MARS HILL AUDIO Journal

Volume 57

Guests on Volume 57: John Hare, on why morality makes sense only on Christian grounds; Clifford Putney, on "muscular Christianity" and the origins of the YMCA; Andrei S. Markovits, on modernity, sports, and soccer in America; Wilmer Mills, on time, narrative, and the sequences of life, and on two of his poems; Steve Bruce, on diversity, individualism, secularization, and the atrophy of faith, and on why rational choice theory doesn't apply to religion; Colleen Carroll, on The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy; and Michael Budde & Robert Brimlow, Christianity Incorporated, on why Christianity should seem strange.

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Part 1

  • Description

    John Hare on why morality makes sense only on Christian grounds

    Why Bother Being Good?: The Place of God in the Moral Life (InterVarsity Press, 2002)

    Professor John Hare describes the relationship between morality and belief in God. Hare is author of Why Bother Being Good?: The Place of God in the Moral Life. He explains that people need some authority outside of themselves to hold them accountable for practicing moral ways of living. Belief in God provides this authority. Hare discusses how a moral life based on belief in God is different from being good for other reasons.

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    Clifford Putney on "muscular Christianity" and the origins of the YMCA

    Muscular Christianity: Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880-1920 (Harvard University Press, 2001)

    Historian Clifford Putney discusses the increased emphasis on physical fitness amongst Protestants at the turn of the nineteenth century. Putney is author of Muscular Christianity: Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880-1920. He explains that the development of YMCAs in America contributed to the Protestant concern for strong, fit bodies; immigration patterns also contributed to the concern. Before the era of non-Protestant, non-European immigration and before the YMCAs added gymnasiums to their reading rooms, Protestants had antipathy towards "artificial exercise" and professional sports. Putney describes how this antipathy gave way to "muscular Christianity."

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    Andrei S. Markovits on modernity, sports, and soccer in America

    Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism (Princeton University Press, 2001)

    Professor Andrei S. Markovits discusses why soccer is not as popular in America as it is in the rest of the world. Markovits is author of Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism. He compares learning about a sport to learning a language; if people are exposed to either early in life, it will be easier for them to learn it than if they are exposed later in life. Soccer is having a difficult time establishing itself in America because the nation has been exposed to it relatively late in life and its "sport space" is full of other sports. Markovits describes the term "sport space" and also attends to the characteristics of the sports that developed in the late 1800s.

  • Description

    Wilmer Mills on time, narrative, and the sequences of life

    Light for the Orphans (Treow House, 2003)

    "I noticed that whenever certain steps in life are combined or eliminated, they don't really disappear; the time it takes to do those original steps has been shortened or compressed, but human nature still wants to go back and cut the rice with the sickle. "
    Wilmer Mills

    Poet Wilmer Mills traces his concern with pace—in writing and life—to his childhood in Brazil; Mills is author of Light for the Orphans. Mills's perception and imagination were shaped while harvesting rice, and his appreciation for the process of manual labor and its slow pace has him at odds with the modern sensibility of time. The modern sensibility of time does not understand process, which enables people to think of life as a story progressing from scene to scene. Mills explains how the lack of understanding about process and life-as-story affects poetry. He also describes his poetry.

Part 2

  • Description

    Steve Bruce on diversity, individualism, secularization, and the atrophy of faith

    God is Dead: Secularization in the West (Blackwell Publishers, 2002)

    "Traditionally the major world religions have forced people to do things they don't want to do, that's the whole point: you have to do what God tells you."
    Steve Bruce

    Sociologist Steve Bruce discusses the decay of religion and its consequences. Bruce is author of God Is Dead: Secularization in the West. Religion used to shape Western society, he states, but it no longer does. Religion is no longer passed from generation to generation; it is seen as a private matter rather than as something important for the body politic; and fewer people attend church now than in earlier ages. Bruce explains that when people turn from traditional religion in order to customize their beliefs and gods, they pick those which do not demand much from them.

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    Colleen Carroll on The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy

    The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy (Loyola Press, 2002)

    "There's a real emphasis on giving the kids the tools they need to deal with this diverse, pluralistic culture."
    Colleen Carroll

    Journalist Colleen Carroll discusses the trend of Generation X to turn to the past for its religious traditions. Carroll is author of The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Orthodoxy. Instead of seeking spirituality without practicing religion, as many of their Baby-Boomer parents did, members of Generation X are ordering their lives according to the tenets and liturgies of orthodox Christianity. And although many are still single, they are also already planning ways to pass their religion on to their future offspring. Carroll explains their concern for teaching the next generation about truth.

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    Michael Budde & Robert Brimlow on Christianity Incorporated, on why Christianity should seem strange

    Christianity Incorporated: How Big Business Is Buying the Church (Brazos Press, 2002)

    "Our acceptance of corporate culture and corporate values has become so ingrained that there's a sense in the churches that there is a problem, but . . . [no one's] speaking the name of what the problem is."
    Robert Brimlow

    Professors Michael Budde and Robert Brimlow discuss the Church's role in society and how it tries to prove that it is still important. Budde and Brimlow are the authors of Christianity Incorporated: How Big Business Is Buying the Church. They explain that corporations and other institutions have usurped the role that the Church used to play in society, and that the Church has responded in part by donning the role of therapist. It has also tried to shape the look of its buildings and the style of its services to accommodate the corporate world. Budde and Brimlow note that this is a situation of mixed loyalties, stating that the Church should focus, instead, on strengthening its own traditions and teachings.

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    Steve Bruce, from the bonus track of the CD edition, on why rational choice theory doesn't apply to religion

    God is Dead: Secularization in the West (Blackwell Publishers, 2002)

    Sociologist Steve Bruce discusses rational choice theory and why it does not explain how religions are sustained. Bruce, author of God Is Dead: Secularization in the West, describes how rational choice theory could account for which religions people choose to practice. He notes, however, that religions cannot be compared through qualities that can be proven true or false rationally. He also describes additional problems with trying to apply the theory to the proliferation of religion. Religions are not sustained mainly through people's choices, says Bruce. For most of history, people were born into religious cultures and kept there through social forces beyond their control.

  • Description

    Wilmer Mills, from the bonus track of the CD edition, reads two more poems

    Light for the Orphans (Treow House, 2003)

    Poet Wilmer Mills reads two poems from his collection Light for the Orphans. The first of the two, "Diary of a Piano Tuner's Wife," was written ten years earlier than the second, "The Tent Delivery Woman's Ride." The first sets the stage for the perspective of the daughter in the second, he says. Both poems tell their stories in blank verse with unrhymed iambic pentameter.