Life & Faith

Centre for Public Christianity

A weekly conversation from the Centre for Public Christianity about the beauty and complexity of belief in the 21st century.

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Making Peace with our Limitations
Making Peace with our LimitationsA Bigger Story of UsThe Pastor Politician
On May 21, Australians won’t simply elect a Prime Minister but the nation’s “comforter-in-chief”.  --- Bushfires, floods, and pandemic: Australians have weathered plenty of crises over the last few years. Who do they look to in times of trouble – and what do they want from those who lead them? In this Life & Faith, we explore an unofficial but significant part of any political leader’s job: their responsibility to not only steer people through a crisis but also comfort them with empathy, compassion, and wisdom.  Regardless of whether we have a Prime Minister or a President, we also want our leader to be a pastor to the nation. Tim Costello, Senior Fellow at CPX, explains the role of the pastor and how former Australian Prime Ministers have inhabited that role over time. Erin Wilson, Professor of Politics and Religion at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, explains how “civil religion” – the intertwining of religious symbols and language with the political state – accounts for the “priestly role” of national leaders. Mike Baird, Former NSW Premier, gives an insight to the pastoral role he played during the aftermath of the Lindt Café Siege in Sydney. We also hear a few American presidents in that “comforter-in-chief” mode and sample the stylings of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in this area as she prepared New Zealanders to bunker down in the fight against Covid-19. --- Explore: Want more on civil religion? Read Erin Wilson’s article for CPX  Hear more about what Mike Baird has been up to since leaving politics Listen in on Part 1 and Part 2 of Life & Faith’s interview with Tim Costello as he looks back over a long career advocating for social justice
27 mins
REBROADCAST: The Cost of SacrificeA Good Look in the Mirror
34 mins
Poetic License
A plumber, a pastor, and a pilgrim forge poems out of what’s right in front of them. --- She will keep you like she keeps the Sabbath.     Did you know that 21 March is World Poetry Day? Do you … care? In this episode of Life & Faith, we speak to three poets about why they write poetry, and find out how intimately linked to real life their words actually are. Sit back and enjoy a feast for your ears as Erin Martine Sessions, Drew Jackson, and Jonathan McKeown bring you poems they’ve written about (respectively) an ancient city; about mass incarceration and the fight for justice; about mushrooms and motherhood.  From very different starting points, all three wrestle to give words to the realities of the world around them - however beautiful, overwhelming, devastating, infuriating, or even repulsive. “Plumbing has really given me a physical connection to both work and my own body that has forced me to come to some kind of reconciliation between this flighty mental side that just wants to remove itself from all the awkward matter and stuff that you have to deal with in the physical world at times … there's a lot of very physically disgusting stuff plumbers get to deal with on a daily basis. So for me, working out some kind of synthesis, which I think is what selfhood is really about … to do that in your own experience is I think part of the process of becoming the self that you are.” --- Explore: Read more of Erin’s poetry Check out Drew’s book God Speaks Through Wombs Check out Jono’s book Genesis
29 mins
Throne and Altar
From Roman emperors to modern PMs, Life & Faith tackles the fraught relationship between church and state. --- “At the end of the day I am quite happy that the throne-and-altar accommodation was shattered, and that the church does not wield that kind of power.” Dust-ups between religion and government are rarely out of the news for long. Sometimes church and state seem too cosy, sometimes they’re fiercely at odds. What has this relationship looked like, and how should it look? In this episode of Life & Faith, Simon Smart and Natasha Moore trek back to the dramatic beginnings of the church-and-state relationship in the West with Emperor Constantine, make a brief stop among the medieval heights of Christendom, and consider some wisdom for all of us living in a post-Christendom world. All brought to you from some of our favourite and most eminent voices on the topic: Miroslav Volf (Yale), Teresa Morgan (Oxford), Nick Spencer (Theos), David Bentley Hart, and more. Along with cameo appearances from the perennial classic Yes Prime Minister. “So the ideal candidate from the Church of England’s point of view would be a cross between and socialite and a socialist?” --- Explore: Sir Humphrey explains about The Church of England | Yes Prime Minister Miroslav Volf, On private Christianity [NEEDS LINK] Teresa Morgan, On the Emperor’s new religion Teresa Morgan, On the conversion of the Empire Teresa Morgan, On the double-edged sword, power Sarah Coakley, On lament Nick Spencer, On popes and power David Bentley Hart, On minority Christianity Joel Edwards, On speaking up Craig Calhoun, On doubt and certainty Browse For the Love of God: The Interviews
31 mins
Feel exhausted, cynical, and utterly ineffective at work? There’s a cure for what ails you.  --- Jonathan Malesic had always dreamed of being a college professor. The reality, however, didn’t match up to his expectations. It got to the point where he found it difficult to drag himself out of bed to teach a class. Nothing seemed to help: therapy, medication, even extended leave.  So he quit.  Obviously, that’s not the solution for everyone. But in his new book The End of Burnout: Why work drains us and how to build better lives, Malesic reflects on his own experience as well as our “burnout culture” that primes us for exhaustion.  In this interview on Life & Faith, Malesic describes that culture as a toxic combination of deteriorating working conditions – think stagnant wages, the gig economy, the decline of union membership – as well as our overinvestment in work as a source of meaning and purpose (“do what you love”). Then there’s the “badge of honour” in being a “work martyr” – someone so committed to work they’re prepared to sacrifice themselves to the cause.  To plot a path out of burnout, Malesic turns to unlikely sources – like the ora et labora (prayer and work) rhythms of Benedictine monks at Christ in the Desert Monastery in New Mexico. There, the monks tame the “demon of work” by subordinating it to their higher callings. If you’ve ever felt demoralised about your job, this is an interview that will name your spiritual ills and convince you that there is more to life than work. -- Explore: Buy Jonathan Malesic’s book The End of Burnout: Why work drains us and how to build better lives Follow him on Twitter Sign up for his newsletter Interested in the Maslach Burnout Inventory? Find more info here.
34 mins
Architecture and the Soul of the City
Buildings and public spaces tell a story about what our culture values and who belongs. --- This week, Life & Faith channels popular TV program Grand Designs through its focus on the built environment and how our public spaces express ideals and aspirations for our life together.  Our guest is Kamila Soh, who is pursuing a Masters in architectural history at the University of New South Wales.  Kamila recently contributed a column to The Catholic Weekly about 111 Castlereagh, a luxury apartment development in Sydney boasting pristine views of Sydney Harbour, Hyde Park, and St Mary’s Cathedral. She contrasts the cathedral with the glamorous high-rise – where an off the plan penthouse sold for A$35 million in 2021 – and suggests that the church is a genuinely public space while the exclusive development is not. We also discuss the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral, which revealed the emotional and spiritual connections people feel to place. Then there’s the growing recognition that we navigate public space via our phones, like posting photos to social media. But what if we need less – not more – stimulation, especially after two years of lockdown and Zoom fatigue? Kamila suggests what we need from public space are spaces for contemplation and opportunities to genuinely connect with each other. --- Explore: Kamila Soh’s column in The Catholic Weekly A glimpse of the lifestyle promises of 111 Castlereagh - hit “play film” Kamila’s article on the way architecture frames our relationships with each other – explored through working from home during lockdown and people’s responses to the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral Simon’s article on Easter and the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral
31 mins
Murder, mayhem and the road to redemptionFull House
Young, married, and living in community housing with 28 men. --- When the pandemic hit, plenty of us reassessed our lives: changing jobs, leaving relationships, taking up a new hobby.  Jayden and Mikyla Battey, a married couple in their 20s, did their own soul-searching and, as a result, decided to move into community housing with 28 men who are at risk of homelessness and face mental health issues and challenging life circumstances. They were looking for a deeper way of living alongside others. They’ve found that as House Managers at Hamer Court, an affordable housing initiative run by the group Servants. In this Life & Faith episode, Jayden and Mikyla talk about the joys and the difficulties of living with vulnerable people, and what it’s like for those on the margins to find a home with each other. We also get a glimpse of what extended lockdowns meant for the residents of Hamer Court who were already socially isolated to begin with.  For Jayden, this way of life is a calling. “My understanding of the way that Jesus has called us to live our life is one where we dig deep and lean into the messy relationships. If I always kept difficult people at arm’s length, then I never have to face the reality of my own impatience and the brokenness in my own heart,” he said.  “When you live with a group of people who test you and call out your BS and tell you when you’re not loving them – well, then you realise that you have to actually rely on God to be the patient, kind, and loving person that everyone likes to think they are.”  -- Explore: The article Jayden wrote for the ABC Servants
34 mins
Sink or Swim? An American family in AustraliaForgiving the unforgivableThe Best BitThe Problem of DesireA nation of gamblers?Seen & Heard - The Sequel
We talk Ted Lasso, Sally Rooney’s latest novel, and get sentimental about our stuff with Unpacking. ---  Simon, Natasha, and Justine download on Apple TV’s Ted Lasso, celebrating the infectious kindness of its hero, the power of pastoral care in general, and the ways the hit show brightened the days of many Australian viewers in lockdown this year. Justine introduces the team to the surprisingly emotional experience of playing Unpacking, an award-winning video game in which you put away your character’s belongings and, in the process, reflect on how our material possessions connect us to immaterial realities like memory and emotions.  Lastly, what happens when the twenty-something characters populating Sally Rooney’s fiction turn 30? Natasha meditates on their angst, disappointments, relationships, and conflicted spiritual longings in Rooney’s latest book Beautiful World, Where Are You. --- Explore: Seen & Heard: Simon, Natasha, and Justine talk about Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen’s podcast Renegades: Born in the USA, Patricia Lockwood’s memoir Priest Daddy, and the latest TV adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand Millennial Malaise: Life & Faith interview with Guardian journalist Bridie Jabour, author of Trivial Grievances: On the myths, miseries, and contradictions of your 30s Miroslav Volf’s CPX lecture Pleasure, Meaning and the Death of God Sandra Newman’s article: "Every house is a haunted house" --- Life & Faith Survey: We love making this podcast and would value your thoughts about what we do and how we could do it better. Please consider taking 5 minutes to do this short survey – https://bit.ly/3082yW9. Thanks.
33 mins
Can you see me?: Christine Caine’s Fight Against Modern Slavery.The loneliness epidemic
Clinical psychologist Jonathan Andrews explains how, in the right circumstances, relationships can heal our broken hearts, and salve our growing loneliness.  ------ Jonathan Andrews’ book The Reconnected Heart: How Relationships Can Help Us Heal is born out of his experience as a clinical psychologist where he has witnessed the powerful healing potential in connection with ourselves, other people and with God.  Andrews believes that there are significant benefits from cultivating healthy relationships that can help us overcome even significant trauma and loss. “And this is a thing I think to remember about loneliness, loneliness isn't just about the quantity of connection, it's about the quality of connection. To put it succinctly would say something like it's about the lack of understanding. So you can be lonely in a crowd, you can be lonely at a party. So there's lots of people around, but really if you want to overcome loneliness, you have to be properly understood.” “... we underestimate the positive impact that we can bring to other people's lives. And we also … w entertain this idea that I'm the only one who's suffering like this and that's simply not true. One in four Australians are suffering from significant amounts of loneliness. So the lonely people aren't alone, Lonely people are experiencing things that many, many Australians are experiencing.” ------ The Reconnected Heart: How Relationships Can Help Us Heal by Jonathan Andrews ------ Life & Faith Survey: We love making this podcast and would value your thoughts about what we do and how we could do it better. Please consider taking 5 minutes to do this short survey - https://bit.ly/3082yW9. Thanks.
30 mins
Alice Pung’s One Hundred Days
The award-winning novelist talks about navigating cultural diversity, representation, and Buddhism.  ------ “Books don’t change people. I think people change people.” Alice Pung’s novels are beloved by readers, but she has a bone to pick with those who mostly encounter people with various backgrounds through fiction. “Why don’t you have any Asian friends or black friends or poor friends or friends from the other side of the river in the western suburbs? Why do you need me to open up your eyes?” “My biggest readers are woke people and I would think it would be a wonderful thing if they brought less of my books. And you know, catch the bus across to Footscray and play basketball with some of the kids atnd the commission flats or something. It’s my biggest gripe that some people think you can become a good person just by reading books,” she said. Pung’s latest novel One Hundred Days tells the story of Karuna, a half Chinese-Filipino, half white-Australian teenager. After she falls pregnant, a battle of wills ensues between Karuna and her mother, who confines Karuna to their apartment to protect her.  The novel depicts a claustrophobic and controlling relationship between mother and daughter and, as with much of Pung’s work, offers a glimpse into the challenges of living between cultures in modern Australia. Pung also opens up about up her experience of Buddhism, and the challenge of depicting the lived religious experience of her characters without reinforcing crude stereotypes of race or religion. If nothing else, this conversation will invite you to consider what life looks like from the perspective of people you may never meet, but with whom you share multicultural Australia. ------ Explore: One Hundred Days by Alice Pung
33 mins