It can be hard to know where to start listening to podcasts about faith. The internet is awash in audio recordings of church sermons and prayers. But here are eight podcasts that go the extra mile to bring listeners insightful, inspiring and even challenging conversations about faith, culture and politics.
Peter Enns has gained notoriety for his liberal approach to biblical interpretation, treating the good book not as a staid set of rules and commandments, but as an invitation to wrestle creatively with the questions of who God is and what God wants for us. On The Bible for Normal People, Enns and co-host Jared Byas interview a wide range of guests — from academics to hip-hop artists — to explore the biblical text from many perspectives.
Where to start: Episode 93, featuring Canadian biblical scholar Sylvia Keesmaat and theologian Brian Walsh discussing the Epistle to the Romans.
For much of Christian history, the arts were put in the service of theology. Music, poetry, painting and other forms of creative expression served as ways to praise God, tell the stories of the church and inspire believers. This entwined relationship has frayed in modernity, but in the pages of Image and on the magazine’s podcast, which is hosted by Jessica Mesman, the connections between faith and art are explored in-depth.
Where to start: The conversation between poets Scott Cairns and Malcom Guite featured on the August 2019 episode “Touching Eternity.”
At the beginning of almost every episode of Jesuitical, some sort of alcoholic beverage is cracked open and the hosts take a sip. It would feel contrived, almost like the church is trying to look hip, but it’s followed by genuine and engaging conversations that offer a youthful take on theology and world events. The three hosts, all young lay editors at the Jesuit magazine America, update listeners on the latest news from the Catholic world, interview a guest on culture or faith, and share insights from their own spiritual lives.
Where to start: Episode 87, featuring an interview with Sister Helen Prejean, whose campaigning against the death penalty has received international attention.
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“We started out of a simple origin story of mutual loneliness,” says one of the founding hosts of The Liturgists on a recent episode, describing the podcast’s inception. Michael Gungor and Mike McHargue both grew up in conservative evangelical churches in the United States. They lost their faith in adulthood but then rediscovered their spirituality. After meeting in 2013, they realized just how many people shared their experience of being hurt by and frustrated with evangelical Christianity while still thirsting for community and a sense of the divine — so they launched The Liturgists. The podcast has become an essential meeting place for post-evangelicals and others recovering from spiritual estrangement who are looking for wholeness, insight and connection.
Where to start: Co-host Hillary McBride’s August 2019 conversation with Audrey Assad about scrupulosity, a religious form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Curious, compassionate and sincere, host Krista Tippett has spent almost two decades exploring the big questions — beauty, truth, the meaning of life — with people as diverse as monks, scientists, musicians and politicians on her weekly radio show, which is also released as a podcast. On Being started in 2003 as a relatively low-budget American Public Media radio show. But since then, the podcast has grown into a major platform for discussions that dive deep into spiritual but not religious takes on life.
Where to start: Tippett’s 2003 conversation (released via podcast in 2018) about African American spirituals with singer Joe Carter.
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We talk to lawyer Michael Strautmanis about the 1978 movie, “The Wiz,” a movie that offered him a warm portrayal of the community he grew up in on the South Side of Chicago. “To go to the movies and just to see yourself and your life reflected on-screen, I just think it happens too rarely; and particularly, then, it happened too rarely for black folks. And so, when it happened, it was big.” Episode link in bio. Illustration by @juliaskuo #thewiz #movies #community #chicago #quotes
On The Magnificast, two eager academics, one in Canada and one in the United States, connect to discuss the relationships between Christianity and leftist politics. Both hosts identify as Christian communists. Together, they unearth little-known examples of how Christians have engaged and continue to engage with communism, socialism, anarchism and other left-wing political movements.
Where to start: Episode 105, featuring an interview with Hannah Bowman of Christians for the Abolition of Prisons
Unorthodox does for Jews what Jesuitical does for young Catholics: delivers lively and engaging conversations about Jewish culture and faith without compromising depth. Episodes typically feature two interviews: a “Jew of the Week” and a “Gentile of the Week,” as well as conversations featuring the three hosts, all of whom are editors at Tablet Magazine.
Where to start: In the aftermath of the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, the Unorthodox team travelled to the Tree of Life synagogue to interview members of the Jewish community there. The recordings are featured in a special episode called On Squirrel Hill.
The AIDS crisis is remembered by many as a time of conflict between the gay community and the Roman Catholic Church. Activists protested the church’s opposition to condom distribution, safe sex education and homosexuality as thousands of people, many of them gay, died in New York City alone. But many Catholics — gay and straight, ordained and lay — responded with love and compassion. This podcast series from Catholic reporter Michael O’Loughlin explores the lesser known stories of how Catholics and the Catholic Church responded to the crisis.
Where to start: Start with Episode 1, which features the story of David Pais, whose faith journey was upended by the AIDS crisis.
A shorter version of this article first appeared in Broadview’s January/February 2020 issue with the title “Listen up.”
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