Recently I also read Tippett’s personal memoir from the show, also titled Speaking of Faith: Why Religion Matters and How to Talk About It. More than just a distillation of her numerous interviews, it is also a narrative of her personal faith journey, from her conservative evangelical roots, through an apathetic secularism, to a renewed embrace of a wider, more intellectually honest and diverse faith - a faith that includes both mystery and reason. A faith that is layered, complex and multi-faceted. For instance, she opens her third chapter, "Rethinking Religious Truth" with these words:
I've come to understand religious texts and traditions as keepers of truths more openhearted and realistic than many of the arguments against them and the practices in their orbit. We have to think about truth and about knowledge itself differently - the insides and edges of words and ideas, the richness of their forms - to understand the nature of religion and the work of theology, the human attempt to pin God, however fleetingly, down to earth. In many ways, religion comes from the same place in us that art comes from. The language of the human heart is poetry. Music is a language of the spirit. The metier of religious ideas is parable, verse, and story. All of our names for God are metaphor - necessary license, approximation, and analogy. Our sacred texts burn with that knowledge and dare us to use all of our faculties of intelligence and experience and creativity. But we forget this; our fact-and argument-obsessed culture is deaf to it, blind to it.
This is an approach to faith that resonates deeply with me. In fact, I have found that listening to Speaking of Faith (and reading the book) has rescued and renewed my faith. In my regular online dialogues with atheists it can be easy for me to get so lost in the arguments that I forget why religion makes so much sense to me in the first place. As C.S. Lewis has said "A doctrine never seems dimmer to me than when I have just successfully defended it." Tippett's work helps me to remember the beauty and logic which has drawn me to faith in the first place, regardless even of who she's talking to or what religion they represent. What she does is remind me that there is a wildness and complexity and depth to life that religious beliefs attempts to express. She reminds me that there is more than just wishful thinking in religion and spirituality, that there is in fact wisdom and truth and a grasping after the inexpressible yet ultimate reality (or as Peter Rollins puts it "that of which we cannot speak is the one thing about whom and to whom we must never stop speaking".)
Tippett also reminds me to have humility when approaching those whose beliefs differ from my own - to listen and learn and seek to understand the truth of their experience. I find that when I do that, I find more that I have in common with them than what divides us. Through Speaking of faith (the program and the book) I have been encouraged and strengthened in my Christian faith by Jewish rabbis, agnostics, scientists, and Vodou witch-doctors as well as Christians from a wide spectrum of traditions. What it reminds me of is the bigness of God, that he will not be contained merely to the small set of people who believe and worship like me, but rather that he is at work all throughout the world, revealing bits of his truth to all kinds of people.
At any rate, I highly recommend both reading the book and listening to the radio program. Your faith will be better for it. (And even if you don't have a faith of your own, you will still be enriched by exposing yourself to so many diverse viewpoints on the topic.)
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