What might words like repentance or forgiveness mean, culturally, in this moment? These are questions of the emerging church, a loosely-defined movement that crosses generations, theologies and social ideologies in the hope of reimagining Christianity. With Phyllis Tickle and Vincent Harding, we bring you an honest (and sometimes politically incorrect) conversation on coming to terms with racial identity in the church and in the world:
"The great American experiment with building a multiracial democracy is still in the laboratory. We have got to be willing to see ourselves as part of an experiment that is actively working its way through right now. We stumble. We hold on to each other. We hug each other. We fight with one another in loving ways. But we keep moving and experimenting and trying to figure it out."
"There’s a difference between repentance and forgiveness and there’s a difference between those in grace. And if we do this thing that Vincent’s talking about, if we refashion this country — which we’re going to do — but if we do it without grace, it will be just as clunky and just as unfortunate. And just as many people will get the short end of the stick as has been true in the past."
Do the Heagle.
Our technical director Chris Heagle does a lot of dancing in the minutes before the interview when the host and guest take their seats. Mic positioning, sound checks, water ready… just a few of the things our resident expert makes perfect in a quiet, frenzied pace before Krista Tippett sat down with poet Marie Howe at the College of Saint Benedict.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
A Bittersweet Picture
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
This week we bid a fond farewell to our executive producer Kate Moos (house left, as they say, in the photo above). After more than eight years on the show, she is moving on to greener pastures. She’s not leaving us officially until the end of the calendar year, but as we cross 2012’s threshold, she’ll be starting a new project for American Public Media (our parent company) that will tap in to the organization’s Public Insight Network to deliver news stories on a variety of platforms, which are sourced from deep within the communities that surround us.
Big opportunity. Big project. Big ideas. And a big mind to handle it all. She’ll be missed, but she’ll still be just down the hall. Farewell, Kate Moos!
(Photo: Instagram by Trent Gilliss)
Q:how can I listen to On Being on my Kindle Fire??
Good morning, Anonymous—
I’m going to do a partial punt on this one because none of us on staff have a Kindle Fire, and thus do not have an intimate knowledge of the device that might offer you specific steps. That said, we do offer each weekly show and unedited interview via podcast or as individual downloads on each episode’s show page at the On Being website. I’ll defer to our readers and Tumblr dashboard audience to offer better advice on apps that might make this experience easier.
I am one of those cats who uses Amazon’s Cloud service. A lot. Perhaps I can offer a possible workaround in which you download the mp3 to your device and then sync it to your Amazon Cloud account. That way you can use the native music player to stream your favorite On Being episodes without having to hound-dog them on your device!
When you find a solution, please let me know what works best. We’re starting to receive a number of questions about Kindles and I’d like to be able to share your solutions with others.
Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Q:what are on being showtimes on WGBH
Good morning, Anon—
WGBH airs our shows at 7 a.m. on Sunday mornings in Boston and surrounding communities. And, if you’re an early riser, WBUR also carries our program, broadcasting it at 6 a.m. on Sundays.
Hope this answers your question,
Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Q:Who is behind yourorganization
Good morning, Anonymous—
On Being is a public radio project hosted and produced by Krista Tippett, with a production staff of five including me, Chris Heagle, Nancy Rosenbaum, Susan Leem, and Anne Breckbill. The program is produced and distributed by American Public Media, which also distributes such popular shows as The Splendid Table, A Prairie Home Companion, Marketplace, and many more. We’re based out of St. Paul, Minnesota.
Trent Gilliss, senior editor
The Unorthodox Spectrum of Mormonism Explained
by Krista Tippett, host
I’ve had a sense of déjà vu as the discussion about Mormonism has heated up as of late, with exactly the same dynamic occurring in the last presidential election season. But the discussion this time is more serious.
It’s not just the fact that two Mormons — Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman — are viable presidential candidates. It’s a Broadway musical. It’s more than one successful TV drama. We’re in, we’re coming to say, a “Mormon moment.” Joanna Brooks, giving just one of the many helpful pieces of perspective in this conversation, compares the rise of Mormons in politics and culture to the rise of the Mormon-owned Marriott Hotel chain. A highly disciplined, highly effective frontier culture grows up and migrates back out into centers of power. It’s a classic American story. But there’s also some kind of religious and cultural coming of age here, for Mormons and the rest of us.
I couldn’t have found a better person than Joanna Brooks to shed some distinctively informative, candid, and meaningful light on it all. She’s a literature scholar and a journalist. Her Ask Mormon Girl blog and Twitter feed is a remarkably reflective, compassionate community of questioning with Mormons of many stripes. And Ask Mormon Girl, as she notes on her website, is housed on the “legendary Feminist Mormon Housewives blog.” That is just one of many things that does not meet the traditional American eye on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — but which we engage through the voice and life of Joanna Brooks.
She grew up, as she tells it for starters, at the southern tip of the “Book of Mormon Belt” — Orange County, California, that is, which I’d associated more vividly with evangelical Christianity. Her father was “bishop” of their congregation several times growing up — a volunteer position that Mitt Romney has also held in his communities across his lifetime. Her mother is a “professional Mormon,” as she affectionately puts it — with, among other things, a serious avocation for genealogy. Joanna Brooks uses words like “rich,” “imaginative”, and “robust” to describe this faith that formed her and that she continues to love.
She has also struggled mightily, suffered disappointment and heartbreak, with this tradition she loves. She became an intellectual and a feminist at Brigham Young University, and then watched the university and the Church for a time condemn and disown the very Mormon mentors who’d inspired her. She was vociferously opposed to the proactive role the LDS Church took in California’s Proposition 8 referendum. But she is a probing force inside the Church’s wrestling with pain and confusion over this issue. Her blog is a model of compassionate presence, both to LGBT Mormons and to parents struggling to reconcile their religious beliefs and their love for their children. She honors the human confusion here that is not exclusive to Mormons and the added complexity that their theology of the family and eternity gives to subjects of marriage and sexuality.
Most of this conversation, though, is not about hot-button issues or presidential politics. It is an informative, energetic, and often moving journey into life on the other side of the American perception that Mormons are weird at best, a cult at worst. Joanna Brooks does not defend her tradition in any simplistic way, but she does make it three-dimensional and far harder to parody. Consider, for example, as she helps us do, the ambivalence and pain that Mormon married couples feel at their church’s legacy of polygamy. Hear her explanation of her sense of the “strangeness” of accusations she’s heard since she was a child, that she — a follower of Jesus Christ, a serious thinker about notions like atonement and grace — is not Christian. On a lighter note, but with just as much illumination for the listener, she is candid and corrective about a lingering obsession out there with ritual Mormon undergarments.
The most classic American story in this Mormon moment, perhaps, is how Joanna Brooks and other faith-filled and “unorthodox” Mormons are claiming their place in the unfolding story of this young frontier tradition. It is evolving from the inside in ways more meaningful, perhaps, than its outer rise to prominence in politics. Maybe in hindsight, we’ll see this Mormon moment as an occasion for this increasingly influential American phenomenon, composed after all of human beings, to become more articulate about itself and more comprehensible to the rest of us in its complexity.
What Might Autism Teach Me about What It Means to Be Human
by Krista Tippett, host
Photo by Sharyn Morrow/Flickr, cc 2.0
The Centers for Disease Control report that 1 in 110 children in the U.S. is now diagnosed somewhere on the spectrum of autism. In other words, this is a condition that affects many lives, many families.
General reporting and publicized controversies tend to focus on the physiology and neurology of autism, or on possible causes and cures. As I’ve followed such stories, I’ve longed to understand something about the inner world of people with autism and those who love them. I’ve wanted to hear about autism in terms of spirit, intellect, and human nature. And when I discovered Paul Collins’ warm and erudite book Not Even Wrong: A Father’s Journey into the Lost History of Autism, I knew I’d found a way in.
During a routine checkup, his beloved son Morgan was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and a half. Paul then went searching for understanding in history and literature. He traced the winding process by which 20th-century physicians finally diagnosed autism after centuries in which it was conflated with very different conditions, such as schizophrenia and Down syndrome. He had previously written about eccentric characters and forgotten inventors in history, and he began to find evidence of autism in some of these figures who had already captured his attention. In his travels, he also experienced how the spectrum of autism quietly reaches into centers of contemporary invention — such as Microsoft.
Some of our programs feel like an “experience” in the making. This one did. Paul Collins and Jennifer Elder have opened my imagination about what it means to be human, as well as what it means to be autistic, without for a moment downplaying the debilitation that life with autism also entails. I had imagined this condition to be thoroughly isolating and inscrutable.
The very word “autism” comes from the Greek for “self” — autos — connoting a state of being in which a person seems quite literally to live in his or her own world. And yet Paul and Jennifer help me grasp that autism is not one thing but a spectrum on the vast continuum of human personality. Autism has deepened their understanding of disability and of intelligence, curiosity, and accomplishment.
Most thought-provoking of all, perhaps, are their stories of how life with Morgan has imparted a new generosity and respectful good humor to their dealings with each other and their families of origin. There is a documented correlation between autism and families with achievement in fields like engineering, music, mathematics, science — professions that require an aptitude for logic and a capacity for intense, solitary focus. You can read a beautiful essay by the late scientist Stephen Jay Gould about his son with autism.
Paul writes this:
"Autists are described by others — and by themselves — as aliens among humans. But there’s an irony to this, for precisely the opposite is true. They are us, and to understand them is to begin to understand what it means to be human. Think of it: a disability is usually defined in terms of what is missing. But autism is as much about what is abundant as what is missing, an overexpression of the very traits that make our species unique. Other animals are social, but only humans are capable of abstract logic. The autistic outhuman the humans, and we can scarcely recognize the result."
There is more in this hour of radio than I can evoke in these paragraphs. And if you enjoy it, I’d encourage you to listen to my original, unedited two-hour conversation with Jennifer Elder and Paul Collins. It is full of illumination and warmth, and I didn’t want it to end.