Dr. Sherrie Steiner’s tour de force, Moral Pressure for Responsible Globalization: Religious Diplomacy in the Age of the Anthropocene, is, in the first instance, an exercise in disciplined scholarship, addressing significant issues in the areas of the sociology of religion and international political complexity. But it is more than that.
The perennial cry of the realtor is “location, location, location.” The privilege for one charged with offering a foreword to such a book as Dr. Steiner’s is to set “context, context, context.” In fact, for a book such as this, context is of the essence. Dr. Steiner’s scholarship and narrative constitute an integrative whole of an extraordinary initiative, still in its generative stages, yet already possessed of tangible achievement and immense potential.
Solomon, King of Israel, is famously attributed with the observation that, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
It would appear that His Late Hebraic Majesty may have been too sweeping in his generalizations; at least in this instance.
At the dawn of this already deeply troubled century, and in the wake of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan’s Millennium Forum, the oft muted voices of the world’s religions were raised in a new way. Former Canadian Foreign Minister, the Hon. Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, had ignited the imagination of leaders secular and religious with his vision of “Human Security”: essentially the view that the interests of the world’s peoples must ever trump the interests of the nation states system. The world’s religious communities form the largest planetary civil society network extant. The time had surely come for that network to exercise its considerable “soft power” in the mission of Tikkun Olam: the Hebrew for the “Mending of the World.” This religious soft power was to be neither diffident to political and economic power on the one hand, nor dogmatically and doctrinally hostile on the other. Rather, a new and collaborative posture was proposed: a posture committed to the healing of the entire created order.
The story and concomitant analysis of the responsive engagement of a hitherto informal network of global religious leaders, some of high rank and profile, most of more modest office and stature, is the warp and woof of Dr. Steiner’s present oeuvre. She documents, discerns and dissects the G8 and subsequent G20 Interfaith Summits (now increasingly designated the F8 and F20 Summits) as phenomena in their own right, and in the context of the global cauldron of the twenty-first century.
She records and analyses critically yet faithfully an international process which answers the heart wrenching and hopeful vision of theologian Hans Küng: “unity among the churches; peace among religions; community among the nations” (Spero contra spem, 1990).
In short, in Moral Pressure for Responsible Globalization, Dr. Steiner has harkened to the words of the prophet Isaiah, “And now, go, write it before them in a tablet and inscribe it in book, that it may be for the time to come, as a witness for ever” (Isaiah 30: 8).
The Rev. Prof. Dr. James Taylor Christie
Secretary General, G8 World Religious Leaders’ Summit
Winnipeg, Canada, 2010