Karen Armstrong’s “Charter for Compassion” is a new and eloquent re-affirmation of the golden rule. Her Charter is not based upon any particular religious tradition. Rather, it is based on the recognition that compassion (the golden rule) is the centerpiece for all worthy moral systems. Armstrong, formerly a nun was recently interviewed by Bill Moyers, and had this to say:
[T]his is the beginning of something. We’re writing a charter which we hope will be sort of like the charter of human rights, two pages only. Saying that compassion is far more important than belief. That it is the essence of religion. All the traditions teach that it is the practice of compassion and honoring the sacred in the other that brings us into the presence of what we call God, Nirvana, Raman, or Tao. And people are remarkably uneducated about compassion these days. So we want to bring it back to the center of attention. But then, it’s got to be incarnated into practical action.
. . . Compassion doesn’t mean feeling sorry for people. It doesn’t mean pity. It means putting yourself in the position of the other, learning about the other. Learning what’s motivating the other, learning about their grievances. So the Charter of Compassion was to recall compassion from the sidelines, to which it’s often put in religious discourse and put it back there.
I do believe that this type of approach is sorely needed in the modern world. We need an approach that can be embraced by every good-hearted person, religious or not. This Charter is something simple enough and powerful enough to combat the egoism, arrogant intellectualism, arrogant religions, consumerism and xenophobia that are screwing up so many of us.