Between Heaven and Earth: An Audio Documentary Series on Spirituality, Place, and Climate in America”

A forthcoming ten-episode-series on the podcast, Sacred & Profane exploring how religious groups and movements have understood human interaction with the natural world and addressed environmental issues.

Project Co-Directors: Kurtis R. Schaeffer & Martien A. Halvorson-Taylor, Co-Directors, Religion, Race & Democracy Lab

The University of Virginia Democracy Initiative’s Religion, Race & Democracy Lab (RRD Lab) has received a $199,663 Media Projects Production Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of Between Heaven and Earth, a new series of audio stories exploring the riveting interrelationships between religion, spirituality, politics, and civic participation. These converge in response to climate change, with its urgent call to define and redefine, imagine and reimagine, humanity’s ways of relating to the natural world. This series of ten thirty-minute podcast episodes represents a novel and needed approach to conveying complex scholarly investigations to a general audience: that of weaving these investigations into engaging non-fiction narratives. Each episode will be researched, developed, and aired over the course of twelve months (July 2022–June 2023), and each will showcase how a different group in the United States has been informed by varying conceptions of the sacred, the human, and the natural as they engage with their environments and the political and corporate entities that shape those environments.

From Mormons making the deserts bloom in Utah to the “wildcat Christians” of Pennsylvania and Texas, from the climate refugees in Arkansas to the Baptists and Hindus protesting natural gas pipelines in Virginia, each story will be enriched by the production team’s and humanities advisers’ on-site engagement with both the human and non-human subjects whose stories the series will tell. Scholars and contributing experts will work closely with the RRD Lab’s senior producer to guide the listeners through ten encounters with landscapes and the human subjects who endow those landscapes with meaning. This polished, expertly produced podcast season will be accompanied by landing pages on the RRD Lab’s media-rich website where visitors can read complete transcripts, enjoy photography, video clips, and soundscapes captured at the sites, follow links to related articles, delve into discussion questions, and learn more about story contributors. Between Heaven and Earth will be featured as season four of the RRD Lab’s signature podcast, Sacred & Profane, a program devoted to exploring the manifold and often unexpected ways that religion shapes our daily lives.

(Top) still from God$Green: An Unholy Alliance