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Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call with Walter Russell Mead

Religion and the Open Society

Speaker: Walter Russell Mead, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy; Council on Foreign Relations; Author, God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World
Presider: Irina A. Faskianos, Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations
October 17, 2007
Council on Foreign Relations



IRINA A. FASKIANOS:  Welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call Series.  As many of you know, our goal is to provide a nonpartisan forum for discussion on issues at the nexus of religion and foreign policy.  We are very pleased to have Walter Russell Mead with us today.  He is the Council’s Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. foreign policy and the author of a new book entitled, God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World, which is published by Knopf.  As many of you know, in addition to his work at the Council he is a regular book reviewer for Foreign Affairs, and member of the editorial board of the American Interest.  He has written frequently for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Esquire and is also the author of the award-winning book, Special Providence : American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World.  Walter, thanks so much for being with us today.  Your book was released on October 9.  I know you’ve examined a lot of the questions about America’s place in the world and taken a look at how we got where we are, and focused as well on how religion played a role in that, so it would be great if you could give us an overview and focus specifically on your views on the role that religion has played.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  Okay, great Irina.  Well, thanks for inviting me to do this and thank all of the folks that are listening for participating.  This book I’ve written, God and Gold, is a look at sort of why is it that the Anglo-Americans, two English-speaking powers one after the other have been so influential, even dominant, in world history going back for the last three-hundred years.  And some of the book is about geopolitics.  We’re not really going to, we don’t need to talk about that today unless people want to bring it up, but what I found and was initially a little bit surprised by but over time it made more and more sense to me, was the role in which that Anglo-American religion has played in world politics, and in fact, in the power of Britain and America for the last three-hundred years.  And the sort of point that this where this seems mediated is through capitalism, that one of the tremendous sources of advantage that Britain and America have had in the world is that these societies seem to embrace capitalism more comfortably.  They’re not as torn between the trade-offs that need to be made between tradition and modernity.  Somehow the religious psychology, consciousness of these societies has been more tolerant of change.  You know, we can see in so much of the world even today that people think that there’s a kind of a tragic trade-off that has to be made, that it’s a little bit like in the, you know, those Wagner operas about the Reine and the gold and there’s a curse on, if you get the gold you give up love forever.  And there is this sense if you embrace modernity you lose touch with what’s intimate, with what’s sacred, with what makes you human.  And Anglo-American society hasn’t quite seen it that way. 

What I found as I was sort of researching around to see what this might be about is that there’s a book by Henri Bergson, The Two Sources of Religion and Morality.  Bergson was a French philosopher and writer.  He was born Jewish.  He sort of, I think, spiritually converted to Catholicism but was never baptized because by the time he was sort of ready to be there was the Nazi occupation of France and he refused as sort of an act of solidarity with the Jews of Vichy France to abandon his religion at that time.  But in any case, for Bergson who coined the terms “open society” and “closed society,” he had a different view of the relationship of religion to these two different types of society.  It certainly seems to me that the open society, what Bergson meant and then Karl Popper, who took the term over --and it’s through Popper that it’s been popularized and through Popper that people like George Soros have come to it-- the open society is a nontraditional society.  It’s a society where individuals are sort of free to define themselves; where you can do a job that your parents didn’t do, where sort of custom is replaced by conscience we can say.  And a closed society is a more traditional one where roles are inherited and so on.  It’s pretty clear I think that capitalism in a sense demands open society, thrives on open society.  And because capitalism is allied with open society and capitalism itself is such a dynamic social system, since the union of capitalism and open society in the seventeenth century, open society has not been, as it used to be, a sort of rare thing that appears briefly in Athens or the Italian Renaissance and then is quickly crushed, but has been a dominant force in world history and again has a lot to do with Anglo-American power. 

Popper, like a lot of people, loses sight of the religious roots of dynamic, of open society.  That is to say, he sees open society simply as the triumph of reason over the triumph of instinct, and he sees religion then for him is an entirely conservative, tradition-preserving force.  I forget who the French existentialist was who says that religion is always on the right.  Heaven is always on the right.  For Bergson however, human beings yes have a sort of an urge for tradition and stability.  Human society has a conservatism in it but also human society, as we look back over the, you know, the dispersal of human beings around the world and the degree to which human societies have had to change to fit into new environments and to handle sort of new techniques, there is also an instinct for change.  Human nature is change oriented.  And for Bergson, actually, religion plays a tremendous part, religious experience plays a great part in what makes people open to change and able to change.  And Bergson talked about static religion as the form of religion that supported closed society and dynamic religion as the form of religious experience that supported open society.  In Bergson’s analysis, both forms of religious experience are transcendent; that is,  they touch on sources of human experience that are deeper than or go beyond consciousness.  They may involve visions, voices, a sense of mission and calling.  They are “trans-rational” one might say.  But for Bergson again, it’s the impulse that gives-- whether it’s a Saint Francis of Assisi, or a Buddha, or Martin Luther King, or Martin Luther-- the sort of courage to go out and redefine what it means to be human.  To live a kind of life that no one has ever lived before is a religious impulse and it has all the sort of strength and emotional connectivity that religion does.

Now how I get back from this to questions of why have the Anglo-Americans done so well with capitalism is it does seem to me that in the English and Scots reformations in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century you saw the center of gravity of Anglo-American religion move from static religion to dynamic religion.  That is to say, you read someone like Milton who as I’m sure most of you know was a puritan scholar and was very close to Oliver Cromwell’s government, and Milton begins, in a sense, by thinking that we’re just going to settle all this religion once and for all.  There is not going to be any disputes.  We’re going to get rid of the old, wrong form of religion, Catholicism, and then we’re going to have a new and unchanging one.  But by the end of Milton ’s career he’s writing things like, “when God deals seriously with a kingdom, he deals out his light by degrees,” as people become accustomed to it.  So that when God is enlightening us, actually we’re going to experience change in our religious consciousness and we need to have the courage to see the new revelation.  Milton wouldn’t have said new, sort of non scripture revelations, very orthodox in essence, but in our understanding of scripture we have to make room for change. 

And this I think is also reinforced by the individualistic basis of Anglo-American religion.  That is to say, we are not Christians or whatever we are because our parents believed it, but because of a choice that we individually make.  And so religion is not a traditional identity that looks back.  It’s a personal choice that looks forward.  This has meant that in the Anglo-American world, the kinds of rapid social change that accompany capitalist development are seen not as a kind of an overthrow of a traditional society which is sanctioned by God and which is holy and right and to tamper with it is to commit grave sin, but rather, this kind of change is seen as the working out in history of God’s purpose.  So, I think really we can look from the Puritans on to the present day.  I think psychologically this affects secular Americans too who see their lives as a project.  You know, I’ve got a dream; I’ve got a vision; I’m not going to do what my parents did; I want something new.  We feel that in change, and in a changing world we fulfill our truest and our deepest identity.  We are fulfilled in a capitalist social order in a way that in many cultures people aren’t. 

That is probably enough to give you an overview of a very, very complicated subject and I’ll certainly be interested to hear any comments or questions that people have.  Irina?

IRINA A. FASKIANOS:  Terrific.  Thanks so much Walter for that overview.  And we will go now to all of you.  We invite your comments, questions, and your insight.  So, let’s open it up.

OPERATOR:  At this time we will open the floor for questions.  Questions will be taken in the order that they are received. 

IRINA A. FASKIANOS:  While people are warming up, Walter, let me start, kick it off by asking you about the rise of Evangelicals as an influential group.  Is this a unique occurrence or are there other examples over the course of history that you examined?

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  Well again, I think, you know, we can look in American history and see that, you know, this latest rise of Evangelicalism is very much a sort of a traditional part of our religious history.  You’ve got the Great Awakening.  You’ve got all kinds of movements in colonial and post colonial American history.  Again, many people I think would tend to view these religious revivals as being conservative forces.  But in American history, these revivals have actually been associated with moments and often movements of incredible social change.  So for example, the Great Awakening doesn’t make Americans more conservative.  In a sense, it prepares American society for the break with Britain .  And the people who made the Great Awakening also made the American Revolution.  The Kentucky revivals, the famous and very dramatic frontier revivals in the early nineteenth century helped people or came about as people on the frontier were leaving the certainties and the comforts of the seaboard civilization and moving out into the wilderness often in a very dramatic way.  They were also very much a part of the process of democratization that was defining American society at that time. 

So these, the anti-slavery movement, the women’s suffrage movement, moving forward into the twentieth century certainly the civil rights movement all have their roots in very strong religious cultures and religious movements.  And so we can even look today at the rise of, you know, the sort of the latest “great awakening” that we’ve had, it’s come not as say Southern Baptists and other white evangelicals in the South have resisted racial integration. I think actually this rise of traditional, quote traditional religious feeling and experience has come as enormous social changes have been sweeping through that evangelical community.  So that the white South today is more urban and suburban, more involved in the market economy than it used to be, women have a much greater, wider role professionally and at home than they used to.  The line between change and tradition in America is a tricky one.  Orthodoxy and change in America often have run together.

IRINA A. FASKIANOS:  Great, next question.

OPERATOR:  Our first question.

QUESTIONER A:  Hello, I’m on?  Thanks very much for your lecture.  I agree.  It’s a dynamic kind of influence.  I want to tweak it a little bit though and see what you think of this.  First of all, I want to mention, you know Michael Walzer’s book, Revolution of the Saints, which talks about the Puritan revolution, there have been several books on that.  However he believes, and he is, I’m a fan of Walzer’s, this is not a strong criticism, but he intentionally leaves out the free churches who emphasized religious liberty, separation of church and state.  And separation of church and state doesn’t mean churches can’t talk about politics it means they’re independent from the state so they do have freedom to criticize what the government does.  So that makes for a social dynamism as Walzer writes. 

H. Richard Niebuhr, the Yale theological ethicist, he was much influenced by Henri Bergson and the same book that you just mentioned and he wrote Kingdom of God in America which looked at three movements.  He was looking for when were the churches faithful?  When did they do the right thing and not just be conformist?  And he had the early puritans, the social gospel and the Great Awakening.  The place where I really want to tweak a little though is your emphasis on individualism.  Both Niebuhr and Walzer have some criticism of the individualism as does Bellah, for example, you know Habits of the Heart and so forth, where we lose our sense of civic responsibility and become just too individualistic.  And I would have connected the dynamism you’re talking about not exactly with capitalism, at least in the individualistic sense, and it’s so dominant in our country, but I would have connected it also with democracy, the democratic tradition which also comes from that free church puritan movement.  And therefore I would be critical of the U.S. just emphasizing a laissez faire capitalism and trying to push that on the world.  I’d rather want us to spread democracy but not by war. 

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  Okay well that, I mean obviously we’re talking about very complex issues and, you know, both you and I are giving very short summaries of very kind of complex trains of thought.


WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  I think what I would probably respond there initially is I tend, when I speak of capitalism, I’m not simply speaking of laissez-faire capitalism.  It seems to me that I write about in the book that both the English and the Americans have in a sense actually their real success has been the ability to sort of harness the capitalist spirit in a regulatory framework.  It’s actually interesting that almost all the sports today that are played around the world are played under rules and in sort of league type organizations that were developed in ninteenth century Britain and America .  And what’s interesting there is that the passion of, you know the passion of regulation and the passion of competition are often separated.  But in those English, the English Croquet Association actually developed what are now the rules of tennis and they did it precisely to have the most challenging, exciting competition possible.  So I think that it’s not a question of regulation versus laissez faire.  But it’s regulation in the interests of, you know, do you regulate to try to tamp down change in a spirit of enterprise that you feel might destroy society, or do you try to channel it in such a way that it’s energies can be most effectively felt and used?

I do agree that American society, you know, if we have, in a sense if the English have a… Matthew Arnold once wrote that the union of order and liberty was the foundation of British prosperities, writing this in the Victorian era.  And it seems to me that that’s a generally true statement of the Anglo-American societies.  The British probably tended to lean over a little bit too much toward order.  The Americans lean a little bit in the direction of liberty in the sense of individualism.  And I’ve actually, in the book I urge that what we really need today is an evangelical recovery of Niebuhr, of Reinhold Niebuhr actually.  Because I think his notion of, you know, you both you strongly believe in your society and believe in its sort of its right to exist but you’re also deeply critical.  And you’re aware that when you’re at your most self-righteous and all embracing this is actually the point where you should be the most worried about, you know, are you taking this too far?  What are the hidden flaws of your own approach to the world?


WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  So, you know I would say let’s look at Reinhold but you know all the Niebuhrs have something to teach us.

QUESTIONER A:  Reinhold was my teacher.



IRINA A. FASKIANOS:  Thank you.  Next comment, question?

OPERATOR:  Next question.

QUESTIONER B:  Good afternoon.  It’s a great pleasure to hear you, Mr. Mead.  I am a U.S. Navy chaplain.  I deployed aboard a ship this spring and while participating in a multinational naval exercise, a Pakistani naval officer asked me what inspired you Americans so much that you would leave your families for six months to deploy?  And I thought that was a great question and my question in light of what you’ve had to say is, do you think that can be answered apart from including religion?  And if you include religion, how can that be expressed in a way that doesn’t sound too overly (inaudible) or in your book you talked about the apologies that you make about talking about American power.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  Yeah, I think well one thing I would probably say to the Pakistani-- I was just in Pakistan myself for two weeks; it’s a fascinating place-- is that there are a lot of people on the ship and they’ve probably each got their own reason.


WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  You know, try to avoid this notion that you know as a society we’re sort of inflexibly animated by this one overwhelming view because that, you know, tends to scare people outside and inside.  But I think this idea, you know-- and this comes very much I think from our puritan heritage-- that as individuals we are accountable, you know, and that also I think, you know, that the purpose of our life, we need to discover meaning and then follow where that leads us.  I think of, and maybe with a Pakistani I’d use the call of Abraham, you know that Abraham, God says to Abraham, leave your father and your father’s gods and come with me to a new country where I will show you the promise and so on.  And this idea that in following God’s call and leaving behind everything that you know that it’s there in that unknown future that by faith you will encounter God.  That remains, I think even for Americans who have no formal religious faith, one of the deepest elements in our national psychology. 

QUESTIONER B:  Thank you.

IRINA A. FASKIANOS:  Next question.

OPERATOR:  Our next question comes.

QUESTIONER C:  Thank you.  Hi [Walter].  Good to talk with you.  Samuel Huntington makes a big point in his latest book about the importance of the Protestant heritage in the United States and Anglo-America more generally.  And yet, we have a substantial Catholic population in the United States and I’m wondering where you see that population fitting in to your argument about the role of religion in American foreign policy and history and so forth.  Are Catholics just sort of protestantized in America ?  They just adapted to sort of the more libertarian kind of ethos?

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  Well I think there is something to that that, you know, but I would say I think on a more profound level, certainly as I understand what’s happened in Catholicism in the twentieth century is that some ideas that you know to come from both American Catholic experience and also eventually-- you know John Henry Newman’s concept of the development of doctrine-- have really sort of enriched Catholic social thought of both about individualism and the church in a world of change.  And before the Vatican council you would have heard a lot of theologians telling you that, you know, religious freedom in this sort of western liberal sense was a bad thing, not a good thing.  You would have seen, you know, what Pius IX  (inaudible), The Syllabus of Errors condemning the concept of separation of church and state, condemning the concept of a public school system that wasn’t operated according to Catholic principles and so on.  But that Catholicism seems to have placed much more weight on the conscience of the individual and the calling of the individual.  So I’m not sure that we would say that American Catholics are being sort of de-catholicized by their experience but that the catholic encounter with modernity has deepened tremendously in the twentieth century and so that, you know, in some ways we’ve got a new deck of cards. 

And then maybe it’s worth pointing out that while Huntington was concerned that the large Hispanic immigration that we’re having might, you know, tilt America away from some of these sort of cultural dynamics that have been so influential in the past.  All the stuff that I’ve seen in terms of the rate at which from generation to generation Hispanic immigrant families move from being Spanish-only households to English-only households.  Even religious conversion rates which are actually… you know, a much higher percentage of the Hispanic immigrants either are when they get here or become Evangelical or Pentecostal than ever happened with the Irish or the Jews or the Greeks or so many others.  It looks to me as if this sort of foundation of American life remains pretty strong.

QUESTIONER C:  Okay, thank you.

IRINA A. FASKIANOS:  Thank you, next question.

OPERATOR:  Okay, we have no more questions Ms. Faskianos.

IRINA A. FASKIANOS:  Walter, looking forward what do you see as religion’s role in U.S. foreign policy going forward?

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  Well, it seems to me that it’s actually the work Irina that you are doing and the advisory board here is doing in trying to engage religious leaders and religious audiences in foreign policy discussions is absolutely crucial because I think in many ways the elite, the political elite, and the secular political elite in particular, has lost the ability to communicate effectively with mass audiences in America.  And that we underestimate the degree to which religious communities and religious leaders and religious institutions provide a lot of the framework that many people use in thinking about America’s role in the world and in an understanding, even intellectually understanding what their, in a sense what duties does America have to the world and what should American citizens be thinking about and be prioritizing.  And I think that religious leaders, and maybe especially today given just the dynamics of the last twenty years, evangelical and conservative religious leaders of all denominations have a tremendous both responsibility and opportunity.  And I think it’s our job at places like the Council to try to make ourselves more accessible to try to draw religious leaders and communities into dialogue.  And generally speaking, you know, to see that that line from the foreign policy world to the religious world that that sort of highway is more traveled and in better repair.

IRINA A. FASKIANOS:  Great, next question?

OPERATOR:  Next question.

QUESTIONER D:  Yes, I’m a Navy chaplain and I heard you mention the primary focus around the Anglo-American religious influence.  You do reference the religious influence of the civil rights movement, my concern is what study have you done about what impact the current African-American religious experience has on American life and foreign policy as well today?

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  Okay well one thing I want to make really clear is that, and which I haven’t actually addressed at this point is, that when I use that term Anglo-American, I’m not, I think we need to understand that especially today, not as some kind of an ethnic marker, but it’s a sort of a cultural marker.  That one of the things that is profoundly true in the United States today is that sort of culture that maybe historically has roots in British, sort of sixteenth, seventeenth century British society is very much a kind of a common possession here.  So, I don’t want to create some kind of idea that there’s sort of one American heritage that is or should be hegemonic and everyone else should sort of take their cues and sort of be humble around  it.   That’s not what we have.  And that’s not what I’m writing about.  But you know having said that, it seems to me that there’s, you know, in fact there is not nearly enough work done in sort of general, the secular media and the sort of secular political process are, have very much neglected the continuing role, and even in some ways the strengthening role of religion in American life.  So when you have someone like Senator Obama who openly makes religion a part of his conversation with the public a lot of people are kind of taken aback and blown away. 

And I think we need to, but I would say that one of the amazing things that in the sense of the sort of African-American population, if you look at its long history where religious institutions were among the first places where African-Americans, many of whom were still slaves at this time, were actually able to exercise leadership in their own communities and organize communities in their own way.  And that moving forward, you know, after the Civil War and the reconstruction period, you already find African-American churches having international, intercontinental missions programs and international engagement was actually a significant part of African-American church history.  You’ve got, you know, the guy who basically revealed to the world what Leopold the Belgian was doing in the Congo in terms of the extraordinary greed and cruelty of that occupation even by colonial standards, was an African-American trained missionary who also worked as a journalist.  So there’s this long history of engagement. 

There’s also a long history of bringing, of finding in religion the means to help a community that was marginalized, persecuted, and discriminated against, helped that community find inner strength both to cohere and then find its, you know, find something more like the place it should have in the world.  It’s amazing today and I think people don’t do nearly enough thinking about this, the way that what Martin Luther King and others were suggesting is a new reading of scriptural orthodoxy, you know, that was, you know, whereas the southern Baptists actually for quite some time had sort of let some racial ideas creep into their theology as well as into the sort of practice of churches and so on.  That these corrections to standard American Protestant orthodoxy, you know, have been taken on board and people don’t look nearly enough at the theological influence that the African-American religious world has had on the wider world and I hope more of that can happen.


IRINA A. FASKIANOS:  Next question.

OPERATOR:  Next question.

QUESTIONER A:  I’m back again since there wasn’t a big line.  I’m thinking about, I’ve been doing a bunch of dialoguing with Muslim scholars in the U.S. and they are saying, the ones at least I’ve talked with have said that they’ve been pretty well received.  Of course there have been some problems, and you can see that on some of the LISTSERVs when they do identify problems, but as a whole there have been jobs; there has been religious liberty; there has been the freedom to practice your religion; and there has been the ability to win some respect from non Muslims in the U.S.  And so they tell me, if an Imam would preach violence and terrorism in the U.S. , the Imam would be fired.  And the FBI can’t find a Muslim terrorist group in the U.S.  They can in European countries, so you and I were both saying, you know we have to be self-critical, and I really affirm that, but also maybe we have to have a little self-appreciation for the religious liberty tradition and keep practicing that as Christians have taken initiatives to dialogue with Muslims and to defend mosques after 9-11 and so forth.  I wonder if you would talk a little bit about the role of Islam in the U.S. and the role of Jews and Christians in response. 

Hey, can I make just one more comment?   I’m an Evangelical myself and I want to tell them not to stereotype Evangelicals.  You have not been but there is a breadth of different kinds of Evangelicals.  David Gushee is about to publish a book from Baylor University Press, the typology of different kinds of Evangelical emphasis on political questions so we see the diversity.  Good, back to the Islam is what I was really asking.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  Well, actually I spend a fair amount of time in the book looking at some of the questions of, you know, can Islam do what Protestantism and Catholicism have done which is to find a way to sort of retain its moral and religious center in the face of the challenges of modernity.  And one thing I do is spend a lot of time looking at some of the things that we’re told are intrinsic differences between Christianity and Islam aren’t that intrinsic.  I mean one of the things that you’ll hear is, you know, Christianity teaches separation of church and state and Islam doesn’t.  Well, you go back and you look at the first codes of law in puritan Massachusetts and by every single law, they put the scriptural verse that justifies that law.  In the colony of New Haven it was unanimously voted that no book but the Bible will be the source of the civil laws of this colony.  As late as 1927, I think the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the divine origin and truth of the Christian religion are part of the common law of the state of Pennsylvania .  And that was, they cited for that a Supreme Court case of 1844 that had been argued by Daniel Webster.  So, you know, our own background and you know the things that we now think oh well of course Christianity teaches and Islam, you know, pathetically doesn’t, you know, what I think we have to look at is Abrahamic religions which have doctrinal structures, which have histories, which have all of these sort of processes and, you know, they’re very careful about their definitions of revelation and very reluctant to impinge on that in any way.  Other Abrahamic religions have in this encounter with modernity again found a deeper understanding of who they are and how they proceed.  I think there is no reason to think on an a priori basis that Islam can’t do that.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if American Muslims actually play a significant role in a kind of a worldwide Islamic rethink just as a number of American Catholic scholars and theologians were very influential in the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council on religious freedom. 

QUESTIONER A:  Yes, I’ve heard American Muslims advocating that in one of their national conferences.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  Yeah, and I think, so you know, I think we’ve got to continue to, and if you look at the history of American Protestantism it seems to me that one of the elements that you see is that it remains true to its own sense of itself and calling and identity even as it progressively embraces the other.  You know, I mean whether it’s an ecumenical movement among Protestants or whether it’s been with the arrival of large numbers of Catholic immigrants seeking to kind of reach across.  Ironically, I think the anti-abortion movement today-- I don’t know about ironically-- but one of the chief consequences of that in terms of American religious life has been the development of a very healthy ecumenical movement involving Evangelicals and Catholics, conservative Evangelicals and Catholics, two groups that have been somewhat estranged.  So I think, I don’t think the encounter between American Christianity and Islam is going to have to repeat past encounters between these religions in a European or Middle Eastern setting.  What it will be I don’t know but…

QUESTIONER A:  If I could support that with a parallel, Catholics, you know originally there was a lot of Protestant anti-Catholicism in the U.S. and then Catholics felt pretty defensive and then John Courtney Murray said at Vatican II, the second Vatican Council, that actually Catholics in the U.S. in the religious liberty context know their faith better because it has got to be their own.  And that we’re stronger here than where Catholicism is sort of imposed in a way that almost forces it on people and advocated that Vatican II write that wonderful document on religious liberty which is from my Protestant perspective, really wonderful.  So Catholics kind of learned from the religious liberty and the human rights emphasis and have become real champions of it and, you know, if we can cooperate some with Muslims, Muslims I think are learning that too and then wanting to spread that around the world.  So that puts a burden on Christians like me to be in dialogue and to be, you know, welcoming and encouraging and so forth.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  Yeah and doing that while in a sense maintaining one’s own, you know, the integrity of one’s own faith commitment is interesting and very tricky line to walk but it’s very important that we do it and do it well.

QUESTIONER A:  Mm-Hmm, that’s right.

IRINA A. FASKIANOS:  Walter, we have one more question at least.  Would you, do you have a few more minutes to take it?  I know we’ve gone past our time but…

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  Sure, sure I’ll take another.


OPERATOR:  Our next question.

QUESTIONER E:  Well thank you very much for the discussion.  I really appreciate it.  And earlier, Mr. Mead you had, someone had asked a question about the Catholic role as we were just discussing in the latest exchange and I appreciated your answer about the sort of adopting to modernity or engaging modernity that has marked a lot of the history of Catholicism in the last several decades, particularly since the Council.  One of the things that is happening now, and I don’t know if this is strong enough to be called a trend but in some studies I’ve read and actually what I’m experiencing here at the place where we had a lot of young adult men and women who are studying theology at the graduate level and there’s a kind of combination of a search for a stronger Catholic identity, a stronger piety and so on coupled with an international perspective that tends to increase criticism of certain aspects of nationalism, of U.S. foreign policy.  Really a model for many of these young Catholics was the example of John Paul II who they admire both for his sort of rigorous piety but also his strong emphasis on human rights and its challenges.  And I have a feeling that this combination may characterize a lot of younger generation of Catholics who are informed and coming forward and I don’t know what the implications would be for the future role of Catholicism in the issues of foreign policy.  I think for a long time, the Catholic community really emphasized strongly it’s patriotism as a way of belonging but I sense that for some younger Catholics coming forward now that there’s a kind of maybe disillusionment, maybe more attracted by sort of an international perspective.  I don’t know, as I say, whether this deserves to be called a trend, but I wonder if you have any experience with that or any reflections on that.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  Well, one of the things about being at the Council on Foreign Relations is that you don’t often talk to young people about religion.


WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  You know we tend to talk about much nastier subjects.  And I think you know I think we’re sort of at a, you know, a sort of between 9/11 and the war in Iraq we’ve sort of had two very unpleasant shocks for American public opinion.  And as people try to come to grips with what these things mean and where we should go, I think you know as a country we’re a little bit at sea about what do we do next and what’s the right thing to do and so on.  And so that what you’re seeing is as people try to come to grips with these questions, their religious backgrounds and convictions, as well as their sort of personal political stances, are interacting as people try to answer these big questions.  And you know, we’ll see. 

I don’t know what the next generation will look like but I think it will, if the pattern holds, the next generation will find new and creative ways of expressing very traditional identities, and the world is likely to change.  I think the changes that are taking place in the world are accelerating.  And that the world that the current generation will inherit is going to be one that’s in some ways a more difficult one than anything that we’ve known.  You know, you think about how perils from, you know, whether you think about environmental consequences, you think about the rise of Asia, you think about what some of what terrorist groups could do with biological weapons of mass destruction as biological knowledge moves ahead-- we’re looking at some very, very big issues.  And I think the American people are going to, I think the United States will continue to play very central role in international politics, which places tremendous responsibility on the young generation of Americans and also on those of us who have any role whatever in teaching them or guiding them.  So I think we need to be conscious that we are preparing people who will have to struggle with tougher things than we know.  And I don’t see how the American people are going to be able to handle that without being deeply grounded in the faith traditions and communities that have shaped their lives and their values. 

QUESTIONER E:  Thank you. 

IRINA A. FASKIANOS:  Well with that Walter, I think we will wrap it up.  Thank you very much for sharing your insights with us today and for the good conversation that we had on your book, God and Gold, and the role of religion As all of you know, we are trying to connect and make the Council a resource for religious and congregational leaders, scholars, and thinkers and to deepen their understanding of the role and influence of religion on U.S. foreign policy.  Walter is doing a lot of work here at the Council running a religion roundtable series and heading up a symposium series on different issues.  The next one will be on November 30, here in New York on Evangelicals and U.S. Foreign Policy.  We are planning to webcast that so we will send out announcements but if any of you would like to make the trip to New York , we would welcome you for that.  To ask for more information, email us at and we can connect you with that event.  But our next call in this series will be on Wednesday, November 7, with David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism.  He will be talking about promotion of religious freedom.  I hope you will join us again for that call and appreciate your insight today and please do send us feedback at  So, thank you, and thank you Walter.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD :  Alright, thank you Irina.  Bye.


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