Volume 47

Guests on Volume 47: Christopher Clausen, on detachment from normative communities in a post-cultural age; Don Eberly, on the meaning of and challenges for civil society; George Weigel, on Pope John Paul II's theology of embodiment and sexuality; Luci Shaw, on poetry that reminds us that Christ's suffering shadows over the celebration of the Incarnation; Steve Wilkens, on Christianity and Western Thought: A History of Philosophers, Ideas, and Movements; David Harvey, on place and spaces, public and private; John Durham Peters, on the utopianism present in the modern idea of communication; and Masaaki Suzuki, on the ways in which Bach's music is a vehicle for the Gospel.

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Part 1

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    Christopher Clausen on detachment from normative communities in a post-cultural age

    Faded Mosaic: The Emergence of Post-Cultural America (Ivan R. Dee, 2000)

    The word "culture" has historically been used to describe the institutions and the moral demands passed on from one generation to the next through traditions, according to Christopher Clausen. Clausen describes contemporary American society not as "multicultural" but as "postcultural," because social institutions no longer have decisive influence on behavior or a sense of identity.

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    Don Eberly on the meaning of and challenges for civil society

    The Essential Civil Society Reader: The Classic Essays (Rowman and Littlefield, 2000) The book is organized in several sections: Civil Society Theory, Community as a Generator of Social Capital, Civic Trust and Social Authority, and Civil Society and the Democratic State. It includes essays by Robert Nisbet, Robert N. Bellah, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Amitai Etzioni, Michael J. Sandel, Mary Ann Glendon, Daniel Bell, and others.

    Don Eberly, editor of The Essential Civil Society Reader, examines the questions of how civil society can be kept healthy and whether economic or political solutions can play a part. The state fills a void, according to Eberly, whenever institutions of civil society fail; without informal forms of social authority, the force of law will intervene, according to Eberly.

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    George Weigel on Pope John Paul II's theology of embodiment and sexuality

    Witness to Hope: The Biography of John Paul II (Harper, 1999)

    Roman Catholic theologian George Weigel, who was given unprecedented access to Pope John Paul II and the Holy See while writing his biography of the pope, says that some of John Paul's most creatively intellectual work concerns the theology of the human body. Weigel calls this work the first credible response to the sexual revolution from anyone within the church, and predicts that it will reconfigure cultural arguments about sexuality in the future. Pope John Paul II's theories concerning sexuality are based on the premise that human sexuality is a far greater thing than we can imagine.

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    Luci Shaw on poetry that reminds us that Christ's suffering shadows over the celebration of the Incarnation

    Among the collections of Luci Shaw's poetry are (pictured) Polishing the Petoskey Stone: New and Selected Poems (Harold Shaw Publishers, 1990), Writing the River: Poems (Pi√on Press, 1994), The Angles of Light (Harold Shaw Publishers, 2000), and, forthcoming in March 2002 from Eerdmans, The Green Earth: Poems of Creation.

    Poet Luci Shaw mentions her preference that poetry about the Incarnation and the Nativity stand ". . .on the edge of stark reality rather than merriment, as Christina Rossetti does in her poem 'In the Bleak Midwinter'." Shaw discusses why so much poetry about the Nativity focuses on Mary, the mother of Jesus, and why the Annunciation and the Incarnation help us to deal with the darkness not only of Christ's entry into a conflicted world, but also with our own perplexity and anguish.

Part 2

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    Steve Wilkens on Christianity and Western Thought: A History of Philosophers, Ideas, and Movements

    Christianity and Western Thought, Volume 2: A History of Philosophers, Ideas and Movements (InterVarsity Press, 2000)

    The nineteenth century was a period in which issues related to religious belief and philosophy were influenced by political and social events, according to Steve Wilkens. As democracy and political rights became a reality and economic prosperity and literacy improved during the nineteenth century, Wilkens says that there was in America and Western Europe a strong sense that society was on the threshold of something good. It was a time, according to Wilkens, when Americans and Western Europeans felt they were existing right before the dawning of Utopia.

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    David Harvey on place and spaces, public and private

    Spaces of Hope (University of California Press, 2000)

    Professor of geography David Harvey, who has written extensively on postmodernity as a way of experiencing time and space, describes postmodernity as a time of intensified space-time compression, which emphasizes the volatility and ephemerality of life. Geography, for Harvey, was a good starting point for understanding differences among people, and he emphasizes that there was no pre-modern sense-of-place, or self-consciousness about where one belonged, because there was no ambiguity as to geographical identity.

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    John Durham Peters on the utopianism present in the modern idea of communication

    Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication (University of Chicago Press, 1999)

    John Durham Peters describes his book Speaking Into the Air as a history of communication theory from "Plato to radio." Peters claims that one of the most mistaken notions which guides communication theory is the idea that if we only communicated better or more easily, we would be able to eliminate many of the problems of social disorder and violence. This is a utopian hope, according to Peters, and sets too high a standard by expecting that minds are capable of understanding each other if they can fully communicate.

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    Masaaki Suzuki on the ways in which Bach's music is a vehicle for the Gospel

    The recordings of the Bach cantatas by the Bach Collegium Japan are presented on the BIS label.

    Masaaki Suzuki, director of the Bach Collegium Japan, has helped to stoke the enthusiasm for the music of J. S. Bach in Japan. The Collegium, which is currently recording all of Bach's cantatas, has seen its popularity rise because of the country's enthusiasm for choral music. Suzuki says that although only about one percent of Japanese would identify themselves as Christians, the Japanese are anxious to know as much as they can about Bach's music. When he lectures on Bach's music to Japanese audiences, Suzuki incorporates biblical elements to tell of the story and message of Jesus Christ.

    For more information about the Bach Collegium Japan, look at their web page at

    Masaaki Suzuki was born in 1954 at Kobe, Japan. At the age of 12, he began to play the organ for church services every Sunday. After graduating from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music with a degree in composition and organ performance, he continued to study harpsichord and organ at Sweelink Conservatory in Amsterdam under Prof. Ton Koopman and Prof. Piet Kee. During 1981-83 he was a harpsichord instructor at the Staatliche Hochschule fur Musik in Duisburg, Germany. Since his return to Japan, not only has he given many concerts as organist and harpsichordist all over the country, but he has also organized a well-known concert series at the chapel of Shoin Women's University in Kobe, where a French classical organ built by Marc Garnier is installed. Meanwhile Masaaki Suzuki has acquired an outstanding reputation not only as an organ and harpsichord soloist, but also as a conductor. As the Director of Bach Collegium Japan, Suzuki works together regularly with renowned European soloists and ensembles. Since 1983 Suzuki has given organ concerts in France, Italy, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Austria and other countries every summer. As a professor of organ and harpsichord, he teaches at Tokyo University of Fine Arts.