What's Tony Thinking

Podcasts I Like


During the pandemic I’ve discovered podcasts. I thought I’d share with you several of my favorites.

I’ll start Crackers and Grape Juice, where I am the featured guest in the current episode. The tag-line for  CGJ is “Talking faith without using stained glass language.”

Will Willimon turned me on to CGJ where he’s been a guest a couple of times. The team who put it out are mostly Methodists, and I suspect, graduates of Duke Divinity School, where Will teaches.

I’ve found it to be reliably stimulating. I’ve particularly enjoyed episodes in the last year with Heidi Neumark, Richard Beck, David French and Fleming Rutledge, among others. As I told the host, Jason Michelli, CGJ has nurtured my faith during the pandemic.

If I sound a little low energy in my CGJ Episode (# 307), my excuse is that it was an early morning taping, 6:00 a.m. The hosts are on the east coast, three hours earlier.  Or maybe that’s just the way I sound these days?

I do find that some podcasts work a little too hard, i.m.h.o., at infusing themselves with lots of yuck-yucks and/ or much profanity. (I bagged Pod Save America because of the F bombs). Maybe I balanced out other sessions of CGJ where people are pealing with wild (and often inexplicable) laughter all the time. That said, a friend who listened to it called to thank me for, among other things, my “droll sense of humor” on the podcast. Even if Jason and I weren’t hooting, my friend laughed out loud as he listened.

Another podcast I enjoy a lot is called Same Old Song. This one features two Episcopal preachers, Jacob Smith and Aaron Zimmerman, digging into the weekly lessons of the Common Lectionary. Theologically I’d say that Smith and Zimmerman are pretty much in the same ballpark as the folks at Crackers and Grape Juice which I would call evangelical liberal or liberal evangelical, if you prefer. Same Old Song is particularly helpful for preachers, but I think anyone interested in Scripture or Jesus can get a lot out of it. Smith and Zimmerman are all about, “God’s grace for ordinary people, like you.”

While these two podcasts are in the theological genre, others I enjoy aren’t theological or faith-focused, except insofar as religion/ spiritual themes bear on the lives of guests. A friend, Mike Bennett, turned me onto Econ Talk, which is hosted by Russ Roberts. Roberts, an economist, is very bright, interesting and well-read. He hosts poets, scientists, authors of all kinds of things. I’ve really enjoyed the Econ Talk depth conversations, and probably learned a few things about economics, a discipline of which I’d been largely ignorant.

I also like The Ezra Klein Show. Klein was a founder of Vox and is now a columnist at the New York Times. The focus of his show is mostly politics with a range of viewpoints. Klein himself I would call “progressive,” but not rigidly so. I loved his 2019 book Why We’re Polarized. 

Others I enjoy are ones with which you may already be familiar. There’s the podcast version of the radio show, Fresh Air hosted by Teri Gross, and On Being with Krista Tippett. Nice range of guests and topics on both. I particularly enjoy the shows where they have poets as their guests. I also enjoy listening to the podcast from The Moth, where real people tell true stories of humor, wisdom and grace.

There’s been an explosion of podcasts in recent years, plus all the interviews/ lectures you can pick up on You Tube. It’s pretty amazing. I mostly listen while I am working out at the gym or when I’m out on a walk alone. It may be that as a reader of this blog (thank you!), you’ve filled — more than filled — your Tony Robinson quota. If not, I hope you enjoy the CGJ episode.

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