Ezekiel was a prophet living and ministering during the Babylonian captivity. He lived through what seemed like God’s utter rejection of the people of Israel. Seeing them every day without access to the temple, living in a foreign land subjected to foreign culture and rule. It was as if God declared that He was no longer the God of Israel. Every hope that Israel had was dashed to the ground. This was the Babylonian captivity.
“The Babylonian captivity” may well be a metaphor describing the state of the Christian Church in western civilisation today. We are not physically exiled, but spiritually and psychologically, we are living in a culture that has different values, customs and vision than the Christian Church. We live like exiles in our own lands. This shift to a post-Christian world in the west, has brought significant moral, social and environmental challenges.
Pope Francis challenged this moral decay in his speech at the World Meeting of Popular Movements 2015. The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called “the dung of the devil”. An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind.
Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home, Earth.
The great moral crisis that we face today is precisely in the heart of the human—our capacity to evolve morally to keep pace with all the scientific advancements that we have experienced in the last 100 years.
Every crisis that we face, whether sovereign debt, or ecological crisis, terrorism or genetic manipulation, comes from our lack of moral energy, our stunted moral growth in the face of such advanced technological powers.
Pope John Paul II once said: “All private property has a social mortgage”. If individuals, families or nations are not paying their social mortgage and thus caring for the most vulnerable, it is because they have stony hearts; they have turned away from God.
We are over relying on technical systems of control, believing somehow the market will fix the problem. This is like believing that the engine can drive the car while spinning out of control.
In the 2008 financial crisis, the little people bore the burden of the crisis while the CEO’s got huge bonuses. We have turned wealth, power, pleasure and notoriety into idols. We have made them more important than serving God or our neighbours in need.
The world has enough wealth to keep everyone on our planet out of abject poverty, yet we continue to promote a technical structure that accumulates wealth for a few, and results in poverty for the masses. We seem to keep missing the human being in front of us.
We must dream of a different world. We must put a human face on the large debt owed by struggling economies. Let us dare to dream of a human economy where decisions are made every day in the best interest of people; where we will be neighbours to those most in need; where every person on the planet will have what they need to flourish; where there will be no war, no poverty and no indebted nations or peoples.
We have believed that if we got the structures right, if we got the economy right, that if we got the right balance between the delicate eco-system and development, then we will have the kingdom of God on earth. The kingdom of God cannot be built with technical systems of control. Only humans can collaborate or show empathy or kindness, leveraging our humanity.
Let us dare to dream and work for a world where technological innovation serves all citizens on the planet, especially the most vulnerable; a world where the gap between the rich and the poor—people and nations—will shrink as we empower all to realise their human potential.
—From a sermon preached by then Bishop Jason Gordon at a July 8, 2017 ecumenical service during the G20 Summit in Germany.
• The Most Rev Charles J
Gordon is Archbishop of
Port of spain