On the sixth day of Christmas, CAPC gave me: You are Podcaster Podding
For each day of Twelvetide, the writers of Christ and Pop Culture will point to some of the cultural goodness that gives hope in the midst of life’s clutter. It’s our version of the song « Twelve Days of Christmas, » filled with things our writers found invigorating. Some entries are artifacts from 2018, others are from years past. All give us hope.
Asecond Entrepreneur magazine, one in four Americans listens to at least one podcast a month. Whether it’s news, politics, sports, inspiration, information, or pure entertainment, Americans are increasingly tuning in. While some may find this commitment to listening truly limited to distant voices and stories, sometimes distance can actually help us hear our neighbors. On the sixth day of Christmas, here are six podcasts that might make it easier for us to hear the stories of those often overlooked in our own community.
In the darkness
In Season 2 of this podcast presented by APM Reports, Madeleine Baran leads a team of reporters to Winona, Mississippi to investigate the Curtis Flowers case. Flowers, a black man, was prosecuted six times by white District Attorney Doug Evans for the same crime: the murder of four white employees of a major furniture store. Baran and her team carefully and carefully review the case and find some compelling information that much of the evidence used to convict Curtis Flowers is flimsy, false, and in some cases likely produced by an overeager investigator. Yet despite these things, Flowers is currently on death row, even though prosecutor Doug Evans has had three of his convictions overturned due to cases of prosecutorial misconduct. Baran sheds light on the individual case of Curtis Flowers, but also on the ways race, income, and power create unjust outcomes throughout the criminal justice system. It’s hard to hear In the darkness and don’t be outraged at Curtis and his family, but it’s also heartening to hear about the Flower family’s faith in God to deliver their beloved son. In the darkness it invites listeners into Curtis’ story, but also invites us to hear the stories of wrongful imprisonment within our own communities.
New York Times journalists Rukmini Callimachi and Andy Mills travel from Canada to Iraq to understand why anyone joins ISIS, what is at stake in the fight, and the damage it causes to communities both at home and abroad. But in Callimachi’s story there are no easy answers, even the villains have loving families and are baffled by their children’s choices. Callimachi gets some gripping and incredible interviews with former ISIS fighters, their families, and Yazidi girls taken as sex slaves, all to provide deeper insight into the men and the consequences gleaned from their participation in ISIS. Hearing Callimachi’s report raises further questions about the role of Islamophobia, extremism, foreign policy decisions, and the universal human desire for easy answers in contributing to the rise and continued threat of ISIS. Caliphate encourages listeners to see that sin often begins in small ways with small choices, but its effects often reverberate in ways we may not expect.
In interviews with asylum seekers fleeing domestic violence, a former FBI official tasked with investigating right-wing extremism or an Amazon warehouse employee, New York Times Journalist Michael Barbaro takes the listener beyond the headlines into the stories that matter to neighborhoods across the country. The newspaper reminds readers of the importance of seeking truth and understanding beyond the surface level into a deeper conversation. Even the most educated among us have things we can learn, and no matter our level of experience, we see dimly in a looking glass. The newspaper asks us to seek wisdom by making room for the complicated human histories of our neighbors.
Through interviews with living survivors and their descendants, Emory University professor Hank Klibanoff sheds light on the threats, scare tactics and physical violence faced by such shadowy heroes as Dover and Bessie Carter, Primus King, John Harris and Isaiah Nixon as they fought bravely for civil defense and voting rights in rural Georgia in the 1940s and 1950s. Most of the people featured on the podcasts are devout Christians whose faith has motivated their efforts to challenge white supremacy. Isaiah Nixon, a farmer, father of six children and husband, allegedly paid for his sentences with his life and white supremacy allowed his murderers to escape justice. The podcast is a series of stories that paint a vivid picture of the « little » battles between black families for full citizenship and the efforts of white supremacists to preserve established ways of Southern life. Buried truths emphasizes the importance of small acts of courage in the pursuit of truth and justice. Most of us long for platforms and fame, but often it is the silent work of men and women like Dover and Bessie Carter, Primus King, John Harris and Isaiah Nixon who refuse to call evil good that transforms communities.
Believed is a podcast about Larry Nassar, his eventual imprisonment, and the women who survived his abuse, but it also takes a hard look at the institutions and individuals who allowed him to prey on the innocence of hundreds of young girls. Believed it’s about who gets the benefit of the doubt when a respected member of the community is accused of something horrific and criminal. Journalists Lindsay Smith and Kate Wells detail both the small and frighteningly huge ways the system failed to protect young women and girls from a predator, and how they were ultimately believed. Believed it’s a difficult story to hear. I cried a little during each episode, but I forced myself to finish because stories like these are important. It’s important to hear the anger in Kyle Stephens’ voice when she talks about how Larry Nassar ruined her family, it’s important to hear the voices of Kaylee Lorincz and Amanda Thomashow when they talk about being removed from places where they should have found protection, and it’s It’s important to hear Rachael Denhollander talk about God’s justice for victims. Believed is not so much a podcast as a sermon, a cautionary tale as churches continue to grapple with the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements. It invites us to examine our own complicity in systems and structures where abuses can thrive, where the weak and marginalized are trampled underfoot in the stampede to protect the titles, reputations and empires of the prestigious and the powerful.
Season 2 of Stlow burn looks back at the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and allegations that he abused Paula Jones and Jennifer Flowers. At the time, most people held firm opinions about women (liars and whores or brave women), the importance of character in our leaders (character issues or personal lives of leaders are private), and the partisan nature of our politics (Republicans had it in for President Clinton or President Clinton was the most duplicitous president in our nation’s history). But it doesn’t matter what your thoughts were at the time Slow burning it pushes against all of our firmly held beliefs about who exactly the victims of the Clinton scandal were. Slow burning it gives us permission to change our minds about people, to gain new insights, and to reconsider our previously held positions in the name of righting wrongs. We don’t have to be who we once were; we can admit where we went wrong or lied or operated with incomplete information and choose something different for the future. We are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past unless we doom ourselves.
In today’s cacophony of opinion and the rush to judgement, listening is deeply countercultural, we prefer to be heard rather than listen to another. But Scripture is full of admonitions listen and pay close attention not only to the Holy Spirit, but also to others. Proverbs 1:5 says, let the wise listen and add to their learning. Podcasts invite us to hear our stories and stories that aren’t ours. Listening is a gift both to ourselves and to others, it can disarm opponents, empower the overlooked, increase our understanding, and fuel our fight for justice. If we are to answer the call to serve God faithfully, we must begin by listening.