Background & Vision

Christians talk a lot about engaging the culture.  But engagement can easily result in captivity to contemporary culture—in being (in Biblical terms) conformed to the pattern of this world.  Wise and faithful cultural engagement requires an understanding of what culture should do and be, amended by an attentiveness to how the divinely established structures of Creation and of human nature should shape our cultural lives. 

Since 1993, MARS HILL AUDIO has been committed to assisting Christians who desire to move from thoughtless consumption of contemporary culture to a vantage point of thoughtful engagement.

Fulfilling the commands to love God and neighbor requires that we pay careful attention to the neighborhood.

We believe that fulfilling the commands to love God and neighbor requires that we pay careful attention to the neighborhood: that is, every sphere of human life where God is either glorified or despised, where neighbors are either edified or undermined. Therefore, living as disciples of Christ pertains not just to prayer, evangelism, and Bible study, but also our enjoyment of literature and music, our use of tools and machines, our eating and drinking, our views on government and economics, and so on.

We endeavor to encourage sensibilities and habits of thoughtful cultural engagement through creative audio resources, produced at our studio in rural central Virginia.

Primers

For a brief introduction to the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, click on the links below to hear Ken Myers discuss some of the basic questions the Journal seeks to address.

What is culture?

The word “culture” can be used in many different senses, and thinking clearly about cultural matters requires some initial clarity about how the word is being used. Most anthropologists and sociologists define a culture as a way of life informed by and perpetuating a set of assumptions or beliefs concerning life’s meaning.

What is distinctive about modern culture?

All cultures convey a set of assumptions about the kind of creatures human beings are and the kind of world in which they live. One of the defining characteristics of modern Western culture is that its artifacts, practices, and institutions convey the belief that there is no intrinsic meaning in the universe.

What is the Church’s interest in culture?

Defining the relationship between the Church and the thing we call “culture” requires an understanding of the nature of the Church and its mission. It also requires discernment about what cultures could and should do, as well as what the actual cultural forms that we live with are doing.

 

Ken Myers

Ken Myers did his first radio interview when he was working in college radio. He was 19 at the time, and his first guest was Johnny Cash. Although he sometimes wonders if he peaked early, he claims that sociologists, historians, psychologists, and even economists can be more interesting than country music singers.

After completing his B.A. in communications with an emphasis in film theory, Myers went to work for National Public Radio, editing material for arts and performance programs. After three years, he decided to go to seminary in order to pursue a teaching ministry. He realized how theologically ill-prepared most Christians (including himself) were to contend with the non-Christian worldviews increasingly prevalent in major cultural institutions.

But having finished an M. A. R. at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1979 and finding no institutions committed to the sort of cultural apologetics he thought needed by the Church, he accepted an offer to return to NPR to serve as arts and humanities editor for the then-new program, Morning Edition.

A budgetary crisis in the 80’s cost Myers his job, but the pursuit of this vision of cultural apologetics eventually led to his establishing MARS HILL AUDIO in 1992, after having edited a number of print publications and worked with Richard John Neuhaus and Charles Colson.  Since then, he has interviewed hundreds of leading scholars and public intellectuals on their areas of cultural expertise.  He writes a regular column for Touchstone magazine and is the author of All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture (2nd ed., Crossway, 2012).

Ken Myers lives in the rolling countryside of central Virginia just north of Charlottesville with his wife, Kate, and his daughter, Susannah. His son Jonathan lives with his family in Washington State.

Writings and Videos

Speaking Schedule

June 27, 2013

Address to the Society for Classical Learning, San Antonio, TX

July 17, 2013

Address to the Circe Institute, Baltimore, MD

 

  • Ken Myers on Attentiveness, Deliberativeness, and Other Subversive Activities (March 2012)

  • Ken Myers on Classical Education (October 2011)

  • An interview with Ken Myers on whether "the culture" is really the problem. Published in The Christian Post in May 2012. Here is an excerpt:

    True seekers are looking for something different, radically different. If people are just looking for a religious band-aid or spiritual Prozac, they are not seeking the redemption promised in the Gospel, which calls them to die to self and live (really live) to Christ. If I were drowning, the most relevant reality I could long for would be someone who was a really good swimmer. If my house were on fire, I would want a man with a hose, not a lighter. If my life were plunged into darkness, light would be the most relevant thing imaginable.

    Read the whole interview here.

  • A September 2009 interview in Comment magazine, published by Cardus, entitled "A student's guide to the 'whole big ecosystem' of culture." Here is an excerpt:

    CM: 3. You believe individualism to be a corrosive, destructive force in the modern world. Do you have any suggestions for students who wonder how to live in way that is not individualistic in the context of today's college or university?

    KM: .... One way of fighting the mentality of individualism is to put oneself in a position where one is an apprentice, where one receives something offered rather than "consumes" it. For example, find someone (in that church community you're a part of) who knows a lot about an ethnic food tradition and go to a restaurant with them, letting them choose the menu (and maybe you can even pay for their meal). Or find someone (a professor, even) who knows a lot about some artistic tradition that is foreign to you (German cinema, Renaissance choral music, English detective fiction) and apprentice yourself to them. You could do the same with master gardeners, cooks, bird watchers, woodworkers, motorcycle mechanics, even theologians. Yes, there is an initial act of individual choice, but submitting to someone else's authority and expertise over time is a great way to fight the temptation to assert our own sovereignty.

    Read the whole interview here.

  • A 2009 interview in byFaith magazine about the need for well-informed generalists. Here is an excerpt:

    BF: Evangelicals today are often preoccupied with novelty: new strategies, new ministry models, new insights for successful Christian living. How do you assess this preoccupation?

    KM: C.S. Lewis said one of the distinctive aspects of the modern mind is the assumption that newer things are always better. We’ve become preoccupied with things we don’t have, rather than the nurturing and stewarding the things we do have.

    My favorite example of this is the shift since the 1970s toward informality in public. People used to wear coats and ties to go to a baseball game, and now they wear a ball cap at church. We’ve moved away from formality toward informality in almost every area—language, dance, food, worship, music—and I’m convinced that it’s largely a symptom of a suspicion of authority. You don't want to submit to a set of standards and proprieties that you didn’t freely choose yourself. So if the move toward informality expresses a widespread suspicion of authority, then why would that be a good, up-to-the-minute trend to endorse?

    Read the whole interview here.

  • Audio interview with Ken Myers on culture and classical education (December 2010)

  • Reducing Enlightment Glare - This essay first appeared in the “Contours of Culture” column (Touchstone, March/April 2011)

  • Irrigating Deserts - This essay first appeared in the “Contours of Culture” column (Touchstone, September/October 2010)

  • Immediately Yours - This essay first appeared in the “Contours of Culture” column (Touchstone, November/December 2009)

Staff & Board

Dr. Lawrence Adams, Treasurer

Faculty member, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

Dr. Jeremy Beer, Chairman

Founding partner, American Philanthropic, Phoenix, AZ

Rev. Wade Bradshaw, Member

Pastor for spiritual formation, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Charlottesville, VA

Rev. Dr. Gene Godbold, Member

Research scientist, Standardsville, VA

Mr. Rob Gregory, Member

Attorney, Damariscotta, ME

Mrs. Sim Gregory, Member

Campus minister, Bowdoin College, Damariscotta, ME

Mr. Malcolm Hughes, Secretary

Artist, North Garden, VA

 

Dr. Eric Miller, Member

Professor of history, Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA

Mr. Douglas Minson, Member

Family Research Council, Wilmington, DE

Mr. Ken Myers, President

Host and producer, Mars Hill Audio, Ruckersville, VA

Mrs. Patricia Owen, Member

Homemaker, Charlottesville, VA

Dr. Randy C. Randall, Member

Cardiologist, Flint, TX

Dr. James Reed, Member

Psychologist (private practice), Lutz, FL

Mr. George Sanker, Member

Headmaster, Covenant School, Charlottesville, VA

Mr. Hal Simpson, Member

Building contractor, Smyrna, GA

Testimonials

"In the craziness that is our modern way of life, I find Ken Myers's commentary and interviews essential listening. Incisive, varied, rich, and seasoned, they never fail to stimulate and delight. He deserves to be heard by thousands more.”

Os Guinness, The Trinity Forum, Washington, DC

"In an era in which so much cant and just plain nonsense vies for our attention, the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal serves as a brisk antidote.”

Jean Bethke Elshtain, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

"Contemporary culture often looks like a disaster area. But amid the rubble there are also remnants of real civilization and flashes of new hope for the future. The MARS HILL AUDIO Journal takes the measure of it all—the heights and the depths—issue after issue. There is no more intelligent, comprehensive, lively, accessible, and just plain enjoyable window into the crucial currents in our culture.”

Robert Royal, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, DC

"There is no substitute for hearing a voice, hearing the ebb and flow of hesitation, humor, passion, and stubbornness in grasping how a person thinks about what he or she is saying. Important ideas take on a whole new dimension of subtlety through these tapes.”

Frederica Mathewes-Green, Author and columnist, Baltimore, MD

"I have been a subscriber to Mars Hill Audio for more than a decade now, and my life has been greatly enriched as a result. May the Journal prosper!"

Phil Ryken, President, Wheaton College, Wehaton, IL

"Living and working in the capital of pop culture where commerce drives ideas and the latest starlet's rampage is legitimate news, I am often fatigued by the cynicism and absurdity of it all. Mars Hill Audio is a welcome antidote. These are insightful and entertaining discussions that encourage me to think Christianly. In its own way each Mars Hill dialogue follows a spiritual thread traveling through us and then woven into the fabric of the world to reveal the presence of God."

David McFadzean, Writer/Producer, Wind Dancer Films, Los Angeles, CA

"Occasionally, I run into people who have never heard of Ken Myers and his Mars Hill Audio ministry. What a tragedy, I think. In case you happen to be one of the darkened multitude, Myers is one of the best-informed Christian cultural commentators of our time, and his audio magazine and other interviews provide some of the most insightful cultural analysis you can find."

Peter Leithart, President, Trinity House, Birmingham, AL

"I only have the time to read or listen to a few extra things each month or two. One of the few things I can claim as my best treasure is the bi-monthly MARS HILL AUDIO Journal ... The depth of each issue of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal sharpens my ability to think more clearly with a Biblical mind, and helps me to understand the cultural air I and my congregation are breathing."

Michael Philliber, Pastor, New Life Presbyterian Church (PCA), Midland, TX

"I have been a MHA listener since the nineties and find MHA an indispensable part of my intellectual life. You provide a unique resource for thoughtful Christians, and especially pastors, who seek to understand the complex nature of our culture.... The range of topics you cover, from music to medicine, viewed through the lens of historic Christianity, is not available anywhere else."

Gregory Edward Reynolds, Pastor, Amoskeag Presbyterian Church (OPC), Manchester, NH

"When I recommend the best resources available today for thinking Christians (or for Christians whom I hope will start thinking or for thoughtful non-Christians whom I hope will start thinking about Christianity), I recommend Mars Hill Audio with great enthusiasm. The products offered by Ken Myers and his staff—the foundational bimonthly audio journals, plus the audio anthologies, books, conversations, reports, as well as their print offerings—are always impressive in their diversity of content and consistent quality. Over the years, I have learned so much from Myers's own reflections, his incisive interviews of distinguished guests, and from his self-professed 'ministry of bibliography' mediated through all of MHA's products: ideas, people, and books that otherwise I would have never noticed. Mars Hill Audio is an outstanding form of continuing education in and of itself. If ever an organization lived up to its mission, then Mars Hill Audio certainly does in helping all of us 'move from thoughtless consumption of contemporary culture to a vantage point of thoughtful engagement.' Bravo, Mars Hill Audio! And encore!"

David Naugle, Dallas Baptist University, Dallas, TX

"As a parish priest and subscriber, the Mars Hill Audio Journal has helped me understand much more deeply the modernist assumptions shaping the worldview of our congregation, as well as the challenges we all face in living as Christians in a post-Christian culture. Consequently, I hope I am a more effective and discerning preacher, teacher and pastor.... Ken Myers is a master conversationalist and, in my opinion, one of the most important voices today examining the relationship between Christ and culture. I eagerly look forward to the arrival of each volume."

The Rev. Leigh Spruill, St. George's Episcopal Church, Nashville, TN

"I have been a regular subscriber to Mars Hill Audio for more than a decade. More than any other printed, on-line or audio resource available to me, MHA provides me with thoughtful insight into the current social trends in the new millennium, and sign posts pointing to recent works that should be read by Christians interested in how Christianity can and should shape and influence culture. As a practicing attorney with 25 years in practice, I have found the ideas coming from the MHA interviews helpful to addressing the needs of my clients, my community and my church."

Robert Gregory, Attorney-at-law, Damariscotta, ME

"As a pastor, I am bombarded with invitations, exhortations and appeals. Some of them are helpful, many are not. But nearly all of them share the common trait of promising to give me something that will help me in my ministry—the latest tool, the latest program, the latest insight into yet another presumed paradigm shift. It is the rare and exceptional journal, magazine, conference or book that simply invites me to think. The Mars Hill Audio Journal is one of these rare exceptions. ... As a result, of course, it is not only a pleasure to listen to, but also profoundly useful. I look forward to receiving each issue, and I pray that Myers will continue his important work for a long, long time."

Tim Westermeyer, Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, Plymouth, MN

"The MARS HILL AUDIO Journal is absolutely God-sent food for my soul as a pastor . . . short of miraculous intervention, the church here will require years of providence before some will grow to think critically at the level of MHAJ."

Rev. Ward Slager, First Baptist Church, New Tazewell, TN

"Every time I receive a Mars Hill Audio tape in the mail, I open it immediately because I know once more I will hear from some fascinating people as they interact with our culture. As a pastor I find the interviews engaging, enlightening and enlivening. Invariably I am helped in better understanding the human condition and what a well ordered life might look like. Often I also order some of the books mentioned and find them likewise to be a great source of wisdom. Ken is a great blessing to the church and continually holds before us the shape of our cultural engagement. I passionately recommend the Mars Hill ministry."

Ruffin Alphin, Pastor, Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church, Suffolk, VA

"As an exchange student to Switzerland after high school, it was a passion of mine to make the pilgrimage to L'Abri and sit at the feet of my author-teacher, Dr. Francis Schaeffer. That week changed my life. From that time on I became driven to seek to understand our Western culture and its good, bad and ugly manifestations in a theologically informed manner.... Mars Hill Audio is my L'Abri on a disc. I can't wait for each issue to come, helping to stir my thinking and action as a disciple of Christ. I sincerely thank Ken Myers and the staff at MHA for their excellent work. May the Lord continue to bless your efforts as we seek to continually renew our minds and be better informed about the pressing issues and interests of our day from a Christian perspective."

Major Mark Levine, Chaplain, U.S. Army

"There have been a few prolonged resources that have stirred my thinking and clarity regarding Christianity. I never cease to find John Calvin's writings to be helpful. Spurgeon always brings faith. But when I want to reflect on the implications of being Christian in the modern world, I have listened for years to Mars Hill Audio.... I have found it to be such from the earliest tapes (1992). Ken is widely read and thoughtfully engages with many of the currents of thought in modern society—clearly he is committed to Orthodoxy, and finding some unusual sources for reflection. It was through these audio interviews that I was introduced to Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. Ken also pointed me to books on sin, on modernity, on marriage and family, on the nature of higher education. The issues he addresses are not always the popular points of contention . . . but they have surprising value. ... Mars Hills Audio is sober-minded, uncontentious, critical and discerning—and has also fueled many conversations with people we know outside of Christ."

Mark Lauterbach, Pastor, Sovereign Grace Ministries, San Diego, CA

"It is hard for me to think of a broadcast or publication more crucial to helping intellectually engaged Christians understand modern culture than Mars Hill Audio Journal. Tonight I'm going to download the 100-minute series of audio essays about the meaning of place, which features a contribution by Wendell Berry. I was telling Julie yesterday that I keep going back to old Mars Hill interviews I've heard several times before because they're so rich and challenging. Ken Myers has a gift for finding vital ideas and thinkers who are overlooked by mainstream secular and Christian media, and for exploring the deep connections below modernity's surface. The MHAJ comes out every two months, and the only regret I have is that I didn't pay more attention lo, these many years ago, when an Evangelical friend told me how great they were. Of all the many media sources I consult for my personal and professional reading, MHAJ is without a doubt among the most important."

Rod Dreher, Columnist and author of Crunchy Cons, St. Francisville, LA

Free Downloads

From time to time, we release special audio features on our website for free download. Click here to see a list of currently offered downloads; a free sample volume of the Journal can also be found here. These downloads are only available to users who are logged in; if you haven't created a free user account on our site yet, click here to register.