The Spiritual Edge

Credit Front Group

The Spiritual Edge is a multimedia project from KALW Public Radio exploring the shifting, dynamic nature of the American religious landscape. We seek the hot spots where change is occurring, including among immigrant groups, Christian communities, at the intersection between spirituality, religion and health, and in a growing DIY spiritual culture.

Visit the project's website.

Photo by Tom Levy

San Francisco's Japantown is a historic relic of an earlier time when Japanese immigrants and their families clustered here and found homes. In 1899, they founded a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist congregation, the first of that tradition on the continent.

Commentary: Are all Buddhists atheists?

Dec 2, 2016
Front Group

In the comments on our Nov. 21 story, "Some, None or Done: A Zen Atheist," listeners discussed whether Buddhism is theistic or non-theistic. We asked  John Nelson, a scholar of religion who serves on The Spiritual Edge's academic advisory committee, to help us understand the issue:

The Spiritual Edge, a new series exploring the leading edges of faith, spirituality and religion, is seeking pitches from experienced reporters to help expand our reach to a national audience.

Some, None or Done: A Zen Atheist

Nov 21, 2016
Courtesy of Judy Silber

We've been asking our listeners through a survey: What role do religion and spirituality play in your life? Heather Hernandez responded. She's a Berkeley librarian who calls herself a Zen Atheist.

Courtesy of Kaya Oakes

 

 

One big trend in the US over the last few decades is that the country is becoming less religious. Far more people are categorizing themselves as Nones — people who say they don’t have a religious identity.

Tom Levy

 


Western literature’s most important books have been translated, not once, but many times. The book at the top of the charts is the Bible: more than 100 translations, and that’s just in English.

Tom Levy

If you’re familiar with Black churches you know they’re lively and uplifting places. That’s how San Francisco native Yvette Flunder remembers hers. At the Pentecostal Church she grew up in, she recalls pastors and church leaders who were tender and kind and understanding. That is, until one topic came up.

Incubating progressive leadership in the Black Church

Sep 19, 2016
Photo courtesy of Ben Trefny

 


Mike McBride is pastor of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley. He’s also the Director of Urban Strategies for the PICO National Network of progressive, faith-based organizations.

Are you a spiritual "some," "done" or "none"?

Sep 15, 2016
Illustration by Front Group.

Tom Levy

Architecture has the power to transform. A building can make us feel joy, or sadness, powerful or weak. 

Tom Levy

I’m Jewish.  I feel a strong affinity for Judaism – the beauty of its rituals, teachings and music. But it can be hard to relate. 

John Navas

The KALW News team is looking for an experienced radio journalism story editor to work on a special project called The Spiritual Edge (TSE), exploring the innovative American spirit through the lens of spirituality and religion. This initiative, launched in 2014, will be directed toward building a national audience and launching a podcast with stories coming from KALW reporters and from around the country.

 

U.C. Berkeley is known for its world-class scientists, in disciplines like physics, chemistry or biology. 

Tracy Grubbs grew up fascinated, curious and also afraid of death. Her curiosity, plus her interest in Buddhism led her to volunteer at the Zen Hospice Project, a San Francisco center for the dying supported by the Buddhist community. Grubbs spoke with her colleague Lisa Messano.

Hana Baba

Through much of their history, Sunni and Shia Muslims have lived peacefully together in countries like Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. But since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, sectarian conflict has escalated in the region. Here in the Bay Area,  around 75% of Muslims identify as Sunni, just four percent identify as Shia.

Hana Baba

About 20 Muslim families are gathered on a hilltop outside the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, just after sunset. A water fountain bubbles, women and men chat, kids run around with snacks in their hands, and everyone at some point or another, looks up to the sky. They are moonsighting, scanning the sky for the new crescent moon that will signify the beginning of the month, Ramadan. 

StoryCorps: Keeping family traditions alive

Jun 17, 2015

It’s not always easy to pass down family traditions, especially when they don’t match mainstream American culture. But that’s what Maria Sanchez and Roberto Vargas are trying to do. For both, Danza Azteca traditions have been important for honoring their Mexican and Nicaraguan cultural heritage. The couple sat down with their children, ages 12 and 14, for a talk about ethnic identity and why Danza is so important to them.

Tom Levy

Three hours north of San Francisco, just east of the ocean, rise the steep, green hills of Cazadero. It’s an idyllic setting: open space with farms, a variety of oak trees, and an abundance of grasses.

A mixed flock of sheep and goats nibble on the plants in what is an almost Biblical scene. My guide and owner of these animals is named Starhawk. From our vantage point on the hill, we hear the chattering of birds. She points above us, to the trunk of a dead tree.

 

Living in a multi-cultural city yields all sorts of surprises. On a corner in Oakland just east of Lake Merritt, a small Buddha has helped bring neighbors together.

I didn’t know what to think the first time I saw the makeshift Vietnamese shrine. At the time, a few potted plants and flowers brightened up the corner. A piece of scrap metal protected the statue’s head. I had just moved to the neighborhood.

“Did someone die?” I asked a few women congregating in front of it. They shook their heads. One pointed to the sky and said, “Buddha. Pray.”

 

Islam has a rich artistic heritage of architecture, design, music, painting, and poetry. Muslim poets like Rumi and Hafez are famous for a depth and beauty that defies time. Today, that poetic tradition is still strong. It's kept alive in what many may perhaps consider an unlikely place—urban America, through the genre of hip hop.

 

Interview: Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb on nonviolence

May 13, 2015

For many liberal Jews, it can be hard to imagine a time when a woman's role was mostly in the home. But it wasn't so long ago, only men could become rabbis. The feminist movement began to change that and in 1981, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb was one of the first women to be ordained. During her four decades leading congregations, she challenged old texts that don't make sense in a modern way. Today Gottlieb is pushing another agenda for Judaism--a path of nonviolence.

Thomas Walden Levy

The Spiritual Edge is a new reporting project from KALW that explores innovation in religious belief and practice in the Bay Area.  And as we plan the next stage of the project's development, we want your ideas and input.

By answering this brief survey, you'll discover the diverse stories that this project has already told, and help shape the future direction of The Spiritual Edge. Thank you!

Breathing your way to better blood pressure

May 5, 2015

Hypertension. Sixty-seven million Americans have been diagnosed with the condition, more commonly known as high blood pressure.

Before they hit age 50, hypertension is less common in women than in men. The female hormone estrogen likely serves as a kind of protection. But after 50, women’s rates of hypertension go up. That increases the risk of heart disease. And heart disease kills more women than anything else.

That’s how it went for Susan Evans. Her blood pressure changed with age.

 

Elizabeth Beltran-Larios struggled with her identity for much of her childhood. Beltran-Larios was born in Oakland, but she was raised in a small town south of Jalisco, Mexico. Growing up, she felt alienated from the Catholic church because of her sexual orientation. Her exposure to Buddhism in college helped her come to terms with who she is and what she believes. She sat down in the StoryCorps booth to share her story of this transformation.

 

Tom Levy

  Some people who take dance classes regularly have a saying: “Dance is my church.”

Dancer Stella Adelman says just that about going to Afro-Cuban folkloric dance class. “There’s a release to it,” she says. To her, it’s a place where she can reflect and find some clarity through movement. To some practitioners this clarity comes from being active and getting exercise, for others, it’s literally a spiritual practice.  

The Bay Area is home to many instructors of Afro-Cuban rhythms. Music and dance lovers come from all over the world to participate in workshops taught by some of the most loved teachers and dancers from the Cuban Diaspora. Many of them have found home here.

Storycorps: Keeping a broader perspective

Mar 9, 2015
Teresa Kennett

Growing up, BJ Miller understood what it meant to live with a disability. His mother had polio. But until a college accident, Miller never imagined he would live out a similar fate. In college, he had an accident that left him a triple amputee.  After, he knew he wanted to use his experience to help others. Miller went onto become a doctor and is now the executive director of the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco.  In this next piece, he speaks with his colleague Diane Malley about the accident.

A woman takes on the Church by becoming a priest

Feb 9, 2015
Tom Levy

In the dining room of her San Francisco home, Maria Eitz shows off her priestly attire -- a beautiful red, embroidered stole.

It is the only accessory that distinguishes Eitz from the rest of her community. Usually, there is more separation, especially during mass when Catholic priests wear robes. Considering everything else, her wardrobe is a relatively minor deviation. The Vatican bans women from the altar. Yet Eitz is a woman who two years ago became a Catholic priest.

StoryCorps: Healing the mind by way of hospice

Feb 9, 2015

When someone is dying, sometimes the best medicine is not medicine at all. And sometimes what needs to be healed, is not the body, but the mind. That is the kind of caretaking that Paul Kelley takes pride in doing. When Kelley began his career as a hospice worker in 1983, he knew instantly that he had found his calling.

 

"I can't fix my toilet at home, I can't fix the car, I can't do bookkeeping, I can't do computers. But I can be with someone who is dying, for some reason."

Click the audio player above to listen to the story.

Hana Baba

While the majority of the world’s Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25th, a number of Orthodox sects follow an older-than-Gregorian calendar. They celebrate every year on January 7th. 

Living in a multi-cultural city yields all sorts of surprises. On a corner in Oakland just east of Lake Merritt, a small Buddha has helped bring neighbors together.

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