It’s been described as “heady, extraordinary.” It’s where I first heard about Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter and P.D. James’ The Children of Men.
I discovered Alan Jacobs had written a biography of C.S. Lewis by listening, added it to my wishlist and gratefully received The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis for Christmas that year. It’s also where I first encountered Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. It’s been informing my ever-incomplete education in matters of literature, law, politics, music, bioethics and theology year after year.
When I noticed that Rod Dreher had dedicated The Benedict Option to MARS HILL AUDIO Journal founder Ken Myers–a man who’s given his life energies to the kind of cultural renewal Dreher dreams of–I smiled. I’d bought Dreher’s How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem after listening to Myers’ interview with him after I’d just caught Kris McGregor’s interview with Dreher on Discerning Hearts’ Inside the Pages. How Dante Can Save Your Life turned out to be one of my favorite reads last year.
The MARS HILL AUDIO Journal is indespensible listening for the thoughtful Christian. MHAJ began as an audio tape subscription in 1993. Today it’s offered in either CD or mp3 format. Its 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.
Ken Myers, the Journal’s creator and host, was a producer at NPR for eight years, much of which he spent as arts and humanities editor for Morning Edition and All Things Considered. The quality honed at NPR and elsewhere shines in every production of the MHAJ. It’s been aptly described as “All Things Considered Meets God.”
Whenever I’ve been careless enough to let my long-time subscription expire, I’ve regretted it and started up again. There simply isn’t anything I know of that can replace it.
What you’ll discover (if you haven’t already):
Great conversations on all aspects of Christianity and culture. Given my literary bent, some of my favorite MHAJ issues have included conversations about Flannery O’Connor, J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis and W. H. Auden. The current issue (MHAJ 135) includes a fascinating conversation with poet and critic Dana Gioia about Catholic convert, poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins.
But also I want to be informed about trends in every aspect of the culture, and the MHAJ consistently offers erudite discussion with leading legal experts, philosophers, theologians, scientists, psychologists, musicians and writers. Myers, an Evangelical, engages some of the most devoted and accomplished Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians living their faith in the heart of the culture, writing and speaking and daily applying its principles to the discipline they have mastered.
Myers in interested in pop culture as well. The author of All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture, Myers has covered the novels of Ann Rice and J.K. Rowling and discussed trends in pop art and themes in Star Trek: The Next Generation on the Journal.
A Bonus: The MARS HILL AUDIO Journal also produces special editions on timely topics. Audition, the MARS HILL podcast, featured a series of deep Christian conversations about the crisis in American politics during the last year’s volatile election cycle. You can find them on the MHAJ website and by searching for “Mars Hill Audition” on Apple’s podcast app.
I often find myself humbled by the many names I don’t recognize when I download the latest MHAJ file; sometimes I’m not even sure I’m intellectually prepared to follow the discussions. But regular attention to the Journal over the years has deepened my grasp of serious issues and developed my joy in all things good, true and beautiful. The MARS HILL AUDIO Journal fuels my desire to follow Christ with a pure intention and an open heart.
Despite the rather highbrow content on much of the MHAJ, host Myers is consistently humble in conversing with each guest. He makes me desire humility too.
These days we’re all at risk of having our sensibilities reduced to the one-liners coming from both the left and the right. The MHAJ is a welcome antidote. I don’t want my politics spoon-fed to me with a mixture of knowing winks and inflammatory outrage.
Furthermore, I don’t want my musical exposure to come only from current trends. The MHAJ takes me deep into music history and musicology. I do want to know more about quantuum physics even though I can’t quite hang on to everything I learn, and on the MHAJ I’ve learned about it from Sir John Polkinghorne, William Dembski and Stephen Barr. I want a celebration of novels and poetry, to hear experts grapple with the marriage issue without snarky epithets aimed at those who disagree. I want to apply a thoughtful discipline to my use of technology, to ponder how to appreciate food and wine in a Christian context, and I always want to discover my next good read.
The MARS HILL AUDIO Journal consistently helps me with all these things. It is neither smug nor condescending; its discussions are neither dark nor fearful. They’re challenging and civil, deep, delightful and faithfully Christian.
That’s why I love the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal and you should too. You may at times feel in over your head, but you’ll never say your faith or your brain weren’t respected. That combination is exactly what we need to keep growing.
Ken Myers has succeeded in producing a real treasure.
Reads & Other Seeds:
Sparrowfare’s first podcast review: The Bishop Who Refuses to Dumb Down the Faith.
This delighted me: Father Michael Rennier‘s 5 Underrated Women You Should be Reading at Aletia not only includes Sigrid Undset, it links (where Undset gives away her Nobel Prize money) to Sparrowfare’s Fascinating Facts about Kristin Lavransdatter Author Sigrid Undset! Rennier’s piece is a quick read that’s prepared me to check out Muriel Spark and a few other lesser known women novelists.
The original Blade Runner has long been one of my favorites. Based on Philip Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? it’s a mysterious, action-packed exploration of what it means to be human. Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t rehash the theme; rather, it examines our need for something real in an increasingly virtual age. (It is R rated for a reason.) The most thoughtful film I’ve seen in a long time.
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