WALKING THEIR TALK – CHALLENGES TO PEOPLE OF FAITH IN AN ERA OF GLOBALIZATION
by Jogesvara Das
Globalization is forcing people of faith to rethink their behavior and purpose. Members of contemplative traditions who once renounced the world to further their spiritual progress are reentering the mainstream, having determined that their greater duty is now to help heal society by taking a more active role. After years in reclusive celibacy, monks and temple-dwellers are adapting to business and family life. Religionists once content to remain out of the limelight find themselves called upon to act as shuttle diplomats in areas of armed conflict, poverty, and environmental danger. As the world shrinks, the need for people of faith to bridge cultures increases, and increasing numbers are emerging from their retreats to answer the call.
The changes are not trouble free. For individuals who spend years immersed in formal religious study, assuming an active role in society can lead to challenging and even traumatic adjustment. Believers entering secular life confront difficult questions of identity. Who are they outside the familiar context of their institutions? How are they to structure their lives socially, intellectually, and culturally among people who do not share their beliefs or rituals? Do traditional rules of conduct still apply? What do faith traditions with roots in antiquity have to offer the twenty-first century? Through interviews with practitioners who have made the transition, this analysis seeks to examine some of the issue and themes of adjusting to spiritual life in a material environment.