Episode 73 - Tom Krattenmaker

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Been a while since we've been with you, lovelies. The world continues to end. Or is it just continuing to transform itself? This show has always been about borders. About intersections. About the boundaries out on the edges of the Self where subject and object, self and other, start to blend. Now, it seems more than ever, we need to engage the great, maligned and feared "other" rather than succumbing to the constant barrage of media that seeks to make us demonize and simply dismiss that which isn't "Us." Our guest this episode is a person that seeks to change that orientation. 

Tom Krattenmaker is a writer specializing in religion in public life and author of the new book Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower (Convergent, 2016). His first book, Onward Christian Athletes (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), examined Christianity in professional sports. The book was a winner in ForeWord Review’s 2009 book awards and a finalist in the Oregon Book Awards. Krattenmaker’s second book, The Evangelicals You Don’t Know (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), on the “new evangelicals” in post-Christian America, was a winner in the best books competition of the Religion Newswriters Association in 2014.

Krattenmaker writes regularly for USA Today’s op-ed page as a member of the newspaper’s
editorial Board of Contributors. His column-writing was honored by the American Academy of Religion in its 2009 Journalism Awards program, receiving praise for challenging popular misconceptions about evangelicals “and showing that something new, something more complex and subtle is going on — a great goal for religion commentary.” His work has also appeared in recent years in the Washington Post, Religion News Service, and Huffington Post, among numerous other media outlets.

Krattenmaker’s numerous media appearances include Fox & Friends, the documentary “Lord Save Us From Your Followers,” National Public Radio, the New York Times “Idea of the Day” website, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,”  the Christian Broadcasting Network, The Nation, Christianity Today, Air America, the Michael Smerconish Show, the Michael Medved Show, Portland Monthly, and radio networks/stations including Fox, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and numerous regional and local outlets.

Named the 2009 Mendenhall Lecturer at DePauw University, Krattenmaker has also spoken at college campuses including Yale, Harvard, Georgetown, Baylor, Lewis & Clark, Willamette University Law School, the University of Portland, Portland State University, Missouri State University, and Springfield, Swarthmore, and Haverford, and Kilns colleges. He was a recipient of the 2009 “Friend of MET” award from the Portland-based Muslim Educational Trust and, in April 2013, was honored by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon with its Hunderup Award for Religious Education. He resides with his wife in New Haven, Connecticut, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Yale Humanist Community

We recorded this episode a few months ago. Before the Trump era had fully taken hold. It is interesting to listen to the perspective of a cultural critic sitting on the front end of what was to come. We tend to avoid the overtly political here at OTBR. But in these times, even the exploration of consciousness seems to be a political enterprise (in that it involves people coming together to build consensus and mutual understanding). Tom is a great example of what a version of this understanding and mutuality might look like going forward. We were delighted to speak with him. 

Episode 72 - Joel Bakst

Joel David Bakst is a teaching rabbi and scholar of Talmud and Kabbalah who, while living in Jerusalem for 20 years, studied and taught in Orthodox yeshivot.

Raised in a Southern California Conservative Jewish home, Joel became a ba’al teshuva (newly religious) at the age of 20 bringing full circle his lineage from a long line of rabbis.  Both his grandfather and uncle were Orthodox rabbis, his great grandfather was chief rabbi of St. Louis, MO and his great, great grandparents made aliyato Eretz Yisrael and are buried on the Mount of Olives.  He is the 8th generation of Rabbi Avraham Ragoler of Skhlov, the brother of Rabbi Eliyahu, the famed Gaon of Vilna, whose unique teachings and School of Kabbalah, have been a focus of Joel’s esoteric studies.

Joel’s spiritual search through comparative religions led him to Israel in 1971 where, upon enrolling in a traditional Eastern European style yeshiva, he became part of the original Ba’al Teshuva movement, the initial great wave of assimilated Jews returning to traditional Judaism.  For 10 years he pursued a path towards rabbinical ordination and studied Talmud, Halacha (Jewish Law) and mussar (Jewish Ethics).  During the next 10 years, while continuing his Talmudic studies, he also began a search into Hassidic and Kabbalistic literature.

He studied under Sephardic kabbalists (Moroccan and Tunisian) along with Ashkenazic teachers and colleagues versed in Kabbalah.  Uncommonly, Joel has had the honor of having immersed in all four of the great rivers of Kabbalah that flow from the holy Arizal (Lurianic Kabbalah): 1) R. Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov (the Besht), 2) R. Shalom Sharabi(the Rashash), 3) R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (the Ramchal), and 4) R. Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman, the Gaon of Vilna (the Gra).

Joel continued his rabbinical education and continued on a path of intense Torah study and practice as well as teaching the traditions he received . He has lectured and taught in Israel, the United States and India. Joel is the author of numerous works on rabbinical methodology, esoteric Judaism, the prophetic confluence of Kabbalah with the new sciences and the messianic role of the maps and models pouring forth from modern technology. A guiding light for Joel’s stimulating approach to Torah teaching is stressed by the Gaon of Vilna, “There can never be a contradiction between the esoteric (sod) and the exoteric (pshat)”.

Concurrent with his traditional yeshiva training, Joel had also taken a deep interest in the Torah’s interface with world religions and Noahide movement. He has done extensive research into the Talmudic, Midrashic and medieval rabbinical sources concerning Noachides, Christianity and the “Seventy Nations”.  This investigation includes many obscure and little known Kabbalistic teachings about Yeshu HaNotzri (Jesus of Nazareth) , the role of Christianity and Islam as well as the role of Oriental religions in our “Final Generation” – the present period on the cusp of entering into the Messianic Era. “In the Torah world it has always been known that the non-Jew can best access his true essence and mission from an authentic Jewish perspective. As we are currently accelerating toward the Edge of Time the Torah and her ancient sages are beginning to reveal that a key to the mystery of Jewish existence is also to be found in the eternal mystery of Philo-Semites and especially wihtin the growing movement of Noahides”.

Continually evolving, the City of Luz web site is the culmination of over 35 years from the time he began a systematic study of Torah in search of a coherent interdisciplinary Torah-based system.  City of Luz offers the beginner, as well as the advanced talmid chacham (Torah scholar), a unique approach and collection of methodological tools that teach both conscious learning and direct experience.  The secret of Luz allows for a seamless interface between every field of Talmud, Halacha and Kabbalah.  The City of Luz also interfaces Torah itself with every school of science, theology and mysticism found among the Seventy Nations of the world, both ancient and contemporary. City of Luz is the ultimate interdisciplinary meta-tool for eveyone, regardless of religion or belief system.

Joel lives in Southern Colorado where he has been teaching in his yeshiva to a dedicated group of Jews and Bnai Noach for more than 10 years.

Episode 71 - Dan Merchant

Dan is many things including a radio host and the former voice behind “Sheila and Dan” in the morning at KINK.FM

He’s also an Emmy and Iris award winning television writer/producer/director who’s working on SyFy’s zombie hit Z Nation. Over the top, hilarious and scary, Z Nation is bringing fun and mercy to the zombie apocalypse with a fresh and surprisingly reflective approach to the current zombie craze.

In 2009 Dan made his debut as a feature film director with the theatrical release of his documentary, Lord Save Us From Your Followers.The critically acclaimed film was the result of an amazing three-year journey behind the front lines of America’s so-called Culture Wars. USA Today called Lord, Save Us… “Michael Moore-meets-Monty Python. A humorous and heartfelt examination of the culture wars.” Variety proclaimed: “Admirably bold…It would take a hard heart indeed not to be moved.”

Besides being a producer and writer for Z Nation, Dan is also known for Lord, Save Us from Your Followers (2008) and Strange Frequency (2001).

Dan's also a friend and a caring, transformative soul. He shows us that one doesn't have to choose between fun and faith. He is the embodiment of a necessary truth: anything is possible when we allow our creative forces to join together. With an open mind and a full heart, Dan Merchant is hungry to engage a dying world with his art, his passion and his perspective on our received wisdom.  

Episode 70 - Andrew Harvey

Andrew Harvey is Founder Director of the  Institute of Sacred Activism, an international organization focused on inviting concerned people to take up the challenge of our contemporary global crises by becoming inspired, effective, and practical agents of institutional and systemic change, in order to create peace and sustainability. Sacred Activism is a transforming force of compassion-in-action that is born of a fusion of deep spiritual knowledge, courage, love, and passion, with wise radical action in the world. The large-scale practice of Sacred Activism can become an essential force for preserving and healing the planet and its inhabitants.

Andrew was born in south India in 1952, where he lived until he was nine years old. It is this early period that he credits with shaping his sense of the inner unity of all religions and providing him with a permanent and inspiring vision of a world infused with the sacred. He left India to attend private school in England and entered Oxford University in 1970 with a scholarship to study history. At the age of 21, he became the youngest person ever to be awarded a fellowship to All Soul’s College, England’s highest academic honor.

By 1977, Harvey had become disillusioned with life at Oxford and returned to his native India, where a series of mystical experiences initiated his spiritual journey. Over the next thirty years he plunged into different mystical traditions to learn their secrets and practices. In 1978 he met a succession of Indian saints and sages and began his long study and practice of Hinduism. In 1983, in Ladakh, he met the great Tibetan adept, Thuksey Rinpoche, and undertook with him the Mahayana Buddhist Bodhisattva vows. Andrew’s book about that experience, Journey in Ladakh, won the Christmas Humphries Award.

In 1984, Andrew Harvey began a life-long exploration and explication of Rumi and Sufi mysticism in Paris with a group of French Sufis and under the guidance of Eva De Vitray-Meyerovitch, the magnificent translator of Rumi into French. Andrew has written three books on that subject: The Way of PassionThe Celebration of Rumiand Perfume of the Desert, an anthology of Sufi mysticism. With Llewellyn Baughn Lee, he founded the Sufi Conferences, which have played a prominent role in uniting Sufis of all persuasions during the past six years. He has close connections with great Sufi teachers in America, Africa, India and Pakistan, and a very clear, comprehensive grasp of the state of modern Sufism in both the west and the east.

In 1990, he collaborated with Sogyal Rinpoche and Patrick Gaffney in the writing of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. In 1992, he met Father Bede Griffiths in his ashram in south India near where Andrew had been born. It was this meeting that helped him synthesize the whole of his mystical explorations and reconcile eastern with western mysticism.

Andrew has since lived in London, Paris, New York, and San Francisco, and has continued to study a variety of religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. He has written and edited over 30 books. Other honors he has received include the Benjamin Franklin Award and the Mind Body Spirit Award (both for Mary’s Vineyard: Daily Readings, Meditations, and Revelations). Among Harvey’s other well-known titles are: Dialogues with a Modern MysticHidden JourneyThe Essential MysticsSon of ManThe Return of the Mother and The Direct Path.

Episode 69 - David F. Walker

David F. Walker is an award-winning comic book writer, author, filmmaker, journalist, and educator. His work in comic books includes Shaft (Dynamite Entertainment), winner of the 2015 Glyph Award for Story of the Year, Power Man and Iron FistNighthawkFurySecret Wars: Battleworld(Marvel Comics), Cyborg (DC Comics), The Army of Dr. Moreau (IDW/Monkeybrain Comics), and Number 13 (Dark Horse Comics). In 2015, he wrote the novel Shaft’s Revenge, the first new novel starring private detective John Shaft in nearly 40 years. He is also the creator of the critically-acclaimed YA series The Adventures of Darius Logan.

Recognized as a leading scholar expert of African-American cinema who has been interviewed by such news outlets as The Los Angeles TimesNew York Daily News, and BBC, Walker produced one of the definitive documentaries on the topic of Blaxploitation films, Macked, Hammered, Slaughtered, and Shafted. His publication BadAzz MoFo became internationally known as the indispensable resource guide to black films of the 70s, and he is co-author of the book Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak. Walker’s most recent book, Becoming Black: Personal Ramblings on Racial Identification, Racism and Popular Culture, was released in winter 2013.

In addition to Macked, Hammered, Slaughtered, and Shafted, Walker has also directed and produced five other films, including the award-winning short film Black Santa’s Revenge. He has been featured on A&E, VH1, AMC, and E!, and he worked to develop a documentary with HBO. His body of work was showcased and honored at the 2012 Oakland Underground Film Festival.

Walker has worked on projects with filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, Aaron McGruder (creator of The Boondocks), and director/producer Reginald Hudlin (House PartyDjango Unchained).

As a journalist, Walker served as screen editor and lead film critic for the alt-weekly Willamette Week for seven years. He was the 2003 recipient of the prestigious Society of Professional Journalists Award for excellence in writing. He has written cultural analysis and commentary for MSN, DVD Talk, Giant Robot MagazineSavvy, Cinephiled, and Rap Pages.

As an educator, Walker has taught courses such as documentary filmmaking, writing for comics, and film criticism to youth through the Pacific Northwest College of Art, Northwest Film Center, Documentary Northwest, and Project Youth Doc.

Episode 68 - Dr. Rick Strassman

Dr. Rick Strassman was born in Los Angeles, California in 1952 (although presumably he wasn’t a doctor at that point, at least not a credentialed one). As an undergraduate, he majored in zoology before transferring to Stanford University, where he graduated with departmental honors in biological sciences in 1973. He attended the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York, where he obtained his medical degree with honors in 1977.

Dr. Strassman took his internship and general psychiatry residency at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center in Sacramento, and received the Sandoz Award for outstanding graduating resident in 1981. After graduating, he worked for a year in Fairbanks, Alaska in community mental health and private psychiatric practice. From 1982-1983, he obtained fellowship training in clinical psychopharmacology research at the University of California, San Diego’s Veteran’s Administration Medical Center. He then served on the clinical faculty in the department of psychiatry at UC Davis Medical Center, before taking a full-time academic position in the department of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque in 1984.

At UNM, Dr. Strassman performed clinical research investigating the function of the pineal hormone melatonin in which his research group documented the first known role of melatonin in humans. 

He also began the first new US government approved and funded clinical research with psychedelic drugs in over twenty years. Before leaving the University in 1995, he attained the rank of tenured Associate Professor of Psychiatry, and received the UNM General Clinical Research Center’s Research Scientist Award.

He has published nearly thirty peer-reviewed scientific papers, and has served as a reviewer for several psychiatric research journals. He has been a consultant to the US Food and Drug Administration, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Veteran’s Administration Hospitals, Social Security Administration, and other state and local agencies. In 2007 he founded the Cottonwood Research Foundation, with Steve Barker and Andrew Stone,.

From 1996 to 2000, while living in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Dr. Strassman worked in community mental health centers for Washington State in Bellingham and Port Townsend. For the next four years, he had a solo private practice in Taos, New Mexico. 

After two years working on the edge of the Navajo Reservation in Gallup NM, he returned to northern New Mexico in 2006, where he served at a mental health center in Espanola.  Since mid-2008, he has been writing full-time. And has completed THREE books and is working on another seven most likely. He currently is Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

Episode 67 - John Voelz

John Voelz is a tamed rebel, artist, songwriter, painter, musician, writer, pastor, and aggravator. His love of all things creative in tandem with a severe angst towards mediocrity and religiosity has given him a unique platform as a voice in the church--local and worldwide. He is currently The pastor/curator at Lakeside Church in Folsom, California. He is also one of my oldest friends in the world. I have not known a man who is more invested in those riches which do not succumb to moth and rot than John. He is the embodiment of a supernatural grace that seeks to wrap the world in a relational embrace of sacrificial transformation. In other words, he loves fiercely and creatively because he feels we are all loved in this manner by the Ground of our individual and collective being. No matter where you stand on issues and ideology, I trust you will find a kind and kindred soul in his story...

Episode 66- Reema Zaman

Reema Zaman says this about her work: "Why else do we write or read but to invoke a loving voice in the dark, to alleviate our loneliness, to forge solidarity, to make sense of our inherent, stunning madness?"

Reema was born in Bangladesh, raised in Hawaii and Thailand, and moved to the US to attend college. She has a BA in Women's Studies, a BA in Theater, and a minor in Religion. After graduation, she worked as an actress and model in New York for 8 years. Now, she writes narrative nonfiction, is a life-coach and writes for "Dear Reema," where she responds to letters sent in by readers.

Her first memoir, I Am Yours, is written as though she's speaking to her imaginary best friend from childhood whom she never released. Some know their inner voice as God, a guardian angel, or a long deceased ancestor. Reema knows this as a presence she met when she was 3, a friend named "Love" - Love is her voice in the dark. "I Am Yours" is her story of stubborn perseverance through an unstable childhood, anorexia, disownment, rape, marriage, betrayal, divorce, the acting and modeling industry, racism, sexism, classism and more, with the help of ever loyal Love. 

For Reema, Life has not been simple but it has been full. I Am Yours is an intimate, comprehensive study in identity, loyalty, integrity, and authenticity. Zaman explore her past and present refracting selves: child, daughter, sister, wife, actress, Bangladeshi, immigrant, commodity, artist, woman.

On Dear Reema, the main intention is to serve others. She ceases being the main character and focuses on the reader's journey. Reema sources from her own life to explore similar topics as those found in I Am Yours: our connective, collective trials, childhood wounds, addiction, ambition, body image, sex, dating, love, relationships, self-empowerment, ownership, spirituality, recovery, healing, humility, purpose. For her, writing is service. Writing alchemizes our pain into poetry. Through it all, her mission is to be a conduit of love, a voice for those without one, to inspire and empower others to fill into their truest, boldest, brightest self. Reema believes we are one story and that all we truly need, we hold within.

"Pain, insecurity, trials, anger, confusion, the near-reckless desire to love and be loved deeply, these are our common specialties. Our fault-lines are where our paths intersect, where your shards align with mine. Reasons to never feel less or better than anyone. Reasons to never feel alone. How lovely that being human soothes the ache of being human.”

Episode 65 - David Jay Brown

David Jay Brown holds a master's degree in psychobiology from New York University (1986), and a B.A. in psychology from the University of Southern California (1983). He is the author of two science fiction novels, Brainchild (New Falcon, 1988) andVirus (New Falcon, 1999), and is co-author of two volumes of interviews with leading-edge scientists and artists--Mavericks of the Mind (Crossing Press, 1993) and Voices from The Edge (Crossing Press, 1995). He is also the author of The New Science of Psychedelics: At the Nexus of Culture, Consciousness, and Spirituality .

David's interviews have been translated into Japanese (Hachiman, 1995), Italian (Gruppo Futura, 1997), and Czechoslovakian (East Hauz, 1999). He was responsible for the California-based research in two of British biologist Rupert Sheldrake's books on unexplained phenomena in science: Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home (Crown, 1999), which was the bestselling science book in the world for several weeks in the Fall of 2000, and The Sense of Being Stared At (Crown, 2003). David has also made numerous contributions to other books, including having co-written a chapter in Terence McKenna's The Archaic Revival(Harper, 1992). 

He is currently working on two new books--a book with Annie Sprinkle about combining sex and drugs called Sex on Drugs, and a new book of interviews for St. Martin's Press entitled Renaissance of the Mind. David also teaches workshops with Annie Sprinkle on sex and drugs; to find out more visit:www.anniesprinkle.org

Episode 64 - Fernando Viciconte

Argentina-born Fernando Viciconte came of age musically in L.A. fronting the popular hard rock band Monkey Paw. He moved to Portland, OR, in 1994 and released Season in Hell, a downbeat collection of country rock. Almost immediately, he became a Northwest musical institution.

In 2001, Fernando founded his own label and released Dreams of the Sun and Sky, a gorgeous collection of gauzy, narcotic tracks with Latin and country-folk accents. The Oregonian named this album a top ten release of 2001. In 2006, Fernando returned from a hiatus from music and he delivered his most critically received record to date: Enter to Exit.

For this project, Fernando teamed up with long time friends from the Eels, Jeff “Chet” Lyster (who also plays guitar for Lucinda Williams) and Derek Brown and Paul Brainard from Richmond Fontaine, Lewi Longmire and John Amadon to make what many critics called one of the best pop rock records of 2006. Magnet Magazine went as far as naming Fernando one of the best new artists of 2006 in their year end issue. The album also garnered glowing reviews from Billboard, Paste, Amplifier, No Depression, and MSNBC.com.

Fast forward to 2015, with Fernando's most recent release, Leave The Radio On. 

Leave The Radio On features a virtual who’s who of Portland’s finest musicians, including Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey as well as members of M.Ward, Elliott Smith, Richmond Fontaine and The Delines. This is a new chapter in Fernando’s ever-evolving musical trajectory, a career marked by creative integrity and an almost painful honesty which attracts fans that still believe in the redemptive power of rock and roll.

Fernando was also be inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame in October of 2016. We have been following his career since it began and are so excited to finally have him on the program. A truly unique artist, he is a troubadour, a story teller, a traveling musical monk who reflects the grit, the devastation and the transformational beauty of a life lived in service of rhythm, harmony and the melodic sensations of our shared emergence. His music is familiar because it reminds us of deep, latent truth hidden in the storehouses of our collective experiences. He is a musical mirror for us to see ourselves in a new, yet utterly recognizable, manner. We hope you enjoy him as much as we do.

Photo Credit: Dan Eccles