American Voices: Jon Meacham on religious reconciliation

Nearly half a century ago, during the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church issued an eloquent document on how Christians should view those of other faiths, noting that: “From ancient times down to the present, there is found among various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human history; at times some indeed have come to the recognition of a supreme being … this perception and recognition penetrates their lives with a profound religious sense.”

Humbly and wisely, the church added, “She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men.”  Such noble words; followers of the great monotheistic faiths would do well to heed them today.

Some would say that requires the changing of hearts.  My own view is that the surer route lies through the intellect. Extremists often derive their inspiration from literal interpretations of texts that should rightly be read not as Associated Press reports from the ancient world, but as theological and literary enterprises requiring independent intellectual assessment. What if “jihad” is really a metaphor for spiritual struggle? What if the work and words of Jesus can only be understood in context of first-century messianic theology?

The scriptures that shape us — and which feed conflict — are the products of human thought. So reconciliation begins, I submit, in the mind rather than the soul, though the two are neighbors with porous borders. The Second Vatican Council wrote, “The church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion.” Here’s hoping all such thoughts of discrimination and of hate can become foreign to every other mind, too.

Watch the rest of the segments from this episode.

 

Comments

  • Ashaw14

    Well said

  • jan

    I’ll second Ashaw’s comment.

  • Gclarke

    Americans who are unaffiliated with any faith are the fastest growing religious group in the country. Reconciliation happens outside the organized religions.

  • Ed Galucki

    Perhaps the greatest need for reconciliation is from the religious left
    who think that because they reject a supernatural authority means they
    have no god, and then use that rationale to prohibit other exercises of
    faith.

  • Simonebarbou

    No one has mentioned the fact that the Roman Catholic church claimed dominion over all humans and all properties on Earth, so to say that they “REPROVE” OR DON’T means nothing!  They aren’t even thinking reconciliation.  They are simply trying to reconstruct a very antiquated religion that has had it’s “cover” removed.  Dominion was given to man on earth not just the pope!  Do you realize that every birth certificate that exits is considered “soul property” of the catholic pope!  Man has been hoodwinked by the religions of the world!  Man’s inhumanity to Man is destroying our planet thru the ignorance of not knowing who we really are in the scheme of things!  The Pope is not your mediator between you and your power source!  You are the Heir to the Earth and you can do all things.
    We need to start with the mantra of “Do No Harm” and stop blaming “religions” for Man’s lack of ability to respond to the injustices on earth.  First ask yourself, “Who am I?” and if you come up with “Christian, Jew, Mormon, Presbyterian, Catholic, Muslim or anything else, we aren’t there yet!  Keep thinking Do No Harm!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=649813048 Nicoline Smits

    But the Second Vatican Council was the “product” if you will of a church that still had some use for the word “humble.” The popes who came after John XXIII have scrapped that word and instead seem to want to emulate Pius IX.
    Though I am an atheist, I have no problem with people of faith, nor with their faiths themselves, as long as they do not shove it down my throat. This is why I believe that religion should be an entirely private affair, not advertised with golden crucifixes or niqabs or yarmulkes or whatever else outward symbols people use. I like Karen Armstrong’s view, that being religious should first and foremost be about being compassionate. Compassion and humility both are in short supply and this may be why mankind is in so much trouble.

  • Lurkitty

    A timely comment given that a court in Russia is about to rule on banning the Bhagavad Gita.

  • jan

    Since you started it…  As opposed to the religious right whose values are so messed up that they ignore more than one of the things that Jesus stood for when they support policies that continue to shred the safety net for the poor, sick and disabled? 

  • River

    The 2nd Vatican Council is no more.   Understanding of the Church’s understanding of other has disappeared, and the Catholic Church is moving back to where it was which was the only correct Church was theirs. I agree that Pope John XXlll was moving in the right direction, and the popes who have followed him are moving right back to where things were before.  Too bad. 

  • River

    The 2nd Vatican Council is no more.   Understanding of the Church’s understanding of other has disappeared, and the Catholic Church is moving back to where it was which was the only correct Church was theirs. I agree that Pope John XXlll was moving in the right direction, and the popes who have followed him are moving right back to where things were before.  Too bad. 

  • Flashsparks

    “The scriptures that shape us — and which feed conflict — are the products of human thought.” — John Meacham

    I strongly disagree. Scripture, regardless of faith is divinely inspired. It it were not, than it would have little to no value.

  • Flashsparks

    “The scriptures that shape us — and which feed conflict — are the products of human thought.” — John Meacham

    I strongly disagree. Scripture, regardless of faith is divinely inspired. It it were not, than it would have little to no value.

  • MedievalHistorian

    “What if “jihad” is really a metaphor for spiritual struggle?” 
     Meanings of words are determined partly by context, and the word “jihad” certainly often means “holy war” i.e. physical warfare with religious justification, in many historical and contemporary Muslim texts. For example, the 9th century Muslim historian Al-Baladhuri refers to the offensive military invasions that Muslims conducted against the Eastern Roman Empire in the 7th-9th centuries as “jihad” (See his Kitab Futuh al-Buldan, 107; or in English “Origins of the Islamic State” Vol. 1, Pt.2, Ch. 1, trans. P. Hitti). And yes, those invasions entailed killing Byzantine subjects because they did not want to be ruled by Muslims. Meachum tries to falsify history by his dishonest attempt to redefine a word that has frequently been used in a way that embarrasses him. 

  • Ed Galucki

    You missed the point … it is the left-wing belief that rejecting the supernatural somehow means they espouse no religion. A reliance on the supernatural would make such faith-based choices “messed up” to someone whose god is self. Want messed up? Consider the left-wing “stability” of the past century, from the Stalinist pogroms, to the Khmer Rouge killing fields, to the Shining Path murders.

  • Raymond Wallace

    Correct.  It does in fact have little to no value.

  • Raymond Wallace

    Correct.  It does in fact have little to no value.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wade.shipman Wade Shipman

    Our human existence depends on our incorporation of all forms of human nature.  We have to eliminate the preditors of the innocent and all other forms of preditory submation in order to progess as an intelligent species.  United in our talents for social equality will propel us to an evolved prospect of deserved existence.  The inidvidual is a limited existence but the collective conscience is the foundation of our evolution.  Intelligence lead us from cave dwellers to environmental dominators.  That is not the end of our progress.  We must dig within our inetllectual means to find collective reasonance across the disagreements in place to escape the fate ordained by our indecision.  This is our human precipice.  Who’s on board?