On Saturday evening in Charlotte NC, religious scholar and best-selling author Karen Armstrong gave the Ware Lecture at the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Armstrong spoke on “The Challenge of Compassion,” drawing from her most recent book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.
With funds from the TED prize she was awarded in 2008, Armstrong founded the Charter for Compassion, drafted by a multi-faith, multi-national council of thinkers and leaders in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Completed and published in November 2009, the Charter advocates compassion as the central principle that should drive public and private discourse in the world.
Karen Armstrong explained the importance of compassion in her Ware Lecture:
Each of the major faiths has at its core the ethic of compassion. Every single one of them has developed its own version of the Golden Rule: never treat others as you would not like to be treated yourself.
This is the test of spirituality. It is this that takes us beyond the prison of ego and selfishness and greed—that enables us to enter into our best selves, and to express what some call God, others Nirvana, Brahmin, or Tao.
And yet so often you don’t hear about it. Often when religious leaders come together, they talk about a particular sexual ethic, or an abstruse doctrine, as though this, rather than compassion, was the test of spiritual life.
And yet it seems to me quite clear that unless we learn to implement the Golden Rule globally, so that we treat all people, all nations, as we would wish to be treated ourselves, we’re not going to have a viable world.
This is the task of our time: to build a global community where people of all persuasions can live together in harmony and respect.
— Karen Armstrong
Armstrong’s Ware Lecture can be viewed in its entirety on the UUA’s Livestream channel.