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September 2006
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Since MARS HILL AUDIO was launched 14 years ago, we have been committed (in the words of our mission statement) "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." Obedient wisdom is the goal, and audio is our chosen means. In between the starting point and the finish line are lots of things to read. Since our products have a limited amount of time in people's lives, and since audio is not always the best medium to explain complicated matters, we are very eager to get our listeners to read things that they might not have known about. We are bibliographic scouts, reporting back on some beneficial routes between where you are and where you hope to be.

Almost all of the guests on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal are authors of recent books, and our interviews are intended as introductions to those books. These authors may or may not share our Christian convictions, but all of them have displayed in their writing a perceptive understanding of how contemporary cultural life has been (and is being) shaped by various ideas and institutions.

We occasionally feature writers who have written especially insightful articles in magazines or journals. Now, we are introducing a new series of audio products intended to offer a more direct access to some of the articles we think are helpful in achieving our mission. MARS HILL AUDIO Reprints are readings of entire texts of articles taken from some of the best journals and magazines in print, and we hope to start making a lot of these available. They will range in length from 30 to 60 minutes, and will be available as MP3 downloads (which may then, if you prefer, be burned to a CD for ann alternate form of portability).

The first three Reprints are now available for order. Roger Kimball's "Leszek Kolakowski and the Anatomy of Totalitarianism" is an appreciative introduction to the writing of one of the 20th century's most penetrating thinkers about politics, culture, and religion. This article (taken from The New Criterion, the journal Kimball serves as editor) focuses on Kolakowski's critique of Marxism and Communism. Kimball makes the point that such a critique is not just of interest to diehard cold warriors. As Kolakowski himself has written recently, "Communism was not the crazy fantasy of a few fanatics, nor the result of human stupidity and baseness; it was a real, very real part of the history of the twentieth century, and we cannot understand this history of ours without understanding communism. We cannot get rid of this specter by saying it was just 'human stupidity,' or 'human corruptibility.' The specter is stronger than the spells we cast on it. It might come back to life."

The second of our Reprints (and yes, we realize that they are only metaphorically re-prints, but the spirit of wisdom is not afraid of metaphors) is by Matthew B. Crawford, called "Shop Class as Soulcraft." Dr. Crawford's article (which comes to the aid of our long-suffering project of fighting the Gnostic denial of the importance of the body) celebrates manual work and craftsmanship. As Crawford beautifully notes: "The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on. Boasting is what a boy does, who has no real effect in the world. But craftsmanship must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one's failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away." Three cheers for reality! Crawford's article, by the way, was in The New Atlantis, one of our favorite journals, and a periodical from which you will see/hear more Reprints from us in the future.

Finally, we have an article written by Joshua P. Hochschild called "Globalization: Ancient and Modern," taken from a recent issue of The Intercollegiate Review. This article touches on a number of themes that show up regularly in our Journal, especially place, memory, and the importance of local community. Hochschild alerts us to the fact that, for a word that is tossed around so insistently, "globalization" is a remarkably badly defined concept. This essay uses the fuzziness of globalization and its attendant enthusiasms to introduce some important categories in thinking about politics and the order of Creation. If you enjoyed our recent Conversation with Russell Hittinger on "Church, State, and Society in Catholic Social Teaching," or if you'e interested in the Reformed ideas about "sphere sovereignty," you'll be interested in Hochschild's article.

One last note: like most of our work, these Reprints get better with repeated hearings, so for only $3.00 each, you're getting a lot of listening time, not to mention resources toward obedient wisdom.

Read more about MARS HILL AUDIO Reprints here.

Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 4:36pm EST

Russell Hittinger on Church, State, and Society
In 1987, prime minister Margaret Thatcher famously denied the existence of society. "I think we've been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it's the government's job to cope with it. . . . They're casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. . . ."

When these comments were published, there was a huge outcry from liberals at Mrs. Thatcher's attack on social solidarity. Conservatives meanwhile defended her rejection of the assumption of the nanny state. But both liberals and conservatives seemed to have missed the opportunity to question one key assumption in Mrs. Thatcher's formulation of this problem. Why presuppose that "society" must be understood as something coordinated and given authority by the state?

Margaret Thatcher's rejection of the existence of society is ironic in light of the fact that in the 19th century, the idea of society was used to confront the growing claims of the power and authority of the state. It was precisely because something called society did exist that the state could not be regarded as omnicompetent.

The history of the development in 19th century Catholic social thought of the idea of society as a spiritual and cultural reality is one of the themes in a new MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation with Dr. Russell Hittinger. Hittinger is Research Professor of Law and Warren Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Tulsa, and the author of The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in a Post-Christian World. In this wide-ranging Conversation of interest to Christians from every tradition, Hittinger also discusses (with host Ken Myers) the contributions of Popes Leo XIII and John Paul II to Catholic social thought, the limits of the notion of social contract, the effect of an increasing proportion of Muslims on European social thought, and why modern democracies have abandoned the project of understanding public life in moral terms.

A preview of this Conversation was featured in the 30 August 2006 issue of Audition. The entire Conversation is available from MARS HILL AUDIO.

Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 11:07pm EST