Common Knowledge

A Podcast About Interfaith Literacy

In a country more religiously diverse than ever, it is critical for people to understand the vital and inspirational knowledge—the traditions, the values, and the history—of religious and non-religious identities. What is the common knowledge that we all should know? Common Knowledge is a regular podcast featuring interviews and stories from leaders around the interfaith movement focusing on what we call “interfaith literacy”—the knowledge necessary to be a leader in a religiously diverse world. Find us on iTunes, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

The Case for Pluralism in a Divided Democracy

We live in a religiously diverse democracy, yet our country today seems frustratingly polarized around lines of difference and not connection. This month’s episode of Common Knowledge features a speech from IFYC president and founder, Eboo Patel, tackling this issue head on. Given in the aftermath of the 2016 election, Eboo offers his thoughts on how diversity can be a spur to social action and offers a vision for how to engage, not vilify, our differences.

2016: A Year in Review

For many folks, 2016 was a year of surprises, with both unexpected challenges and encouraging achievements. In a special New Year’s episode of Common Knowledge, Carr and Prerna share the writings, events, and people that inspired them during a tumultuous year. They also look to 2017 and discuss what they, as interfaith leaders, hope to see in the year ahead.

Links from Episode:

Small Community, Large Impact: A Personal Look at the Lucumi Tradition

The values we share in interfaith spaces are often rooted in deeply personal beliefs and customs. We hear about one of those traditions today from Taryn Harris, a follower of the Lucumi tradition. Incorporating beliefs from Africa, Europe, and the Americas, the Lucumi community is a small but vibrant group in the United States. Taryn shares with us the story of her first experience with the tradition and how that encounter provided the foundation for her own interfaith commitment.

Unaffiliated but Not Unconnected: Community Among Religious Nones

When does a spin class go from an excuse to lose a few pounds to a transformative shared experience? The answer might lie in what kind of community it creates. Among young people, 1 in 3 do not belong to a faith community, according to Pew Research Center. And yet, within this group, many are searching for forms of relationship related to their spiritual beliefs. We speak with Ryan Lewis, a SoulCycle instructor, about how he creates values-based relationships for his classes. We also talk with Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile, recent graduates from Harvard Divinity School, about similar groups that are serving these unaffiliated individuals.

"I Felt the Spirit Stir My Heart to Act": Pentecostal Beliefs in Action

1 in 4 American Christians identifies as Pentecostal. Often characterized by a direct connection to God and the Holy Spirit, Pentecostal beliefs motivated our guest, Tanya Lane, a writer and interfaith activist, to march through a desert on behalf of people very different from herself. She talks with us about that experience and the values underlying Pentecostal Christianity.

Hope in the Midst of Turmoil: A Reflection During Ramadan

This month, we offer a special short episode reflecting on the troubling and violent events this past summer—from Orlando to Medina. Jenan Mohajir, an educator and IFYC staff member, talks about how her Ramadan this year, overlapping with many of these incidents, was marked by both undeniable anguish and a renewed commitment to connect with those under threat.

A Catholic Response to the Refugee Crisis

How does a religious or nonreligious group respond to a major world event like the current refugee crisis? We talk with Bill Canny, the head of refugee support at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, about how Catholics serve people fleeing conflicts across the globe. We also hear a story from student Aneta Krzycka about an unlikely connection made between an American Catholic and a Libyan Muslim.

Interfaith On the Menu: The Shared Value of Food

Food (growing it, cooking it, and eating it) is definitely not off the table when it comes to engaging with different religious and non-religious groups. In this episode, we talk with Jeff Aeder and Stephen Kreisler of Milt's BBQ, one of the few kosher BBQ restaurants in the country. They explain how Milt's keeps kosher while also building community among a diverse culinary clientele. We also chat with Fred Bahnson, the director of the Food, Faith, & Religious Leadership Initiative at Wake Forest Divinity School, about how growing a vegetable garden provides an entree into understanding religious values.

"From the Spirit World": Discussing the Values of Shamanism

Followed by millions across the world, yet often overlooked in the United States, shamanistic practices express a diverse set of beliefs about the spirit world. We talk with Bonnie Glass-Coffin, a scholar of shamanism, about the core concepts of this practice and how those concepts connect deeply to interfaith cooperation. Olivia Phanchan, a social work specialist, also talks with us about a revelation she had while working with an elderly Hmong group in Wisconsin.


Christian Environmental Activism: A Conversation with Ben Lowe

Climate change and environmental degradation have been listed as a priority by political leaders, national security experts, and even Pope Francis. But what can young religious and ethical leaders do to address this issue? Ben Lowe, a writer and staff member at the Evangelical Environmental Network, talks with us about how his evangelical Christianity fuels his environmental activism and what interfaith groups can do to make an impact on climate change. For more on Ben Lowe, head to



The Unknown Civil Rights Leader: Pauli Murray

Pauli Murray’s legacy of civil rights activism is often overlooked in history books. As the first female African-American Episcopal priest, she influenced everyone from Eleanor Roosevelt to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. On this episode, we talk with Barbara Lau, the director of the Pauli Murray Project, about Murray’s trailblazing religious achievements, her advocacy for racial and gender equality, and the work going on in our present time to continue her legacy.

For more information on the interfaith legacy of Pauli Murray check out the Sojourners article by Common Knowledge co-host Carr Harkrader.



Art & Empathy: A Conversation with Rohina Malik

Issues of religion, gender, and ethnicity can often seem difficult to discuss or fully understand when not tied to our daily lives and concerns. Rohina Malik, a nationally-recognized playwright and performer, talks with us about how theatre can spotlight these issues in an approachable and empathetic way. Her one-woman show, Unveiled, looks at the lives of five Muslim women from differing backgrounds and how they challenge, confound, and exceed the stereotypes placed on them by others.



Measuring Success in Interfaith Cooperation

IFYC's vision is pretty big: make interfaith cooperation a social norm. Like most social movements, we do a lot to make that happen, but how do we know whether or not we're actually getting results?  How is data useful for the work of interfaith cooperation? On this month’s episode of Common Knowledge we talk with members of IFYC’s Assessment Team about how they utilize data to promote interfaith engagement on college campuses and what they see as major trends regarding religious attitudes for college students today. 




Intersections: Race, Religion, and the Conversation After Charleston 

On this episode we talk to Jen Bailey, a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and the founder of Faith Matters Network (FMN), an interfaith organization in the South. We hear her reaction to the recent terrorist murders at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. She also discusses the history of the AME Church in the United States and how FMN utilizes storytelling to promote interfaith action.



Hindus in Contemporary America

Varun Soni, the Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California, joins us this month on Common Knowledge as we talk about Hinduism in the United States. He chats with us about growing up Hindu as a boy in Orange County, California and discusses the challenges and opportunities of overseeing one of the most religiously diverse student bodies in the nation. We also share a story from Kristi Del Vecchio, a young interfaith activist, about how a Hindu concept radically changed how she thinks about food.

 To read the blog post on ‘appreciation vs. appropriation’ that we discuss in the episode, check out this link. And check out IFYC’s blog for more stories about interfaith engagement.



Islam and Interfaith Engagement

In this episode, focusing on Islam and interfaith engagement, we chat with Mustafa Abdullah, an IFYC alumni and current Program Associate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri. We’ll learn how interfaith work has played a part in his development as a civic activist and how he uses those skills in his work with the ACLU today. Also Randa Kuziez, an IFYC staff member, will share a story about how a lost Qur’an and some bad luck led to a meaningful interfaith moment.



Medicine and Interfaith Literacy

One of the most religiously diverse areas of American life is healthcare and medicine. In this episode, we hear from three people working at the nexus of medicine and religion. Christine Mitchell is a public health researcher who shares her experiences working as a chaplain at a cancer hospital. We also talk with Victoria Psomiadis, a student at University of South Florida medical school, about the importance of interfaith literacy in a doctor-patient relationship. And we hear from Aamir Hussain, a student at the University of Chicago medical school, about why he started a Spirituality and Medicine interest group for medical school students.



Interfaith Cooperation in Judaism

This month, we focus on concepts and stories that inspire Jewish interfaith work. We talk to Rabbi Josh Stanton about why he engages in interfaith activism and about the emergence of the new academic field of interfaith studies. Rachel Schwartz, an IFYC staff member, shares a story about how a trip to India offered her an unexpected insight into her own Jewish faith.



Sikhism and Storytelling (with Valarie Kaur)

In this episode, we talk with filmmaker and storyteller Valarie Kaur. We discuss the importance of storytelling in the interfaith movement and how Sikhs engage with interfaith work. We also hear from Maneshwar Singh, an interfaith leader at Loyola University whose passion for Sikh devotional music offered an entry point into the interfaith movement.



Mormonism and Interfaith (with Joanna Brooks)

In this episode, we talk with Joanna Brooks, a professor and author of the memoir The Book of Mormon Girl. We discuss the diversity within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how Mormons engage with interfaith work. We also hear from Keryn Wouden, a Mormon interfaith activist about how the interfaith service she was doing with a friend was tested by a deep disagreement over political views.



Evangelicals in Interfaith (with Rachael McNeal)

Evangelical Christians represent a significant portion of American religious life, yet they are often overlooked for their contribution to the interfaith movement. In this episode, we talk with Rachael McNeal, an interfaith activist and evangelical, about how being an evangelical inspires her own interfaith work. We also hear a story from Better Together director William Campbell about how his mother, an atheist, had a surprising impact on his own experience with evangelism.



Atheism, Humanism, & Interfaith (with Chris Stedman)

This episode, we talk to Chris Stedman, author and Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, about what it means to be both an atheist and an interfaith activist. Prerna Abbi, a secular Hindu, tells us about how an encounter in middle school involving PB&J sandwiches influenced her view of religion.



What Is Interfaith Literacy? (with Eboo Patel)

In our first episode, you’ll meet our hosts, Cassie and Carr, unpack the big idea that is interfaith literacy with Eboo Patel, and hear the story of a Christian minister from Chicago who learned a profound pastoral lesson from Buddhist monks in Thailand.