by Dr. Michael R. Trice
“O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here . . . O brave new world.” These words from Shakespeare’s pen in 1610 (see, The Tempest), kindled the satirist’s mind of Aldous Huxley in his famous book Brave New World (1931). Today human beings inhabit many worlds. We live in cultural, ethnic, national, socio-economic and ideological spheres–essentially we exist in multiple worlds yet on a single planet. Last month, NASA captured a photo of earth when the Cassini spacecraft peered over the rings of Saturn at earth, a pale blue dot orbiting along its isolated trajectory. We are one planet, yet a planet supporting multiple worlds. Many of today’s problems occur when some of these worlds collide. This reality of many worlds coexisting underpins also the spirit of 21st century pluralism. Coming to terms with earth’s many spheres is a reality born anew with every generation.
What should be the role of religious truth–which in its healthiest forms is cross-cultural, transcends ideologies, and calls both rich and poor alike to an ethos of justice, peace, and kindness? Religion as a concept means ‘to bind or draw together’ in a deeper unity. This holds promise when human beings are called toward an encounter with one another. Encounter in unity is hopeful when awareness is deepened through a shared search, rather than diminished through a parade of disagreements.
Agents of deeper unity should, therefore, be flourishing around the world. Actually, they are, yet conflicts continue, and displacement creates resident aliens across the globe, while the vengeance of a few appears to outflank the good aspirations of the many. Good aspirations don’t make headlines; for example, the headlines don’t capture events such as the Christian Leadership Initiative gathering in Jerusalem this past summer (see photo above), where we heard from a negotiator to the current Middle East Peace Talks, and also from one of the best Palestinian demographers. In addition, we discussed future projects that can positively impact Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
So, as we begin an academic year at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, three additional headlines are worth highlighting. This fall a multi-faith coalition, led by the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, will work to abolish human trafficking in our region that is disproportionately high in trafficking and displaced young people. Next, the very first Hindu English encyclopedia was released last week at the University of South Carolina, marking a milestone in Indian studies, with an emphasis on the beliefs and practices of this major world religion. After twenty-five years and the efforts of a thousand scholars, this multivolume work will enhance awareness of a religious philosophy still little understood by the West. And third, an international gathering of young Jews and Muslims has created the Alliance, a group that growing rapidly. Starting on a shoe-string in 2007, the Alliance is found in 50 countries, and includes a high-profile annual gathering and other projects.
Each story, from local to international, from scholarship to active participation, illustrates one prevailing theme: Courageous religious encounters that deepen awareness of multiple worlds are essential to the well-being of all of us on the planet. People of faith have a specific role in that effort.
Dr. Michael Trice’s Biography can be found on our Assistant Dean’s Page.