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More than almost anything else, globalization and the great world religions are shaping our lives, affecting everything from the public policies of political leaders and the economic decisions of industry bosses and employees, to university curricula, all the way to the inner longings of our hearts. Integral to both globalization and religions are compelling, overlapping, and sometimes competing visions of what it means to live well.
In this perceptive, deeply personal, and beautifully written book, a leading theologian sheds light on how religions and globalization have historically interacted and argues for what their relationship ought to be. Recounting how these twinned forces have intersected in his own life, he shows how world religions, despite their malfunctions, remain one of our most potent sources of moral motivation and contain within them profoundly evocative accounts of human flourishing. Globalization should be judged by how well it serves us for living out our authentic humanity as envisioned within these traditions. Through renewal and reform, religions might, in turn, shape globalization so that it can be about more than bread alone.
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From Miroslav Volf's Flourishing:
Despite his fierce anger against God for letting him suffer in a communist labor camp as an innocent man and a socialist, my father, at the time a teenager on the brink of death, embraced faith in God—as he tells the story, it was God who embraced him!—and ended up a Pentecostal believer. The family into which I was born was a faith-island, an austere but beautiful and nurturing social microenvironment. With my first cry as a newborn, I learned that not all forms of religiosity are “religions” in the pejorative sense—mind-shutting and freedom-trampling cultural edifices used as instruments of social control.
The Pentecostal movement started some forty years before my father’s conversion, in Los Angeles, 6,318 miles as the crow flies from the camp where he, a 45-kilogram man, was condemned to carry 80-kilogram sacks on his back. Pentecostalism’s founder was William Seymour (1870–1922), a black man and the son of former slaves; he was in charge of the multiracial and multiethnic mother congregation from which Pentecostalism spread worldwide. Seymour’s faith became my father’s faith because a Slovenian migrant worker had converted in the United States and returned back home to spread the good news. Within a single century, the faith of a downtrodden black man from the New World had engulfed the entire globe, shaped the lives of more than half a billion human beings, and garnered the sympathies of prominent religious leaders like Pope Francis. Earlier and closer to home, it delivered my father from death and made him into a new man.
Miroslav Volf is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale Divinity School and the founding director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. He is the award-winning author of several books, including Allah, Free of Charge, Exclusion and Embrace, and After Our Likeness.
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