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Friday Features on the MHA app

Below are nine samples of free audio content that we have released on the MARS HILL AUDIO app, part of our weekly series of Friday Features. This series is only available via our app, which is also a convenient way to listen to the audio products purchased from us. Our app can be installed on most Apple and Android mobile devices. Those listeners who don’t own smartphones may be interested to know that our app doesn’t require a phone, since many tablets and the newer versions of the iPod Touch can also install it. (For those of you who are more technologically advanced, Kindle Fire tablets are also an option. Get in touch with us if that’s a road you wish to travel.)

Guests you may hear below:

Mark Noll on slavery and the Bible
Bishop Robert Barron
on truth and beauty
Roger Lundin on identity and language
Jean Bethke Elshtain on political authority
Matthew Crawford on driving
Margaret H. McCarthy on gender
Fr. Chad Hatfield & Peter J. Leithart on Alexander Schmemann
Catherine Prescott on facemasks and persons
Dana Gioia on poets and poetry

Mark Noll on slavery and Biblical interpretation

In several of his books, historian Mark Noll has pointed out that the approach in reading the Bible common in American Protestantism — an approach that relied on simplistic proof-texts — has repeatedly crippled attempts to deal with complex social and political problems. This theme was present in his 2015 book, In the Beginning Was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life, 1492-1783, and will no doubt also be present in the forthcoming volume, America’s Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794-1911. On this Feature, Noll summarizes how nineteenth-century arguments about the Bible and slavery often suffered from the presupposition that proof-texting was the only faithful way to read the Bible.

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Bishop Robert Barron on what is really true and why beauty matters

On Volume 152 of the Journal, Ken Myers talked with Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and the author of many books. For many years, Bishop Barrons’s work has combined a sensitive awareness of the distinctive challenges to Christian faith posed by modern culture with deep and rich theological insight; in his person and work are united the mind and able pen of a scholar and the heart and encouraging voice of a pastor.

In his Journal interview, he talked about Renewing Our Hope: Essays for the New Evangelization (The Catholic University of America Press, 2020). He focused his remarks on the modern misunderstanding of the nature of freedom, and of reason, and — most significantly — of God’s relation to Creation and human life. In the Friday Feature below — an extension of that Journal — Bishop Barron discusses the necessity of persuading people that theological claims are about things that are objectively true, not just personally meaningful.

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Roger Lundin on the liabilities of “inclusion” and on the joys of words

On November 13th, 2015, a man who had been a frequent guest on our Journal died of cardiac arrest. Roger Lundin — a long-time and beloved professor of literature at Wheaton College — was 66 years old.

Roger enjoyed a long and productive relationship with MARS HILL AUDIO. He was a guest in 1993 on Volume 6 of the MARS HILL Tapes. That first interview was about his book, The Culture of Interpretation: Christian Faith and the Postmodern World. He returned as a guest a dozen or so times. In addition to conversations about nineteenth-century American writers — his area of specialization — he also spoke with Ken Myers about Richard Wilbur’s commitment to the reality of creation, about the incarnational vision of Czeslaw Milosz and his poetry of exile and modern boundlessness, and on how the modern disenchantment of the world led to new forms of doubt and self-expression. His last appearance was in 2014, talking about his book, Beginning with the Word: Modern Literature and the Question of Belief. That interview and his early discussion in 1993 are included in the Friday Feature.

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Jean Bethke Elshtain on Hannah Arendt on political authority

“The alternative to authority is not some free-form utopia but coercion, domination, violence, and unaccountable methods and systems of manipulating persons.” So argued Jean Bethke Elshtain (1941–2013) in a 1999 article titled “Democratic Authority at Century’s End.” In the article — published in The Hedgehog Review (Summer 2000) — Elshtain summarized concerns expressed by Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) about the viability of democratic governance in the wake of widespread suspicion toward the very idea of authority. Elshtain observes that authority is finally unintelligible without recognition of transcendent order (and Orderer) with which our wills and actions should be aligned. In this Feature, Ken Myers reads the entire text of Elshtain’s article.

Excerpts from Elshtain’s Augustine and the Limits of Politics may be read here. Excerpts from the book based on her 2005 Gifford Lectures — Sovereignty: God, State, and Self — may be read here.

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Matthew Crawford on doing philosophy while (and about) driving

Matthew Crawford’s Why We Drive: Toward a Philosophy of the Open Road (William Morrow, 2020) continues his reflections on how we discover essential aspects of our humanity by engaging with the physical world. As in Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (Penguin, 2009) and The World beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015), Crawford vividly details the “personal knowledge” acquired in interaction with physical things, their mecho-systems, and the people who care for them.

In addition to the Friday Feature in the player below, you can hear more from Matthew Crawford about the ideas in this book on Volume 150. He also appeared on Volume 128 talking about The World beyond Your Head.

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Margaret H. McCarthy on “gender” and the abolition of man and woman

In article titled “The Emperor’s (New) New Clothes: The Logic of the New ‘Gender Ideology’,” Margaret H. McCarthy argues that there is a dark nihilism embedded in current assumptions about the idea of “gender.” In the name of freedom, the self is redefined as free from any generative or generous relations. What is needed to counter this destructive idea is a recovery of the full Christian account of the generosity of God in the genesis of all things.

McCarthy is Associate Professor of Theological Anthropology at The John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America. Her article was published in 2019 in the journal Communio, and is read in this Friday Feature by Ken Myers.

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Fr. Chad Hatfield and Peter J. Leithart on Alexander Schmemann’s For the Life of the World

In the early 1960s, Fr. Schmemann wrote a little book as a study guide for young Orthodox Christians. As he later wrote, “My only purpose in writing it was to outline — for students preparing themselves for a discussion of Christian mission — the Christian ‘world view,’ that is, the approach to the world and to man’s life in it that stems form the liturgical experience of the Orthodox Church.”

On the Friday Feature below, Father Chad Hatfield, the President of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and Dr. Peter J. Leithart, president of the Theopolis Institute, talk with Ken Myers about that book, later expanded to become the volume now known as For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy. In 2018, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press released a new edition of this important book. In 2019, MARS HILL AUDIO released an audio edition of the book, which was the occasion for these two interviews.

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Catherine Prescott on what is lost when we don face masks

During our shared experience with COVID-19, the wearing of masks to deter the spreading of infection was the subject of extensive clinical analysis, heated politicized arguments, and even the occasional brawl. Whatever practical good or partisan allegiance the wearing of masks might or might not effect, masking presents us with an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of faces. 

What are we missing when faces are partially obscured by masks? Portrait painter Catherine Prescott has a remarkable ability to capture a personality in a portrait. So her description of what happens to our capacity to recognize who people are when our faces are partially concealed is especially valuable. In this Friday Feature, Prescott talks with Ken Myers about how eyes can be misunderstood when cut off from the context of the entire face.

You can see some of Catherine Prescott’s compelling portraits on her website. She can also be heard in an interview about painting portrait subjects who are quietly reading on our Anthology, On Books and Reading.

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Dana Gioia on John Donne, Longfellow, and how poems mean

From 2015 to 2018, Dana Gioia served as California’s poet laureate. During that time he became the first laureate to visit all 58 counties of California. From 2003 to 2009, Gioia was Chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts where he helped create and launch the largest programs in the agency’s history, prompting Business Week magazine to label him “The Man Who Saved the NEA.” This Friday Feature presents excerpts from six interviews with Gioia that have appeared on our Journal over the years.

The topics discussed include the contemporary state of poetry, the achievement of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in writing popular poetry that is both good and accessible, the religious and amorous poetry (both qualities sometimes evident in the same verse) of John Donne, and how Gerard Manley Hopkins reinvented the art of poetry from the ground up in terms of meter, syntax, and texture.

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