Friday, June 03, 2005

'To heal a fractured world'

I somehow missed an interview with Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks in the London Times last month, on the occasion of the publication of his new book . The book is about 'the ethics of responsibility,' particularly responsibility towards others. He explains
that faith is protest, religion is a form of social action, and embracing faith means exerting oneself to help others in a concrete fashion. A religion that is all about pursuing personal enlightenment and which does not result in positive activity to help others is an arid faith in Dr Sacks’s view.
Not exactly radical stuff for his own community, although it's always useful to be reminded, but probably quite interesting for an England where only 7% of people attend Church regularly and where the Anglican church is known for its spinelessness. One of Sacks' targets of criticism is the trend towards New Age spirituality:
Dr Sacks fears that the social dimension of religion is being eclipsed by the rising interest in New Age spirituality, what he calls “the privatisation of faith”.
“We’re saturated with spirituality. It’s part of the conventional wisdom, it has become politically correct. But spirituality is what happens when faith goes bowling alone. The search for meaning is unlikely to be fulfilling unless it’s taken beyond the self to moral commitments.”
It's this stuff that makes Sacks the most senior and most respected religious voice in today's Britain (although the bowling metaphor is a little strange).
Incidentally, I briefly saw a copy of this book a couple of weeks ago and was interested to see who R. Sacks had thanked in the introduction for their help and advice preparing the manuscript. In addition to a couple of very frum rabbis (who I assume were checking it to make sure no revised edition would be necessary later...), there was an interesting collection of independent thinkers, many of them not particularly well known and some of them not particularly religious. Interesting considering he spends much of his time looking over his right shoulder....

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