MARS HILL AUDIO Journal

Volume 2

Guests on Volume 2: P. D. James, on why evil characters are easier to depict than good characters, and why some people like mysteries while others don't; William Kilpatrick, on Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong: Moral Illiteracy and the Case for Character Education; James Schall, on what sports and games tell us about human nature; A. N. Wilson, on how writing the biography of C. S. Lewis led him to renounce belief in Christianity; Michael Aeschliman, on why A. N. Wilson is wrong about C. S. Lewis; Russell Hittinger, on the Supreme Court's decision in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey; and Richard Crawford, on composer William Billings, one of the first important American composers of sacred music.

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Part 1

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    P. D. James on why evil characters are easier to depict than good characters, and why some people like mysteries while others don't

    Innocent Blood (Fawcett Book Group, 1982)

    Mystery writer P.D. James talks about mystery as a genre and the way her own religious leanings influence her fiction. Detective stories remain popular, according to James, because they require that readers use their human reason and ingenuity to solve problems, and because they rest upon a conviction that murder is a great irreversible crime and is always evil. James also reflects on why writing about good and virtuous characters is more difficult than writing about evil and wicked villains. She describes herself as a religious person who is aware that there is more to life than this world; in her novel Innocent Blood she explores what she calls "the great religious questions" of guilt and repentance, sin and redemption.

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    William Kilpatrick on Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong: Moral Illiteracy and the Case for Character Education

    Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong: Moral Illiteracy and the Case for Character Education (Simon and Schuster Trade, 1993)

    In his book on moral education, Boston College professor William Kilpatrick offers constructive advice for parents and teachers about how to cultivate character in children, criticizing the emphasis on "non-directive" education. Before the 1960s, the task of education involved teaching basic skills and passing on a moral and cultural heritage. With the rise of relativism, educators became fearful of imposing their values or cultural assumptions on students. By adopting a "value-neutral" stance, they assumed that children were inherently good and capable of forming their own moral structures as long as they possessed adequate self-esteem. Kilpatrick asserts that virtue requires training and discipline. He defends the use of imagination as a way to cultivate a passion for virtue that goes beyond ethical knowledge.

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    James Schall on what sports and games tell us about human nature

    Father Schall's essay on this issue, called "On the Seriousness of Sports," was published in Another Sort of Learning (Ignatius Press, 1988).

    Father James Schall, who teaches political philosophy at Georgetown University, reflects upon the importance of play and contemplation in ancient political thought. Throughout history, philosophers have upheld play as a worthy pursuit because it teaches players to be involved in something beyond themselves. Schall notes that the English word play refers to both games and drama. Both pursuits have their own logic, structure and ordering of time. As spectators or participants, we are drawn into this world of play to watch with fascination as the drama plays itself out.

Part 2

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    A. N. Wilson on how writing the biography of C. S. Lewis led him to renounce belief in Christianity

    C. S. Lewis: A Biography (W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1990)

    Novelist and biographer A. N. Wilson says that writing about the life of C. S. Lewis led him to part ways with Christian belief. Wilson found Lewis's strong defense of orthodox Christianity in works such as The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity distasteful and repellent. While he still admires Lewis in some ways, he is ultimately disillusioned with the man and the views of orthodox Christianity represented by Lewis. Wilson rests his rejection on his inability to accept the notion that Jesus believed himself to be the Messiah. Wilson is much more sympathetic to Lewis's friend J. R. R. Tolkien, and to John Cardinal Newman and Leo Tolstoy.

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    Michael Aeschliman on why A. N. Wilson is wrong about C. S. Lewis

    Referenced in this interview is A. N. Wilson's biography of Lewis: C. S. Lewis: A Biography (W. W. Norton, 1990).

    Michael Aeschliman, C. S. Lewis scholar from Boston University, defends Lewis against the claims of A. N. Wilson. Aeschliman questions Wilson's claim that Lewis was "a much smaller man" than Leo Tolstoy. The comparisons with Tolstoy are inappropriate, according to Aeschliman, because the men had very different styles and worked in altogether different genres. Aeschliman believes Lewis was one of the most brilliant thinkers of the twentieth century because he spoke to his readers with authority, unlike the "scribes and Pharisees" of his age.

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    Russell Hittinger on the Supreme Court's decision in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey

    Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, in which the Supreme Court upheld the right to abortion but allowed states to impose certain restrictions, was hailed as a victory by both sides in the abortion debate. Russell Hittinger, a philosophy professor at Catholic University, explains why the judicial reasoning behind this decision was a blow not only to the pro-life movement but also to civil society itself.

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    Richard Crawford on composer William Billings, one of the first important American composers of sacred music

    William Billings (1746-1800)

    Long considered one of America's first important composers, William Billings was born in Massachusetts in 1746. He wrote original music for church choirs and congregations, as well as patriotic and secular music. University of Michigan music professor Richard Crawford, biographer of William Billings, discusses the composer's musical background, style, and personal biography.