Mystery is a Birthright: An Interview with Krista Tippett

| 10/4/2012 2:45:24 PM

Krista Tippett

The granddaughter of a Southern Baptist minister, Krista Tippett approaches faith from a unique perspective. “Both science and religion are set to animate the twenty-first century with new vigor,” she writes in Einstein’s God, her latest book. “The dialogue that is possible—and that has developed organically, below the journalistic and political radar—is mutually illuminating and lush with promise.”  

It’s that organic dialogue Tippett has sought throughout her career. For more than 10 years, Tippett has hosted On Being, a Peabody-award winning NPR program that explores the “big questions at the center of human life, from the boldest new science of the human brain to the most ancient traditions of the human spirit.” In 2011, she launched the Civil Conversations Project, which aims to create space for constructive dialogue around some of the most pressing social and political issues we face today. On September 26, 2012, Tippett led a discussion on life, choice, and women’s rights between pro-choice activist Frances Kissling and pro-life scholar David Gushee. You can check out the video here. On October 10, Tippett will moderate “The Future of Marriage,” the final installment of this year’s Civil Conversations Project series. The conversation will include gay marriage advocate Jonathon Rauch and former same-sex marriage opponent David Blankenhorn. 

Below is our interview with Tippett, following the September 26 Civil Conversation Project discussion, “Pro Life, Pro Choice, Pro Dialogue.”   

Sam Ross-Brown: What role does religion or faith play in the Civil Conversations Project? 

Krista Tippett: Religious voices and religious perspectives on moral and social issues have been some of the most polarizing voices in the last 30 or 40 years. I think it’s really important when we take up these issues of abortion or same-sex marriage that we also try to create a different kind of conversation with those perspectives, and also show what’s possible because media and our political process have completely given the spotlight to those very strident voices that make for really good soundbites and are entertaining. But it’s not really the whole story of religion and it’s certainly not the whole story of how we can talk about these very intimate moral issues that we all have a stake in, whether we are religious or not. So it’s really claiming that discussion back—and also leaving a place for people with religious conviction to create a new voice in that discussion in our common life.

Part of where I started coming from as I was putting this together was the irony that in an election season we have all these huge issues, all these open questions in our common life, and this becomes the most unlikely time we can talk with any rationality or even courtesy about these things. I also think I’m not alone in thinking that our civil society is really fractured, and like many people I myself feel really unrepresented in the really polarized and narrow way that important subjects are discussed, whether it’s the nature of marriage, or what economic recovery might really mean or not mean.

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