V. Rev. Michael Battle to explore reconciliation in face of irreconcilable differences

The V. Rev. Michael Battle, raised in the American South, comes from the Christian perspective. Battle focuses his work on reconciliation and recognizing what are and what aren’t irreconcilable differences in humanity.

He serves as Herbert Thompson Professor of Church and Society and Director of the Desmond Tutu Center at General Theological Seminary in New York. Battle’s lecture “America’s Global Conscience: Is Anyone Irreconcilable?” will take place at 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, in the Hall of Philosophy. 

“(My lecture) is getting at the difficulties around how we, in many ways, find ourselves in irreconcilable differences, whether that’s political, economic and especially spiritual,” Battle said.


The V. Rev. Michael Battle joins the Interfaith Lecture Series as a replacement for Ambassador Michael Battle, as the latter’s schedule of confirmation hearings prohibited his participation. 

But the Department of Religion had a stroke of luck in planning.

“I tucked it away that if, for some reason, Ambassador Michael Battle could not accept our invitation or ultimately not be able to come … the next person I would, ironically, invite would be the other Michael Battle,” said Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno.

According to the Merriam-Webster definition, irreconcilable differences are borne of the “inability to agree on most things or on important things.” 

The Interfaith Lecture Series Week One theme, “America’s Global Conscience,” alludes to irreconcilable differences, but Battle said he wants people to see there are positives in dissenting beliefs. 

“I just want to do some excavation of that problem that we don’t talk about very much out loud,” Battle said. “There’s some theological work with that, (and I’m) giving some narratives that represent that problem.”

Battle recognizes the history of the establishment of the United States, from people immigrating from Europe to the forced migration of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, as partially responsible for America’s irreconcilable differences.

“How this country was started, in many ways, was based on irreconcilable differences,” Battle said. “The founders were trying to put together a way in which we can live together despite our differences, but unfortunately it still seems like we’re in a civil war.”

Rovegno said Battle’s work with Archbishop Desmond Tutu gives him a unique worldview to add to the Interfaith Lecture Series.

“His long relationship with Bishop Tutu, and all the work he’s done, would very much represent America’s Global Conscience,” Rovegno said. “He’s been very immersed in the reflection of what we want America’s global conscience to be.”

Battle said he hopes his lecture will inspire people to expand their initial viewpoints and reflect on how the conscience of the United States is affected by irreconcilable differences.

“A fish doesn’t know it’s wet, so I’m hoping that our frame of reference and our point of view will expand,” Battle said. “I’m hoping we can increase our imaginations, especially from a Christian perspective, not to be socialized into irreconcilable differences.”

Many view reconciliation as “cheap,” or used to take advantage of others, Battle said. 

“I think if we really understood, at least theologically, what was going on with God and reconciliation we could see the depth of what is trying to be accomplished,” Battle said.

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The author Kaitlyn Finchler

Kaitlyn Finchler is a journalism and public relations graduate from Kent State University as of May. This will be her second summer at Chautauqua where she will cover literary arts, serving previously as the Interfaith Lecture Series preview reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading, cooking or flipping between “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gossip Girl.” She’s most excited to see how many times she can slip the word “plethora” into her stories before Sara makes her stop again.