Karen Armstrong wants to bring back the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Not that the tenet has ever gone away. As the New York Times best-selling author and religious historian explains, the principle lies at the heart of every major religion. Yet Armstrong (the subject of this issue’s “Listening in With …”) notes that in modern times, the Golden Rule is often overlooked, even by many representatives of the very religions that built it into their foundations.
Initially, Armstrong was one of those representatives. She became a nun in England in her teens but left the convent after seven years. She taught English at a girls’ school while writing a 1982 memoir about her difficult life in the convent. Two years after Through the Narrow Gate was published, a British television network hired Armstrong to work on a documentary about St. Paul, which sparked a personal epiphany about the similarity of the core values of all major religions.
Eventually Armstrong became a prolific author of books on religion. She then turned her expertise into activism. She’s lectured to policy makers at the U.S. State Department, addressed the Council on Foreign Relations, and joined the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, which works to promote diversity and reject extremism. She’s also spoken at the U.N.’s first session on the role of religion in international affairs.
In 2008, with a $100,000 TED prize in her pocket, Armstrong launched the Charter for Compassion, hoping to ignite a worldwide movement to promote the Golden Rule. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, singer/songwriter Peter Gabriel, director David Lynch, playwright Eve Ensler, actress Goldie Hawn, Queen Noor of Jordan, and the late boxing champ Muhammad Ali are among the 2 million-plus who’ve signed the charter.
I’ve twice had the privilege of seeing Armstrong take the stage at the Parliament of the World’s Religions (the largest interfaith gathering on the planet)—first in Salt Lake City in 2015 and most recently in Toronto last November. Her vision of a compassionate planet and her drive to make it happen are both impressive and inspiring.
Speaking of impressive and inspiring, I’m overjoyed to announce that Unity Magazine has won a 2018 Folio: Eddie Award. Last October, I traveled to New York to attend the awards gala for magazine media’s most prestigious recognition program, full of hope because we’d been named as finalists in three categories—two writing and one design. When they announced the winner for single article in a religious/ spiritual consumer magazine, I immediately recognized the headline for the story (“Going for Greatness,” from our July/August 2017 issue) as poignantly prophetic.
Congratulations to our hardworking staff as well as to Molly Pennington, Ph.D., whose polished prose pushed us over the top.
Katy Koontz, Editor