A podcast featuring real conversations, live stories, and more questions than answers.
Exploring modern-day spirituality with storytellers, comedians, pastors, academics, artists, atheists, believers, and all kinds of normal folks to talk about their relationship with truth, authenticity, and mystery.
This week’s guest on Choose Your Own Religion is none other than my dad! Rev. Dr. Jody Welker has been a Presbyterian minister for nearly 40 years, and I finally had him on the show to mark my beginning at Harvard Divinity School and my unlikely return to Christianity. We talk about our different takes on the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit, and the relationship between psychedelics and Christianity.
Jessica Michelle Singleton chooses her own religion again! She came back to the show to talk about a 10-day silent meditation retreat that spawned her one-woman show, “Codependent Arising” as seen in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We talk about how meditation helps us with suffering, compassion, abandonment, helplessness, and dealing with ghosting! Recorded live from beautiful Debs Regional Park in Los Angeles, CA.
Da’Jon James chooses his own religion! Da’Jon is the outgoing music director at Throop Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasadena, CA, and on this episode we explored the relationship between music, emotions, and worship, as well as diving into a conversation on race--diversity initiatives, tokenism, and Da’Jon sharing his lived experience as we talked about how we can learn not to blend together, but to harmonize.
Check out Top Shelf Vocal at topshelfvocal.com!
Live stories told by three Los Angeles storytellers centering on finding comfort in unlikely places, from anxious Tarot readings, the loneliness of a New Mexico monestary, to a partner’s miraculous hospital experience. Featuring storytellers Erica Blumfield, Rex McDaniel, and Ashton Clarke. Recorded in March 2019 at Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasadena, CA.
Jonathan Levy, aka “Zero Waste Guy” is a Zero Waste Project Manager and Green Building Council True Adviser, and on this episode we talked about environmentalism and spirituality. We also talked about the challenges of dating as an environmentalism, making others feel less guilty around you, environmental capitalism, transcendent moments with nature, community, and Unitarian Universalism. Episode includes his story from the live Choose Your Own Religion in January 2019.
Moth-winning storyteller and actress Erica Gerard told me about her call to becoming a rabbi…and her call away from it. We also talked about chaplaincy, Yiddish, corporate branding of mental illness, the beauty of disillusionment, deep listening, and what we’re looking for in a community. Episode includes her story from the live Choose Your Own Religion in January 2019.
David LaMotte is an award-winning songwriter, speaker and writer, as well as the founder and president of PEG Partners (Proyecto para las Escuelas Guatemaltecas, or Guatemalan School Project) and a member of the Abraham Jam. In this episode we talk about our experiences in Guatemala and how to make big changes with small differences, as well as David’s interfaith music project with Abraham Jam.
Tahil Sharma is an Interfaith Minister for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and the Faith Program Manager at Brave New Films, and he came on the show to discuss the beauty and challenges of interfaith dialogue. He told me his story of growing up with a Hindu father and a Sikh mother and almost getting arrested at the border in December. We also talked about the best way to address racism, spiritual formation and activism, mindful law enforcement, the problems of ideology, and humanizing the immigration crisis.
Chase Bernstein (Last Comic Standing) is one of my favorite comedians here in Los Angeles and I convinced her to come talk about Judaism and what it means to her. We talk about her bat mitzvah, Kabbalah, the role of belief in Judaism, intimate moments with strangers, the dangers of ideology, the different styles of comedic healing, and more. Follow Chase’s amazing Instagram account @chasebernstein and on Twitter @chase__chase!
Ryan Singer (Me & Paranormal You) just released his latest standup album “Free Love” but grew up wanting to be a priest, so we talk about the similarities of comedy and ministry. We also talk about expression vs. communication, capitalism, sociopaths, freedom, rationality, Unitarian Universalism, and the ethics of Dave Coulier.
Dan Prevette (The Back Pew podcast) returns to choose his own religion a third time! Dan grew up the son of Evangelical Christian missionaries and on this episode we (briefly) discuss what Christmas means to us this year. We also talk about why Thomas Paine deserves a musical, the Enneagram, other-izing Christians we don’t like, politics dictating religion, therapy, our problems loving our enemies, self-acceptance, and learning to love being common.
Rev. Lissa Anne Gundlach, Senior Minister at Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church, on to help me discern my own call to UU ministry as well as give her perspective on its history and tradition what it means to “have faith” as someone who grew up UU. We also talk about the relationship between preaching and comedy, storytelling, the pros and cons of going deep in one faith tradition versus UU, and living in an interfaith community.
Writer and storyteller Emerson Dameron grew up Protestant (Episcopalian), and in this episode we talk about navigating the many religious maps out there in walking our own path. We talk about the #MeToo movement in Buddhism, dealing with alcoholism, how the ego functions in addiction, recovery, Unitarian Universalism, life before the internet, storytelling, spiritual materialism, and more. Follow Emerson on Twitter @emersondameron!
Ryan McGranahan is a storyteller from Los Angeles and a member of Ecclesia Gnostica, a Gnostic Christian church here in Los Angeles, and he came on the show to explain Gnostic Christianity to me. We talk about Jesus in the Gnostic tradition, the inversion of Christian tropes, little-g gnosticism, the divine feminine, magic, rituals, cosmological differences, the importance of belief, prayer, symbolism, and how it all comes back to the Matrix.
Rachel Mac and Devin Blake, aka the MacBlakes, have an interfaith marriage, Rachel being a Christian and Devin…not. What began as a talk on their interfaith marriage turned into a discussion of Rachel dissecting some Earth-shattering information that has affected her Christianity, and affected mine long ago. In this episode we talk about how the Bible was formed, recontextualizing our faith, whether our parents would call us Christian, the Enneagram, Richard Rohr, the sociopolitical implications of Jesus, and whether I will be able to curse as a minister. If you’re in Los Angeles, check out Rachel’s Bitchface Comedy and Devin’s Backyard Bootlegs and each month.