Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jesus' Prayer

We spoke and discussed with all the lecture's attendees about the power of prayer last night. How long to pray, Meditation, When to pray, Different types of prayer, How Jesus himself prayed by himself, How prayer is a dialogue with God, How it is that God himself leads us to pray through his Spirit. But one question, and only one, captured the essense of prayer: How come not all prayers are answered according to our wishes? It seems to me, and I could be wrong, that God does not change his mind when we pray but it is us who get closer to him when we truly pray. One person said, we have to discern God's will for us..."Discern the Spirits" the Holy Bible says. St. Ignatius of Loyola had to develop a set of exercises - His "Spiritual Exercises," which the Jesuits follow to this day, are treasures of how to find God's will in every day of my life. This took me directly to the most important topic about prayer: The prayer of Jesus at the night he was betrayed. Jesus spent a long time in prayer while his disciples were sleeping after their last supper at that scary night. He was afraid. He was alone. It was a dark night and a dark moment in his earthly life. The Son of God was troubled by what awaited him, because he was as human as every other human person. He knew that his life was coming to an end. He knew who was to betray him. And he knew he will die. His supplications to his Father continued until he was sweating blood. How did he pray and struggle in his prayer, this Master of all spiritual masters? At last, he says "Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42) And because Jesus aligned his human will with the divine will, he approached his death in total obedience to his beloved father whom he called "Abba" (Daddy). And in his death he carried on his shoulders not only his cross but the crosses and sufferings of the entire world. No, he saved the entire human race from hell in his death. His life begot life and his death begot more life...eternal life for all humanity... His prayer did not finish since he is still praying, as we all know, to bring us close to his father. Allow me to add one little thing since it connects all: What was the source of his prayer and his relationship to his father and for us? St. Augustine teaches us that it was love from eternity. The Father loved and continues to love his begotten Son (the Word) in his unlimited self-emptying self-giving love and the Son receives that self-emptying self-giving love, and the Holy Spirit is that love that binds the Father and the Son. This is the Trinity which is at the core of Christianity. Love is the only way for eternal life. In recent decades, scientific research in quantum physics has been stipulating that not only living people are in relationship, but even inanimate matter at the microcosmic level do communicate with each other. I may be mistaken but I feel that the imprint of our Christian Triune God fills the universe. Yes, prayer is a dialogue with God...Yes, prayer starts with God, not us, and it is the Spirit of God that urges us to cooperate with God's grace...Yes, it takes time to enjoy prayer...Yes, it is in the Eucharist that the Church prays since through it Christ himself is praying in his sacrifice. But the most important element in prayer is love...that is Christ - that is God.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How to reconcile one's personal values with organizational values and cultural values as well as ethics in a global setting

The above title is the title of a paper I was asked to write in my "managerial communication" course in the Information Systems Master degree at the University of Phoenix. I am publishing it in this blog, while the instructor is still evaluating it. Why? Because I believe that my readers would benefit from my humble attempt at reconciling many moral views that seem to be easily reconciled but in fact they are not in our postmodern age. Read on: Introduction To reconcile one's personal values with organizational values and cultural values as well as ethics in a global setting, I must start by indicating first where one stands in terms of personal ethics. I will first proceed to show how personal values are derived from religious values, and will show how these ethics historically developed in the West (which excludes Oriental cultures). Since the business model, to which the Globe adheres now, has emerged from the Western culture, in the rest of the paper I will use that model in relation to its treatment of ethics. I further assume that the current global information technology is only an extension of this culture. Personal Values My own personal values have been influenced by personal upbringing at home, my formation and interaction at church, as well as school, my relationships with colleagues at the workplace, and not the least the genetic makeup inherited from my parents. But most of all, my knowledge gained through much research, will bear on this paper. Religious Values and Ethics The origin of ethics is tied to the origin of religion, which goes back to prehistoric time. Morality, like religion, has a natural basis. It is the outcome of the use of reason (Catholic Encyclopedia, Religion). Worship is probably the most basic element of religion, but moral conduct is a constituent element of religious life (Britannica, Religion). However, the religious perception in the human thought and psyche is not explainable to-date by pure scientific research (A. Newberg, E. D’Aquili, V. Rause, Why God Won’t Go Away, 1999- See also The Economist, Where angels no longer fear to tread, March 19, 2008 issue). Most personal ethical values in America and Western cultures in general are based on the Ten Commandments (Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, Exodus 20, 2-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21). For more modern Biblical scholarship with regard to the development of the Ten Commandments, see The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, published by Prentice-Hall, 1990. Development of Religious and Cultural Values The origin of religion is speculated to be some kind of worship for the “Sky God” in very early primitive cultures. Due to the widely different cultural systems in the world, I will limit myself to the Western hemisphere for the development of ethics. The earliest known ethics code is Hammurabi’s Code, in Mesopotamia (18th century BC). It is thought by a few scholars that the Hebrews may have used some of his codes in their Law from which ethical values are developed. In about 30 AD, Jesus Christ is said to have revolutionized the Hebrew Law (The New Testament). It was Jesus Christ who introduced to the world the idea of God as a loving father. Jewish tradition, according to Biblical scholarship knew of God as father but never called him: Father (Abba which is an Aramaic word for Daddy). When the "Prodigal Son" left his father's home and was in deep trouble, his Daddy, in the Gospel, was still looking for him until one day the son returned home and, at once, his father made a celebration. "For your brother was dead and now he is alive" the father told his older son (Luke 15:11-32). It was Christ who introduced to the world the great words "Love your enemies..." (Matthew 5:44). He was full of love towards very man and woman. He is known to have said this when he was dying on the cross: "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34). But the most relevant teaching of Christ to personal ethics is his reversal of the priority of the two commandments. For him, love of neighbour was more important than love of God. Or put in other words, worship of God is to serve Man’s needs because God is in Man. Recall that Man does not mean male but is inclusive of men and women according to the ancient Hebrew language. This is evident in much of Christ’s teaching and parables (Cf. the Parable of the Good Samaritan; Luke 10:29-37). Maurice Zundel, a thinker in the 20th century commented that God knelt in front of Man (in reference to Jesus’ washing of his Apostles feet in the Last Supper.) Today’s insistence on the inviolable value of the human person is rooted in Christ’s teaching. Long before it was adopted by a secular West, this ethical value was rooted in Christianity. The development of moral and ethical values cannot be fully separated from that of culture. When the Christian movement, born in Jewish tradition, was spread to the Roman world beyond Jewish Israel, largely through the preaching of Peter (Cefa ben Jonah) and Paul (of Tarsus), Christianity adopted at least two changes to the Law which made it distinct from Judaism. The first is the abolition of circumcision, and the second is eating of unclean animals (Acts 11). Around the year 67, Nero crucified and burned thousands of Christians (Cf. Tacitus, Annals, 305). Over the next three centuries, his successors followed him in persecuting Christians. Pliny the Younger, an advisor to Emperor Trajan, said Christians “bound themselves by a solemn oath not to deny any wicked deeds, never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up”(Cf. Pliny, Letters, 403). Christian commitment led to the conversion of Emperor Constantine upon defeating his rival Maxentius in 312 by the sign of the cross. Let us briefly see the enormous effect of Christian moral values on the development of ethics in the Roman empire and its offspring: 1. As a Christian emperor, Constantine introduced moral reforms in civil law including the outlaw of crucifixion and branding of slaves. 2. Infanticide (the killing of deformed and weak newborn) was widespread in the Greco-Roman culture and even beyond (India, China, Japan, Brazil, Africa). Cicero (106- 43 B.C.) justified it by citing the ancient Twelve Tables of Roman Law, and the philosopher Seneca (4 BC - 65 AD) said “We drown children who at birth are weak and abnormal” (De Ira 1.15). Infant girls were especially vulnerable (an inscription at Delphi reveals that only 1% of families raised more than one daughter in the second century). It was Christians who, on the contrary, condemned infanticide as an act of murder (Didache, 110 AD) thus honouring human life as an inalienable gift from God. Once Christianity attained legal status in the 4th century, the Christian emperor Valentinian, influenced by St. Basil, formally outlawed infanticide (374 AD). 3. Abortion practice was practised in virtually all pagan cultures. It was widespread in the Greco-Roman civilization, sometimes due to food shortage, but also due to the deterioration of the value of marriage, and the increase in extra-marital sexual affairs in the late Roman era. Moreover, the desire to remain childless was promoted (Cf. Seneca, De Consolatione ad Marciam 19.2; Horace, Satires 2.5). Christian tradition from the beginning criminalizes abortion as murder (Cf. Didache, in The Apostolic Fathers, 319). As commented by the historian Ferdinand Schenck : “The intrinsic worth of each individual man and woman as a child of God and an mmortal soul was introduced by Christianity.” 4. One of the perverted customs that Christianity overturned was human sacrifices. The Canaanites and virtually all ancient societies knew of this sacrifice to the pagan dieties. Aztec and Maya Indians sacrificed captive warriors in their religious rites. The Romans introduced the gladiatorial games in 264 B.C. as a way of showing the power of Roman Emperor to whom even people can be sacrificed. Gladiators were usually slaves, condemned criminals, or prisoners of war, all of whom were considered dispensable, without dignity. These games were not confined to Rome but were also held in Syria, Greece and Asia Minor. Gladiators were encouraged to slash and slay each other before an entertained crowd with the emperor at the Colosseum in Rome or amphitheaters in other cities. The church condemned sacrifice of human life as part of any rituals. The church also condemned the gladiatorial bloody contests and gambling with human life. In his book de spectaculis, Tertullian (d. 220) devoted an entire chapter to admonishing Christians not to attend gladiatorial games. Christian Emperor Theodosius I (378-395) terminated the games in the East, and his son Honorius ended them in 404 in the West. W.E.H. Lecky stated “There is scarcely any single reform so important in the moral history of mankind as the suppression of the gladiatorial shows, a feat that must be almost exclusively ascribed to the Christian church” 5. The effect of the Roman classical culture came back to haunt the culture of Western Christianity in the 14th century. This is called Renaissance since it inaugurated a rebirth of the classical Roman-Greek values. Humanism insisting on the priority of this life as opposed to the priority of eternal life followed soon. However, great philosophers such as St. Thomas Aquinas were able to synthesize the Greek philosophy of Aristotle with the Christian faith (Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind, 1991, pp. 179-190). Not only did this synthesis tolerate Aristotle’s open inquiry into nature but also promoted inquiry in the natural world since the world came into existence from a loving creator. (Tarnas, p.184). 6. However, with the rise of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, a new current of individualism was born and promoted in North Europe based on free interpretation of the Bible by the individual. Gradually, individualism gave precedence to the individual over society and the state. 7. Finally with the Enlightenment in the 19th century, and moral relativism in the 20th century, ethics lost their absolute value in the public place. We live in a post-modern world where the criteria of judgment on moral values are relative to individuals and their environments. It is evident then that our human rights that we never stop talking about are rooted in Christianity. Personal Religious Ethics and Multicultural Values Multicultural ethics is a broad topic if we are to consider all the cultures of the world. Since the infamous 9/11 attack, the Islamic culture came into much discussion in America and the West. In this paper I will therefore focus on the Islamic culture as opposed to the Christian culture in the West. In Toronto, considered the centre of Canada’s business community, some 50% of its inhabitants are ethnic immigrants. Many immigrants in recent decades have come from Muslim cultures to settle in Canada. They are hard workers but they bring with them their own cultural values. Much of their social values are well integrated into Canadian social values. However, some particularly Islamic traditions are not open to integrate – Consider, for example, the Islamic law (Sharia) of polygamy. This law is foreign to Christian monogamy still prevailing in Western society. If a young Muslim immigrant man marries a young Christian woman, does he have a right to get married to another woman while he is still married to his first wife? Another difficulty stems from the different ways women dress in Islamic countries as opposed to Western countries? Muslim cultural presence in Europe has caused much friction in the past few years particularly in secular France. In the years since the infamous 9/11 attack, some Fundamentalist Muslim organizations have threatened to bomb Western countries. In his “Christianity Face to Face with Islam”, published in the renowned First Things in January 2009 issue, Robert Louis Wilken suggests that Christianity “has a deeper and more coherent relation to its own tradition, including the cultural patrimony of classical antiquity. And it commands the intellectual resources to understand and engage other religious traditions as well as to provide moral inspiration for secular societies.” Followimg Pope Benedict's address at Regensburg in September 2005, some 150 Muslim scholars wrote to him that a dialogue between Christianity and Islam is important. Last year 300 Muslim scholars enlarged their quest for dialogue to many of the Christian churches and they based their argument on "love of God and love of neighbour" the two pillars of Christian morality. This is a good beginning but it remains to be seen how different cultures such as Islamic and Christian ones will inspire each other and interact in a global setting. How to Reconcile Personal Ethics with Multiculturalism All major religious cultures seem to have at least a common denominator in ethics. This includes good behaviour towards the other, or neighbour, as long as there is no violent reaction. This is based on the natural law of justice. Furthermore, we can apply the Golden Rule stated in the negative form in Confucius teaching "never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself" (Analects XV.24, tr. David Hinton). From the major religions we find too similar appreciation for inter-human ethics: Bahá'í Faith: "Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not." "Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself." Baha'u'llah Buddhism: "...a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?" Samyutta NIkaya v. 353 Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Udana-Varga 5:18 Christianity: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12. "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31, Hinduism: This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. Mahabharata 5:1517 Islam: "None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." Number 13 of Imam "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths." 5 Judaism: "...thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.", Leviticus 19:18 "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary." Talmud, Shabbat 31a. "And what you hate, do not do to any one." Tobit 4:15 6 Shinto: "The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form" "Be charitable to all beings, love is the representative of God." Ko-ji-ki Hachiman Kasuga Sikhism: Compassion-mercy and religion are the support of the entire world". Japji Sahib "Don't create enmity with anyone as God is within everyone." Guru Arjan Devji 259 "No one is my enemy, none a stranger and everyone is my friend." Guru Arjan Dev : AG 1299 Taoism: "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss." T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien. The above says it all. No culture and no religion, at least at face value, would reject good ethics among people as long as they are well behaving with each other. However, only the Christian culture bases behaviour more emphatically on true love. Issues of Ethics in the Workplace How can we relate ethics to business: In its issue, January 2005, the Economist wrote "The crucial point is that managers of public companies do not own the businesses they run. They are employed by the firms' owners to maximise the long-term value of the owners' assets. Putting those assets to any other use is cheating the owners, and that is unethical. If a manager believes that the business he is working for is causing harm to society at large, the right thing to do is not to work for that business in the first place. Nothing obliges someone who believes that the tobacco industry is evil to work in that industry. But if someone accepts a salary to manage a tobacco business in the interests of its owners, he has an obligation to those owners. To flout that obligation is unethical." Elaine Sternberg, an academic philosopher and business consultant (and a former investment banker), persuasively argues in her book, “Just Business”, that there are two main things: “ordinary decency” and “distributive justice”. These need to be understood in relation to the proper goal of the firm. Without these basic values, business would not be possible. Sterrnberg continues "If owner value, and ownership itself, are to mean anything, there must be respect for property rights. This excludes lying, cheating, stealing, killing, coercion, physical violence and most illegality”; it calls instead for “honesty and fairness”. Taken together, in her formulation, these constraints reflect the demands of “ordinary decency”. "Firms that lie and cheat cannot expect to stay in business very long, even if their actions are allowed by law. Dishonest companies will be unable to borrow, to obtain working capital, or to form stable business relationships with suppliers and customers. Decency in this sense is not just good for business, it is essential. When it comes to maximising long-term owner value, honesty is not just the best policy, it is the only feasible policy." What about the second component of business ethics, distributive justice? In the business context, this simply means aligning benefits within the organisation to the contribution made to achieving the aims of the firm. Pay linked to performance and promotion on merit are instances of distributive justice within the company. Much of what was said about the role of ordinary decency applies here too. Again, these notions of what is fair are widely accepted; on the other hand, they are not, for the most part, required by law; as a practical matter, they are needed if the business is to do as well as it can; and they are also questions of ethics, and hence part of the ethics of business. To promote a friend rather than the best person for the job, or to reward a manager for incompetence or wrongdoing, is a bad way to run a business—and is also unethical." I fully agree with the above statement. Management of business requires a minimum of ethics. It is still falling short of Christian ethics. International Business Values in view of Globalization When it comes to globalization, there are new sets of ethical issues: Denis Collins wrote in the Journal of Business Ethics "Reams of research have been devoted to comparing ethical sensitivities of people from different countries. As most of this work has been North American, it is perhaps not surprising that it concluded that American business people are more 'ethically sensitive' than their counterparts from Greece, Hong Kong, Taiwan, New Zealand, Ukraine and Britain. They were more sensitive than Australians about lavish entertainment and conflicts of interest; than French and Germans over corporate social responsibility; than Chinese in matters of bribery and confidential information; and than Singaporeans on software piracy. Given such moral superiority, it is surprising that American companies seem to turn up in ethical scandals at least as often as those from other rich countries" May be, but when we see what Enron corporate elite did, then we must ask questions about the ethical behavior of Corporate America too! When America went to Iraq in 2003, there were reports that it was not the liberation of Iraqis that motivated the superpower to invade Iraq but the economic benefits that would be reaped by the American oil companies. The Economist in its April 20th 2000 issue questioned "Anti-globalisation protesters see companies as unethical as well as exploitative. Firms demur, of course, but face an awkward question: Does virtue pay?" Continues the Economist, many companies first confronted the moral dilemmas of globalisation when they had to decide whether to meet only local environmental standards, even if these were lower than ones back home. This debate came to public attention with the Bhopal disaster in 1984, when an explosion at a Union Carbide plant in India killed at least 8,000 people. Most large multinationals now have global minimum standards for health, safety and the environment. In the same article, the Economist raises the question of global human rights "Human rights are a newer and trickier problem. Shell has written a primer on the subject, in consultation with Amnesty International. It agonises over such issues as what companies should do if they have a large investment in a country where human rights deteriorate; and whether companies should operate in countries that forbid outsiders to scrutinise their record on human rights" Conflicts between Personal Ethics and Global Business Values We have seen the power of globalization and the issues it raises in following a standard ethics. I believe that much of the issues of globalization are caused by the economic disparity between the North and the South as well as the pressures of free-market policies that the IMF has pursued among the underdeveloped nations to remove subsidies. While China and India are emerging as economic powers, their cultures remain enslaved to old sub-humane traditions such as the caste system in India. The internet and telecommunication technologies have facilitated much collaboration between businesses and people. However, while communication has dramatically improved, the quality of communication has not. On the contrary, today almost all families are working harder to meet an increasing standard of living. When it comes to personal ethics, one asks whether there remains an absolute right and wrong. As Peter Kreeft of Boston College rightly observed, we live in a culture of moral relativism. A Proposed Approach for Global Business Ethics From an ethical view, I think that many steps need to be taken by governments, particularly governments of the West: - Redistribution of wealth among nations - Educating cultures of the Middle East, the Far East and the South about the individual human value/human rights - Helping people that are in need in Africa. Charities are not effective enough. Every human in the Globe needs to have a minimum of nutrition, cloth, shelter, education, and medical care, This will cost but the benefits will help cultures integrate. The Value of The Human Person in a Global Culture The most important achievement that humans in the end can make is to achieve a high level of relationship not only through the new technology but also through respect for everyone, sacrifice for the better of the community and love..true love. This is only possible in universal love that is offered in Christianity. George Farahat February 2, 2009 References Encyclopaedia Britannica, Religion Catholic Encyclopaedia, Religion Schmidt, J., Under The Influence - How Christianity Transformed Civilization, Zondervan, 2001. Tarnas, R, The Passion of the Western Mind, 1991 The Economist, March 19, 2008 The Economist, January 20, 2005 The Economist, May 10, 2007 The Economist, April 20, 2000 Newberg, A., D’Aquili, E, Rause, V., Why God Won’t Go Away, 1999 Wilken, R., First Things, January 2009 Kreeft, P., Refutation of Moral Relativism, 1999, Reed Business Information

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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