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About Us

“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 C. Camp, a professor of theology & ethics at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, had been wondering for some years how the song-writers could get at poignant and important questions in a three minute song, while the academicians required hundreds of pages, and often not nearly so provocatively. So the question: how to let some of the questions he raised in his lectures—about social justice, or war and peace, or love and sex, or religion and politics—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 each episode geared around a philosophical, theological, or ethical agenda, with hospitality as a guiding practice?  And, well, keep it lively with a sufficient amount of satire, wit, and snarky socio-political commentary to keep everyone on their toes.

It was an idea crazy enough to be dismissed, but it would not go away… So after many conversations; the support and mentoring of people like Randy Goodman at Lyric Street records; and brainstorming sessions with folks like writer David Dark, English professor Matt Hearn, and author and historian Richard Goode, 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 activist – playing banjo. Or Garrison Keillor being cross-bred with Bill Moyers.

TOKENS is part great music, part university lecture, part cultural analysis, and part good conversation, featuring Nashville’s finest musicians and songwriters, provocative interviews with best-selling authors, all mixed up with enough humor and satire to keep things ever 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;  makes space for bluegrass and classical on the same stage;  and brings all sorts of folks and genres together in a sort of unexpected back-porch kind of feel, in which the whole always turns out being more than the sum of the parts.