It’s just a few days until Election Day here in the United States, COVID numbers are on the rise again around the world, and as we do what we can to make our lives feel somewhat “normal” this fall — it can feel like a lot because it IS a lot. On top of this, we’ve also got serious information overload everywhere we look.
It feels like our two choices are to either deep-dive into staying current on absolutely every bit of information that’s out there, or bury our heads in the sand and pretend like we don’t need to stay informed because it feels uncomfortable to us. Neither one of those options are good, though, because they inhibit us from both being good neighbors and being good to ourselves.
Right now it’s all the more important to take in current events as necessary, then purposely stop the news feeds and take in other things as well. I’m a big podcast fan — no surprise there. Here are five podcasts currently helping me these days, either by staying informed or by helping me enjoy something else besides the news. I’m also recommending a recent episode for each of them so you can see if it’s a good fit for you right now, too.
This is one of my favorite podcasts right now, and it’s a show about history, one of my favorite subjects to nerd out on. Their basic premise is to go back in time to understand the present, which means the topics they explore are timely.
Their recent episode on the electoral college was phenomenal, but the episode I’m recommending is called The Evangelical Vote — it was eye-opening. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And I couldn’t stop recommending it to people in my life that I knew would appreciate it.
Regardless of your own personal history and whether it intersects with American Evangelicalism, you’ll gain something from this episode because it pulls back the curtain on a significant part of our society.
2. Pantsuit Politics
This podcast is probably not brand new to you because this show has gotten hugely popular recently, which couldn’t make me happier. I think it’s the best political podcast done by some of the best women around. The basic idea is grace-filled political conversations filled with tons of nuance, and if there’s anything our culture’s rhetoric needs regarding politics right now, it’s grace and nuance. They serve us well in processing and filtering the most important news and explaining it in layperson terms.
Current event-specific episodes release on Tuesdays and Fridays, but the episode I recommend is from mid-October 2020, which is not too long ago from now, but you know how fast the news moves these days. It’s called Political Shifts and the VP Debate, and even though they’re analyzing the vice presidential debate, there’s still so much in their chat that’s timeless, especially when they get into how we should think about politics as rational citizens.
Two young Catholics, Ashley and Zac, cover the week’s Catholic news, then chat with someone in the public sphere about some current event. It’s pretty laid-back yet doesn’t ramble, and those are my two most important ingredients in podcasts I listen to.
I really enjoyed a recent episode with NPR correspondent Scott Detrow, who’s been covering the campaign trail, called Joe Biden’s Catholic Faith on the Campaign Trail.
4. This Day in Esoteric Political History
Co-hosts Jody and Nicole talk about one thing that happened in political history on the day that episode airs. New episodes release twice a week, and since they’re short, they’re easy to quickly listen to. Again, since I love history, I learn something new in each one because the things they usually talk about are obscure — they’ve got episodes about fallout shelters in 1961, a bank war in 1833, Wyoming’s entry to the US in 1890, and even more recent things like Obama’s tan suit in 2014.
The specific episode I’m recommending is one from earlier this year in April 2020 about when President Wilson contracted the influenza virus in 1919 that had become a global pandemic. They reposted it in early October when news hit that our current president contracted COVID, and it’s a fascinating look into what it was like a hundred years ago when something similar happened. it’s called The President Catches the Virus (1919).
5. Poetry Unbound
From The On Being Project, you should listen to this show alone for the voice of its Irish host, poet Padraig o’Tuama. Its premise is an invitation to immerse yourself in a single poem twice a week and it’s short and unhurried; contemplative and energizing. If you love poetry, or if you don’t yet but you want to love poetry, this podcast is for you.
Padraig reads the poem once, shares his reflections on it, then reads it a second time. This is the show you need to listen to when you feel stressed or rushed and you’re in search of a reason to stop and just be. The recent episode I recommend is called A Blessing by James Wright, where Padraig unpacks a poem about nature, perfect for the fall.
So, there you go — five podcasts that both inform and delight, that help us become better people holistically, both for our inward growth and our work of being better neighbors to each other. I’m grateful for each of these labors of love.