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Table of contents :
Introduction / Manfred L. Pirner --
Contributions of religions to the common good in pluralistic societies from a Christian perspective?: some critical remarks / Dirk J. Smit --
The contribution of religions to the common good in pluralistic societies: a Jewish perspective, exemplified by the concept of Tikkun Olam / Sabrina Worch --
The contribution of religions to the common good in pluralistic societies: an Islamic perspective / Abdullah Sahin --
Islamic contributions to the universal conception of the common good in multiconfessional societies: hermeneutical foundations / Mohammed Nekroumi --
Towards enlightenment: Buddhism's contribution to the common good through establishing contemplative culture / Heesoon Bai --
The contributions of religions to the common good : philosophical perspectives / Manfred L. Pirner --
Contributions of religions to the common good in a pluralistic society: an empirical answer from a sociological perspective / Gert Pickel and Annette Schnabel --
Monotheism-curse or blessing? / Jan Assmann --
Public theology and interreligious dialogue / Heinrich Bedford-Strohm --
Public theology or religious studies?: deliberations on the basis of multifaith religious education / L. Philip Barnes --
Public religious pedagogy and interreligious learning / Bernd Schröder --
The public church and public religious education as forms of 'Protestant presence': confessional and interreligious perspectives / Thomas Schlag --
Islamic education in Europe : an opportunity for equal rights or a way to control Islam? / Jenny Berglund --
The contribution of public religious education to promoting peace: perspectives from Israel / Zehavit Gross --
The contribution of interreligious NGOs and interfaith initiatives to public education / Johannes Lähnemann --
The spirituality of mindfulness: a religious contribution to public education / Werner Haussmann.
Public Theology, Religious Diversity, and Interreligious Learning
This book describes the relationship of Christian Public Theology to other religions and their ways of contributing to the common good. It also promotes mutual learning processes in public education to strengthen the public role and responsibility of religions in pluralistic societies. This volume brings together not only public education and public theology but also scholars from a variety of disciplines such as philosophy, cultural studies, and sociology, and from different parts of the world. By doing so, the book intends to widen the horizon and provide fresh impulses for public theology as well as the discourse on public religious education. Manfred L. Pirner is Professor of Religious Education, and Director of the Research Unit for Public Religion and Education (RUPRE) at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany. Johannes Lähnemann is Emeritus Professor of Religious Education at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, and Chairman of the Peace Education Standing Commission of Religions for Peace (RfP). Werner Haussmann is Senior Lecturer at the Chair of Religious Education at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, and Deputy-Director of the Research Unit for Public Religion and Education (RUPRE). Susanne Schwarz is Senior Researcher at the Chair of Religious Education at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, and Coordinator of the Research Unit for Public Religion and Education (RUPRE).
Routledge Research in Religion and Education Series Editor Michael D. Waggoner, University of Northern Iowa, USA
Religion in Education Innovation in International Research Edited by Joyce Miller, Kevin O’Grady and Ursula McKenna Civility, Religious Pluralism, and Education Edited by Vincent F. Biondo III and Andrew Fiala International Perspectives on Education, Religion and Law Edited by Charles J. Russo Philosophies of Islamic Education Historical Perspectives and Emerging Discourses Edited by Nadeem Memon and Mujadad Zaman Comparative Theology in the Millennial Classroom Hybrid Identities, Negotiated Boundaries Edited by Mara Brecht and Reid B. Locklin God, Education, and Modern Metaphysics: The Logic of Know “Thyself” Nigel Tubbs Migration, Religion, and Schooling in Liberal Democratic States Bruce A. Collet Teaching Religion Using Technology in Higher Education Edited by John Hilton III Public Theology, Religious Diversity, and Interreligious Learning Contributing to the Common Good Through Religious Education Edited by Manfred L. Pirner, Johannes Lähnemann, Werner Haussmann, and Susanne Schwarz
Public Theology, Religious Diversity, and Interreligious Learning Contributing to the Common Good Through Religious Education Edited by Manfred L. Pirner, Johannes Lähnemann, Werner Haussmann, and Susanne Schwarz In connection with Peter Bubmann, Florian Höhne, Andreas Nehring, Henrik Simojoki, and Thomas Wabel
First published 2018 by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2018 Taylor & Francis The right of Manfred L. Pirner, Johannes Lähnemann, Werner Haussmann, and Susanne Schwarz to be identified as editors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN: 978-1-138-58392-4 (hbk) ISBN: 978-0-429-50639-0 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by Apex CoVantage, LLC
Prefaceviii 1 Introduction
MANFRED L. PIRNER
Public Theology from Diverse Religious and Nonreligious Perspectives9 2 Contributions of Religions to the Common Good in Pluralistic Societies From a Christian Perspective? Some Critical Remarks
DIRK J. SMIT
3 The Contribution of Religions to the Common Good in Pluralistic Societies: A Jewish Perspective, Exemplified by the Concept of Tikkun Olam
4 The Contribution of Religions to the Common Good in Pluralistic Societies: An Islamic Perspective
5 Islamic Contributions to the Universal Conception of the Common Good in Multiconfessional Societies: Hermeneutical Foundations MOHAMMED NEKROUMI
vi Contents 6 Towards Enlightenment: Buddhism’s Contribution to the Common Good Through Establishing Contemplative Culture
7 The Contributions of Religions to the Common Good: Philosophical Perspectives
MANFRED L. PIRNER
8 Contributions of Religions to the Common Good in a Pluralistic Society: An Empirical Answer From a Sociological Perspective
GERT PICKEL AND ANNETTE SCHNABEL
9 Monotheism—Curse or Blessing?
The Challenge of Interreligious Dialogue and Learning105 10 Public Theology and Interreligious Dialogue
11 Public Theology or Religious Studies? Deliberations on the Basis of Multifaith Religious Education
L. PHILIP BARNES
12 Public Religious Pedagogy and Interreligious Learning
13 The Public Church and Public Religious Education as Forms of ‘Protestant Presence’: Confessional and Interreligious Perspectives
14 Islamic Education in Europe: An Opportunity for Equal Rights or a Way to Control Islam?
15 The Contribution of Public Religious Education to Promoting Peace: Perspectives From Israel ZEHAVIT GROSS
Contents vii 16 The Contribution of Interreligious NGOs and Interfaith Initiatives to Public Education
17 The Spirituality of Mindfulness: A Religious Contribution to Public Education
List of Editors and Contributors210 Index212
This volume is the first of two books that document the contributions of a major international conference, the 12th Nuremberg Forum on “Public Theology—Religion(s)—Education” that took place in Nuremberg, Germany, from 3 to 6 October 2016. In the 35-year-old tradition of the Nuremberg Forum conferences, initiated by Professor Johannes Lähnemann and Dr. Werner Haussmann and carried on by Professor Manfred L. Pirner, more than 120 participants of diverse academic disciplines and religions assembled in an effort to promote interreligious dialogue and learning, academic discourse as well as educational theory and practice on regional, national and international levels. While the Nuremberg Forums have always represented a form of public theology, this time the conference explicitly focused on the concept and discourse of public theology, with the aim to explore links between public theology and diverse religions on the one hand, and public theology and education on the other hand. In this first volume of the conference contributions, the emphasis is placed on the first aspect while the second volume will concentrate on the second aspect. We are grateful to the sponsors that made the conference possible, especially the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG), the Protestant-Lutheran Church of Bavaria (ELKB), the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD), the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bamberg and the City of Nuremberg (Kost-Pocher Foundation and Human Rights Foundation). We would also like to thank the series editor, Michael D. Waggoner, and the publisher for adopting the two volumes in the series “Routledge Research in Religion and Education”. Our final thanks go to the authors of this volume as well as to Josia Hermann and Tabea Knoll for their valuable work on correcting and formatting the text, to our collaborating colleagues Peter Bubmann, Florian Höhne, Andreas Nehring, Henrik Simojoki, and Thomas Wabel, who supported us in establishing the conference and in proofreading the manuscripts, and to the whole wonderful team of the Nuremberg Chair of Religious Education who made the 12th Nuremberg Forum such a stimulating experience. Manfred L. Pirner, Johannes Lähnemann, Werner Haussmann, and Susanne Schwarz
1 Introduction Manfred L. Pirner
Since the turn of the millennium, the awareness in liberal democratic societies has grown that religion cannot simply be regarded as a private matter, but that it has an indispensable public dimension. Unfortunately, the religious aspects of terrorism and of violent conflicts have more strongly reinforced this awareness than the many positive, constructive contributions by religions to promoting peace, understanding, societal cohesion, and humanity. There is also an increasing appreciation, however, of how much liberal democratic societies gain from the political and social engagement of NGOs, institutions, groups, and individuals— among which religious groups and religiously inspired people play an important role. In the Christian context, the calling to contribute to the common good1 has, since the 1980s, come to be prominently discussed under the label of ‘public theology’ and has led to the establishment of the Global Network of Public Theology and the International Journal of Public Theology in 2007. However, in this discourse the relationship of Christian (public) theology with other religions and their engagement for the common good does not seem to have received the amount of attention that it deserves. Also, the obvious links of public theology with educational perspectives and contexts appears to have been widely neglected so far in public theology discourse. It was the objective of an international conference, the 12th Nuremberg Forum that took place in October 2016 in Nuremberg, Germany, to address both of these deficits. This volume documents contributions from the conference which have their main focus on the first aspect, religious diversity and interreligious learning, while a second volume assembles contributions which concentrate on educational and ethical issues (which will be published under the title Public Theology and Education). In the thematic field of public theology and religious diversity three main aspects or research questions can be distinguished that will be addressed in the present book. 1. Are there traditions and concepts in other world religions that have similarities or analogies to the Christian concept of public theology?
2 Manfred L. Pirner What can we learn from each other when it comes to religious perspectives of contributing to the common good in a pluralistic world? For instance, the traditional Jewish concept of “Tikkun olam”— which literally means “repairing the world”—is used by current Jewish theologians to motivate and reflect on Jewish contributions to the common good. In this book, Sabrina Worch from the University for Jewish Studies in Heidelberg, Germany, explains this concept and its consequences for Jewish public engagement (chapter 3). 2. Is the concept and notion of “public theology” useful as a paradigm for other religions beyond Christianity? In 2013 the International Journal of Public Theology published its volume seven, titled “Jewish Public Theology”. And in a film documentary recorded at the Nuremberg Forum—which can be viewed online (link to the film at www.rupre.uni-erlangen.org)—Rabbi Professor Hanan Alexander from the University of Haifa, Israel, emphasizes that he does not understand the notion of public theology as an exclusively Christian term. He takes it as a concept that most major religions can adopt because it denotes a cause that is vital for all of them: religious engagement is not limited to the in-group but from its very core also aims to serve people from other religions and none.2 In the Islamic context there is at least some literary evidence that the notion of public theology can be constructively related to Islamic thought. 3. How can dialogue between diverse religions and worldviews, and mutual interreligious learning from one another, be conceptualized as a subject matter of public theology? The role of religions in and for the public sphere and especially for cohesion in pluralistic societies has always been ambivalent and still is. Many people perceive religions mainly as a source of quarrel, conflict and division. Therefore, promoting interreligious dialogue and understanding can be seen as one major task of public theology. And for this task, (religious) education and interreligious learning seem to be of primary importance. In this volume the first section addresses the first two research questions, the second section addresses the third question. Consequently, the first section deals with public theology from diverse religious and nonreligious perspectives, while the second section deals with the challenge of interreligious dialogue and learning from a public theology perspective. The first section is introduced by Dirk J. Smit, Emeritus Professor of (Protestant) Systematic Theology at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, and a long-time representative of public theology discourse. He not only presents a Christian perspective on the contributions of religions to the common good but shows what can be learnt from the Christian public theology discourse so far, namely that religious contributions to society are highly controversial, contested and partly problematic. From
Introduction 3 his South African context, he argues for a critical and differentiated view of public theology that avoids too harmonistic and complacent idealizations (chapter 2). As already mentioned above, Sabrina Worch from the University for Jewish Studies in Heidelberg, Germany, in her contribution explicates the historical roots and present meaning of the Jewish term of “Tikkun olam” as one current concept for Jewish engagement for the common good (chapter 3). From an Islamic perspective, Abdullah Sahin, Reader in Islamic Education at the University of Warwick, England, and Mohammed Nekroumi, Professor of Islamic Religious Studies at the University of ErlangenNuremberg, Germany, outline theological foundations of Islamic engagement for the common good (chapters 4 and 5). While Sahin employs a broad range of Islamic traditions which he relates to the present societal context and especially to present discourse on human dignity and human rights, Nekroumi examines primarily the concept of the common good in the writings of aš-Šāṭibī, a scholar from 14th-century al-Andalus. He offers a detailed hermeneutical analysis and discusses the significance of Šāṭibīs concept for today. A Buddhist perspective is presented by Heesoon Bai, Professor of Philosophy of Education at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, and practicing Buddhist (chapter 6). Interestingly, in an interview during the conference—which is part of the above-mentioned film documentary— she contends that even from a Buddhist perspective public theology may be a useful concept as long as it is not narrowed down to a monotheistic understanding of theology. In her contribution she explicates the Buddhist concept of mindfulness that can be seen as a Buddhist contribution to the common good. The concept has been adopted and put into practice by psychology, psychotherapy as well as by other disciplines and institutions, often in secularized form. A philosophical perspective on the question of how religions can contribute to the common good is offered by Manfred L. Pirner, Professor of Religious Education at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany. He draws on two extremely influential political theories, namely those of John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas, and contends that they offer a theoretical framework in which public theology and public religious education can locate themselves. He argues that this framework contains a reflected and plausible concept for meaningful and normatively desirable interrelations between basic political values and diverse religious and worldview-centred values (chapter 7). Discourse on public theology always needs critical perspectives from outside. Above all, it needs empirical research that checks the facts against theology’s contentions. This fact-checking task is brilliantly performed by two German experts in this field, Gert Pickel and Annette Schnabel, both Professors of Sociology at Leipzig resp. Düsseldorf University.
4 Manfred L. Pirner They present the state of research on the question of whether and how religions contribute to the common good in Western societies. For this, they can draw extensively not only on various recent research but also on their own major projects concerning the effects of religious affiliation on people’s attitude toward society and the common good (chapter 8). Another critical perspective from the outside which yet elaborates on biblical insider perspectives is contained in the essay of the renowned Egyptologist and cultural scientist Jan Assmann, Emeritus Professor at the University of Heidelberg. In a remarkable statement in the abovementioned film, Assmann, who regards himself as agnostic, expressed his appreciation for the concept of public theology in which he sees a chance for religions to open up to exchange with other religions and worldviews and thereby get a better understanding of themselves. In his contribution he analyzes how curse and blessing are intertwined in the tradition of the Hebrew Bible and what this may mean for judging Abrahamic monotheism as being a curse or a blessing for the world today (chapter 9). The second section of this book—The Challenge of Interreligious Dialogue and Learning—explores the question of how this challenge can be met by public theology and public religious education. Maybe one of the most crucial contributions to the common good that religions can make is to reduce feelings of hostility and strangeness between religions (and worldviews) and to facilitate a peaceful coexistence and cooperation. It seems to us that this task should be placed more prominently into the focus of public theology. In his opening lecture to the conference—which is the first contribution of the second section in this volume (chapter 10)—Heinrich BedfordStrohm, Professor of Systematic Theology and at present Chair of the Council of Protestant Churches in Germany, made it clear that this task requires primarily internal theological perspectives in each religion that promote a constructive attitude towards and fruitful relationship with other religions and with secular contemporaries. He develops such an internal Christian perspective by elaborating on the Trinitarian understanding of God and contends that, although it is precisely this understanding that is met with fiercest opposition from other religions such as Judaism and Islam, it implies the deepest theological way of acknowledging and appreciating other religions. Clearly, for all major fields of public theology, learning processes play a pivotal role; this also holds true for the field of interreligious dialogue and understanding. It is vital to learn about approaches of promoting the common good in other religions and worldviews, to seek understanding about the concept of “public theology” in mutual learning processes and to learn about the communalities and differences between diverse religions and worldviews in order to enhance dialogue and collaboration. It can also be said that the school subject of Religious Education (RE) at public schools can be a major place for such learning processes and can
Introduction 5 mirror the responsibility for the common good and especially for interreligious understanding that is so typical of public theologies. Its public relevance is underlined by the fact that RE has been and still is a topic of controversial public debate and political dispute in many countries. The difference between multifaith approaches that are mainly based on allegedly ‘neutral’ religious studies perspectives and confessional approaches that are mainly based on theological perspectives is explicitly discussed in L. Philip Barnes’ contribution that refers to the British context (chapter 11). Barnes, Emeritus Reader of Religious Education at the King’s College, London, analyzes one major weakness of present multifaith RE in Britain as its detachment from moral issues and from a critical discussion of truth claims. He advocates to reinstate a role for theology in British RE in order to address these deficits. He also draws attention to the insight that both religious studies and theology include normative commitments and normative claims and are not that different from one another as is usually presumed. Bernd Schröder in his essay places interreligious learning in the framework of Public Religious Pedagogy (Öffentliche Religionspädagogik), a concept which in Germany may have the potential of developing into a new paradigmatic approach to (confessional) religious education with clear parallels and roots in public theology (chapter 12). Schröder, Professor of (Protestant) Practical Theology at Göttingen University, outlines the public dimensions and aspects of religious education and applies them to interreligious learning. He points out the advantages of dealing with interreligious learning in a confessional model of RE that aims at tolerance and interreligious dialogue from a theological basis. Thomas Schlag is Professor of (Protestant) Practical Theology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. His background is in the transition from confessional RE to completely state-run multifaith RE in parts of Switzerland, against which he advocates a model of RE that retains space for the public responsibility of the churches and other religious communities (chapter 13). He argues that the Protestant church in the sense of a “public church” plays an important role in society as an “intermediate institution” that brings in a public theology based on the central ideas of the reinvention of the Protestant reformation movement: freedom, responsibility and hope. Confessional RE does not assign a dominant role to the church, but rather opens up perspectives of freedom, responsibility and hope for the pupils on a theological basis. Jenny Berglund, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Södertörn University, Sweden, in her contribution focuses on the public role of Islamic education in Europe in the tension between an opportunity for equal rights and a way to control Islam (chapter 14). She draws on her comprehensive research of Islamic RE in several European countries in the context of multifaith as well as confessional models of RE in state schools as well as Islamic education in Muslim schools. One major finding that
6 Manfred L. Pirner she presents is that within the same country the basic content, approach, and emphasis of Islamic religious education can vary from school to school based upon the particular theological interpretation of Islam that guides the teaching and governs the school ethos. Zehavit Gross in her essay explores the contribution of public religious education to promoting peace in the Israeli context (chapter 15). She is Professor and holder of the UNESCO Chair of Peace Education at Bar Ilan University. She explicates the Jewish understanding of peace by presenting three distinctive rabbinic concepts and shows how they are applied in religious education classes at Israeli schools. One interesting finding of her empirical research is that the education towards peace within religious schools seems to create an a priori esteemed educational climate more than in the secular schools where this issue is not part of the official school discourse. In the last section of her contribution she introduces her own innovative concept for peace education for interreligious group encounters. In his essay on the contribution of interreligious NGOs and interfaith initiatives to public education, Johannes Lähnemann, Professor Emeritus of Religious Education at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, draws on his own vast experience in this field. The long-time Chairman of the Peace Education Standing Committee of the international NGO Religions for Peace (RfP), Lähnemann gives an instructive overview of important statements and activities of interreligious NGOs on international, national and regional levels (chapter 16). They can serve as examples for promoting peace and the common good from faith perspectives. Last not least, Werner Haussmann, Academic Director at the Chair of Religious Education, University Erlangen-Nuremberg, in his contribution develops concepts for putting mindfulness-based spirituality into practice in public schools for the sake of teachers’ as well as pupils’ wellbeing (chapter 17). It is his contention that mindfulness-based techniques can promote teachers’ psychic health and their awareness for their pupils’ needs so that this can be an example of religiously rooted practice contributing to the common good of the whole school and thus to society in general. As should have become plausible from this introductory overview, we as editors believe that this volume offers innovative perspectives that can enrich the discourse of public theology by relating it to the diversity of religions and, in particular, by focusing on interreligious learning and education. We hope that the book can also stimulate discourse and research on public religious education, for it advocates the integration of impulses from public theology into religious education theory—as this is explicitly being done at present in the German development of the new approach of a Public Religious Pedagogy (Öffentliche Religionspädagogik). As
Introduction 7 mentioned above, this approach will be further explored in another volume titled Public Theology Perspectives on Religion and Education.
Notes 1 The concept of ‘the common good’, of course, differs in diverse religious and nonreligious views and has been the subject matter of philosophical and theological dispute since Greek antiquity. In a general, most widely used sense, the notion refers to what is beneficial for all or most members of a given community and enhances their sense of cohesion. A highly instructive working paper on the concept of the common good by Maximilian Jaede from the University of Edinburgh can be found at www.britac.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Jaede.pdf. 2 See also Hanan Alexander’s contribution in the mentioned second volume: Pirner, Lähnemann, Haussmann & Schwarz, 2018.
Reference Pirner, M. L., Lähnemann, J., Haussmann, W., & Schwarz, S. (Eds.). (2018, in press). Public Theology Perspectives on Religion and Education. New York: Routledge.
Public Theology from Diverse Religious and Nonreligious Perspectives
2 Contributions of Religions to the Common Good in Pluralistic Societies From a Christian Perspective? Some Critical Remarks1 Dirk J. Smit As introduction, I would like to offer four remarks. I am very much aware that I can only speak from the perspective of South African experiences. All four of these comments therefore focus on different expressions in our theme as reminders of possible misunderstandings, in the light of our particular experiences.
1. From a Christian Perspective? I begin with the term ‘from a Christian perspective’ which could be misunderstood in several ways. At least from our South African experiences, it would be a misunderstanding to presuppose that a Christian perspective on the common good will necessarily be different from and even opposed to the perspectives of other religious communities and traditions. In our case—both during the long years of struggle against apartheid as well as, since then, during decades of social transformation and of building a secular and democratic society based on a constitution with a bill of rights proclaiming human dignity, common values, and shared commitments—differences between religious communities and traditions have never played any meaningful role. The South African society as radically divided and conflicted as it was, and in deeply disturbing ways still remains, has never suffered from religious tensions and conflicts.2 On the contrary, adherents of diverse religious traditions were together in the struggle, shoulder to shoulder, sharing the same commitments and values, and today members of different religious communities still cooperate in building a new South Africa without any awareness at all of religious tension between them. Our deep divisions intersect in many and complex ways and our differences are often construed in varieties of ways to describe our conflicts and challenges, but religious differences hardly seem to be part of the problem.3 Numerous examples could be given of the obvious and self-evident ways in which South Africans from different religious backgrounds live
12 Dirk J. Smit together and work together for the public good in all spheres of life.4 In fact, in the faith hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where faith communities told their own stories of the apartheid years, the similarities of hopes and fears were already remarkable.5 Furthermore, the expression ‘from a Christian perspective’ could also cause misunderstanding—at least for anyone from a South African context—if it would seem to suggest that there is something like ‘a’ Christian perspective on our role in public life in the singular. If anything, we have learnt, in very painful and humbling ways, that there are many perspectives all claiming to be Christian, and when one speaks about the public responsibilities of churches and Christians, about their presence and calling in political, economic, social, cultural and moral life, these internal differences very easily harden into tragic and destructive divisions.6 We are deeply aware that the Christian tradition is indeed—in the words of Alasdair MacIntyre (1981)—an ongoing argument, socially embodied and historically extended, over the very goods that constitute the tradition. The Reformed tradition within Christianity, to which I belong, may be even more painfully aware of this than several other Christian traditions, since we lack all structures of authority—whether institutional, legal, or personal—that could help us speak with any finality and Verbindlichkeit about these challenges. Our story is always a story of many stories, and our perspective one of many competing perspectives. No one can speak on behalf of a Christian perspective in the singular.7 Pluralism is not outside the Christian perspective; it is integral to the Christian perspective. In fact, vice versa, in our history and experience, the Christian perspective was integral to pluralism and in deeply problematic and troubling ways. People in South Africa used to call the church a site of struggle and to describe the Bible as a site of struggle.8 What is more, our rich and complex Christian perspectives on public life are deeply historical, they change over time, and they do not remain the same. During the time of transition in South Africa, with the demise of apartheid, Wolfgang Huber (1991a; 1991b), the ethicist from Heidelberg and later Bishop of the Evangelical Church in Germany for Berlin-Brandenburg as well as Chairperson of the Board of the Evangelical Church in Germany, gave several talks in South Africa on the ways in which contexts change and how churches respond by reading the signs of the times and therefore finding and defining their public roles under continuously changing conditions. Several influential church leaders and theologians in South Africa took those lectures with their analyses very seriously, including Russel Botman (1993), the late Rector of Stellenbosch University and former President of the South African Council of Churches, who wrote his own doctoral dissertation directly triggered by these questions (Smit, 2015). One can even describe successive historical phases during which theologians in South
Common Good From a Christian Perspective 13 Africa used expressions like black theology, contextual theology, kairos theology, and prophetic theology, one after the other, in their attempts to describe what they felt called to do in their changing circumstances.9 Taken together, this underlines how deeply aware our South African experiences made us that there is no single, ahistorical and acontextual Christian perspective on serving the common good. There are only contextual perspectives and they, too, are ever changing. Looking back on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1999, p. 73) described how he became increasingly aware how much theology matters for public life. Many of us share that conviction, which is perhaps the reason why we are so interested in public theology.10 After all, one could argue that public theology is based on the twofold conviction that public life matters and that faith matters for public life (Smit, 2017). There is, however, no simple and single Christian perspective on precisely how faith matters for public life, and expecting any such single and commonly accepted account would be a grave misunderstanding.
2. Pluralistic? Secondly, from the perspective of our painful South African experiences the expression ‘pluralistic’ may also be misunderstood. It may easily suggest something far too innocent and harmless. In our own history we knew expressions like ‘apartheid’, literally being separate, and later ‘separate development’, to describe our realities. Both of these—and in fact many others also used over decades, including pluralism and diversity and ethnic diversity and race—all masked the complexities which we were facing and which we still find difficult to name and to address today. Our society was and remains not merely pluralistic and different, but deeply unequal, unfair and unjust, oppressive and exclusive, in myriads of complex ways. We suffer from histories of inequality (Terreblanche, 2002). It is no wonder that students on our campuses today prefer terms like decolonization and often express and discuss this in sophisticated yet also deeply frustrated and angry ways.11 Our pluralism is structured by power and structures of power, by privilege and historical injustices, by complex intersections of culture, race and identity-constructions, by discourses and prejudices and practices of patriarchy and gender and sexuality and language that all include and exclude. The term pluralistic may simply be too innocent to remind us of all these tensions. It may suggest that we are equal in all respects, only different, but that would be far from the truth. These realities make the use of every single category, slogan, motto or moral ideal problematic, as the sociologist Richard Sennett (2003) reminded us in his study Respect in a World of Inequality. So what could a Christian perspective then be in such a contested world of inequalities? In our Reformed tradition, during apartheid, the
14 Dirk J. Smit church confessed its own sense of calling by naming three challenges, unity, reconciliation and justice, and importantly, for these three together (Cloete & Smit, 1982; Botha & Naudé, 2008; Naudé, 2010). Unity refers to the conviction that we somehow all belong together, in the body of Christ, but also as human beings and in the household of life. Different Christian traditions appeal to different resources from Scripture and tradition to argue for unity and belonging. There are many notions and trajectories and doctrines from a Christian perspective that support such convictions. In the case of our Reformed tradition, John Calvin, for example, argued for the dignity of all human beings by appealing to the twofold mirror which we see in all others, irrespective of who they are, namely both the image of God and our own flesh.12 Any Christian perspective is supposed to appreciate that we are one on a much deeper level than anything that makes us different from one another, that distinguishes, divides and separates us, and that we should find ways of embodying this unity also in our common life together in the polis. Reconciliation refers to the conviction that unity is not enough. Since there is brokenness in us and between us, we share histories of division and conflict, and therefore pain and bitterness, we carry memories of anger and fear and we know feelings of resentment and distrust and alienation. Even unity will remain superficial if we do not find ways of dealing also with these histories and memories of brokenness and bitterness. The Christian perspective is supposed to be that we have already been reconciled with God in Christ and therefore with one another and that the ministry of reconciliation is entrusted to the church to proclaim and embody. In our Reformed tradition an integral part of our internal struggles in South Africa was precisely about the question whether the reconciliation in Christ is able to overcome the many forms of difference and brokenness between human beings. Therefore, the widespread and dominant ideology at the time that borders bring peace and building walls makes good neighbours, rather than reconciliation, was declared to be false teaching in the light of the gospel.13 Justice refers to the conviction that unity and reconciliation—including forgiveness and embrace—will remain superficial and under continuous threat if the continuing legacies of inequality and injustice and oppression from the past are not somehow addressed as well. We inherited structures, systems and situations created by colonialism, slavery, racism, domination and exploitation. It would be unjust simply to continue into the future as if this past did not still impact on our present. From our Christian perspective we are convinced that the God revealed in Jesus Christ is the help of the helpless, the One who cares for those in need, a God who is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor, the wronged, the suffering, the downtrodden and the oppressed and that as
Common Good From a Christian Perspective 15 the church we are also called to follow and practice such compassionate justice (Van Huffel & Vosloo, 2013; Boesak, 2015). So, at least from our particular South African Christian perspective, the notion of ‘pluralistic’ may easily be understood in ways too harmless and innocent to remind us of all these aspects of our common life. It may point to our differences without reminding us of our belonging together, of the brokenness of our common histories and of the inequalities and injustices still dividing us. The notion may not necessarily be rich and complex enough to capture the extent of our human and public predicament today.
3. Contributions? Thirdly, the reference to the ‘contributions’ of religions may also be misunderstood, at least from a Christian, and particularly from my own Protestant and Reformed perspective. Given our background, we may easily hear this as the question about what we should say about the common good in a pluralist society, how we should think about it, what our views are, what we have to say about the question, what we have to contribute to the public opinion—as if our only contribution lay in what we have to say. Now, speaking is indeed at the heart of our Protestant perspective and at the heart of the Reformed version of Christian faith. After all, this is why we confessed in apartheid South Africa—confession is for us an important contribution to public life, we are convinced that what we say matters.14 From our perspective confession is important for at least three reasons: It is saying yes, affirming what we are committed to, what we believe in and what we find important; it is saying no, denying what we regard as false and exposing and rejecting what we want to resist (in the light of our yes); and it is saying we feel implicated in what went wrong, we are sorry, we do not fully see, we do not really understand, we have not listened properly, we did not care enough, we are also part of the problem, not the solution. All three of these forms of confessional discourse are important for public life from our perspective—saying yes, saying no, saying we feel co-responsible. Yet, confession is not the only form of Christian speaking; there are several other ways as well, which other Christian traditions may perhaps emphasize more. In pluralistic societies, in particular, it is therefore necessary that Christians “learn to speak”. In the words of the ecumenical theologian Keith Clements (1995), “learn to speak publicly” may involve unlearning ways to which we have been accustomed before, and learning to speak more modestly, even anonymously, in languages not always recognizable as Christian. It is no wonder that these questions—how faith traditions may become bilingual and multilingual—are important for public theologians today, including questions about the ability to “translate” the thick languages of worship and faith into the moral language
16 Dirk J. Smit of secular and pluralist societies.15 Still, speaking is not the only contribution that religious communities, traditions and adherents make to the common good in pluralistic societies, and it may not even be the most important contribution at all.16 From our perspective, we realize that it is also important to learn how to see, how to think, how to become sensitive, how to care, how to be present and act and get involved, and of particular interest to our Reformed perspective, how not to commit the so-called “sins of omission” through our apathy and moral indifference (Ford, 1990; Bauman & Donskis, 2013). Perhaps the major contributions to the common good in pluralistic societies consist in these many other, daily forms of being human, of life together—that often remain unseen and unreflected.
4. Common Good in Pluralistic Societies? Finally, from a South African perspective, the notion of the common good may itself be ambiguous and problematic—simply because it is so unclear in a deeply divided and contested public space—particularly when it is used together with “societies” in the plural (Coertzen, 2010; Coertzen, Green, & Hansen, 2015). From an African experience, of course, the reality of societies in the plural is intimately linked to the history and legacy of colonialism and the arbitrary division of our continent as the possessions of colonial powers. Many of our contemporary problems have to do with these still existing divisions and many believe that the more adequate, responsible and long-term approaches to our problems will have to deal with overcoming these divisions.17 The notion of societies in the plural—with all their connotations of sovereignty and being nation-states with their powers of defining insiders and outsiders, dividing between us and them, calling some citizens and others aliens and migrants and refugees, distinguishing between those welcome and those not welcome, even employing terms such as enemy and monsters and evil in our perceived “trouble with strangers”—has itself become deeply problematic and contested, at least from an African and Southern African perspective.18 From at least some Christian perspectives, it may be more faithful to our tradition to see the challenges differently, and to think in terms of flourishing and fullness of life in our shared common world, rather than in terms of societies in the plural and their self-perceived common good and own best interest—as controversial as this may sound today. In this spirit, Southern African Reformed Christians at Kitwe in Zambia, concerned about global economic exclusion and ecological destruction, once called on the global community to consider whether these growing realities do not challenge our faith itself. This cry joined a worldwide movement and eventually, in Accra in Ghana, the world community of Reformed churches declared that our faith is indeed at stake
Common Good From a Christian Perspective 17 in how we respond to these challenges, not only of our own pluralistic societies but indeed of our global pluralistic yet excluding and marginalizing world. After Accra, German and South African churches together studied the implications of these convictions and published a document on dreaming a different world together (Boesak, Weusmann, & AmjadAli, 2010; Boesak, 2014). From our perspective, indeed, the questions about common well-being and flourishing in a different kind of world are even more difficult but also more fundamental than merely thinking about the common good of our sovereign nation-states and pluralistic societies; or rather, they are precisely the same questions but framed in a different way.19 Perhaps we could therefore change the “in” of our theme to “between” and speak about the common good between pluralistic societies. Although our perspectives are all inevitably contextual and historical, it is only together that we can responsibly address them, and therefore it is such a wonderful opportunity and privilege to participate in this consultation and this panel.
Notes 1 This essay was originally published in 2017 in the Special Issue ‘Public Theology—Religion(s)—Education’ of the International Journal of Public Theology (IJPT), 11(3). 2 For longer term historical, comparative and descriptive information, see Chidester, 1992; Prozesky & De Gruchy, 1992; Villa-Vicencio & Grassow, 2009; Elphick & Davenport, 1997; Cochrane & Kleine, 2004. 3 See for example the personal accounts in Villa-Vicencio & Neville Alexander, 1994; also the autobiographical Boesak, 2009, pp. 284–304. 4 For illustrations on the perspectives of scholars from diverse religious traditions on the role of religion in education, see for example Botman, 2011, as well as the authoritative publications by Waghid, 2010; Waghid, 2011; Waghid & Davids, 2014. 5 See for example Botman & Petersen, 1996; Cochrane, De Gruchy & Martin, 1999; Villa-Vicencio & Verwoerd, 2000; Villa-Vicencio & Erik Doxtader, 2003. 6 See for example the authoritative account by De Gruchy & De Gruchy, 2005. 7 See for example Smit, 1992; Smit, 2001; Smit, 2008; Smit, 2011. Also several essays in Smit, 2009. 8 See for example Mosala, 1989; West, 1995; Smit, 2007. 9 See for example Mosala & Thlagale, 1986; Mosala & Thlagale, 1987. 10 See for example the regular contributions on South Africa in the International Journal for Public Theology, since its inception, including the special edition dedicated to South Africa (De Villiers, 2011). 11 See the important work in these debates by Mbembe, 2001; Maluleke, 2008. 12 See for example the influential work of Wolterstorff (1987; 2013), including his essay from 1987 and his autobiographical writing from 2013. 13 See for example De Gruchy, 2002; Hay, 1998; Connor, 1998, Nürnberger & Tooke, 1988. 14 On the confessional nature of the church, see Naudé, 2010. On the so-called prophetic nature of the church, see Bedford-Strohm & De Villiers, 2012. 15 See for example Bedford-Strohm, 2012.
18 Dirk J. Smit 16 For the contribution of faith and spirituality during the apartheid struggle, see for example Boesak, 2005. 17 See for example some of the essays in Samuel Kobia, The Courage to Hope: The Roots for a New Vision and the Calling of the Church in Africa (Geneva: WCC, 2003). 18 See for example works from contemporary political theology, like Eagleton, 2009; Kahn, 2008; Kearney, 2003. 19 See for example De Gruchy, 2011; Marais, 2015.
References Bauman, Z., & Donskis, L. (2013). Moral blindness: The loss of sensitivity in liquid modernity. Cambridge: Polity. Bedford-Strohm, H. (2012). Position beziehen: Perspektiven einer öffentlichen Theologie. München: Claudius. Bedford-Strohm, H., & De Villiers, E. (2012). Prophetic witness: An appropriate contemporary mode of public discourse?. Berlin: Lit Verlag. Boesak, A. (2005). The tenderness of conscience: African renaissance and the spirituality of politics. Stellenbosch: Sun Press. Boesak, A. (2009). Running with horses: Reflections of an accidental politician. Cape Town: JoHo Publishers. Boesak, A. (2014). Dare we speak of hope? Searching for a language of life in faith and politics. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Boesak, A. (2015). Kairos, crisis, and global apartheid: The challenge to prophetic resistance. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Boesak, A., Weusmann, J., & Amjad-Ali, Ch. (2010). Dreaming a different world: Globalisation and justice for humanity and the earth: The challenge of the Accra Confession for the churches. Stellenbosch: Evangelisch-reformierte Kirche, Germany/Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa. Botha, J., & Naudé, P. (2008). Good news to confess: The confession of Belhar and the road to acceptance. Wellington: BibleMedia. Botman, R. (1993). Discipleship as transformation: Towards a theology of transformation (unpublished doctoral dissertation). Bellville: University of the Western Cape. Botman, R. (2011). Revolution, education and religion. In L. Hansen, N. Koopman & R. Vosloo (Eds.), Living theology (pp. 601–606). Wellington: Bible Media. Botman, R., & Petersen, R. M. (1996). To remember and to heal: Theological and psychological reflections on truth and reconciliation. Cape Town: Human & Rousseau. Chidester, D. (1992). Religions of South Africa. London: Routledge. Clements, K. (1995). Learning to speak: The church’s voice in public affairs. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Cloete, D. G., & Smit, D. J. (1982). A moment of truth: The confession of the Dutch reformed mission church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Cochrane, J., De Gruchy, J., & Martin, S. (1999). Facing the truth: South African faith communities and the truth commission. Cape Town: David Philip. Cochrane, J., & Kleine, B. (2004). From dark days to liberation: Perspectives on the social history of Christianity in South Africa, 1936–1994. CD-ROM.
Common Good From a Christian Perspective 19 Cape Town: University of Cape Town, Research Institute on Christianity and Society in Africa. Coertzen, P. (2010). Religion and the common good in a pluralistic society: Reformed theological perspectives. Nederduitse Gereformeerde Teologiese Tydskrif, 51(3/4), 8–20. Coertzen, P., Green, M. Ch., & Hansen, L. (2015). Law and religion in Africa: The quest for the common good in pluralistic societies. Stellenbosch: Sun Media Hansen. Connor, B. F. (1998). The difficult traverse: From amnesty to reconciliation. Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications. De Gruchy, J. (2002). Reconciliation: Restoring justice. Minneapolis: Fortress. De Gruchy, J. (2011). The humanist imperative in South Africa. Stellenbosch: Sun Press/STIAS. De Gruchy, J., & De Gruchy, S. (2005). The church struggle in South Africa: Twenty-fifth anniversary edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. De Villiers, E. (2011). Responsible South African Public Theology in a global era. International Journal of Public Theology, 5(1), 44–62. Eagleton, T. (2009). Trouble with strangers: A study of ethics. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. Elphick, R., & Davenport, R. (1997). A political, social, and cultural history. Berkeley: California University Press. Ford, S. D. (1990). Sins of omission: A primer on moral indifference. Minneapolis: Fortress. Hay, M. (1998). Ukubuyisana: Reconciliation in South Africa. Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications. Huber, W. (1991a). The role of the church in situations of transitions. Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, 74, 14–20. Huber, W. (1991b). The Barmen Declaration and the Kairos Document: On the relationship between confession and politics. Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, 75, 48–60. Kahn, P. W. (2008). Sacred violence: Torture, terror, and sovereignty. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. Kearney, R. (2003). Strangers, Gods and monsters: Interpreting otherness. London: Routledge. Kobia, S. (2003). The courage to hope: The roots for a new vision and the calling of the church in Africa. Geneva: WCC. MacIntyre, A. (1981). After virtue: A study in moral theory. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. Maluleke, T. (2008). A (post) colonial South African church: Problems and promises, D. Tutu lecture, delivered at the University of the Western Cape. Bellville, 20 August 2008 (unpublished). Marais, N. (2015). Imagining human flourishing? A systematic theological exploration of contemporary soteriological discourses (unpublished doctoral dissertation). Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch University. Mbembe, A. (2001). On the postcolony. Berkeley: University of California. Mosala, I. J. (1989). Biblical hermeneutics and Black Theology in South Africa. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Mosala, I. J., & Thlagale, B. (1986). The unquestionable right to be free. Johannesburg: Skotaville.
20 Dirk J. Smit Mosala, I. J., & Thlagale, B. (1987). Hammering swords into Ploughshares. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Naudé, P. (2010). Neither calendar nor clock: Perspectives on the Belhar confession. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Nürnberger, K., & Tooke, J. (1988). The cost of reconciliation in South Africa. Cape Town: Methodist Publishing House. Prozesky, M., & De Gruchy, J. (1992). Living faiths in South Africa. Cape Town: David Philip. Sennett, R. (2003). Respect in a world of inequality. New York: W. W. Norton. Smit, D. J. (1992). Reformed theology in South Africa: A story of many stories. Acta Theologica, 12(1), 88–110. Smit, D. J. (2001). Reformed ethics. In J. B. Green, J. Lapsley, R. Miles & A. Verhay (Eds.), Dictionary of scripture and ethics (pp. 661–664). Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. Smit, D. J. (2007). Rhetoric and ethic? A reformed perspective on the politics of reading the Bible. In W. M. Alston & M. Welker (Eds.), Reformed theology. Identity and ecumenicity II (pp. 385–418). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Smit, D. J. (2008). What does it mean to live in South Africa and to be reformed?. Reformed World, 58(4), 263–283.Smit, D. J. (2009). Essays on being reformed: Collected essays 3. Stellenbosch: Sun Press. Smit, D. J. (2011). Trends and directions in reformed theology. The Expository Times, 122(7), 1–14. Smit, D. J. (2015). Making history for the coming generation—On the theological logic of Russel Botman’s commitment to transformation. Stellenbosch Theological Journal, 1(2), 607–32. Smit, D. J. (2017). Does it matter? On whether there is method in the madness. In S. Kim & K. Day (Eds.), Companion to public theology (pp. 67–92). Leiden: Brill. Terreblanche, S. (2002). A history of inequality in South Africa, 1652 to 2002. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal. Tutu, D. (1999). No future without forgiveness. New York, NY: Random House. Van Huffel, M. P., & Vosloo, R. (2013). Reformed churches in South Africa and the struggle for justice—Remembering 1960–1990. Stellenbosch: SunMedia. Villa-Vicencio, Ch., & Alexander, N. (1994). The spirit of hope: Conversations on religion, politics and values. Johannesburg: Skotaville. Villa-Vicencio, Ch., & Doxtader, E. (2003). The provocations of amnesty: Memory, justice and impunity. Cape Town: David Philip. Villa-Vicencio, Ch., & Grassow, P. (2009). Christianity and the colonization of South Africa, 1652 to 1870. Pretoria: UNISA De Gruchy. Villa-Vicencio, Ch., & Verwoerd, W. (2000). Looking back: Reaching forward: Reflections on the truth and reconciliation commission of South Africa. Cape Town: University of Cape Town. Waghid, Y. (2010). Education, democracy and citizenship reconsidered: Pedagogical encounters. Stellenbosch: Sun Media Press. Waghid, Y. (2011). Conceptions of Islamic education: Pedagogical framing. New York: Peter Lang. Waghid, Y. (2013). African philosophy of education reconsidered: On being human. London: Routledge.
Common Good From a Christian Perspective 21 Waghid, Y., & Davids, N. (2014). Citizenship education and violence in schools: On disrupted potentialities and becoming. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. West, G. (1995). Biblical hermeneutics of liberation: Modes of reading the Bible in the South African context. Maryknoll: Orbis. Wolterstorff, N. (1987). The wounds of God: Calvin’s theology of social injustice. The Reformed Journal, 37(6), 14–22. Wolterstorff, N. (2013). Journey toward justice: Personal encounters in the global south. Grand Rapids: Baker.
3 The Contribution of Religions to the Common Good in Pluralistic Societies A Jewish Perspective, Exemplified by the Concept of Tikkun Olam Sabrina Worch When it comes to the question what contribution the Jewish religion makes to the well-being of the world, probably the most cited concept is that of Tikkun Olam. Literally Tikkun Olam means “repairing” or “mending of the world”. The idea of what exactly this means and how it is going to happen has been changing over time. The following essay gives an overview of the development of the term and concept and asks how we can use them sensibly in present-day contexts.
1. The Hebrew Bible Although the notion of social justice is clearly present in the Hebrew Bible, it does not yet exist as a defined concept and it is not linked to the term Tikkun Olam. The root t-k-n from which Tikkun (Olam) derives can be found merely three times in the entire Bible and only in the book of Ecclesiastes (Eccl. 1,15; 7,13; 12,9). In Ecclesiastes t-k-n appears as a verb with the meaning of “to make straight” (Eccl. 1,15; 7,13) or “to arrange (with care)” (Eccl. 12,9)—without any reference to social justice or contribution to healing the world (Rosenthal, 2005, p. 215). The use of the verb t-k-n in Ecclesiastes has little in common with the later concept(s) of Tikkun Olam. Therefore this is one of those traditional Jewish terms that does not derive from the Torah or any other Biblical book. When exactly the term was coined is uncertain.
2. The Aleinu-Prayer Tikkun Olam makes one of its earliest appearances in the Aleinu-prayer (probably finished in the 2nd century C.E.).1 While this prayer originally belonged to the Rosh ha-Shana liturgy, it is now the last part of everyday prayer recited three times a day. The Aleinu is about the establishment of
Common Good: A Jewish Perspective 23 the divine kingdom on earth. It pleads with God to erase idolatry and to “mend” or “heal the world through His kingship” (Hebr.: le-taken olam be-malkhut Shaddai). The prayer clearly cites the Biblical motive of the world’s pilgrimage to Zion to praise (the) one God. In the Aleinu, Tikkun Olam is God’s task rather than the humans’. From a contemporary perspective the thought of Tikkun Olam as a world where all peoples of the earth worship (the) one God is potentially problematic—especially with regard to the dialogue with polytheists, agnostics and atheists. This is why some Jewish communities changed the prayer’s text, do not say it aloud or leave it out altogether (Jacobs, 2007; Rosenthal, 2005, pp. 220–221). Jill Jacobs suggests another understanding of the Aleinu today. She references the medieval Jewish liturgical scholar David ben R. Yosef Abudarham2 who interpreted the Aleinu as a text about the destruction of impurity to bring the divine presence back to earth, thereby achieving Tikkun Olam. In a modern understanding, Jacobs sees impurity as different forms of social injustice, e.g., poverty or discrimination. So according to Jacobs, Tikkun Olam can assume the meaning of commitment to all sorts of social causes (Jacobs, 2007).
3. Rabbinic Literature Interestingly, in classical rabbinic literature the term appears mostly as Tikkun ha-Olam (with the definite article) or occasionally as Tikkuno shel Olam, never as Tikkun Olam. For reasons unknown, however, the term Tikkun Olam became common (Rosenthal, 2005, p. 214). In Midrash, rabbinic commentary literature on the Torah from late antiquity, the term often refers to the sustenance of nature. Midrash Bereshit Rabbah, for example, cites Tikkun Olam in the context of creation. God makes it rain to allow the plants to grow and flourish “for the sake of Tikkun Olam” (Bereshit Rabba 13,16). So in midrashic understanding, Tikkun Olam often means preserving the environment; but here, again, this is God’s job (Jacobs, 2007). In the (Babylonian) Talmud the term Tikkun Olam is quite rare. It appears mostly related to divorce issues. The Talmud tells the story of a man who sends his wife a get, a divorce contract, but renounces his divorce in front of a rabbinical court later. His wife receives the get but knows nothing about her husband’s cancellation of the divorce. She therefore considers herself to be divorced and remarries. This leads to the problematic situation that the woman’s new marriage in not valid and her children from this relationship are considered illegitimate (Hebr. mamzerim) (Gittin 4,2). Mamzerim face some difficulties in traditional Judaism. For example they are only allowed to marry Jews who are mamzerim themselves, and they pass the mamzerim-status on to their children.
24 Sabrina Worch A divorced woman might avoid an invalid marriage by refraining from remarrying because she is not sure if her (former) husband renounced the divorce (Gittin 4,2). In this context, the rabbis decide that it must be clear if a person is divorced or not “for the sake of Tikkun Olam”. They decree that a divorce must not be cancelled in front of a Beit Din (a rabbinical court) without both partners knowing it, and insert a couple of other “security measures” to prevent any misunderstandings concerning divorce. In another Talmudic example, the rabbis discuss if a person is free or a slave. The Talmud tells the story of a slave who has two masters. One of the masters sets him free, and in this situation, the rabbis decree that the other master must do the same because a person cannot be half free and half a slave. Both examples are about an uncertain status of a person which may cause social disruption. So for the Talmudic rabbis, Tikkun Olam can mean the prevention of these kinds of social disorder. “T-k-n” is also the root of the rabbinic term takkanah, which means a rabbinic decision or ordinance that regulates (often restricts) commandments of the Torah in order to prevent social injustice or disruption. Granting a takkanah is exactly what the rabbis do in the Talmudic cases mentioned above, as they forbid something that would be allowed by the Torah. Unlike in the Bible, the Aleinu and the Midrash, in the Talmud humans are actively engaging in Tikkun (Olam). Apart from these purely social contexts, the rabbis also use the term to include economic regulations. A famous example for this is the sabbatical year. According to the (written) Torah, all debt has to be annulled in the sabbatical year. This, however, might lead to the practice that creditors refuse to lend money to poor people because they are afraid not to get their money back. Therefore the rabbis issued a takkanah (called “Prozbul”) to make a lending contract with a rabbinical court (Beit Din) because the sabbatical year does not apply to public institutions. This way borrower and lender profited alike, as the poor were able to borrow money even before the sabbatical year and the lenders could be sure that their money would be returned (Rosenthal, 2005, p. 218). A takkanah “for the sake of Tikkun Olam” as mentioned in these examples serves not only to stabilize the social system but also to protect the weakest members of society (e.g. women, slaves, the poor). In rabbinic Hebrew and Aramaic, the verb t-k-n can refer to anything (and anyone) that needs to be repaired, fixed or beautified.3 It applies to all sorts of things like shoes, vessels and even to the use of cosmetics and clothes. The term is also used in the sense of preparing or getting ready for a special event or Torah study (Rosenthal, 2005, p. 219). Tikkun Olam has never become a mitzva (commandment) though.
4. Medieval Writings In medieval Jewish writings the term Tikkun Olam does not appear, but the verb t-k-n and the noun takkanah are used occasionally. T-k-n is
Common Good: A Jewish Perspective 25 often cited in moralistic writings where it means the improvement of moral standards or virtues. Takkanah is used in its sense of a rabbinic ordinance. Maimonides uses the expression “le-takken et ha-olam” (“to prepare the world”) in his musings about the messianic age where he states that Jesus and Muhammad helped prepare the world for the worship of the one God (Rosenthal, 2005, pp. 222–223).
5. Kabbalistic Thought The noun tikkun gains importance with the Kabbalah in 13th century Spain. According to the kabbalistic book of Zohar, every action of a human has an impact on the world. In order to reunite the sefirot, the emanations of God, humans have to observe the commandments, pray, engage in Torah study and observe the Sabbath and holidays. By fulfilling these obligations, people contribute to the Tikkun of the world. The concept of Tikkun gained special importance in Lurianic kabbalah. According to Isaac Luria, the vessels that held the divine presence broke when God contracted himself to make creation possible. The divine presence was scattered into the 10 sefirot while some parts of it where trapped by the remnants of the vessels (kelipot). Human action is required to free these godly sparks from their trappings. This is achieved by studying, praying and religious observance (Jacobs, 2007; Rosenthal, 2005, pp. 228–230).
6. Contemporary Use Tikkun Olam as a term started gaining widespread popularity only in the 1970s and 1980s. From then on it has been used for all kinds of actions and commitments that shall be presented as beneficial. Jill Jacobs (2007) states: In its current incarnation, tikkun olam can refer to anything from a direct service project such as working in a soup kitchen or shelter, to political action, to philanthropy. While once regarded as the property of the left, the term is now widely used by mainstream groups such as synagogues, camps, schools, and federations, as well as by more rightwing groups wishing to cast their own political agendas within the framework of tikkun olam. But there are even odder uses. An Israeli supplier of medical cannabis, for instance, is named “Tikun Olam”. Non-Jews have discovered the term too and love to use it. Tikkun Olam is cited by Christian theologians as well as by a row of American politicians. Steven M. Bob even dubbed Barack Obama “the ‘Tikkun
26 Sabrina Worch Olam’ president” in an article published in the Jerusalem Post (Bob, 2011). Yet most users, Jewish or non-Jewish, seem to know little about the term’s historical development and its (possible) meanings. Tikkun Olam may well be one of the most misunderstood, misused, even abused, or at least overused terms in Jewish history. Its concept is often mixed up with those of tzedakah (“giving alms to the poor”), gemilut hasadim (“acts of loving- kindness”) and tsedek (“justice”). Maybe it is time to reflect upon a sensible contemporary use of the term, maybe to promote a wider range of terms to use alongside or instead of Tikkun Olam. Maybe the actual term does not matter as much as the fact that a striving for the salvation, preservation and well-being of the world itself and all its inhabitants is ingrained in Judaism.
Notes 1 The dating of the text is subject to scientific discussion. 2 By Jacobs mistakenly called “Aboudraham”. 3 E.g. in Jastrow’s dictionary we find the meanings “to make straight, firm, right; to straighten, mend, repair, set in order, prepare.”
References Bob, S. M. (2011, December 31). The ‘Tikkun Olam’ president. The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved from www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-Ed-Contributors/ The-tikkun-olam-president. Jacobs, J. (2007). The history of Tikkun Olam. Zeek, June 2007. Retrieved from www.zeek.net/706tohu/. Jastrow, M. (1903), A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature. London: Luzac & Co., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Rosenthal, G. S. (2005). Tikkun ha-Olam: The metamorphosis of a concept. Journal of Religion 85(2), 214–240.
4 The Contribution of Religions to the Common Good in Pluralistic Societies An Islamic Perspective Abdullah Sahin 1. Rethinking the Role of Faiths in Contemporary Pluralistic Societies The phenomena of diversity and difference appear to be increasingly recognized among the central defining characteristics of contemporary societies. Diverse value systems formed within deeper distinctive narratives of cultural and religious meaning are now sharing the same physical and cultural space. This inevitably leads to the emergence of ethnically, culturally and religiously plural social landscapes. It is true that cultural exchange and dialogue have always been a significant part of the human story. The evidence for this lies deep in the formation of individual identities; each time we try to pin down what makes our identities ‘unique’, traces of the ‘other’ in our self-understandings emerge. In other words, it seems that the individual journey of becoming a self that enables construction of one’s particular sense of belonging and agency has been formed through a dialogical process of intersubjectivity. At a sociological level, two key factors can be singled out, among many other dynamics, as central catalysts for the emergence of modern interconnected globalized world order: the post–Second World War economycentred mass migration and the recent rapid technological innovations that have increased the use of the internet and social media. The latter developments, in turn, have radically reduced the time–space difference among a global network of actors whose identities are shaped by diverse historical/cultural experiences. These broad dynamic processes, by facilitating much closer human encounters in both physical and virtual settings, have played a key role in the emergence of today’s global cultural condition, a truly novel social reality in human history. Increasing levels of diversity, while offering opportunities for creative encounters and cross-pollination of ideas and experiences, also triggers the fear of the ‘other’ in us all, causing the deeply rooted, often semiunconscious prejudices to be remembered and resurfaced. The feelings of self-supremacy and self-sufficiency, often masking the reality of deeper insecurities, gravely hinder societies’ competence to recognize, engage
28 Abdullah Sahin and manage meaningfully the diversity present in their midst. Such difference and diversity, coupled with perceived reality of an uncertain globalized world, can be seen as threatening the well-being and even survival of societies. As a result, people in any given society can easily retreat into their comfort zones where their fears and insecurities are projected onto an ‘imagined other’. One of the most significant questions facing the world today is how we make sense of difference and the cultural/religious plurality defining our lives. Within the Western secular consciousness, religion in general and Islam in particular is increasingly seen as an irrational reactionary force nurturing fanaticism, conflict and violence, and, therefore, perceived as less tolerant of diversity and a threat to world peace and harmony (Dawkins, 2006; Juergensmeyer et al., 2013; Friedmann, 2003). Under these circumstances, it is important to examine how our faith traditions perceive difference, and the extent to which they are able to offer public theologies reflecting their wider values of social ethics capable of acknowledging and positively engaging with the diversity of cultures and religions within the challenging context of the modern world. Evidence from history suggests that faith traditions became civilizing forces whenever they had the confidence and competence to develop an inclusive attitude towards the ‘other’. The role of religious traditions in shaping the civilizational expressions in ancient India (Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism), China (Confucianism and Taoism that are often said to have shaped the spirit of Chinese nation) and the Middle East (for example, the teachings of Zoroaster that influenced the Sasanian Empire and had far-reaching impact on religions in the region, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are well recorded. Within Abrahamic faith traditions, the diversity defining the human condition could easily be perceived as signifying Divine majesty and creativity (see Hebrew Bible Psalm 104 and the Qur’an 30:22; 49:13). It appears that, in general terms, the difference and diversity in human life and in nature in general were acknowledged to be signifying God’s eternal knowledge and wisdom. Therefore, respecting diversity could be seen as appreciating the Divine creativity. Similarly, the compassion and loving character of the Divine creator could be translated into human life as showing empathy towards the ‘other’, which is crucial in creating an inclusive society. As such, faith became a liberating educational force facilitating human flourishing, showing respect for human dignity, and above all else, creating a broad social ethics for public life, whereby the well-being of all is protected and served. To put it more succinctly, inclusiveness is not the achievement of only modern secular democracy. Faith traditions are equally capable of genuinely accommodating and creatively expressing human diversity. For example, in historical terms, there is ample evidence (Hodgson, 1977) suggesting that Islam generated a universe of meaning for its early
Common Good: An Islamic Perspective 29 adherents that inspired them to gift humanity with an inclusive civilization, whereby a meaningful cross-pollination of ideas and experiences was encouraged. Therefore, Islamic civilization was cosmopolitan in character, at ease with people of many other cultures and faiths in its midst, allowing them to keep their distinctive identities and encouraging them to contribute to the civilizational expressions of Islam. This inclusive Islamic spirit of openness partially survived in the well-documented ‘millet’ policy of the Ottomans, the last Muslim empire. The millet was mainly a framework for accommodating autonomy of other faith-based legal systems: Christian Canon law and Jewish Halakha were allowed to be legally observed alongside the Muslim Sharia. However, this spirit of accommodating difference appeared to have reflected itself in the desire not to assimilate but allow diverse faiths and cultural/linguistic communities to live side by side. The aim is not to idealize the millet system (Braude & Lewis, 1982; Friedmann, 2003) but to recognize the fact that it had enabled a quite constructive way of addressing religious plurality within the context of the premodern, medieval world. It is true that within the millet system religious communities had to accept the political dominance of Islam, and they often led parallel lives rather than mixed with one another and paid a special tax (jizya) to secure their special protected status. As such, this premodern form of inclusive practice cannot be compared to the modern secular/democratic notion of citizenship and equality before the law, but at least millet policy has enabled communities to keep their faith-based values and collective identities, a difficult task that continues to challenge contemporary societies. However, when faith is reified into the framework of a rigid religious system (Smith, 1991), it appears no longer able to civilize or be a catalyst for human flourishing. On the contrary, it becomes a strong, emotionally charged, overly sensitive force defining boundaries, and, therefore, vulnerable to be subordinated to serve individual and collective interests embedded within the wider social, economic and political power structures of a society. Religion, as an integral part of human experience, shows ambiguity and ambivalence that deeply informs the human condition. The contingent and contextual character of human experience brings together the reality of limitations in human life which, in theory, should make human beings quite humble and more open to one another and avoid absolutist claims for and monopoly over the ‘truth’. Unfortunately, the defensive/conserving character of human nature does not always allow easy acknowledgement of limitations. Instead, in order to avoid ambiguity, people can easily opt for a black and white attitude towards complexity of life which in turn can lead to the emergence of a false sense of security, supremacy and even self-deception. As the late J. M. Hull argued (1992; 2000), unexamined religious commitments can sponsor the emergence of false consciousness and self-deception and form a phenomenon that he called ‘religionism’, a particular dehumanizing
30 Abdullah Sahin religious interpretation that is characterized by rigidity, fanaticism and tribalism. However, the rigidity of tribalism, mostly associated with religions, is not the exclusive property of religion. Secularity, for example, a significant political principle of inclusiveness within liberal democracies, could easily be reduced to secularism, a dogmatic secularist ideology of exclusiveness. (For more on this significant distinction see Sahin, 2011; 2016a.) Despite the long history of secularization in Western societies, and the undeniable impact of this distinctive Western secular narrative on the rest of the world, the social significance of religions today cannot be denied. It must be stressed that in modern Western societies increasing cultural and religious diversity, largely facilitated by mass migration and globalization, coupled with growing distrust in the existing liberal political establishment, appears to be causing the feelings of social fragmentation and alienation. This diversity acts as a pretext for allowing identity politics and nationalism to re-emerge. The UK’s decision to leave the EU in 2016, the infamous Brexit, and the results of the presidential election in 2016 in the USA and in 2017 in France, where the traditionally dominant parties have lost the backing of the public, are examples of a growing new trend of nationalist populism in the West. This political development appears to deliberately undermine the core values of Western secular democracy and reignite the appeal to the ideology of the far right movements that aim to capitalize on anti-migration, anti-globalization and anti-Islam/ Muslim sentiments. The aim is to spread suspicions over ethnic, cultural diversity and invoke a sense of imagined national ‘purity and uniqueness’ that exclude those deemed to be the outsiders. The Muslim ‘other’ has been particularly singled out as an intrusive alien force that pollutes the ‘pure European culture’ with barbaric institutions like Sharia courts and practices like wearing the face veil (niqab) and headscarf (hijab). In many ways, I think the hard achieved consensus of inclusive secular ethics that has to a large extend provided a coherent sense of togetherness and direction within the narrative of Western liberal democracy is showing its fractious limitations in accommodating contemporary religious and cultural plurality in a just and meaningful manner. For example, despite the obvious faith dynamic informing individual and collective identities of diverse Muslim communities, those who arrived in Western Europe after the Second World War have been largely perceived and addressed within secular categories of race and ethnicity. It is only after tragic watershed events like 9/11, 7/7 bombings in London and the recent rise of ‘Daesh’, the so-called Islamic State, that secular policy makers have recognized the significance of faith (Islam) in shaping the sense of belonging among ethnically and culturally diverse Muslim communities settled in Western Europe. With the arrival of Islam, religion appears to have made a strong reappearance in the public sphere in secular Europe. In a way, Muslims are
Common Good: An Islamic Perspective 31 struggling to reconcile their faith with the wider values of secular democracy. At the same time, Islam presents a challenge to the secular/liberal consensus of governance as many of its adherents show distinct faithbased needs to be accommodated and responded to. In these radically diverse and challenging conditions, we need to create inclusive social and political structures where presence of the ‘other’ is not simply tolerated but integrated into the fabric of a shared social space. Obviously, as I have argued elsewhere (Sahin, 2010; 2013a), this cannot be achieved unless Muslim communities themselves are willing to integrate to their new social reality through rethinking their faith and inherited cultural heritage within the context of secular and liberal Europe. This further requires engaging new communities’ interest in developing contextual expressions of their identities and the degree to which they could encourage their youngsters to be able to integrate and reconcile their cultural/religious legacy with their distinctive European heritage. If Muslims cannot foster a sense of belonging to an indigenous ‘European Muslim ummah’ (Sahin, 2013b, p. 6), their religious needs and overall agency will be highjacked by the all too well-known transnational Islamist movements whose reactionary voices, formed within the traumatic reality of the postcolonial Muslim world, continue influencing Muslim youth in Europe. The parental expectations to replicate identity narratives borrowed from their countries of origin in the lives of their youngsters further complicates the situation. On the other hand, it is equally crucial that the wider society is willing to confront the concerning rise of Islamophobia, and to acknowledge, accommodate and most significantly create opportunities for civic engagement among the minority Muslim communities who constitute a significant part of their citizenry. There must be a just reciprocity that fairly addresses the expectations so that a shared and inclusive sense of belonging can emerge within the culturally and religiously diverse societies in Europe. Moreover, in addition to a strong recognition of rights and responsibilities, I feel there is an urgent need to call for a new sense of shared social ethics capable of renewing feelings of trust amongst diverse communities that make up wider society. Faith traditions can significantly contribute to the formation of this new sense of social ethics: essential in meaningfully relating to one another and fostering a shared sense of belonging and solidarity. For example, within the Judeo-Christian tradition there is a clear emphasis on the idea that humanity is created in the image of God (Gen. 1, 26–28) and therefore the dignity and sanctity of all humanity, regardless of color and creed, need to be respected. Moreover, as will be discussed shortly, within the prophetic monotheism there is a clear demand that practicing justice and addressing inequality should be part of faithfulness (Sahin, 2015). In Muslim tradition, contributing to the ‘common good’ and ensuring wellbeing and security of all, regardless of communities’ religious affiliation,
32 Abdullah Sahin are fundamental teachings that would certainly contribute to the formation of such a wider shared sense of social ethics. However, achieving this goal requires first acknowledging and coming to terms with the history of conflict and suspicion informing our religious memories. We cannot be naïve about the destructive consequences of the inherited imperial theologies that come out of the broad Judeo-Christian and Islamic religious narratives which, unfortunately, continue to shape attitudes and the collective identities of their adherents today. In addition, I feel that we need to carefully consider the constructive criticism of religion advanced within the wider secular humanism of Western modernity. The ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ developed by the early pioneers of modern philosophical, social and psychosocial theories (Nietzsche, Marx and Freud) may not all well be justified, but with hindsight their critique still has a lot to teach us today in order to understand how religious commitments could function as catalysts for the formation of intolerant, rigid and authoritarian personalities and sociopolitical orders. Certainly, the call for renewed presence of religion in the public square should be qualified by this critique. Muslim commentators are often eager to highlight the fact that this critique of religion was mainly developed in the context of Western Christianity and that its intuitions thus imply its inapplicability to Islam and its contemporary expressions. Today, however, regardless of the clear abuse of Islamic teachings, the rise of extreme and often violent Muslim religiosities threatening the well-being of both Muslims and the wider society needs to be explored by using a rigorous framework of social scientific analysis and critique. Without a social science informed Muslim critical theology it is difficult to address and engage with the religious extremism within the European Muslim diaspora (Sahin, 2016b). More importantly, we need to be willing to rethink our faith traditions within the context of today. The act of rethinking is a necessary part of being able to ‘relativize’ (i.e. contextualize) our identities so that we can recognize their contingent, intersubjective, and limited characteristics and be open to engage with one another. In other words, as will be discussed in more detail below, we need to show competence for ‘critical openness’ so that we can be reflective on our identities/cultural heritage, and be ready to learn from each other. In fact, critical openness remains as a key competence which needs to be nurtured in multicultural societies so that a new sense of solidarity and social cohesion can be facilitated. If we are unable to show humbleness in contextualizing our worldviews, we face the danger, and in many ways the violence, of reducing and assimilating the ‘other’ to the stories of our self-understanding. It must be stressed that faith, above all else, signifies human need and competence for both ‘self-relativizing’ and ‘self-transcendence’, that is, being able to recognize the contextual/contingent character of human existence that inevitably makes us aware that we have limited and perspective-bound life-worlds. This, in turn, should encourage us to go beyond the confines
Common Good: An Islamic Perspective 33 of our life-worlds and remain open to the world around us and the ultimate reality beyond us (God).1
2. Islam’s Message to Humanity: Nurturing a Sense of Gratitude, ‘Critical Faithfulness’ and Serving the Common Good When, as a Muslim theologian and educator, I start rethinking Islam in today’s context, I realize that I need first to have clarity regarding the fundamental Islamic narrative and Islam’s core message to humanity. The first step is to explore how Islam perceives human nature and makes sense of the ‘difference’ in principle that shapes the human condition and its individual/collective articulations. This hermeneutic engagement enables me to discover that the Qur’an’s core message to humanity and its theological vocabulary are embedded in a deeper universe of embodied ethical meanings. Fazlur Rahman (1980), one of the most creative and original 20th-century Muslim scholars, has repeatedly warned that the ‘atomistic’ readings of the Qur’an (established verse-by-verse style of interpretation) has severely hindered discerning the holistic ethical message at the heart of the Qur’an’s self-understanding. The persistence of this isolationist exegesis has been one of the central reasons as to why today’s Muslims are struggling to develop a modern Islamic hermeneutics capable of discerning the core of Islamic message and essential to guiding Muslims to develop ‘Islamically meaningful responses’ to the complex issues facing contemporary Muslim societies, such as gender inequality, socioeconomic deterioration, sectarian violence and attitudes towards the religious other. The fundamental ethical logic that permeates all of the Qur’anic narrative can be summarized as follows: God, by virtue of gifting humanity with life, expects recognition and gratitude for this act of Divine generosity. Upon reflection, those who chose to acknowledge God’s favor and willingly express their gratitude by worshipping Him alone achieve the status of faithfulness, peace and serenity; they become ‘Muslims/ Mu’mins’ (literarily the terms suggest being in the state of peace and security, and theologically they refer to the faithful who trust and voluntarily submit to the Creator). Faithfulness is deeply tied to the ethical status of being grateful to the Creator, and to be able to reciprocate to the goodness of the ‘other’. Prophet Muhammad in a well-known prophetic report, known as Hadith, famously stated that “those who cannot be thankful to people, cannot be thankful to the Creator”. The Qur’an depicts the opposite of faithfulness as ungratefulness: those who chose not to acknowledge (deliberately cover up, ignore and deny) God’s favors and the gift of life become ‘Kafirs’, literally, the ungrateful ones. As such, in Islam’s core narrative, the Divine–human relationship reflects reciprocity of rights and responsibilities, and most significantly, it is guided by deeper relational and rationale ethics. That is why in Islam the idea of
34 Abdullah Sahin justice (adl/qist), which is closely tied to the notion of truth (haqq), is so central to the point that God’s mercy, compassion and love for humanity are informed by a deeper sense of Divine justice: the desire to affirm the dignity and rights of all where harmony and balance constitute the heart of personal and social lives. The Qur’an states that the entire reason for inspiring countless prophets is the expectation that they can become catalysts for enabling humanity to establish justice among themselves (57:25). The Qur’an elucidates clearly that God creates humanity, in the same essence as women and men, and as people of different cultures and faiths, so that humanity could be inspired to learn from one another (30:22; 49:13). Clearly ‘difference’ in principle is seen as a positive reality, potentially, as an educational motivation for humanity to be open to dialogue so that they can learn from one another (ta’aruf) (49:13). Similarly, the fundamental teaching of the Qur’an, tawhid (acknowledging Oneness of God), also means being able to grasp a deeper level of unity and balance within the perceived contingency and diversity of life. The idea is that humans should try to grasp the interconnectedness and interdependence in nature and in human existence. This unifying vision of tawhid should guide humans, while reconciling their differences and resolving possible conflicts. There is also a clear awareness that some of the theological differences marking distinctive and contentious differences among the faith communities will never be reconciled in this world. The message is that we should respect our differences and what is un-reconciled should be left to God to resolve in the Hereafter. However, the Qur’an is at pains to stress that our theological differences, no matter how sensitive and incommensurable they might be, should never prevent us from cooperating on serving the common good. We should transcend our differences and try to find a ‘common ground’ and reach a ‘fair compromise’, i.e. agree to acknowledge the Oneness of the Creator and engage in producing good deeds for humanity (3:64). If there is any need to compete, the Qur’an insists, we should compete in doing goodness, ensuring the dignity and welfare of all is served (2:148). The Qur’anic narrative of human creation is deeply embedded in the sense of nurture/care and the responsibility to protect the gift of intelligent life that God has bestowed upon humanity. More significantly, humanity is entrusted with the ‘stewardship of earth’ (khalifa), i.e. serving nature by looking after it and managing it in a responsible and just manner. Because of this emphasis on upholding justice and protecting the well-being of all is Islam’s central message, later Muslim legal thought recognized serving the common good, ‘maslaha’, as a fundamental source of law in Islam (sharia). In other words, alongside the Qur’an and the prophetic traditions (Hadith/Sunna), a Muslim judge needs to take into account factors such as serving the common good and personal and social benefit while considering/resolving the cases in his/her court.
Common Good: An Islamic Perspective 35 It is worth noting that in Muslim tradition law, often expressed with the concept of shariah, is deeply embedded in ethics. By building on the literal meaning of shariah, i.e. tracing the path that leads to a spring essential for human survival, classical Muslim scholars highlight the significance of ethical values framing the overall purpose of sharia as preserving human dignity and welfare. Raghib al-Isfahani (d. 1108), a classical Muslim theologian who had a great impact on such well-known scholars as al-Ghazali, offered an educationally informed, ethical hermeneutics to discern the moral values and principles forming the heart of shariah. Al-Isfahani’s work (1985) articulates social and legal ethics that are firmly rooted in the core of Muslim sources but also critically integrates elements of ancient Greek ethics. This interest to bring about an Islamic moral imagination through initiating a critical dialogue between Muslim tradition and the ethical ideas of the ancient Greeks yielded more original insights in comparison to the medieval Muslim philosophers’ efforts that were largely confined to faithfully emulating the thought patterns of ancient Greek philosophers. Moreover, the Qur’an recognizes the fact that the embodiment of shariah, the core Muslim ethical principles and values, in human life will necessarily be context dependent. Therefore, the Qur’an acknowledges the inevitable diversity in the historical applications/articulations of the divine shariah (5:48; 45:18). The presence of diverse legal schools of thought in Islam demonstrates the reality of a dynamic legal plurality in Muslim tradition. What is crucial is to utilize the reflective thinking competence to discern and understand this embodied ethical guidance, a process that the Qur’an recognizes as fiqh, and develop practical wisdom (hikma) to intelligently and responsibly articulate the Divine ethical values and teachings, embodying shariah within the contextual reality of the faithful community. Clearly application of shariah means observing a code of higher ethical values, such as justice and respecting human dignity, and taking seriously the social context while producing ‘Islamically meaningful responses’ to the complex set of problems facing contemporary Muslims. Today, unfortunately, the ethical and spiritual meanings imbued in the concept of shariah, just like in the notion of jihad, have mostly been forgotten to the extent that it is increasingly perceived, by Muslims and the wider society, as a reified, ahistorical rigid system of rules and regulations. As result, the call for application of sharia becomes an empty political rhetoric completely disassociated with protecting human freedom, dignity and welfare that were originally intended by the concept. Even a clear social ethical principle enshrined in the Qur’an, such as “enjoining good and preventing harm” (amr bil maruf and nahy analmunkar), to ensure maintaining the public welfare, order and justice in all aspects of life, including the market (hisba), can be reduced to an apparatus of control and restriction of civil liberties.
36 Abdullah Sahin Due to this dynamic ethics shaping shariah, Islam is often depicted as a ‘rights’-based faith as the rights of humans (huquq al-ebaad) and the Creator (huquq Allah) are explicitly recognized in Muslim legal thought. According to this, as mentioned above, while God, as the giver of the gift of life, has the right to be acknowledged, humans have the right to protect their dignity (karamah). Classical Muslim scholars, by working within the framework of this distinctive notion of “human rights” in Islam, have identified the following five rights that they suggest summarize the ultimate ethos of Islamic ethics and law (maqasid al-shariah): the rights to protect life, family (progeny), property, religion and, more significantly, human thinking/reasoning capacity that is central to preserving human sanity (Sahin, 2011). The emphasis on protecting human dignity (karamah) and serving the common good (maslaha) define the prophetic vocation of Muhammad. I would like to illustrate the point with a few examples. Muhammad’s trustworthiness and interest in being part of any activity that would bring about good for all is well attested to, even by those who did not necessarily accept his message. Ibn Ishaq (d. 767), one of the earliest biographers of Muhammad, stresses that those who rejected the Prophet’s message continued to recognize him with his pre-Islamic nickname ‘Al-Ameen’, the trustworthy one. Furthermore, Ibn Ishaq provides examples illustrating the Prophet’s concern with the well-being and welfare of his people even though, like some of his close family members, i.e. paternal uncles, did not accept his message.2 Muhammad’s native city, Mecca, was also a commercial centre attracting tradesmen from abroad. When the Meccans decided to set up a special committee of the virtuous men pledging to protect the visiting foreign tradesmen’s well-being and security, Muhammad joined the initiative. Many years later, after receiving the revelation, he would remember this committee, set up in the so-called time of ignorance (jahiliyya), with admiration. He was reported to have said that if the committee was active he would not have hesitated to become part of it as it served the public good. One of the famous prophetic traditions states that ‘people should not cause harm or be subjugated to harm’. While commenting on this short prophetic statement, a famous medieval Muslim theologian, Najmuddin al-Tufi (d. 1316), produced a commentary that can be regarded as an early work on Muslim social ethics. He convincingly argued that protecting the public good and human well-being are so central to the entire sharia that they could even ‘override the explicit textual statements in Muslim core sources’ (Al-Tufi, 1984, p. 12). As argued above, justice constitutes the heart of a balanced and fair social polity. A slight possible deviation from justice could have detrimental consequences. As such, the Qur’an strongly demands that justice be observed towards all people regardless of their religious affiliation.
Common Good: An Islamic Perspective 37 The Qur’an openly warns the faithful that having a grudge against disbelievers should not prevent them to observe justice (3:8). The Qur’an does not hesitate to directly warn the Prophet Muhammad himself when there is a slight possibility of not observing justice even in disputes between Muslims and non-Muslims. For example, in Medina when a Muslim was accused of stealing a valuable shield, he, in turn, accuses his Jewish neighbour to whom he apparently lent the shield. Given the wider reality of conflicts between Muslims and different Jewish tribes in Medina, the Muslim fully expects that the accusation will stick. The Jew vehemently denies the charge, claiming that the shield was left with him by the Muslim neighbour in order for him to temporally look after it and he had no idea where the shield originally came from. The Muslim and his family take the dispute to the Prophet with the hope that he will side with them and find the Jew responsible for the theft. It appears the Prophet, under pressure from the Muslims, begins to show signs of siding with the Muslim man and was about to declare the Jew guilty of the crime. At this point, God intervenes and reveals to Muhammad that in fact the crime was committed by the person who claimed to be Muslim and the Jew is innocent. Classical commentaries, such as the multivolume work by AlTabari (d. 923), take the dramatic passage in the Qur’an (4:105–113) to refer to this incident. The verses directly warn the Prophet that he was given the revelation with the truth in order to observe justice among all people. The Prophet was asked to seek forgiveness from God for nearly being persuaded to cause an act of injustice.
3. Concluding Remarks My final point is pedagogic in nature as sense of gratitude and ‘critical faithfulness’, a crucial competence ensuring accountability to wider principles of justice and ethics, cannot be nurtured without presence of a critical and reflective educational culture. As a Muslim educator, I ask myself how to enable young generations of European Muslims, whose life-world is informed by the presence of cultural/religious diversity, to draw on their faith heritage as an educational resource. The experience of researching and teaching within the European Muslim diaspora has convinced me that creating a self-critical attitude within the community remains the key to enabling Muslims to contextualize their presence, including their faith in Europe. A self-critical and self-reflective attitude is an essential requirement in developing the competence for ‘critical openness’, which will facilitate intercultural and interfaith learning and dialogue. As such, a shared attitude of ‘critical openness’ by Muslims and the wider society towards the reality of plurality, both within the Muslim intellectual and civilizational legacy and within the contemporary world, indicates both stakeholders’ willingness to nurture and embrace a distinctive Islamic sense of belonging in Europe.
38 Abdullah Sahin The aim is to help young European Muslims integrate the diverse aspects of their experience into a meaningful synthesis of respecting one another, gratitude and growth into faith and humanity. In order to avoid rigid faith formations among the members of religious communities and to create an informed understanding among the wider secular public, there is an urgent need to make reflective religious literacy, intercultural and interreligious competence, an integral part of the general education of all children. We need to offer our young people a reflective/critical religious literacy so that they can challenge extreme interpretations of their faith. Communities should be able to offer the rationale and ethics for relating to one another better through drawing on their religious and cultural heritage. As a Muslim educator and theologian, I strongly feel that there is an urgent need for a reflective and open Islamic education provision to emerge among the European Muslim diaspora so that we can bring about engaging faith leaders, who in turn can help young Muslims to contextualize their faith in their contemporary reality. Most crucially, my one decade-long study exploring the principles of classical Islamic pedagogy shows that education (tarbiyah) in Islam is perceived to be a lifelong process of “compassionate transformation” (Sahin, 2017) that aims to facilitate human flourishing. Such a transformative Islamic pedagogy can foster values of “critical openness to learning from one another” (taaruf), gratitude (shukr), active citizenship and civil engagement. The aim is to help believers integrate the diverse aspects of their experience into a meaningful synthesis of respecting one another and growing into faith and humanity (Sahin, 2014). Today, more than ever, we need to develop an engaging ‘critical Islamic public theology’ that is capable of drawing on the transformative educational vision of Islam so that its humanizing vision of upholding justice, showing gratitude and protecting the dignity and welfare of all can become apparent.
Notes 1 For a further discussion on ‘critical faithfulness’ see Sahin (2014; 2015). 2 For further examples see Ibn Ishaq (2002).
References Al-Isfahani, R. (1985). Al-Dhari’ah ila makarim al-shari’ah (The book of means to achieving moral virtues of the divine law). Cairo: Dar al-Shawa. Al-Tufi, N. (1984). Risalah fi Ri’ayah al-Maslaha (Epistle on preserving public good). Beirut: Dar al-Fikr al-Arabi. Braude, B., & Lewis, B. (Eds.). (1982). Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: The functioning of a plural society (2 volumes). New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers. Dawkins, R. (2006). The God delusion. London: Bantam Press.
Common Good: An Islamic Perspective 39 Friedmann, Y. (2003). Tolerance and coercion in Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hodgson, M. G. S. (1977). The venture of Islam (3 volumes). London: University of Chicago Press. Hull, J. M. (1992). The transmission of religious prejudice [editorial]. British Journal of Religious Education 14(2), 69–72. Hull, J. M. (2000). Religionism and religious education. In M. Leicester et al. (Eds.), Education, culture and values: Spiritual and religious education, vol. 5 (pp. 75–85). London: Falmer Press. Ibn Ishaq, M. (2002). The life of Muhammad: A translation of Isḥaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah” (Translated by A. Guillaume). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Juergensmeyer, M. et al. (2013). The Oxford handbook of religion and violence. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Rahman, F. (1980). Major themes of the Qur’an. London: University of Chicago Press. Sahin, A. (2010). The contribution of religious education to social and community cohesion: An Islamic educational perspective. In M. Grimmitt (Ed.), Religious education and social and community cohesion: Challenges and opportunities (pp. 165–185). Essex: McCrimmon. Sahin, A. (2011). Islam, secularity and the culture of critical openness: A theological reflection. In Y. Birt et al. (Eds.), British secularism and religion: Islam, society and the state (pp. 3–24). Markfield: Kube. Sahin, A. (2013a). Authority and autonomy: An Islamic education perspective on human agency. In M. Buitelaar & M. Bernards (Eds.), Negotiating autonomy and authority in Muslim contexts (pp. 67–85). Leuven: Peeters. Sahin, A. (2013b). “A theology of belonging: The case of European Muslims reconsidered”. Talk delivered at the international conference, Pathways to a European Islam, co-organized by European Studies Centre, University of Oxford and Institut für Studien der Kultur und Religion des Islams Universität Frankfurt. Retrieved from http://downloads.akademie-rs.de/interreligioeserdialog/131115_sahin_belonging.pdf. Sahin, A. (2014). New direction in Islamic education: Pedagogy and identity formation. (Rev. ed.). Leicestershire: Kube Academic. Sahin, A. (2015). Critical faithfulness: The heart of prophetic monotheism. The Muslim World Book Review, 35(4), 51–56. Sahin, A. (2016a). Islam’s heritage of critical education: The missing catalyst in addressing the crisis informing modern Muslim presence. The Muslim World Book Review, 36(3), 6–20. Sahin, A. (2016b). The future of Islamic education: A case for reform. RE Today, 33(3), 61–65. Sahin, A. (2017). Education as compassionate transformation: The ethical heart of Islamic pedagogy. In P. Gibbs (Ed.), The pedagogy of compassion at the heart of higher education. (pp. 127–139). Heidelberg: Springer. Smith, W. C. (1991). The meaning and end of religion. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
5 Islamic Contributions to the Universal Conception of the Common Good in Multiconfessional Societies Hermeneutical Foundations1 Mohammed Nekroumi 1. Introduction The term maṣlaḥa refers to an Islamic–theological conception of the “good” that is the epitome of morally responsible behaviour for a believer. According to aš-Šāṭibī, the primary concern of ethics in Islam is to raise awareness about the common good. While different schools of thought may hold varying conceptions of maṣlaḥa, the concept represents the same moral principle to all: It is the ultimate goal of morally responsible human behaviour. In opposition to Aristotelian ethics however, in which one may only speak of what is good for “us”,2 Islamic legal theory is premised on a widely applicable and inexhaustible use of the term good. The concept itself applies to various spheres, ranging from the individual, private, to the social and eschatological well-being of a community. Different methodological processes of deliberation have been developed over time as a means to define what should be contained within the conception of good. Eschatology is an important factor in debates on ethical well-being in Islam. Its dominance prevents the individual, and thus the theologian, from conceiving ethical responsibility solely within the framework of avoiding punitive consequences of religious misconduct in the context of self-preservation. Further, the eschatological perspective of well-being confers a transcendental element upon ethical being. Within Islamic legal tradition, the definition of good comprises both so-called “ethical” and “pre-ethical” goods. The latter are described by Franz Böckle as real opportunities that exist independently of personal thought and will. The former, according to Böckle, are moral behavioural values, assigned to responsible individual actors, requiring adherence (1977, p. 259). Thence the meanings and contexts for the application of maṣlaḥa developed by branching out of two basic lines of reasoning. There is maṣlaḥa as an ancillary method of legal interpretation and formation of moral judgement (especially, al-maṣlaḥa l-mursala), and there is maṣlaḥa as a holy principle of creation (maṣlaḥa generally as predisposition or social well-being). Within Islamic legal theories of intentionality, the term maṣlaḥa has been discussed as a social or ethical concept, i.e.,
Common Good in Multiconfessional Societies 41 an independent value meaning public interest or common good. At the same time, however, it also maintained, from the beginning, a theological dimension as a part of ethics theory (especially as the subprinciple of qiyās), while maintaining its methodological dimension (Ibn ʿĀšūr, 2005, p. 75).
2. The Common Good in Relation to Duty and Responsibility Within the ethical field of legal theory, in the determination of ethical behaviour, maṣlaḥa is a key term to express the highest moral good, and emphasize the recursive, generative character of the holy law. Whilst a teleological intentional approach would risk becoming restricted in purely rational interpretation, the doctrine of duty (taklīf) is in danger of static-unproductive legality.3 In distinguishing between obligation and orientation, one can easily detect a dual legacy: one of intentionality, in which the šarīʿa-legal order is marked by its teleological character; and another, text-based, Ẓahirī intellectual heritage, in which a deontological approach is used to arrive at a legal ascertainment, due to the obligatory character of a norm. The idea of orientation towards well-being comes from a hormic reading of Revelation. It grants the possibility of an ethical verdict that is suited to the situation, and in which both Holy Scripture and reason are considered equally (MUII, I, p. 61). Similarly, the term of taklīf opens the field of meaning in which—in connection with instructions to do good—to develop normative-type estimations (Al-Ġazālī, 1972, p. 151). Out of this, one develops a primacy of ethics (maqāṣid), opposed to that of morals (aḥkām), so that the deontological perspective is subordinated to the teleological one in legal deduction. Anchoring the deontological moment within teleological objective reveals the position of intent in al-Ġazālī’s work The Revival of Religious Sciences (“Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm ad-dīn“): “The Intention Is Always Better Than the Action” (Al-Ġazālī, 1972, p. 152).4 If we comprehend this statement rationally, then maṣlaḥa can only refer to the “highest good” in the sense of “pure intention”. The consequence of this is to subordinate maṣlaḥa as an ethical orientation to an assessment through aḥkām. Al-Ġazālī’s statement is reminiscent of a claim made some 700 years later by the German philosopher Kant, who emphasized that the carrier of the title “good” is no more than one’s will. In Kantian morals, however, the individual will replaces what, in Islamic ethics, is the real intention of a believer. The real intention of an action is located in its purpose: the will in its relation to the law. And while the will may be expressed in speech acts that belong to the group of imperatives, statements of intent are ascribed to the subgroup of optative speech acts, including felicity. The will in its fundamental conception is nothing more than the faculty of practical reasoning that is principally present in all beings endowed with reason. But because of its finite conception, it is empirically determined
42 Mohammed Nekroumi by emotional tendencies. Moral reflection, according to Kant, consists in a patient assessment of the aspirants to the title of “good without qualification” so that the unimpeded good will, in accordance with the highest principle of autonomy, becomes equal to a nomothetic will, i.e., a will that determines its own laws of being. For such a will, the “good without qualification”, in Kantian thought, takes on the form of duty. This is proven in the most basic formulation of the categorical imperative, which the subject directs at itself: “Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.” (Kant, 1968, p. 389). If one were then, however, to look at the categorical imperative from the perspective of speech act theory, a particular problem emerges. As was already known within the field of classical Arab-Islamic rhetoric, an order requires not only that the speaker and addressee of a given interaction be distinguishable from one another, it also requires that the relation between command and obedience be bound to conditions of success. These, in turn, are strongly dependent upon convention and the context within which speech takes place. Al-Ġazālī conceives obligation as follows: Taklīf is a discourse, which has a reference, namely the object of obligation, the condition of which is, that it is understood, but not that it is possible. The viability of implementation is not a criterion for the realization of speech. For the taklīf is a speech that proceeds from one who understands [speaks] in the direction of one who understands [listens] and in relation to an intelligible object, so that the speaker is distinguished from the listener. This is what one would designate taklīf. (Al-Ġazālī, 1972, p. 151) In the case of a command, both social convention and the context of speech presuppose the existence of a speaker who commands and a receiver who is, in advance, bound to obey by the nature of the criteria of the imperative. Kant conferred the ability to order and to obey or disobey onto the same subject. This leads him to define the subject’s predisposition through its ability to disobey, which is, in turn, equated with an inherent passivity. According to Kant’s argumentation then, this is how the reverse side of will comes to be, namely, desire. He describes this side as ‘pathological’ and cites it as the possible source for the emergence of evil (Arendt, 2003, p. 95). The conceptualization of how to arrive at a verdict in Kant’s philosophy is metaphysical and far removed from the practical realm of application. It is based on an abstract and timeless idea of reason, also present in some strands of Islamic rationalistic theology. The basic principle of Kant’s entire philosophy was, according to Tödt,
Common Good in Multiconfessional Societies 43 the principle of identity: reason counted as the possibility of unison, that was itself timeless and encapsulated everything within time. Reason appears to us, however, as temporally and historically conditioned. That is why we can no longer adhere to an unchanged Kantian ethic of duty. (Tödt, 1988, p. 27) In a similar vein, Hannah Arendt advocates a temporally bound definition of reason that is close to the conceptualization of good within Islamic legal theory: Evil, if determined in reference to the self, remains as formal, as void of content as Kant’s categorical imperative, whose formality has enraged so many of its critics. If Kant said, every maxim that cannot become a universally applicable law is unjust, then it is as though Socrates had said, every deed is unjust, if I no longer wish to live together with its originator. (Arendt, 2003, p. 96) The origin of the Islamic doctrine of duty lies in taklīf/assignment. It avoids the formality of Kant’s categorical imperative because its understanding of reason is transcendental and oriented towards belief, as opposed to the void formalism of Kant’s categorical imperative. This is clearly demonstrated within the realm of rationalistic theological discussions of predestination and freedom of will.5
3. Maṣlaḥa and Freedom in Rationalistic Theology Islamic rationalistic theology, unlike legal theory, is of divided opinion on the question of free will. Muʿtazilite thought is based on the idea that humans possess free will and are thus accountable for their actions on judgement day. The Ašʿarites, on the other hand, hold the opinion that humans possess only a limited will that can be influenced by the omnipotence of God in advance of any action and that consequently humans are only to be held partially accountable for their actions. Further, according to Ašʿari doctrine, only God possesses the power to enable action. Humans then are only able to act as a result of the acquisition (kasb) of the holy property of will (Abū Bakr Ibn al-Furāk, ed. by Gimaret, 1987, pp. 90–93). The Muʿtazilites interpret the diremption of will and power by ascribing the latter only to the Sublime as an absolute property. Their rejection of Ašʿari acquisition theory is explained as follows: The realization of holy power (qudra) within the actions of humans, be they positive or negative, is only possible if the will to said action is emitted
44 Mohammed Nekroumi exclusively by humans. Anything else would be a violation of the postulate of justice.6 Since God, according to Muʿtazilite doctrine, is just, and thus, evil cannot result from him, the role of humans to make decisions about their actions is fundamental in the occurrence of reprehensible deeds. God is omnipotent and has no adversary in the dualistic sense who could be made responsible for the occurrence of evil (az-Zamaḫšarī, 1997). Although the concept and meaning of reason must be taken into consideration when contemplating human action, there are, at the same time, multiple verses in the Qur’an calling for reliance on, and submission to, God’s will. For example, in Q 81:29, “but will you shall not, unless God wills, the Lord of all Being”. For if humans had, as the counter-argument put forth by the Ašʿarites proclaims, exclusive freedom of will, then God would be limited in his omnipotence.7 Ar-Rāzī points out—in order to demarcate the position of the Muʿtazila—that while the Muʿtazilites believe that God is obligated to consider maṣlaḥa as the objective, most fuqahāʾ advocate that God is not obligated to exclusively ordain goodness. Rather, he does so (coincidentally) out of his own kindness. There appears to be a contradiction within Ašʿarite theology between the omnipotence of God and human free will. It is resolved, however, with recourse to statements from the Qur’an and sunna as follows: Humans have but one consciousness and it is limited to this world, and thus, their freedom of choice is also only ever relative, and could never go against the omnipotence of God.8 This also means humans have a limited capacity in anticipatory skill concerning their faculty of judgement.9 This, in turn, results in human fallibility. Thence, a relative freedom of will becomes a touchstone for human ethos, as stated in Q 18:7: “We have appointed all that is on earth for an adornment for it, and that We may try which of them is fairest in works.”10 As an opposite pole to maṣlaḥa, the majority of theologians consider mafsada (evil) as something generally real that cannot be put off, ignored, or trivialized, and that cannot be simplified as a product of predestination. In an abstract sense, the Ašʿarites define it as precisely that point at which all contradictions of human existence meet. Namely, humans are free and at the same time not free. They are strong, thanks to their ability to attain godly properties (kasb), which also means humans can, in a substitutive manner, create, but as just humans, their abilities and strengths are also ever-changing and ephemeral.11 Rationalistic approaches to speculative theology illustrate how Revelation guides humans across what seem to be contradictory manifestations of human existence. This is the main focus of Islamic ethics. For according to legal theory, in order to comprehend human reason in its malleability, or rather its fallibility, one needs a perception that is spiritually oriented and that perceives the tentativeness of life experience.
Common Good in Multiconfessional Societies 45 The transition from the truth claims of rationalistic theology to the quest for truth of ethics lies in their common relation to belief in the reality of the world. Through the concurrence of belief and life experience, the world is apprehended as one that is constantly changing. In this context there is an epistemological framework for the justifiability of ethical responsibility within this changing world. It is the spiritual cognition of truth in the so-called kalām science. In Islamic legal theory then, there is an awareness of responsibility that is borne of predisposition and assignment. Free will is subordinated to this awareness. Thence, there is no asymmetry in the freedom of choice between good and evil. In the parlance of Kant, or rather Nietzsche, the human in Islam is ascribed an “inclination towards good” that is implanted by God.12 As a parallel to the propensity towards evil, in which humans are presumed to make a conscious decision for a bad/evil will, Paul Ricoeur’s “fallibility” appears to be significantly closer to the Islamic concept of freedom, the goodness of God, because it indicates a neutral and coincidental development in the direction of evil.13 The holy commandment of humans, along with belief, calls forth both the contradictions of that suitable freedom for human existence and the commitment that goes with it. Nowhere are the aspects of this new freedom more clearly illustrated than in the ambiguity of the term of taklīf.
4. Ethical Alignment on the Horizon of Moral– Theological Obligation Regardless of the theological untenability of the definition of the taklīf term that sees in it only a synonym for obligation within the framework of legal norms, it is possible to find a new approach to the deontological perspective of šarīʿa in the legal–theological approach of aš-Šāṭibī. His approach implies a particular and new relation between value judgement, obligatory character, and predisposition (MUII, II, p. 33). For aš-Šāṭibī, the commanded assignment is an intentional act that proceeds from God in the direction of humans; it should put into motion a process of comprehension (fiqh) and should not be based on mere obedience. Aš-Šāṭibī thus stands in the good intentionalist tradition of al-Ġazālī, who comprehends taklīf as an act of prompting14 from God, which calls forth a reaction of a spoken nature from humans: God can decide to impose upon humans that which they can endure or which they cannot endure. The Muʿtazilites rejected this assumption and in the doctrine of the Sunnis the obligation/assignment comprises a meaning [truth] in itself, namely, that it is a matter of ‘speech’ that has an originator, of whom nothing is presupposed, other than that he is a speaker. This speech has the obligated party as a receiver, of whom it is presupposed that he comprehends the speech, so that
46 Mohammed Nekroumi one may, in the case of an addressee who is unanimated (ǧthat) or deranged (maǧnūn) speak neither of discourse nor of assignment. (al-Ġazālī, 1972, pp. 151–152) In the corresponding verse from the Qur’an (33:72), humans have entered the pact of freedom, bestowed upon them verbally by God, knowing well that they must bear responsibility for this agreement by means of their intellect. The central aspect of the commandment/assignment (taklīf) is generally to be found in the intentionality of the phenomenon of the “promulgation”, in which is manifest the meaning of belief. The accepting of a holy command through humans corresponds in this context with the acknowledgement of the responsibility associated with the promulgation. The key point of taklīf lies in the conceptual area of serving/veneration (al-ibādah).15 However, al-ʿibādah can hardly be reduced to the idea of submission to a set of legal specifications. Rather, it is about taking over an ethical and anthropological consciousness of responsibility, which is already implanted in humans by God.16 The commandment is understood here as a fundamental human experience that is connected to the construction of a lived world and the beginning of a “mission”.17 The “commandment” is not a mere ethical management of mortality.18 Rather, it is about the embodiment of the life of a believer and about comprehending oneself in light of the Qur’anic message, which guides the believer, on the horizon of holistic meaning toward a particular end of (hi)story. But just as all historical cognition only ever has temporary validity, Revelation opens the possibility of a comprehensive understanding of the lived historical interrelations of human existence. This is because Revelation suggests transcendental anticipatory thought.19 In aš-Šāṭibī’s legal thought, predisposition and commandment are not oppositional terms. The goal of šarīʿa as an expression of holy order that permeates all things, leads, in relation to obligation or commandment, to the status of predisposition: If God has created a creature, in which good and evil are combined, then the good is that for which creation was conceived. . . . And this also stands in relation to the statement of the Muʿtazila current, that evil and harm occur without intention and against the will of God. For God is elevated above this. (MUII, II, p. 37) Whilst the discourse of obligation calls forth the creation of a new lived situation, opening up new perspectives for the believer, the discourse of predisposition mirrors a certain ethical and ontological orientation of religious existence. Through the message of commandment, Revelation brings a new property into human existence, connected with the bearing
Common Good in Multiconfessional Societies 47 to react accordingly. Thus, it is alone the strength of the lawgiver, of God, that obliges one to moral action. Thus, the maqāṣid approach contributes significantly to the methodological overcoming of the dichotomy between disposition versus obligation, through the implied intentionality of the promulgation. According to aš-Šāṭibī’s theory, the objective of the Lawgiver corresponds with the predisposition of humans insofar as it results in the goal of moral action according to the terms of šarīʿa, namely maṣlaḥa. Further, by placing intentionality theory at the fulcrum between theories of creation and theories of obligation, it became possible to make a natural transition from the intended meaning of promulgation to a natural transition between teleology and deontology. So the terms “good” (maṣlaḥa) and “obligatory” (taklīf), when applied to the actions of humans, play the same role as the aforementioned discursive phrase of Al-Ġazālī, in relation to discourse partners, and the same role as the guidelines to action and how they relate to the subject/ actor that are put forth by legal theory to explain legal norms.20 The commandment/assignment, in turn, presumes continuous, ongoing apprehension, since humans have been chosen by God, due to their independent reason, as vice-regents: The taklīf principle stands in the same relation to the holistic self (nafs) as the standards for the attainment of subordinated life ambitions (maqāṣid ǧuzʾiyya) stand in relation to their superior goals, namely maṣlaḥa. Through the implied ethical responsibility of the concept of assignment/commandment, the word nafs attains, as a single term, a valued and evaluatory meaning that qualifies the individual as mukallaf (the agent of the assignment/commandment). A central aspect of the taklīf principle is its inherent combination of life’s task of humans and their reason. The holy commandment, taklīf lies in humans’ leading religious lives in accordance with a reasonable understanding of Revelation. The term maṣlaḥa then becomes indispensable in the context of thinking through, in a reasonable manner, the meaning of acting responsibly,21 since it acts as the junction in the relation between reasonable spiritual obedience and spiritual cognition.
5. Tentative Conclusion Aš-Šāṭibī’s critique of the rationalistic explanatory pattern of value judgement is a continuation of Ašʿarite groundwork under the open-minded conditions of 13th-century Andalusia. Here, within at least some centres of scientific learning, such as Granada, it was possible to proclaim an open admission to mysticism and gnostic thought without fear of potentially life-threatening consequences. A primary form of the intentionalist conception of the good is the socalled maṣlaḥa muʿtabara. Maṣlaḥa muʿtabara is concerned with those
48 Mohammed Nekroumi interests whose attainment does not appear to have any damaging consequences or negative side effects. Clearly, it is concerned with interests that are equally recognized by rationalistic and textual legal sources, consensually as such; these include, for example, the defence of one’s belief, one’s life, or intellect.22 Intuitively, it makes sense that aš-Šāṭibī builds upon the tradition of al-Ġbuild in this question; he limits both maṣlaḥa muʿtabara and mafsada muʿtabara to those actions that stem out of the field of the five universal ethical maxims of the ḍarūriyāt and their textual proofs in Qur’an and sunna.23 In aš-Šāṭibī’s thought, however, the role of Revelation remains pivotal to the formation of ethical judgement, to the extent that he separates the term maṣlaḥa muʿtabara from the Muʿtazilite a priori reasonable conception of the good, which in turn, is based on good and bad as abstract categories with independent existence. What has been made clear in the kalām science and in the legal methodology is that reason cannot recognize good, nor evil (MUIII, II, p. 61). The objections of aš-Šāṭibī, however, are not directed at reason in general. Rather, they are directed at the a priori character of Muʿtazilite thought. For he finds that temporality and polymorphism of human reason are totally marginalized in favor of the supposedly absolute, and independent character, that is also independent of lived reality. One sees the a priori position most clearly in the works of the early Muʿtazilite Abū l-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī (d. 436/1044) who believed in the existence of good as an independent entity (al-Baṣrī, 2000). He used the term maṣlaḥa and its plural form, maṣāliḥ, both as an ethical category that is preordained to creation and within the context of its methodical-legal meaning within the framework of the theory of the four sources of legislation. A subsection of late Islamic practical philosophy, the legal ethics of aš-Šāṭibī pursues the realization of eschatological and spiritual healing, whilst also pursuing practical interests. There results out of this, in aš-Šāṭibī’s work, a many-sidedness of good in which the main components in the process of deliberation are not based simply on that which is expedient or useful. Rather, aš-Šāṭibī’s methodology of deliberation is much more concerned with analyzing and determining the relation between practical interest and well-being that is both very much longed for and desired by God. As regards the jurisdiction of šarīʿa, as mentioned above, aš-Šāṭibī divided maṣlaḥa into three categories: maṣlaḥa muʿtabara, maṣlaḥa mulġāt and maṣlaḥa mursalah, whereby the worldly maṣlaḥa mursalah as a “correlate to human striving” can only be comprehensively defined in reference to the moral conduct of life (al-ʿurf). The highest good in the sense of the common good is not differentiated from general goods through its being based in specific, rationally comprehensible interests. Rather, it is because in it well-being remains protected through such a way that all forms of an object of personal desire are withdrawn from it. Within legal tradition then, the ethical-Islamic
Common Good in Multiconfessional Societies 49 conception of common good is clearly distinguished from the object of individual craving. Happiness and suffering do not correspond to maṣlaḥa mursalah or mafsada mursala, but they are connected to them as needs-based practical goods. They thus maintain a binary relation to human striving in the same way as they do to godly intention. In this God’s mercy and kindness (lutf) are key to happiness and suffering. The preceding reflections lead to the conclusion that a theologically and scientifically based examination of the concept of common good in Islam can only be considered complete and coherent if the investigation of this concept within the genealogy of epistemological thought about its emergence is pursued within the frameworks of the universal discourse of value judgment generally and of the theological–moral norm specifically. The fulcrum and linchpin of the hermeneutic argument here is the concept of the self, which the three monotheistic religions define through its ethical implications. In these terms, the idea of self-esteem, which according to the Qur’an ensues from the inherent nature of mankind, is intended to emphasize that one’s responsibility towards others as well as one’s duty of care are not added to the concept of the self from without, but rather regarded as two inherent components of the self. The hermeneutic approaches that arise from this ethical concept of the self engender an intertextual, monotheist concept of common good, which must be examined comparatively. In this context, the concept of intertextual communities—proposed in analogy to Jan Assman’s and Brian Stock’s “textual communities”— seems promising to the elaboration of a multiconfessional concept of common good that is oriented towards the present idea of self-esteem as a focus of public welfare.24 Although a recourse to the written tradition of Abrahamic religions proves helpful for the development of a concept of intertextual communal life, it also raises many questions at the level of feasibility. Intertextuality, in the linguistically interactive sense, does not mean a mere juxtaposition of various texts of highly authoritative and authoritative content in a sociolinguistic environment. Rather, an intertextual approach seeks to gain insights into how textual communities coexist within the mutual web of action and interpretation processes, and how this coexistence develops and influences the definition of basic theological concepts such as responsibility, welfare or common good.25 According to its intertextual interpretation, the divinely desired monotheistic community sees itself as a polyphonic and variegated Creatorpraising diversity. The intertextual relationship of Abrahamic book religions manifests itself in a linguistic property through which their revelatory character is expressed and whose semiotic system leaves a lasting impression on the concepts of difference, plurality and the critical faculty. Thus, religious symbolic languages have the property of being more
50 Mohammed Nekroumi fluid, more capable of variation, and more open to interpretation than postmodern intercultural secular languages (see Graf, 2006, pp. 48–52). Herein lies the potential of monotheistic religions to promote the “acceptance of diversity” (Borgolte, 2005, p. 147).
Notes 1 This paper originates from a book, currently in printing, on Islamic ethics. Abbreviations used are as follows: MU = Muwāfaqāt; MUI = Muwāfaqāt: edition Beirut, Dār al-Kutub al-ʿilmiyya; MUII = Muwāfaqāt: edition Beirut, Dār al-Maʿrifa; MUIII = Muwāfaqāt: edition Cairo; Q = Qur’an. Qur’an citations, unless indicated otherwise, are taken from the following work: Arberry, A. J. (1957). The Koran Interpreted. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. 2 In the first lines of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle describes the orientation of his work as follows: “Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim” (Gadamer, 1998, referring to Aristotle, Ross [Ed.], p. 1). In accordance with contemporary interpretations, this relativity, in its reference to us, does not prohibit what is relatively good from being contained in no particular good. Rather, it is that which is lacking all good (Ricoeur, 1990, p. 11). An essential difference to Islamic ethics lies also in the fact that the eschatological component, that is of vast importance for Islamic theories of ethics, is completely nonexistent in Aristotelian ethics. 3 The “highest good” is used alternately and depending on context, in one of two readings, as presented by Daniel Keller, in respect to the development of the Kantian paradigm: a communal, universal determination of the highest good as an ethical community and an individual determination of the highest good (Keller, 2008, p. 17). 4 The wording of the publication in its original German translation is “Die Absicht ist stets besser als die Handlung.” 5 Freedom of will, as a key term in Kantian practical philosophy, is taken to mean the ability of oneself to bring about a state, the causality of which is not under the law of nature or another cause determined by temporality. In contrast to this, Islamic theology sees human will as committed, as inducing the execution of an activity, and as brought forth by the will of God, which in turn is eternal and uncommitted; He has created in his omnipotence, the world in this form, as one out of many other possible forms. Thus, reason ascribes to free will the characteristic to choose a thing and it is through the force of God that it can be realized. (See Schweppenhäuser, 1988, p. 26, and ʿAbd Al-Hādī Abū Rīda, 1952, pp. 100–101.) 6 The argument for the diremption of will and strength, according to Muʿtazilite thought, is based on the fact that strength as a characteristic is divisible. Strength can be ascribed to two opposites (e.g., God and human) without responsibilities becoming entangled. Will, on the other hand, can only be ascribed to the individual due to its implied freedom of choice. This argument is used by rationalist theologians to show that evil happens independently of God’s will (az-Zamaḫšarī, 1997). 7 According to the Ašʿarite conception, God acts based on a momentary state of the world (occasion) in order to create the next state. It should be added that with the notion of accidents the Ašʿarite aimed to underpin their assumption that God’s omnipotence does not interfere with human causality inherent
Common Good in Multiconfessional Societies 51 in actions responsible for evoking characteristics, such as good and bad inclinations, because of their interconnection with interactive actions (Perler & Rudolph, 2000, p. 116). 8 See the following Qur’an verses: 9:37: “Decked out fair to them are their evil deeds; and God guides not the people of the unbelievers”; on thought content: 2:212; 3:14; 6:122; 3:54: “And they devised, and God devised, and God is the best of devisers”; 6:123; 7:99. 9 Faculty of judgement is used here to refer to the human ability that is used in processes of interpretation and deliberation in order to arrive at value judgements (Tanner, 2012, p. 9). 10 See in this context also Qur’an verses 5:48, 6:165, and 67:2. 11 On this, see Qur’an verses in which the human freedom of the will is discussed, e.g. Q 74:38: “Every soul shall be pledged for what it has earned.” In addition to these, there are numerous other verses that indicate predetermination, such as Q 76:30: “But you will not unless God wills; surely God is ever All-knowing, All-wise.” 12 According to Friedrich Nietzsche, “All ‘evil’ acts are motivated by the drive to preservation or, more exactly, by the individual’s intention of procuring pleasure and avoiding displeasure. . . . The evil acts at which we are now most indignant rest on the error that he who perpetrates them against us possesses free will, that is to say, that he could have chosen not to cause us this harm” (Nietzsche, 1996, p. 53). The difference to the Islamic conceptualization lies in precisely those aporias that are called forth by the terms of free will and pleasure. 13 The idea of human fallibility in Islam is based on a famous statement of the Prophet: “Each of you is fallible and the best of all who are fallible are the repentant.” See Khoury, 2008, II, p. 302, Hadith-No: 2503. 14 As has been previously illustrated in a study on modality in the Qur’an, a jussive or commanding speech act expresses an order (ṭalab) to act or a request for guidelines for action. It is differentiated from the second most important category of prescriptive statements, which carry with them simply an oratorical verbal reaction (Nekroumi, 2003, p. 138). 15 This may be deduced from aš-Šāṭibī’s interpretation of the following verse from the Qur’an (Q 51:56): “I have not created jinn and mankind except to serve me.” According to aš-Šāṭibī’s explanation, this verse reflects the highest objective of godly legal order (MUII, Beirut, II, p. 4). 16 Aš-Šāṭibī’s analysis of the Islamic conceptualization of obligation is in opposition to Kant’s categorical imperative, in that its starting point is the principle of creation, after the human spirit has been comprehended as the image of God. Within the Aristotelian conception of human existence, experience plays an important role. In Islamic legal theory, however, the role of praxis is comparatively subordinated (Kant, 1968, 4 vol., p. 51). 17 The special dimension of human assignment is most clearly illustrated in the following Qur’an verse: “And when the Lord said to the angels, ‘I am setting in the earth a viceroy.’ They said, ‘What, wilt Thou set therein one who will do corruption there, and shed blood, while we proclaim Thy praise and call Thee Holy?’ He said, ‘Assuredly I know that you know not’ ” (Q 2:30). 18 The claim that humans are, through their existence, under obligation of šarīʿa and taklīf shows a very limited understanding of taklīf (Amberg, 2009, p. 405). 19 The term disposition/predisposition entails a certain overlap of the “beginning” and “end” of history. This permits a rereading of Islamic ethics which positions the Islamic conception of existence precisely between the
52 Mohammed Nekroumi historical approach of Wilhelm Diltheys and the anticipatory thesis of Hegel. Diltheys presumes that the wholeness of life can only be grasped at its end. Hegel’s anticipatory theory sees human thought on their own immortality as grounded in recognition (Erkennen) (Wolf, 2011, p. 58, and, Pannenberg, 1973, p. 137). 20 The speaker refers to herself discursively, through her contribution; the actor, by intervening into the web of activities, shows the ability to do something, to act. Thence, their actions are categorized into the realms of “good” and “obligatory” without difficulty. As the initiator of a given action in the realm of duty, the individual bears responsibility for their action in the form of an external imposing moral compulsion. The objective of their action then becomes the object of evaluations and estimations that result from the viewpoint with which every ethical actor sees themselves (Ricoeur, 1990, p. 209). 21 In this context, responsibility means bearing responsibility for one’s actions before a superior figure. Maṣlaḥa as a criterion for judging human behaviour implies, then, that responsibility and fault are unthinkable without presuming a certain conception of freedom. Reason plays a key role in the process of assigning process, in the determination of the religious boundaries of freedom. (See, on the relation between freedom and responsibility, Kussäther, 1979, p. 13). 22 According to Aḥmad ar-Rīsūnīs analysis, maṣlaḥa muʿtabara is concerned with interests, the negative side effects of which are of less meaning for human action, to the extent that they entail no legal consequences (ar-Rīsūnī, 1985, p. 65). In general, however, this category entails, for aš-Šāṭibī, largely those actions whose value was clearly determined by Revelation, such as ritual and deeds in the service of God (prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, etc.). 23 Al-Ġazālī formulated the general definition of maṣlaḥa as an opposing pole to mafsada back in the 5th century. He did so by representing the opinion that every deed that ensured the safekeeping of the five necessities is undoubtedly a maṣlaḥa, and the other way around, any deed that endangered their upholding was a mafsada (al-Ġazālī), Al-Mustaṣfā, p. 287). Aš-Šāṭibī pursues the same path of reasoning in his definition of the categories maṣlaḥa and mafsada, which he, however, describes as definitive (muṭlaq) in this context. 24 See Horsch-Al Saad, 2014. 25 See here the hypothesis of Angelika Neuwirth (1977). For Abdelfattah Kilito every text gives rise to an intertextual process of perception. An Ur- or original text, in its proper sense, is as unlikely to exist as a first love (see Kilito, 1985). Intertextuality, however, presupposes a communicative environment without any delimitation of the other, which, as Blum has already pointed out, theologically still means something to interpretive work, notwithstanding the attendant peril of relativizing theological concepts.
References Abu Riḍa, M. (1952). Al-Ghazālī und seine Widerlegung der griechischen Philosophie: Tahāfut al-Falasifa. (Diss.) Madrid. Al-Baṣrī, Abū al-Ḥ. (2000). Al-Muʿtamad. Edited by Ḫalīl Mays. Beirut: Dār alKutub al-ʿilmiyya. Al-Ġazālī, Abū Ḥ. (1972). Al-Iqtiṣād fī al-Iʿtiqād. Edited by Muḥammad Muṣtafa Abū al-Aʿlaʾ. Kairo: Maktabat al-Ǧundī. Amberg, T. (2009). Auf dem Weg zu neuen Prinzipien islamischer Ethik: Muḥammad Šaḥrūr und die Suche nach religiöser Erneuerung in Syrien. Würzburg: Ergon Verlag.
Common Good in Multiconfessional Societies 53 Arberry, A. J. (1957). The Koran interpreted. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. Arendt, H. (2003). Über das Böse. München: Piper Verlag. Böckle, F. (1977). Fundamentalmoral. Köln: Kösel. Borgolte, M. (2005). Wie Europa seine Vielfalt fand. Über die mittelalterlichen Wurzeln für die Pluralität der Werte. In H. Joas & K. Wiegandt (Eds.), Die kulturellen Werte Europas (pp. 117–163). Frankfurt a. M.: Fischer Taschenbuch. Gadamer, H.-G. (1998). Aristoteles: Nikomachische Ethik VI. Frankfurt a. M.: Vittorio Klostermann. Graf, F. W. (2006). Moses Vermächtnis: Über göttliche und menschliche Gesetze. München: C.H. Beck. Horsch-Al Saad, S. (2014). Nasḫ (Abrogation), Umma und intertextuelle Gemeinschaft. Zum Verhältnis des Islams zu den älteren monotheistischen Religionen. In H. Schmid, A. Dziri M. Gharaibeh & A. Middelbeck-Varwick (Eds.), Kirche und Umma: Glaubensgemeinschaft in Christentum und Islam (pp. 161–171). Regensburg: Pustet. Ibn al-Fūrak, Abū B. (1987). Muǧarrad maqālāt al-Ašʿarī. Edited by Daniel Gimaret. Beirut: Dar al-Mašreq. Ibn ʿĀšūr (2005). Maqāṣid aš-šarīʿa al-ʾislāmiyya. Cairo: Dār as-Salām. Ibn ʿUmar az-Zamaḫšarī, M. (1997). Al-Minhāǧ fī ʿulūm ad-dīn. Edited by Sabine Schmidtke. Stuttgart. Kant, I. (1974). Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten. 4 vol. Edited by Wilhelm Weischedel. Suhrkamp. Frankfurt a. M. Keller, D. (2008). Der Begriff des Höchsten Guts bei Immanuel Kant: Theologische Deutungen. Paderborn: Mentis Verlag. Khoury, A. Th. (2008). Der Ḥadīth: Urkunde der islamischen Tradition, II. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus. Kilito, A. (1985). L’auteur et ses doubles. Paris: Seuil. Kussäther, H. (1979). Was ist Gut und Böse? Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchner Verlag. Nekroumi, M. (2003). Interrogation, Polarité et Argumentation: Vers une Théorie Structurale et Enonciative de la modalité en arabe classique. Edited by Stephan Conermann. Freiburg i. Br. : Karl Alber Verlag. Neuwirth, A. (1977). Einige Bemerkungen zum besonderen sprachlichen und literarischen Charakter des Koran. Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft (ZDMG), 127, Suppl. III. 1, 736–739. Nietzsche, F. (1996). Human, all too human: A book for free spirits. Edited by R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pannenberg, W. (1973). Wissenschaftstheorie und Theologie. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp. Perler, D., & Rudolph, U. (2000). Occasionalismus: Theorien der Kausalität im arabisch-islamischen und im europäischen Denken. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht. Ricoeur, P. (1990). Soi-même comme un autre Seuil. Paris: Éd. du Seuil. Rīsūnī, A. ar- (1985). Naẓariyyat, al-maqāṣid ʿinda l-Imān aš-Šāṭibī. Beirut/ Casablanca. Schweppenhäuser, G. (1988). Nietzsches Überwindung der Moral. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann.
54 Mohammed Nekroumi Tanner, K. (2012). “Ein verstehendes Herz”: Über Ethik und Urteilskraft. Zeitschrift für Evangelische Ethik, 56(1), 9–23. Tödt, E. H. (1988). Perspektiven theologischer Ethik. München: Christian Kaiser Verlag. Wolf, J.-C. (2011). “Dass der Mensch durch Erkennen unsterblich ist”. Hegel’s Deutung der Erzählung vom Sündenfall. Freiburger Zeitschrift für Philosophie und Theologie, 58(2), 453–470.
6 Towards Enlightenment Buddhism’s Contribution to the Common Good Through Establishing Contemplative Culture Heesoon Bai 1. Preamble Buddhism, says Professor Robert Thurman, is a system of education (Public Talk, Vancouver BC, University of British Columbia, April 27, 2008). In this paper, I would like to make the case that this statement by Professor Thurman is significant for us who are interested in promoting beyond-ego (post-egoic) consciousness and pursuit of the common good, with some potential for increasing world cooperation and peace. My main reason for this case-making is that Buddhism as a system of education, with its rich teaching resources, promotes a post-egoic consciousness necessary for people who seek common good through working with each other across the differences in worldviews, values, meaning, and end-goals, including the difference between religion and spirituality. A point of clarification is due from the outset. Working with difference through the cultivation of post-egoic consciousness is not about lessening or even removing difference. Having differences in worldviews, values, and so on is integral to the phenomenology of diversity, and diversity, whether in biological ecology or social ecology, is a sign of health. Hence, working with difference in the present context is about cultivation of a certain kind of consciousness that is able to not only tolerate differences but also value and work with them respectfully and constructively. As well, I will show that it is through cultivating contemplative mental culture that we can access the post-egoic consciousness. Buddhism is a curriculum and pedagogy that is designed to transform our consciousness at its roots, moving us from dualistic egoic consciousness to nondual, post-egoic consciousness, traditionally known as Eastern Enlightenment. Dualistic consciousness sees the world in terms of such categorical dichotomies as self–other binary, as well as a host of other oppositional binaries: mind–body, good–evil/bad, right–wrong, moral– immoral, and so on. To note, the self–other dichotomy applies to individual persons as well as to groups and nations. Dualistic, dichotomous consciousness, I propose, is the basis for self–other conflict, competition,
56 Heesoon Bai and survival battles on both large (genocide, ethnic war, countries fighting) and also smaller scales (marital combat, sibling rivalry, and so on). Dichotomous positioning invariably brings about the attitude of active hostility and violence on the one hand, and indifference, avoidance, and exclusion, on the other hand, towards otherness.
2. Egoic and Post-Egoic Consciousness In this paper, I am using the term ‘egoic consciousness’ to connote ‘dualistic consciousness’. Different theorists, coming out of different intellectual and practice traditions, have different understandings and meanings for ‘ego’, and so it is important for me to specify my own usage of this word. Ego is the self that sees itself as categorically separate from the non-self: that is, whatever is not seen as the self or belonging to the self, which seems to be just about the rest of the cosmos. The ego self thus faces vast otherness! No wonder, then, that the ego feels overwhelmed and threatened. It is terrified about its survival. Egoic consciousness therefore constantly separates out what is self and what is not self (Otherness), and is always on the lookout for fight or flight, or, if neither is an option, a collapse and passing out, also known as ‘freeze.’ Egoic consciousness, however, is not all there is to human consciousness.1 This statement is borne out experientially, as in meditation and in other consciousness-altering experiences. Nonetheless, a statement like that is a tricky point to establish, akin to explaining to a frog that there are other ponds than the one that it inhabits. The only way one can ascertain such a statement is by undertaking the consciousness-altering experiments oneself and experience the result firsthand. With that proviso, then, I shall proceed to talk about post-egoic consciousness. There are other modes or states of consciousness that we can loosely and generally term as ‘post-egoic consciousness’. I am not, however, making a categorical division here between these two kinds of consciousness. Rather, I see these different states or modes of consciousness to be both contiguous and even continuous, and across their boundaries, they are inclusive, dynamic, and transformative. It seems to be the case that most of us most of the time more or less inhabit egoic states of consciousness, with self–other exclusive divisions, linear sense of time, and locality. Yet, post-egoic consciousness experiences are not as rare as we usually assume. I have been informally conducting anecdotal surveys in my classes (for the past decade or more), asking students about their experiences of non-ordinary (that is, post-egoic) consciousness, and the results are quite astonishing: such experiences are not rare, and align with many accounts I have read about people having such experiences. Basically, in post-egoic consciousness, the self–other boundary is softened and made porous, which can precipitate non-conventional, that is, non-ordinary,
Buddhism’s Contribution to Common Good 57 experiencing of everyday events. I have some of my own experiences to relate here as a way of illustrating what such experiences are like. Twenty-nine years ago, I had a post-egoic consciousness experience: I was holding my newborn (my younger daughter) on my lap, and I was suddenly flooded with a felt sense of what I can only describe as timelessness. The ordinary sense of time that marches “forward” inexorably suddenly vanished, and I was left with a sense of ‘forever-ness’. At the same time, I was completely relaxed in a way that was not all that familiar to me. I didn’t think I was afflicted with anxiety till that moment when I experienced complete freedom from anxiety. I was quite astonished by the experience, which seemed to be coming from my other, egoic-thinking mind that was somehow simultaneously present with my post-egoic mind/consciousness experiencing timelessness. The former was commenting that this experience of timelessness was unreal, or at least completely foreign to the egoic consciousness. Yet, the experience of timelessness was no less real than the reality of the ego-mind that was making the comment, and in some ways, it was more real than the latter in that it was more dominant in that moment. And then I was just as suddenly and fully back to my ordinary egoic consciousness of marching time and subtle but persistent existential anxiety, and so on. To be liberated from the existential anxiety and released into the vastness of timelessness and boundlessness of loving feelings was an incredible experience of liberation. An experience whose significance and value does not diminish at all even by a possible explanation that massive postpartum release of oxytocin into my bloodstream was a co-arising and necessary aspect of my post-egoic experience. I have had many more experiences, unaided by any chemical ingestion, which can be characterized as non-ordinary, post-egoic consciousness. In fact, I would claim that such experiences are quite normal for me, if I counted in less dramatic ones, like seeing what’s around me in greater animation and vividness, often during and after meditation. I have had brief interludes of experience, such as moments of bliss; abiding in calmness and expansiveness; exquisite moments of seeing everything around me in radiance, clarity, and beauty; experience of my whole being flooded with boundless love; and so on. All of these have given me fleeting glimpses of the outer (or shall I say, “inner”?) reaches of post-egoic consciousness. For sure, I don’t claim that I am “enlightened”, perhaps reserving that word for those who are more stably and sustainably established in postegoic states of consciousness. I know where I am in my own growth and development. I still have a long way to go, but I’m on the path. In terms of my achievement to date towards maturation, I am getting a better handle on my own emotional reactivity that is part and parcel of dualistic egoic consciousness. I don’t react as often or as intensely as before, and I consider this an important indication of progress in Bhavana, meaning in the Buddhist literature, mental cultivation (Goldstein, 2013).
58 Heesoon Bai
3. Learning to Sit With and Chew Our Own Dark Matter Emotional reactivity, as programmed into our nervous system, is of three basic modes, as mentioned previously: fight, flight, or freeze. The egoic self reacts to threatening stimuli in one of these modes, with associated emotions such as anger, disgust, fear, terror, horror, guilt, shame, frustration, and so on. These reactions arise when the self is not able to integrate the difficult experience it is having. In other words, the self is not able to take in the challenging experience and “digest” it in such a way that it adds to the self’s nourishment and growth. The physical analogy to digestion is most apt here. When a body is unable to digest certain foods and reacts, which we call an allergic reaction, the body goes into a survival struggle and fights against the foreign invasion. Death occurs when the body is unable to win this fight. Digestion is the process of the body engaging in a complex process of working with the foreign matter (food), rather than rejecting it or being stuck with it, and in either way, suffers the ill consequences of indigestion. Digestion is a mechanical and chemical process that enables the body to allow the crossing of the self–other boundaries between itself and the foreign elements (food). Exchange and interchange, immersion and emergence, all take place, resulting in new growth. Building on Professor Thurman’s statement, with which I started this essay, I would characterize Buddhism as a system of education that is designed to increase our capacity to “digest” the world we encounter. Its contemplative technologies, such as mindfulness (vipassana) and lovingkindness (metta) meditations, are ways of teaching the self-limiting ego consciousness to “sit with” and “sit in” challenging experiences, without going into reaction and rejection, and “chew” and soften what we experience, mixing with digestive saliva, and so on. (I will focus on what in Buddhism acts as digestive saliva in the next section.) This capacity and ability to sit and be with, slowly digesting what may be uncomfortable and threatening, without imploding or lashing out, is the fruit of contemplative learning and practice. In Buddhist meditation, we befriend our own experience, which by extension means befriending the self, validating it and giving it space and encouragement to reveal itself. Befriending leads to engagement, and “play” ensues. Good feelings of conviviality, generosity, and empathic care may arise and proliferate. The more we are able to show up this way as the self, the more we will be able to befriend the world, giving it loving attention and caring. Imagine what the world would be like if ordinary citizens all learned to sit with their challenging and difficult emotions, not reacting, not rushing to get rid of unbearable feelings of anxiety, guilt, fear, anger, and the like, but to sit and re-digest this “dark food”. The world would be a very different place, indeed. We wouldn’t have nations fighting, religions fighting, political ideologies fighting, brothers
Buddhism’s Contribution to Common Good 59 and sisters fighting, spouses fighting, all trying to kill, literally and symbolically, and put each other out of business. Otherness will always exist as long as differences based on diversity exist. Diversity, as has been noted by ecological thinkers, is at the core of the biosphere’s health and survival (Davis, 2009). Hence, difference and otherness are to be welcomed and protected, and we need to learn to work with them, not against them. To egoic consciousness, however, diversity and difference are threatening as the ego-self experiences difference within the paradigm of self–other dichotomy. In other words, difference is interpreted as “not I” and as “my enemy”, according to the nature of the self–other dichotomy pertaining to the egoic consciousness. To the post-egoic consciousness, difference does exist but since this consciousness does not experience self–other as dichotomy but more as partnership or collaborative unit, difference is, while still calling our alert attention, not threatening. Difference could be a source of amazement and appreciation, of novelty and creativity, if we could approach it with open-mindedness and open-heartedness, fueled by respectful curiosity and empathic “listening”. It is the fear latent in egoic consciousness of self–other dichotomy that shuts down our mind and heart, disposing us to experience difference and otherness as a threat to our survival.
4. Seeing Through the Hearts and Minds of Enlightenment Cognitively speaking, enlightenment in the Buddhist tradition is about shifting out of the egoic consciousness that sees the world in self–other, friend–foe, good–bad, moral–immoral, animate–inanimate, and a thousand other binaries or dichotomies into seeing the world in complex and dynamic interconnection and interpenetration. What does this mean? How do the world and our egoic selves appear to the gaze of the nondual, post-egoic consciousness? As preeminent Zen master, poet, writer, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn would put it, to an enlightened Buddha eye, a sheet of paper would show up as an entire ecosystem: trees, forests, clouds, rain, mountains, streams, humans involved in the production of the paper, and so on (Hahn, 1991). In short, an entire cosmos is implicated in a sheet of paper. In the West, another poet beheld a similar vision: To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour. (William Blake, Auguries of Innocence) The more we can see out of nondual, post-egoic consciousness, the more and the further we can see. More and more, further and further, until we “see” the whole cosmos implicated in dewdrops and in our dewdrop-like
60 Heesoon Bai lives. This is what holism is about. Being is interbeing (Hahn, 1991). We “see” interconnection and interpenetration of all beings, not just isolated things and events. We are inherently relationships. Relationships are us. Now, affectively speaking, enlightenment in the Buddhist tradition has us feel love and kindness towards all beings, compassion for the afflicted, and joy with happy others, all the while feeling securely nested in the cosmos. What I’m describing here is traditionally known as the Four Immeasurables in the Buddhist literature (Goldstein, 2013): metta (loving-kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (empathic joy), and upekkha (equanimity). To be enlightened is to be stably and sustainably established in these feeling states. As I understand the concept of the Four Immeasurables and my own experience of them in my practice, they are immeasurable in the sense that in order for us to experience them and understand them we would have to come out of the usual channel or register of consciousness that likes to take linear measurements of things: to separate out things, put categorical boundaries between things, define, predict, and control. This latter kind of consciousness is typically egoic in that its comfort zone is not radical interdependence and interpenetration wherein self and other continually bleed into each other, forming new selves and new worlds. To note, I am not maligning the linear, analytic, and measurement-oriented functions. They are very useful, and we can’t really function and live without them. However, we get into deep trouble, individually and collectively, when we forget to also inhabit the consciousness of the Four Immeasurables. To the ego, anything different from itself has the potential to provoke fear and hostility. Even in love, the ego operates with that potential in mind. If I say to you, I love you so long as you do things for me and make me happy, then my love is not immeasurable. My love for you is measurable in that it is conditional. I might as well say that I don’t really love you since what I love is what I get out of you, which is my own gain and satisfaction. You are the object that can supply me with what I want. This is greed and exploitation. This is instrumentalism, which does not lead us to enlightenment but to perpetual fear and greed: hence, dissatisfaction and suffering.2
5. Contemplative Methodology of Transcendence Our egoic consciousness was a “gift” from evolution. If I gave an impression throughout this paper that ego is ‘bad’ and is a problem, I wish to correct that here. It was for survival that we have this ego-self that’s designed to look out for its own (and its intimates’) survival and safety. At the least, one needs to survive and reproduce for human life to go on. And in the context of the jungle and other prehistoric environments, the ego-self had to be extremely swift in responding to dangers: no time to
Buddhism’s Contribution to Common Good 61 pause, reflect, evaluate, and figure things out at the sight of a tiger leaping at you. If this were happening to you, you would have to instantly leap up and climb the tree or swing a club and deal a deadly blow. You rely entirely on your autonomic nervous system whose neurons have been well trained over a few decades of practice to fire, at a moment’s notice, in sequences that will get you out of your life-threatening spot. Highspeed automaticity is key to this process, and its learning success depends on repetition. The very neural circuitry that saved our ancestors’ lives is still within us and seems to be getting us into trouble in the way we try to live a life that requires us not to leap up and react, but be more conscious about what we are doing, reflect, check our perceptions for cognitive biases, and in asking questions like whether what we see is really a leaping tiger or just a stripped telephone pole. The latter function is the newest gift from much later evolution that neuroscience has identified: the human prefrontal cortex (Hanson, 2009). Making use of this evolutionary development, we can do intricate thinking, critical reflection, hermeneutic interpretations, and so on, that may help us change our perceptions, views, and values. This is a slower process that can’t compete with the older autonomic nervous system for speed. However, with a dedicated training and practice effort, we can lessen reactivity and give the newer brains (the limbic system and the neocortex) a chance to work their special gifts. Neuroscientifically speaking, what is known as Buddhist meditations of various kinds all are designed to deliberately slow down reactivity by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (that acts as a decelerator) and deactivating the sympathetic nervous system (that acts as an accelerator). Physiologically this can be accomplished by breath control, which is further aided by mobilizing attention and awareness (Levine & Macnaughton, 2004). Attention and awareness can be trained, as Olympic athletes are trained, to not react, to calmly focus, to notice what really happens in one’s consciousness, and to support reflection and contemplation. Mindfulness (sati in Sanskrit) refers to a certain quality of attention and awareness, of which humans are capable of, and I would characterize it as non-reactive but not indifferent, relaxed but alert, expansive but not dispersed, focused but not tense, clear but not cold, penetrating but not harsh, calm but intent, gentle but firm, and so on. As such, mindfulness is extremely functional and can be very useful in all sorts of contexts and ways, as indicated above. However, singling out mindfulness as an independent practice, and even a panacea at that, is problematic. Mindfulness is one component, albeit integral, to a whole ecosystem of cultivation (Bhavana) in Buddhism. This ecosystem or ecology of supportive learning processes is known as the Eightfold Path in Buddhism (Goldstein, 2013). In addition to mindfulness, there are seven other integrated aspects of
62 Heesoon Bai the path, and together with mindfulness, they form what is known as the Eightfold Path. These are: Wholesome View, Wholesome Emotion, Wholesome Speech, Wholesome Action, Wholesome Livelihood, Wholesome Effort, and Wholesome Concentration. Mindfulness supports every one of these seven factors. It is the Eightfold Path as a whole, not just mindfulness, that constitutes the core curriculum of enlightenment. Engaging with this curriculum, and diligently and wholeheartedly working on the self in accordance with the curriculum, cultivates the right soil and environment for strong germination and nourishment of the enlightenment seeds. Now, I wish to return to the Four Immeasurables discussion started in the previous section. Amongst the aforementioned Eightfold Path is Wholesome Emotions. The Four Immeasurables belong here. While the Four Immeasurables can be looked at as the psychic environment that an enlightened consciousness comes to inhabit as the result of his/her selfcultivation, another way of understanding is that it provides methodology for developing post-egoic consciousness. In other words, the Four Immeasurables are both the outcome and the method. To those of us educators who are interested in teaching how to cultivate ourselves so that we can make a shift from the egoic to the post-egoic, the method or means talk is supremely important. In that vein, I wish to offer my interpretation of the Four Immeasurables in the same way that I was setting up an analogy between the process of digestion and the process of moving from egoic to post-egoic consciousness. The Four Immeasurables practiced as meditation are like digestive enzymes in our saliva and other gastric juices. Their function is to open and soften our hardened hearts, to open and air out our heavily fortified mental cells, and to mend and heal broken and crushed spirits. This heavy-duty work is accomplished by repeatedly circulating through our whole being and its parts with the powerful “alchemical” solutions like loving-kindness (metta), compassion (karuna), empathic joy (mudita), and equanimity (upekkha). These powerful solutions do the work of transforming broken and blocked hearts, spirits, and minds. However powerful they are, still the process may take years and decades, if not a lifetime (or many lifetimes as we say in Asian cultures). The egoic conditioning that we received from our civilizational, societal, and familial matrices is extremely deep, and hence overcoming it is a long-term project that takes committed practice and skillfulness.
6. Enlightenment for World Peace Enlightenment consciousness has been characterized in this paper as post-egoic and, I would add, dialogic. It is dialogic in the etymological sense of the Greek words dia (through) and logos (reality, being, suchness, dao, etc.). Dialogue is thus a process in which logos comes through
Buddhism’s Contribution to Common Good 63 and into your heart-mind, and you are moved to joy, kindness, generosity, compassion, and so on, as you gaze into the particular being who stands before you, for example, your suffering neighbour or rejoicing colleague. You stretch out your hand to help, you smile with kindness, and laugh and rejoice with others. You are like a prism into which light comes in and refracts into a rainbow of colours. Your full loving and kind, empathic and steady presence radiates warmth and goodness, and whoever is with you may bathe in this healing and nourishing field of energy and feel secure, understood, and comforted. They may naturally open their hearts and minds in your presence, and communication soon becomes communion. This is dialogue at its best. When our heart is blocked and our mind closed off, there is no dialogue—reality does not come through to us, and does not move our heart to compassionate action. We are trapped inside the encapsulated ego, and we do not see reality but only our own projections of the closed mind and its shadows (as in Plato’s cave allegory). There is no dialogue for the egoic minds, even while they are busy talking to each other, only endless monologues. When people debate, which most often turns into a shouting match, they are not engaged in a dialogue, despite the appearance of two (or more) people talking to each other. They are talking at each other, hurtling words that then bounce off the opponent’s armour-plated chests. Words do not go through each other’s heart-minds. Dialogue is what happens when people attune to each other, to each other’s feelings, thoughts, and energies; then resonance between people results. Hence dialogue occurs only when hearts open and are touched and moved. To emphasize, if we stayed in ego-encapsulated states of consciousness, dialogue does not occur, no matter how long and politely we may speak to each other. Basically, the egoic view is what most of us mostly entertain every day, and perhaps it is rightly characterized as fundamentalist and dogmatic. From this stance, we insist that what we see ‘out there’, what we call objective reality, is really out there, and whoever disagrees with us is wrong or misled. Since the other person may have exactly the same belief and hold it equally strongly, then conflict sets in and battle begins. When subtle persuasion of having the other see reality ‘my way’ doesn’t work, then we resort to exerting power over the other. This is coercion. When the other still does not submit to our will, then we may resort to aggression that could end up in physical violence. That is, in brief, the bloody history of humanity so far. Incredibly, such battle is fought over the question of whether there is God or there are gods, whose God is really real or better or more powerful. There will be no sustainable peace unless humanity matures beyond the egoic consciousness and moves into post-egoic, dialogic consciousness. Buddhism’s substantive contribution to world peace is showing us how to make the shift from the egoic to the post-egoic. For example,
64 Heesoon Bai one of the rigorous and vigorous methods it has developed is known as Insight meditation (vipassana). It is a process of analytic investigation of one’s consciousness in which we repeatedly look for the presence of ego self, that is, the self that is independent and self-same, and enduring or permanent. Again and again, we fail to find one, only finding a self that is constantly in flux, interfusing with everything else. In fact, if we can ‘catch’ this happening in the moment, we see the self co-arising with everything else, with the whole cosmos, just as Thich Nhat Hahn explained. In our meditation, we witness that there is just this moment-by-moment co-arising of perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and their dissolution. This experience, repeated over time, gradually weakens the egoic notion that the way it sees the world is how things are ‘out there’, and that it ‘knows’ the Truth. As my final offering here, a closing gesture, I would like to invite my readers to pause, take a few deep breaths, open their heart-minds, and look around as if this is the first time we are beholding the world. What do we see? Where there is neither “self” nor “other,” awareness simply is. All is empty, all is clear, no effort is made for none is needed. ~ Rather than focus on knowing the truth, simply cease to be seduced by your opinions. If there is even an inkling of right or wrong the enlightened mind ceases to be. ~ True reality is hidden by the practice of thought but also in the denial. Accept the reality of not naming things and rest in the silence of being. The need to name, the need to distinguish are born of a clinging fear. Remain unattached to every thought and know the true nature of being. (HSIN MING 信心銘 by Sosan, Seng-ts’an, 3rd Patriarch of Chan in 6th century)
Notes 1 Psychodevelopmentally speaking, egoic consciousness is an achievement. In the beginning of our fetal life and for some time even after we are born, humans do not seem to have a sense, at least not a clear sense, of being separate entities. We are typically fused with our mothers physiologically and emotionally.
Buddhism’s Contribution to Common Good 65 Thus, becoming egoic selves is a milestone event in our developmental continuum. The issue here is whether we stay stuck being egoic selves, and not developing further. Understood this way, being egoic selves is a situation of developmental arrest. 2 It has been said that the historical Buddha, by his own words, taught one thing and only one thing: existence and nature of suffering and how to work with it so as to be liberated from it. I refer interested readers to read about the Buddha’s teachings on Four Noble Truths (Goldstein, 2013).
References Davis, W. (2009). Wayfinders: Why ancient wisdom matters in the modern world. Toronto, ON: House of Anansi Press. Goldstein, J. (2013). Mindfulness: A practical guide to awakening. Boulder, CO: Sounds True. Hahn, T. (1991). Peace is every step: The path of mindfulness in everyday life. New York, NY: Bantam Books. Hanson, R. (2009). Buddha’s brain: The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications. Levine, P., & Macnaughton, I. (2004). Breath and consciousness: Reconsidering the viability of breathwork in psychological and spiritual interventions in human development. In I. Macnaughton (Ed.), Body, breath, and consciousness: A somatic anthology (pp. 367–393). Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
7 The Contributions of Religions to the Common Good Philosophical Perspectives1 Manfred L. Pirner 1. Introduction The perspective offered in this contribution is the result of my research over the past years on John Rawls, Jürgen Habermas and human rights discourse in the context of public theology and public religious education.2 My academic background is the scholarly discipline of Religionspädagogik— which I will translate as “Religious Pedagogy”—that, as a theologically grounded discipline, reflects and researches on the various links between religion and education. In particular, Religious Pedagogy deals with (confessional) Religious Education (RE), which is a constitutionally enshrined school subject at nearly all German schools. Also, the following deliberations are connected to recent developments in Germany of a “Public Religious Pedagogy” that aims to take particular regard of the public dimension of religious education and to link Religious Pedagogy with the discourse around public theology.3 I am well aware that in the context of public theology as well as in the context of public religious education Rawls and Habermas have often been appreciated or critically discussed—and are so in other contributions in this volume.4 In my own interpretation, that owes stimulations to a number of colleagues and especially to Heinrich Bedford-Strohm (see e.g. Bedford-Strohm, 2008; 2011), I will underline the importance of seeing the close connections between Rawls’ and Habermas’ concepts and of concentrating on their most recent publications. The latter is especially crucial for Rawls, because he modified his views on religion in his last writings as a reaction to some of the criticism that had been levelled against his earlier writings. It seems to me that the critical discussion of the earlier Rawls has partly obstructed the reception of the later Rawls.5 Habermas, too, has changed his perspective on religion significantly over the past 20 years, so that one could even speak of a “religious turn” or “theological turn” in Habermas’ thinking (Calhoun, Mendieta, & VanAntwerpen, 2013; Harrington, 2007)—although he has remained the “religiously unmusical” agnostic he has repeatedly called himself. Certainly it is highly interesting that the two probably most influential
Common Good: Philosophical Perspectives 67 political philosophers of our time, Rawls and Habermas, have, in the later part of their academic lives, come to positively revalue the contributions religions can make to modern societies and the global community. I will also attempt, with some claim to originality, to elaborate the significance of Rawls’ and Habermas’ political theories for the field of public (religious) education. When in the following I start with John Rawls’ answer to the question of “how citizens who remain deeply divided on religious, philosophical, and moral doctrines, can still maintain a just and stable democratic society” (Rawls, 2005, p. 10), my hypothesis is that this question from social philosophy is closely linked to the question of educational philosophy of how a consensus over the task and major objectives of public education, and the role of religion in it, can be found. Thus—as I will contend despite remaining points of criticism that might be raised against them—Rawls’ and Habermas’ theories can serve as a helpful overarching framework not only for the public theologies of diverse religions but also for linking public theology and public education.
2. Public Reason, Overlapping Consensus and Complementary Learning Processes According to John Rawls (2005, p. 10), coherence and solidarity in pluralistic societies cannot be reached by searching for a common “comprehensive doctrine” of the good life, because the very characteristic of such societies is that they include citizens with different and sometimes conflicting comprehensive doctrines. Rather it is sufficient to find a consensus on fundamental “political conceptions” or “political values”, such as, we might say, the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Rawls offers two answers to the question of how such a consensus can come about. The first rests on the assumption that almost all citizens have the capacity for reason and therefore of “reasoning in the public forum about constitutional essentials and basic questions of justice” in terms of what Rawls (2005, p. 10) calls “public reason”. In this line, the political conception “is worked out first as a freestanding view that can be justified pro tanto without looking to, or trying to fit, or even knowing what are, the existing comprehensive doctrines” (Rawls, 2005, p. 389). As an example, Rawls (2005, p. 160) points to the fact that many citizens come to endorse the basic political values incorporated into their respective national constitutions without seeing any particular link between those principles and their comprehensive worldviews. In face of many critical responses Rawls’ concept of public reason has received, especially among communitarian and theological thinkers, it is vital to note that he rejected to equate public reason with secular reason.
68 Manfred L. Pirner In his essay “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited” (1999) he explains how he imagines ‘public reason’ to evolve. Citizens realize that they cannot reach agreement or even approach mutual understanding on the basis of their irreconcilable comprehensive doctrines. In view of this, they need to consider what kinds of reason they may reasonably give one another when fundamental political questions are at stake. I propose that in public reason comprehensive doctrines of truth or right be replaced by an idea of the politically reasonable addressed to citizens as citizens. Central to the idea of public reason is that it neither criticizes nor attacks any comprehensive doctrine, religious or nonreligious, except insofar as that doctrine is incompatible with the essentials of public reason and a democratic polity. (Rawls, 1999, p. 547) Rawls (1999, p. 582) also underlines that political liberalism “does not try to fix public reason once and for all in the form of one favored political conception of justice”. Rather, he understands public reason to be dynamic and open to development. And he explicates that public reason is different “from what is sometimes referred to as secular reason or secular values.” His definition of secular reason is “reasoning in terms of comprehensive nonreligious doctrines”, while public reason restricts itself to the sphere of political values and is in itself neither religious nor nonreligious (Rawls, 1999, p. 583). Therefore, as Rawls emphasizes, concepts derived from religious traditions such as “Catholic views of the common good and solidarity” are also admitted to make contributions to the discourse of public reason, as long as “they are expressed in terms of political values” (Rawls, 1999, p. 583). So, the first mode of justifying common political concepts and values that Rawls proposes is developing them as “freestanding concept[s]” on the basis of public reason. In his view, this principally suffices to lay a common ground in a pluralist society. However, in a second line of arguments, Rawls contends that this common ground significantly gains breadth, depth and stability, if the political conceptions and values can additionally be linked to diverse comprehensive doctrines and demonstrated to be compatible with them: “Even though a political conception of justice is freestanding, that does not mean that it cannot be embedded in various ways—or mapped, or inserted as a module—into the different doctrines citizens affirm” (Rawls, 2005, p. 387). In this way an “overlapping consensus” between citizens with diverse religions and worldviews can develop that has the potential of being deeper and more durable, because the political conceptions or values are now linked with the deepest convictions that guide people’s lives. And religious or worldview communities can play an important role
Common Good: Philosophical Perspectives 69 in supporting political conceptions or values, if they have succeeded in elaborating the links or overlaps between them and their own traditions. It is important to realize here that in Rawls’ understanding the overlapping consensus is not just the result of an empirical stocktaking of diverse religions and worldviews in order to find similarities. As Heiner Bielefeldt (1998, p. 146) has emphasized, it is rather a normative idea, which, it is true, “allows for a variety of religious or ideological views, but at the same time marks the boundaries of tolerance”. Because the underlying normative premise is that individuals—and also religions— “acknowledge each other in their difference through granting each other equal freedom and equal participation” (Bielefeldt, 1998, p. 147). Consequently, for Rawls (1999, pp. 581–582), the “basic rights, liberties and opportunities” enshrined in a freestanding political conception are assigned a normative priority over against the norms of comprehensive doctrines—at least in the public sphere. Rawls (2005, p. 389) expresses his hope that a freestanding political conception, whose justification does not depend on a specific comprehensive doctrine, will be able to challenge diverse comprehensive doctrines to affirm it and that it “will have the capacity to shape those doctrines toward itself”. Evidence that this can really happen can be taken from the development of human rights culture. The international human rights have over the decades gained increasing approval not only from governments but also from religious communities. In a recent estimation human rights expert Jack Donnelly (2013, p. 59) has contended that “for their own varied reasons, most leading comprehensive doctrines now see human rights as the political expression of their deepest values”. By this acknowledgement and integration of human rights into diverse religions, these religions have been and still are challenged and stimulated in their own internal development towards a more humane and inclusive ethic, for instance to grant women, disabled people or homosexuals equal rights within their communities. There is, to put it in Rawlsian terms, a substantial overlapping consensus between the political theories of John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas, but also some disagreement, and especially some further development of thoughts by the latter after Rawls’ death. Habermas (2012, p. 324) agrees with Rawls that a pragmatic modus vivendi consensus alone is not the ideal basis for cohesion in pluralistic societies. He also thinks that for a more substantial consensus “religious citizens have to acquire the secular legitimation of the community on the premises of their own faith”. As examples of a successful such acquisition Habermas points to the two big churches in Germany, the Roman Catholic and the Protestant Church, which in the course of the 20th century have come to endorse and support liberalism, democracy and human rights that they formerly rejected. Such a change of opinion, Habermas (2012, p. 325) argues, cannot be commanded or legally enforced, but “is at best the consequence of a learning process”.
70 Manfred L. Pirner Yet, Habermas concludes that it would be unfair to only expect such learning processes from religious citizens. In his view (Habermas, 2012, p. 326), nonreligious citizens also have a lesson to learn. “Do not”, he asks, “the same normative expectations that we direct towards an inclusive civic society prohibit a secularist denigration of religion just as much as, for instance, the religious rejection of equal rights for men and women?” Habermas thus arrives at the concept of a “complementary learning process” of religious and nonreligious citizens. Its basis is that both sides, secular reason and religion, should become self-reflective and aware of their limitations so that they become open to listening to each other, can take each other’s contributions to public discourse seriously and eventually also learn from one other (Habermas, 2008, pp. 111–112). As a secular and agnostic philosopher, Habermas himself has repeatedly demonstrated his openness to learning from religious traditions and positions. He expressed his conviction that the “special articulative power” and “semantic potential” of those traditions when it comes to vulnerable forms of humane coexistence have not yet been exhausted (Habermas, 2001, p. 25). In his view, such learning processes are also beneficial from the perspective of the constitutional state, because it must be in the state’s interest “to conserve all cultural sources that nurture citizens’ solidarity and their normative awareness” (Habermas, 2008, p. 111). As to the hermeneutical question of how such learning processes can be possible, the concept of “translation” plays a crucial role for Habermas. He points to the fact that in the history of philosophy contents from the Christian tradition have repeatedly been transformed into a generally accessible language by “conserving translations”. Habermas’ classic example is Immanuel Kant’s translation of the Christian topic of God creating humans in his image into the secular concept of human dignity (Habermas, 2008, p. 110). For Habermas, translation is the mode of a “secularization that does not destroy”, that values and preserves the semantic potential of religions instead of declaring it as outdated. However, he also concedes that a perfect translation is not possible. “When sin turned into guilt, the trespassing against divine commandments into the violation of human laws, something got lost” (Habermas, 2001, p. 24).
3. The “Translation” of Religious Language as a Political Issue The idea of translating religious language into generally accessible language already appears in John Rawls’ philosophy and has been the object of controversial debates. In view of the public discourse between religious and nonreligious citizens, one central question is whether religious citizens should be allowed to make their contributions to this discourse in their religious language and based on their religious convictions, although these cannot be shared by their nonreligious fellow citizens.
Common Good: Philosophical Perspectives 71 Rawls initially had quite a restrictive opinion on this issue. He demanded as a proviso that religious citizens were only allowed to contribute, if they translated their religious views into the generally accessible language of public reason. However, already in the introduction to the paperback edition of his book Political Liberalism, published in 1995, he changed his position: I now believe, and hereby I revise VI:8 [the corresponding chapter in Political Liberalism, M.P.], that reasonable such doctrines may be introduced in public reason at any time, provided that in due course public reasons, given by a reasonable political conception, are presented sufficient to support whatever the comprehensive doctrines are introduced to support. (Rawls, 2005, pp. xlix–l)6 Rawls further elaborated this modified perspective in his later essay “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited”. Here, he provides a number of examples in which for him it makes good sense that people explicitly introduce their comprehensive doctrines into public discussion. Consider, for example, a highly contested political issue—the issue of public support for church schools. Those on different sides are likely to come to doubt one another’s allegiance to basic constitutional and political values. It is wise, then, for all sides to introduce their comprehensive doctrines, whether religious or secular, so as to open the way for them to explain to one another how their views do indeed support those basic political values. (Rawls, 1999, p. 593) Rawls also offers positive historical examples of how religious perspectives were introduced into public life and thus promoted political justice. He mentions, for instance, the religiously motivated abolitionists in the 19th century and Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement in the 20th century. He even endorses a form of religious argument as legitimate that he calls “witnessing”, in which citizens express their religiously motivated dissent in specific points (e.g. the Quakers’ strict pacifism or the Catholic opposition to abortion)—without principally calling into question constitutional democracy and its majority decisions (Rawls, 1999, p. 595). Again similarly to Rawls, Habermas draws a distinction between the informal public discourse into which religious perspectives can be entered at any time, and the “political process of decision making in the context of parliaments, courts and governments” where religious arguments can “only count, if their relevant substance has been translated into a publicly accessible language” (Habermas, 2007, p. 412). Habermas clearly
72 Manfred L. Pirner goes beyond Rawls when he conceptualizes the task of translation as a dialogical cooperative endeavour of religious and nonreligious citizens. He argues that it would be unfair to burden only religious citizens with the obligation to kind of split up their identity and translate their religious convictions into a secular language in the public square. To be fair, it should be vice versa expected from the nonreligious citizens to “preserve a sense for the articulative power of religious languages” (Habermas, 2001, p. 21). Habermas further elaborated this argument a few years later: The neutrality of state power vis-à-vis different worldviews, which guarantees equal individual liberties for all citizens, is incompatible with the political generalization of a secularized worldview. Secular citizens, in their role as citizens, may neither deny that religious worldviews are in principle capable of truth nor question the right of their devout fellow-citizens to couch their contributions to public discussions in religious language. A liberal political culture can even expect its secular citizens to take part in the efforts to translate relevant contributions from religious language into a publicly intelligible language. (Habermas, 2008, p. 113) This is precisely what Habermas has repeatedly done. Again he points to the interest of the liberal state in this context. He argues that the state should not discourage religious persons and communities from expressing themselves in a religious language in public discourse, “for it cannot be sure that secular society would not otherwise cut itself off from key resources for the creation of meaning and identity” (Habermas, 2008, p. 131).
4. Conclusion: Consequences for Public Theology and Public Education As initially indicated, Rawls’ and Habermas’ social theories, in my view, offer a useful framework in which public theology and Public Religious Pedagogy can locate themselves. Public theology understands itself as academic reflection of a Christianity that has become aware of its limitations and its particularity in the context of a pluralistic society and world and on this basis aims to contribute to the common good in dialogue and collaboration with others. Public theology can thus be regarded as the counterpart of Habermas’ self-reflective and self-critical philosophy of a secular modernity that has become aware of its limitations and open to a renewed dialogue with religious perspectives. It is a consensus among public theologians as well as philosophers that in order to make this dialogue and cooperation between religious and secular people possible, diverse
Common Good: Philosophical Perspectives 73 endeavours of translation must be undertaken. Public theology must be bilingual, as several authors have emphasized (e.g. Bedford-Strohm, 2008, p. 151; Graham, 2017, p. 121). The notions of ‘bilinguality’ and ‘translation’ both imply mutual understanding under the condition of remaining alienness and independence—this is why translation has been considered to be a key concept in pluralistic liberal societies (Renn, Straub, & Shimada, 2002; Bachmann-Medick, 2009; Pirner, 2012b). Rawls’ and Habermas’ theories also have far-reaching implications for public education in general and the role of religion in public education as they are brought into dialogue with Public Religious Pedagogy and public theology. I will concentrate on six of these implications. 1. Habermas’ idea that the decisive aspect of the modernization process lies in the increasing self-reflexivity that affects secular reason and religion alike already indicates that education is an important factor in this process. As both Rawls and Habermas emphasize, political culture in liberal democratic societies is based on the consent of their free and equal citizens to basic political values and rights. Habermas has rightly pointed out that in this respect there can be no coercion, but this consent can only be the consequence of a learning process—which cannot be guaranteed. Because citizens in democratic societies are deemed free and equal, the importance of a liberal, non-manipulatory education that stimulates such learning processes cannot be overestimated. In almost all parts of the political theories outlined here the task of education and learning is implicitly present. It becomes even more obvious and explicit in Habermas’ concept of complementary learning processes of (diverse) religious and (diverse) nonreligious citizens. Just as citizens with different religious and nonreligious views are expected to communicate and cooperate for the common good of society in general, they should communicate and cooperate for the benefit of good and humane public education. As in society in general, religious perspectives should not be excluded from schools and other public educational institutions but rather religious and secular parents as well as pupils should be encouraged to bring in their diverse views and ideas into school culture and to engage in public discourse on the tasks and objectives of school education. 2. Public school education is to be regarded as a highly significant part of the public sphere as it provides the young generation with a learning model of how diversity in society is dealt with and on which basis living together is possible. Philosophers like Rawls and Habermas, but also, for instance, Michael Sandel (2006; 2009), Hans Joas (2013), or Hanan Alexander (2015), contend that strong truth claims and particularistic views do have their place in democratic pluralist societies, and that consensus should be sought not by evading or excluding them but by engaging them in public debate (see also Pirner & Lähnemann, 2013). In this respect, the issue of religious and worldview diversity can be seen as a test case. In his “public philosophy” Michael Sandel has
74 Manfred L. Pirner repeatedly warned that public discourse, which is so vital for pluralist societies, may become hollow and superficial if people’s fundamental moral, religious and worldview convictions are not included and addressed. This could lead to increasing disappointment and frustration, which may make people susceptible to the strong truth claims of fundamentalist and extremist groups or authoritarian leaders (Sandel, 2006; 2009). The same, I believe, can be said for the public sphere of school education. Schools that primarily concentrate on the acquisition of instrumental competencies and neglect the engagement with questions of meaning and morality risk to offer a hollow and superficial kind of education that leaves pupils incompetent in dealing with diversity and otherness. 3. One particular consequence of Habermas’ concept of complementary learning processes is to assign academically grounded education on religion(s) a central role in public education. Such religious education can on the one hand address the task of disclosing to religious students religious approaches to democratic institutions and liberal values in terms of Rawls’ overlapping consensus. On the other hand, it can also serve the aim of “preserving a sense for the articulative power of religious languages” in secular, nonreligious students, as Habermas demands. To this end, an introduction into religious language(s) and religious insider perspectives seems just as necessary as an introduction into possibilities— and successful models—of translating (a specific) religious language in such a way that it becomes accessible to students with secular worldviews or other religious backgrounds. 4. Such a concept for religion in public education of course challenges all those approaches of religious education or courses of religious studies that confine themselves to teaching about religion in terms of an informational approach. To be sure, learning about various religions and worldviews can certainly support tolerance and understanding and thus facilitate a peaceful coexistence in a pluralistic society. However, in analogy to Rawls’ concept of the overlapping consensus, the basis for such a coexistence can be expected to become broader, deeper and more endurable if students realize that different religions and worldviews deserve respect and appreciation because they have in the past contributed and are still contributing to the common good in society, and yet also need critical engagement in order to distinguish between life-supporting and life-obstructing aspects. In this way, students may find out the diverse religions and worldviews also provide opportunities for learning from them. This necessitates an important role for insider perspectives, i.e. theological perspectives in the context of religious education. Public theologies recommend themselves as academic reference disciplines for RE beside and in cooperation with religious studies. A concept of public religious education that takes insider perspectives seriously is likely to foster not only tolerance between people with different religious and nonreligious
Common Good: Philosophical Perspectives 75 worldviews but mutual acceptance and the openness to cooperate for the sake of a better life for all—despite remaining strangeness and otherness. This implies a concept of pluralism that is not harmonistic and superficial, but takes into account and endures differences in terms of what the late German professor of religious education Karl Ernst Nipkow (1994, p. 205) called “hard pluralism”. 5. However, it should be remembered that Rawls’ idea of the overlapping consensus is not conceptualized as an empirical description but as a normative challenge. As outlined above, its starting point is the “freestanding pro tanto justification” of fundamental constitutional norms and political values. Therefore, it is not enough to just look for existing communalities—empirical overlaps, so to speak—between the different denominations, religions and worldviews in dialogical learning processes. Rather what is required is to integrate and refer to consensual norms and ethical standards. In view of public religious education and its important dimension of interreligious learning this implies a trialogical rather than a dialogical structure: The complementary learning processes of religious and non-religious people (Habermas) are not just about learning from each other, but are always directed towards and informed by public reason, in its consolidated form of basic constitutional and political values, and in its fluid form of public discourse. Consequently, in addition to the above-mentioned two major tasks of public religious education— introduction into religious language(s) and introduction into ways of translating them into publicly accessible language—a third fundamental task consists in providing an introduction to the language and basic concepts of public reason and the public sphere. (Pirner, 2016, p. 24) 6. Beyond the school subject of Religious Education, religious and worldview perspectives should be integrated into concepts of civic and human rights education as well as in other school subjects and in school culture. In these fields of public education, secular views and arguments mostly dominate teaching and learning while religious aspects tend to be neglected. For example, in several analyses, published in an edited book, we have been able to show that in German school subjects, such as history, geography, social studies, economy or English language, religion tends to be either marginalized or presented with a negative bias (Pirner & Schulte, 2010). In the extremely well-written and highly reflective book Teachers and Human Rights Education by Audrey Osler and Hugh Starkey (2010), the reader looks in vain for Rawls’ and Habermas’ idea that human rights can and should be contextualized not only by different nations and cultures but also by different religions and worldviews, and that religious communities can contribute to the development
76 Manfred L. Pirner of a culture of human rights by interpreting them from their respective comprehensive doctrines. In an interesting analogy to Habermas’ concept of complementary learning processes, my colleague and former UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt has suggested to view the history of human rights as a common open learning process of various religious and nonreligious people. In the historical learning process that led to the development of human rights, according to Bielefeldt, individuals from different cultures, worldviews and religions all made their contributions. This learning process, Bielefeldt (2009) emphasizes, remains incomplete and open and thus continues to thrive through further participation of different cultures, worldviews and religions. This is a perspective for human rights education that, complementary to the public reason perspective, could foster mutual learning and cooperation of students with diverse religious and nonreligious backgrounds—in terms of a developing overlapping consensus (Pirner, Lähnemann, & Bielefeldt, 2016).
Notes 1 This is the slightly modified part of an essay that was originally published in 2017 in the Special Issue ‘Public Theology—Religion(s)—Education’ of the International Journal of Public Theology (IJPT), 11(3). 2 See Pirner, 2012a; 2012b; 2015a; 2015b; 2016; 2017. 3 For a more detailed account on these developments in Germany see Schröder and Schlag, both in this volume, as well as Grümme, 2015; Könemann, 2016; Pirner, 2017; and several contributions in Pirner, Lähnemann, Haussmann & Schwarz, 2018. See also the website of our Research Unit for Public Religion and Education (RUPRE): www.rupre.uni-erlangen.org/. 4 See for example the contributions by Bedford-Strohm and Schröder. 5 This also goes, in my view, for the otherwise intriguing and stimulating work of Hanan Alexander (2015). 6 See also Rawls, 1999, pp. 591–593.
References Alexander, H. (2015). Reimagining liberal education: Affiliation and inquiry in democratic schooling. New York: Bloomsbury. Bachmann-Medick, D. (Ed.). (2009). The translational turn [Special Issue]. Translation Studies, 2(1). Bedford-Strohm, H. (2008). Poverty and public theology: Advocacy of the Church in pluralistic society. International Journal of Public Theology, 2(2), 144–162. Bedford-Strohm, H. (2011). Public theology of ecology and civil society. In C. Deane-Drummond & H. Bedford-Strohm (Eds.), Religion and ecology in the public sphere (pp. 39–56). London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark. Bielefeldt, H. (1998). Philosophie der Menschenrechte. Darmstadt: Wissenschaft liche Buchgesellschaft.
Common Good: Philosophical Perspectives 77 Bielefeldt, H. (2009). Historical and philosophical foundations of human rights. In M. Scheinin & C. Krause (Eds.), International protection of human rights: A textbook (pp. 3–18). Turku: Abo Akademi University. Calhoun, C, Mendieta, E., & VanAntwerpen, J. (Eds.). (2013). Habermas and religion. Cambridge, UK & Malden, MA: Polity Press. Donnelly, J. (2013). Human rights in theory and practice (3rd ed.). London: Cornell University Press. Graham, E. (2017). Apologetics without apology: Speaking of God in a world troubled by religion. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books. Grümme, B. (2015). Öffentliche Religionspädagogik: Religiöse Bildung in pluralen Lebenswelten. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer. Habermas, J. (2001). Glauben und Wissen: Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp. Habermas, J. (2007). Replik auf Einwände, Reaktion auf Anregungen. In R. Langthaler & H. Nagl-Docetal (Eds.), Glauben und Wissen: Ein Symposium mit Jürgen Habermas (pp. 366–414). Wien: R. Oldenbourg Verlag. Habermas, J. (2008). Between naturalism and religion: Philosophical essays. Cambridge: Polity. Habermas, J. (2012). Nachmetaphysisches Denken II: Aufsätze und Repliken. Berlin: Suhrkamp. Harrington, A. (2007). Habermas’s theological turn? Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, 37(1), 45–61. Joas, H. (2013). The sacredness of the person: A new genealogy of human rights. Washington: Georgetown University Press. Könemann, J. (2016). Theologie, Kirche und Öffentlichkeit: Zum Öffentlichkeitscharakter von Religionspädagogik und religiöser Bildung. In J. Könemann & S. Wendel (Eds.), Religion—Öffentlichkeit—Moderne. Transdisziplinäre Perspektiven (pp. 129–152). Bielefeld: transcript Verlag. Nipkow, K. E. (1994). Ziele interreligiösen Lernens als mehrdimensionales problem. In J. A. van der Ven & H.-G. Ziebertz (Eds.), Religiöser Pluralismus und Interreligiöses Lernen (pp. 197–232). Weinheim: Deutscher Studienverlag. Osler, A., & Starkey, H. (2010). Teachers and human rights education. Oakhill, UK: Trentham Books. Pirner, M. L. (2012a). Freedom of religion and belief in religious schools? Towards a multi-perspective theory. In B. Freathy, S. Parker & L. Francis (Eds.), Religious education and freedom of religion and belief (pp. 167–192). Oxford et al.: Peter Lang. Pirner, M. L. (2012b). Übersetzung: Zur Bedeutung einer fundamentaltheologischen Kategorie für kirchliche Bildungsverantwortung. In G. Meier (Ed.), Reflexive Religionspädagogik: Impulse für die kirchliche Bildungsarbeit in Schule und Gemeinde (pp. 79–88). Stuttgart: Calwer. Pirner, M. L. (2015a). Religion und öffentliche Vernunft: Impulse aus der Diskussion um die Grundlagen liberaler Gesellschaften für eine Öffentliche Religionspädagogik. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik und Theologie, 67(4), 310–318. Pirner, M. L. (2015b). Re-präsentation und Übersetzung als zentrale Aufgaben einer Öffentlichen Theologie und Religionspädagogik. Evangelische Theologie, 75(6), 446–58.
78 Manfred L. Pirner Pirner, M. L. (2016). Human rights, religion, and education: A theoretical framework. In M. L. Pirner, J. Lähnemann & H. Bielefeldt (Eds.), Human rights and religion in educational contexts (pp. 11–27). Cham: Springer International Publishing. Pirner, M. L. (2017). Public religious pedagogy: Linking public theology, social theory and educational theory. International Journal of Public Theology (IJPT), 11(3), 328–350. Pirner, M. L., & Lähnemann, J. (Eds.). (2013). Media power and religions: The challenge facing intercultural learning. Oxford: Peter Lang International. Pirner, M. L., Lähnemann, J., & Bielefeldt, H. (Eds.). (2016). Human rights and religion in educational contexts. Cham: Springer International Publishing. Pirner, M. L., Lähnemann, J., Haussmann, W., & Schwarz, S. (Eds.). (2018, in press). Public theology perspectives on religion and education. London & New York: Routledge. Pirner, M. L., & Schulte, A. (Eds.). (2010). Religionsdidaktik im Dialog— Religionsunterricht in Kooperation. Jena: IKS Garamond. Rawls, J. (1999). The idea of public reason revisited. In J. Rawls (Ed.), Collected papers (pp. 573–615). Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Rawls, J. (2005). Political liberalism: Expanded edition. New York: Columbia University Press. Renn, J., Straub, J., & Shimada, S. (Eds.). (2002). Übersetzung als Medium des Kulturverstehens und sozialer Integration. Frankfurt a. M.: Campus Verlag. Sandel, M. (2006). Public philosophy: Essays on morality in politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Sandel, M. (2009). Justice: What’s the right thing to do? New York: Farrar, Strauss and Grioux.
8 Contributions of Religions to the Common Good in a Pluralistic Society An Empirical Answer From a Sociological Perspective Gert Pickel and Annette Schnabel 1. Exposing the Problem The aftermath of the recent Euro crises from 2008 and the dramatic increase of armed conflicts in neighbouring countries, among them the Ukraine, Libya, Egypt and Syria (since 1949, violent intrastate conflicts increased dramatically, especially in Africa and the Middle East; HIIK, 2015), has resulted in tremendous social, political, and economic dynamics. While the Euro crises is being followed by huge shifts in the economic conditions and life-chances of European citizens (e.g. Shambaugh, Reis, & Rey, 2012), the violent conflicts in the Arab and Eastern regions lead to migration waves giving rise to increased political, social and religious pluralisms in Europe. These developments concern the social structure within the states as well as the relationship between social groups. They tend to deepen already existing inequalities and produce new ones. By that, they alter the willingness of citizens and the political elites to display solidarity; they decrease social cohesion and—sometimes—even the legitimacy of the democratic welfare state. Religion, religiosity, and religious schemes of interpretation play an important role within the resulting struggles and combats: They manifest boundaries between social groups, highlight differences between religious identities, and are often used to announce the hegemony of a particular theology. But they are also capable of strengthening affiliations, including communities, and enabling the expression of solidarity. Put differently, there is evidence that religion can serve as a source of solidarity (as Durkheim already stated in 1912 ) and as well as a source of conflict (as Huntington suggested most prominently in 1996). The article addresses the question of how religions contribute to solidarity and the common good in European pluralistic societies under current challenges of increasing (religious) pluralities, inequalities, and decreasing solidarity. After analyzing the problem theoretically in order to justify our theses, we test them empirically in the later part of the article.
80 Gert Pickel and Annette Schnabel
2. Analyzing the Problem Sociology offers a particular perspective on the obstacle of the common good: It sees the common good as common (or collective) goods that challenge the individual rationality since they provide incentives for rational actors to wait for others to pay the costs of their manufacturing.1 In situations in which the common good depends on the contribution of more than one person and in which its provision implies that no one can be excluded from its benefits, people tend to avoid involvement because they (quite rightly) assume that in case of the fabrication of the common good they will be able to free ride. Everyday life provides numerous constellations for free riding: protection of environment and biodiversity, the fight for social justice and for civil, political and social rights, the defence of human values, of solidarity and redistribution, the upkeep of norms of politeness, decency, and reciprocity. All these ingredients of social order come with a (slight) price of being most benefiting if others bear their costs. In sociology, such constellations are called “prisoner’s dilemma” (Table 8.1).2 Player Anna and Bertha both face costs of three units (time, money, cognitive capacities, emotions, etc.) each if they decide to contribute to the common good. They will gain six units each if the good is produced (net benefit of three units, field upper left in Table 8.1). If only Anna or Bertha contributes, the good will not be produced and the contribution is fruitless (field lower left and upper right). If neither Anna nor Bertha contributes, there will be no good, no free ride, and no fruitlessness (of the investment). Because most people are rational actors, nobody wants to play the sucker’s game and lose their investments. Therefore, no one invests and all end up in the lower right corner of Table 8.1. This implies that solidarity, justice, redistribution, respect, mercy are either not realized or realized to a much lower degree than all would appreciate and benefit from. The question of interest for this article is how can societies circumvent freeriding problems and transform individual into societal rationality in order to secure the production of common goods? What role do religions play? Sociological theorists discuss several—mostly formalized—solutions to the Prisoner’s Dilemma (e.g. Oliver, 1980; Heckathorn, 1988; Table 8.1 Constellation of a Prisoner’s Dilemma Player B
contribution no contribution
Common Good From a Sociological Perspective 81 Marwell & Oliver, 1993). To make a long discussion short: most of these solutions involve either selective incentives that can be offered through norms and values and their societal sanctioning or through trust into the contributions of others. Religions have been shown to contribute to both: (1) to norms and values that pledge individuals to contribute to the common good (e.g. Meulemann, 1996; Zulehner & Denz, 1993; Pickel, Müller, & Pollack, 2003) and (2) to trust in others (e.g. Halman & Luijkx, 2006; Pickel & Gladkich, 2012; Wuthnow, 2002). Especially for the generation of trust—in the form of societal trust— religions and churches seem to be highly relevant (Putnam & Campbell, 2011; Putnam, 2000). One of the most significant considerations on religious social capital rests upon Putnam’s assumptions (2000) elaborated from his observations of the US-American society: They reveal that religious networks play a major role in developing a country’s civil society. Religious social capital serves as one of the driving forces of social cohesion, contributes to the creation of interpersonal trust and fulfils the function of integrating an increasingly individualized society—a function of religion already stated by Durkheim (1995 ; also Bellah, 1967). Putnam (2000) understands social capital as social networks created through interpersonal trust (Freitag & Traunmüller, 2009). It reflects how people trust others even though they have not necessarily had previous encounters with them. Such feelings of trust result from people’s positive experiences in social groups. These experiences interact with reciprocity norms through a cycle of reinforcement: They are based on the premise that reciprocal action creates trust which in turn forces people to cooperate and, by that, reinforces people’s assumption that they can expect others to cooperate in the future. In contrast to norm-based legitimacy or faith, trust needs to be reaffirmed—most effectively in social groups. Trust acquired in a direct social environment can be assigned to people in more general contexts. This generalized trust serves as the foundation of social groups. Social theory states that these relationships emphasize that social networks are voluntary and trust can be extended from small groups to larger society. Churches and religions offer opportunity structures for social networks (Putnam & Campbell, 2011) and, thereby, support the production of general values and norms following the reinforcement cycle of trust (Wuthnow, 2002). Social trust even serves the democratic political system in as far as democracy, too, benefits from an increase in generalized trust (Pickel & Gladkich, 2012).3 Religion stabilizes the political order and, thanks to religiously generated social capital, encourages political trust and increases the legitimacy of democracy. Therefore, religion can facilitate the common good by creating opportunities and values for societal, generalized trust.
82 Gert Pickel and Annette Schnabel In the remaining article we will present empirical data supporting and challenging this claim for religions in modern Europe.
3. Religion in Europe The following paragraph presents a brief and merely descriptive overview unfolding the religious landscape of Europe.4 The analysis is based on data from the European Value Survey 2008, a comprehensive survey conducted regularly to investigate the attitudes of European citizens towards different topics concerning the European Union, among them religious affiliations. Figure 8.1 presents the distribution of denominations among the respondents. For the following analysis, we employ the fourth, most current wave of 2008, which covers the total of the 27 European member states (Integrated Data Set ZA4800, n=39,965). Figure 8.1 reveals the following: Europe is less homogeneous than most narratives of secularization assume (see as well the argumentation by Knoblauch, 2003). That is because modern secularized societies follow different path-dependencies (Norris & Inglehart, 2004; Pickel, 2009; 2010; Pollack & Rosta, 2015). Different societal and political country-specific circumstances lead to a mixed picture. There are only a very few countries with a single clearly dominant majority denomination: Denmark has a Protestant majority larger than 75%; the Catholic mono-confessional bloc, with more than 75% Catholics, consists of Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Malta, Lithuania, Poland and the Slovak Republic; Greece, Cyprus and Romania are countries dominated by an Orthodox majority; Estonia and the Czech Republic have non-affiliated majorities that are close to 70%. However, the percentage of non-affiliated respondents varies between 0,4% in Cyprus and 69% in the Czech Republic. Although secularization has taken ground during the last decades (Pickel, 2010; Norris & Inglehart, 2004), Europe is not secular in general. Only a minority of the Europeans is unaffiliated with any religion. Even if people belong without believing (Davie, 1990), religions still provide membership and potential affiliations.5 And there are good reasons to assume that this provision still is consequential. We argue—based on the literature—that norms and values help to pledge people to contribute to the common good, to accept redistribution and to show solidarity. Does religion still support or even provide such norms and values in modern European societies? Most monotheistic religions comprise of theologies that speak of the grace of charity, mercy and solidarity with those who face economic and social hardships and health risks. The two most prominent sociologists, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber, already developed ideas of how religion and religiosity are related to values. Durkheim (1995 ) has shown that performing joint religious rituals and celebrating common religious festivities
Austria Belgium Bulgaria Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Great Britain Greece Hungary Ireland Italy Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Netherlands Figure 8.1 Distribution ofPoland denominations in member states of the EU (source: EVS data 2008) Portugal Romania Slovak Republic Slovenia
84 Gert Pickel and Annette Schnabel supports bonding and trust. He argues that the experience of joint emotions provides incentives to overcome individual interests in favour of the common good. Weber (1920) assumed that, in particular among Calvinist Protestants, a particular work ethic developed that expands into a lifestyle of asceticism, rational conduct of life and self-enhancement transcending individual hedonism and egoism. In order to test whether and how religion and religiosity support individual value orientations we employ the Human Value Scale by Shalom Schwartz (Schwartz, 1992). Schwartz was interested in designing a value scale that is valid in different countries and for different cultures. The scale refers to three basic needs that, according to Schwartz, give rise to development of values in societies: needs of individuals as biological organisms, requisites of coordinated social interaction, and survival and welfare of the groups. They activate the value orientations of “power” (PO), “achievement” (AC), “hedonism” (HE), “stimulation” (ST), “selfdirection” (SD), “universalism” (UN), “benevolence” (BE), “tradition” (TR), “conformity” (CO), and “security” (SEC). These basic values form a continuous circle (Figure 8.2) in which values close to each other are more similar while values situated farther apart are opposed to each other. The ten value orientations form four basic values: “openness to change”, “self-transcendence”, “conservatism”, and “self-enhancement”.
Figure 8.2 Value orientations and basic values (source: Davidov, Schmidt, & Schwartz, 2008, p. 25)
Common Good From a Sociological Perspective 85 The Human Value Scale measures individual value orientations on the basis of a self–other comparison. It therefore is independent of individual attitudes towards particular moral issues and can be used independently of, for example, religious beliefs, justifications or opinions. Because of its design, it is not possible not to have value orientations. Concerning the relationship between Schwartz’s value scale and religion, Schwartz and Huismans (1995) assume that (i) nonreligious people prefer different value orientations than religious people; (ii) that Christians are more prone to altruism in the form of ‘universalism’ and ‘benevolence’; and (iii) that Protestants might have a slight preference for ‘achievement’. Using data from the European Social Survey (ESS)—a survey that measures attitudes and beliefs in more than thirty countries—we performed a multilevel analysis for the European member states for all ten value orientations of the Human Value Scale as dependent variables. We used data from the year 2014. Age, gender, highest level of education, and household income serve as control variables and are not reported here. Individual denomination, importance of religion, prayer outside of service, and church attendance are tested for their impact on the individual value orientations. Non-affiliated respondents serve as a reference category. Country differences are controlled for by using a multilevel model without further country specifications. Table 8.2 shows that religious and non-affiliated people differ in their value orientations with regard to intensity and direction. That, however, does not imply that non-affiliated respondents do not have any value orientations; their value orientations are much more diverse than the ones of people religiously affiliated. All denominations are negatively associated with stimulation, self-direction, as well as with universalism; they are not significantly related to benevolence. However, affiliations with Catholic, Protestant or other religious denominations are highly and positively associated with tradition, conformity and a preference for security. Individual importance of God and church attendance go hand in hand with tradition in particular. The data also show differences in value orientations between members of different denominations—but they are less pronounced than theological ideologies lead us to expect. Counter to Weber’s prognosis, Catholicism is positively associated to achievement while Protestantism is not related to it at all. All in all, the models show that—in contrast to common knowledge—members of all denominations prefer traditionalism and conformism over universalism and benevolence. The contribution to common goods comes from rites, customs, out of routines, continuance and upkeeping of traditions. That generates a quite selective mechanism that excludes all who are not familiar with the relevant traditions and those who cannot accept them. The common good may run the risk of becoming an insider’s arrangement.
Level of significance: * p< 0,05
Empty model (% total variance) % variance explained by country (full model)
Constant How religious are you? Prayer outside service Church attendance Catholic Protestant Other religions
11% 12% 30468
3,237* 2,607* 0,000 0,001* 0,000 0,001* 0,000 0,000* 0,118* 0,043* 0,083* −0,016 0,142* 0,092*
Table 8.2 Multilevel analysis of value orientations6 ST
9% 6% 30520
2% 4% 30519
2,303* 3,000* 2,552* 2,439* 0,000 0,000 0,000 0,001* 0,001* 0,000 0,001* 0,001* 0,001 0,001* 0,001* 0,000 −0,017 −0,125* −0,066* −0,072* −0,014 −0,147* −0,094* −0,092* −0,140* −0,117* −0,055* 0,034
2,050* 0,001* 0,001* 0,000 −0,016 −0,014 −0,042
2,831* 0,004* 0,000 0,004* 0,197* 0,159* 0,139*
11% 9% 30415 30416
2,895* 1,9152* 0,001* 0,001* 0,000 0,000 0,002* 0,000 0,157* 0,198* 0,164* 0,096* 0,213* 0,241*
Common Good From a Sociological Perspective 87
4. Societal and Generalized Trust Most sociologists agree that trust is the conviction that future actions of others provide benefits—and thereby helps to achieve collective aims (see above). It results from experiences in social relations and influences how individuals relate themselves to others (Luhmann, 1973; Newton, 2007). The social capital approach especially emphasizes these relations (Putnam, 2000). Generalized or societal trust results from interaction in social networks chosen voluntarily by citizens. In this regard, solidarity results from individual decisions. In modern large-scale societies, societal trust is influenced not only by interactions with others but also by institutional settings and frameworks that provide a wide range of social controls to reinforce trustworthy behaviour. People perceive institutions as incorporating rules, regulations, and norms of action to which others are bound (Fuchs, Gabriel, & Völkl, 2002, p. 430). In particular, institutions pledge people to reciprocity norms and to norms that help to overcome individual utility maximization in favour of the social good. Generalized or societal trust comprises of both kinds of trust: trust in others and institutional trust. Religions have the power to support societal trust, in particular through inclusion into a religious community that fosters a high level of value consensus and commitment (see above), routines through rituals and familiarity of community members. Using data from the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) 2008, we tested empirically whether religion as individual religiosity, membership in a particular denomination as well as the inclusion into a wider religiously shaped society (with a close state-religion relationship or a particular religious majority) influences societal trust. The International Social Survey Programme data set (Religion III ZAdata set no. 4950) is designed especially as an international comparative data set to analyze the religious attitudes of the citizens of 35 countries worldwide. We conducted the analysis for EU member states that took part in the survey (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden). Age, gender, highest level of education, social status, and rural or urban area of living again are control variables and are not reported here. Individual denomination, church attendance, prayer outside of service, and community work are tested for their impact on societal trust. Non-affiliated respondents serve as a reference category. Additionally, we assumed that on the country level a close state-religion relationship may support societal trust since in such settings state and religion take effect in the direction of lesser norm ambiguities while religious majorities may support cultural homogeneity and shared customs and conventions. The analysis in Table 8.3 shows that compared to non-affiliated respondents Catholics and respondents from other religions reveal less societal trust. Protestants and orthodox respondents do not differ significantly
88 Gert Pickel and Annette Schnabel from non-affiliated people. Individual religious practices outside service and frequent church attendance have no significant impact, while taking part in community activities increases trust clearly. As expected, several or no established church(es) on the country level reduce societal trust, while societies with Protestant majorities tend to produce more societal trust (Pickel & Gladkich, 2012). This latter finding, however, may be due to the fact that most countries with Protestant majorities are Scandinavian countries with an exceptionally high degree of trust in governmental institutions and a particularly low crime rate. These countries are characterized by a highly developed system of welfare provision. Welfare provisions are part of the opportunity structure supporting voluntary work generating social capital since they release people from the pressure to invest all time into gainful occupation (Esping-Andersen, 2013). If people are engaged in community work in countries with a
Table 8.3 Multilevel analysis of the influence of religion on societal trust7 Model 1 Constant Catholic Protestant Orthodox Other religions Church attendance Religious practices outside service Community work GDP per capita State-religion relationship (ref. one state religion): Several state religions No state religion Religious majorities (ref. protestant majority): No religious majority Catholic majority Community work*religious majority % variance explained by country (full model) n
50,867** 41,787** −1,240** −1,257** 0,194 0,201 −0,029 0,047 −1,503* −1,522* 0,180 0,176 0,027 0,027 0,334*
52,062** −1,223** 0,179 0,130 −1,506* 0,182 0,026
48,627** 48,672** −1,189** −1,171** 0,148 0,167 0,088 0,046 −1,470* −1,470* 0,163 0,138 0,026 0,029
Level of significance: * p< 0,05; **p