MARS HILL AUDIO Journal

Volume 16

Guests on Volume 16: Philip Cushman, on the cultural history of psychotherapy in America; R. Laurence Moore, on religious disestablishment and the growth imperative; Keith J. Pavlischek, on the shrinking foundations supporting religious liberty; Dean M. Kelley, on the government's deadly interpretation of the Branch Davidian religion; Alan Jacobs, on the storytelling powers of neurologist Oliver Sacks; Kathleen Murphy, on Ingmar Bergman's films and the lack of seriousness in contemporary film; Michael Allen Gillespie, on the medieval (and theological) sources of nihilism; Robert Wilken, on similarities between the early Church's culture and our own; and Francis Crociata, on the music of American composer Leo Sowerby.

This is a back issue. Subscribe for immediate access to the current volume. Alternatively, you may purchase back issues or log in to access your library.

Part 1

  • Description

    Philip Cushman on the cultural history of psychotherapy in America

    Constructing the Self, Constructing America: A Cultural History of Psychotherapy (Addison Wesley Longman, 1994)

    Psychologist Philip Cushman suggests that after World War I, assumptions about the necessity of building character were replaced with more commercial and cosmetic aspirations for crafting personality. A cultural historian of psychotherapy, Cushman seeks to understand the relationship of economic, political, cultural, and religious changes in society and how those changes have shaped our perception of what it means to lead a good life and to be successful. He believes that with the birth of the modern era, and with the growth of urban areas, it became increasingly difficult in a society to be recognized as an individual via traditional means. Developing a "marketable" personality, attempting to sell the self as an attractive product, became the remedy of choice.

  • Description

    R. Laurence Moore on religious disestablishment and the growth imperative

    Selling God: American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture (Oxford University Press, 1994)

    In his book Selling God: American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture, R. Laurence Moore discusses the ways in which Americans treat religion as a commodity. He discusses how American religious entrepreneurs have since the 18th century adapted strategies and the understanding of their vocation to fit in a culture in which citizens are understood principally as consumers. Moore analyzes the ways in which American religion have coped with the cultural and economic changes that have turned the United States into a "flowering Eden of leisure industries." Moore warns that the secularization of America is diminishing the importance of religion in society and culture and changing religion's ability to criticize or to stand as a kind of transcendent reference in a culture.

  • Description

    Keith J. Pavlischek on the shrinking foundations supporting religious liberty

    John Courtney Murray and the Dilemma of Religious Toleration (Thomas Jefferson University Press, 1994)

    Dr. Keith Pavlischek traces the evolution of thought on religious toleration, from the role of Caesar in the Roman Republic, to the ideas about the separation of spiritual and temporal authority that emerged during the Reformation, to the battle between the metaphysical realists of the Enlightenment and the pragmatic relativists of the postmodern twentieth century. In his book John Courtney Murray and the Dilemma of Religious Toleration, Pavlischek discusses the shrinking foundations supporting religious liberty and the challenge of finding a philosophically acceptable rationale for this freedom.

  • Description

    Dean M. Kelley on the government's deadly interpretation of the Branch Davidian religion

    Aerial view of the April 19, 1993 Waco siege

    Dean M. Kelley, a counselor on religious liberty for the National Council of Churches, comments on the U.S. government's position on the Branch Davidian religion and its mishandling of the 1993 incident in Waco, Texas. He comments on the cult stereotype which the media and FBI hastily attached to this religious group, maintaining it is a stereotype to which people easily resort if they have very little understanding of religion and if they find economic and political explanations much more credible than religious motivations. He discusses whether the government's mishandling of this issue represents an entrenched anti-religious attitude or a tone-deafness to the nature of religion. He believes the government is unfamiliar with, and therefore insensitive to, the complexity of new religious movements.

Part 2

  • Description

    Alan Jacobs on the storytelling powers of neurologist Oliver Sacks

    Oliver Sacks (1933-2015)

    Book critic and professor Alan Jacobs discusses a collection of clinical tales written by neurologist Oliver Sacks, An Anthropologist on Mars. Dr. Sacks is committed to telling stories about his patients, many of whom are afflicted with bizarre neurological disorders. However, his book is written about people, not just diseases, with a belief that the medical establishment inadequately treats illness because it has turned itself into a kind of machine which lacks a sense of aesthetics and a sense of human sympathy. In an effort to explain what it was really like to experience the kinds of terrible neurological deficits of his patients, he began to write in a way that more and more resembled the work of a novelist than the work of a scientist. From this new perspective he realized that many of these afflictions or deficits are, in fact, blessings to these people.

  • Description

    Kathleen Murphy on Ingmar Bergman's films and the lack of seriousness in contemporary film

    Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)

    Kathleen Murphy reflects on the state of contemporary cinema through reflections of the films of Ingmar Bergman. Murphy laments the loss of a willingness in the culture to be open to questions of deep reflection, which is evidenced, she says, by the dearth of good writing about film. Moviegoers during the time of Bergman went to the cinema in the hopes of obtaining a revelation of wisdom about life or the possibility of finding out more about God or meaning. Murphy now sees films as an opportunity for "cinematic vogueing" in which directors dress up in another's vision, or in which all things are communicated through irony.

  • Description

    Michael Allen Gillespie on the medieval (and theological) sources of nihilism

    Nihilism Before Nietzsche (University of Chicago Press, 1995)

    Michael Allen Gillespie, author of Nihilism Before Nietzsche, discusses the roots of nihilism in the theology of William of Occam, who lived in a time of apocalyptic hope in the late Middle Ages in which people imagined a coming age where there would be direct rule from God, unmediated by the church or nature. This picture of an omnipotent God who could call good evil and evil good became known as nominalism. Since man is made in the image of God, the main attribute of man became, in this era, his will. This focus on the will is seen in contemporary culture on the insistence that if only the culture had enough desire any problem could be solved, according to Gillespie.

  • Description

    Robert Wilken on similarities between the early Church's culture and our own

    Remembering the Christian Past (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995)

    Robert Wilken, author of a collection of essays, Remembering the Christian Past, believes there are lessons that the contemporary church can learn from the ancient church about how to survive in our relativistic culture. Wilken discusses the religious roots of this relativism. He establishes the fact that the key issue in the period of the early church was one's ability to speak about the truth. Wilken also speaks about the important presence of martyrs in the early church and how martyrdom has become once again a part of contemporary Christian consciousness.

  • Description

    Francis Crociata on the music of American composer Leo Sowerby

    Leo Sowerby (1895-1968)

    Francis Crociata discusses the life and work of American composer Leo Sowerby (1895-1968). Sowerby lived most of his life in Chicago, writing religious anthems, chamber music, and music inspired by jazz. His reputation was solidified by his roles as a legendary teacher and choirmaster. According to Crociata, Sowerby was a spirited man of great discipline whose regimented work schedule led him to compose music on almost every day of his adult life. Crociata also examines the secrecy surrounding one of Sowerby's religious pieces.