Morality means working together, not seeking superiority

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In an initial comment on a new BBC/ComRes survey for 'The Big Questions' (broadcasting Sunday 9 September 2007, 10am on BBC One TV), indicating that 83 per cent of people think Britain is experiencing moral decline, Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow said:

"Overall this seems like good news. The great majority of people of all outlooks are seeking for a better society and are recognising that consumption and technology aren't enough. The results look like ethical commitment rather than simple 'moral panic'. But there remains a gap between intentions and behaviour, and the lack of moral consensus in an increasingly diverse society poses a challenge."

On the role of religion, Barrow added: "On the one hand it is clear that people of faith do not have a monopoly on morality, and almost a third of the population reject religious influence. On the other hand, a majority believe religion can have a positive effect - but the real question is 'what kind of religion?' and indeed 'what do we mean by religion?'"

The Ekklesia co-director said there were no grounds for triumphalism in the survey, either by advocates or detractors of religion.

He added that whereas the survey's approach might suggest that 'morality' is primarily about personal virtue and decision making, "it is also about the structural questions of wealth, ecology, violence and human dignity. And effective ethics means acting as persons-in-relation, not 'heroic individuals'."

Concluded Barrow: "What we need is not a vague debate about values, but people from different backgrounds and outlooks who are prepared to work together to build concrete alternative practices like hospitality, civility, non-violence, economic sharing, reconciliation, nonviolence and so on. It is about making a different world possible, not just talking about it."

Ekklesia believes that the Christian churches can play a positive role in encouraging ethical collaboration, but that if they are true to their Gospel message they should not be seeking sectional advantage or moral superiority.

"What makes morality is working together, not against each other or in disregard of the needs of the other. Recognising common humanity is part of the search for a justice and peace that Christians call 'communion'," Barrow said.

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Ekklesia's Simon Barrow on negotiaating the moral muddle - Guardian Comment-is-Free.