March 2018 – BSR International Magazine Show

BSR International Magazine Show – March 2018

Hosted by James M. Branum


Welcome to the BSR International Magazine Show from Broad Spectrum, hosted by James M. Branum.

This program is scheduled for airing in March 2018.

In this episode…

* A programming note about our missing February show

* Jewish and Mennonite, a short podcast about my bireligious experience, which will be also be aired as periodic segments on this program

* A song from the Mexican band Calibre Cinquenta (50 Caliber) entitled Corrido de Juanito with a bit of discussion about the story of this song.

* An update on the case of whistleblower Reality Winner.

* And finally the BSR Radiogram, a digital mode program, which can be decoded using software such FLDGI…  so for any digital radio enthusiasts out there, please get your recorder ready as this will be starting around the the 30 minute mark.

So let’s get started…


So first… about our February show… well as is obvious by now, we didn’t do one. Life circumstances with family and job stuff just didn’t cooperate. I feel bad about this but the only thing to do is to move forward and get back to creating programming on a consistent basis again.

But to our next segment…


Intro Music

Jewish and Mennonite, Episode #1

From the start of BSR, Broad Spectrum Radio, I’ve shared bits and pieces of my religious/spiritual journey and have sought to use my programs as a way to promote a more tolerant understandings of faith, because I frankly think it is essential to peace in this world, but I haven’t shared my whole story, and I really haven’t made it clear that my religious identity is bireligious in nature.

So, I think it’s time for me to be more open, to explain how I, like a growing number of people in this country and around the world, find it too confining to be defined and limited by a single faith tradition.

In what I hope will be an ongoing series of programs, I will be sharing about what it is like to be bireligious, including some of the ethical and practical issues at stakes. I also want to share some of my observations from comparing, contrasting and experiencing two traditions, hopefully always from an attitude of respect. And there will be a good bit of discussion about what this looks like in the context of a family.

First though, I want to share a short version of my religious background, as it gives some important context, explaining how I got to this place.

I grew up in a conservative evangelical Christian tradition, the Churches of Christ, but more specifically the acapella-only branch of the Churches of Christ. It was there that I first developed faith, but also it was I first started to question and push back against what others told me to believe, particularly as a teenager and young adult.

In my young adult years, I started to drift from the astere experience of the Churches of Christ and towards the charismatic tradition, yet I didn’t sever all of my ties with the churches of christ,  as I ended up graduating with a bachelor’s degree from a Church of Christ school and I served for about a year as a Church of Christ preacher. I really did not fit well in this tradition any more.

This tension grew after I started to wrestle with the issue of violence from the perspective of the teachings of Jesus, which led me to see a conflict between my religious upbringing, which largely taught that abortion was wrong, but that the death penalty and war was ordained by God. As i dealt more squarely with the nonviolent teachings of Jesus, I was drawn to a pacficist understanding of faith.

As I sought to resolve these issues, I came across the Mennonites, and I found a church community to be a part of, one that was inclusive, open-minded and peace-centric. I joined that church on Easter Sunday, I believe coming up on 14 years ago. This congregation served to not only be my faith community but also became my primary base of peace activism, providing support and encouragement in my work over the years, particularly after I graduated from law school and plunged into working to help US military servicemembers who were seeking to be discharged from the military for reasons of  conscience, politics or other reasons.

But my journey of seeking didn’t end when I found Joy. I had quite a few questions about Christianity itself that troubled me, most notably the idea of hell as a place of eternal torment, as well as the idea that people of non-Christian faith traditions were not right with God. Thankfully my community at Joy was very tolerant for the most part with my faith questions, and they gave me the freedom to seek meaning in other traditions as well, including the Eastern traditions of Buddhism and Taoism, as well later the universalistic strains of the unprogrammed Quaker tradition.

But this searching still left me unsatisfied, and I often felt that I could be better define what I didn’t believe in, than what I could still believe in. There were parts of the Mennonite experienced that still worked well for me — the emphasis on individual conscience tempered by community discernment as well the emphasis on the ethical teachings of Jesus. But other things didn’t work so well for me, especially when it came to my hunger for meaningful rituals and spirituality. So much of Mennonite spirituality seemed tied up in a Christian theology that I no longer believed in.

Then something new came into my life, a rekindling of an old friendship, someone I had known from church and school connections from our teen years. What started off as a series of long email exchanges, led to romance and eventually to marriage and consequently step-parenthood at age 35, which opened new doors of understanding but also new questions. My faith journey was no longer a solitary one, but thankfully I married someone who was a fearless seeker, who had struggled through major life crises— cancer, the ending of a marriage, major career disruptions, and who saw that the shallow faith tradition given to her by well meaning loved ones just wasn’t enough.

It was in our first year of marriage that she shared with me, her interest in Judaism, especially in the family-based rituals of Shabbat and the holidays. And so I wanted to learn more, and so we started experimenting with home-based Jewish practice, so much so, that in time my son saw himself as more Jewish than anything else.

Since then we’ve grappled with the issue of identity, and we still don’t have the answers. We are still part of our Mennonite congregation and find a lot of good things there, but when it comes to our interior family life, we are more and more Jewish, so much so that, I decided a few years ago to go through the process of conversion, through the Society for Humanistic Judaism, one of the few traditions that allows converts to Judaism, who do not want to renounce their old faith traditions. And so today I see myself as Jewish and Mennonite, but also in some ways not very Jewish and not very Mennonite.

Along the way there have been some challenging ethical questions about all of this, particuarly as I was uncomfortable with the way that some Christians had co-opted Jewish practices in not-so-disrespectful ways, most notably in the so-called Messianic Jewish movement. I didn’t want to fall for this trap but I also was not comfortable with the advice some gave me that it was inherently wrong to engage in Jewish spiritual practices, when these practices had brought so much life and joy to our family lives. And of course I also worried about our son. Would he be hurt by not having a clear religious identity?

Thankfully, a few years into this, I received some sage advice, by way a retired Mennonite seminary professor, who I had the chance to talk to, on a long Amtrak train ride. My new friend suggested that I consider the metaphor of religions as languages. He went on to say that even fluent bilingual people do not mix two languages together at the same time (at least if one wants to be understood) but rather treats each language as its own world, with its own vocabulary, pronunciation and grammatical structure; hence it was best to experience each religion on its own terms and at its own time.

At the same time, I do think there is value in comparing and contrasting religious traditions, especially in looking for points of commonality. It these points of commonality but also contrast, that I think will be one of the major themes of upcoming shows, particularly in examining some of the following issues:

* The Jewish and Mennonite tradition’s emphasis of orthopraxy over orthodoxy — the idea that it is more important to do the right thing, than to believe the right thing

* The experience of the diaspora experience among both traditions, and how migration shaped each group’s identity.

* The question of identity – are these traditions a matter of ethnicity, personal choice or both?

* The different approaches of hermeneutics in each tradition, or to say it another way — how does each tradition read and interpret its scriptures.

And that’s just the beginning. I think there is a lot more to be gained in looking at these questions, but that’s where i will have to leave it for today. I am creating a special website to share this podcast, but you can also find these programs in the future as segments on the BSR International Magazine Show. And of course I would love to hear your comments. Please send them to me at broadspectrumradio(at)


Now it’s time for some music from the band, Calibre Cinquenta (50 caliber in English) – “Corrido de Juanito”

But, before we play this song, I’ll share a rough translation/paraphrase of the lyrics of this song, told from the standpoint of “Juanito”

I have been in the US for 14 years without papers. My mom has died back home and my father is old and is dying. I want to go back home to Mexico and see him before it is too late, but my dad says not to come, it’s too dangerous.

I work and work to take care of my kids .They are good kids, but they were born in this country and no longer speak Spanish. They don’t have his fear of ICE, that the immigration police will come and take them away, and that’s a good thing.

The people who drive by, they don’t see me, they just see my boots and hat. To them, I’m just a gardener or cook. We all look the same to them, and they look down at us.

But I’m still their friend, and I’m a Mexican, Mexican all the way to the brim.

Life is not easy and it’s getting harder.
It’s not how they say, that life is easy here, 
I remember the crosses,
The places where thousands died in the desert.

At night I’m can’t stop thinking,

Thinking and remembering those who stayed.
But I’m stuck here,
Growing older and older, 
But I’m grateful to God
That I’m alive,
For all that I’ve been blessed.

I send a greeting
To all my cousins,

My Aunts and uncles, my brothers and my sisters …

With sad and tired eyes,
I, Juanito promises,
And with sad tired eyes,

I vow that

Someday I will visit them,
Someday I will hug them.

The people who drive by, they don’t see me, they just see my boots and hat. To them, I’m just a gardener or cook, we all look the same to them, and they look down at us.

But I’m still their friend, and I’m a Mexican, Mexican all the way to the brim.

So that’s my rough translation…

Let’s now hear this song, Corridos de Juanito by Calibre Cinquenta


Reality Winner Update

Excerpt from Courage to Resist podcast:

BSR Radiogram

for March 2018


Includes QSL confirmations, inspirational quotes and readings, pictures etc, but you have to decode it yourself in MFSK32 format using a program like FLDGI