now must change sufficiently to recognize the value of each other and to be part of the next step in evolution, which is to create a new civilization that includes all of us. We are now in the process of becoming one people on one planet; we must unite in a larger reality in order to survive on this planet. In time we will then be able to reach out and perhaps find life on other planets.
May peace prevail on earth!