Living Questions | WYPR

Living Questions

"Living Questions" is a monthly series on Maryland Morning that explores religion and ethics in contemporary life.  Tom Hall talks to scholars and clergy, believers and non-believers about how different faith traditions influence and inform our personal and collective lives.  Maryland Morning is partnering on “Living Questions” with the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies, an organization that for nearly 30 years has worked to cultivate religious literacy and inter-faith understanding.

It's time now for another installment in our monthly series, Living Questions, in which we examine the role of religion in the public sphere.  We’re producing this series in partnership with the Institute for Islamic Christian and Jewish Studies (ICJS).

Next month, ICJS will inaugurate a three-part lecture series on the theme of Imagining Justice in Baltimore. A Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholar will each address the question of how each religious tradition refracts and understands the notion of justice.  In light of the wrenching events in Baltimore last spring, the Institute is hoping to bridge ethnic, socio-economic and religious divides, and deepen and enrich appreciation for the place of justice-seeking in different faith traditions.

Tom's guest is the first speaker in this new series, and he speaks from the Christian perspective.  The Rev. Dr. Robert M. Franklin is President Emeritus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, a professor of Moral Leadership at Emory University, and the director of the Religion Department at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, NY.  His latest book is called Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities.


It's time for this month's installment of Living Questions, ​a series produced in partnership with the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies, in which we examine the role of religion in the public sphere.  

As we enter this Christmas week, we invited three prominent local faith leaders to discuss the rise of religious intolerance and bigotry in the wake of several recent mass killings -- three of them carried out by radicalized Muslim terrorists, another by a Christian anti-abortion terrorist-- and what roles prayer and faith are playing, for good or ill, in these troubled and often violent times. 

Joining Tom in the studio are Dr. Christopher Leighton, the executive director of the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies, and an ordained Presbyterian minister;  Imam Saafir Rabb II, the CEO of Interculture, a consulting firm that advises public and private sector clients on matters of cultural competency and sensitivity; and Rabbi Steven Schwartz, Senior Rabbi at Beth El Congregation in Pikesville, and ICJS board member.


Last June, Pope Francis published an extraordinary encyclical on the environment.  For the first time, the leader of the Catholic Church stated that climate change is real, that it’s being caused mainly by human activity, and that it poses a particular threat to the world’s poor.

Like the Pope's call to the faithful to take actions to heal the Earth, followers of Islam and Judaism are also drawing on their religious traditions to confront the challenges of climate change.

We learn of two such faith-driven initiatives as Tom talks with Kori Majeed, the founder of the Web-based environmental group, GreenRamadan, and with Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center in Philadelphia, co-author of a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis that's been endorsed by more than 400 rabbis since its publication last June.

About 13 hours ago, it was wheels-up for Pope Francis, following a packed schedule of events in Washington, DC, New York and Philadelphia, that included an historic speech before a joint session of the US Congress, an address to the largest group of world leaders ever assembled in one place at the United Nations, a controversial canonization Mass, visits to a prison and a homeless shelter, and huge adoring crowds witnessing every public step he took.  This morning: a conversation about the Pope’s American sojourn with a Catholic scholar, a Jewish academic and blogger, and a Muslim radio host and professor of Communications.

John Gehring is a native Baltimorean who is the Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, an advocacy group in Washington.  He’s also the author of a new book called The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic ChurchHe joins me in the studio.

Mark Silk, founding director of the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity, where he is also Professor of Religion in Public Life also joins us. He writes the blog "Spiritual Politics" as a contributing editor at the Religion News Service and he’s chair of the editorial advisory board of the Connecticut Jewish Ledger.

And joining us on the phone from her home in Silver Spring is Sahar Khamis, an Associate Professor of Communication at the University of MD, who hosts a radio show on U.S. Arab Radio, the first Arab-American radio station broadcasting in North America.  

Baltimore's Long Time Carmelite Community

Aug 31, 2015
The Carmelite Nuns Of Baltimore

Tom Hall joins Sr. Constance Fitzgerald at the Carmelite Monastery on Dulaney Valley Road in Towson. Fitzgerald has been a Carmelite nun for 64 years.  The community of Carmelites who live, work and pray on this beautiful, 26-acre campus have a lineage that extends back 225 years.  Founded in 1790 in Charles County, this site was the first community of religious women in the 13 colonies.  Baltimore Carmel is celebrating their 225th anniversary with a number of events throughout the year, including a seminar that Sr. Constance Fitzgerald will co-lead next month.  We discuss the contemplative life of the Carmelites, and how they balance the values of solitude and personal reflection with the values of community and engagement with the wider world.

How Faith Is Shaping Sandtown-Winchester

Jun 29, 2015
Matt Purdy

At one time, there were more than 50 churches in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood in Baltimore. There are now more than 30, which still represents a high concentration of churches in the 72 square block area that Sandtown encompasses. What can and should these churches be doing in this neighborhood, which has long struggled with high unemployment, poverty, addiction, and crime? We explore that question with two pastors who are doing a lot. Pastor Amelia Harris is the co-pastor of the Newborn Community of Faith Church. She has lived and worked in Sandtown with her husband, Elder C. W. Harris, for more than 30 years. Dr. Louis Wilson is here in the studio as well. He came to Sandtown from Chicago in January, accepting the call to lead the New Song Community Church.

Photo Courtesy of Dorret // Flickr Creative Commons

Living Questions is our monthly series examining the role of religion in the public sphere.  Today two very thoughtful church leaders join us whose work in Baltimore and beyond extends to members of many different faith communities.  In the wake of the riots in Baltimore, we want to ask them about the long-term work of healing Baltimore's soul and building social capital in the city. Bishop Douglas Miles is the Pastor of Koinonia Baptist Church in Baltimore and the Co-Chair Emeritus of BUILD, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development.  Dr. Brad Braxton is the Founding Senior Pastor of the Open Church in Baltimore.  He also served for several years as the Program Officer for Religion in the Public Sphere at the Ford Foundation in New York.  

Chicago Leader Behind An Interfaith Movement

Apr 27, 2015
Interfaith Youth Core / Creative Commons

Living Questions is Maryland Morning's monthly series examining the role of religion in the public sphere. These segments are produced in partnership with the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies.

The ICJS will hold their annual Manekin-Clark lecture in mid May, and the speaker this year is Eboo Patel. He is the founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago, a leadership movement  supporting college students to foster religious pluralism through service projects and events. And he is a member of President Obama’s first faith council.

Patel is also the author of two books, the latest of which he published in 2012,  called Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America. Eboo Patel joins host Tom Hall from  WBEZ in Chicago.

Muslim Portrayals In The Media

Mar 30, 2015
premasagar / Creative Commons / Flickr

What role does the media play in shaping our perceptions of Islam and how is it shaping religious discourse? That's the question on our minds in March's edition of  Living Questions, our series in which we examine the role of religion in the public sphere. We’re producing this series in partnership with the Institute  for Christian and Jewish Studies. Maryland Morning will be partnering with ICJS at a public panel at the Park School on April 15th that takes up the same topic, Being Muslim in America: Why Media Matters. Today's guests are Rabia Chaudry and Wajahat Ali, who will be serving on the April 15th panel.

Rabia Chaudry is an attorney and a National Security Fellow at the New America Foundation, and  also the advocate whose phone call to This American Life producer Sarah Koenig sparked the podcast series Serial.  Wajahat Ali is a playwright, and the co-host and digital producer of Al Jazeera America’s The Stream. Both  Chaudry and Ali join host Tom Hall by phone.

Columbia University Press

February's edition of Living Questions, our monthly series on the role of religion in the public sphere, examines the idea of religious moderation. With each new atrocity perpetrated by radical factions claiming divine guidance, a call comes for “moderates” to step up, counter those claims and restore reason to religion.  But how does one do that?  What does it actually mean to be a moderate?  How is it possible to be religious and not be, in some way, radical? Today's guest, Dr. William Egginton makes the case that the divide between atheists and fundamentalists are more closely aligned than they may appear. Dr. Egginton is the Vice Dean for Graduate Education at Johns Hopkins University and has just published his book called In Defense of Religious Moderation. He joins host Tom Hall in the studio.