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Hi all. We receive a lot of glowing comments and rich stories about the impact of the show on people’s lives. We also get the occasional e-mail from a listener who calls us to task on a particular point (e.g., Why didn’t Krista push Brooks on…) or on covering more minority religions (Zoroastrianism for one) and so on and so forth.

But yesterday this e-mail from a listener in California got passed around (the links are mine):

“You have become increasingly irrevelant lately…..Your program used to have insight and focus in positive directions. The last interesting show to me was when you were mediating the three evangelicals. Everything since then has lost focus and energy.

“Lets hear an interview with Barbara Brown Taylor or that Muslim woman who is trying to increase women’s rights within that religion. Try interviewing some people who have made or are making a difference in society. You used too….Parker Palmer was a great interview, so was Jean Vanier…Do something on Thomas Merton or Henri Nouwen….Let’s hear from some person who is making a difference in the Hindu world….

“All of these esoteric ‘ideas’ you’ve been engaging lately have become impractical and again, just plain boring.”

Our production team debates the merits of these types of critiques to varying degrees. One staff member said we should take her comments to heart and consider our show mix. Me, well, people like Merton and Nouwen have been on our big list for a while, along with many others. Maybe we should push for them nearer to the top. But, the “three evangelicals” program with Colson, Boyd, and Claiborne was broadcast 16 months ago! Haven’t we produced any shows that were relevant and practical — and interesting — since that time?”

I have a list that immediately comes to mind. But I’m on the inside. What critiques do you have? Do you agree? We’re here to serve you. Let us have it, but, please, be kind and I promise I won’t bristle.


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58 Comments

I am disheartened and profoundly sad for any SOF listener who finds boredom and impracticality in the program, the guest, or topic. It is my sincere hope s/he is able to find inspiration and personal relevance in the upcoming SOF programs or somewhere.

I am grateful to the SOF team and the individuals they so generously bring into my life each week. KT's thoughtful, inquisitive, personal tone shines throughout the interview conversations. That style of interaction grounds even the most invasive or challenging questions in a type of deep rooted respect for and understanding of each individual's humanity, struggles, and aspirations and by extension those of us listening as we struggle with similar questions, concerns, ideas, etc.

I've been a SOF listener for a while ...first just in the car (we live in such a rural area, the signal was not strong enough to access in the house) and now on line (wow!). I cannot think of a show that has not had relevance. Niebuhr, Thich Nhat Hanh, Eboo Patel, Seane Corn...and so many others - through you, they have touched and helped more than you can know. - with much gratitude, thank you.

Sometimes the awareness of personal boredom leads to deeper insights.

I am a big fan of the show but I haven't listened to the show lately because I haven't been interested in the topics. I do like the interviews with people like Palmer, or Marty. I would love to see one with Barbara Brown Taylor. Some I listen to over and over. The conversation about Niebuhr was great, the concept about play was intriguing. To be honest, I can't remember very recent shows that have grabbed me and excited me a lot.

I am am Australian who found SOF podcasts during a random search. I thoroughly enjoy all of the shows. I don't really "screen" them for interest but just listen and I have found that KT and everyone she interviews help expand my own view and my little world. I enjoy them so much that i listen to them time and time again. "Obama's theologian" was excellent. I find the variety of the content wonderful and so helpful in my spiritual journey.

I found SOF about a year ago and, after getting immense satisfaction from listening to archives, I formed a church discussion group around selected programs. After getting over the initial shock of just sitting back and listening (rather that watching), people loved it and are looking forward to more over this coming fall/winter.

I can't agree with the writer/critic on their comment about irrelevence. However I do have to agree that I get particular enjoyment and enrichment from the conversations with people who are sharing "real world" thoughts and experiences. People like Jean Vanier, Kate Braestrup, Robi Damalin, David Hilfigger, Majora Carter, Cal DeWitt to name but a few. There's a pithy, down to earth-ness about those conversations that, for me, is inspiring and thought provoking. As KT said once - " they don't say this is THE truth, they say this is MY truth and this is how I came to it". Judging from the animated discussion that follows, it seems my discussion group people are similarly enraptured.

That's not to say that the more "theoretical" conversations don't grab me too - I've listened to the programs with Polkinghorn and Armstrong for example more than once and really enjoyed them.

As a previous blogger said, perhaps the programs that interest us change over time depending where our personal circumstances find us. If so, that implies we need the variety you are providing. Please keep it up!

if I had a suggestion for future shows it would be to talk with more people about the intersection of faith and the environment. I've loved the shows with Kingsolver, Carter/Dewitt, Maathai etc but would love to see more on this subject as the envrironement seems to be an area that is now uniting people across all wisdom traditions. Someone like Sally Bingham for example.

Thank you to all at SOF

Hi,
I have been listening to the show for a couple of years; first on radio, now via podcast. I feel that my interest in a particular program is more a reflection of my own self - especially at that particular time - than of the relevance of a particular subject or the person presenting it. Sometimes I am not interested in the shows and so I don't listen. Some of the more enjoyable experiences I have is to be absolutely fascinated by a program that does not seem interesting at all from the email description.
I am a big fan of your show and quite willing to share and explore the directions that you all take each week.
Patrick

I haven't found any esoteric boring ideas on speaking of faith, and I rather like the mix. I do think it would be great, as I have said, to do more in depth interviews of people who are making a difference in their communities across the country, because there are so many, and I would say the deep words of people who write the books, are perhaps, not the only words worth recording and hearing. There is this apocryphal story of the great rabbi who had a destination and this was, to travel through the desert to speak to the great man. He had a camel driver and he ignored this man, leaving him unceremoniously behind in the shadows. He did not notice him. It was, actually the rabbi who was left in the dark, not realizing that the destination was behind him, with that camel driver.

The word camel itself can be deconstructed into two words CAME and EL and I am saying, that it is the small person, the one we often ignore as not important, who holds the keys to greatness of spirit, and perhaps a discourse on mystery, and spiritual truth.

Thanks to Mary for your beautiful words, quoting Mother Theresa and your own deep poetry of soul.

May you and yours experience a "full, filling Thanksgiving".

with best wishes to SOF and the programming that is deep and about spiritual truths.
I hope you adopt many of the suggestions on line to augment your show, and make it shine. As for Sweden, I lived there for two years as a child, spoke Swedish fluently, and, as a child, found myself in a wonderful place of trolls and magic. The Swedish system of caring for the elderly, for those who have various "handicaps" is truly beautiful. They do offer "social tours" and we can learn so much from programs that incorporate the elderly into housing for all ages, from gas station attendants who are hired when here they might not find jobs, and for the all around attention to life and how it should be lived, for everyone, with grace and dignity. That was my experience and I imbibed this, even as a child. All places have ups, and downs, but it is true that we have so much to learn from what other countries are doing, to care for those we marginalize. And this is deeply, about spirituality, and this in a country that doesn't practice that much, organized religion.

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