I ran across this interview with Martin Sheen and Emilio Esteves about their new movie called The Way, about the famous 500 mile Jacob’s Way pilgrimage from from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, which had some wonderful bits about religion and spirituality and the intersection of the two. Here is the final section:
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.]
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.
Some beautiful theological insights from an unlikely source, but one wonders what Hindu and Muslim theologians he is reading. While there are conceptions of life, death and rebirth in many religions, there is only one that puts an incarnate, crucified God at its center. In fact, one could argue that in the Jesus we see the death of “generalized spirituality,” as few things could be less “transcendent” than a crucifixion, but we get what he’s saying, and his theological reflections have raised the bar from what we have come to expect from Hollywood. . . I can’t wait to see this movie.