Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Speaking of Faith: Why Religion Matters and How to Talk About It

Krista Tippett, the NPR host of Speaking of Faith, has written a marvelous volume. Speaking of Faith is a spiritual autobiography, recounting life as a child in a religious family. The reader follows Tippett through the examination of her inherited faith, and the development of her own faith.

Tippett’s approach is unique. The book chronicles her reading of the Bible, Bonhoeffer, Reinhold Niebuhr, Charles Darwin and Einstein. Tippett mines these sources in search of spiritual wisdom, and finds it. They help shine a light on historical shifts in the public role of religion. These thinkers also provide insight into the science/faith conversation, and the religious assumptions of our day, that are relatively new.

The remarkable gift that Tippett offers is a wealth of interviews from her career as a journalist. The reader is invited into conversation with partners from Elie Wiesel to John Polkinghorne. The first-hand material from the interviews is stunning, and provides the reader with keen insight.

Tippett uses her journey, and the journeys of ancients and moderns to illustrate, how we might mediate the public/private role of religion. This mediation is bound up in humility, experience and embracing mystery. Experience is the discovery of truth apprehended by the individual. Humility guards against the violent imposition of truth onto another. Mystery is the recognition that, ultimately, faith is more poetry, than science.

This book is not a step by step, how-to guide. That is where its strength resides. Speaking of Faith is descriptive, rather than prescriptive. The book illustrates the productive paths of figures from the past, and gathers wisdom from our peers of the present. The beauty of Speaking of Faith rests in the timeless methodology of people of faith in genuine conversation.

It is well worth a read.