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December 26, 2010: History of Christianity, Narnia Hour, Molly Johnson

The History of Christianity - Who are the Christians and where did they come from? And how did they, over time turn an obscure Jewish sect into the world's largest and most powerful religious faith? These are questions that have intrigued Diarmaid MacCulloch for more than 40 years, first as a child of the vicarage in village England and later as a professor of religious history at Oxford. The culmination of his life's work is a one thousand page exploration called Christianity, the firsty Three Thousand Years. In our first hour this morning a conversation with a Diarmaid MacCulloch about the myths, magic and majesty of Christianity.

Read more about hour one here

Narnia Man - C.S. Lewis was one of the greatest Christian thinkers of the last century. But he was also the writer who gave the world the great allegorical story of Narnia The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. A writer as complex as he was brilliant, Lewis left behind a host of captivating stories and a body of work that is still relevant today. We'll hear Lewis himself and speak to his biographer. THE NARNIA MAN in our Middle Hour.

Read more about hour two here

Molly Johnson - To round out this Boxing Day edition of the show, the indefatigable Molly Johnson. Here is a singer of verve, imagination, energy and high style. When she came to our studio last year with the amazing pianist Robbie Botosh, she blew the doors wide open. We wanted you to hear her again. In our Final Hour, Molly Johnson.

Read more about hour three here

Elsewhere in the program: Michael's essay about his aviophobia - the fear of flying



Hour 1

HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY

In the beginning there was the word. As the gospel of John says, "the word was God, and became human flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth".

Those words about the word begin chapter one of Diarmaid MacCulloch's exhaustive new history of Christianity. It is called, Christianity: the First Three Thousand Years. At just over a thousand pages, it is an epic worthy of Cecil B. de Mille, who was known to tackle a bible story or two. But this version is actually true, or as true as any historian could make a story that is over two millennia old.

It is a remarkable journey, how this "eccentric little Jewish sect" became the guiding faith of over 2 billion people, the world's largest religion.

And a particularly appropriate story to revisit the day after Christmas, particularly when it comes to the man whose birth and death inspired the first believers and whose descendents still hold to the redemptive power of their relationship with Jesus Christ. As the author himself writes, this book is for them.

Diarmaid MacCulloch is professor of the history of the Church at Oxford University and the multiple award-winning author of two other books, The Reformation" and "Thomas Cranmer. Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years recently won the 2010 Cundhill Prize in History at McGill University, the biggest non-fiction history prize in the world.

Professor MacCulloch was in the BBC studio in Summertown, near Oxford, England


Hour 2

THE NARNIA MAN

C.S. Lewis' children's stories -- about a land enslaved by a White Witch and inhabited by a faun called Mr Tumnus, Aslan the lion and Jewel the Unicorn -- have endured for more than fifty years. For the next hour, we will re-discover C.S. Lewis and that magical wardrobe though his own words, his biographer, his writings.

C.S. Lewis, the literary scholar and Oxford don, loathed school and hated teaching. Lewis, the Christian apologist, abandoned religion at the age of fourteen. Lewis the author, began to write because, quote, "People won't write the books I want, so I have to do it myself."

His complicated life is the subject of a fascinating new biography called, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis, which is written by Alan Jacobs. He is a professor of English and director of the Faith and Learning Program at Wheaton College in Illinois. He has also written several collections of essays, including Shaming the Devil: Essays in Truthtelling and A Theology of Reading: the Hermeneutics of Love.

Alan Jacobs joined Michael from Chicago.

C.S. Lewis' life was studded with contradictions and quirky relationships. He had a particular fondness for the company of men, which he indulged by heading to the pub at the end of the day for a pint of beer or a glass of hard cider to discuss ideas. And then there were The Inklings... a literary society made up of his academic peers and various friends - all male. They would gather in his rooms at Magdalen College at Oxford and talk late into the night about their writing and their work.

This fellowship was the subject of a book by Candice Fredrick called, Women Among the Inklings: Gender, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and Charles Williams. Professor Fredrick teaches at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California and she was in Pasadena for the show.


Hour 3

MOLLY JOHNSON HOUR

In this we repeated a special Sunday Edition item for you.

Michael got to do something he had wanted to do for a long time - spend an hour with the wonderful Molly Johnson. Singer, activist, radio host, mother, and all around Canadian icon.

She was with our program last year for the full hour to talk about her life, her music and whatever else occured to us.  Inthis hour, we were once again treated to some tunes from the Molly Johnson Songbook.

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