By Paul Chaffee
ON YOUR RADIO DIAL (OR BROWSER)
Radio is one of the oldest hi-tech tools of our time and one of the most durable. Today, coupled with websites and browsers, radio offers a local/global platform to anyone interested in doing the hard work of generating compelling programming that people listen to.
A handful of interfaith radio programs have emerged recently, and their audiences are growing. Their combined archives after a few short years offer us access to many of the most important spiritual, religious, and interfaith leaders of our time. Each of these programs has a handful of radio stations that actually broadcast a weekly program. But their audiences really depend on being able to download and listen to the programming at their convenience, on a computer, iPad, or smart-phone.
Interfaith Voices is the nation's leading radio show about faith, ethics and spirituality. An award-winning program, it does not represent any particular tradition. Each week it provides analyses of the big headlines alongside lesser-told stories. It relishes religious diversity – you’ll hear from Orthodox Jewish artists and African-American atheists, Muslim feminists and spiritual seekers. Through these stories, a rough sketch of America’s religious landscape begins to emerge. The program offers “a marketplace of beliefs and ideas too complex for sound bites, and too important to ignore.” Maureen Fiedler is the host of Interfaith Voices and brings three decades of interfaith experience to the program. Interfaith Voices archives go back to late 2010.
Last July Open Minds Open Hearts, a progressive interfaith radio show, celebrated its one-year anniversary of broadcasting on Monday nights on Blog Talk Radio. “Raising our voices for a more compassionate and inclusive world,” the talk-show highlights the common bonds that all faiths share through one-on-one interviews and coverage of interfaith events and conferences.
Sydney and Scott Lindquist host the weekly show. Topics range across numerous interfaith arenas, address problems like bigotry and global violence, and provide faith stories of people searching to know God. Zen Buddhism, Jainism, Vedanta, Paganism, Celtic spirituality, fundamentalism, interfaith marriage, and much more gets explored, one subject at a time. Guests like William Swing, founder of United Religions Initiative, and iconoclastic theologian Matthew Fox have been featured.
State of Belief is more politically inclined than Interfaith Voices or Open Mind Open Heart. It is based on the proposition that religion has a positive and healing role to play in the life of the nation. Hosted by liberal leader and pundit C. Welton Gaddy, the show explores that healing role by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in America – the most religiously diverse country in the world – while exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion for partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government for sectarian purposes.
Each week, Gaddy offers listeners critical analyses of the news of religion and politics, in all seeking to provide an understanding and appreciation of religious liberty. He tackles politics with the firm belief that the best way to secure freedom for religion in America is to secure freedom from religion. State of Belief proposes that the Religious Right is wrong – wrong for America and bad for religion.
New Treasure for All of Us
By the standards of mainstream media, these three interfaith programs are tiny efforts you have to search for and bookmark if you are interested.
But that’s a dour view of an extraordinary achievement.
Today, due to these three “tiny efforts,” you and I have at our instant disposal several hundred hours of engaging dialogue with leaders from dozens of spiritual, religious, and humanist traditions exploring a host of important issues our parents and grandparents never had to consider.
A generation ago precious few of us had the opportunity to listen to most of the leading religious voices of the day. You could read an article or buy a book, but mostly we had little personal access to these wise men and women. Today all you need to hear them speaking personally is a good browser. Collectively, the library of resources opened up by these three radio programs is new treasure, a small beginning, to be sure, but one whose growth will help engender justice and peace for the whole human family.