Saturday, 25 September 2010

martin sheen on religion

Interviewer: I really appreciate that you're trying to deal with religion and spirituality in this movie in an open-minded, non-cynical fashion, without totally embracing it or totally rejecting it. That's a difficult thing to do. Our country is so messed up around religion.

M.S.: No kidding! [Laughter.]

Interviewer: I know -- what a brilliant observation, right? But you guys call our attention here to a tradition of Western spirituality that runs deep in our European roots and has very little to do with organized religion. The Camino de Santiago is a perfect example. I feel like so many educated Westerners go toward the Eastern spiritual traditions partly because they don't see that or understand it.

E.E.: Sure, they want a response to the dogma of Christianity. They go to Hinduism, they go to Buddhism, just because it's something different than their parents. They want to get away from that. I think it's a knee-jerk reaction.

M.S.: Religions separate us, by their very nature. Spirituality unites us. That's the key, and if spirituality is not about humanity, it's not spiritual. I am a practicing Catholic. I love the faith. I'm not nuts about the institution, but the faith is mine, everywhere I go in the world. The belief that God became human -- that's genius, man. And that God would choose to dwell where we would least likely look, inside ourselves and each other. The genius of God in our humanity, I love that.

Every culture has that -- the Hindus, Muslims, all of them have it. That's the fundamental belief in all true believers, that God is present, God suffers and is broken with us. That's why the Catholics never removed the corpse from the cross. Our hero is a convicted criminal. He was tried and convicted in a kangaroo court and then he was murdered. That's God. We're embraced by that. The most fundamental, most basic, most sincere beliefs -- that's not religion. It's spirituality. It's transcendence. People are looking for transcendence now more than ever, I think. Sometimes our transcendence becomes drugs, alcohol, money, power, sex, and they're so shallow. It's we ourselves, we must surrender ourselves to our brokenness. That's the beginning of community, and that's what this film is all about.

- Salon interview, 18 September, with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez on their new film. Somehow Catholics in the USA don't seem to have the same view of the incompatibility of religion and left-wing politics which evangelicals unfortunately have.