National Council of Churches Podcast

This is the weekly podcast of the National Council of Churches. Enjoy the best features and interviews from insightful guests from across the ecumenical and interfaith movement.
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Apr 13, 2017

In the days leading up to Holy Week, a chemical weapon attack against civilians has taken place in Syria, and the United States has attacked a Syrian airbase in retaliation.  As cable news pundits celebrated the US attack as “beautiful” and “spectacular,” is there a particularly Christian way of viewing the violence in Syria?

In this episode, we will speak with two of the most well-regarded voices in the field of Christian Ethics today.  Dr. David Gushee, professor at Mercer University and President of the Society of Christian Ethics joins us today, as well as Dr. Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University.  You might imagine these two leading thinkers differ on important points, but you’ll be interested to know where they agree.  Get ready for a thought-provoking conversation.

Apr 6, 2017

When we first started this podcast, we took a look at the problems that were occurring in Flint, Michigan, where the water has been unusable for years.  A year later, things are improving, but the problems for Flint’s water aren’t over yet.

This week we’ll talk with Ryan Cumming of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America about Flint, corruption, clean water, and how the churches have made a difference.  Big problems require big solutions, and the churches have a role to play. 

Over a year ago we recorded a podcast in which we heard about the desperate situation concerning the drinking water in Flint.  Churches were helping in all kinds of ways, including delivering trucks of bottled water and assisting in shelters.  As the crisis dragged on, I’m grateful that several of our NCC member communions got involved in ways that changed the broken systems that created the problem and kept it going.  

Mar 3, 2017

Since January, a rash of surprising and disturbing anti-Semitic incidents have taken place across the country, with Jewish centers being threatened and cemeteries vandalized.  What’s behind this upsurge in anti-Semitism?

Rabbi Jack Moline is the Director of the Interfaith Alliance, a national organization that stands on the front line fighting against hatred and bigotry.  Jack has been observing this uptick in anti-Jewish sentiment but has a surprising perspective on the relationship between anti-Semitism and other forms of bias against minority groups. Jack speaks to us today about this recent phenomenon and what we can do about it.

Feb 3, 2017

The world’s various divisions seem to be growing and getting worse.  Jesus once said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and as people become more divided, perhaps those who have been struggling the longest might have the most to teach us.

Today we’ll talk again with Mae Cannon, director of Churches for Middle East Peace, who brings with her two guests who have embarked upon a “Pilgrimage to Peace,” touring across the US to bring their message of hope from the conflict-ridden Middle East to houses of worship here. We will talk to them about how their experience, as friends from across the divide, might inform life here in the divided States of America.

Jan 27, 2017

As we wrap up our series on “the way forward,” we will talk about a subject that touches nearly everyone in the nation: health care.  How will Congress and the President deal with the long-threatened repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and what are the ramifications for the poor across America?

Our guest today is Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic lobby for social justice.  Simone is an important faith leader in the US and has been on the leading edge of the health care debate for many years.  We will talk to her about her organization, her work on reforming the health care system, and what she sees as the short- and long-term steps needed to insure quality, affordable healthcare for everyone.

Jan 13, 2017

As we continue to consider the way forward, how will President-Elect Trump and Congress deal with issues of poverty?  How will the churches continue to advocate for the poor across America?

My guest for this important podcast is the Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland Tune, Director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, an organization dedicated to empowering and mobilizing the faith community to speak and act to end the scandal of poverty in the United States.  We will talk about the issues connected to poverty, how Jesus taught us to seek justice for the poor, and how churches can be involved in anti-poverty work.  It’s a complex issue with a very simple imperative.  

Jan 11, 2017

The Constitution guarantees religious liberty in this country.  Over the past few years, the debate has intensified over what religious freedom actually means.

What does religious freedom mean today, what is the agenda behind the debate about it, and what does the future hold for this bedrock American value?  My guest today will talk about religious freedom from an historically Baptist perspective, how the discussion is changing, and what a Trump presidency is likely to mean to those who work to guarantee religious liberty for all Americans.  Holly Hollman will talk with us today in the latest episode of our discussion of “the way forward.”

Jan 6, 2017

The response to 9-11 by the Bush Administration included harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, placing prisoners in tiny enclosed spaces, slamming them against walls, sensory deprivation, and a host of other cruelties that were condemned by the world as torture.  The US Senate published a report almost two years ago that condemned these practices in the harshest of words.  But President-Elect Donald Trump stated in his campaign that the US would do things much worse than the Bush-era torture practices if he were elected.

Ron Stief is the Executive Director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, an interfaith coalition that works to end all kinds of torture, from cruel and degrading treatment of combatants to the inhumane practice of extended solitary confinement, which the UN classifies as torture.  What does the new political reality mean to the torture debate?  We’ll talk to Ron to see if we can find out.

Dec 20, 2016

With President-Elect Donald Trump’s famous campaign promise to build a wall between the US and Mexico and to deport millions of undocumented persons, it would seem that immigration was front and center, but today’s guest sees things differently.

My guest is Wendy Feliz, Communications Director for the American Immigration Council.  Wendy is here because of her involvement in several high-level discussions about how this issue will shake out over the next several years.  In America, this nation of immigrants, there’s a strong backlash against immigrants taking place today, and with all such issues, it’s complicated.  Wendy is here to help us sort things out as we continue to look at “The Way Forward.”

Dec 16, 2016

In a campaign that frequently promoted anti-immigrant rhetoric and called for the cessation of the inflow of refugees to the United States, one of the critical areas of Christian witness - the welcoming of the oppressed and the stranger - has suddenly come under intense scrutiny.  As the church struggles to fulfill its calling to minister to the refugee, what is the way forward in an environment that may be hostile to the refugee?

Today my guest is Jen Smyers, Associate Director for Refugee Policy for Church World Service.  Jen will talk with us today about refugees, her own faith, and how ministry to refugees changes lives.

Dec 13, 2016

“Has the Bonhoeffer moment finally arrived?”  This is a question recently asked by Dr. Stephen Haynes, one of the nation’s top scholars of the work and thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian whose name is being evoked in many places today.

My guest today posed this question in a recent article in the Huffington Post, in which he critiques the way Christians with different beliefs call upon Bonhoeffer whenever their particular vision of society is threatened.  But Dr. Haynes also can be counted on to offer a careful understanding of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer might have actually responded to the times we live in today.  We will discuss Bonhoeffer, his story, his faith, and how he is still used today by both supporters and detractors of president-elect Donald Trump.  If anything, Bonhoeffer urges us to look at current events theologically, and that’s what we will try to do today.

Dec 9, 2016

As we journey into Advent and head towards Christmas, the stories of the child of Bethlehem are heard in churches and homes across the country.  When we hear the stories of the shepherd’s fields and the manger, it’s sometimes surprising to learn that Bethlehem is a real city, today with thousands of fellow Christians living there under a brutal occupation.

Rev. Dr. Mae Cannon is the new Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace, a part of the ecumenical movement that works to encourage U.S. policies that actively promote a just, lasting, and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ensuring security, human rights and religious freedom for all the people of the region. In this episode we will meet Mae, learn about her organization, and discuss what she believes to be the challenges of peacemaking in this region.  You’ll especially want to hear what she says about the plight of the Christian communities across the Middle East.
Dec 5, 2016

In the days before and after the election, the nation has seen a dramatic rise in incidents of racial bias, particularly incidents of anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim bias.  What’s going on?

In this episode we’ll talk to Catherine Orsburn, director of Shoulder-to-Shoulder, a coalition religious groups dedicated to reducing anti-Muslim bigotry in the US.  Catherine has had her finger on the pulse of this growing problem for some time, and now offers her point of view, relevant in this time when so many things are changing. It won’t all be bad news, though, as Catherine has seen signs of hope that she will be sharing with us today.  If you’re interested in following the commandment to love your neighbor, you’ll want to listen to what she has to say.

Nov 17, 2016

In early November, hundreds of clergy came to Cannon Ball, North Dakota, at the invitation of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, to join in the protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through reservation land.  I attended that protest, and while there I met Mariama White-Hammond, today’s guest.

Today we will talk with two leaders concerned with this controversial pipeline and hear about the issues that come together in it: water quality, the rights of indigenous people, and climate change.  The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has said about the protests at Standing Rock, ““I want to now suggest that Standing Rock may be the new Selma.” Our guests are the Rev. Mariama White-Hammon, and Shantha Ready Alonso of Creation Justice Ministries.  We will also discuss a key part of the witness of the churches at Standing Rock, the public repudiation of the “Doctrine of Discovery.”
Nov 10, 2016

For weeks we just wished for the day that it would soon all be over.  But election night 2016 came and went, and now a new set of challenges begin.

Today we will play a recording of a press conference assembled by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in which our own Aundreia Alexander took part.  The press conference assembled many of today’s top voices, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share them with you.  Today’s podcast is a bit longer than usual, but the speakers were all so good, and their voices are so important, I believe you’ll want to listen to the very end.
Nov 4, 2016

In a nation becoming increasingly diverse, the need for interfaith engagement is growing.  But it remains difficult to build meaningful relationships between neighbors and groups that follow different religions.  

In this episode, I get to introduce to you a longtime friend of mine, someone I met when I first started to get to know the Muslim community.  Tarek El-Messidi was a college student then, and now he is a BIG DEAL: in 2012 he was listed as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world, and he now regularly consults the White House and other national bodies on the challenges facing the US Muslim community.  More than anything I consider him a close friend and inspiration, and I’m excited to bring his unique voice to this podcast.  I hope you enjoy meeting Tarek and thinking about how you might find your own faith being strengthened by having an encounter with another.

Oct 28, 2016

There was a time this particular podcast would have been unimaginable.  But in this political season, all kinds of surprises have become commonplace.  Today our guest is Galen Carey, Vice President for Government Relations for the National Association of Evangelicals.  Galen has co-written a book with Leith Anderson entitled, “Faith in the Voting Booth,” and we’re adding it to other resources designed to help Christians in their decision-making this fall.

We will talk with Galen about his personal journey and his Christian faith. We will also discuss what many might find surprising, that the National Council of Churches and the National Association of Evangelicals, or NAE, regularly work together and find common cause on Capitol Hill.  Republican and Democrats can’t seem to work together, but I find it exciting and even hopeful that Christians can.
Oct 21, 2016

Michael Kinnamon is known to many as a leading academician for the ecumenical movement.  His latest book, though, turns to the contemporary issue of fear as a driving force in American society.  

Why are Americans so fearful?  What does fear drive our society towards, and what can be done about it?  Is fear something religious people should embrace?  In his latest book, Dr. Michael Kinnamon turns his attention to the topic of fear. We will talk with him about the ways fear is manifest in our society and theological thought through the ages about this menacing condition of human life.  It’s a powerful book, and frankly, I can’t imagine a better time to be talking about this topic.

Oct 3, 2016

With anti-minority messages sweeping the media and the political campaigns, many people are scratching their heads about what to do about it.  We live in a time when social media, TV networks, and even our churches offer few chances to meet people who are different from us.  So when Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, we are often more fearful than faithful.

Bud Heckman is on a mission to get funders to tackle this problem strategically.  Bud has a view of the world of philanthropy that will likely be of interest to any who have tried to work on problems like anti-Muslim bigotry or religious freedom.  If you care about finding ways to solve some of our biggest problems, you’ll want to listen to this whole podcast.  It’s my hope that Bud will help us get this conversation started.

Sep 26, 2016

Shane Claiborne is a name known to many mainline Christians, Evangelicals, and Emergent Church devotees.  Shane’s lifestyle of simplicity and solidarity with the poor echoes the lifestyle of Jesus in ways bound to make even the most devoted among us uncomfortable.

In this episode, we will talk with the always provocative Shane Claiborne, who in his latest book, takes on the American system of mass incarceration, and most notably, the death penalty.  We’ll talk with Shane about the how people of color are disproportionately sentenced to death in the United States, the problem of false convictions, and the disturbing reality that areas populated by Christians also tend to be areas most likely to hand out the death penalty.

Sep 2, 2016

Food pantries and food drives are one of the great staples of American charity.  They are everywhere, in cities big and small.  But there’s an aspect to them that never occurred to me until I started talking to our guest, Gary Oppenheimer.

Having grown a cucumber plant or two in my life, I am familiar with how one can have too much of a very good thing.  What if home gardeners had a convenient, easy way to share extra food with people in need?  Our guest has created a way to do just that.  We’ll talk to Gary and learn about the problem of food waste, the effect it has on global warming, and how we can all take a crack at solving it.  I love it when I come across a great idea, and Gary, through, is going to tell us all about his.

Aug 26, 2016

With a society that is becoming more and more divided, with a contentious political race ahead, and with global conflict on the rise, the world is in need for a church that carries out its role as a maker of justice and peace.  Are the American Churches, Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, and Mainline, ready to do the hard work that lies ahead?

Today we will speak with Jer Swigart, one of the founders of the Global Immersion Project, on conflict, peacemaking, the movement of Christians who are learning that Christ had little interest in American standards of successful living, and the thrill and adventure of taking up one’s cross and following Jesus.  Get ready: whichever side of the spectrum you find yourself, on this podcast, you’re in for a bumpy ride!

Aug 19, 2016

With Bible sales on the rise, and with its ongoing reputation as the best-selling book of all time, one might surmise that we’re in a golden age of Bible literacy and moral development.  A quick look around today might lead one to a different set of conclusions.

Today we discuss the Bible, it’s role in the church and in society, and the curious paradox that while Bible sales are at record levels, Bible literacy seems to be at an all-time low.  We’ll talk with journalist Kenneth Briggs, author of “The Invisible Bestseller: Searching for the Bible in America,” about his findings in his quest to discover why the Bible is so widely owned, but so rarely read.

Aug 12, 2016

Still looking for a good book for your August week at the beach?  If reading about nuclear weapons wasn’t your cup of tea, how about another book about the end of the world?

This week we will talk with Alissa Wilkinson and Robert Joustra, authors of “How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World.”  If you’ve been wondering why so many movies are making so much money on visions of the future that neither you nor I would like to experience, you’re going to enjoy this conversation.  Get ready to explore some of the most popular stories in today’s media through the eyes of these two brilliant observers of popular culture.

Aug 5, 2016

In July 2012, three protesters, an 84-year-old Catholic nun among them, broke into a secure facility in Oak Ridge, TN, where the United States stockpiles its highly enriched uranium.  The break-in, in which fences were cut, slogans were painted, and human blood was poured on the facility’s walls, is widely known to be the most damaging and embarrassing incident in the US’s nuclear program’s history.

In this episode, we speak with Dan Zak, a Washington Post reporter who originally covered this story in 2013, and recently published his book entitled, “Almighty: Courage, Resistance, and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age.”  It’s August, and if you haven’t had your vacation yet, buy this book and get out on the beach right away.  You’re in for a moral, ethical, and theological thriller of the highest order.

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