Krista's Journal: Sharing a Way to Speak and Defuse Minefields

January 31, 2008

The phrase "remembering forward" is inspired by a line I love in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass: "It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards." We remember our stories, the raw materials of the lives we've been given, in order to know who we are — and to tell something of the larger story of our time. I believe that we are all theologians in some sense, and our memories and experiences also contain pointers of the best we can discern of ultimate truth, the nature of God, and the sacred. Still, this program is a reversal, a shift in form. I'm very aware of that. I struggled in the act of writing with my philosophy of journalism and my theology of speaking of faith. I wondered whether it was right to turn my method of inquiry back on myself. But the conversations I conduct here every week, and the nature of radio (and podcasting) is profoundly intimate. I have been asked so often across the years to give voice to my own origins, evolution, and learnings. I decided in the end that I might owe it to my listeners to trace the line I ask my guests to walk each week — the powerful, creative, and humbling line between religious ideas and human experience, between theology and real life. This is where the religious and spiritual aspect of life takes shape for most of us most of the time — and where we can find ways to bring its nourishing, illuminating qualities back into our common life. Here, in contrast to the debates and headlines that have diminished our public imagination, we have as many questions in common as we have answers that divide us. So I have written a kind of chronicle of my formation between frontier Protestantism and secular global politics — my life in and out of faith from a Southern Baptist upbringing to a non-religious decade in Cold War Berlin. I describe the experiences, books, and ideas that opened my imagination to religion again — persuading me that I could reconcile religion with my mind and all the complexity I knew in the world. I share the way I have found to speak of faith while defusing the usual minefields. And I reflect on what I learn through this adventure of conversation across the world's traditions. I've probed a great anguishing question of our time — What goes wrong when religion becomes violent? — from the inside. But my conversation partners also help me see how intelligent practices of faith are the only realistic corrective to excesses in the name of religion. And they show me rich and luminous and practical responses to the enduring questions that lie behind all religion and all human experience, both private and public: What does it mean to be human? What matters in a life? What matters in a death? How to love? How can we be of service to one another and to the world? I offer this account of my questions and those of others, and of glimpses of answers and truth, with reverence and humility. I offer it in defiance of the competing certainties of our public life. I offer it as a contrast to the religious stance that is more intent on holding correct positions than on how we treat friends and enemies along the way. I offer it in celebration of concepts indigenous to human reality and the resilient human spirit, ideas that may not be lauded in politics and often aren't in religion. I've been delighted as people have told me this past year that my book has given them hope. I believe so strongly that the deep questions of meaning and ethics of our time are too pressing — and too interesting — to wait for journalism and politics to change. But in our own lives, in our own neighborhoods and book clubs and religious and professional communities, we can commence a new kind of conversation. Together we can fill the phrase "speaking of faith" with new connotations for our time, rich in compassion, beauty, mystery, intelligence, and a redemptive generosity of spirit.

Recommended Reading

Image of Speaking of Faith: Why Religion Matters--and How to Talk About It
Author: Krista Tippett
Publisher: Penguin Books (2008)
Binding: Paperback, 240 pages

Krista's book has been released in a new paperback edition with a revised introduction, reader's guide, and helpful index.

Voices on the Radio

is the host and creator of the radio program Speaking of Faith, and author of a recently published memoir of the same name.