Animating the Golden Rule

A film focusing on teenagers as they explore ways of embodying the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

By Terry Weller
January/February 2010

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Animating the Golden Rule… An Introduction, is a film by Scarboro Missions, created with the production leadership of Toronto film producer Tina Petrova. The film focuses on teenagers as they explore ways of embodying the core values of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…” through art, music, rap, and drama skits.

The movie propels the viewer on a journey of discovery, giving life to what many consider to be the most universal moral teaching.

Historians tell us that between the ninth and second centuries BCE, in what is called the Axial Age, a new concept came into human consciousness. It filtered throughout the world and began to appear in the sacred records of all civilizations. The concept was that of compassion. And its focal point was the Ethic of Reciprocity, commonly known as the Golden Rule. Surpassing religious boundaries, the Golden Rule finds its way into cultures, philosophical circles, and indigenous traditions.

One of the tasks of mission today is to seek to build bridges of peace and understanding across many of the world’s peoples and religions. In addition to its overseas journey among those of different cultures and faiths, Scarboro Missions does multifaith and multicultural work through its Department of Interfaith Dialogue.

Almost a decade ago Scarboro produced its highly successful Golden Rule poster featuring the Golden Rule as it is found in the sacred writings of 13 different world religions.

The poster was like a dove released into the wind. It found its way to the United Nations in New York; it has a home in the Vatican; it is displayed in places of worship on every continent; speaks to people in hospital and prison chapels and at town and city halls; and beckons to students in the corridors of their schools. Translated versions of the poster have been handed out by the thousands in various African coun-tries thanks to the untiring efforts of Mussie Hailu, board chair of the Interfaith Peace Building Initiative in Ethiopia.

The poster is also used as a resource in Scarboro’s work with Catholic high school students as part of their world religions curriculum. The film, Animating the Golden Rule… An Introduction, presents the experiences of a group of students on a Golden Rule retreat at Scarboro’s Mission Centre.

At these retreats, students are given the opportunity to express the Rule through their own creative lenses. Separated into teams, they are given only 30 minutes to take the Golden Rule as it is stated within their assigned religion and prepare a theatrical skit, a musical demonstration, a poetic expression, or any creative process to convey that version of the Golden Rule.

The film shows clips of many of the presentations, revealing that our creative capacity surely is a gift of the Divine. A team of students swirl into dance to the words of the Golden Rule. A stage drama moves from chaos to a meditative stance. Drums beat an entrance for a young man with a sonorous voice at a podium speaking the words of the Rule. Actors become bugs playing on the road and threatened by cars when “Jayne the Jain” comes to save them, proclaiming that nothing will die on her watch. Another acting troupe portrays a young woman who does not care for the life of insects until a spiritual being changes her into a bug about to encounter an unpleasant fate.

The Golden Rule is portrayed and sung, and guitars and bongos resound as the youth rejoice in the ancient ethic and demonstrate its potential effect on the entire human family.

Afterwards students discuss what they learned about themselves and about each other from the experience. They share their newfound understanding of how the Golden Rule can change the world. Animating the Golden Rule…An Introduction shows us two basic truths about the Golden Rule: its power lies in the doing, not in the knowing; and its expression springs from our collective global consciousness.

Rev. Terry Weller is a Christian Interfaith Minister and publisher of Interfaith Unity News in Toronto.

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