Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mars Hill Audio Journal -- A Great Resource

Quite a while ago I discovered a wonderful resource for people who want to think a little more deeply about culture and its relationship to the Christian faith. By culture I'm speaking of music, the arts, literature, the media, and so forth. About 20 years ago a man by the name of Ken Myers started an audio magazine called Mars Hill Audio Journal. In these bi-monthly CDs or mp3s, Ken interviews writers, artists and professors and discusses their work in an intellectual but easy-to-understand approach.

I subscribed some time ago and it's been a great help in my thinking about the way God works in the world through the creativity of people. It's a simple way to fill in some of the gaps of college courses you may not have taken... or have forgotten.  Myer's efforts were recently highlighted in article in the Weekly Standard. Because I'm not a particularly good reviewer, I'm quoting a couple of paragraphs from that article that I think summarize my take on this audio journal. The entire Weekly Standard Article can be found here.

The Mars Hill Audio Journal and the resources they provide can be found here.

Here then are excerpts from the Weekly Standard article:

The Journal demonstrates how closely the interests and worries of a conservative Christian intellectual overlap those of any curious traditionalist or cultural conservative, believing or non. Myers’s own curiosity is inexhaustible. On the website’s topic index​—​choosing a letter at random​—​you’ll find under “M” segments on Mondrian (Piet) and Moore (Michael), memory and money, Mendelssohn and Marsalis, masculinity and materialism. I popped in Issue 102 the other day and heard Myers’s pleasant tenor saying, by way of preface: “Is creation meaningful, and if it is, is its meaning perceptible?” This rousing intro opened a series of ruminations and interviews with a variety of scholars and writers.

“I’ve always thought that beautiful art was a great apologetic resource,” Myers says. Beauty is the chief attribute of God, said Jonathan (not Bob) Edwards. “Beauty points to a Creator.” Yet the church, Myers says, “capitulates more and more to the culture of entertainment.”
“It’s a way of keeping market share. But they’re digging their own grave. There’s a short-term benefit, but in the long term the kinds of cultural resources they need to be faithful to the Gospel won’t be there.”

Things haven’t been much better in the conservative movement, to the extent that it still exists. The idea that conservatives should have a special interest in high culture​—​the best that has been thought and said, sung and played, carved and drawn​—​has been selectively applied. In speeches and in the Journal Myers has often raised the question of why political conservatives, who defended the literary canon, the Great Books, with such energy in the eighties and nineties, went limp when it came to defending other traditional forms of cultural expression.

“Here is where the religious right and the secular left are in complete agreement: They both think God doesn’t care about culture.” The secularists believe this because God doesn’t exist; the religious conservatives believe it because God is beyond such questions. Which is why religious culture nowadays bears such a close resemblance to the larger culture, where most talk of religion is considered in bad taste.

He has big plans for the next few years, with a particular attention to music. He’s planning a series of podcasts on the standard classical repertoire​—​one piece per podcast​—​and another on sacred choral music, which he’s pursuing with a special ardor.
“I hear interviews with the singers and conductors who perform these works, and so many of them say they don’t really believe what they’re singing,” he says. “And meanwhile, the people who do believe it don’t know anything about it!” He has a wounded look. “It’s just a horrible, horrible thing.”

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