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Great Commission, Great Promission, Great Omission?

Sins of Hot Air Emission, Omission, Commission and Promission (Part #11)

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In his sequel to the documentary An Inconvenient Truth (2006) Al Gore has adapted his fact-based message into a book Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis (2009). This engages with the Christian, Muslim and Jewish perspectives (Suzanne Goldenberg, Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth sequel stresses spiritual argument on climate, The Guardian. 2 November 2009). It's publication has been timed for impact at the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

In a context of faith-based governance, it is however appropriate to note the fundamental injunction of the Great Commission in the Christian tradition to spread the teachings of Christianity around the world through missionary work. As a driving commitment it bears comparison with the Aleinu as the fundamental expression of duty in Judaism and with the commitment of Islam to extending sharia through jihad. Through these mutually competitive injunctions each of these Abrahamic religions stresses an early historical understanding of a global perspective. In doing so, however, they ignore insights relevant to a larger global understanding from other cultures, such as those of India, China or from indigenous peoples (Susantha Goonatilake, Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999; Darrell Posey, Cultural and spiritual values of biodiversity: a complementary contribution to the Global Biodiversity Assessment, 1999). The question is how such injunctions can respond to any global challenge, both separately and together.

Of particular interest is the promise implicit in any global commission responding to a global crisis like climate change -- as framed by its believers and articulated by such as Al Gore and Gordon Brown. An indications of this is the confidential "Danish text" formulated by a secret "circle of commitment" including the USA and the UK (John Vidal, Copenhagen climate summit in disarray after 'Danish text' leak, The Guardian, 8 December 2009). This is reminiscent of the mindset that resulted in the Coalition of the Willing for intervention in Iraq. The promise of the purportedly crucial agreement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference might then be understood as corresponding to a "Great Promission".

The concern with respect to any Great Promission, presented to the nations of the world in this way, is the possibility of a Great Omission from the Great Commission. What indeed might be omitted -- deliberately or inadvertently -- from comprehension of the commission and its promise? How dangerous might be that omission for the fulfillment of any Great Commission? From any belief perspective, understood in relation to global understanding, the omission might bear comparison to shirk in Islam as the most fundamental form of denial. The use of the term in English, in shirking obligations, is also suggestive.

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