Common Purpose

Reading today's email from Sojonet quoted at length a recent speech from Gordon Brown, the new PM in Britain. The Prime Minister's entire speech in online at:

It seems as if the people of Great Britain are fortunate to have a leader that understands that the international push of the Jubilee initiatives from the Vatican and rocker Bono are moving too slowly. Inspired by the call for Jubilee, the UN developed the Millennium Development Goals.

Brown said that we're moving too slowly and that, "our pace is too slow; our direction too uncertain; our vision at risk. ... We cannot allow our promises that became pledges to descend into just aspirations, and then wishful thinking, and then only words that symbolize broken promises."

He then challenged his audience:

And so my argument is simple: The greatest of evils that touches the deepest places of conscience demands the greatest of endeavor. The greatest of challenges now demands the boldest of initiatives. To address the worst of poverty we urgently need to summon up the best efforts of humanity.

I want to summon into existence the greatest coalition of conscience in pursuit of the greatest of causes. And I firmly believe that if we can discover common purpose there is no failing in today's world that cannot be addressed by mobilizing our strengths, no individual struggle that drags people down that cannot benefit from a renewed public purpose that can lift people up.

To find that common purpose, he said:

Our objectives cannot be achieved by governments alone, however well-intentioned; or private sector alone, however generous; or NGOs or faith groups alone, however well-meaning or determined—it can only be achieved in a genuine partnership together.

After addressing governments and businesses, the prime minister went on:

Let me say to faith groups and NGOs—your moral outrage at avoidable poverty has led you to work for the greatest of causes, the highest of ideals, and become the leaders of the campaign to make poverty history. Imagine what more you can accomplish if the energy to oppose and expose harnessed to the energy to propose and inspire is given more support by the rest of us—businesses, citizens, and governments.

Reflecting momentarily on the theological nature of the call to a common purpose to depose poverty, the struggle of common purposes is what alludes us. A missional ecclesiology needs to take into consideration the opportunity to join in a common task to serve a common earth in a common need. Yet, there are numerous NGOs that are religious in orientation that refuse to work together. Many reasons are used to justify the lack of shared effort. But one that is often noticeable is the theological filters that keep us from being "unequally yoked" with others who may not share the same theological commitments.

For instance, in my state there are many social ills. There is a great need for community development to organize and meet these shared needs. However, there are several religious bodies that will not work together if other religious bodies come to the table. A hope arising from a postfoundational posture is that we might be able to come to a common text (not only sacred writings, but demographics, narratives of social experiences, etc) and hear these together. But as long as we come with foundational assumptions of "right" and "left", we are bound to leave the poor in their poverty while we waste our time wondering if we are more correct that others, or less sullied by their presence.

So much for today's rant....