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Sidling Up to Difference: Kwame Anthony Appiah on Social Change and Moral Revolutions

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Anthony Appiah believes that we are called to nothing less than "managing the republic" together. His prescriptions for this are down to earth. Our starting point with others, he says, doesn't have to be dialogue. It can be conversation in the old-fashioned sense of simple association, seeking familiarity around mundane human qualities of who we are:
"Sometimes people think that the only way to deal with these big differences between religions or around moral questions is to face up to the difference directly. But I think often, as it were, sidling up to it is better and sidling up to it can be done by not facing Islam, but facing, you know, Leila and Ahmed and Mohammed with whom you don't talk about religion most of the time. You talk about soccer or you talk about rock music or whatever it is you have in common as an interest."
How can unimaginable social change happen in a world of strangers? In a tense moment in American life, he has refreshing advice on simply living with difference.

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Words from a Tattooed Pastor on Community, a Brilliant Thinker on Memory, and a Spoken Word Poet on Loss and Love

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor (@TrentGilliss)

Blue Ridge Mountains by Trent Gilliss

What a way to start the week with this panoramic view of North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. A beautiful place with beautiful people. The first interview from our time at the Wild Goose Festival kicks off in September with the dynamic (and heavily tattooed) Nadia Bolz-Weber. I can't wait for you to hear it!
Nadia Bolz-Weber Ms. Bolz-Weber on her ELCA congregation in Denver called House for All Sinners and Saints:
"We’re anti-excellence but pro-participation."
And on her tattoos and faux-hawk appearance:
"The places I hang out in Denver, in some ways, I look like a soccer mom."
Jean Bethke ElshtainOn a more somber note, the brilliant religious thinker and political theorist Jean Bethke Elshtain died this week. She wrote in the preface of her book Sovereignty: God, State, and Self:
“One of my persistent worries about our own time is that we may be squandering a good bit of rich heritage through processes of organized ‘forgetting,’ a climate of opinion that encourages presentism rather than a historical perspective that reminds us that we are always boats moving against the current, ‘borne back ceaselessly into the past,’ in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s memorable words from 'The Great Gatsby.' This historic recognition should not occasion resentment or dour heaviness; rather, it should instill gratitude. As this book drew to a close, I realized that it was no culminating magnum opus — few books are — but, rather, a contribution to the shared memory of our time and place. And that is enough.”
What a loss. It's a true testament to the depth of her thinking when one reads all the post-mortems in which people feel dismissed and alienated by her, and yet compelled to acknowledge her body of work and the genius behind it. If you don't know much about her, I recommend reading this recap of her life from The Atlantic or this persuasive piece, "Why Is It So Difficult to Discuss Marriage?" As our former executive producer Kate Moos wrote to me, "This is classic Elshtain." Or, better yet, listen to Krista's interview with Jean Bethke Elshtain for our show on Reinhold Niebuhr.

Blue Ridge Mountains by Trent Gilliss

Our newest addition to the production staff is Lily Percy, who comes to us from NPR's Weekend All Things Considered. She forwarded this video of spoken word poet Neil Hilborn reciting his poem "OCD." He offers up his vulnerability about love and loss. As Lily puts it, "I can’t imagine what it must be like to put something this raw out there for anyone to watch. The courage it would take!"

Have a great weekend. And, please know that if you ever want to get in touch with me — to critique, to suggest a voice, to submit a post for publication — I read them all. Please feel free to reach me at @TrentGilliss on Twitter or at Or follow our show account (@Beingtweets). It's got personality too!

About the Image

Participants engage in the Human Library project at the Toronto Public Library. (Photo by Voula Monoholias)

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