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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Connecting the Dots of the Social Gospel Movement with Changes Afoot Today

by Krista Tippett, host

"Social issues," Walter Rauschenbusch wrote, “are moral issues writ large.” Maybe that sounds like a straightforward statement. But it holds an emphasis, enwraps a whole theology that gave rise to the split between what we now experience as two branches of Christianity: Evangelical and mainline Protestant.

Walter RauschenbuschWhile pastoring a German Baptist church in Hell’s Kitchen in New York at the turn of the last century, Walter Rauschenbusch saw poverty and desolation at every turn. That he lived in a moment kindred to ours is immediately evident in the subject headings of his most famous book Christianity and the Social Crisis: the morale of the workers, the physical decline of the people, the crumbling of political democracy, the wedge of inequality.

This book was going to print as Rauschenbusch set off for a year’s sabbatical in Germany in 1907. He returned as a best-selling celebrity, a galvanizing figure in movement that became known as the Social Gospel. Though, as his great-grandson Paul Raushenbush tells us in our show "Occupying the Gospel," Walter never liked that catchphrase. It’s just the Gospel, he said.

Looking at the Bible with eyes fresh from the suffering he witnessed in Hell’s Kitchen, Walter Rauschenbusch saw a call for social healing, social renewal, and social justice in and between every line. The dedication page of his book contained these shortened lines from the end of The Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom Come! Thy Will be Done on Earth!” Walter Rauschenbusch believed in a transcendent God and an afterlife, but he came to feel that Christians had focused too much on the afterlife and not enough on their responsibilities in this life.

In the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. cited Walter Rauschenbusch as a formative teacher in his understanding that “any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the…social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.”

I read Walter Rauschenbusch too, when I studied theology in the early 1990s. He’s still studied at all kinds of seminaries — evangelical to mainline. He is not remembered in American culture like the twentieth-century public theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, for example. But I’m sensing some spirit, some essence, of Social Gospel theology as 21st-century Americans apply faith to social issues and crises now. And as Paul Raushenbush points out, a most interesting example of this is the way in which new generations of Evangelicals have been engaging on matters of social justice — taking on the environment, global poverty, and human trafficking. They may care as deeply about what we think of in our time as “moral values issues.” But they’re seeing a Gospel, as Walter Rauschenbusch did, that compels them to see social issues as moral issues too.

Paul Raushenbush & Sami AwadPaul Raushenbush moderates an online chat with Sami Awad for the Global Voices of Non-Violence conference. (Photo courtesy of EGM Ethnographic Media)

In connecting these dots, Paul Raushenbush is a lovely conversation partner. He grew up largely unaffected, at least overtly, by the legacy of his great-grandfather. He became a rock and roll producer in Europe after college. He flamed out. Recovery, “getting clean,” was part of his return to faith. He ministered to street youth in Seattle and San Paolo, Brazil, and worked at Riverside Church in New York, and then became a chaplain and associate dean of religious affairs at Princeton. He was there for eight years before leaving to be full-time senior editor of the Huffington Post religion section, which he helped launch in 2010.

He has many interesting things to tell about the Social Gospel, religiosity among the young in our time, and his view of modern religion from an ultra-modern online perch. None is more counterintuitive, perhaps, than the fact that he is constantly urging contributors to the religion section of the Huffington Post to “be more religion-y.” The posts that go viral are often about getting grounded in tradition — learning the basics of the Bible, for example. In his piece of the famously liberal Huffington Post universe, he welcomes conservative voices. A progressive Christian himself, he is impatient when his fellow liberal faithful are less passionate than others, less articulate in communicating the Gospel they believe in. I have a feeling, in Paul’s presence, that he doesn’t merely give voice but embodies the theological spirit of his great-grandfather, in a most intriguing way.


Paul Brandeis Raushenbush: A Twitterscript

by Susan Leem, associate producer

Paul Brandeis RaushenbushKrista’s interview with Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, the senior religion editor at the Huffington Post, is in the can. His pedigree reaches back to towering figures of the 20th century:  social gospel reformer Walter Rauschenbusch (great-grandfather) and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis (grandfather). He reminds us that religion is a valuable and increasingly essential vehicle for communication in our modern world.

We live-tweeted highlights of this 90-minute conversation and have aggregated them below for those who weren’t able to follow along. Look for our show with him in the coming weeks, and follow us next time at @BeingTweets.

  1. "I’m the only one in the history of the Presbyterian Church to fail confirmation…I just didn’t show up."@Raushenbush 1:09 PM Oct 5th
  2. "Only later did I realize what a big deal it was that Louis Brandeis’ daughter married a goy." @Raushenbush on his grandparents’ marriage. 1:15 PM Oct 5th
  3. If you have any questions for Paul @Raushenbush of @HuffPostRelig about contemporary religion, the social gospel movement, etc, please ask! 1:17 PM Oct 5th
  4. "(Walter) Raushenbush was in some ways a skeptic of religion…People can be converted and be worse than they were before."@raushenbush 1:21 PM Oct 5th
  5. "Social problems are moral problems on a larger scale." ~Walter Raushenbush, as quoted by his biographer/grandson Paul @Raushenbush 1:24 PM Oct 5th
  6. "Even if everything was perfect, we’d still need to be aware of the spirit moving in our lives so we continue to grow." @Raushenbush 1:28 PM Oct 5th
  7. Correction: great grandson! 1:30 PM Oct 5th
  8. "I have an interfaith heart. That’s just where I live." @Raushenbush 1:34 PM Oct 5th
  9. "What young people are looking for more than anything is authenticity." @Raushenbush 1:36 PM Oct 5th
  10. "It’s very hard to hurt someone who has shown you vulnerability." @Raushenbush 1:38 PM Oct 5th
  11. "I wrote Arianna an email and told her you’re not doing religion. You have to do religion."@Raushenbush on the launch of @HuffPostRelig 1:43 PM Oct 5th
  12. "The idea of liberal vs. religious is a crazy dichotomy." @Raushenbush 1:45 PM Oct 5th
  13. "What I’m not looking for is political view + Jesus." ~Paul @Raushenbush on bloggers + commenters for @HuffPostRelig 1:46 PM Oct 5th
  14. "Figure out what you believe and why you believe it." @Raushenbush 1:49 PM Oct 5th
  15. "To be an educated leader in the world you…have to be able to talk to people across religious divides." @Raushenbush 1:52 PM Oct 5th
  16. "I want people to feel that there’s a basic humanity to the site." -@Raushebush on cultivating @HuffPostRelig 1:58 PM Oct 5th
  17. "The question is are we willing to be on the same page; some people are just not." @Raushenbush 2:06 PM Oct 5th
  18. "I want you to reference the richness of your tradition, so I can learn." -@Raushenbush 2:09 PM Oct 5th
  19. "Interfaith dialogue is for people who take religion and big ideas seriously and want to go deeper." -@Raushenbush 2:11 PM Oct 5th
  20. "The power of religion is to offer a transcendent vision of more than just me." -@Raushenbush 2:16 PM Oct 5th
  21. "The idea that religious people have some sort of monopoly on morality is absurd." -@Raushenbush 2:18 PM Oct 5th
  22. "The Internet is basically neutral; it’s what we bring to it." -@Raushenbush 2:20 PM Oct 5th
  23. "My primary sense of who I am is as a minister." -Paul @Raushenbush 2:23 PM Oct 5th

The Vulnerability of Listening

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

"Listening entails vulnerability. Listening requires a willingness, even a longing, to understand another."

A few weeks ago, our very own Krista Tippett stopped by the offices of Huffington Post in New York City to tape this short feature. The result: "Two Minutes of Wisdom with Krista Tippett."

In her book, ‘Listening Below the Noise,’ author Anne LeClaire says that ‘silence holds two faces. To be silenced is not at all the same as choosing not to speak.’ And it was very clear to me, as I left my winter retreat, that this chosen silence that was my antidote to the year’s distractions and challenges, is the very antithesis of the silence that is suppression and oppression for many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people. Since then, I’ve been pondering the contranym that silence is and the distinctions among its meanings.

Lost Tree— Lisa Linsky, a listener and fan of the show forwarded her beautiful piece from the Huffington Post titled "And Now, a Moment of Silence."

Silence as a tool in civic life? Sounds good to us.

(photo: “Lost Tree” by H. Kopp-Delaney/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor


LIVE Video: Huffington Post Religion Editor Paul Raushenbush in Conversation with Krista

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

NOTE: At 9:30 a.m. EDT (Saturday, September 25th) the live stream will open; conversation will begin promptly at 9:50 a.m.

Krista Tippett and Paul Raushenbush at PRPDIf you’re a loyal public radio fan or a reader of the religion section at The Huffington Post, you’re going to enjoy this video stream coming to you live from Denver, Colorado. From the PRPD (Public Radio Program Directors) annual conference, Krista will be speaking with Paul Raushenbush, HuffPo Religion editor and associate dean of religious life at Princeton University.

The emergence of HuffPo Religion is one of many recent signs that religion and spirituality have evolved to occupy a very different place in American culture than they did a decade ago. Krista and Paul will look at the transition from Speaking of Faith to Being through this lens, and share segments from the program including listener-generated stories and interviews with special guests.

Grab a cup of coffee and watch this live conversation with us. We’ll open up the live stream at 9:30 a.m. EDT (7:30 a.m. Mountain), and the conversation will start promptly at 9:50 a.m., lasting about 30-45 minutes.

We don’t have to schedule a trip to the monastery to enjoy the benefits of stopping for bells of mindfulness. We can use many ‘ordinary’ events in our daily lives to call us back to ourselves and to the present moment. The ringing of the telephone, for example: many of my students pause to breathe in and out mindfully three times before they pick up the phone, in order to be fully present to themselves and to the person calling them. Or when we are driving, a red light can be a wonderful friend reminding us to stop, relax, let go of discouraging thought patterns and feel more space inside.

—Thich Nhat Hanh, from his interview in Friday’s Huffington Post.

I greatly appreciate Marianne Schnall’s line of questioning here. She could’ve gone philosophical on us, but she didn’t. She’s seeking advice on how to better understand and operate in this frenetic, always-connected world we live in. How do we vacation and relax? How do we prioritize our relationships with people and our electronic gadgets? These are real questions we are all struggling with in the most ordinary of ways. Which reminds me of this quote that I almost featured:

"Relationships are like a forest: it takes a long time to build up precious trust, but one really thoughtless act or remark can be like a lighted match that destroys everything."

Trent Gilliss, senior editor