MARS HILL AUDIO Journal
Guests on Volume 63: Charles M. Sennott, on the dwindling Christian presence in the Middle East; Nicholas Orme, on the nature of childhood in the Middle Ages; J. Budziszewski, on the testimony of conscience and What We Can't Not Know; Albert Borgmann, on the necessity of deliberate reflection about how technology shapes everyday life; James A. Herrick, on The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition, and on Mormonism, gnosticism, and the significance of Luke Skywalker; Darrell Cole, on contemporary cynicism about the possiblity of justice and the just war tradition; and Jackson Lears, on the deeper cultural roots of contemporary attitudes toward gambling.
Charles M. Sennott on the dwindling Christian presence in the Middle East
"In that moment, in that siege in Bethlehem, you had the whole image of the Christian presence in the Holy Land and just how precarious it is."
—Charles M. Sennott
Journalist Charles M. Sennott discusses the relatively recent exodus of Christians from Jerusalem. Sennott is author of The Body and the Blood: The Middle East's Vanishing Christians and the Possibility for Peace. The book, he says, is a chronicle of the stories he collected from Christians as he toured the Holy Land in the late 1990s. The stories indicate that an identity crisis triggered by the debate over who should occupy the area is one reason why Christians are vanishing from the land. Sennott describes how the siege in 2002 of the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank demonstrates the conundrum of Christians in the Middle East.
Nicholas Orme on the nature of childhood in the Middle Ages
Historian Nicholas Orme discusses how Western society viewed children before the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Orme is author of Medieval Children. He explains that childhood was understood as a distinct phase of life, and he mentions how his research led him to that conclusion. It is a conclusion different from that of historian Philippe Ariés, who claimed that the notion of childhood as distinct from adulthood did not develop until the sixteenth century. Orme attends to how Ariés's claim has affected contemporary notions of human nature and why it is important to recognize its illegitimacy.
J. Budziszewski on the testimony of conscience and What We Can't Not Know
"It seems a very abstract theological point to say that all sin has its origins in a denial of the authority of God, but I think it's really an every day practical truth. If we don't talk about that it's just impossible to account for the mysterious things that we do."
Professor J. Budziszewski discusses the popularity of the advertising pitch "everything is possible" and what its popularity indicates about contemporary society. Budziszewski is author of What We Can't Not Know: A Guide. He notes that many respond to such a pitch because they are eager to deny both the limits of their physical nature, and those they experience in the material world. Budziszewski explains how this eagerness translates into a denial of God's sovereignty. It also translates into a denial of natural law.
Albert Borgmann on the necessity of deliberate reflection about how technology shapes everyday life
"Is the world we're putting together hospitable to the Word and kingdom of God?"
Professor Albert Borgmann discusses technology's place in culture and how it affects Christians. Borgmann is author of Power Failure: Christianity in the Culture of Technology. Technology profoundly affects human life and the environment, he notes, but many Christians use technologies glibly, without attending to how the technologies are shaping their lives and environments. Borgmann addresses how odd this uncritical behavior is, particularly because the Gospel is deeply concerned with how people treat creation and each other. He explains how Christians could bring the witness of the Gospel to bear on their use of—or attitudes towards—technology.
James A. Herrick on The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition
Professor James A. Herrick discusses the history of Western civilization beginning with the Renaissance and how it influences the current definition of "spirituality." Herrick is author of The Making of the New Spirituality: An Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition, which synthesizes insights from several disciplines. The new spirituality, he says, has its roots in the Renaissance and Enlightenment ideas of reason and progress. Herrick also notes that many who embrace this new spirituality believe in benevolent alien beings. He explains how this belief exhibits a deified view of progress and reason.
Darrell Cole on contemporary cynicism about the possiblity of justice and the just war tradition
Professor Darrell Cole discusses historic teaching on just war theory and how a neglect of it has confused society's thinking on morality and war. Cole is author of When God Says War Is Right: The Christian's Perspective on When and How to Fight. Cole explains that the traditional teachings of Christianity claim that war is an exercise of virtue and charity if it is waged to protect a neighbor, and if it is executed through just means. In other words, the teachings do not consider use of force inherently evil. Cole contrasts this understanding to the more modern understanding of force, and war, as inherently evil; he notes the origins of these beliefs.
Jackson Lears on the deeper cultural roots of contemporary attitudes toward gambling
"You don't always get what you deserve. Sometimes you just get what you get, and this is the problem that we have to make sense of as human beings in this mysterious cosmos."
Professor Jackson Lears discusses the differences between a culture of control and a culture of chance. Lears is author of Something for Nothing: Luck in America, which is a study of gambling and its ethos. In a culture of control, he says, people assume that rewards come through hard work. In a culture of chance, however, there is no neat connection between merit and reward. Jackson explains why some people who live in a culture of control are drawn to gambling.
James A. Herrick from the bonus track of the CD edition, on Mormonism, gnosticism, and the significance of Luke Skywalker
"The American spirit of self-reliance, the attitude of the rugged individual, the person who is going to triumph over adversity on his or her own . . . The person of tremendous intellectual capacity and willpower; these all fit very well with Gnostic thinking more than [with] Christian thinking, which . . . Elevates the individual principally as a member of the community with something to contribute to the community."
—James A. Herrick
Professor James A. Herrick discusses the Judeo-Christian religious tradition and how its authority in America has been eclipsed. In his book The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Religious Tradition, he identifies the influences that shape the religions present in America. The values dominant in many of those religions, he states, have more in common with the assumptions of Gnosticism than they do with those present in Judeo-Christian thought. Herrick illustrates which values are dominant through an examination of American archetypes including Luke Skywalker and protagonists from Ayn Rand's novels. These characters, he explains, are individuals who succeed because of their own merit and—in the case of Luke Skywalker—because of genetic composition.