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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.
Katy Perry Enjoys God
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Singer and pop icon Katy Perry somehow continues to tap her conservative (Pentecostal?) Christian upbringing to cultivate her celebrity persona, non?
(terrysdiary, via beingvisual)

Katy Perry Enjoys God

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Singer and pop icon Katy Perry somehow continues to tap her conservative (Pentecostal?) Christian upbringing to cultivate her celebrity persona, non?

(terrysdiary, via beingvisual)

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The Islamification of Weed

by Sharis Delgadillo, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Nejma SheaNejma Shea is a 29-year-old hip-hop artist who categorizes herself as an underground MC. Her socially conscious lyrics are militant, high-pitched, and punchy. Walkin Lyke WAR, her latest CD, describes the hardships of her life’s journey, including a five-year incarceration she served in New Jersey. On stage, she adds to her delivery by wearing bold outfits such as long Syrian camouflage dresses, decorative hijabs, and war paint on her face.

Shea’s songs describe her interpersonal revelations, interspersed with criticism of women’s correctional facilities and a quest for political justice. There are also, however, occasional mentions of smoking marijuana that have dismayed members of the Muslim community.

“Sometimes Muslim brothers and sisters don’t agree with my unorthodox ways when it comes to Islam.” Shea also says she does smoke for medical purposes; it helps quiet her chronic nightmares and spiritually enhances her relationship to Allah. “It has many medical uses and is a blessing from the Earth that the most high, Allah, created,” she explains.

Mustafa Umar, associate director of the Islamic society of Corona-Norco, calls Shea’s justification “the Islamification of weed.” The term describes the incorporation of marijuana usage into Islamic practice. Born in Orange County to Pakistani and Indian parents, Umar says he understands the social pressure young Muslims face in American society: “I’ve had many sisters come to me about it, but in the media, it’s more portrayed that guys are smoking,” says the 29-year-old imam.

Umar says he’s also heard young Muslims attempt to defend marijuana use by quoting a passage of the Qur’an that states the Lord “brought forth fruits for your sustenance.” But he doesn’t agree, and he recently held a meeting to combat this notion. His invited guest speaker is Imam Yassir Fazaga, the medical director of Mental Health for Access California Services, a family and resource center for Arabs and Muslims. Addressing a large crowd of immigrants and first-generation Muslims, Fazaga explains that the Qur’an prohibits marijuana.

A 38-year-old U.S citizen who immigrated from Eritrea, Fazaga cites a Qur’anic verse that states if “wine or gambling” causes greater harm than good, it should not be consumed. Incorporating marijuana consumption into this verse, he says, should also be prohibited as well: “For us Muslims, it’s a mood altering agent that shrouds a person’s intelligence to make decisions. Then for the Muslim it is Islamically illegal and the same goes for alcohol.”

Even though marijuana has been legalized for medical purposes, Fazaga says all other alternatives should be explored before its consumption. At the Access Resource Center where he counsels, Fazaga says he has come across an increasing number of young Muslims who admit to smoking marijuana.

In cases like Shea’s, Fazaga says that marijuana is a “mask for people who may suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome,” and “is not the way to deal with the problem.” Since marijuana is inexpensive, many young people try it. But Fazaga attributes its frequent use mainly to its prevalence in popular culture.

“You have people like Snoop Dogg and Kanye West. They glorify marijuana,” says Fazaga. “The definition of manhood that is presented promotes and encourages to smoke.”

Umar has also made previous attempts to discourage the use of marijuana among young Muslims by inviting former celebrity rappers such as Loon, who was signed by P. Diddy’s Bad Boy Records, and Napoleon, who was part of Tupac Shakur’s group Outlawz. Both men attribute their new and sober lifestyle to their conversion to Islam. “In order to address the younger crowd, we have to speak lower to their level,” Umar says.

But Shea does not see eye-to eye with these Qur’anic rationales against marijuana nor with Fazaga’s evaluation. She holds firm that Islam is a non-compulsive religion. Since its fundamental principle is the practice of one’s free will, she has the choice to smoke marijuana.

“I’m not going to say the Qur’an forbids us to smoke weed or not,” says Shea. “The Qur’an is the only unchanged religious book and people interpret it in different ways because of different views in the Islamic community.” Only Allah can judge a person’s actions and their intention behind it, Shea adds.

Explaining her perspective, Shea raises the sensitive topic of gender roles and how they are reinforced by Qur’anic interpretations that she finds religiously oppressive: “As a Muslim woman, you are not suppose to make a lot of noise, you are not suppose to look a man in his eyes. The Qur’an and the true Islam, a peaceful and non-compulsive way of life, protects women. It doesn’t intend to give men the right to hold women captive.”

Orthodox members of the Muslim community argue that frequent mentions of marijuana heard in popular music threaten young Muslim-Americans. But, for Shea, hip-hop is an avenue of free expression: “I love hip hop. I love marijuana. But most of all I love Allah, most high, and his messenger Muhammad. Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.”

About the image: Nejma Shea performs in Omaha, Nebraska. (photo: Ness Ordonez)

Editor’s Note (Jan 17, 2013): Language has changed to more accurately reflect Ms. Shea’s description of herself. And, we misstated that Ms. Shea did not use marijuana for medical purposes. She does. We regret the error.


Sharis DelgadilloSharis Delgadillo is a broadcast graduate student at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. She is the senior producer for the award-winning college television news-magazine show, impact. Last summer, she interned as a television producer at Cape Town TV in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup.

We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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Yes, I Was Lost…

Krista Tippett, host

Scene from the Season Finale of "Lost"I discovered Lost just a few seasons ago and immersed myself via Netflix with the zeal of a convert. Trent has been asking me to blog about Sunday’s finale, but honestly I’m stumped — still trying to wrap my mind around what it means. For now I am happy to pass on this from Diane Winston, one of my favorite observers of how we are telling the story of our time on television.

She called her blog on the finale "The Day After" and it starts like this:

"Last night’s Lost finale may have done more for mainstreaming religion than Mitch Albom’s bestsellers. All around the Internet—from forums and blogs to MSM sites and academic journals—musings on faith, redemption and the power of love are suddenly de rigueur. Here’s one good wrap-up of first-wave critiques, but also check out Brent Plate’s excellent overview for Religion Dispatches. Plate revels in Lost's religious mash-ups and pop-culture mixings because the show's ultimate meaning is key: 'Whether Locke or Shephard or Austen are saviors or demons does not matter. The hero is the community, the living together.'”

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What Does Forgiveness Mean in Buddhism and Christianity
Trent Gilliss, online editor

In the wake of Brit Hume’s comments about Tiger Woods’ religious beliefs on Fox News Sunday on January 3rd,

WNYC’s Brian Lehrer invited Krista to flesh out the concepts of forgiveness and redemption in Christianity and Buddhism. Although it’s rather difficult to gain a decent understanding of these complex theological concepts in 13 minutes, several callers make some fine points — including the Buddhist idea of “letting go.”

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Gaga for RilkeAndy Dayton, associate web producer
The writing of Rainer Maria Rilke has appeared pretty frequently in the history of Speaking of Faith. We featured his poems in “The Soul in Depression,” and Krista even included his work in the opening pages of her book.
Recently, though, I encountered Rilke in an unexpected place — on the bicep of pop singer Lady Gaga. In a conversation with Interview magazine, she cited Rilke as “my favorite writer” and, while in Osaka, was tattooed with a passage from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet — a series of responses to a young student who had sent Rilke some of his work, asking for advice about becoming a writer. The two never met, but during this five-year period Rilke wrote him 10 letters.
During the interview, Lady Gaga translated the tattoo’s German script into English:

"Confess to yourself in the deepest hour of the night whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. Dig deep into your heart, where the answer spreads its roots in your being, and ask yourself solemnly, Must I write?"

(photo: Miguel Villagran/Getty Images)

Gaga for Rilke
Andy Dayton, associate web producer

The writing of Rainer Maria Rilke has appeared pretty frequently in the history of Speaking of Faith. We featured his poems in “The Soul in Depression,” and Krista even included his work in the opening pages of her book.

Lady Gaga's Rilke TattooRecently, though, I encountered Rilke in an unexpected place — on the bicep of pop singer Lady Gaga. In a conversation with Interview magazine, she cited Rilke as “my favorite writer” and, while in Osaka, was tattooed with a passage from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet — a series of responses to a young student who had sent Rilke some of his work, asking for advice about becoming a writer. The two never met, but during this five-year period Rilke wrote him 10 letters.

During the interview, Lady Gaga translated the tattoo’s German script into English:

"Confess to yourself in the deepest hour of the night whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. Dig deep into your heart, where the answer spreads its roots in your being, and ask yourself solemnly, Must I write?"

(photo: Miguel Villagran/Getty Images)

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Praying in Traffic

Katherine and hubcap prayer wheel

Marc Sanchez, associate producer

If you’re the type of person who gets stressed out in traffic, then the hubcap prayer wheel might help bring some calm to your day. Their brief explanation of the Sanskrit decal:

"With Om Mani Padme Hum revolving as you drive, you can help ease your karma while radiating wisdom and compassion into your life and into the world.”

I don’t think it’s going to cure road rage… baby steps, right?

Earth Fire Tire

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The Ploys of Summer Mitch Hanley, senior producer
This week reports came out about baseball’s ongoing steroid scandal, citing lawyer’s  statements that both Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz tested positive for steroid abuse in 2003. In 2004, these two led the Boston Red Sox to a World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, crowning Ramirez the World Series Most Valuable Player and Ortiz the American League Championship Series MVP.
This is the second time this year that Ramirez has been tied to steroid use — the previous occasion back in May resulted in a 50-game suspension. Earlier this year, famed sluggers  Alex Rodriguez (572 career home runs) and Barry Bonds (all-time home run leader  at 762, Hank Aaron 2nd at 755) were outed by the same 2003 report as having used steroids.
Although I do applaud the league’s enforcement of their rules and the suspension of Ramirez for the current year’s infraction, where is the outrage on behalf of the fans? The affects of these damning reports seem to suggest that the fans don’t have a problem with players using steroids. Fans may not like it, but, by and large, they do not go so far as to boycott games. In fact, a report issued in May had indicated just a 4.4 percent drop in attendance from last year for games played in April. But the decline is attributed to the economic downturn.
And after a nearly year-long financial crisis that outed the financial industry’s cheaters and the regular outing of politicians who either cheated on their wives or cheated on their taxes, is there no outrage left in us? Have we established ours as a culture where it is OK to cheat as long as you don’t get caught, and, if you do get caught, just wait for it to blow over? What about those who are out on the diamond playing their hearts out, who are not using steroids. Don’t they deserve our outrage? And when it comes to something as trivial as baseball or as important as an election, what is the best way to communicate our outrage?
So what does this mean for our society? Is this the American way? Do we expect our leaders to cheat in order to be leaders? What do you think?
(photo: Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez at the 2008 MLB All-Star Game. Getty Images/Jim McIsaac)

The Ploys of Summer
Mitch Hanley, senior producer

This week reports came out about baseball’s ongoing steroid scandal, citing lawyer’s statements that both Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz tested positive for steroid abuse in 2003. In 2004, these two led the Boston Red Sox to a World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, crowning Ramirez the World Series Most Valuable Player and Ortiz the American League Championship Series MVP.

This is the second time this year that Ramirez has been tied to steroid use — the previous occasion back in May resulted in a 50-game suspension. Earlier this year, famed sluggers Alex Rodriguez (572 career home runs) and Barry Bonds (all-time home run leader at 762, Hank Aaron 2nd at 755) were outed by the same 2003 report as having used steroids.

Although I do applaud the league’s enforcement of their rules and the suspension of Ramirez for the current year’s infraction, where is the outrage on behalf of the fans? The affects of these damning reports seem to suggest that the fans don’t have a problem with players using steroids. Fans may not like it, but, by and large, they do not go so far as to boycott games. In fact, a report issued in May had indicated just a 4.4 percent drop in attendance from last year for games played in April. But the decline is attributed to the economic downturn.

And after a nearly year-long financial crisis that outed the financial industry’s cheaters and the regular outing of politicians who either cheated on their wives or cheated on their taxes, is there no outrage left in us? Have we established ours as a culture where it is OK to cheat as long as you don’t get caught, and, if you do get caught, just wait for it to blow over? What about those who are out on the diamond playing their hearts out, who are not using steroids. Don’t they deserve our outrage? And when it comes to something as trivial as baseball or as important as an election, what is the best way to communicate our outrage?

So what does this mean for our society? Is this the American way? Do we expect our leaders to cheat in order to be leaders? What do you think?

(photo: Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez at the 2008 MLB All-Star Game. Getty Images/Jim McIsaac)

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Poetry Gone Video Viral
Trent Gilliss, online editor

Poetry. What can I say. Verse slakes our audiences’ thirst; many of us imbibe poetry in binges. Yet, most people — well, I — don’t regularly take the time to sit down and read a chapbook, much less a poem these days. These cinematic tableaux (embedded above and below) commissioned by BBC’s Poetry Season rekindle that flame and force me to reconsider my lethargic attitude.

Perhaps it’s remembering the shared commonality of a poem, the power of it being read aloud and its reminder to us that people living several hundred years ago weren’t so different from us. We, too often, internalize poetry and disconnect ourselves from the communal act. The human condition speaks to the lonely wanderer in a crowded room as much as on a wayward street.

My hope is that projects like this, and even our own efforts as part of the Poetry Radio Project, can reclaim this pop heritage. Poems can elevate the understanding and relevance of complex topics like Alzheimer’s and memory, Argentina’s disappeared, and a geologist’s view of human fragility through more than the intellect.

To be frank, I played rock-paper-scissors with myself and let Blake’s poem "Jerusalem" take the lead. But the slow-motion video of Brit punk rocker Itch of The King Blues reading Byron’s "So We’ll Go No More a Roving" was impossible to ignore.

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I was so influenced so greatly by a television show in igniting the passion that I had as being a prosecutor — and it was Perry Mason.
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Sonia Sotomayor, in response to Sen. Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) question during yesterday’s confirmation hearings for her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court

Yesterday’s Senate confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor included a lighter moment where Sotomayor shared how growing up watching the TV show Perry Mason inspired her to pursue a legal career. As I listened to radio coverage of the hearings, I realized that being immersed in this week’s program with Diane Winston helped me to hear this Perry Mason reference with new ears.

Yes, television can be cast as frivolous fare — a kind of cotton candy for the mind. But as Diane Winston emphasizes, television narratives are extremely powerful. They illuminate our collective social concerns. The characters we meet in the shows we come to cherish — as Sotomayor testifies — can sometimes inspire big life decisions about who we want to become in the world.

Television also serves as a touchstone and provides points of connection across different life experiences. Yesterday, newly seated Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) shared how he grew up watching Perry Mason in suburban Minneapolis while Sotomayor took in the show from her home in the South Bronx. “And here you are today,” Franken said.

~Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer

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The Burden of Good Television

Trent Gilliss, online editor

The production staff diligently spent hours selecting clips from their favorite television series for inclusion in this week’s program with Diane Winston. We’ve even got a title: "TV and Parables of Our Time." Somehow, I am told, downloading and watching 24 and Lost and Battlestar Galactica and The Wire is really hard work. Ah fellow producers, “you suffer for your soup.” *grin*

The professor of religion and media at USC appealed to the heart of Krista’s eclectic consumption of TV series on DVD. After all, they actually have sat together and watched the tube. This enthusiasm spilled over into our search for actualities from these episodes.

And, this passion bore itself out in last week’s cuts and copy session. The script was extraordinarily rough. There were at least five spots for audio clips from some of those series. Then it really got messy — two or three clips with an average length of 3-5 minutes (one more than 8 minutes) were included in the listen. Heads were spinning.

What I experienced was an insider’s perspective. Script was trying to explain too much of each plot, and the opening scene from 24 (“8:00 AM–9:30 AM” - season 2, episode 1) was heavy. So we sussed out the needs of various listeners and focused on illustrating or accentuating a point made at the out-cue. The result: a much better, more listenable production.

What I realized is that I don’t watch that much TV — well, except for my utter obsession of the Tour de France on Versus — and felt a bit sheltered, out of the loop actually, when talking about these dramatic series. Not being part of these conversations and the larger culture is isolating. I’m an outsider who can only politely smile and lean in when Krista and Mitch and Colleen and Nancy start discussing characters like Snot Boogie and McNulty, or Cylons and Caprica, or Jack Shepard and John Locke.

My hope is that an unknowing perspective helps those of you who are in the same boat that I’m in. That Thursday’s podcast clues you in rather than leaving your face pressed against the window watching the family sit in front of a toasty fire, chomping on popcorn and sodas, with a 42” HD screen glowing in the background.

So, here’s a list of the episodes and scenes we considered. I’ve flagged in bold the clips we’re using.

Scene from The WireThe Wire. The vernacular of the characters is difficult track at first, but somehow your ear tunes in after a while and you get the gist. Nevertheless, the distinct dialects and slang used eliminated a lot of great scenes from consideration for the radio.

  • "Misgivings" (Season 4, episode 10) - In the scene we chose, Colvin meets with Miss Shepherdson to seek permission to continue the alternative class.
  • "Final Grades" (Season 4, episode 13) - This scene presents Colvin meeting with Wee-bay in prison and asks if he can adopt his son Namond.
  • "Corner Boys" (Season 4, episode 8) - Colvin gives speech about corner boys to the alternative class.
  • "Refugees" (Season 4, episode 4) - Here, Mr. Prezbo (Pryzbylewski ) tries talking to his class after a student has been slashed.

Scene from Battlestar GalacticaBattlestar Galactica. Probably Krista’s favorite series. And so we found a place for three clips in the program.

Scene from LostLost

  • "White Rabbit" (season 1, episode 5) - We used two scenes from this episode: one where Jack Shepard tells the group that they have to learn to live together or die alone, and the other in which John Locke speaks dramatically about looking into the eye of the island and seeing its beauty.
  • "Exodus part 2" (season 1, episodes 24/25) - A rich discussion between Jack and Locke on science and faith.
  • "There’s No Place Like Home, parts 2 & 3" (season 4, episode 13) - Locke says the island is a place where miracles happen and tries to persuade Jack to stay on the island.

Scene from HouseHouse. A late entry to the production process that wasn’t part of the first cuts and copy session. A clip from this series was selected because it’s a different genre of drama and it is a popular series still in production.

  • "Informed Consent" (season 3, episode 3) - Here we have multiple scenes featuring a patient who wishes to die and not be treated while Dr. House tricks him into continuing testing/treatment.
  • "Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t" (season 1, episode 5) - A scene where Dr. House and a nun with a mysterious ailment debate God and faith.
  • "The Socratic Method" (season 1, episode 6) - We strongly considered this scene with Dr. House and his nemesis Dr. Cuddy about the ethics of using unapproved protocols to shrink a patient’s tumor so it could be operated on.
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