A NEW DAY
A new day is upon us. Some are calling it the New Age, others Postmodernity or Post-structuralism. Whatever the name, this millennial dawn brings mighty winds of change, even revolution. We are undergoing a vast revolution in technology and science, but of equal importance is the profound revolution in thought and perspective that is the landmark of postmodern beingness. Like all revolutions, this one has its battlefields—Absolutism vs. Relativism, Secularism vs. Religiosity, Objectivity vs. Subjectivity, as well as all the old schools of racism, colonialism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, handicappism, patriarchy, and religiocentrism versus the new ways of pluralism and universalism. Lest you think this is just a metaphor, some of these battlefields are still killing fields. As these words are being written, men, women and children are being tortured, maimed and killed on the front lines of hatred, prejudice, and fanaticism. These issues are deeply involved in: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the civil strife in Iran, Pakistan and Northern Ireland; the Arab Spring uprisings; the war of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan against educating women, which has led to death and violence against schoolgirls, their families and teachers; violence against women in schoolyards, homes, streets, fields and offices around the world; genocide in Darfur, Sudan; the Arab-Israeli Conflict of the past six decades—and we could go on and on. There are far too many examples of this war between the old and the new, between Feudal Cultures, the still powerful vestiges of Modernity, and the newly-emerging Postmodernity. Sadly, these age-old wars have always been the enemy of true community, and if there is anything that defines the heart and soul of this book, it is this sense of true community. The potential for true community is always present; it's in our spiritual DNA, but continuity in community is much harder to attain. We have seen the same pattern repeat itself over and over—after 911, Hurricane Katrina, the Tsunami in Indonesia, and the earthquake in Haiti. In a crisis, our best nature surfaces—but we seem unable to sustain this sense of community and remain in the heart of compassion for more than the few weeks of intense CNN coverage. Coupled with my many years working with the victims of child abuse, domestic violence and sex crimes, it became a priority to seek a means to sustain loving community for longer periods—whether it is within the family or the larger society. Perhaps there is way to maintain it constantly and consistently. Such is the hope and work of a theology of Universalism.
A Fresh Cup of Tolerance addresses these issues head on, but in a clearly postmodern way. It is certainly not a deconstructionist postmodern treatise that attempts to question everything from before and then tear it limb from limb. Rather, it lays down a constructionist postmodern challenge, which asks us to question, revise, overcome, change, and even revolutionize what has come from the past—without tearing it all down. The past centuries are neither good nor bad in and of themselves; they are what they are. Terrible and wonderful things may have happened in those times, and we might choose to judge the people who carried out those actions, but we either did not live then and we do not know how we would have acted with the moral knowledge and social programming of those days; or we did live then (via reincarnation) and must bear some karmic responsibility for those days. Moreover, the past got us from there to here and I am grateful for many of the accomplishments of the Modern Age. I enjoy air conditioning in South Florida and I really don’t want to travel
by horse 25 miles to the university campus to teach my classes. Perhaps, one thing that will become clear from this book is that the old Aristotelian model of “either-or” thinking is not a postmodern attribute. As the subtitle asserts, Universalism is the new theology of tolerance, perhaps, even with regard to the past. It proposes a new way of spirituality, very much built upon the learnings and teachings of the Old Age, the past. Nor is it the only New Religious Movement (NRM) out there by any stretch, for one of the defining characteristics of postmodern activity is its tremendous diversity. Yet, by exploring the Universalist aspect of New Age spirituality, much is learned about traditional religion as well as related NRM movements, particularly the transition from modernity to postmodernity.
This book was created to thrust all of us outside of our normal social, religious and societal programming—to push us to rethink our values, belief systems, and perspectives on life, creation, creator, and created. This re-evaluation often strengthens the underpinnings of our values and belief systems. It allows us to own them, as we have now thought through the implications of what we have been taught. We can truthfully say we have used our God-given brains and discerned what works for us and what does not—a very postmodern, individualistic vantage point. At times the book unabashedly presents an emotional and passionate discourse on contemporary life and religion, so it clearly moves beyond the academic world into the gritty plane of the home, office and street. In this way, perhaps, we can strengthen the transition from the Old age to the New Age and build on the many prophecies of hope; that this coming age will be one of harmony, understanding, knowledge, tolerance, and peace.
A Fresh Cup of Tolerance is broken down into four parts over sixteen chapters. Part I, The Dialogue, begins the discussion of what the Universalism Movement is about, from a historical perspective and as a postmodern spiritual venture. Part II, The Theology, takes a systematic theology approach as it explores Universalism from all angles in chapters covering: On the Nature of God; On the Nature of Revelation; On the Nature of Humankind; On the Nature of Good, Evil and Suffering; On the Nature of Illusion; On the Nature of Love and Community; On the Nature of Liberation; and On the Nature of Purpose. Part III, Light Living, begins a journey through spiritual ethics and practice. How does one implement and live a Universalist way of life (Lifeway)? Finally, Part IV, Light Work travels beyond the individual and challenges us to envision a society and human organizations that live by these pluralistic and tolerant ways of living; Universalism in the workplace.
All of us in the field of theology and religious studies owe a great debt to Ninian Smart who proposed viewing and analyzing religion from seven dimensions: ritual, doctrinal and philosophical, mythic and narrative, experiential and emotional, ethical and legal, organizational and social, and material and artistic. Although I do not follow his dimensional analysis method directly, you will see each of these dimensions poking their heads up throughout the book. In addition, I have added a few other dimensions for consideration as well: psychological, geographic, socio-economic, socio-political, gender and environmental. To be effectively universal, a Universalist theology must obviously embrace such an all-encompassing approach, for Universalism is true, inclusive community.