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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.

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A French-born Tibetan Buddhist monk and a central figure in the Dalai Lama’s dialogue with scientists, Matthieu Ricard was dubbed “The Happiest Man in the World” after his brain was imaged. But he resists this label. In his writing and in his life, he explores happiness not as pleasurable feeling but as a way of being that gives you the resources to deal with the ups and downs of life and that encompasses many emotional states, including sadness. We take in Matthieu Ricard’s practical teachings for cultivating inner strength, joy, and direction.

We explore a topic our listeners have called out as a passionate force and a connector across all kinds of boundaries in American culture: running. Not just as exercise, or as a merely physical pursuit, but running as a source of bonding between parents and children and friends; running as an interplay between competition and contemplation; running and body image and survival and healing.

The renowned actor as you’ve never heard him before. He has appeared in over 100 films, including Apocalypse Now. He’s best known on television as President Bartlet in The West Wing. But Martin Sheen, born and still legally named Ramón Estévez, has had another lesser-known life as a spiritual seeker and activist. He returned to a deep and joyful Catholic faith after a crisis at the height of his fame in mid-life. He’s been arrested over 60 times in vigils and protests. “Piety is something you do alone,” he says. “True freedom, spirituality, can only be achieved in community.”

A philosopher’s questioning and a scientist’s eye shape Enrique Martínez Celaya’s original approach to art and to life. A world-renowned painter who trained as a physicist, he’s fascinated by the deeper order that “whispers” beneath the surface of things. Works of art that endure, he says, possess their own form of consciousness. And a quiet life of purpose is a particular form of prophecy.

The moral life, Marie Howe says, is lived out in what we say as much as what we do. She became known for her poetry collection What the Living Do, about her brother’s death at 28 from AIDS. Now she has a new book, Magdalene. Poetry is her exuberant and open-hearted way into the words and the silences we live by. She works and plays with a Catholic upbringing, the universal drama of family, the ordinary rituals that sustain us — and how language, again and again, has a power to save us.

Marilyn Nelson has taught poetry and contemplative practice to college students and to West Point cadets. She gives winsome voice to forgotten people from history, shining a light on the complicated ancestry that can help us in what she calls “communal pondering.” To sit with Marilyn Nelson is to gain a newly spacious perspective on what that might mean — and on why, in this troubled moment, Americans young and old are turning to poetry with urgency.

To be Evangelical is not one thing, even on abortion. This conversation about Christianity and politics with three generations of Evangelical leaders — Shane Claiborne, Greg Boyd, and the late Chuck Colson — feels more relevant in the wake of the 2016 election than it did when we first recorded it. We offer this searching dialogue, which is alive anew, to a changed political landscape.

We take in the extraordinary wisdom of Congressman John Lewis on what happened in Selma on Bloody Sunday and beyond — and how it might inform common life today. A rare look inside the civil rights leaders’ spiritual confrontation with themselves — and their intricate art of “love in action.”

Before Pope Francis, James Martin was perhaps the best-loved Jesuit in American life. He’s followed the calling of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, to “find God in all things” — and for him that means being a writer of books, an editor of America magazine, and a wise and witty presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. To delve into Fr. Martin’s way of being in the world is to discover the “spiritual exercises” St. Ignatius designed to be accessible to everyone more than six centuries ago.

This political season has surfaced our need to reimagine and re-weave the very meaning of common life and common good. We take a long, nourishing view of the challenge and promise of this moment with former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey and interfaith visionary Eboo Patel. This is the second of two public conversations convened by the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis on the eve of the 2016 presidential debate on that campus.

This is a strange, tumultuous political moment. With columnists David Brooks and E.J. Dionne, we step back from the immediate political gamesmanship. We take public theology as a lens on the challenge and promise we will all be living as citizens, whoever our next president might be. This public conversation was convened by the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Graham Chapel at Washington University in St. Louis, the day before the second presidential debate on that campus.

Xavier Le Pichon, one of the world’s leading geophysicists, helped create the field of plate tectonics. A devout Catholic and spiritual thinker, he raised his family in intentional communities centered around people with mental disabilities. He shares his rare perspective on the meaning of humanity — a perspective equally informed by his scientific and personal encounters with fragility as a fundament of vital, evolving systems. Le Pichon has come to think of caring attention to weakness as an essential quality that allowed humanity to evolve.

The Vietnamese Zen master, whom Martin Luther King nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, is a voice of power and wisdom in this time of tumult in the world. We visited Thich Nhat Hanh at a retreat attended by police officers and other members of the criminal justice system; they offer stark gentle wisdom for finding buoyancy and “being peace” in a world of conflict, anger, and violence.

“The soul is contained in the human voice,” says David Isay, founder of StoryCorps. He sees the StoryCorps booth — a setting where two people ask the questions they’ve always wanted to ask each other — as a sacred space. He shares his wisdom about listening as an act of love, and how eliciting and capturing our stories is a way of insisting that every life matters.

This episode, a “theft of the dial.” Writer and traveler Pico Iyer turns the tables on our host Krista Tippett by asking her the questions. Her latest book, Becoming Wise, chronicles what she’s learned through her conversations with the most extraordinary voices across time and generations, across disciplines and denominations. An illuminating conversation on the mystery and art of living.

The civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander is one of the people who is waking us up to history we don’t remember, and structures most of us can’t fathom intending to create. She calls the punitive culture that has emerged the “new Jim Crow,” and is making it visible in the name of a fierce hope and belief in our collective capacity to engender the transformation to which this moment is calling.

There’s a kind of brilliance that flashes up in early adulthood: an ability to see the world whole. Nathan Schneider has been able to articulate and sustain that far-seeing eye of young adulthood. He’s also a gifted writer, chronicling the world he and his compatriots are helping to make — spiritual, technological, and communal. At the Chautauqua Institution, we explore the wisdom of a millennial generation public intellectual on the emerging fabric of human identity.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and one of the world’s deep thinkers on religion in our age. He’s just released a new book, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence. In this intimate conversation with Krista, he speaks about how Jewish and other religious ideas can inform modern challenges. Rabbi Sacks says that the faithful can and must cultivate their own deepest truths — while finding God in the face of the stranger and the religious other.