We have more opportunity to transfer information and ideas to one another than any people who came before us. And how do we use it? Mainly to excoriate other people. What has social media, non-stop news, and constant connection done to us? Honestly, it’s probably brought out everything already festering in our hearts and minds.
Does anyone even talk to one another any more? Do people of different viewpoints have the capacity to speak without feeling compelled to verbally stab one another?
In his new podcast, Uncommontary, Marty Duren does exactly that. Three episodes have been released so far. Each has offered its challenges, insights, and plain old good conversation just like MeeMaw used to make. Duren serves up audio biscuits and gravy.
I do not personally know Mr. Duren, but I know he’s a follower of Jesus and has served as a pastor. He structures the podcast as a friendly and informal interview. On the episodes released, he spoke with historian Kevin Kruse, lawyer and Islamic scholar Qasim Rashid, and literature professor Karen Swallow Prior. Each episode clocks in around forty minutes, so they make themselves easily digestible on a daily commute or a run.
In each interview, Duren does not seek to make huge points, totally destroy this or that person, or even drop mics, rather, he allows each guest to speak for himself or herself, carrying on a cordial (dare we sail into the waters of friendly?) conversation. The conversations move in such a way, batting about ideas and such, that on two of the episodes, I could not believe forty minutes had passed already. While the conversations flow well and pleasantly, one should not press play on an episode thinking only meaningless chatter follows. Duren and his guests serve up a tender but thick verbal steak (can something be both audio biscuits and grave AND verbal steak?). The casual tone conveys thoughtful content.
The most-compelling quality of the podcast proves Duren and his guests representing actual positions. For example, Qasim Rashid confesses Islam as his faith, Duren does not (the Solo Deo Gloria at the close of the podcast isn’t the first hint). The folks speaking on the podcast do not possess wishy-washy affiliations they stand ready to abandon for the sake non-confrontation. No, when Duren has a guest to his show, he has questions ready for the individual, and the guest stands ready to answer as one befitting his or her position. Qasim Rashid cannot answer for all Muslims any more than Duren can speak for all Christians. However, Rashid answers as an actual Muslim who confesses beliefs specific to the Islamic faith. Disagreements among Muslims regarding the particulars of his expression of the faith certainly exist, but he does speak from a historically identifiable Islamic strain. Television, radio, print, and digital media should take note of this particular quality of Uncommontary. Too often interviews with various representatives of the faiths of the world reveal such men and women will not confess what their historic faiths have always stated, even on pain of death. I have viewed interviews in which representatives of Christianity would not clearly state whether or not God became incarnate as Jesus Christ or any other doctrine taught by the Bible or the early church. One can learn little if anything from such a person.
One cannot promise a listener will like everything said on Uncommontary; after all, the show features a range of guests. I obviously cannot agree with many things a Muslim has to offer; neither can he agree with me. Our beliefs contradict one another, and both of us believe we represent the truthful claims about ultimate reality. Uncommontary makes no such promise; the show does promise mental and intellectual stimulation and human decency one person to another. Even when a certain controversial politician comes up in one conversation, the words about the individual contain no malice. Tomorrow’s scheduled episode will feature David French, Iraq War veteran and public intellectual. If the first three episodes give any hint to the coming content, the episode featuring French will offer much to mull and ponder.