On Being with Krista Tippett

A season of big, new, beautiful On Being conversations is here. Adventures into what can replenish and orient us in this wild ride of a time to be alive: biomimicry and the science of awe; spiritual contrarianism and social creativity; pause and poetry and more towards stretching into this world ahead with dignity, wisdom — and joy.

On Being, which began on public radio, has been named a best podcast by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, the Webbys, iHeart Radio — with more than 400 million downloads.

From Feb 2: three months of soaring conversations to live and grow with — with an eye towards emergence. Tune in now.

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In over 50 years as a Benedictine nun, Sister Joan Chittister has emerged as a powerful and uncomfortable voice in Roman Catholicism and in global politics. If women were ordained in the Catholic Church in our lifetime, some say, Joan Chittister would be the first female bishop.

Author Anchee Min has won acclaim for her memoir of growing up in China under Mao Zedong. She’s also written several works of fiction in which she explores the human hunger to survive against extreme social brutality. In this conversation, Anchee Min tells us what she learned about the human spirit in the forced labor camp in which she spent her teenage years, and how she’s found healing in America.

Editor’s note: In February 2020, L’Arche International released the results of an independent investigation that it commissioned into Jean Vanier, who died in 2019. The investigation determined that the L’Arche founder, Catholic philosopher and humanitarian engaged in manipulative sexual relationships with at least six women from 1970-2005. None of the women had disabilities. The report also concluded that Vanier was complicit in covering up similar sexual abuse by his mentor, the late Father Thomas Philippe. In this response, Krista reflects on the moral questions and meaning raised by these discoveries. 

Forty years ago in France, philosopher Jean Vanier founded an international movement, L’Arche. The L’Arche community in Clinton, Iowa is part of this movement — people of faith living and worshipping alongside developmentally handicapped adults. There are now over 120 L’Arche communities in 18 countries. The community in Clinton is one of the oldest and most rural of the 14 American communities. In this “radio pilgrimage,” we take listeners into a radically different faith community that confronts our assumptions about service and diversity, and the worth of individuals.

American ideals and rituals of marriage, family, and divorce are infused with biblical messages. But what does the Bible really say, and how has it been taught across the centuries as the institution of marriage has changed dramatically and often? A rabbi and Christian theologian help us explore the nuances of Jewish and Christian teachings and reveal the striking practicality of Jewish tradition across the ages and the surprising ambiguities of the New Testament.

In this close-up look at the human dynamics of the war on terror, our guest speaks about her husband, journalist Daniel Pearl, who was murdered in Pakistan shortly after 9/11. She talks about Buddhism, her ethic of spiritual defiance, and her hopes for the future.

With Iraq veteran and chaplain Major John Morris, we explore how war challenges the human spirit and the core tenets of a life of faith. The War on Terror, he says, presents its own spiritual challenges. He is working to support the reintegration of National Guard and Reserve personnel, who are being mobilized for active duty at record levels in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Jimmy Carter — former president and Nobel Laureate, author and global humanitarian — speaks of his born-again faith with a directness that is striking even in today’s political culture. He reflects on being commander in chief while following, as he says, “the Prince of Peace”; on upholding the law while privately opposing abortion; and on his marriage of 60 years as a metaphor for the challenge of human relationship both personal and global.

Last month, conservative Christian leaders demanded that Richard Cizik be silenced or removed from his post. They charged that his concerns about climate change and torture have shifted attention away from moral issues such as gay marriage and abortion. But for Cizik, poverty, war, and the environment are moral issues too. We revisit Krista’s 2006 conversation with Cizik that took many listeners by surprise.

South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) held public sessions from 1996 to 1998, and concluded its work in 2004. In an attempt to rebuild its society without retribution, the Commission created a new model for grappling with a history of extreme violence. The basic premise of the Commission was that any individual, whatever he or she had done, was eligible for amnesty if they would fully disclose and confess their crimes.

Victims were invited to tell their stories and witness confessions. Through the TRC, many families finally came to know when and how their loved ones died. By the end of the hearings, the Commission took statements from more than 20,000 victims of Apartheid and received applications for amnesty from 7,100 perpetrators.

We explore the religious implications of truth and reconciliation with two people — one black, one white — who did the work of the Commission in charge of it.

Isabel Mukonyora has followed and studied a religious movement of her Shona people, the Masowe Apostles, that embraces Christian tradition while addressing the drama of African life and history. The founder of this movement, Johane Masowe, emphasized an ancient Jewish and Christian pull to the wilderness. Through her stories we explore modern African spirituality, diaspora, and finding meaning, as Mukonyora says, “in the margins.”

Is there such a thing as the Muslim world? Is the “veil” a sign of submission or courage? Is our Western concern about women in Islam really a concern for the well-being of women? Our guest, Egyptian-American Leila Ahmed, challenges current thought on these and other questions.

Politics driven by a religious agenda, Danforth says, is true neither to his understanding of Christian faith nor to the traditional values of the Republican party. This veteran politician speaks about the values that have helped him navigate the line between private faith and public life and his current concerns about religion in his own party and in the world.

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