Former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has issued a stark warning to the West for “outsourcing morality” in a speech delivered as he accepted the £1.1million Templeton Prize.
Rabbi Sacks, 68, received the award for “bringing spiritual insight to the public conversation” in a ceremony in central London attended by clergy, faith leaders, dignitaries and representatives from the Jewish community.
On a night when music was provided by the Shabbaton Choir, the choir of the Sacks Morasha Primary School, Sacks said that when he found out he’d won he was “almost rendered speechless, an event that would have been unprecedented in the history of the rabbinate”.
On a more serious note, he said 2016 was a time of “insecurity and instability” and that “the future of the West and the unique form of freedom it has pioneered for the past four centuries is altogether at risk”.
He described how conscience had been “outsourced to regulatory bodies” and that, “having reduced moral choice to economics, we transferred the consequences of our choices to politics”.
Problems with this approach were only now becoming stark, he said, listing unemployment, the threat to jobs posed by artificial intelligence, low interest rates discouraging saving, “wildly inflated” pay for chief executives, a lowering of living standards for the working and middle classes, collapsing birth-rates and “unprecedented levels of immigration” to compensate.
You can watch his full acceptance speech here:
Sacks, a prolific author, is widely credited with leading the revitalisation of Britain’s Jewish community while he was Chief Rabbi from 1991 to 2013, fighting dwindling congregations and growing secularisation across Europe.
The Prince of Wales honoured him earlier this year at Clarence House when he presented him with the Templeton Prize pyramid. The 46th recipient of the award, he follows past winners such as Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Sigmund Sternberg, Lord Jacobovits and Mother Teresa.