“TOKENS is one of today’s finest exemplars of exploration around the intersections of theology and the performing arts…” — The Englewood Review of Books
Lee had been wondering for some years how the song-writers could get at poignant and important questions in a three minute song, while the theologians required hundreds of pages, and often not nearly so provocatively. So the question: how to let traditional theological inquiry be informed by and be in conversation with good music and song-writing and folk-tales? No answer was forthcoming for some years – at least no answer that promised not to ruin both elements.
Then when Lee and his wife Laura, long-time listeners to Garrison Keillor, went to Garrison’s show at the Ryman on New Year’s Eve 2006, the “crazy idea” that became Tokens hit Lee and would not leave him alone: what about the old-time radio format, with some sort of under-stated but explicit and coherent theological agenda?
It was crazy enough to be dismissed, but would not go away… So after many conversations and collaboration with many extremely talented and helpful friends, both old and new, Tokens made its way into the world, with its first show on February 27, 2008.
It is, we hasten to say, a sort of delight better experienced than described. So unlike anything else, one can only get at it through metaphor: something like Mark Twain – with all his satire, wit, and social conscience – meeting God and actually liking the God he meets. Or Thomas Merton – monk, author, and contemplative – playing bluegrass. Or Garrison Keillor being cross-bred with Bill Moyers.
TOKENS is part great music, part theology lecture, part cultural analysis, and part good conversation. TOKENS features Nashville’s finest musicians and songwriters, provocative interviews with best-selling authors, and enough cultural and political satire to keep things lively.
“Breaking down false dichotomies one episode at a time,” we like to say, TOKENS opens dialogue between artists and historians, storytellers and scholars, comedians and activists.
And the name “TOKENS”? From activist and writer and lay-theologian William Stringfellow: “Discerning signs has to do with comprehending the remarkable in common happenings, with perceiving the saga of salvation within the era of the Fall. It has to do with the ability to interpret ordinary events in both apocalyptic and eschatological connotations, to see portents of death where others find progress or success but, simultaneously, to behold tokens of the reality of the Resurrection or hope where others are consigned to confusion or despair.”
Buy tickets to the next show here.