MARS HILL AUDIO Journal

Volume 6

Guests on Volume 6: Terry Eastland, on the history of the Supreme Court's interpretation of religious liberty; Ted Prescott, on nudity in art and advertising; Wade Clark Roof, on A Generation of Seekers: The Spiritual Journeys of the Baby Boom Generation; Alan Jacobs, on W. H. Auden's poetry and social philosophy; Ken Myers, on the culture of therapy; Neil Postman, on how technology alters consciousness; Roger Lundin, on The Culture of Interpretation: Christian Faith and the Postmodern World; and Roger Bullard, on Messiah: The Gospel According to Handel's Oratorio.

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Part 1

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    Terry Eastland on the history of the Supreme Court's interpretation of religious liberty

    Religious Liberty in the Supreme Court: The Cases that Define the Debate over Church and State (Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1993)

    Terry Eastland is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and editor of a book, Religious Liberty in the Supreme Court, which explores the philosophies which have shaped the Court's treatment of religion cases for the past fifty years. Primary among these is "rights-based liberalism"—a political philosophy that tends to eclipse responsibility, duty, and morality in the name of individual liberty. Eastland notes that many legal scholars and political philosophers recognize that a rights-oriented society cannot sustain healthy democracy in the midst of increasing moral and social decline. Eastland also explains how the Court's understanding of religion as a wholly private affair which has no public significance affects their rulings, and highlights the discrepancy between a religious believer's understanding of faith as a compulsory matter and the Court's assumption that religion is simply a matter of choice.

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    Ted Prescott on nudity in art and advertising

    Art critic Kenneth Clark wrote what is widely regarded as the classic treatise on the use of nudity in art, entitled The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form (Princeton University Press, 1972).

    Professor and sculptor Ted Prescott traces the history of nudity in art from the Greco-Roman period, through the Renaissance, and to the current trends in modern advertising. According to Prescott, the difference between the depiction of the body in art and in advertising has to do with the ends the two disciplines hope to achieve. Advertisements, as opposed to art, use nudity to attract potential consumers to products. While advertisements can be artistically and aesthetically pleasing, their primary purpose is to convince people of their need for the product. The body becomes, according to Prescott, "a stylized piece of furniture on which to hang a product."

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    Wade Clark Roof on A Generation of Seekers: The Spiritual Journeys of the Baby Boom Generation

    A Generation of Seekers: The Spiritual Journeys of the Baby Boom Generation (HarperSanFrancisco, 1993)

    Sociologist Wade Clark Roof, a professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara, studied the spiritual lives and religious convictions of the Baby Boom generation. In his book, A Generation of Seekers, Roof explores the social factors that shaped this group. He asserts that the anti-institutional ethos of the 1960s gave rise to a forceful individualism which posited the self as the ultimate source of truth and authority. For many, true religion came to mean "finding oneself" or finding "what works for me." Boomers were also introduced to alternate world religious traditions through technology and travel. As a result of this exposure and their individualistic understanding of religious authority, many Boomers concluded that all religions are equally good and true.

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    Alan Jacobs on W. H. Auden's poetry and social philosophy

    For the Time Being by W.H. Auden

    Literary critic Alan Jacobs reflects on the roots of poet W. H. Auden's religious conversion. Jacobs explains that Auden turned to Christianity when his own humanistic tradition failed to provide a way of explaining or combating the evil he encountered during the Spanish Civil War and the rise of Nazi Germany. After his conversion, Auden wrote the text for a Christmas Oratorio called For the Time Being. In this composition, the poet wages a brilliant attack exposing humanism's failure to understand human nature. In the section entitled "The Massacre of the Innocents," Auden shows that even the best attempts to construct society around liberal humanistic principles result in tyranny.

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    Ken Myers on the culture of therapy

    "Walker Percy's Guide for the Perplexed," (James Thompson: The World & I, January 1994) "Psychotherapy Awry" (Dr. Paul McHugh: The American Scholar, Winter 1994)

    Host Ken Myers mentions two articles that offer insightful words about contemporary culture. "Walker Percy's Guide for the Perplexed," by James Thompson (The World & I, Jan '94) reflects on Percy's response to the evil and decadence of the twentieth century. As a Christian, Percy refused to adopt stoicism's posture of despair or grudging endurance. Instead, Percy insisted that one must acknowledge that the times are bad without losing the hope that rejoices in the goodness that does exist. The second article, "Psychotherapy Awry" by Dr. Paul McHugh (The American Scholar, Winter '94) chronicles the battle between the Romanticist and Empiricist schools in psychotherapy. McHugh highlights the mutually damaging ways in which therapy and culture have influenced one another.

Part 2

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    Neil Postman on how technology alters consciousness

    Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992)

    In his book Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, New York University communications theorist Neil Postman argues that technologies alter the way we think about the world. Postman asserts that Americans are now living in a technopoly: a culture in which technology has become sovereign over traditional modes of human association and social values. Rather than serving as a tool which helps solve specific problems, technology has become an end in itself: invention for the sake of invention. While Postman recognizes that inventions often confer benefits, he warns that they also limit possibilities (for example, one can no longer buy a Honda Accord without power windows). Technologies, according to Postman, are Faustian bargains: they giveth, but they also taketh away.

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    Roger Lundin on The Culture of Interpretation: Christian Faith and the Postmodern World

    The Culture of Interpretation: Christian Faith and the Postmodern World (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993)

    Roger Lundin, an English professor at Wheaton College, surveys the history of postmodern ideas and reflects on their consequences in his book The Culture of Interpretation. Lundin suggests that television talk shows which feature bizarre and deviant behavior are a manifestation of the postmodern penchant for tolerant inclusiveness. He notes that the drive for absolute inclusivity undermines the notion of community, which necessarily involves the setting of limits and prohibitions. Lundin warns that when the church markets the gospel as a therapeutic tool that fulfills "felt needs," it robs the message of its redemptive power.

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    Roger Bullard on Messiah: The Gospel According to Handel's Oratorio

    Messiah: The Gospel According to Handel's Oratorio (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993)

    Handel's Messiah has become a familiar herald of the Christmas season, although it was originally intended to be performed during Passion Week. In his recent study of the Messiah's text entitled Messiah: The Gospel According to Handel's Oratorio, music professor Roger Bullard discusses the work's theological breadth, highlighting interesting but little recognized facts about the piece. Bullard's hope in writing the book was to encourage people to listen to the Messiah as an act of worship.