Saturday, May 28, 2016

on Singer's X-Men franchise and the law of diminishing returns when the whole world/universe/multiverse is at stake

There's a decently high chance I'll be catching X-Men: Age of Apocalypse this weekend ... and Love & Friendship.  I'm not entirely sure whether either of these will actually be good but I'm significantly more optimistic about the film in which Kate Beckinsale's working with Whit Stillman again AND tackling a Jane Austen adaptation.  It's not exactly that the version of Emma she was in was great.  I found it frustrating because they gutted so much of Austen's story that even though Beckinsale and Mark Strong were glorious as Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley (this was before Mark Strong would go on to be the go to character actor for villain roles) too much of the novel was lost. 

So the prospect of Beckinsale coming back to Jane Austen material could be great.  She can't keep doing Underworld movies forever.

And the emotional/relational stakes are going to be more plausible in Love & Friendship than they could possibly be in Singer's new film.  A few years ago one of my nieces was asking me if there'd be another Avengers movie and I said there would be.  She remarked that that would be pretty cool ... but ... it sure seemed like the Avengers were always only just saving the whole world.  Wasn't there some variety?  Couldn't they do something LESS than save the world.  Being the Batman fan that I am I couldn't resist replying with, "Well, that's what Batman is for.  The most he usually does is save Gotham city."  "That's true. That's reasonable." she replied.  , though I'm paraphrasing a bit.

As superhero film upon superhero film continues to hit theaters the X-Men franchise has shown us that nothing less than the fate of humanity can be at stake, and maybe the whole planet while we're at it.  Given enough time and the various unfortunately less-than-idle threats to have Thanos do something beyond getting his own Coke from the fridge, we'll see threats to the whole multiverse.  Not that we can expect to see Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire AND Tom Holland all play Spiderman in some kind of Infinity War... .

But when the stakes are always so cosmic and we know nobody is going to stay dead (thank you, "death of Superman") it's hard to get too excited.  it's also hard to entirely look askance on superhero films because I've been reading how fans of Trump and Sanders and Clinton write about their favorites ... and I am increasingly convinced that the power fantasies of adults are not even remotely different in principle from the power fantasies of children. 

I already admit to liking Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy and one of the things I like about it is what some Batman fans hate about it, which is that at the end of the films Bruce Wayne reaches a point where he physically can't keep being Batman any more; realizes he has done all he can to save the city he loves; and decides to quit and settle down to a life with Selina Kyle.  Bruce Wayne abandons the Bat.  That's not the kind of "end" that people want for Batman in some circles.  They want a Bruce Wayne who "can't" stop being Batman. They want a Bruce Wayne who is "the mask" and that Batman is who Bruce Wayne really is.  Nolan didn't conceive of Bruce Wayne as that kind of person.  Brue Wayne created the persona of Batman and could remember that's what it was and that it was a persona he could leave behind.  Of course for Bruce Wayne it was about saving Gotham or fighting crime and that distinction isn't subtle for Batman fans who think of Bruce Wayne's primary mission as continuously waging an impossible and unwinnable "war against crime". 

Nolan conceived of a Bruce Wayne whose aims were literally more positive, "What can I do to save my city and make it a better place?"  There's room to have different opinions here but I liked that Nolan's conception of Bruce Wayne was formulated in ultimately positive rather than negative terms--Bruce was motivated by a desire to honor the memory of his father and mother; by a desire to save Gotham if it needed saving; by a positive question about what thesocial responsibilities of a billionaire who grew into old money could be for a city in decline; and thought through what it might mean when it turned out that his mentor in fighting crime turned out to be a master criminal.

Singer has been alternating between mutants wanting to kill humans and humans wanting to kill mutants for a decade and a half now.  You can ramp up the stakes but the core conflict of alternating aggressions doesn't change.  You could skip the entirety of the franchise and get all of the best parts of this in X2.  Okay, maybe not "all", as in you wouldn't get the charmingly goofy Quicksilver.  But even though Lawrence may technically be regarded as the better actress Romijn more convincingly inhabited the role of Mystique for me.  Storm?  ... I dunno.  Storm's a classic character who doesn't seem to have ever been brought fully to life on any screen in a live-action context.  It might be as Bruce Campbell said about Batman, it'd only took Hollywood at least five movies to finally get the character right.  Storm might be in that category ... .

I'll probably see the new Singer film soon ... but I'm not anticipating it being as fun as Singer made the X-men franchise a decade ago. 

another blast from the past 10-17-2008 "Introducing Dr. Catanzaro", formerly the naturopathic personal doctor of Mark Driscoll

Since Driscoll blogged this week about ways to be a good friend ... it might be interesting to revisit a post in which the world was given an introduction to one of those friends back on October 17, 2008

https://www.facebook.com/notes/resurgence/introducing-dr-catanzaro/40016302845

Introducing Dr. Catanzaro
.
October 17, 2008 at 1:16pm

Seattle is one of the most progressive cities in America when it comes to alternative medicine. This is in part due to the influence of Seattle’s Bastyr University which is one of the leading schools in the world for alternative medicine. And, this trend is growing rapidly around the nation and world as witnesses in the fact that nearly every grocery store now has an organic section and collection of naturopathic remedies for everything from colds to allergies.

Admittedly, the entire industry is not yet well regulated which leaves room for poor medical alternatives. And, much of the naturopathic world is dominated by non-Christian and even pagan thinking.

Yet, the question persists, where can Christians go to get wise counsel on navigating the world of alternative medicine? Now, they can go to The Resurgence.


Some years ago I chose a naturopathic doctor named John Catanzaro. He is a godly Christian brother, ordained evangelical pastor with a Masters Degree in theology, and also a practicing naturopathic doctor. Thanks to his help in such areas as diet and nutrition I am in the best health of my life after hitting a place of fatigue and burnout a few years back. He is a gifted doctor, wise brother, and is very sympathetic to the need of Christians to have wise counsel in navigating the growing world of alternative medicine. So, he will begin blogging at Resurgence to help serve God’s people as they pursue wisdom and health.

Dr. Catanzaro's first post

Dr. John A. Catanzaro is President and Founder of Health and Wellness Institute. He is an author, lecturer, has guest appearances on television and radio as an advocate on integrative medicine. He is affiliate clinical faculty of Bastyr University and is responsible for the advanced medical training of medical students and residents. He has served on the Washington State Healthcare Quality Assurance Commission as the Vice Chair of the Naturopathic Advisory Committee from 1999-2005. He has served as integrative medical advisor for a CDC sponsored Cancer Control Partnership in Washington State responsible in paving a new direction for integrative cancer treatment. He was selected by Seattle Magazine as one of the twenty best naturopathic physicians in Seattle. He is married and has 5 children. You can learn more about his Dr. Catanzaro’s work here.

None of the links work and the sites are down.  After Catanzaro had a license suspension all and any mention of him by Mark Driscoll seemed to vanish into thin air, as if Driscoll had never even met the guy.  For folks who are interacting with the Driscolls in the Arizona area it might be pertinent to ask, in the spirit of asking Driscolls how they live out their advice about friendship in their own lives, if they know how Catanzaro's been doing lately.

https://twitter.com/PastorMark/status/694169588691374080
Real friends are like socks. You might lose them for a while but eventually they show back up.

6:45 AM - 1 Feb 2016

What's perhaps most peculiar and telling about this tweet is that by describing real friends as being like socks the simile breaks down at the point in which it expects the friends to eventually show back up because the only way to lose your socks for a while is to abandon them somewhere, forget where you left them, and then decide you'll go looking for them.  If you wear your socks and put them thoughtfully somewhere where you can get them you don't lose them. 

Which could just keep us thematically on the question of where, since Driscoll's seen fit to tweet bromides about friends in general, what he knows about some friends of yore in more specific ways.

something old: Rolling Stone and the temptations of narrative journalism--building too much of a long-form story on a single personal narrative

In a footnote, the authors call their report “a work of journalism about a failure of journalism.” Their investigation, like the original article, takes the form of a roughly chronological narrative. It begins with the exploratory phone call Erdely made last July to Emily Renda, a U.V.A. expert on sexual assault, looking for a campus rape case to write about. Long-form narrative nonfiction might be in dire straits financially, but it’s become the default prose genre of our time, and not just in magazine articles and books. Official publications like the findings of the 9/11 Commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture now borrow its techniques: the use of characters, scenes, description, and dialogue; the creation of tension through pacing, foreshadowing, and recapitulation; the omniscient narrator whose sources are semi-hidden in order to preserve the elegance of storytelling. This tyranny of narrative is not unrelated to the disaster at Rolling Stone.

Any journalist who works in this form and is being honest will recognize the moments of truth that led to Erdely’s and Rolling Stones undoing. Like most journalists worth reading, she approached the story with a passionate purpose, a sense of injustice, of a wrong that needed to be righted. In Erdely’s case, she wanted to expose the “culture of rape” on college campuses, and she went looking for a case so vivid and gripping that no reader could dismiss it. When Renda told her about Jackie in that first conversation, Erdely found what she was looking for, and she made the decision not to pursue other, less dramatic cases that she learned about. Renda later told the Times that a more ambiguous incident might have seemed “not real enough to stand for rape culture. And that is part of the problem.” Her remark could be applied to narrative journalism as well: extreme, lurid cases are inherently tempting subjects, but they are not the most likely to lead to complex or profound or abidingly true work.
 

over at Political Theology Alastair Roberts discusses how Pope Francis is right to point out that since the theme of conquest is prominent in the Christian tradition concerns about conquest as a theme in Islam have to be tempered

http://www.politicaltheology.com/blog/conquest-narratives-in-islam-and-christianity-alastair-roberts/

In a recent interview with the French Catholic newspaper, La Croix, Pope Francis was asked about the connection between the fear of accepting migrants and the fear of Islam in the West. He responded by commenting upon the theme of conquest within Islam and the fact that such a theme can also be found within Christianity:
Today, I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam. It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.
There is considerable scriptural evidence to support the Pope’s claim. Although the theme of conquest is frequently found throughout the New Testament, due to the constraints of space, I will limit my discussion here to the gospel of Matthew.

...

The commission of Matthew 28 also parallels Joshua 1, however. There God declares that everywhere Joshua’s foot treads has been given to him, to the very ends of the land (verses 3-4). God assures Joshua of his presence (verse 5), and charges him to obey all that the Law of Moses commanded him (verse 7).

The mission of the Church is thus implicitly framed as a continued conquest of the world in the name of Christ. This conquest is not, however, a mere escalation of the sort of conquest led by Joshua. Rather, Matthew and the rest of the New Testament present us with a theological vision of the Church’s mission as conquest that is both continuous and discontinuous from Old Testament conquest.

...

Recognition of the theme of conquest and the importance of the Joshua tradition for the New Testament writers should also challenge us to do serious business with some of the more difficult texts in our scriptures. Although it may often be thematically sublimated, the violent conquest of Canaan is never disowned in the New Testament. Indeed, the implicit identification of Jesus with the Angel of the Lord may exacerbate the theodical tensions that it poses, highlighting that the violence of Joshua is stubbornly continuous with the story of the salvation of Christ.

As we appreciate the complicated role played by themes and narratives of conquest within our own faith, we should be encouraged to greater reticence and sensitivity in judgments concerning the role played by the theme of conquest in Islam. Within our own faith, the violence of the theme of conquest cannot be entirely sublimated, yet it can exist alongside and be interwoven with profound visions of peace.

Having a first-hand acquaintance with the ambivalence of the theme of conquest, when engaging with Islamic theologies of jihad it behoves us to extend the kind of charitable and careful hearing we would desire for ourselves, eschewing the precipitous judgments to which we are so often tempted in the current political environment.

A long set of excerpts since Alastair Roberts has a habit of writing things that are longer than some folks on the internet are willing to read.  :)

Jared C Wilson has a short update for Troubleshooting the Celebrity Pastor Problem--noting the sponsored content

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/gospeldrivenchurch/2016/05/11/troubleshooting-the-celebrity-pastor-problem/

* UPDATE: Previously mistakenly listed that blog post as by Challies, when it is a sponsored post from Biblical Eldership Resources. Apologies for the mistake. Still appreciate the post, paid for or not.

And as a Presbyterian I am totally on board with the idea of a plurality of elders with equal input and influence in church governance. My unsubtle point about the problem of Challies' blog post being sponsored content was not that I disagree with the value of a plurality of elders working in the local church, it's that the paradox of being concerned about celebrity in a context in which everything is advertising makes it tough to know how to contribute to a solution in the medium of the problem.  Challies' blog isn't even all that bad since if he's co-founded a publishing company that is committed to making affordable books for Christians to get I can even have some positive things to say about that. 

I still don't know quite know why, given the wealth of publishing resources new or neo-Calvinists have access to, we're not being treated to more and more English-language translations of folks like Bullinger, for instance.  Sometimes I feel like the problem with the neo-Calvinist scene (as someone who increasingly feels more like an old Calvinist) is that for all the lip service that gets paid to the magisterial Reformers by these guys they keep selling THEIR books ABOUT these guys and sticking to the English Puritans.  Not that I've no appreciation for Richard Sibbes!  It's just why go for the low-hanging fruit?  Why not branch out into other stuff.  When I wanted to research into the history of Reformed writings on the office of prophet I found that Bullinger's work was regarded as a landmark but, guess what?  There's apparently no English language translation of those works. Thankfully biblioblogger Jim West recommended a scholarly overview and I got that. 

Part of the trouble with the celebrity system in place now is that it favors the living celebrities in spite of the fact that some of them pay homage to the dead celebrities in ways that leave me wondering why we don't have more English-language translations of some of the lesser known works.  But, I mean, does the Gospel Coalition lack the infrastructural of financial resources to pitch in to translating some of Bullinger's works into English? So, obviously I hope, this isn't just me complaining about The Gospel Coalition as a whole (though I guess I could).  It's not even me assuming the worst about Jared C. Wilson here (because I've said more than a few times I respect that he chose to differ with Driscoll on some points in the past).  I'm suggesting that there are things within a context like The Gospel Coalition where, if we want to move away from the cult of the contemporary celebrity or even the past celebrity, we could branch out.  Even as a Calvinist it seems necessary to point out the Reformation was not just about Luther and Calvin.  The Zwingli/Bullinger stream has some good stuff in it, too. 

Ellul on the effectivenss of "horizontal propaganda" in the mid-20th century--which is now easily made at grass roots levels on any social media platform in use

PROPAGANDA: THE FORMATION OF MEN'S ATTITUDES
JACQUES ELLUL
Translated from the French by Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner
Vintage Books Edition, February 1973
Copyright (c) 1965 by Alfred A Knopf Inc.
ISBN 0-394-71874-7

page 81
This propaganda can be called horizontal because it is made inside the group (not from the top), where, in principle, all individuals are equal and there is no leader. ... But the most remarkable characteristic of horizontal propaganda is the small group. The individual participates actively in the life of this group, in a genuine and lively dialogue.

page 82

Vertical propaganda needs the huge apparatus of the mass media of communication; horizontal propaganda needs a huge organization of people.
...

A member of a small group must not belong to other groups in which he would be subjected to other influences; that would give him a chance to find himself again and, with it, the strength to resist.

page 84
Horizontal propaganda thus is very hard to make (particularly because it needs so many instructors), but it is exceptionally efficient through its meticulous encirclement of everybody, through the effective participation of all present, and through their public declarations of adherence. It is particularly a system that seems to coincide perfectly with egalitarian societies claiming to be based on the will of the people and calling themselves democratic [emphasis added]; each group is composed of persons who are alike and one actually can formulate the will of such a group. But all this is ultimately much more stringent and totalitarian than explosive propaganda. Thanks to this system, Mao has succeeded in passing from subversive propaganda to integration propaganda.

Ellul, of course ,was writing half a century ago.  Horizontal propaganda now is very easily created in the age of the internet.  What seemed difficult to accomplish in Ellul's time is now just another day on Facebook. 

Let's do a thought experiment in 2016--if you're in the United States and you happen to think the fate of the nation would be best off if one party ran every aspect of government at the top levels then, congratulations, you're a totalitarian.  The Americans left and right who seem most fretful that the other team will somehow set up a totalitarian regime seem to have few problems about doing things that would set one up if the cause is their cause.  Americans are already in many respects totalitarians at heart and the debates can in one sense be construed not as a debate about whether we will ultimately embrace totalitarianism but what KIND of totalitarian activities we will tolerate or promote in the cause of what we've told ourselves is democracy.

page 249
... Once democracy becomes the object of propaganda, it also becomes totalitarian, authoritarian, and exclusive as dictatorship.

pages 249-250
... This really is the ultimate problem: democracy is not just a certain form of political organization or simply an ideology--it is, first of all, a certain view of life and a form of behavior. If democracy were only a form of political organization, there would be no problem; propaganda could adjust to it. ... But if democracy is a way of life, composed of tolerance, respect, degree, choice, diversity, and so on, all propaganda that acts on behavior and feelings and transforms them in depth turns man into someone who can no longer support democracy because he no longer follows democratic behavior.


pages 251-252
...
But the creation of the etiological myth leads to an obligation on the part of democracy to become religious. It can no longer be secular but must create its religion. Besides, the creation of a religion is one of the indispensable elements of effective propaganda. [emphasis added] The content of this religion is of little importance; these feelings are used to integrate the masses into the national collective. We must not delude ourselves: when one speaks to us of "massive democracy" and "democratic participation," these are only veiled terms that mean "religion." Participation and unanimity have always been characteristics of religious societies, and only of religious societies. [emphasis added]

That religion doesn't need a deity, it just needs you to do something with ever greater consistency for the salvation of yourself, your society and then ultimately the whole world.  That sounds like voter behavior in our election cycles. The civic religions of the red state and blue state voters have no need of any specific deity so much as commitment to a particular variation of democracy not as a mode of governance but as what Ellul called an etiological myth.  It's not about the gods or a lack thereof, it's about reliably predictable ideologically motivated behavior.

In other words, we could say that angry white progressives and reactionaries here in 2016 can either feel the Bern or want to make America great again but both groups could be thinking in essentially propagandistic terms (kind of like anyone and everyone in the election cycle, but these two candidates and their respective posses most easily reflect the kinds of dynamics Ellul was addressing half a century ago). There's no need to doubt that for people this year the outcome of the electionis being cast in the most apocalyptic and cataclysmic terms.  If the wrong person gets the Oval Office it's being cast as the end of life as we know it. Ellul had a warning for us that when a society has reached this kind of point it may have the outward trappings of democratic process but be full of people who are totalitarians at heart:

page 256
... A man who lives in a democratic society and who is subjected to propaganda is being drained of the democratic content itself--of the style of democratic life, understanding of others, respect for minorities, re-examination of his own opinions, absence of dogmatism. The means employed to spread democratic ideas makes the citizen, psychologically, a totalitarian man. The only difference between him and a Nazi is that he is a "totalitarian man with democratic convictions," but those convictions do not change his behavior in the least. Such contradiction is in no way felt by the individual for whom democracy has become a myth and a set of democratic imperatives, merely stimuli that activate conditioned reflexes. The word democracy, having become a simple incitation, no longer has anything to do with democratic behavior. And the citizen can repeat indefinitely "the sacred formulas of democracy" while acting like a storm trooper.
So welcome to Twitter, Facebook, etc, etc.

while folks are free to spend their summer weekends as they choose, Mark Driscoll's The Trinity Church is inviting people to spend those weekends on work parties


http://thetrinitychurch.com/launch-team/
...
These Sundays are an open event welcome to anyone interested in being part of The Trinity Church Launch Team. This is the best way to learn who we are, what we believe, and the mission we are on. After our Sunday Bible Study, we will be having work parties at the church that people are invited to serve at for any length of time.

Saturday Work Parties

In addition to our Sunday Bible study and work party, there will also be work parties every Saturday from 8am-4pm at The Trinity Church, excluding the weekends of Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, and Independence Day. You can come anytime, for any length of time, and do not need to pre-register. If you want to bring landscaping, construction, or cleaning items that would be helpful. If you have any questions, specific skills, or want to work at the building at a time other than a weekend



This year there's been no shortage of posts on Jacques Ellul's book Propaganda and while the book could certainly be discussed in light of the 2016 election it has seemed more necessary to discuss propaganda and propagandists in Ellul's writing as a way to understand the contemporary megachurch pastor.  It is easy to look at a political candidate and say of him or her "That is a propagandist" and it could be said about just about any successful politician in American society today, left or right.  But it could equally be said, I think, about pastors who have mastered organizations that distribute content across all manner of social and mass media platforms.  A Christian could be a propagandist in a more limited sense even if not a pastor.  Should you wish to revisit or read anew the blog posts discussing Jacques Ellul's work in connection to the history of Mars Hill in general and the activity of Mark Driscoll seen in the light of being a propagandist (as distinct from a pastor) here's the tag:

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/search/label/Ellul%20on%20propaganda%20%26%20MH

And among megachurch pastors it would be very difficult to find someone who has been more explicit about the need for a church leadership culture to master and deploy every conceivable form of media to get messaging out than Mark Driscoll in the history of Seattle.  While the tag will bring up all the posts a few highlights seem worthy of renewed mention:

Mark Driscoll as propagandist: excerpts from Driscoll presentation from 1-23-2013 on social media content cross-referenced with content from Jacques Ellul's Propaganda--updated with audio link

nearing the 10th anniversary of Confessions of a Reformission Rev--exploring the Midrash/Dead Men era as an integrated propaganda campaign with help from Jacques Ellul

a postscript to an earlier post on Pussified Nation and Dead Men as agitation and integration propaganda within Ellulian terms

That's why it seems useful to quote from Ellul here, again.

Why?

Because this year it seems that Driscoll has modified the branding and jargon a bit but that the process of exciting and integrating volunteers into an ambitious project of re:branding and re:birth for his public career in ministry is intended to be this summer's big thing for Team Driscoll..

Mark Driscoll and others are inviting a bunch of people to spend their weekends out in the Arizona sun to participate in work parties however much they see fit to.  Work parties ... Bible studies ... this sounds kind of familiar to me.  Back in 2000 there was that Dead Men thing launched in the wake of "Pussified Nation".  I've written at great length about how what seemed a bit frazzled at the time could, in hindsight and with some help from Ellul, be seen as a two step process of agitation propaganda followed by integration propaganda.  The agitation was, indisputably "Pussified Nation" and the collected writings of Mark Driscoll under the pseudonym William Wallace II.  The integration propaganda process was a kind of initiation rite process that came to be known as Dead Men. 

Well, here's Ellul on what agitation and integration propaganda are intended to do.

PROPAGANDA: THE FORMATION OF MEN'S ATTITUDES
JACQUES ELLUL
Translated from the French by Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner
Vintage Books Edition, February 1973
Copyright (c) 195 by Alfred A Knopf Inc.
ISBN 0-394-71874-7


page 72
In all cases propaganda of agitation tries to stretch energies to the utmost, obtain substantial sacrifices, and induce the individual to bear heavy ordeals. It takes him out of his everyday life, his normal framework, and plunges him into enthusiasm and adventure; it opens to him hitherto unsuspected possibilities, and suggests extraordinary goals that nevertheless seem to him completely within reach. Propaganda of agitation thus unleashes an explosive movement; it operates inside a crisis or actually provokes the crisis itself. On the other hand, such propaganda can obtain only effects of relatively short duration. If the proposed objective is not achieved fast enough, enthusiasm can give way to discouragement and despair.  Therefore specialists in agitation propaganda break up the desired goals into a series of stages to be reached one by one. There is a period of pressure to obtain some result, then a period of relaxation and rest. ...

page 75
... Propaganda of integration aims at making the individual participate in his society in every way.


"a series of stages" can be managed by work parties on the weekends.  We could float the idea here that the propaganda of agitation can include the work parties because, as Ellul wrote so presciently half a century ago, one of the most powerful forms of propagandistic society is ... the small group.

The small group, whether at Mars Hill or in other contexts, can be an ideal means to allow the effects of agitation to work itself out in integration and not just at the level of work parties.  Weekend Bible studies can also get this task done. 

Driscoll has not let up on the blogging and vodcasts.  There's something every week.  There's usually been three to five posts of some kind a week or a post averaging about one every 1-3 days.  Old sermons from the Mars Hill days of old keep coming back, albeit in some cases dramatically sliced down in size.  Driscoll's made sure to share what products he's got coming up and what books he's thinking of tackling and there's stuff being shared.  He's still got conference activity lined up and sermons here and there.  It's as if there's no kind of mass media or social media channel he's not availing himself of in the preparation for the big launch.  There's a fully integrated social and mass media push to get things going.

Which is exactly what Jacques Ellul said propaganda is and what it aims to do.

PROPAGANDA: THE FORMATION OF MEN'S ATTITUDES
JACQUES ELLUL
Translated from the French by Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner
Vintage Books Edition, February 1973
Copyright (c) 195 by Alfred A Knopf Inc.
ISBN 0-394-71874-7


page 9
Propaganda must be total. The propagandist must utilize all of the technical means at his disposal--the press, radio, TV, movies, posters, meetings, door-to-door canvassing. Modern propaganda must utilize all of these media. [emphasis added] There is no propaganda so long as one makes use, in a sporadic fashion and at random, of a newspaper article here, a poster or a radio program there, organizes a few meetings and lectures, writes a few slogans on walls; that is not propaganda.


page 20
To begin with, propaganda must be organized in several ways. To give it the above mentioned characteristics (continuity, duration, combination of different media), an organization is required that controls the mass media, is capable of using them correctly, of calculating the effect of one or another slogan or of replacing one campaign with another. There must be an administrative organization, every modern state is expected to have a Ministry of Propaganda, whatever its actual name may be.
page 46
.. Once again, we note that propaganda should be continuous, should never relax, and must vary its themes with the tide of events.


page 61
Propaganda is a set of methods employed by an organized group that wants to bring about the active or passive participation in its actions of a mass of individuals, psychologically unified through psychological manipulation and incorporated in an organization.


Which is to say that Mark Driscoll hasn't even launched The Trinity Church yet and he already has a fully integrated propaganda apparatus.  Moreover, it's not that difficult to consult Mark Driscoll from instructions past about what he regarded as the necessity to use every available channel, get a message out, and even how he managed to kind of sort of prooftext a Pauline epistle into defending this.

Pastor Mark Driscoll Address
January 23, 2013

14:15... the hard thing is how to have enough fresh content to keep interest. It becomes very difficult.  Like, for me, I've got a weekly podcast/vodcast thing to fill; I've got my own website with a daily blog to fill; I've got Resurgence blogs to fill, I've got Mars Hill blogs to fill; I've got books to fill. I mean I've got Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and I don't even know where other stuff is because I never go on to those places but it's just a constant flow of content. So if you're going to open a communication channel then you have to fill that communication channel and it can get very laborious.
...
24:05
So we've built this (and I've brought myself into that same negotiation. We're all in it together) to provide us a way of getting our content out in as expedient a manner as possible through as many channels as is possible. And this is what Paul, I think, is alluding to in 1 Corinthians 9 when he says "I became all things to all men so that by ALL means, ALL means, I might save as many as possible." And in "all means" what he's saying is, "if there's a way to get the good news of Jesus out, I'm gonna look for that opportunity and I'm gonna take that opportunity." [emphasis added] And so these are various opportunities but I would encourage you, you're now part of a system where if you are a content creator, and you build a tribe, and you provide good content there really is no limit (all the way to the New York Times best seller list) for an opportunity for you. I can't guarantee you anything but we can provide you an opportunity. ...

38.00
What's the big idea I'm sending out right now?  Identity. One big idea and it's a hook and then all the other ideas hang off that big hook. So for the whole 16-week sermon series there's one big hook called identity. All the social media, all the blogs, all the community groups everything's hanging on the hook. And then it's even consistent. So you walk in and you see "I am a saint" and, all of a sudden, the theming is consistent in the building. And so it's just, every medium, how do we communicate this message? And so for 16 weeks it will a concentrated content message on identity in Christ. But then once we're done with the series, let's say somebody gets saved in two years and walks in all of that content's available. [emphasis added]

Back then it was "identity" and now it's "the father heart of God", but in terms of overall technique and process, it can still be described as propaganda.  The key is to use every channel available to constantly keep a message getting out there and it can function to excite participation and integrate volunteers into the nascent church launch Team Driscoll has in mind.  If we remember that back in the old days of 2012 Mark Driscoll boasted that he had a degree in communications from a top university program and that his wife Grace did, too (her background was in public relations) we're looking at a rare case of a megachurch pastor who was basically bragging that both he AND HIS WIFE had academic credentials in what Ellul would describe as propaganda.  Even if we could make a case that a majority of megachurch pastors are propagandists Mark Driscoll's unusual in the sense that he actively sought education in getting the tools of a propagandist and that his wife did, too. 

And if people want to spend their weekends this summer under the Arizona sun working to get The Trinity Church off the ground that's their call.  It's just that having seen where things went with Mark Driscoll as a preacher and propagandist in the last ... twenty years here in Seattle ... it seems necessary to say a few things for the folks in Arizona.  If you're in Arizona and you actually see Mark Driscoll do actually ask him when the last time was he talked to Mike Gunn or Lief Moi.  When's the last time he talked to Dave Bruskas or Sutton Turner?  What about Gerry Breshears?  What about John Catanzaro?  What about Phelps?  James MacDonald?  The point isn't too complex, if Driscoll's going to share proverbs about ways to be a better friend, it might be worth asking him about some specific friends.  And if people get to talk to Grace now they could ask her when the last time she talked to any of the above. 







Friday, May 27, 2016

at Slate Katy Waldman says the English literary canon is racist, sexist, homophobic (etc) but you have to read it anyway, especially if you're an English lit student

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/05/24/yale_students_want_to_remake_the_english_major_requirements_but_there_s.html
...

I want to gently push back, too, against the idea that the major English poets have nothing to say to students who aren’t straight, male, and white. For all the ways in which their particular identities shaped their work, these writers tried to represent the entire human condition, not just their clan. A great artist possesses both empathy and imagination: Many of Shakespeare’s female characters are as complexly nuanced as any in circulation today, Othello takes on racial prejudice directly, and Twelfth Night contains enough gender-bending identity shenanigans to fuel multiple drag shows and occupy legions of queer scholars. The “stay in your lane” mentality that seems to undergird so much progressive discourse—only polyamorous green people really “get” the “polyamorous green experience,” and therefore only polyamorous greens should read and write about polyamorous greens, say—ignores our common humanity.  [emphasis added] 

But even if you disagree, there’s no getting around the facts. Although you’ve written that the English department “actively contributes to the erasure of history,” what it really does is accurately reflect the tainted history we have—one in which straight white cis-men dominated art-making for centuries—rather than the woke history we want and fantasize about. There are few (arguably no) female poets writing in Chaucer’s time who rival Chaucer in wit, transgressiveness, texture, or psychological insight. The lack of equal opportunity was a tremendous injustice stemming from oppressive social norms, but we can’t reverse it by willing brilliant female wordsmiths into the past. Same goes for people of color in Wordsworth’s day, or openly queer people in Pope’s, or … 

...

I am not arguing that it is acceptable for an English major to graduate from college having only read white male authors or even 70 percent white male authors. But you cannot profess to be a student of English literature if you have not lingered in the slipstreams of certain foundational figures, who also happen to be (alas) both white and male: In addition to the majors listed above, Jonson, Shelley, Keats, Pound, Auden, and Frost. This is frustrating, unfair, and 100 percent nonnegotiable. (But hey, try to have some fun reading Frost? You could do so much worse!)

The canon of English literature is sexist. It is racist. It is colonialist, ableist, transphobic, and totally gross. You must read it anyway
.


A corresponding complaint that Japanese literature is racist, sexist, etc does not seem to come up so much.  The reason seems fairly straightforward, they don't have and haven't had the kind of globe-spanning empire the English had and that the United States has. 

I've been thinking about how there seem to be two contrasting impulses or convictions about what the arts "ought" to do.  Whereas a lot of people have mused upon the Apollo and Dionysius polarity I think lately that there's another polarity--there are those who want art to sum up "our" aspirations and anxieties in a way that becomes art.  But the other impulse is to want to see art REFLECT what is going on in some way.  This gets at Oscars so white or whitewashing casting in adaptations of manga.  It gets at concerns about cultural appropriation that is ... well ... I don't recall a ton of people complaining that somebody like Bubber Miley "appropriated" a Chopin riff for an Ellington piece.  The concern about cultural appropriation might be more accurately expressed about the concern that colonialist/imperialist assimilation seems bad to folks on the left.  Okay ... but all art is appropriation and assimilation.  Nobody as any truly "new" ideas and cultural appropriation isn't always "imperialist".  When the author of Ezekiel riffed on the literature that venerated Marduk in his Gog and Magog oracle was it "bad" to appropriate that set of tropes? 

So it seems that there are those who want the canon to be bigger or for there to be no canon.  It isn't possible for there to be no canon, though.  We've had the sum of human history to discover that anywhere there's any kind of empire an artistic canon of some kind emerges. 

The thing is, humans have a long history of scapegoating.  If we get rid of the customs of rejecting as unsuitable for "mainstream" society one set of people we won't stop "othering" people, we'll just find other groups to alienate or scapegoat.  One of my favorite macabre observations has been Richard Taruskin's observation that it doesn't matter how far left or right you move in European history over the last few centuries, you find they could agree on killing Jews.  If Christians in the contemporary West have fears that they could be next progressives have been saying over and over again that, well, kinda they deserve it.  The idea that what a bunch of white people transformed Christianity into so as to serve ideological and political expansionism may not have corresponded with a historically orthodox Christian faith isn't going to be on the table for the people who have already made up their minds. 

Of course the history of empires seems to be full of people who say the ideals and practices of the empire reflects the highest and best of what is common to all of humanity.  In the Judeo-Christian tradition this can be known as Babel or Babylon, that impulse people have to create empires by which we will not be scattered and will not be forgotten. 

As a former Mars Hill member one of the unforeseen advantages of steeping in the Western literary canon and religious scholarship can be discovering how much stuff gets recycled.  Every generation has to in some sense reinvent the wheel and rediscover fire but the learning curve can be faster if more and more of it is vicarious and observed rather than in the swift path to an untimely death colloquially known as "I learn by doing".  I hear this is a pattern of education encouraged by Middle Eastern Jews and Jewish followers of some guy named Jesus.  If whites benefited from steeping themselves in the literature of non-white authors from millennia ago perhaps taking the best and leaving the rest is kind of what education is supposed to be about. 

We seem to have reached a moment where the politics of identity representation have emerged in reaction to the injustice of a presumed universality that was not-so-universal.  My lineage is not entirely white so it's not like I can't "get that", but Waldman is right to point us in the direction of remembering that just because the liberal, individualistic ideals of a ton of white writers in the last five or six centuries fell short of living out those ideals at many social levels doesn't mean the baby has to go out with the bathwater.  And just because a bunch of white guys in America are obviously the top dog empire now doesn't mean they always were. 

The irony of the "stay in your line" progressive discourse is that it is the photo-negative of the insular hegemony it has critiqued.  The difference may be as blunt as on which side of "mainstream" or "empire" the groups are on but if that's the primary difference then we need all the more to remember that when tables occasionally get turned today's scrappy upstart quester of justice can become tomorrow's imperialist who thinks that his/her/they have the ideals everyone ought to have.  It will happen again because that's just how people are. 

another riff or two on art reflecting the aspirations and anxieties of empires, the controversy over the casting of Kusanagi in the live-action Ghost in the Shell

So many film critics and writers have vented their spleen about how the same sci-fi franchises keep getting rebooted that I began to tire of the people who are tired of the endless reboots.  The usual explanations of "it makes money" or "people love nostalgia" are foolish arguments because they are too vague and because they don't even really attempt to explain why the nostalgia train runs as it does.  It "could" be said that the nostalgia train is what we get any time 40-somethings who have the money to burn decide to revisit the stuff they watched as kids twenty or thirty years ago.

But, you see, the reason I can't quite buy that is because if "that" the "real" explanation for franchise reboots and the like could there have been this controversy about Scarlett Johannson?

http://www.theverge.com/2016/5/9/11612530/ghost-in-the-shell-anime-asian-representation-Hollywood

...

During the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, when Japan had not only made its comeback but was experiencing an unprecedented economic bubble (on the back of consumer electronics exports —€” toys to the rescue again) Japanese animation started to really come into its own as an art form. And as it shifted from its origins as a medium aimed at children to explore more adult themes, it turned its gaze toward the ground zero of this aggressive expansion. Tokusatsu (special effects) films like the Godzilla franchise had explicitly riffed on post-atomic anxiety, but anime melded that anxiety with the technoparanoia and existential musings of American science fiction authors like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson. The ubiquitous image of the atom bomb is the inciting or concluding event; the fallout is technology. Innocent youths are caged in robot suits, powerful psychics are trapped in decrepit childlike forms. Technology alienates everyone: consciousness becomes unmoored, bodies become arbitrary and disposable, sex becomes less a biological function than a psychological dysfunction, the planet and its host of forgotten nature spirits cries out in agony.
...

Enter Ghost in the Shell. Masamune Shirow's cyberpunk crime saga was first published as a manga serial in 1989, and by the time it was released as a feature-length film in 1995 the bubble economy had burst. The emphasis of the story shifted from the paranoid thrill of a world where everything is connected via a network to the fate of a human consciousness in a world overtaken by technology. Its heroine, Major Motoko Kusanagi, is a cyborg with a manufactured body and a human brain (maybe). She, like many other enhanced humans in this vision of 2029 Japan regularly jacks into a globe-spanning network via ports in the back of her neck. She's already started to wonder about the origin and location of her consciousness, when an artificial intelligence, that has self-generated in the network, finds her and asks to merge with her as a means of mutual self-prolonging. The 1995 film ends with her merging with the entity and assuming a new, younger body.

Ghost in the Shell isn't even an American thing. Now Americans love to revamp and retool stories from all over.  It's not like the forthcoming Magnificent Seven doesn't remind us that it's a remake of a film that was a remake of a Kurosawa film, after all.

The piece from The Verge floats an explanation of what it is about Ghost in the Shell that makes it distinctly Japanese.

...
Technology was what Japan turned to as a means to assert itself as a world leader when military might was no longer an option. The wire-encrusted dystopias of ‘90s anime are the natural outgrowth of a country brought to its knees by nuclear warfare that threw itself into a tech explosion and is now slumping through economic downturn. And it's an indirect American inheritance. America took away Japan's army, tossed it some tin cans, said "Here, play with this, instead." A half a century later, we have the PS4, Hatsune Miku, and sex robots. That's better than comfort women, to be sure. It's definitely better than nukes. But it permanently altered the entire question of national identity.

Another way to put this could be to say that Japan was defeated by the United States and put in a position where it could not possibly regain its self-sense of glory or empire through military might and embraced technological innovation.  Regular readers (if there are those, still) may recall that I've been riffing on the idea that sci-fi and genre nostalgia and the franchises that tend to be picked up as popular to begin with seem to cluster around the aspirations and anxieties of empire. 

I proposed this idea explicitly to explain why we keep getting reboots of sci-fi utopian and dystopian adventures that cluster around the 1960s and 1980s.  "Nostalgia and the Anxieties of Empire: Toward a unified theory of American sci-fi movie nostalgia"  was where I floated the idea that the franchises we keep seeing get reboots or that have never entirely fallen to the wayside embody the utopian or dystopian anxieties of artists during what I'd call the Camelot fantasies and nightmares of the Kennedy and Reagan eras. Since Marvel comics began in the 1960s and hit some strides in the 1980s I'd say that the lately released Age of Apocalypse would continue to prove this point--Americans may be convinced we're going to destroy or save the world but in any event it's absolutely going to be US that does the deed (pun both unavoidable and intended, for once).

But just because American pop culture can be a medium for recycling the aspirations and anxieties of empire doesn't mean that's not in some sense what all art is for other nations.  James Bond and Doctor Who can be taken as franchises reflecting upon the British empire in decline.  Not that progressives in the West would necessarily like it to be put this way but all art is imperialist or colonialist in some fashion.  Baroque art and music celebrated grandeur and power.  We can pick an empire to back but what we don't have a choice about (unless we've got the material and monetary means to do otherwise) is which empire we make art in (if we make it).  Any aspiration to go "mainstream" is to want to share in the riches of an empire and even the repudiation of  a current empire carries with it a belief that some other kind of empire would be better. 

To propose that humans would quest for and actually achieve a state of living that isn't imperial is to ignore the entirety of human history.  Now for those who explicitly embrace apocalyptic religion they at least recognize that only a god or gods could bring that about.  For secularists, I have no idea how secularist utopians who think humans are capable of living without empires imagine that will happen.  But in a way ... superhero stories could be a way to find out.  Are superhero stories too juvenile and disconnected from the real world and how real people behave?  This ... is 2016, folks, and I haven't seen the fans of Sanders and Clinton and Trump behave THAT differently from fans of Wolverine yet.

The problem of an American adaptation of a Japanese story is that the aspirations and anxieties of the American empire won't be the same as those of a Japanese technocratic empire circa the 1980s.

What made Japanese stories meditating on the costs of having embraced technological innovation but with the loss of the old ways and the loss of connection to nature unique was the lack of a military option, so the case is going.  The United States has always had the military option.  But in both cases we shouldn't forget these are anxieties of empire.  If the tech bubble hadn't burst Japanese storytellers could wonder whether what was gained was never going to compensate for what was lost.  If the United States crew trying to bring Ghost in the Shell to life focus on a quasi Inception or quasi Existenze (sic) rumination on how do you know you're you they will have missed the anxieties of the Japanese tales. 

In a way the problem of how Americans think could be summed up in Steve Rogers in Civil War--Bucky was brainwashed by Hydra and the Soviets or something and became the Winter Soldier so everything he did while under the command of others is stuff he's not guilty of.  Or, well, kinda he's not guilty even though he totally killed a ton of people but since he was being controlled he's not responsible.  Not even Bucky buys this reasoning and it might be suggested as a thought experiment that this is the weakness of American character arc logic.  It's why American genre films that raise the question of whether something is a dream or not falter--the American storyteller seems to think that if you just ask "is this real or isn't it?" the characters are off the hook.  But in Uresei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer [sic], you're not off the hook just because you're in a dream world.  Your code of ethics can determine not only your fate but the fate of everyone you care about if you make the right or wrong decision. 

On the whole I would rather Western filmmakers avoided doing adaptations of anime and manga.  But the reason for this is because I don't think that all imperial cultures (and they're all imperial in the end) share the same anxieties and aspirations, even if within each cultural empire the hope and dream is that what "we" want is universal.   We'd like it to be ... but take this recent entry at Slate in which praise for mommy humor includes:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/05/25/comedians_are_finally_taking_on_motherhood_but_not_everybody_is_happy_about.html
...  Humor liberates us from our idealized selves, and there are few roles shellacked with as many layers of idealization as motherhood. Good mom humor strips off the many, often ridiculous, expectations placed on mothers by both showing us that it’s all right to fail, and, more importantly, making it clear how the world is failing us.

Would a Japanese author talk about how good mom humor shows us that it's "all right to fail, and, more importantly, making it clear how the world is failing us?" Where Japanese film and manga may have explored the possibility that a technologically innovative empire may have gained technology at the price of turning away from nature and tradition, an American writer might see an opportunity to say that the self must assert itself to prove it's real to itself in the sea of fakeness.  How do you know you're really you?  Because you fight!  Because you CHOOSE to live.  Because you have free will (and also perhaps not generations of social obligations and traditions to consider because ... `Murica). 

American science fiction and genre narrative could seem hopelessly nostalgic because in many ways it is.  We want the Reagan Camelot back or the JFK Camelot back or whatever red-state or blue-state fantasy land that we either thought we had or that "should" exist.  If you don't understand that Star Trek is in some sense the ultimate blue state Cold War era utopian colonialist dream you don't get the frnachise at its heart or why ... maybe ... it cannot and should not survive in that way in a post-Cold War setting.  Condescending American chauvinism was so part and parcel of the early Trek that extracting that component by way of making the Federation a source of evil is probably the biggest reason Star Trek Into Darkness felt like a let down for Trek fans.  The darkness isn't supposed to be within the Federation. 

Dystopian stories from the anime/manga tradition are stories I haven't read in a while but I'll take a stab at remembering them in contrast to American dystopian stories.  In American stories the dystopia can be toppled.  In other nations where dystopian futures are taken up it can seem as though there's more a sense that the opportunity cost is a loss that cannot be regained.  Star Trek imagined a world in which the human race could bounce back from even World War III. It's hard to propose a more wildly utopian impulse than that.

And as the pop culture and sci-fi of Japan has shown and told, you don't just "bounce back" from that into Star Trek. 

It's easy enough to imagine that if the wrong person ends up on the Oval Office life as we know it is over and it is perhaps the crisis of the American cultural conscience that it also seems we can't imagine any other kind of life as even being worth living.  Whether on the left or the right it's nothing less than world-saving and world-ending apocalyptic frenzy.  In that sense it's a relief to know that in Japanese dystopian sci-fi the world didn't end, you just ... kinda lost some of your soul.   Not ALL of it, just enough to realize you've missed something.  That's why the continent that keeps giving us Terminator films is probably not going to do anything all that great with Ghost in the Shell.  We're too obsessed with depicting alienation as a completed rupture and riffing on the loss rather than playing with the idea that the ways we build our identities are the ways we lost what we thought we were gaining--we don't seem into the idea that alienation can be a process and that the quest for self can be its loss.  Of course in non-Western cultural traditions the idea that whoever would save his life will lose it and whoever would lose his life will have saved it DOES come up but that's not necessarily the same cultural tradition.

Mark Driscoll's 9 simple ways to be a better friend might be a reminder to former Mars Hillians to ask when the last time was Mark talked to Mike or Lief.

http://markdriscoll.org/9-simple-ways-to-be-a-better-friend/

It's not very long and it's interesting that the way Mark Driscoll's website is set up you can't cut and paste quote.  Can't imagine what the benefit of that might since old fashion transcription hasn't become obsolete.

But since Driscoll's willing to post 9 simple ways to be a better friend it'd be interesting to have people who are following Driscoll these days ask when the last time was he talked to Mike Gunn or Lief Moi.  It's not that there aren't other names that could be mentioned, just that those two are fairly obvious in the history of Mars Hill ... or has Mark Driscoll heeded Munson's advice to "own it and move on?" 

POSTSCRIPT 05-28-2016
http://markdriscoll.org/what-is-a-godly-friend/

September 23, 2015 Grace Driscoll
...
3. If you are married, your husband will see her as an asset rather than a hindrance in your marriage. As women, it can tend to be easier for us to be friends with other women than it is with our husband. We more readily share vulnerability with women, confess sin with women, or ask for counsel from women. If our conversations with other women spark division in our marriage, it is not godly.

This does not come across like the same woman who told her husband the figure in the Book of Ruth he most resembled was Elimelech.  But then times were different in the previous decade.  If Grace Driscoll believes that if a woman's conversations with other women spark division in her marriage that it is not godly let's revisit what Mark Driscoll had to say about women who wanted to be friends with the pastor's wife back in 2008.

http://download.marshill.se/files/MH%20Vodcast%20Video/2008/20080205_the-devil_vodcast.m4v
February 5, 2008
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Part 2: The Devil
...
49:58
How about this one? Idle gossip and busybodying. 1 Timothy 5:11-15. THIS one is amazing. Ladies this one is especially for you. Some of you say, "Oh, it's not me." Yeah, it is. 1 Timothy 5:11-15, "but refuse to enroll younger widows for when their passions draw them away from Christ they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith.  Besides that they learn to be idlers"
Women learn how to make a lot of free time. Going about from house to house. Well now it would be from email to email and from phone call to phone call. Technology makes idle busybodying far more effective than ever.

And not only idlers but also gossips. They like to talk about people. How are you doing? What are you doing? And this isn't sisterly accountability, this is "I need to know what everybody's doing because I like to know what everybody's doing and then I can tell other people what other people are doing and then I can say, `Hey, you need to pray for so-and-so.' and I can make it sound spiritual so that when I'm gossiping and busy-bodying I'm doing so in a way that seems really Jesus-like." And busybodies, they need to know what everybody's doing. They need to know what everybody's doing, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children and manage their household, right? Stay busy, and give the adversary (that's Satan) no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan. Hmm.

A woman who's a gossip and a busybody; a woman who has to put her nose in everybody's business and knows what everybody's going on; know what they're doing, she's working with Satan. Now I know most women would say: "No, no, no. I'm not Satanic, I'm concerned. I'm not Satanic, I'm an intercessor. I'm a prayer warrior. I'm not Satanic, I'm an accountability partner.  I'm not Satanic, I'm a concerned friend."  Okay, you're a Satanic intercessory prayer warrior accountability partner concerned friend but just start the whole list with "Satanic" so that we don't misunderstand your job description. 

Now there's a difference between someone inviting you into their life and saying, "I want to be friends, I want to have an accountable  relationship." and you pushing yourself into everyone's life, okay?  I'll tell you, in the history of Mars Hill, I mean, I have had to put up a firewall, a moat, guard dogs, and a high wall with barbed wire on the top, and snipers behind it, around my wife. There are certain women who, they just need to know what Grace is doing and they are determined, they say things like, uh, "Hey, we need to have dinner with your family." [slight chuckle] No you don't. "Hey, we need to have coffee." No you don't.  "Hey, phone number." What? Nope. "Email." Nope.  Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

"Oh, come on." Nope.
"But I thought you were our pastor."
I am and my first lesson is to tell you you're Satanic.
"Oh, come on, in our last church the pastor's wife [sob] she was my best friend and I got to talk to her all the time."
Well, she was Satanic, too.  Give me her number, I'll call her and tell her. We'll help her out.
[emphasis added]

If Mark Driscoll reached a point in the past where he considered women who wanted to be friends with his wife Satanic what's to keep him from reaching such a point again? 

Well, if Grace Driscoll, by her own account, regards any conversation with women that sparks division between her and her husband to be ungodly (regardless of whether or not the other women intended that, to go by the sweeping verbiage) then perhaps the whole matter is moot.  Perhaps after so many decades a wife can learn what kinds of women her husband has already not wanted her to be friends with. 

Perhaps the proverbial firewall, moat, snipers and guard dogs aren't up now but it may be good to remember Driscolls past in case they make another appearance in the future.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mark Driscoll revisits the question of whether Christians can be demonized, answers affirmatively, which suggests he's still got the stance he laid out in his 2008 spiritual warfare seminar. (links/transcripts included)

Last week we discussed a bit about how Mark Driscoll fielded a question in a vodcast whether or not anorexia is a sin.
http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2016/05/driscoll-vodcast-is-anorexia-sin-how-to.html

Then we got to part 2, in which it seemed necessary to point out that while Driscoll said in the vodcast something to the effect of "Satan, demons are lying to you ... " that Driscoll's previously shared teaching on the matter of the extent to which Satan would bother with you or me average nobody Christian is hard to pin down.

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2016/05/part-2-of-mark-driscoll-discussing.html

Well, it seems yesterday Driscoll decided to more directly field the old question of whether or not Christians can be demonized. 

http://markdriscoll.org/can-christians-be-possessed-by-demons/

...
We believe Christians may be deceived, accused, or tempted by Satan and may yield to those attacks (though they do not have to). If believers begin to respond wrongly to such things, they may give demons influence in their lives. Apparently an evil spirit can empower, energize, encourage, and exploit a believer's own sinful desires. Examples would include Peter (Matt. 16:2-23) and Ananias (Acts 5:3). As children of God, regenerated and indwelt by the Spirit, we are responsible to and empowered by God to resist Satan, and if we do resist, we need not suffer from his influence (Eph 6:10-18); 1 Pet. 5:7-9; 1 John 4:1-4; 5:1, 18-19).

He revisited some material from Death By Love, that was co-authored with Gerry Breshears.  But we've discussed this before.  There's an as yet unanswered question as to how much of Death By Love Breshears wrote. Why?  Because ... thanks to a screen capture and a link to an old Resurgence post preserved over here:

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2014/07/a-blast-from-past-resurgence-blog-post.html
http://www.theresurgence.com/md_blog_2006-09-19_its_always_something_at_mars_hill_church
[that link to theresurgence is not only dead but robots.txt still in effect]

It's Always Something at Mars Hill Church
Author: Mark Driscoll
POSTED ON: 09.19.06

..

We are still giving 10 percent of our money to help lead the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. I'm still writing a lot, including a book titled Death by Love on the subject of the cross that is nearing completion. [emphasis added] This week we did a free training about preaching for nearly a hundred pastors in our area and the guys ate a lot of meat for lunch. We captured my lecture on preaching and will vodcast it in chunks here on this site free of charge, as always, before too long. We've also upgraded our cameras to high-def so that the free stuff we do give away through Resurgence and Mars Hill will be as high quality as possible in an effort to help equip as many people around the world as possible on our dime.

So ... it looks as though back in September 2006 the book titled Death by Love was nearly complete and that Mark Driscoll was writing it himself.  He might have been co-authoring the book with Breshears at the time but if he was there's not much said to that effect.

Nor has Driscoll mentioned much lately how much his ideas about how Christians can, in fact, be demonized, was explained at length in his 2008 spiritual warfare seminar.  He discussed it some in Part 2, Christus Victor

http://download.marshill.se/files/MH%20Vodcast%20Video/2008/20080205_christus-victor_vodcast.m4v

06.19ish Second thing, what about Christians? Can Christians be demon possessed?  Not in terms of ownership, no. You belong to God, right? You belong to God. Some would say, therefore, Satan doesn't work on Christians. Well, sure he does. He attacked Jesus. --say, "Yeah, well, he [Satan] can't internally influence them."  Well, yeah, he can. Jesus looks at Peter and says, "Get behind me--" what?  Satan. In Acts 5 there's a couple called Ananias and Sapphira. They were members of the church, believers, they were bringing their tithe after selling some land, and they withheld part of their alleged pledged tithe, and Peter looks at them and says "Why has Satan so filled your heart? You've not lied to men but to God the Holy Spirit." Why has Satan so filled your heart? Right at the center and core of who you are.  Satan work's from THERE.  [emphases added]The same language again in Ephesians, "Don't be drunk with wine, be FILLED with the Holy Spirit." Why are you FILLED in your heart with Satan? Christians can't be owned, possessed in terms of demons but they can be externally oppressed and (this will be my most controversial statement) internally influenced. Not possessed, not controlled.  [emphasis added]

I'll use a very simple analogy, very controversial. There are huge books written warring over this. Some would argue, "Well, Satan can't have any access to a believer because God and Satan don't occupy the same space." I said, "Well they did in the days of Job when Satan was allowed to go into the presence of God." In me I have the flesh and my new nature. I have my depravity and the Holy Spirit. The world, God and Satan are at work there. Now God is greater, to be sure, and the only way I believe a believer is really opened up to the demonic is through sin and folly and lies and they open up themselves up. Are they possessed?  NO. Are they internally influenced? Possibly. Possibly, for some.
8:21
In the same way, okay, I'll give you an analogy.  I own my house.  It's my house. No one has any right to live there but let's say I just invite over some total losers (drug addicts, alcoholics, freeloaders, whatever) and I let `em eat my food, hang out, sleep on the couch, crash in the bedroom, I just let `em live there. I don't kick `em out, I don't do anything. Do they own the house? Do they possess the house? No.  Do they have access to it?  Well, yeah, I opened the door, I let `em in. Are they gonna create havoc in my house?  Yeah, they're gonna ruin everything. So what do I need to do?  I need to kick `em out because they have no right to be there and then I need to lock the door and not invite `em in ever again.
I'm saying in that simple analogy that's kinda how Satan and demons work. If you open up your life, and this is not, not, you know, you had a bad day and said a bad word, this is a Christian who all of a sudden you're into the demonic; you're sick and you want to be healed so you go to some healer and now you're involved in demons; there's sin in your life that you've never really dealt with, that kind of stuff. You're doing drugs, you're opening yourself up to an altered state of conscioucesness (the Bible says to be self-controlled and alert and resist the devil and not you're not doing that cuz you're into drugs and alcohol and bizarre spirituality). You can open the door, bad guys move in, they don't OWN the house, you can kick `em out, lock the door. That's my description of internal influence. It's in very extreme cases and this isn't very often but it's possible.


One of the things that has never been addressed that I think is important to bring back into discussion, since Driscoll seems determined to keep mining theological ideas from his Mars Hill era in such a selective way, is that nobody seems to have asked whether Mark Driscoll could potentially have become demonized within the taxonomy of his own ideas about how demonic footholds occur.

Take the beginning of "the ordinary demonic" from his 2008 session, not enough sex in marriage.
http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2014/11/2-5-2008-spiritual-warfare-part-2-part_18.html
http://download.marshill.se/files/MH%20Vodcast%20Video/2008/20080205_the-devil_vodcast.m4v
10:23
How many of you would think that a couple that doesn't have enough sex is experiencing demonic spiritual warfare? It's true. How many Christian marriages divorce?  Well, statistically, more than those who are not Christian. When non-Christians can work it out a rate that is more successful than Christians that would indicate to me that Satan has really found a way to climb into bed between a husband and a wife and, in one way or another, cause devastation.


When I'm meeting with a couple and one of them, maybe it's the husband, says, "Well, my wife's not being very nice to me so I'm gonna deny her sex and until she's nice to me I'm gonna withhold it."  That's demonic. ...

To be sure, there are sex addicts in marriage who are unreasonable in their expectations of their spouse but what I'm talking about is the common situation where one person in the marriage wants to be intimate more often than the other and they're rejected, they become bitter,  Satan comes in and feeds that bitterness, baits the hook of their flesh with the temptation of the world, and all of a sudden Satan puts in front of them images and people and opportunities to lead them astray and to destroy everything.

Driscoll, almost notoriously, lamented the lack of sex in his marriage as a point over which he became bitter, which is actually another element of what Driscoll described as "the ordinary demonic".  It seemed pertinent to ask whether with half a decade or more of "not enough sex in marriage' by Mark Driscoll's account and his bitterness about it whether or not that collectively could have been a demonic foothold in Mark Driscoll's life.

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2014/12/2-5-2008-spiritual-warfare-part-3-part_63.html

That got discussed somewhat briefly there.  Here is where we posed the question of how, if Mark was so bitter, nobody in the leadership scene at the Board level seemed to notice it.

http://marshill.com/media/1-timothy/1-timothy-3-1-7
http://download.marshill.se/files/2004/02/08/20040208_1-timothy-3-1-7_sd_audio.mp3
 Part 6:1 Timothy 3:1-7
Preached February 08, 2004

... I love my wife. I've been totally faithful to her. I'm a one-woman man. I met her at 17. I married her at 21. I've been chasing her ever since.  I'm quicker than she is, so I'm happily married.  You know, things are good. I just am. I love my wife. I adore my wife. I enjoy my wife, you know? ...

Thanks to the narrative in Real Marriage, we now know that basically a decade's worth of Mark Driscoll's life in ministry seemed to be full of bitterness and resentment about the lack of sex he was getting from his wife.  Between those two points, not enough sex in marriage and bitterness about it, it doesn't seem unreasonable, by dint of Mark Driscoll's own history of teaching about the ways Christians can open up demonic footholds, whether Mark Driscoll himself could fit as having been to some degree demonized.

Grace Driscoll (assuming for the sake of conversation she actually wrote a word of Real Marriage that her name is attached to, which I sometimes doubt now), said that Mark seemed to view sex as a god.  Mark Driscoll himself described himself as having tended to see sex as a god.  At some length we revisited potential evidence for the past-tense, with an open ended question about when, if ever, sex stopped being a god for Mark Driscoll.

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2014/07/sex-as-god-gross-or-gift-mark-driscoll.html

Now Driscoll was emphatic that bitterness is what is in your heart that gets brought out by troubles.  Nobody makes you bitter, you are bitter.

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2014/11/2-5-2008-spiritual-warfare-part-3-part_26.html
http://download.marshill.se/files/MH%20Vodcast%20Video/2008/20080205_the-devil_vodcast.m4v

about 45:00
What he says is, if you're a Christian and God, through Jesus Christ, is not bitter with you but forgives you then you must use the Gospel in your relationships to forgive other people. You have no reason to be bitter with them. In being bitter with them what you are saying is, "I refuse to use the Gospel for my relationships. I refuse to allow Jesus to do anything." And when you say that you ARE saying, "I am inviting Satan instead."
We began this whole discussion saying "Do not give the Devil a foothold." Bitterness gives him a foothold and it leads to death and destruction. How many of you are truly bitter against God because you don't have the spiritual office, authority, power, income that you want? Things aren't going the way that YOU want. The spouse that you wanted you didn't get. The spouse you thought you were getting ISN'T the way they appear. The sex, the children, the money, the power, the health, the appearance that YOU wanted but you didn't get so, deep down, you're really unhappy with God, you feel like He kinda let you down. That's bitterness.


Okay, so if we run with this, and if we consider that Mark Driscoll described himself as being bitter for years against his wife on the issue of sex and described both "not enough sex in marriage" and bitterness as demonic footholds, how could Mark Driscoll or those who support him not concede that it was at least possible that within Mark Driscoll's own understanding and teaching about Christians and demonization he could very well have become demonized?  By 2008 Mark Driscoll had formulated some kind of case to Grace Driscoll that the cure for his mood swings and depression was more frequent sex so perhaps all this was the sort of teaching that could be presented with the lack-of-sex years safely behind him. 

If Mark Driscoll had made sex into a god and his self-prescribed cure for his mood swings and depression was more sex ... how did Mark Driscoll repent of making sex a god, exactly?  By convincing his wife to have sex with him more?  Now a secularist or simply any Christian who doesn't agree with every point made by Mark Driscoll about spiritual warfare could propose that there may have been other explanations besides demons at play but Driscoll's teaching doesn't exactly leave a lot of room open for those avenues.  That was one of a few things I disagreed with during my time at Mars Hill, the propensity within the leadership culture to only define sin in active and conscious terms rather than concede that many sins are inadvertent and motivated by something besides pride. 

Since Driscoll seems determined to keep recycling his old content without necessarily making all of the old content available in its original, earlier form (most notably the 2008 spiritual warfare seminar) it seems necessary to revisit the material and help people get a clearer sense of how much recycled content Mark Driscoll's working from these days.  For those of us who called Mars Hill home ten years ago he had sermons where he warned against us putting too much stock in guys who do their sermons, pull up stakes and leave, and then start over somewhere else recycling their greatest hits. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

from the satirical site The Babylon Bee: Mark Driscoll finally publicly apologizes for his faux-hawk

while over the last year or so some have insisted that Mark Driscoll has apologized to a lot of people; and while Driscoll's said he's reached out to apologize to Joel Osteen; the first public-level apology with Driscoll's name attached to it in a while is from the Christian satirical online magazine the Babylon Bee.

http://babylonbee.com/news/mark-driscoll-finally-publicly-apologizes-faux-hawk/

This is almost as good as the Door piece about Mark Driscoll kicking his own ass.

And it's unfortunately telling that THIS is probably the most high profile apology Driscoll has connected to his name since he publicly announced that he apologized to ... Joel Osteen [it's bugging me to have to link to Charisma but ... ]. 

Keep in mind Driscoll's apology was apparently over ... this ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpNBhJvWpoQ


And Driscoll told Houston he felt convicted to apologize to Joel Osteen, who to date nobody's been able to confirm has ever met Mark Driscoll and who, to go by reports circa 2007 didn't even know who Mark Driscoll was.  Joel Osteen's ministry has never confirmed that they were actually contacted by Mark Driscoll that I can immediately recall, so if someone can confirm whether or not Osteen's ministry did confirm that Driscoll contacted them that would be helpful.  Because, frankly, until Osteens' team confirms that Driscoll actually contacted them, it's unfortunately hard to take that statement of apology any more seriously than a satirical piece at the Babylon Bee.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

2016 has really inspired me to bring back the sonnet on election (obviously not the formally soteriological kind)

On election

In all the steady hand of Providence
guides well except if, this election year,
the party I love lacks preeminence.
Then I will cry out with many a tear:
"My God, my God, why did you forsake me!
The person I want in office has lost!
In your wrath have you forgotten mercy?
Have it on me and not the foolish host!
Did you break your promise to do my will
That was given `ere the day I was born?
Or did my requests lack a prayerful skill
that You listened not, and I am forlorn?
In all things Providence can only be
The stuff that should be convenient to me!"


I think I wrote this back in 2008 waiting for a Seattle Symphony concert to start, hanging out at the front tables in Benaroya Hall.  That election cycle brought out the kind of paranoia and apocalyptic freak-out stuff that isn't unique to Americans ... but that can be expressed in uniquely American ways.  Since so many of those who self-identify as Christians seem to be self-identifying with something that's more like a red-state or blue-state civic religion than the Nicene Creed ... it just seemed like a fun idea to write a sonnet about how those people seem to feel any time the person they don't want gets the nomination or the office.

And that was 2008.  2016 ... just makes the sonnet seem more weirdly and sadly relevant than ever.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Tim Challies publishes "A call for plodding bloggers", Josi Denise writes a fusilade about the influencer marketing idiom known as the mommy blog

http://www.challies.com/articles/a-call-for-plodding-bloggers
May 20, 2016

I believe that blogs have been a blessing to the church in the twenty-first century.

That's a pretty emphatic opening. I think I can basically agree.

... Over my years of reading and writing blogs, I have seen thousands of blogs and bloggers come and go. There are many reasons people have stopped writing: Some have had life’s responsibilities overwhelm the time they would otherwise dedicate to writing, some have had to refocus on family or local church, some grew weary of critics and criticism, some have simply run out of things to say. But I think the most common reason people have given up is that they grew tired of the plodding. Over time they grew discouraged by the distance between the effort and the reward, between the investment and the result.

I'd say it's the other way around. The most common reasons people stop blogging is they think of other things they'd rather do and then they go do those things.  Not everyone sits back and thinks, "You know what?  I realized my idea of a fun evening/day is writing at least 6,000 words whether or not I think anyone else on earth actually cares about topic X."  Do I know whether or not anyone cared to go through a moderately detailed analysis of the first movement of Wenzel Matiegka's Grand Sonata I?  Do I care?  No, so I blogged about it.  I don't even know how many other English language bloggers have even started discussing the music of Ferdinand Rebay and that's one of my other to-get-to topics.  Suffice to say that while Challies wants to give some kind of shout out to Christian bloggers I can't help but wonder if he's thinking specifically about a certain kind of "Christian" blogging that doesn't involve looking into the mechanics of sonata form in solo guitar literature over the centuries to see patterns of thematic interest.  But that "is" something I plan to get back to blogging about later this year, I hope. 

Regular readers who have been following this blog (and it seems impossible to think many of you would have started ten years ago reading this thing) may remember that this didn't start out with plans to be any kind of "watchblog".  That's a point I bring up because of something Challies mentioned

...

Today I want to put out a call for plodding bloggers. I’m taking my cue from Scott Slayton who recently put out a similar call to plodding church planters. In that article he pointed out that many church planters delude themselves into thinking that they will move to a new town, start a new church, and see immediate, overwhelming results. But in reality, most move to that new town, start the new church, and see only very ordinary results. Unless they are plodders they will be tempted to give up.

And in much the same way, many bloggers set out with grandiose dreams of writing a few articles and witnessing an explosion of readers, of receiving mountains of grateful feedback, maybe even of seeing publishers waving book contracts. But the reality is far different. They publish a few articles, see little response, and find themselves tempted to give up. Or perhaps, even worse, they publish an article, see it explode in popularity, and then never again come close to matching that one. And soon the daily blogging becomes weekly blogging becomes occasional blogging becomes abandoned blogging.

Grandiose dreams and "blog" seem impossible to connect.  How can a blogger accomplish anything grandiose at all?  If anything blogging has a creaky reputation because a good deal of it amounts to word-of-mouth bottom-level advertising. 

All of them?  Is it "wrong" to stop blogging when you don't feel like blogging?  Is blogging some kind of divine vocation you can't or shouldn't give up?  Don't get me wrong, I've pretty obviously slogged a long slog as a blogger discussing some things a whole bunch of people would have really rather I never blogged about.  I don't have to guess too much to suppose that some people never wanted that memo in which Mark Driscoll's pay was discussed and a 650k rate was proposed.  And yet about 12,000 views suggests that a number of people wanted to know what the number was.

Sutton Turner memo recommended raise for Driscoll for FY2013 to 650k salary, retain 200k housing allowance for CY2013

...

I believe we are living in a golden age of writing, where any Christian with a heart for the Lord and the Lord’s people can have a voice of edification and encouragement. This is a tremendous blessing! We have thousands and tens of thousands of Christians eagerly using this new medium to tell others about what Jesus has done in them and for them. We are all the grateful beneficiaries.

So my message for my fellow bloggers is this: Plod on! Be content to be a plodding blogger and trust that God is glorifying himself and blessing his people through your faithfulness.

Well, perhaps blogging can do a lot of positive things but every once in a while Wenatchee The Hatchet has a kind of ... buzzkill moment.  Maybe blogging isn't all that awesome even if it's one of those things I do regularly, sort of.  What is blogging, anyway?  Is it a form of citizen journalism?  It can be and certainly that's what I've tried to do here and did here between about 2010 to 2015 during the peak and precipitous decline of what was once called Mars Hill. 

But what do blogs too often seem to be in the end?  Blogs seem to be a ... let's just call them a literary form native to the internet in which the two modes are either promotional or anti-promotional content.  I guess when I stop to think about it I realize I started blogging around the time I concluded that grad school studies in music history were never going to be an option for me and I realized that since so much of what I wanted to write about was public domain or accessible to suggest to others on the internet I could just write what I wanted to write about regardless of affiliation or lack thereof with an academic institution.  The only way to find out who else was into the music of Atanas Ourkouzounov, Ferdinand Rebay or Wenzel Matiegka was to just start blogging about them here and there. 

Oh, yes, and there was this church I used to go to called Mars Hill and after I was disappointed by reading a Confessions of a Reformission Rev ten years ago (a book that seemed less like a real history of Mars Hill than Mark Driscoll bragging book-length on how he pulled it off) I got this idea that maybe it'd be fun to eventually get around to writing a history of Mars Hill that wasn't just promotional copy.  So in a way that's just saying that blogs seem to fit into promotional copy or anti-promotional copy.  You're either selling something or you're second guessing a sales pitch at a blog.  Or that's how it seems lately.

Seems like a week earlier another blogger had a more explicitly discouraging message about blogging. The message reminds me of how over the last ten years the one thing I have been dead set against doing is monetizing the blog.  What I've seen celebrity Christians resort to time and again has been the claim that bloggers just go for clicks and higher traffic and want ad revenue.  Why would that be?  Well ...  (language alert for those who need that)

http://josidenise.com/dear-mommy-blogger/

...

Let me preface with a few important things. I am was a mommy blogger. I have three kids, and I’m popping out another one this fall. I have a background in marketing and had “real jobs” in the “real world” working with PR teams on the daily. I started this blog in 2013, thinking I could combine my writing talents with professional experience and rock this new industry of influencer marketing (before it was called that). [emphasis added] And I did, I guess.

The American Mama reached tens of thousands of readers monthly, and under that name I worked with hundreds of big name brands on sponsored campaigns. I am a member of virtually every ‘blog network’ and agency that “connects brands with bloggers”. I’ve attended all their conferences and been invited on free trips to swim with dolphins and sip bougie cocktails in exchange for instagram snaps. I even founded and briefly promoted my own company, American Mama Media, working as the middle man between the hundreds of pitches I was receiving each week and the tribe of bloggers I’d collected information and stats from.

I hosted dozens of giveaways sponsored by brands wanting me to promote their products. I gained hundreds and then thousands of email subscribers, and social media followers, by requiring a follow in exchange for a giveaway entry. I used social media management services to connect with similar bloggers on twitter and instagram, and then unfollow those who didn’t return the follow. I paid a virtual assistant to post my links in round ups all over the internet, for back links and extra traffic. I joined blog directory sites, where asking readers for clicks sends you to the top of the list, and some PR intern googling “mom blogs” then finds you when they want someone to review their product. I sent out my media kit with embellished stats and highlights about my ‘targeted audience of mothers who make purchasing decisions for their household’ and negotiated my rates for free products and paid reviews. ...

"influencer marketing"?  That's ... fascinating. This could unlock a heretofore mysterious element of why someone like Mark Driscoll could have spent so many years damning bloggers as people without credibility by way of his own blog. Driscoll even took to his blog to have a blog post for the Brits a few years ago in which he set up a pre-emptive hit on the character and doctrine of a journalist who pissed him off.  But the phrase "influencer marketing" helps to explain how some famous pastors who loathe bloggers nonetheless blog away.  If Mark Driscoll understood that blogging has become an essential part of "influencer marketing" this would explain why he and Grace Driscoll keep the blog going in spite of Driscoll's years of ripping on bloggers.  Whatever "influencer marketing" is by way of the blog Mark Driscoll apparently feels he cannot afford to lose that.

So ... the punch line from Josi Denise:
...

Your mommy blog fucking sucks. [emphasis original]

 

//nobody is reading your shit [ditto]

I mean no one. Even the people you think are reading your shit? They aren’t really reading it. The other mommy bloggers sure as hell aren’t reading it. They are scanning it for keywords that they can use in the comments. “So cute! Yum! I have to try this!” They’ve been told, like you, that in order to grow your brand, you must read and comment on other similar-sized and similar-themed blogs. [emphasis added] The people clicking on it from Pinterest aren’t reading it. They are looking for your recipe, or helpful tip promised in the clickbait, or before and after photo, then they might re-pin the image, then they are done. The people sharing it on Facebook? They aren’t reading it either. They just want to say whatever it is your headline says, but can’t find the words themselves. Your family? Nope. They are checking to make sure they don’t have double chins in the photos you post of them, and zoning in on paragraphs where their names are mentioned.

Why? Because your shit is boring. Nobody cares about your shampoo you bought at Walmart and how you’re so thankful the company decided to work with you. Nobody cares about anything you are saying because you aren’t telling an engaging story. You are not giving your readers anything they haven’t already heard. You are not being helpful, and you are not being interesting. If you are constantly writing about your pregnancy, your baby’s milestones, your religious devotion, your marriage bliss, or your love of wine and coffee…. are you saying anything new? Anything at all? Tell me something I haven’t heard before, that someone hasn’t said before. From a different perspective, or making a new point at the end at least if I have to suffer through a cliche story about your faceless, nameless kid.

Growing the brand?  If blogs are ultimately regarded as marketing platforms and not as potential alternative outlets for journalism that isn't covered by the institutional press then, yeah, I could find blogs terribly lame.  And it seems as if this makes sense of guys like Driscoll who have blogged about bloggers as if other bloggers were lame while ... still blogging.  Remember that Baptist blogger from 2012?  Eh, whatever, let Mark Driscoll share that story about how "we even rented the city of Ephesus for a day."  Now that was impressive, but in the worst way possible.  If you could afford to rent the city of Ephesus for a day for rad video footage in 2012 sermon stuff but you were gutting your staff on the premise that you couldn't afford to keep them ... well ... put it that way and it's hardly any wonder if people inside Mars Hill began to leak rivers of content to the likes of Warren Throckmorton or Wenatchee The Hatchet.  When the disconnect between the marketed persona and the internal reality gets too traumatic people can begin to revolt. 

What are your goals? At all the conferences I’ve attended and in all the Facebook groups, I hear women with the same answers. “To gain traffic. To grow my blog.” But why? What are you going to do with that traffic? What’s the point of any of it?

Growth in itself can't be taken as a good that is intrinsic. Cancer cells grow and you don't want them.
Traffic isn't a prima facie good.  It can sometimes indicate genuine interest.  I don't doubt it if 12,000 people really wanted to know what Mark Driscoll's financial compensation was for being pastor at Mars Hill. It's easily the single most viewed blog post in the history of Wenatchee The Hatchet.  That gets to what Josi Denise wrote about whether or not you're giving readers information they wanted to know that they didn't know before.  Apparently a whole lot of people wanted to know hwo much money Driscoll was getting paid to yell at people for at least an hour about how they sucked and needed to be better people for Jesus' fame.

The stuff about conferences devoted to transforming blogs into ... something ... those sound creepy.  This conference thing ... we may have to deal with the conference thing at some point because it seems that whether it's mommy blogs or Christian book promotions conferences are this thing.  I know there's these academic/scholarly conferences and guitar societies have conferences sometimes and everyone should have a chance to sell their wares.  But ... bloggers having conferences?  Photos?  This has not been a very image heavy blog flashing with pictures that have witty captions.  Those are generally pretty lame and only amusing to the blogger.  If the idea of a blog is to write then even if a picture "is" worth a thousand words you should be fluent enough a writer to get those thousand words to do the trick. 

Some of what Jose Denise has written reminds me why I've never regretted writing in a way that willfully and deliberately punishes lazy readers.  For a while I used to get questions from commenters, commenters who I could at times fairly suspect I knew from real life, as to what my "mission" was.  There is no mission, at least not in the sense that a Mars Hill loyalist could have understood mission.  This isn't a missional blog.  By extension, those for whom things could only be understood in terms of loyalty to or against Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill, there may not be a clear reason why I'm still writing about what happened a couple of years after Mars Hill announced it was dissolving.  Because second-guessing yourself as to how you ended up in what some would call one of the higher profile cults of personality in evangelicalism of the last twenty years SHOULD Be an occasion for the kind of self-reflection in which the lessons you learn don't make you look better for it. 

It's why I can't take anyone seriously who has written anything about "lessons learned" from Mars Hill or Mark Driscoll that ends up being promotional copy for something an author wants to sell.  If someone writes about how he or she is startled and dismayed by the years of loyalty in which there were red flags that got ignored .. I take those people seriously.  So to risk naming names, I took it seriously when Jeff Bettger and James Harleman shared what they shared on record about the doubts they had because these were guys who were willing to second-guess themselves rather than just point accusatory fingers at all of "them" for being stupid sheeple.  Do I agree with them on everything?  No.  I'm not really an anarchist and I'm not that into Nicholas Cage movies. And at the risk of formulating this in a personal way I prefer to avoid, these were guys who didn't stop considering me a friend even after I left Mars Hill and they knew perfectly well who was blogging at Wenatchee The Hatchet.

See what's been interesting about Denise's comments about the mommy blog and reactions to what she wrote is that she's noticed that the scathing rebukes she got were saying that it was nasty to say that anyone who did mommy blogging had other things to do.  The reason that's interesting is because when I've gotten scathing remarks from people over the years (generally they seem to be comments from people who like Mark Driscoll) the comment has been basically "Get a life!" So that colloquial axiom that those who blog must only be blogging because they don't actually have some other life is just part of what you'll run into if you blog.  But the common sentiment seems to be the same--don't blog.  If the Josi Denise rebuke to mommy bloggers is that they could be spending more time actually being moms in the time they were blogging in the oft-na├»ve quest to supplement income the historic Mark Driscoll attacks on bloggers is that they're middle-aged losers with no jobs blogging from mom's basement.  That's not a subtle distinction there, because Denise' case is against the mommy blog with respect to the moral and social obligations or capital of motherhood while the Driscoll case against the bloggers is a case that seemed to hinge almost completely on the presumption of a lack of legitimate credibility or social status for bloggers. 

The question of what, if any, legitimacy and credibility blogs and bloggers have and what that may be seesm pretty open ended.  A few years ago Michael Spencer and Frank Turk had a debate about Mark Driscoll and along the way discussed whether blogs were effective or pertinent tools for discussing public figures in formal ministry.  A few years have passed and it remains to be seen whether Frank Turk would say a blog has a platform for calling Mark Driscoll to account if he has some reservations (if any) about a blog like, say The Wartburg Watch discussing C. J. Mahaney.

The credibility of blogs among conservative evangelical males is starting to seem like it converges in some kind of Venn diagram with questions about the extent to which women can be taken seriously as bloggers if blogging were construed as some supplement to institutional journalistic coverage or what has sometimes been called an "online discernment ministry". 

These are things I've been thinking about a lot because it seems that guys like Mark Driscoll may be symptomatic of men in ministry regardless of doctrinal or political affiliation on the matter of women who blog about hot topics.  Whether it's a Mark Driscoll or a Tony Jones it can seem that one of the sticky issues is whether or not they want women blogging about them. 

Now as a moderately conservative type Presbyterian who isn't really much of a complementarian or an egalitarian because I think the institutional corruptions of American Christendom make the aspirational debate somewhat moot ... I'd say that women who blog should be taken seriously and that a survey of scripture and of historic cases for the prophethood of believers proposed by the magisterial Reformers makes a case for the legitimacy of what we now call watchblogging. 

But if blogging is known in the mommy blogging scene as "influencer marketing" then the credibility of blogging itself can be in question if it is perceived as essentially a form of door to door marketing for brands by those brand makers whose new approach to door to door is no longer a literal door to door thing but a blog to blog peer influencing network. 

So to bring things back to Challies' encouragement to plodding bloggers.  I'd take it as an encouragement if I had a clearer sense of what he thinks the purpose of blogging is.  If it's as a supplement to or a temporary replacement for the failures of the mainstream or independent Christian press to adequately document and address significant issues in Christian media and institutions by using blogging as a form of citizen journalism then, yay.  I totally agree!  Admittedly I basically embrace what would be called the social responsibility theory of the press.

But if blogging is mainly an avenue for promoting books that can be promoted by other more traditional marketing approaches then ... no ... don't keep plodding along with the blog.  This goes double if you're a Christian blogger with any kind of Reformed heritage.  When I've done the watchblog side of things it was inspired by Deuteronomy 5:1, more or less. But watchblogging is a sometime thing.  One of Denise' complaints about mommy bloggers is that once they commit to promoting X or Y or Z brands they become imprisoned by the felt necessity of continuing on that path.  Yoda might warn that once you start down the dark path, forever will it effect your destiny.  Yup ... and in the sense that the brands you decide to back become the thing you get known for this suggests a lot about the Reformed blogosphere as a potential mirror image of the mommy blogs. 

It explains so much if blogging as done by celebrity Christians is basically the same as blogging done by mommy bloggers, the promotion of brands and the formation of mediated personae.  And it would make sense of the strange ethos in Christian celebrity blogging where guys think that bloggers are totally stupid and lame and lacking in credibility as they use their own blogs to promote books they like or to tease of forthcoming product.

POSTSCRIPT 05-22-2016  3.00pm ish

it's a long postscript, I admit
What you can see at the bottom of a Challies blog post can be this:

I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Aileen and a father to three young children. I worship and serve as a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, and am a co-founder of Cruciform Press

also available to read at the following:

http://www.challies.com/brief-biography

...
Affiliate Notice
Challies.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Certainly it's one of the opportunities we have in the United States to start or co-found a publishing press.  That we can do so is fantastic.  it's just that I'll admit to being ambivalent about the pursuit of blogging in a way that is monetized. I regard blogging as an informal supplement to scholarship or journalism which has the advantage of not being tethered to a revenue stream.  My journalism professor once warned in a lecture on where censorship actually comes from in the real world that neither hostile sources nor hostile editors are the real threat to spiking a story, it's going to come from the threats of sponsors and advertisers.  In an age in which one of the Farrow kids can say that the Hollywood press doesn't press certain issues because they don't want to lose access to coverage of what a filmmaker does this could have a corresponding application in the Christian media world. 

It's not that I don't believe you can or should promote the stuff you like and believe in. I've shamelessly plugged for the music of Ferdinand Rebay, Nikita Koshkin, and Atanas Ourkouzounov here.  I've gushed about Leonard B. Meyer and Martin Shields, too. When Nikita Koshkin's preludes and fugues for solo guitar get published I plan to snap those up as soon as I can.

So Christian bloggers have every right to blog about stuff they love and stuff they care about.  I guess I'm saying that I think the Josi Denise condemnation of the mommy blog as a category has informed my concerns a bit lately--if your blog is in some sense "just" a marketing platform to promote stuff you like has it shifted from being a voice to an ad?  There are some blogs I've read over the years where I feel like I'm reading someone work through their thoughts and feelings and there are some blogs I read where I feel like I'm reading advertising copy for books I may or may not want to buy.  Both kinds of blogs have their uses and I appreciate that a blog can work in both ways.  Jim West manages to do both in ways I find interesting, for instance.

I guess my concern is that when I do still visit neo-Calvinist webpages (and the few times I have bothered to visit Rachel Held Evans' page) I get this sense that this is a cyberspace variant of the little book sale table at the church foyer after the church service.  It's hard to articulate precisely why I don't get that sense with every Christian blog or blogger that does podcasts or vodcasts.  I guess I'd have to say I'm working out my thoughts and feelings about this a bit but if I had to find a way to articulate the concern it's that some blogs and bloggers I feel have transformed into the "how" of their sales pitch more than the "what" of what they're selling.  The old McLuhan bromide about how the medium is the message seems too trite and the neo-Calvinist bromide of what you win them with is what you win them to seems too old hat because the two bromides separately don't seem to quite get at what concerns me. The closest I've seen anyone articulate the kind of concerns I'm having was Alastair Roberts' piece "The Ad Man's Gospel" about how if the sixteenth century theologian was basically a lawyer today's theologian is an advertising representative.  As popular as it is to look askance on the things that the "lawyer" theologians did centuries ago that seemed mean and unsavory to our 21st century sensibilities I don't see the 21st century marketing representative theologians of our era being better in the end.  Neither the lawyer nor the marketing representative necessarily has to truly believe in what he or she is selling to be able to sell it is I guess how I'd articulate the concern.