by Rev. Leland Stewart
“Ethics consist in my experiencing the compulsion to show all will-to-live the same reverence as I do to my own life.” – Albert Schweitzer, Science and Spirituality, page 143
The theme of our message is the Golden Rule, which in some form is present in all religions. It is the heart of ethics, which has to do with the relation of one human being to another and to all humanity and all life. The same ethics apply in government as in our individual lives, and a responsible society needs to have a powerful ethical basis in order to fulfill its mission.
This applies to how a society handles its finances as well as in every other aspect. Not every person and organization in our society should have the same amount of money available to spend, but a society in which the 1% has as much money as the other 99% is clearly out of bounds for a responsible society. There need to be laws that prevent this unbalance, but an important part of changing the balance should be based on what is ethical. When 44,000 people in Los Angeles County alone are homeless, while others live in exorbitant luxury is clearly out of balance and in need of the increase of ethical principles and governmental support.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who is quoted at the beginning of this message, says in his Philosophy of Civilization, that civilization is essentially ethical in character. The transitional nature of our present condition, moving from the end of western civilization to the birth of global civilization, is that our sense of the need for ethics has weakened, and with it the quality of civilization itself. Our awareness of human values needs to be expanded now to include all races, cultures, and religions. Making the transition from the predominance of western civilization over others to where a global standard is necessary takes time and patience, but we need to understand where we are going and why we now need a global ethic.
The Parliament of World Religions in 1993 introduced “A Global Ethic”, which since that time has been kept alive and further developed. It is becoming the task of religions cooperating with each other to make clear what the global ethic will look like, and eventually to put forth a code of living that gives guidance to the emerging global civilization. The second part of Schweitzer’s book has as its title, “Civilization and Ethics”. In his later life, Schweitzer had a spiritual experience while on the Ogowe River in Africa, in which we became aware that the central teaching of the new ethic is “Reverence for Life”. The Golden Rule is very similar in its focus to this teaching.
It is time that the world as a whole, and in particular the United States of America, chooses to live by a personal, social, and global ethic that is based on respect for all life. Our survival depends upon it.
May peace prevail on earth!!!