In a media world where militant atheists jostle with right-wing talk-radio hosts to define religious life in North America, CBC radio’s Tapestry has, for many years, been quietly weaving quite another portrait of contemporary religiosity. You could say that this weekly one-hour program, designed to explore “spirituality, religion and the search for meaning,” is media faith-talk for the rest of us.
Veteran radio host Mary Hynes takes up provocative, whimsical and sometimes obscure topics, always radiating fascination and respect for her subjects. The show’s themes range across traditions: an interview with Islamic rock star Salman Ahmad one week, a conversation with the well-known Episcopalian preacher and writer Barbara Brown Taylor the next. The program also investigates pan-religious issues, such as the nature of hell or the intersection of the psychedelic drug culture of the 1960s with the quest for mystical experience.
Even when the subject matter seems self-evident, Hynes and her interviewees find ways to intrigue listeners. For example, we might generally agree that gardening can be a spiritual activity. In the “Back to the Garden” episode, however, we meet Fariborz Sahba, the Canadian architect who designed the famed Baha’i garden that surrounds the shrine of the Báb in Haifa, Israel. Then there is the entertaining segment of this same episode in which passersby on the streets of Toronto attempt to describe paradise.
Most gratifying about Tapestry are the assumptions that move through the program each week. Faith matters. Religious beliefs, practices and yearnings are integral to the warp and woof of what it is to be human.
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