Background & Vision

The conventional beliefs and practices of contemporary culture present a range of challenges to Christians striving to be faithful to their Lord. Some of these challenges are obvious, even if knowing how to meet them is perplexing. Others are concealed and become apparent only with the discipline of discerning and patient reflection.

Since 1993, MARS HILL AUDIO has been encouraging conversations about faith, faithfulness, and culture. We explore the various factors that have given modern Western culture its distinctive character. We also try to describe what cultural life — its practices, beliefs, and artifacts — might look like if it was the product of thoughtful Christian imaginations.

Mission: To produce creative audio resources that encourage Christians to grow in obedient wisdom concerning the cultural consequences of our duty to love God and neighbor.

Our conversation partners are typically the authors of perceptive books that describe in some detail aspects of cultural history, theological themes with cultural consequences, or how cultural practices and artifacts convey beliefs and dispositions. Our flagship in this mission of exploration is the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, a periodical once described as “All Things Considered meets God.”

Literary critic Terry Eagleton notes in The Idea of Culture that the word “culture” is one of the two or three most complex words in the English language. He points out that one of the word’s earliest meanings was “husbandry,” the tending of natural growth. Today, we tend to assume that culture is almost the opposite of nature. Culture is what we make or do — whether opera or hip-hop, Shakespeare or Spider-Man — but it has no essential connection with anything natural.

Within modern societies, nature is now assumed to be meaningless raw material, not a guide to ordering our lives. We are the sovereign makers of meaning, and culture is the repository of our creativity, the expression of our unbounded freedom. The older vision guiding what we now think of as “culture” — sustained within and encouraged by the Church for centuries — involved the assumption that human beings live well when they live in accordance with the order established in nature.

Cultural forms and institutions were assumed to be authoritative guides to the meaning and requirements of that order. Just as agriculture cultivated the land, the shared experience of good practices, true beliefs, and beautiful artifacts served as an ecosystem that cultivated us. This older view recognized that we required cultivation in order to be in synch with reality. In the modern view, by contrast, we shape the indifferent components of nature in order to satisfy our untutored desires.

Modern societies find this idea of cultivation — and the view of ordered creation and of authority that it involves — to be an offense against the modern ideal of freedom. Nonetheless, even though leaders of public institutions disdain to take responsibility for the formation of our souls, we are still cultivated by our culture. And, living within a culture that rejects the idea of an order of the good, true, and beautiful, one constantly encounters practices, beliefs, and artifacts that tend to malform us and our neighbors.

Because unhealthy cultures are often dehumanizing, distorting or denying basic attributes of our humanity, our duty to love our neighbors is a calling to promote good habits of social husbandry. As the parable of the Good Samaritan demonstrates, loving one’s neighbor is not just a matter of sentiments, but requires the institutional promotion of well-being.


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 19 working in college radio. His first guest was Johnny Cash. Although he wonders at times whether he peaked early, Myers insists that sociologists, historians, psychologists, and even economists can be just as interesting as 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 a Masters of Arts in Religion at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1979 and finding no institutions committed to the sort of cultural apologetics he thought were 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 80s 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 hundred 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). He also writes frequently for various publications, many of which are available online

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


Profiles and Videos

- Andrew Ferguson's profile of Ken Myers in The Weekley Standard: Pop Goes the Culture (January 14, 2013)

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

KM: 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 would 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.

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

- Audio interviews with Ken Myers on culture and classical education (December 2010)

- 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: 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 a 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 with the nurturing and stewarding of 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.


Staff & Board

Dr. Lawrence Adams, Treasurer

Visiting Professor, Africa Policy Centre (Uganda Christian University), Charlottesville, VA

Aaron Jeffrey, Scholar-in-residence

Doctoral candidate, Department of Theology & Religion, Durham University (UK), Charlottesville, VA

Karis White, Staff

Accounts Manager, Mars Hill Audio, Charlottesville, VA

Milt Matter, Board member

Director of Sales, Ivy Tools, Harrisonburg, VA

Kate Myers, Staff

Circulation Director, Mars Hill Audio, Charlottesville, VA

Ken Myers, President

Host and producer, Mars Hill Audio, Charlottesville, VA

Eve Ruotsinoja, Staff

Assistant Producer, Mars Hill Audio, Charlottesville, VA

George Sanker, Chairman

Headmaster, Covenant School, Charlottesville, VA


"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, Wheaton, 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, Heritage Presbyterian Church (PCA), Oklahoma City, OK

"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


iOS and Android users can now stream or download the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal and other products through our app. Users can browse our app for free and sample some of our work on the homepage, such as our Friday Features and past Areopagus Lectures.

A free demo issue of the Journal can also be accessed on the app or here on our website.

For more information on what you can do with the MARS HILL AUDIO app, click here.

Downloadable Text Files

Click here to access some of our downloadable files, such as previous fundraiser letters, significant articles, and a master bibliography of the books featured on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.