I listen to a lot of podcasts. Whether I’m doing laundry, driving to the store, washing dishes, or even just walking around the house, chances are you will find me consuming audio media. Most days in the summer start with a walk or a run, complete with headphones and miles of listening. My podcast interests vary, but I tend towards content that challenges me and makes me think about myself and my perspective on the world. There’s an overwhelming number of podcasts out there, but here are ten of my current and/or longtime favorites and why I think they are worth checking out:
Five Podcasts on Race, Justice, and Cultural Concerns:
I want to highly highly highly recommend the series Seeing White, a 13-part podcast series for the show Scene on Radio. Listen to the first episode and see if you’re convinced, as I am, that this is essential information for anyone who wants to understand where we are as a nation when it comes to racial divisions. I learned about how white people became white (Really–there was a lot of legal debate over this concept, starting in the 1600s but continuing into recent history as well. For anyone who was puzzled in reading Ta Nehisi-Coates’ book Between the World and Me with his language of “those who think they are white,” this will help you understand). I heard stories about Native Americans, African Americans, and European Americans; the difference between northern racism and southern racism, and I wrestled with the question (as does John Biewen, the host) of what it means for white people to understand ourselves as white when our history has been so filled with discrimination against others.
Capehart ran a series of nine episodes interviewing icons of the Civil Rights movement. They were each short, informative, and moving. My favorite of the series was about how repentance and forgiveness can lead to healing and hope through the story of former segregationist George Wallace.
The first season of Serial was a riveting true crime investigation. The second season was not quite as fabulous. Season 3 was equally riveting as the first season, but also by far the most important of the bunch. Host Sarah Koenig spends a year inside a courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio and she traces stories of lawyers and defendants, judges and juries, police officers and citizens in this community. It’s a sobering commentary on our criminal “justice” system and an even-handed look at the ways race, class, and education factor into that system.
This is a new podcast, but so far it contains great stories of people who are seeking to use their gifts and abilities to build businesses and nonprofits that bless their communities.
Although I recommend this podcast in general, there are specific episodes related to race, justice, and spirituality that have offered transformative wisdom for me: Derek Black and Matthew Stevenson, John A Powell, Isabel Wilkerson, Greg Boyle, Ruby Sales, Annette Gordon-Reed and Titus Kaphar
Five Podcasts for Spiritual Growth:
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I am binge-listening this podcast. For anyone who desires spiritual growth, I highly recommend this entire podcast (there are seven seasons) as well as Barton’s many books about spiritual transformation. But this specific episode–about transformation through self-knowledge–is the one that spoke to me the most deeply and clearly.
Peter and I both love this gentle guided prayer experience. Lissy Clarke takes a passage from the Bible and reads it (in her lilting Irish way that either puts you to sleep or just feels incredible peaceful and soothing) slowly, giving the listener time to contemplate its meaning. That’s pretty much all there is to it. I look forward to taking 20 minutes to pray alongside this podcast every week. Some of my favorite episodes include an introduction to the Ignatian examen and also the recent one on Psalm 16.
Reading the Bible is intimidating, boring, and everything in between for lots of people, and it also can be fascinating, lifegiving, and life-changing. As a person who loves literature and loves Jesus, I am drawn to anything I can learn about how the Bible was written and what it means for us today. Some of my favorite episodes include a conversation with Hebrew Bible translator Robert Alter and a conversation about the Gospel of Mark.
The men on the Nomad podcast ask great questions and, as formerly evangelical Christians trying to figure out how to follow Jesus, I appreciate their honesty, transparency, and the breadth of experience and insight their guests bring. I don’t always agree with what they or their guests are saying, and they always give me a lot to think about. Favorite episodes include Thomas Oord on the Uncontrolling Love of God, Brad Jersak on The Orthodox Way, and Walter Brueggemann on Sabbath as Resistance.
I listen to Corey Widmer’s weekly sermon podcasts from Third Church in Richmond, Virginia regularly. They are funny, accessible, intellectual, and applicable all at once. Corey (who is a good friend of ours) draws upon his life experience and personal story and always teaches from the Biblical text itself in a way that challenges and comforts me every week.
If you’re interested in reading more than listening, you can find some of my recent book recommendations here and here.
What are your favorite podcasts? I’m always open to suggestions. Happy listening!