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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Religion Without God

Friend Pat just told me that Law and Ethics Professor Dworkin has just published (alas posthumously) a new book called Religion Without God an excerpt of which appears in the New York Review. Having read this I eagerly intend to read the book. It expresses beautifully much of what I have been trying to argue in my Ethics of Integrity including its relation to God.

There are a few things that I say differently. I adopt Dewey's distinction between religion and the religious. The "religious" of Dewey is pretty much the same as Dworkin's "religious attitude,"the experience of awe, mysterium tremendum, and a sense of faith, which is also a commitment, in beauty, goodness, and the infinity of knowledge (Deutsch) or truth. Religion for Dewey is the formulation of the religious experience or of the morality to which a child has been socialized--the expressions in stories, rules, rituals, beliefs of the gods.

Dworkin identifies having a religious attitude with having a religion so that Einstein can have a religion (be religious) without a god (be an atheist). I think both D & D would say that religion itself is fairly universal, either being a factor of ubiquitous culture or an expression of religious attitude.

Dwokin's main distinction is between fact and value. The existence of a god is a fact that can be explored by science. But science itself, as well as all human endeavors (including religion and theology?), rests on a transcendent value which is not objective and therefore not discoverable by science.

He rejects naturalism (nothing is real except that which can be studied by science) in all its forms. I don't think he means to accept supernaturalism as an objective religious world above the natural world; but he does accept the world of transcendent value beyond the facts of whether or not there is a god or other beliefs of a particular religion. That transcendent value is not a matter of science, but a matter of faith.

He quotes William James: religion adds to life an enchantment which is not rationally or logically deduced from anything else. That enchantment, says Dworkin, is "the discovery of the transcendental value in what seems otherwise transient and dead."

And here (as I have argued at length earlier) I differ with Dworkin. That enchantment, I say, is the discovery not of "transcendent value" but of the value of transcendence which is a dimension of our personal and communal human nature. I do not separate the world of facts from the world of values as he does following Hume. Dworkin says that values are as real as trees and stones and microbes and neurons and black holes. Yes, I agree, and they are "discoverable" through reflective, thoughtful living and experience. And they can be affirmed in our evolving and evolved human nature which is accessible through science.

For me, the distinction is between facts of science and what philosophers call the facticity of human existence, both of which are accessible through rational inquiry, none of which are absolute or unchanging for all time and space and community. And this is why I can assert universal truth and value and deny absolutes, how I can affirm a universal ethic among a multitude of moralities and religions. But this probably makes no sense to someone who has not followed my previous arguments for an Ethics of Integrity.

I really appreciate Dworkin's thoughtful work to show the unity of the good tough-minded atheists like Einstein and Dawkins with the good tender-minded theists like Christians, Jews, and Muslims in an ethic of good behavior. Indeed that is my intent as well. There are many belief systems with many or no gods and rituals but human nature can collaborate without a single belief system, but with common values that are based on the transcendent and universal dimension of human nature and existence which impels science, religion, art, economics, politics and all human endeavors.



Saturday, March 23, 2013

Let's Have Another Party

Let's have another party! The last two weren't that much fun. We ought to plan this one better and invite more people.

Or are our party days over? We're getting pretty old and need more time to think and sleep. Sometimes parties are the way to go and sometimes they're not. I know many folks that think parties are a waste of time--and money.

No, not birthday, holiday, or anniversary parties. I mean the political kind that most of our founders didn't want us to have. They thought that various self-interested groups (Hamilton called them "factions") would simply interact for the common good, choose their representatives, who would interact and persuade each other to do the right thing. But it didn't take long for the factions to organize into specific parties to contend for their interests. From Whigs and Tories came federalists and states-righters, federalists and democratic-republicans, unionists and confederates, republicans and democrats. The good angels to one were often evil devils to the other although there were times of getting along for a higher purpose.

Maybe it's time for another realignment. And I know the party that I would like to belong to.

I will call it the Progressive Republic Party and it is built on three ascending principles:

1. The libertarian principle with values of liberty and diversity. This principle espouses freedom from interference in regards to personal and private space, to culture, language, religion, personal morality. It espouses tolerance and non-discrimination with regards lifestyle, viewpoint, origin, race, orientation, and vocation. It asserts the right to personal property, speech, belief, choice of whom to love and with whom to live and affiliate, and for the disposition of one's own body and personal property. It is limited only by the harm rule--that actions under this principle are not harming another person and their abilities and their liberties. The role of law and government at all levels is simply to stay out of private/personal space, to protect the boundaries of that space, and to ensure that other persons are not being harmed.

2. The social democratic principle with the value of equality. This principle espouses access to, distribution of, and protection for the natural resources for life in regards the economy/ecology. It asserts the dignity of all human persons and their rights to life and all the resources necessary to survive and thrive in dignity as human beings. These include sufficient income, nourishment, shelter, health care, education, and mobility. The role of law and government at all level is to ensure these rights of life and to protect the resources of the earth for future generations.

3. The republican principle with its values of collective action or power and locality or subsidiarity. This principle espouses the freedom to associate with others, to translate individual troubles and interests into public issues, to organize publics or voluntary associations that pursue issues and so shape public space or commons through their discussion and action. This principle asserts that decision-making should start at the local or most basic level with the inclusion of all who want to participate. The role of law and government at all levels is to ensure the ability of all persons to create and participate in publics, to provide a mechanism for interaction and transaction among publics, and to carry out the collective decisions of the publics.

In general, the libertarian principle applies to culture including religion and other belief systems. The social democratic principle relates to economy/ecology. And the republican principle relates to politics. I call them ascending principles because I think that the social democratic principle is more important than the libertarian principle; that is, access, distribution, and protection of life's resources must come before "do as I please." And the republican principle is more important than the other two: the ability to act in concert with others (i.e. power) is the highest fulfillment of humanity and is the wherewithal for resource management and personal liberty. But each principle limits or conditions the other.  And the task is to maintain the balance or, better, integrity of the three principles.

I do not equate government with the public sector though it is the instrument of the public sector to ensure publics, the commons, and personal space.

I ground these principles in the ethic of integrity which I have developed earlier based on an analysis of human nature and existence as discovered by science--and especially evolutionary biology and neuroscience. But I will further explain that in a later entry.

The policy implications of these principles or the platform for the Progressive Republic Party I will outline in a succeeding blog.

But let the Party begin! I'll get the champaign.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Priest Talk

Today in the NYT are two pieces on RC priests. 1) Peter Manseau whose father had been a priest before he married his mother says that good Pope Francis might be more forgiving of married priests. 2) Roy Bourgeois, the courageous Maryknoller who fought against the assassination training of the School of the Americas, talks about his being excommunicated and thrown out of his order for advocating for women priests.

I am sympathetic to both but I disagree.

When I was studying French as a young Jesuit in Quebec, I asked people on the street about their social issues. One man said it all: "trop de prĂȘtes," he said--too many priests. He found clericalism a real problem in that French province.

Then I went on to study theology for four years. Under the tutorship of a scripture scholar from England, Father John Bligh SJ, I studied the priesthood in the New Testament. It became very clear that Jesus and his early companions had no use for the priesthood--certainly not as a holy class of men who could be intermediaries between God and the people. That came much, much later as the Roman Church was institutionalizing itself using the cultural forms of the times. Before then, in the early days, the leaders of Jesus communities were men or women who had proved themselves or as Timothy (3, 1-16) said, in response to a community that asked how they should choose their leader or overseer (episcopos), "choose someone who has raised his/her family well." And see Titus 1, 6-9. But even Timothy and Titus wrote much later as the communities were organizing themselves.

The word priest comes from presbyteros meaning "elder" and should be distinguished from "sacerdos," the specialist in holy things, ordained by the gods or God to conduct religious ceremonies to bring God to the people and the people to God. It is especially that second meaning of priest that I shun--though I must admit to being suspicious of any one who claims authority.

I asked Father Bly, "why then, and how did the priesthood start." He said he didn't know but that it may have just been the human condition of "institutionalizing charisma" or "bureaucratization" as sociologist Max Weber said. But he suspected that it was the seminary that led to the priesthood. As soon as a group organizes and claims to have a special knowledge and develops a training center, it starts a degree program and licensing. That's why Jane Addams fought against the establishment of social work schools. Professionalizing is probably a necessary evil in accounting, law, research, even management.

And so now to my disagreement with the writers in today's NYT. It's not that priests should be allowed to marry or be women. It's "why priests" at all as Gary Wills says in his new book. I have not read his book yet, but had come to the same conclusion many years ago when my Jesuit superior asked me if I was going to be ordained. I told him no--that even though I knew many wonderful priests and that many of my heroes were RC priests, I did not believe in the institution. At the time I wanted to stay a Jesuit because I was working with a great community of men and women as a Jesuit. And he said that was fine.

But after a year or so, I met Bernadette and she would not have fit into the order then. Nevertheless, I am still in touch with many of my Jesuit colleagues and as I have noted earlier I consider myself a member of the Church Universal (indeed Bernie and I are members of a Unitarian-Universalist congregation) along with all my RC family and friends.

Perhaps like Roy Bourgois I too am excommunicated from the Vatican. But I am open to their return to the fold.

Monday, March 18, 2013

More Pope Talk

My last blog hoping that the new Pope Francis SJ would lead RCs back to the universal church may have seemed a bit facetious to good Catholics. I certainly did not want to offend or claim that I know what the Pope should do. Just as I wouldn't dare to say what I would have done in his situation during the "Dirty War" in Argentina. Forgive me if I sounded presumptuous.

In trying to know a bit more (and perhaps revisit and revise my own RC memories) I read the Latin America Bishops Conference Aparacida document which he edited and also his lively discussion about that document. He uses a language which has become somewhat archaic to me; but I think I understand and appreciate it. The document and his comments show an openness to change and inclusiveness which I applaud. I am not enamored with the treatment of women and of priesthood as a separate class of holy men, nor with its dogmatic style. It still assumes many medieval trappings including its institutional infrastructure and absolutist morality. But I know we all have assumptions that need to be questioned.

We speak and know through metaphors--images that refer to and are backed by experience in the world, then revised by more experience and evidence, within a system of symbols or culture. Therefore when Francis and other Christians speak, I interpret what they say in terms of the culture I inhabit which is especially influenced by and expressed in the art and science of our post industrial era. But that is the nature of critical thinking, isn't it? Whether its criticism related to art, philosophy related to science, ethics related to morality, or theology related to religion. Interpretation and re-presentation is what theologians, ethicists, philosophers, and art critics do to actively further the enterprise of thinking and doing.

So I want to say to my Christian friends: in my critique I do not intend to demean, but actually mean, what you say--in terms that I and other members of my culture can understand and learn from. But I also want to point out the limits of your language and mine as well as the cultures which produce it.  That's how we learn and grow. All symbolic systems including all our institutions are in process of development in so far as we are. Otherwise they are dead and we are dead.

In every symbolic system there are blindspots. The symbols which we use to inhabit our world and achieve understanding of our universe conceal as well as reveal. We will progress when we apply critical thinking and transcend our words, teachings, institutions, formulations and our other creations.  We will regress when we let our creations rule us, box us in, keep us from learning, make it seem like we know or can know the "mind of God" (metaphor!).

The gods or God of religion are metaphors for valid human experiences and especially for the experience of transcendence at the core of our existence (more metaphors!).  In Catholic speak there are three dimensions to divinity: Father (Mother) or Progenitor of the Universe; Son (Word) or Progeny of the Universe; Spirit or Soul (Consciousness) of the Universe--all in one. Contemplatives and Mystics know that God cannot be known except as Mystery and Universal Love (and these are metaphors also.)

The most powerful metaphor for transcendence today seems to be "Spirit": Spirit of Love, integrating or Holy Spirit, Universal Consciousness.

In our congregation every Sunday we sing Carolyn McDade's wonderful hymn:








Francis I uses the Spirit metaphor often and seems to be saying in his writings: Let it happen, allow human imagination to progress, be open to newness, allow our present institutions to transform themselves, trust in our ability (god-given if you want) to live, work, think, and act together for our personal and communal fulfillment.

Spirit of life and love, you are already here in my own consciousness of myself in connection with all humanity and all creatures, with the earth and our universe. When we are truly open to or in touch with that presence, when we are truly here and now in relation to all that is past and future, all that is expressed and unexpressed, then we are intending and extending the mystery of infinity. And all is possible including our transformation to a just social order.




Friday, March 15, 2013

Will the new pope join the universal church?

Habemus papam! A fellow Companion of Jesus no less. Francis I, S.J.

He seems to be a man who understands the ravages of poverty and the obscenity of unrestrained capitalism and of a political-economy that only focuses on financial wealth, not social, civic, intellectual, environmental, spiritual wealth. He also seems to be a man of humility recognizing his own weaknesses and mistakes and so in solidarity with the rest of us. So I have hope.

When my brother-in-law saw that a Jesuit was Pope, he, knowing my Jesuit background, joked to me "I thought you had to be a Catholic to be Pope." Well I also pray that Francis encourage the Roman Catholic leadership and congregations to become a part of the Universal Church--the all-inclusive assembly or ecclesia. Many of us who were bred in the Catholic tradition would welcome this.

I learned in catechism that the marks of the Church are one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. At the present many RC bishops, priests, and congregations (not all!) have left the universal Church in favor of a more narrow, exclusive, sectarian, divisive, and even cruel institution. And we want you back.

One

There is no unity without diversity. To be one does not mean saying or believing exactly the same thing. It is the diversity of opinions, viewpoints, beliefs, hypotheses and theories that is the condition for communication and community.

This is not to neglect the importance of working out principles, creeds, and beliefs. As a facilitator of strategic plans for community, business, and education organizations, I know the importance of bringing all stakeholders together and, after assessing the changing environment and the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, to develop common mission, vision, and goal statements in order to build the unity and commitment in and to the organization. Part of the unity of a community is the participative development of constitutions and charters. But this is an ongoing exercise.  It is not the statements or words that unite but the relationship building of the interaction.

An organization becomes a community, a communal unity, when it listens and struggles and tries to accommodate differences in one another in response to changing environments. Unity is more in the intentionality than in any set of statements, beliefs, or practices. The Church is One when it is is the continual, dialectical process of creating common ground.

Holy

To be holy is to be whole. This means to live, act, and be with integrity. A spirituality of integrity is an existential stance towards oneself, others, and the world, a stance of total oneness with all that is, was, and will be. It is a consciousness of connection with everybody and everything and with the universe as a whole including the earth and all creatures of the earth.

A spirituality of integrity is, as I have said elsewhere, integrates the "creation spirituality" of St. Francis and Mark, with the "incarnation spirituality" of St. Dominic and John, and the "resurrection spirituality" of St. Ignatius and Luke/Paul.

Jesus, like other great spiritual leaders, fought against the "purity" definition of holiness that divided us lepers and prostitutes, menial workers and slum dwellers from the elite of society. To be holy, to be spiritual is to be united with creation, grounded in matter, and transforming towards justice.

And, yes, here is where social justice fits in. Some have rightly said that a mark of the Universal Church is its intention towards social justice. And I think they are right on target. Social justice is integrity in action. The Church is Holy when it is seeking and practicing integrity in the world.

Catholic

Universal is how you translate "catholic." Universality means inclusive, open and welcoming of all, inviting anyone and all to break bread at the table unconditionally and equally without regard to wealth, age, race, education, sex, sexual orientation, livelihood, past history, culture, belief system, politics. There was only one sign of the church for the early companions of Jesus "see how they love one another." Unrestricted, unrewarded, undeserved love where persons are honored as creative agents, not as passive objects is what makes the ecclesia universal.

An institution that excludes people from the hospitality of the table because they do not hold the same beliefs does not image the universal church. An institution that treats some people as lower class does not image the universal church. An institution that condemns teachers as heretics because they explore new ways of thinking and speaking does not image the universal church. An institution that treats women or persons of color or of different sexual orientation as inferior does not image the universal church. An institution that allows the ravage of the earth and the consumption of its resources does not image the universal church. An institution that denies that there are many paths to the fullness of human development does not image the universal church. An institution that claims exclusive avenue to the truth or immunity from error does not image the universal church. An institution that denies and covers up the cruelty of its leadership does not image the universal church.  Such an institution also falls short of integrity or holiness, of unity in diversity, and of connection to its founding moments.

Apostolic

Apostolic means connected to the time and person of Jesus of Nazareth. It seems to mean choosing Christianity over against other faith traditions and therefore to violate the other characteristics of universality, integrity, and unity.

But not so for those who have come to know who Jesus really was and is for so many. Not for those of us who still consider ourselves as "companions of Jesus," sojourners, seekers, wayfarers, still searching with others as we make our paths.

Jesus probably was such a sojourner without many possessions or a permanent home. He was on the road, not getting stuck in any place, not giving allegiance to any political or religious institution, questioning and reinterpreting all that was said before. That made him a threatening person to the established state and religion (as was Socrates and the Buddha). He clearly identified with the poor  and disempowered (women and slaves) over against rich and powerful patrons. The answer, as always, was to get rid of him and then make him an icon of the establishment building a monument to his memory.

If the Christian church is apostolic, it is that Jesus before Christianity whom it recalls. Not as a separation from other spiritual traditions but in union with their founding moments. Jesus before Christianity is the connection to the spirit of innovation and creation in all of us no matter what language we speak, culture we inherit, or religion we practice. Even for those of us who do not consider ourselves as exclusively Christian or even religious believers.

Pilgrim Church

We are all in via. We are all seeking unity, integrity, universality, and faithfulness to our foundations. We are all in the process of developing the universal church, ecclesia, gathering, congregation, synagogue, ummah, assembly, sangha. We are not yet there. We are not the church triumphant nor will we ever be.

We are the pilgrim church, a struggling people in search for the unity of infinity, the spirituality of integrity, the universality of unrestricted love, the connection with the foundation that makes us whole with ourselves, each other, and the universe. And yet we are here and now in our own congregations and communities that take on the marks of unity, integrity, openness, connectedness.  Here and now we are committed to keep questioning, keep looking, keep opening to the new, keep inviting strangers, never judging, never excluding, never dismissing, never demeaning. It is not a juridical order or a set of beliefs that make us part of the universal assembly. It is the joining of minds and conversations along our ways.

But even pilgrims sometimes burn witches and heretics. Narrow triumphalism and fear of aliens overcome our universalism.  It's when we have it all that we have nothing. It's when we know the infinite that we are ignorant. It's when we find the only way that we lose it.


I hope and pray that Francis I will lead RC leaders and congregations back into communion with the universal, seeking, pilgrim church. But to do this he has to humbly admit that many of his following have wandered from the unity, wholeness, universality, and inspiration that Jesus and some of his earliest companions were seeking. He has to ask for forgiveness for the complicity of the institution he now directs with oppressive regimes, with the rejection of science, with the subjugation of women, with the destruction of the earth, with anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism, with colonialism, and above all with policies that maintain people in poverty. Here he has a rich history in Catholic Social Teaching to draw upon.

And that's no Papal Bull.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Calculating Life Span

I used a life span calculator that someone sent me. After I answered all the questions (stuff about age, height, weight, exercise, health history, smoking, drinking, eating, etc), it computed that I would live to be a hundred. Wow that means I'll still be around in 2038.  I immediately apologized to my kids and grandkids.
But I take this result with grains of salt and pepper since it was by a financial planner who would want me to consider planning for a longer life, but also because of the questions it did not ask. For example, there should be questions that:

  1. Relate to cancer--e.g. eating pesticides, breathing or drinking chemicals, exposure to radiation.
  2. Relate to gun ownership when we know that people who have a gun have shorter life expectancy because of accidents, suicide, and a fearful attitude toward others.
  3. Relate to community when we know that people in a denser, walkable, civic-minded, neighborly community are much safer, drive less, and get more exercise.
  4. Relate to education with solid studies linking education to wealth and wealth to longevity--and not just financial wealth, but also intellectual, social, civic and spiritual wealth.
  5. Relate to loving friendships. Again solid studies show that coordination.
  6. Relate to openness to change and new learning, positive attitude, sense of faith, meaning and hope, for self and others, for community and country. 

So I revised the calculator, adding these indicators, and took the test again.  Now it says I'll live to be 150.

Sorry kids. You'll have to put up with me for a long, long time.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Contemplative Moment

Contemplation, in my language game (ethics of integrity) is a sense of presence--being here, now, with. It is the point at which the real meets the ideal.

Contemplation is an experience that is always with, in, among us even when we are not reflecting on it. It is background to all other experiences of ourselves, of others, and of the world. As long as we are not brain dead, that contemplative moment exists. Yes even in dreaming (day or night), even in focused, concentrated activity, even in committing acts of love or hate, even in believing or disbelieving.

That contemplative moment comes out of the background into the fore at certain times and places which we call "ecstatic," or "religious" or "transcendent,"or "insightful." Let me point to some of those times in my own experience: upon reaching the top of Half Dome, at orgasm with the person I love, on awaking with the solution to a problem with which I have been wrestling, at a demonstration for justice with a hundred thousand people, in hearing a wonderful concert or sermon, while jogging with an emptying mind, while sitting and paying attention to my breathing, in a team meeting in which everything seems to gel, in a lucid dream in which I overcome gravity, in an experience of a magnificent piece of art, a drama, a dance, a sculpture, in visioning an ideal community while engaging in the real one I inhabit.

The contemplative moment as a fundamental experience of presence is also an experience of transcendence. Since we are at the point of where the past is in tension with the future, where our interior life of thinking struggles with our exterior life of acting, where individuality of the person contends with the sociality of the others, and where the real meets the ideal, we are always passing on and beyond. We discard our beliefs, we surpass our ideas, we make up additional words, we think new thoughts. We transcend. Our experience of our presence is at the same time our experience of transcendence. As the scientist philosopher David Deutsch suggests: all problem solving through inquiry, hypothesis, and evidence (i.e. science) is a perception of the infinite.

And when we try to articulate in words or formulas or teachings our contemplative moment, we both reveal and obscure that moment. There are those of us who are gifted with words, who can use words to lift up those moments. Think of John of the Cross, Hildegard of Bingen, Thomas Merton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, certain Zen Buddhists and Sufis. But most will admit that their words only point to and do not capture the basic experience of human existence and transcendence.

And here is the failure of religions which claim to be final or absolute or complete. Their very claim undermines their validity. They deny transcendence and the infinite in these claims. This is why it important to deny their gods while at the same time affirming them as images, symbols, representations of valid human experiences. The mystic and contemplative is always a heretic and must be condemned by or made over by the established church. The mystic and contemplative is always an atheist who will never let an image or idea of the transcendent be final.

And we are all mystics and contemplatives at least in germ. We all have the experience of presence and transcendence that underlies all we think and do. But we can easily "forget" or at least be unmindful of that fundamental experience of being in between, in tension, in transition by pretending to know, to be saved, to be found, to believe. We pretend or claim that our experience of presence and transcendence as it has been formulated by the church or the state or the culture or our own philosophy is ultimate. It seems easier that way--less confrontational, less painful, less depressing. But I don't think it is.

But while I think it is always important to retrieve one's original sense of presence and transcendence over against the words in which it is being expressed, I do not think that contemplation is a matter of authenticity or being "true to oneself" because I think the sense and acceptance of presence and transcendence excludes an authentic or true self or Self to whom we are to be in conformity. The acceptance of presence and transcendence is the acceptance of unknowing, of un-finality, of in-transition, of tension and intention, of contingency, of irony and humor. This is the contemplative way in all we think and do.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Commons

Three works are dominating my recent thinking.

They are: The Tragedy of the Commons by Garret Hardin (1968, updated 2005); Governing the Commons by Elinor Ostrom (1990), and Reclaiming the Commons by Al Fritsch (2009, updated 2013. Also Naomi Klein, David Bollier, and Brian Donahue)

According to Ostrom, a discussion of the commons is part of a larger discussion on the theory of collective action which is vital to our economy and our politics. Those of us who promote community organizing as an essential component of a free and open society for democratic social change will want to pay close attention to this discussion. I would go so far as to say that much of the polarization in our politics in regards to our economy is due to a lack of critical thinking about how humans access and use the commons meaning "common pool resources" (CPR). 

These resources include land (farms, homes, parks, fisheries, wilderness), water (the seas, lakes, rivers, groundwater basins), the atmosphere (air for breathing, radio waves, wind, climate), wildlife (fish, meat, plants and timber), energy (oil, gas, heat, wind, water), minerals (gold, silver, diamonds, uranium, tantalum, tin, tungsten), people (workers, consumers, students), culture (history, intellectual work, tradition, information)--all a part of the earth itself as a common pool resource. Sustaining these resources is obviously vital to sustaining humanity. "Devising property regimes that effectively allow sustainable use of a common-pool resource requires rules that limit access to the resource system and other rules that limit the amount, timing, and technology used to withdraw diverse resource units from the resource system." (Ostrom)

The tragedy as identified by Hardin and others is that we are on an inevitable trajectory to using up all our CPR and so to extinction especially with the exponential increase in population. It is simply a matter of how human nature has evolved to individually seek short term advantage especially when one cannot be assured of long term profit based on others not acting for their short term advantage. Hardin demonstrates this through mind experiments of herders grazing their cows on a limited common use meadow, by mathematics of game theory especially the prisoners' dilemma, and by general observation. 

The way out of his tragedy is through Leviathan or privatization. To avoid us killing each other competing for resources or totally using up the resources that keep us alive, we give ourselves to the State (Hobbes) which has a monopoly on the means of violence (Weber). Big government owns or controls the resources and makes the rules by which they are used on behalf of the "general welfare" or on behalf of those who run the government. 

Or we destroy the "horror of the commons" by eliminating it entirely through private ownership of everything and allow individual decisions for self-interest to constitute the social order (Adam Smith). However the rights of private ownership and its rules must be monitored and enforced by some mechanism, whether or not it is called "government," that will be set up and controlled probably by those who have the most property. 

Whether through Leviathan or privatization, external intervention, therefore, is the only way out of the tragedy. But because of this neither will ultimately solve the issue because external intervention will be controlled by some party which is subject to the same natural law. Rational individuals will put their self-interest over some long term general welfare.

Along comes Ostrom with a second generation theory of collective action based on her analysis of communities which governed their commons without external intervention; i.e. without relying on a controlling government or on privatization.  New evidence challenges a theory which must either be rejected or expanded to account for the new evidence. And Ostrom spent her academic life (and received a Nobel Prize in Economics) discovering and accumulating this evidence and adjusting her theory of self-organizing communities that were able to govern and manage resources in a sustainable way--sometimes with and sometimes in spite of government and the private sector.

She identifies circumstances and conditions for this third way between government control and privatization. She also shows that the self-organizing model is not only possible, but preferable in that the people developing it "buy into" it as it develops. This model indicates that humans are motivated by more than self-interest even in economic decisions. Affiliation developed in working relations (not just tribal or cultural) and values developed in association are also motivators. This expansion of the theory of human nature beyond that of the first generation theory of collective action is in accords with recent findings by evolutionary psychologists and neuroscientists regarding empathy, social identity, and memory.  

In Reclaiming the Commons, Fritsch is writing to the Church and by extension I think to all congregations within the Judeo-Christian tradition. He develops a theology and a spirituality,  founded in that tradition for living and acting in a way that will use and sustain resources equitably. He provides a clear definition of the problem confronting each of our major resources including a critique of the mindset and morality of the politics and economy at the root of the problem. He offers to the churches ways within their own religious traditions to deal with the issues humanity is now confronting. It is a work that I wish every leader and member of a congregation would read. Fritsch's book like the work of Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Berry, and Jim Conlin in the Catholic tradition offers an eco-spirituality and theology for a new sustainable economics.

Religious congregations within all traditions are themselves self-organizing communities often within or sponsoring other self-organizing communities. Washington Interfaith Network in which my congregation conspires and acts for social justice with many other congregations, neighborhood groups, and other non-governmental, non-profit organizations is itself a means to "reclaim the commons." There are also experiments in urban agriculture, shared transportation systems, and communication of information and knowledge. 

A few days ago I listened to a team led by Mark Warren and Karen Napp describing their findings of six case studies on local community organizing achievements in school reform (see Match on Dry Grass). Brian Donahue provides other excellent experiences of self-organizing groups reclaiming the commons to stop urban sprawl and promote community farms. 

This certainly relates to my own work with Keith Bergthold in creating a strategy for smart growth in the Central Valley of California. Keith, as the chief planner for the City of Fresno, gained the trust of the local neighborhood communities to support a general plan for Fresno that would strengthen existing neighborhoods, encourage infill commercial and housing development, and save farmlands. He is presently working with 14 cities in the Central Valley to do the same so that the urbanization of the Valley coincides with preservation of natural resources and rural and agricultural growth. In order to achieve this, congregations and community organizations have to organize themselves into a powerful network to press political decision makers to constrain private housing developers into a framework of sustainable resources. The State of  California in its efforts to mitigate the carbon emissions that effect climate change has recognized that the City of Fresno and the Central Valley of California is integral to its project but is powerless to make it happen without community action.

One of the lessons of the study of the commons is the understanding that government is not to be identified with the commons nor with the public.  Organization and action through non governmental organizations can create or constitute publics that reclaim the commons and achieve the sustainability of the common resource pool. Public education need not be government run or supported schools. The same for public parks, libraries, recreation centers, TV, news stations, internet, utilities, electric power, community centers.

A government that is constituted by and responsible to publics would be an ally in reclaiming the commons over against both privatization and government control (Leviathan). But for this to be realized means an organization of publics through non-governmental self-organizing communities. This is the vocation of the community organizer who is supported by local churches, neighborhood centers, non profit community development and housing organizations, and cooperatives.

Naomi Klein advances a strategy of linking these local community organizing efforts with regional, national, and international organizations and foundations working to reclaim the commons through conservation, development, alternative economies, and advocacy. This will coincide with a new integration of both "liberation" and "eco" theology and spirituality. This also will result in a political discourse that neither demonizes government nor the private sector but fosters true publics that can hold both accountable in using, maintaining, and restoring the commons.