When Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers started a political podcast in November 2015, they planned to discuss specific policies from their opposing perspectives, providing the nuanced conversations they didn’t hear anywhere else.
Instead, Pantsuit Politics, hosted by “Sarah from the Left” and “Beth from the Right,” is more often a discussion of deeper values than of specific policy positions. This project has grown since its inception, now with over three million downloads, and inspiring a second podcast, The Nuanced Life, which tackles other topics like families, careers, and relationships.
Holland’s and Silvers’ professional focus on values, in many ways, developed from their personal faith journeys. Both grew up in religious families, but left church life after college. Holland joined her husband at an Episcopal church after they had their first son, wanting a community in which to raise their family.
For Silvers, the 2016 U.S. presidential election inspired her to find a new church family. “I needed something stable in my life, because the world felt so unstable,” Silvers remembers. “I wanted to find ways to reconnect with new institutions and find female leaders to serve as good role models for my young daughters.”
She found everything she was looking for at Florence Christian Church. “I have found something in the Disciples of Christ that’s very different from what I grew up in,” Silvers celebrates. “There is a focus on discernment that I didn’t know I needed in my faith, but it has been wonderful for my family, and even how I analyze issues on the podcast. I don’t think I would have as grounded political analysis without it.”
Since joining new churches, these Kentucky co-hosts have noticed their faith and politics intersect. “It’s always presented as ‘spirituality can help you survive politics,’” explains Holland. The basic premise of their podcast and forthcoming book argues, “yes, but politics can help you grow as spiritual person. Being involved in politics, talking with people who disagree with you – those conversations can push you along on your spiritual journey.”
The goal of their work together is not to convince audience members to agree with either of their perspectives, but to encourage listeners to start similar conversations.
Holland suggests the best way to start a nuanced political discussion “is just to start. You have to give yourself grace – it’s not always going to feel great because it’s hard work.”
Silvers recommends beginning difficult conversations with “the purpose of strengthening your relationship, getting to know yourself and each other better…Take a step back from the issue or law and focus on your values.”
“If our faith communities can’t be leaders in that, then we’re in trouble. If we can cultivate a sense of grace around tough issues, then we can proceed to make the changes we need.”