Public theology is about the virtues that accompany the work of theology, not just the ideas. It means connecting grand religious ideas with messy human reality. It means articulating religious and spiritual points of view to challenge and deepen thinking on every side of every important question.

This project is about exploring a new generation of public theology for this century. We inhabit a world in which spiritual life is a fluid and dispersed, multi-faceted, and multiply articulated thing. Seekers and thinkers outside the bounds of religious tradition — scientists and artists, social entrepreneurs and poets — are illuminating the ancient questions of what it means to be human and who we are to each other. And the non-religious among us are some of the most passionate voices calling tradition to its own service-oriented heart. On Being will explore these dynamics through radio shows and podcasts, blogs, and public events. Check in often for what will be an evolving adventure.

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50 episodes

January 26, 2017
September 15, 2016

59 COMMENTARIES

Photo of a phone saying "Stop Complaining." Photo by Omar Prestwich
August 17, 2017
By Kaya Oakes

Can the occasional cathartic rant lead to healing? The virtue of letting our frustrations be heard — from Russian novels and the Book of Job to a Catholic women’s “pray and bitch” prayer group.

August 14, 2017
By Miguel Clark Mallet

A searching exploration of the “white imagination” — and how it not only influences white people but also people of color’s lenses on the world.

July 7, 2017
By Christena Cleveland

Rather than focusing on what’s beyond the limits of ordinary experience, we might be better served focusing on what’s within.

July 7, 2017
By Elizabeth Welliver

In a turning cultural tide, non-religious Millennials and the Christian church find themselves at odds. But do they have to be?

June 30, 2017
By Anthony M. Barr

American politics is caught between two competing ideologies: Nietzsche’s doctrine of strength and power over weakness, and the Judeo-Christian ethics of humility and compassion for the weak. A young theologian seeks to understand American civil religion.

A man sitting in the woods holding a sacred text.
June 23, 2017
By Jordan Denari Duffner

For the closing days of Ramadan, a young Catholic scholar shows us that we can look to many sources outside one’s own religious canon to find meaning and pay attention to the world before us.

June 16, 2017
By Mohammed Fairouz

In the wake of the attacks in Manchester, an artist’s impassioned appeal to the West to cast off the scourge of collective responsibility for terrorism — and embrace the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims as partners not adversaries in the battle against extreme violence.

June 14, 2017
By Kao Kalia Yang

Our stories hold power no matter the circumstances of our lives. A Hmong-American woman looks on her father’s modest life, and her own — through refugee camps in Thailand to their new life in the American Midwest — and reveals lessons from the powerless on our inherent dignity, even through our most vulnerable times.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks as President Donald Trump listens during a parent-teacher conference listening session at the Roosevelt Room of the White House on February 14, 2017. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
June 13, 2017
By Willemien Otten

A Dutch theologian explains the religious principles at the heart of Trump’s choice for U.S. Secretary of Education. Hint: it’s a Dutch neo-Calvinist minister and politician.

June 2, 2017
By Christena Cleveland

Acknowledging the limits of our own experience, and the spiritual challenge of building deep relationships with those outside our cultural comfort zones.

June 2, 2017
By Broderick Greer

The moral authority of frail bodies. Vulnerability as strength. How solidarity can lead to resurrection.

May 31, 2017
By Sharon Salzberg

Love and gratitude can be daring, disruptive acts in a world that insists on conflict and endless craving.

A community of matzah
May 23, 2017
By Abigail Pogrebin

There’s no such thing as finding belonging too late. In mid-life, a writer delves into the stories and traditions of her Jewish heritage, and discovers a sense of kinship more extensive and profound than any she’d experienced before.

May 15, 2017
By Sharon Salzberg

A balm for burnout: self-love and a guided meditation to empower us to take a stand — literally — for our own right to be happy and whole.

May 6, 2017
By Edwidge Danticat

Witnessing the faint smile of her dying mother, the daughter of Haitian-Creole parents reflects on why she’s been writing about death and grief ever since — and the cathartic edge of the Book of Revelation and C.S. Lewis.

April 27, 2017
By Jennifer Bailey

In an age of never-ending digital connectedness, we feel more lonely — and more isolated — than ever before. But what possibilities emerge when people with different identities come together face-to-face and gather around the dinner table?

April 21, 2017
By On Being Editors

Three wisdom keepers on the inner voice of compassion in the mystical and contemplative traditions

April 21, 2017
By On Being Editors

What does it take to do the messy work compassion through incredible obstacles? Rami Nashashibi, Naomi Tutu and Kevin Cosby on courage and living compassion.

April 20, 2017
By On Being Editors

With wisdom and humor, Karen Armstrong and a cadre of American mayors, grapple with the question of cultivating compassion in our cities. Join the live stream from the 2017 Festival of Faiths.

Matt Welsh of Australia during a feature shoot at Somerset College Pool May 7, 2004 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
April 17, 2017
By Ian Caldwell

After a competitive swimmer calls it quits, he finds solace Greek epics and the Gospel of Matthew. And, by his two young sons, he finds his way back into the water again.

April 4, 2017
By Omid Safi

Fifty years ago today, on April 4, 1967, a reluctant Martin Luther King stood in Riverside Church in New York. Omid Safi on the promise of that moment and where we are today.

Sepia silhouette portrait of a man
March 28, 2017
By Michael Eric Dyson

Through the biblical story of a son’s sacrifice, Michael Eric Dyson says there’s a powerful lesson about our own tests and how we abuse them. An exploration of corporal punishment of children, a broader view of truth, and the perils of biblical literalism.

March 7, 2017
By Anita Little

Beyonce and Chance the Rapper embody the deep, enduring presence of black faith in the world, both in its powerful solemnity and in its joyful boisterousness.

A man sits in contemplation.
March 1, 2017
By Paul Elie

What might we make space for if we gave up our indignation, even if just for a moment? A historical and philosophical inquiry into the roots of this social moment.

January 30, 2017
By Broderick Greer

The biblical song of an exiled mother carries a daring “punk-rock” message of resistance.

January 17, 2017
By Angie Thurston

At its best learning can also be a spiritual quest. A community of millennials is forging new networks for lifelong learning — that take the soul into account.

January 16, 2017
By Jennifer Bailey

For many people of color, the feeling of safety is fluid and often fleeting. On this MLK Day, a young AME minister invokes the presence of her ancestors and chooses community over chaos, calling for brave spaces for sharing truths and collective healing.

December 23, 2016
By Paul Elie

Paul Elie navigates the winding path of Advent, and finds quiet ways to start anew in the meeting of ritual and the rhythms of everyday life.

LYNCHBURG, VA - JANUARY 18: Supporters of Donald Trump reach for bumper stickers before the Republican presidential candidate delivers the convocation at the Vines Center on the campus of Liberty University on January 18, 2016 in Lynchburg, Virginia. A billionaire real estate mogul and reality television personality, Trump addressed students and guests at the non-profit, private Christian university that was founded in 1971 by evangelical Southern Baptist televangelist Jerry Falwell. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
November 22, 2016
By Yolanda Pierce

An African-American professor who has spent her life building bridges across racial divides questions whether she can continue knowing that four out of five white Evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump.

November 21, 2016
By Broderick Greer

A Thanksgiving reflection on scarcity and abundance, and the sacred work of inviting our neighbors and strangers alike to the table.

November 1, 2016
By Casper ter Kuile

The battlefield of politics can leave us feeling voiceless. One organization is reimagining civic participation, and rediscovering the possibility of imagination in public life.

October 4, 2016
By Angie Thurston

We spend lifetimes answering that universal (and universally vexing) question: “What am I for?” From patron saints to superhero alter egos, Angie Thurston explores the diverse ways people are discovering, creating, and boldly asserting their own identities.

October 3, 2016
By Sharon Brous

To be part of any family is to bear witness to its joy, as well as its dysfunction. For Rosh Hashanah, Sharon Brous explores the intimate link between family healing and social responsibility at the heart of Jewish faith.

September 17, 2016
By Paul Elie

The now-prevalent culture of mastery and expertise take root in ideas of grit and the “10,000-hour rule.” But, doing something new for the first time, even just a little, changes your sense of it altogether.

September 12, 2016
By Mohammed Fairouz

As the United Nations prepares for its 71st session, Mohammed Fairouz honors the courage of those who came before us to make bold vows and asks us to step beyond our cynicism to achieve our greatest aspirations.

July 18, 2016
By Mohammed Fairouz

Our public discourse has been infiltrated by ego and self-interest. Mohammed Fairouz challenges convictions of correctness on all sides, and calls for a humbler, more generous political spirit.

August 19, 2016
By Angie Thurston

Our culture has a profound discomfort with walking openly through grief. An exploration of the healing power of companionship and openness after loss — embodied in groundbreaking gatherings for millennials longing to heal together.

August 5, 2016
By Don C. Richter

Athleticism can pay off with glory and spectacle, but it’s also a daily ritual, a crucible for character. Theologian Don C. Richter explores the the spiritual underpinnings of the discipline of sport.

July 9, 2016
By Casper ter Kuile

For many, the cycling class-phenom SoulCycle is more than a way to burn calories. It fosters the experiences we used to find only within the walls of a church: collective identity, safety, and spiritual catharsis.

June 12, 2016
By Paul Raushenbush

In a jagged spirit of rawness and redemption, Paul Raushenbush remembers the nightclubs where he found community and transcendence and joy. Despite its scarcity, he calls us to answer the mandate of love rather than anger as a redemptive force… because he has no other option.

June 6, 2016
By Casper ter Kuile

As more millennials declare themselves “spiritual but not religious,” what does meaningful community look like in the 21st century? For legions of CrossFit enthusiasts, it’s a community of care and nurturing — and a place where you can also perfect your squat.

May 8, 2016
By Mohammed Fairouz

Our cultural treasures of music, art, and literature can bind us together. But in an era of interconnectedness, our art can also be woven together with our statecraft. Mohammed Fairouz cautions against cultural appropriation by charting the story of our universal cultural heritage, from the court of ancients to the modern day.

May 2, 2016
By Andrew Zolli

Our capacity to understand the planet is limited by our perception. With the help of Earth-imaging satellites, Andrew Zolli charts the new vistas of our awareness and finds a renewed ability to see the world whole.

April 23, 2016
By Marty Kaplan

The importance of religion to Americans is trending downward. Meanwhile, more people are saying they experience a deep sense of wonder and awe about the universe. A secular Jew on the importance of the Passover, ritual of Seder, and the paradise of kinship.

April 18, 2016
By Paul Elie

Pope Francis had an extraordinary week issuing a seminal document on love and family, travelling to a refugee “hot zone,” and meeting Bernie Sanders in Rome. The common thread: the pope’s willingness to accompany people where they’re at and walk alongside humanity, whether it be a Syrian refugee or a U.S. presidential candidate.

April 12, 2016
By Sarah Smarsh

In this hyper-connected world, we lose a sense of the physical spaces crafted for ritual and coming together. Our new columnist Sarah Smarsh on the importance of built, sacred spaces in a secular world.

April 10, 2016
By Seth Chalmer

A secular Jewish man takes umbrage when his close Christian friend says he believes he will go to hell. After he returns to his religious tradition, he says, he understands these inner and outer tensions as essential to faith — even if they disagree with his personal wishes.

April 2, 2016
By Broderick Greer

Our Public Theology Reimagined columnist calls on people of faith and conscience to come into proximity with execution sites like Ell Persons. When we experience these liminal spaces, we are reminded of our capacity to become preoccupied with domination and overlook the lives of the powerless and the message of Jesus’ crucifixion.

March 24, 2016
By Megan Sweas

Pope Francis’ move to open the Holy Thursday foot-washing ritual to women earlier this year was big news, but it wasn’t all that innovative. A groundswell of laypeople called to the work of washing feet every day — in parishes, hospitals, and high schools — are reinvigorating ritual.

February 16, 2016
By Mohammed Fairouz

Some of our greatest cultural treasures are seemingly beyond reproach when it comes to honest criticism. Watching The King and I, a composer acknowledges the inherent racism and reflects on how we can appreciate its art and still question in ethical and moral shortcomings alongside its greatness.

February 10, 2016
By Broderick Greer

Ash Wednesday is often understood as an opportunity to engage in the practice of personal improvement. But, what if it were used to look outward and create a more just, merciful society rather than ending with our hearts?

January 31, 2016
By Claire Dietrich Ranna

When we encounter the stranger, a deepening exchange takes place. Through the metaphor of marriage and her own personal vows, an Episcopal priest calls for a return to unity and the remembrance of the shared history and values that bind Christians and Muslims together.

January 12, 2016
By Stephen Goeman

When a young, Evangelical Christian is diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, it’s the music legend David Bowie who provides him with salvation and a renewed hope in “the Church of Man.”

December 27, 2015
By Mohammed Fairouz

The political rhetoric of making America great again points at the decline of not only U.S. power, but the erosion of trust among its allies and its own citizens. Mohammed Fairouz stands up for his community in this particular moment in time.

October 31, 2015
By Mohammed Fairouz

Civilizations elevate the best in cultures and people. A composer encourages us to rethink the phrase “clash of civilizations” and, by definition, civilization can only fuel human flourishing.

September 27, 2015
By Paul Anderson

Hand-scribed illuminations with superb calligraphy and embossed with gold leaf adorn the The Saint John’s Bible, the first one of its kind to be commissioned in half a millennia. Drawing on key parables from the gospel of Luke, a theologian reflects on the enduring, prophetic message of mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation, and being a good neighbor.

September 22, 2015
By Dave Joseph

Atoning for one’s shortcomings can be a challenge, especially as a child. A conflict mediator tells his story of moving from feelings of self-castigation to an opportunity for healing confession on this solemn Day of Atonement.

September 21, 2015
By Mohammed Fairouz

Two sacred celebrations coincide this year. Through the ancient story of Joseph, Mohammed Fairouz reimagines a world bound together in a common family and a common future.

July 25, 2015
By Mohammed Fairouz

For the world-weary, cynicism may feel safe. But, in our efforts toward self-protection, what might we be missing? A Millennial reflects on the doubt and distrust he sees in his generation, and suggests a courageous counterpoint: sincere and hopeful optimism.