I feel like the world has changed so much. So, in the mid-’90s, late-’90s, having been a journalist, coming out of divinity school — so this was the Moral Majority — this was this moment where a lot of very loud, strident religiosity had claimed its place and was everywhere. And actually, religion was in the headlines. And then, in the years I was creating the show, we went through September 11. We had an evangelical president in the White House. So there was a lot of religiosity in the headlines, and a lot of new curiosity about it, but also, a lot of religious people getting quiet because they didn’t want to be associated with —
MS. PERCY: With the loud voices.
MS. TIPPETT: And journalists, I felt, colluding with handing over the microphones and cameras to the loudest voices.
MS. PERCY: What time period would this be? This is the early 2000s?
MS. TIPPETT: This would be like mid- to late-’90s…
MS. PERCY: Got it.
MS. TIPPETT: …and then, into the turn of the century. And I just felt that this is such an important part of life, this huge part of life which we call religion — where religion happens, spirituality, moral imagination, and that we didn’t have any places where we were talking about the sweep of that. And even when these voices hit the news, you didn’t get the spiritual content of this part of life, much less the intellectual content of this part of life, and the nuance and really, the breadth of the ways this is lived. And so that was my desire, to do that, and I thought public radio would be a place to do that.
But I think what we started doing, from the very beginning, was drawing out a different kind of conversation, voices that weren’t being heard. It was very focused on religion per se, and then we moved through the backlash to that, which is what I think the New Atheist was, New Atheist movement. What was interesting to me about all of that, this kind of very strident anti-religion — coming through all of that, this new conversation that’s happening across these lines; across religious lines, across boundaries of religious and non-religious, all kinds of scientific inquiry, and theology and spiritual inquiry. And so, when you ask me what this is and what it’s become, it’s been so fluid and evolving.
.. here we are in 2018, in a fractured world, in a hurting world — and yet, we’re in this moment of passage, and we’re in this moment of generational change. And I think we’re in a moment where there’s huge culture shift happening, and right now the destructive aspects of that are really on display and better-covered; but there’s a lot that’s new that’s being created; there’s a lot of denial that’s dying. There’s a lot of generative possibility and people living into it, and I think the Impact Lab is just gonna equip us that much more intentionally and practically to meet that.
.. we’re really exploring this, in some ways, very old-fashioned word of “formation,” of becoming the kind of people that we are meant to be, in some way; that we are called to be, especially in this moment, and thinking about what are the spiritual technologies that can help us develop those virtues.
MS. TIPPETT: And a way of even being with strangers.
MR. TER KUILE: Absolutely. We had these long tables where people sat down at meals, and it made me realize, dinner is one of our spiritual technologies.
.. MS. PERCY: I love that you mention, Erinn, two things, which is hospitality and, also, community. As a Hispanic person, that is the tenets of being Hispanic, is — eating, as well; so it’s community, hospitality, and food. But I think those are two key things to everything that we do at The On Being Project. And community, in particular, is something that I feel so proud of, that we engage with our community in the way that we do.
.. Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche. And somewhere he writes that if a community is only for itself, it will die — which I thought was so striking, because I think that’s one of the things that I’m most passionate about, as we think about building community and building relationships, is that it isn’t just for itself; it’s for a world transformed in some way.
In Jesus’ time, the dominant institution was the kinship system: the family, the private home. That’s why early Christians gathered in house churches, much different from the typical parish today. In Matthew’s Gospel the word house is used many times. Jesus is always going in and out of houses (as in 8:14, 9:10). What happened around the tables in those houses shaped and named the social order. Table friendship ends up defining how we see friendship in general.
Jesus often used domestic settings to rearrange the social order. Nowhere was that truer than with the meal—with whom, where, and what he ate. This is still true today, more than we might imagine. (Another example of Jesus changing the social order is in the relationship between employers and workers.) Jesus’ constant use of table relationships is perhaps his most central re-ritualization of what family means. Note that he is always trying to broaden the circle (see Luke 14:7-24 for three good examples). Jesus brought this all to fullness in his “last supper” with “the twelve.” This was not to emphasize male fellowship, but the full quorum of the twelve tribes of Israel.
.. Jesus didn’t want his community to have a social ethic; he wanted it to be a social ethic. Their very way of eating and organizing themselves was to be an affront to the system of dominance and power. They were to live in a new symbolic universe, especially symbolized by what we now call open table fellowship.
In all cultures, sharing food is a complex interaction that symbolizes social relationships and defines social boundaries almost more than any other daily event. Whom you eat with defines whom you don’t eat with. Certain groups of people eat certain kinds of food. Through our choices and behavior at table, we name and identify ourselves.
.. This might seem like an unfair example to some, but today a vegetarian (or even vegan) diet has become a conscious choice for many because they’ve studied the politics of food: who eats meat and who can’t eat meat; what eating meat is doing not only to our health but even to the planet. Researchers surmise that the meat-heavy Western diet contributes to one-fifth of global emissions on our planet.  Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh writes:
As a spiritual family and a human family, we can all help avert climate change with the practice of mindful eating. Going vegetarian may be the most effective way to stop climate change.