Wednesday, September 19, 2018

on not really missing The Village Voice now that it's gone because it was never in my adult lifetime what those who remember it fondly remembered it being (and that seems to be the real, long ago loss)

Having not really read The Village Voice in ... years ... it's a little hard to feel any sense of loss that the magazine has been shuttered.  Since I was never exactly "in" the alternative or mainstream journalism scene much I can't share Scott Timberg's unhappiness at the decline of The Village Voice or the L. A. Weekly.  We've still got The Stranger up here for alt-weeklies and The Seattle Weekly and, if anything, I can sort of hope a post-Dan Savage The Stranger will be a more interesting paper.  I used to read The Stranger mainly for Chris DeLaurenti's writing and sometimes the film reviews because even if I didn't always agree with Charles Mudede he was generally interesting to read.  So when I say I don't really care that The Voice is gone or miss it I'm not saying I've been against an alternative press being around.

FOR the last few months I’ve been meaning to revisit some of the abiding concerns of this blog and the book that inspired it. Mostly, I’m talking about what we used to call the press and now typically describe as the news media. My overall sense is that some parts of the creative economy have healed since I began writing my book in the teeth of the recession and published it in 2015. But the press — not just the daily press but the alternative weeklies that I began reading as a teenager and then writing for in my 20s — have not much recovered.

This slow decline (which I wrote about five years ago, after the shuttering of the Boston Phoenix) reached a startling point a few days ago, with what seems like the final death of the Village Voice and the instant layoff of most of its staff. (Those left will, apparently, only be there to digitize past content.) The news has now been reported quite widely, with this remembrance by the New Yorker’s art critic Peter Schjeldahl — a three-time Voice scribe — probably my favorite. (The LA Weekly, a once-excellent paper bought a year ago by a group of Orange County Libertarians with shaky credentials and a cagey relationship to the truth, may be headed for a similar collapse due to a tidal wave of conflict of interest and at least one lawsuit between the news owners.)

But perhaps the most complete piece yet on the alt-press meltdown just appeared on the personal blog of a writer and editor many miles from New York City. Its author, North Carolina-based Mark Kemp, is known to music journalists and attentive readers for various stints, including running the magazine Option during indie rock’s early ’90s heyday, a brief tenure at Rolling Stone, and recent leadership positions at Acoustic Guitar magazine and the Creative Loafing chain of Southern alt weeklies. (I barely know the guy, but have respected his work for a long time.)

Over at The American Conservative Telly Davidson's take seems to bee that The Voice was a shell of its former self for probably a generation and that it's hard to feel all that bad about the current Voice shuttering even if it was a truly fantastic alternative paper back around ... the Reagan administration and before.

How do you write an obituary for someone who was a great and loving role model to the parents you love, but who was abusive and dismissive to you and your friends?

When I first heard about the death of the Village Voice on August 31 (its print edition was euthanized last year, which had left it publishing mostly online), I had much the same reaction as I had to the December 2017 downsizing and restructuring at the Voice’s longtime Los Angeles counterpart LA Weekly. I churlishly thought that I would have just as much sympathy for them as they had for many of my friends and colleagues who weren’t among the few chosen to work in their hallowed halls—which is to say, almost none. When Entertainment Today, LA Valley Beat/City Beat, the Brooklyn Rail, and other “alt-weeklies” died gruesome deaths in the run-up or aftermath of the Great Recession (I worked for ET early in my career), the reaction of the league-leading LA Weekly and Village Voice people at the time ranged from eye-rolling laughter to dancing on our graves. [emphasis added]

More to the point, thanks to corporatization and consolidation, no Millennial and very few younger Xers can really remember when these papers were truly “anti-establishment” or even at the top of their game in any real sense. By then, the status consciousness, tone policing, snobbery, and credentialism of the Voice and the Weekly (and their very corporate parents’ corporate culture) ensured that there was more of a revolving door than a boundary line between them and the usual suspects over at the “mainstream” Los Angeles and New York Times.

Yet when I talk to Boomer writers and artists, whether they swore by or swore at what appeared in the Voice, almost all recognized it as the very symbol of New York’s vitality, a carnival of cultures and classes, decades before “diversity” became a political password. Maybe, as this eulogy suggests, the city that the the alt-weekly gave “voice” to is no longer there.


As a respected and accomplished Boomer-era composer recently told me, when he was making it as a young musician in the Big Apple in the early 1970s, he and his set thought of the Voice as “the New York Times for nonconformists.” It provided a truly alternative “voice” to the processed cheese pabulum and establishment headlines of the mainstream media. In its heyday, the Voice was a place where indisputably talented and iconoclastic writers who were too “out there” to get hired at the mainstream spots could not only pick up a paycheck and a byline credit but also have the chance to rub shoulders with Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal. Where writers who redefined arts criticism like Robert Christgau, Nat Hentoff, Andrew Sarris, and James Wolcott got some of their first and best breaks. Where conservatives and suburban liberals alike could shake their fists at Alexander Cockburn’s near-open communism, or the latest Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit.    

I mean if you're gonna name-drop, those are some formidable names to drop!

The Voice employed to their very last day both new and old greats who did nothing but good by the standards of journalism and their communities. But it also housed writers and editors who were smug caricatures of everything they supposedly despised. Towards the end of the paper’s 63-year lifespan, it became an insular clique rather than a sanctuary for brilliant misfits and rebels. This was a storied institution that had earned respect but slowly lost it, thanks in part to the corporate buyouts and the inevitable dimming of its once strong independent compass.

As former (and understandably disgruntled) contributor Harry Siegel noted, the grim fate of the Voice symbolizes an era where journalism is moving more and more away from a self-sustaining business model towards becoming a bauble or plaything of rich social climbers who want to buy their way into influence with a media footprint platform. (The uber-controversial restructuring at LA Weekly did the same thing.)  

Let’s have a little audit, shall we? The Washington Post would have died in darkness if it weren’t for Jeff Bezos. Variety would have stopped the presses without (racing/auto dealer legend Roger’s son) Jay Penske. The brilliant scientist and Big Pharma bigwig Patrick Soon-Shiong gave the Los Angeles Times the vitamin injection that saved it from slipping into a coma. (During the worst of the Great Recession, the Times was petitioning in grocery stores to keep its print circulation at acceptable levels, and the main selling point wasn’t groundbreaking journalism but “!Mas Cupones!” Around the same time, the New York Times had to take out a loan against its Times Square headquarters.) 

So it seems that not everyone thinks that the alt-weeklies that have been dying were going to soldier on valiently the way they had been decades ago without an infusion of financing; and the implication seems stronger still, that many hoary ostensibly countercultural publications in the alt-journalism scene are either running on fumes or have devolved into hackwork.  I guess I'd say I might feel slightly bad the Village Voice has shuttered if the alternatives are AlterNet/Salon.

Over at The Baffler ... one proposal given for consideration among many is that in a way the age of internet journalism has meant the ethos or praxis of The Village Voice has so saturated North American online journalism the spirit of the Voice lives on whether or not the Voice itself is long remembered beyond journalistic insiders.

Well before New Times bought and gleefully gutted it, however, the Voice was evolving toward being less freewheeling and not more. When Durbin, by then editor-in-chief, hired me back full-time as a political columnist in 1994, I’d never have guessed that I’d end up thinking of her as the last editor of the “real” Village Voice—the wild-and-woolly, unconstrained version I’d cut my apprentice teeth writing for almost twenty years earlier. By 1996, she’d been replaced by Newsday vet Donald Forst, a shrewd and very enjoyable tough cookie whose less enjoyable mandate was to get us to straighten up and fly right. Rumor had it that the plan all along was to make the paper more attractive to buyers wary of the wild and woolly, although former EIC David Schneiderman—who’d moved up to running what, by then, was Village Voice Media—insisted that wasn’t so.

Considering how much damage the New Times regime did—Christgau got fired within months, followed by nearly all of the paper’s remaining leading lights—the wonder is that the Voice managed to survive for another decade-plus. Hopes of reviving the paper’s glory days flickered when Peter Barbey, who intended to do just that, bought it in 2015. But they dimmed with the print edition’s Waterloo two years later before getting extinguished by the online version’s death on August 30, 2018.

Naturally, we alumni spent the next few days conducting a social-media wake. The more I thought about it, though, the more convinced I grew that the paper’s demise was only fitting. One reason is that everything the concept of “the Village” meant to several generations of Voice readers—bohemia, nonconformity, one thriving avant-garde arts scene replacing another thanks to a talent pool regularly refreshed by new arrivals with more ambition than rent money, even a belief in New York itself as the nation’s cultural capital—hasn’t corresponded to New York’s reality in something like a quarter of a century.

But another reason, as an ex-colleague suggested to me, is that “we won.” The cultural and political assumptions and insights once confined to the Voice-defined margins have long since been absorbed into the mainstream, rendering the original source redundant. In many ways, The Village Voice folded simply because its work here was done.

But that may, for all that, confirm Telly Davidson's observation that The Village Voice had become so intertwined with the mainstream as it developed over the last twenty odd years it couldn't be called alternative press in any way that mattered and, so, there's not much reason to feel bad about losing what it had become but there's plenty of reason to feel bad about the fact that it lost what it once was.

All that said, I like reading stuff by Kyle Gann so I don't want to suggest The Village Voice hasn't given us some excellent writers in the last thirty some years.  It clearly has!  I've picked up Gann's book on the Concord Sonata and have been working through it.  It's a challenge because the sonata is a challenge, but it's proving to be a worthwhile challenge. 

I can appreciate the value of an alternative press and at the risk of pointing to some of my own blogging in the last ten years there have been times where Wenatchee The Hatchet has taken up a role that could be thought of as an alternative press role, particularly on the subject of a certain megachurch that used to have a prominent role in the Pacific Northwest.  I can appreciate that when people believe mainstream press is completely failing through inadvertent or willful neglect a story that should not be overlooked that formulating an alternative journalistic presence and apparatus has to get made.  Just because I tend to think of myself as moderately conservative doesn't mean I can't appreciate the value of the alternative press ... even if I have spent a whole post admitting I don't really miss The Village Voice because it seemed in the last ten years it was already dead in the water.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Mark Driscoll posts an excerpt of his forthcoming book at his Patheos blog, an account of the planting of The Trinity Church that seems to consolidate narrative threads shared in interviews and talks he gave between his Mars Hill resignation and a 4-2017 interview

Driscoll mentions that the big lesson God has been teaching the Driscoll family in recent years is that everything in life is a gift if you patiently wait and learn what to do with it.  

"I have tried to take everything in life, the good and the bad, and figure out how to receive it as something that, if properly used, can be a blessing that glorifies God.  If I can figure that out, then God uses it to do something good in me, which in turn He can do something good through me to bless others."

Driscoll goes on to provide a real life example.  As he describes it:

Let me give you one real life example. Some years ago, our family had to move for a variety of complicated reasons. I was bemoaning and questioning what the Lord was doing, though we knew clearly God was directing it. We had worked very hard to get our home ready to live in, and did not get to live there very long. Then, this happened after we had listed the home for sale and moved to another state:

[inserted picture in Patheos post]

The story continues on page 2 but let's pause a moment because the image given in the post at Patheos looks like the one that was shared at a sermon Driscoll gave in Wenatchee at Grace City church in 2016.  Although Warren Throckmorton mentioned that sermon back in February 2016 and linked to the audio. The audio isn't available at the church site any longer it was there once.

February 22, 2016 by Warren Throckmorton 

Yesterday, Mark Driscoll spoke at Grace City Church, an Acts 29 church in Wenatchee, WA pastored by Josh McPherson. McPherson, who is Acts 29’s Network Coordinator for the Pacific Northwest, must really believe in Driscoll’s comeback because I suspect he is hearing some noise about it.
I put my house on the market. I'm thinking, "Okay, my house will sell." I gotta go down and I'm--we can't get the kids into school. The school's are already full. We're there too late because the school districts are different between the northwest and the southwest. We're renting a place temporarily. All my stuff, all our stuff, is up in our place in Seattle. Our house is on the market. Our house is not selling. ...

and I was in Arizona trying to figure out what the next season of life looks like with elementary, junior high, high school, college and my phone alarm starts going off and I assume somebody broke in or whatever. So I send my realtor over. My realtor calls me and his voice is trembling and he sends me this photo. He said, "I'm standing at your house and here it is." [audience reaction of dismay, apparently at a photo] Yeah,that--that's my house. Or WAS my house. And a 200-foot tree fell on my house and crushed our bedroom. Our bed is under that rubble. If my wife and I were taking a nap at 1 o'clock on a Saturday we'd be dead. 

So I flew up late at night. I go to the property all the power's out. I'm there with a flashlight. It's pouring down rain and I'm going through the rubble that is our home and I'm glad that nobody in my family died. And I'm thinking, "How--this is all my equity. This is what I was going to use to relocate and provide for my family. And, and here it is." And now I live in another state so how am I supposed to fix this?

I remember sitting at the house, actually, outside in the rain looking at what used to be my house.  I'm like, "Okay, Lord, this family is my responsibility." My stuff is in this house. My family is in another state. We don't have a permanent place to live. I can't find a school for my children. All of our equity and wealth is in a destroyed home and I'm unemployed. ...

And I remember just standing there in the rain just like, "Father, Dad, I need help now. I need wisdom. I need provision. I need a path forward. I accept responsibility for the well-being of my family. But how to proceed forward, Dad, I'm not entirely clear on. I could really use your help." And God's a good father and he has answered that prayer and He's taken care of our family. And, actually, the good news is we closed this  house last week and it got fixed and somebody bought it who was willing to take that off our hands and allow us to move forward with our lives. 

For those in the Puget Sound area the closest windstorm news that would have come to mind in the post-Driscoll-resignation era would have been.
August 30, 2015

Snohomish County PUD continues to make progress in restoring power to residents in Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Edmonds and Woodway. PUD reports that 55,000 households remain without power. Crews will continue work throughout the night.

What's the relevance of this background information?  Well, the house would have been the one in Woodway that Mark Driscoll had at one point said to Russ Bowen was a "wrong address".
By KOMO Staff |Thursday, August 28th 2014

 Driscoll's reaction to Russ Bowen's enquiry sounded like "Sorry, bro. Wrong address. I don't know."

Transcript | Mark Driscoll | Thrive 2015-05-01
See Links to Timestamps at the end of this doc.

Things really escalated when the media showed up and blocked the driveway to the house, seeking an interview and brought a helicopter overhead to flush me out for an interview.  My kids had been outside playing and, uh, all of a sudden we heard this helicopter over the yard and so we pulled the family into the house and tried to figure out how to not be in front of a window because we didn’t want to be on the news and didn’t know what was going on, to be honest with you.  

That night my oldest son, he was 8 at the time, he came to me downstairs, my wife Grace was cooking dinner and uh, he had on this jacket, it was a military jacket with patches down the side.  He had his AirSoft gun and I said “What are you doing little buddy?” He’s nine now.  And he said, “Dad is this jacket bullet-proof?” (crown groans) And I said, “Why’s that little buddy?” And he said, “Well, if the bad guys come, I want to be able to protect the family.” [4:59] 

I didn’t know that he – he didn’t know it was a news crew. The only thing he’d ever seen were the uh, um, the bad guy movies where they come in helicopters and shoot everybody.  It took months.  He would have night terrors. He wouldn’t sleep in his room.  He wouldn’t take a shower, get dressed in his bedroom by himself. Something we’re trying to encourage him through.  Just real fear came into him.  The kids wanted to sleep outside in a tent one night.  We told them no, because as soon as we had the tent set up and were going out to sleep in the tent, the media posted the address to my house as a new story which I felt like we were in danger again so I grabbed the kids and left for the night and went to a hotel for a couple days.  Then came back and I preached what would be my last sermon -- I didn’t know it would be my last.  The New York Times was there.  It was a big media situation. 

So, the kids were like, “Dad, we just want to sleep in a tent in our house.” So we slept in a tent.  I didn’t really sleep, but the kids -- the younger kids slept.  Woke up in the morning and somebody on the other side of the fence was throwing large rocks at my kids at about 6:30 in the morning.  And at first, I didn’t know what it was and then the dog thought we were playing fetch and started picking up these rocks and it dawned on me, like rocks are flying at my kids in the yard.  So we filed a police report and went away for a little bit. Came back and there was a bucket of nails all over the driveway.  Picked those up um.  ...

So now that Driscoll has posted a photo on his Patheos blog that seems to have been shared earlier describing how a windstorm struck what was once his house the question of whether a specific house in Woodway was his house or not reopens the question of whether he was giving an honest answer to Russ Bowen years ago.  Rather than say "no comment" what Bowen recorded on camera for the record was "Sorry. Wrong address. I don't know."  

To go by the quit claim deed from 2013 it was not, technically speaking, a Driscoll-owned house, as it?  Documentation regarding that is over here.  Let's move on to the rest of the recent Patheos account.

A massive tree fell on our bedroom on a Saturday morning. If we had still lived there, my wife Grace and I would be dead, as this tree fell down the middle of our bed. Our kids would have no parents in the midst of what was the most brutal season of our lives alone in a new state with no family or close friends. Suddenly, I saw that the burden of moving was actually a blessing. A lot has happened since then: Grace and I have celebrated 26 years of faithful marriage, we planted a church with the kids, we sent our oldest two off to college, and we have seen pretty much everything in life eventually turn into a blessing.  God has been great and we are grateful.  We share a lot of the journey in my new book Spirit-Filled Jesus.  You can pre-order the book at Amazon and learn to live by His power. Here's one section of the book that details what our family has been up to: ...

We'll get to that but first let's note that the bold type is original.  The marketing for the forthcoming book is literally highlighted in the original body of the text with an Amazon redirect link which ... is not duplicated here.  

So it looks like the Grace City Church account of the tree that fell on a house that was in Woodway that, when Russ Bowen was asking for Mark Driscoll, was the wrong address turned out to be the Driscoll home when he was sharing at the Thrive conference how the media blocked the driveway or sharing with Grace City Church how the Woodway house was his house, after all, when telling of how a tree fell on the house where he and Grace would have been potentially in bed and died had they not moved out of that house and also out of the state. 

But exactly why the Driscolls left Washington state is not explained in the Patheos blog post or in the excerpt quoted from the forthcoming book.  

Summarily, Driscoll described how the Driscoll kids organized a home church service on Sunday mornings before the Driscoll family "relocated for safety reasons".  That motiff of safety reasons was used in a 2013 post "The Hardest Part of Ministry", which we've discussed in some detail elsewhere.  But we'll probably have to discuss this again.  Moving from one state to another for safety reasons simply invites a point blank question as to what the safety issues would have been. When Robison asked Mark Driscoll point blank in the Life Today interview what Driscoll might have said or done to get so many people so mad at him Driscoll's response was to say he's a lovely guy so he really doesn't know.  

Driscoll mentions in the excerpt "The first church my wife Grace and I planted, we were just twenty-five years of age with no children.  Over the years when the kids came along, complex and challenging situations made it increasingly difficult for my wife and kids to be much involved. This time, however, could be different and we could plant a church as a family ministry."

The thing is, Mark Driscoll had spoken in the past about his family being involved in ministry.  Mark Driscoll shared enough stories about himself and his family as a synecdoche for what used to be Mars Hill it's hard to see, having been part of Mars Hill in the past, what actually makes The Trinity Church "different".  Driscoll made no secret about the extent to which he at various times regarded his family as cumulatively participating in ministry in what used to be at Mars Hill.  

"The Hardest Part of Ministry" from 2013 is not necessarily online now at  It was up for a while ...

but it seems to have gone 404 more recently.

We'll have to revisit some materials from as far back as 2001 to provide some context for what Driscoll was saying in 2013.
The hardest part of ministry
October 25, 2013
Mark Driscoll

* Twice I have arrived home from work to find a registered sex offender seeking to engage with my family while waiting to talk with me.

A version of the post is over here at at the moment. That's kind of the thing about Driscoll's Mars Hill era content, it was so super-saturated on the internet that sometimes there's stuff out there in plain sight even when it seems a lot of it has been purged.  

As has been previously discussed on the of the delicate details of that bullet point is how many people who were around Mars Hill in the 2000-2003 period heard Driscoll share that, yes, in fact, a pedophile visited him.  Over at the following website former attender Mark Yetman described the general situation:

Mark Yetman

In 2000 my wife and I moved 3000 miles to Seattle. We didn’t know anyone or anything about Seattle but we rented an apartment on the Ave. Everything was new and exciting for us and we sought out to explore everything this city. I don’t remember when we decided to enter the doors of the Paradox but I think it was late that summer. Entering those doors we were exposed to something we had never seen. Team Strike Force was doing their best Nirvana impression with deep and heartfelt Christian lyrics (no Jesus is my boyfriend lyrics). The pastor was dynamic, edgy, and speaking the Gospel with strength and conviction. What was truly radical for me was an evangelical church that served communion and you went up when your heart and soul were ready to accept Christ. For me it was a personal altar-call every time.

We would mainly go to the Paradox but occasionally go to the Ballard church (house). I remember going to Mark’s birthday party/5 year anniversary party and going to a retreat where Damien Jurado was there (He did a great rendition of Pink Moon). I started going to Mark’s house by the Montlake bridge for a men’s bible study. His uber-macho/hyperbolic public persona practically disappeared. He revealed a man that was Christ-filled caring and compassionate man. I remember one time him speaking about having a child-molester in his house and was uneasy about it but believed that Christ had changed this man’s heart. ... [emphasis added] 

And from the early 2001 sermon series in the Gospel of John, Mark Driscoll's own account of how a convicted child molester visited him and was ministered to by his daughter Ashley presents his daughter as taking initiative to pray for the man.
Part 12 of The Gospel of John
Pastor Mark Driscoll | John 6:1-14 | January 21, 2001
And I remember – I’ll tell you one story that kind of just sort of summarizes how I view this. My daughter was upstairs. She was about two-years-old taking her nap, and she was laying in her bed sleeping away – the bed that her grandmother had given her. She came downstairs and I was meeting with a guy who was sitting on my couch really struggling with a sin. He had been a child molester and was wondering whether or not he could become a Christian and whether God could forgive him of what he had done.And if you know me, I have very little compassion on men, especially men who take advantage of women and children. So this was really hard for me, especially being a first time father with a little daughter that I adored. And I was like, “You know, scripture says though that Christ has died for all our sins and there’s nothing that is beyond God’s grace in Christ. There’s nothing that God can’t forgive you of.”

And he’s crying. He says, “Do you really think that that’s possible? Do you really think that I could be forgiven for this?”

And it was interesting because my daughter came downstairs from her nap, and he was sitting on the couch that was given to us, and she looked at him and she saw him crying and she said, “Daddy, why is he crying?”

I said, “Well because he sinned. He did a bad thing and he feels bad about that.”

And she says, “Well we should pray for him.” So she climbs up on his lap and prays for him. She had no idea why he was crying, but I thought, “Man, if this is not the whole world coming together right here.” I mean it’s fishes and loaves. Somebody helped us get this house. Somebody gave us that couch. My daughter comes downstairs, sits on his lap, and then all of a sudden God’s grace gets multiplied right in the life of someone who’s very guilty of their sin, but now God has given them grace through a little girl and she didn’t even know she was doing it. She just thought she was praying for someone in need. [emphases added]

We have seen this over and over and over. It’s just amazing. ...

So ... Yetman's recollection did not seem to be a misremembering, Driscoll's own public record of preaching is able to verify the basics.  In Driscoll's 2001 account his daughter prayed for the man.  So while in 2013 an older and wiser man could certainly look back and realize that there was plenty a father could be worried about, the 2001 Mark Driscoll shared the story of Ashley praying for a convicted child molester not just once in a sermon but more than once, the other occasion being discussing family ministry in April 2001:
2001-04-07 Women's Meeting Part 3
answering a question

Best case scenario, I think, in ministry, is husband and wife working together. Beautiful. Like Priscilla and Aquilla, that's ideal to me because it's not good for the man to be alone, that includes ministry. So the wife is very helpful when she's a good fit. All our elders have wives that I admire and that I hope you would admire because they're admirable women. [emphasis added] And that's what it talks about in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, that the elders should be a certain way and so should their wives, because those women will know everything that is going on in the church; they will have more responsibility and have a higher profile. 

That's why, you know, how many of your are in a home group with one of the elders? Some of you are. You should be. The way we set those up is that the elders are opening up their homes and teaching with their wives so that you can get to know them in a natural context.  That's the way it's generally working. And the reason is that because we feel that the husbands and the wives working together serve for the best model of how the church should work. It should NOT be 'the wife stays home with the children and the husband goes out and does ministry', it's that the WHOLE family does ministry TOGETHER. [emphases added] Our children are a part of our ministry. It's great. I love it. I love it when people come over and my daughter opens the door and welcomes them, sits them down--if you've been at my house you know how this works, she's little Miss Hospitality.

Now her big thing before our Tuesday night study [is], she likes to open it in prayer, and then she likes to take the children upstairs and be the little hostess, which is great.  We have seen, I have seen, my daughter minister to people. I saw her, on one occasion, share the Gospel with a convicted pedophile, which was beautiful.  She was about, I think, right around about three years of age. About two and a half, three years of age. We were talking and he wanted to know as to whether or not God could forgive him for his sin. She came downstairs from her nap, saw him crying on the couch, and sat on his lap and asked me why he was said and I told her that he'd committed a sin against God and so she prayed for him. 

And so I view my daughter as having a spiritual gift, or two or three, and I see her knowing Christ, that means I see evidence of the spirit of God in her. That means she is a member of this church and she is a part of this church and that every part, as Paul says, is necessary and vital. So to kick her out, or to kick the women out, or to kick the children out, and relegate them to some secondary position, it harms the church and it harms them.  [emphasis added]

Best case scenario--husband, wife, kids--doing the Gospel together as a family with Dad functioning as the pastor of that congregation. That's best case scenario.  

If that doesn't happen because the man abdicates his responsibility or he sins, we'll put scenarios in to help work around that. 
You'll get bored in your life if all you have is just you and your husband. When you're serving Christ and doing things NOW your life is going somewhere. You're doing something and it's fun. Most of my wife and my conversations are about OTHER people that are coming to Christ. People who are getting married. People who are having children. People who are learning Scripture. People who are getting their life together by God's grace. It's great because we don't get bored. There's always something to do. There's always something that God is up to. 

Now perhaps 2001 Mark Driscoll did not really understand or appreciate the significance of what he was okay with and by 2013 had come around to a far more cautious approach.  That's a parent's prerogative, obviously.  The narrative tension is between the implicit plea for sympathy on behalf of the wife and kids in the 2013 piece and the 2001 teaching presentations in which Driscoll presented the story of one of his children praying for a sex offender as a powerful moment of cathartic redemption.

So the claim that this new church, unlike Mars Hill, would be a church started with the Driscolls as a family seems a bit hazy.  In evangelical and Reformed thought there's sometimes this concept called headship where the head of the household is the head of the household, which could at least suggest that the Driscolls were the founding family of Mars Hill whether or not they had kids at the time by dint of headship.  Confessions of a Reformission Rev still prominently features a Driscoll kid's photo with a caption to the effect of "Have fun reading my daddy's book", doesn't it?

So on the whole it's a bit mixed whether Mark Driscoll saw his family as co-ministering in some contexts or whether Grace needed to drop all of her personal ministry interests because she needed to mainly minister to Mark Driscoll himself.

Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4

page 101-102
During this season my wife, Grace, also started to experience a lot of serious medical problems. her job was very stressful, and between her long hours at the office and long hours at the church, her body started breaking down. I felt tremendousy convicted that I had sinned against my wife and had violated the spirit of 1 Timothy 5:8, which says that if a man does not provide for his family he has denied his faith and has acted in a manner worse than an unbeliever. I repented to Grace for my sin of not making enough money and having her shoulder any of the financial burden for our family.  We did not yet have elders installed in the church but did have an advisory council in place, and I asked them for a small monthly stipend to help us make ends meet, and I supplemented our income with outside support and an occasional speaking engagement.

Shortly thereafter, Grace gave birth to our first child, my sweetie-pie Ashley. Up to this point Grace had continuously poured endless hours into the church. She taught a women's Bible study, mentored many young women, oversaw hospitality on Sundays, coordinated meals for new moms recovering from birth, and organized all of the bridal and baby showers. Grace's dad had planted a church before she was born and has remained there for more than forty years. Her heart for ministry and willingness to serve was amazing. But as our church grew, I felt I was losing my wife because we were both putting so many hours into the church that we were not connecting as a couple like we should have. I found myself getting bitter against her because she would spend her time caring for our child and caring for our church but was somewhat negligent of me. 

I explained to Grace that her primary ministry was to me, our child, and the management of our home and that I needed her to pull back from the church work to focus on what mattered most.  She resisted a bit at first, but no one took care of me but her.  And the best thing she could do for the church was to make sure that we had a good marriage and godly children as an example for other people in the church to follow.  [emphases added] It was the first time that I remember actually admitting my need for help to anyone.  It was tough. But I feared that if we did not put our marriage and children above the demands of the church, we would end up with the lukewarm, distant marriage that so many pastors have because they treat their churches as mistresses that they are more passionate about than their brides.

Although I was frustrated with both my wife and church, I had to own the fact that they were both under my leadership and that I had obviously done a poor job of organizing things to function effectively.  [emphasis added] And since we did not yet have elders formally in place there was no one to stop me from implementing dumb ideas like the 9:00p.m. church service.  So I decided to come to firmer convictions on church government and structure so that I could establish the founding framework for what our church leadership would look like. 

page 120
A friend in the church kindly allowed me to move into a large home he owned on a lease-to-own deal because I was too broke to qualify for anything but an outhouse. The seventy-year-old house had over three thousand square feet, seven bedrooms on three floors, and needed a ton of work because it had been neglected for many years as a rental home for college students. Grace and I and our daughter Ashley, three male renters who helped cover the mortgage, my study, and the church office all moved into the home. This put me on the job, literally, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, as the boundary between home and church was erased.

We ran the church out of my house for nearly two years, including leadership meetings and Bible studies for various groups on almost every night of the week. It was not uncommon to have over seventy people a week in our home. Grace got sucked right back into the church mess. She was a great host to our guests. But I started growing bitter toward her because I was again feeling neglected. [emphasis added]

Page 128
I was burned-out, underpaid, in debt, sexually frustrated due to an unspectacular sex life, under frequent demonic attack, and so stressed that my blood pressure hovered somewhere between heart-attack victim and mulch in the ground [emphasis added], and now found myself alone with an attractive woman in a foreign country. In retrospect, I think the decision I made in that moment was perhaps the most significant ministry decision I have ever made. ...

With all of that in mind are there particular reasons history can't or won't repeat itself?  An eventually empty nest?

So by page 3 ...
there's an anecdote about one of the Driscoll kids prayed for a building and the building was granted.

It's one that we've seen before.

Pastor Mark couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity for evangelism that God has provided The Trinity Church, and is praying every day for the people who will meet Jesus Christ in this building. He also looks forward to ongoing partnership with other pastors as part of Jesus’ one big Church in the valley. He says, “God is planting The Trinity Church and we are following his leadership. God has a plan that has been fifty years in the making. My youngest son and I first walked around the building after baseball practice late one night. Still in his uniform, under the moonlight of a warm and clear desert evening, my little buddy folded his hands and prayed that Jesus would provide us the building to worship Him in. God answered his prayer! God has provided a home for The Trinity Church”. [emphasis added]
So on the whole it's not that difficult to pull up all the previous publications and posts from which the account in the book excerpt draws upon and threads the various accounts together.

The extent to which Driscoll has said that The Trinity Church has been the idea of his kids has been, well, extensive.

But to date there's no real explanation of what "a trap has been set" might have meant.

At some point, perhaps, we can look at the Driscoll book ore at length but at the moent the account Driscoll has presented seems to have it that his kids started what became the new church because they were staying at home.  Driscoll doesn't really say why this was the case but he says his kids got the idea to name the church and do church even if they were unable to go to church where they used to be.  Since Mars Hill was the one other church Mark Driscoll ever planted it's a simple process of elimination which church Driscoll was preaching at on a regular basis.

There are still some lingering questions.  For instance, Driscoll told Brian Houston:


Mark Driscoll: “I never got to say goodbye to the church and to the people, um, and so what went public was uh, actually the resignation letter that went to the legal governing board that was in authority over me. [emphasis added] Um, and so, um, I uh, I know under the circumstances that there wasn’t a way to do that would’ve been clean or easy. I don’t have any criticism of the board. I think for the people it, it meant there wasn’t closure and I didn’t, we didn’t get to say anything.

from the top of page 5 in the transcript about 9:23 into the interview

… Yeah. We waited; we felt like our oldest daughter should be able to graduate with her friends from high school. So we made that pledge to her[emphasis added] Then we prayed and my wife and I, we had written a book previously on marriage and really focused on friendship, was really one of our big things. And so thank God, we didn't know the hurricane is coming but we had really doubled down on our friendship and our friendship was super tight and close. Some say that a good friend makes the good times twice as good, and the bad times twice as bad. When your spouse is your friend and the pressure pushes you together rather than pulls you apart, that's a real blessing.

So on the one hand, Mark Driscoll explained that he never got to say goodbye to the church and to the people. On the other hand, the Driscolls waited until their oldest daughter could graduate from high school before moving, it seems.  Between Driscoll's mid-October 2014 resignation and a possibly May through June theoretical graduation date in 2015 would have seemed like some time to have said goodbye if Mark Driscoll wanted to.  In 2018 with The Trinity Church a few years old it could be asked whether the reason Mark Driscoll didn't get to say goodbye to Mars Hill has anything to do with an apparent reluctance to even mention the church by name at all.

However, having reviewed Justin Dean's book PR Matters, and having provided an extensive litany of the public relations crises or disasters that engulfed Mars Hill from about 2011 through its 2014 demise (even revisiting a summary from Mark Driscoll in the film God's Work, Our Witness describing how ambitious his vision for what Mars Hill would do was to be), the collapse of Mars Hill simply cannot be accounted for by hostile secular media coverage.  Nor can the decline of Mars Hill be attributed to liberal media coverage.  Twenty years ago hostile coverage was almost a welcoem thing when Mother Jones discussed the then new Mars Hill back in 1998.  When a person asked about a doctrinal statement they might have gotten a copy of the Mother Jones article rather than a formal doctrinal statement.  Driscoll may have come around to saying there was an eight year long governance battle that effected the church but he didn't speak as if it were a continuing battle in 2007 when he talked about a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus.

The tension between "why" he didn't get to say goodbye and whether or not he wanted to can probably not be resolved without a further explanation from Mark Driscoll as to what happened.  Depending on which account we consider Robert Morris advised Driscoll to step away for a while to heal up, or God audibly said the Driscolls were released, even though that narrative didn't show up until the year after the Driscoll resignation.  The 2014 resignation letter described the resignation as the result of consulting godly counsel and concluding that quitting was best.  In the release narratives it wasn't what the Driscoll parents wanted to do although leaving out of safety concerns might seem like a "normal" parental concern that wouldn't normally need a divine sanction, except that in the case of Mark and Grace Driscoll Mark Driscoll had spent enough decades declaring that God insisted on his being in Seattle that there had to be some accounting for the abandonment of Puget Sound.  Did God change His mind?  If He did there's "some" precedent for God appointing a leader and rescinding the appointment in the story of King Saul ... not that Mark Driscoll wants to be compared to King Saul, necessarily.

But the thing that lingers with the new excerpt of narrative is that in this new church Driscoll says it was the inspiration of his kids ... there's no mention in the narrative that God had anything much to do with instructing Mark Driscoll to do these things.  There's a story of a Driscoll kid praying that a building would be given and the child's prayer is described as answered.  It might be useful to examine the emergence of this new Mark Driscoll-helmed church without reference to any of Mark Driscoll's kids ... if Mark Driscoll's narratives presented over the last three and a half years made that optional but to go by the excerpt in the book Mark Driscoll isn't providing that option because he keeps sharing stories about how the idea of the church was the idea of his kids.  For a man who spent decades telling men to take responsibility and to be visionary and responsible this is a ... strange thing for Mark Driscoll to emphasize.

  1. Mars Hill is very healthy place for us to flourish, and we love our church. Furthermore, that my parents, Grace’s parents, one of my brothers and his family, along with two of my sisters and their families all attend Mars Hill is a unique gift. Our family is surrounded by the loving support of our church family as well as our extended relatives who are also part of our church family.
  2. I will be back because we believe God is doing something unique that we delight in being a part of. Much grace and provision has been poured out on us. I do not believe that God blesses a man, but rather God blesses his Word, his people, and his Church. I simply do not believe I could repeat what we are enjoying at Mars Hill by doing ministry anywhere else. I say this not to boast of the ministry we enjoy, but to boast in all the grace that God has given us and to recognize that it is indeed gracious.
  3. The multi-campus strategy we are using is sustainable and healthy. Being able to distribute as campuses of various sizes and personalities is a bit like the joy of being a father watching children with various resemblances but distinct personalities grow up. Having such a large team of elders, deacons, and members deployed across the campuses is a great relief to me as I see us taking better care of more people than we have ever been able to.
  4. My heart is here. While I enjoy the opportunities for ministry that God grants outside of Mars Hill, were I allowed to only do one thing, I would easily and gladly choose to be an elder at Mars Hill, preaching God’s Word and shepherding God’s people. I have zero interest in doing anything other than being a pastor and have zero interest in being a pastor anywhere else. I am very content with where I am and what I am doing, and am very passionate about continuing to press forward together for more people worshiping Jesus more deeply.


By Mark Driscoll's account it seemed a significant part of his family called Mars Hill Church home over the course of twenty years so ... what's really going to make The Trinity Church different?  What changed?  These are questions that Mark Driscoll may answer in some way in Spirit-Filled Jesus but the excerpt posted at his Patheos blog does not currently suggest that those questions will be answered.

Mark Driscoll's April 2017 interview with Walsh & Robison is back up in a few places, revisiting the long-form analysis of said interview

Back in April 2017 there was an interview Mark Driscoll gave on Life Today that went up and then went down for a while.

It was available online at Mark Driscoll's ministry site for a while.

Some time between the interview and now the Driscoll interview started showing up at and you can watch if you're registered and logged in, it seems.

That's not required to watch the interview here, although to watch the full episode from which the clip was taken you have to log in.

and of course ...

Saturday, September 15, 2018

links for the weekend, whether there's really science in the social sciences; hero worship in music (Bernstein); and the managerial uses of type-testing

Over at Mbird there's some mention of the relatively years-long running "replicability crisis" in the social sciences.

This reminds me of how, decades ago, I met a fellow in college who was pursuing a psychology degree because he felt it would be a way to help people.  I asked him what he thought of it in terms of being a science and he cheerfully said, "Oh, it's not a science at all."  "Really?" I asked, "how do you mean it's not a science?"  "Well, social sciences don't have any scientific laws.  All the natural and hard sciences have those. Psychology doesn't even have one."   

So why study it if it's not even a science?  To help people.  That was an interesting and memorable take on the social sciences I have rarely come across and while I have no doubt there are people who would contest the assertion, the replicability crisis as it's known in journalistic and editorial coverage, seems to fall well short of such a point blank reappraisal of the social sciences as not even rising to the level of science.

But it would seem like a necessary point of consideration.  Take Kahneman and company's concerns about the limits of sampling bias, take Haidt and company's observations about the inherently "WEIRD" skew of American social science as skewing wealthy, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (and the 'w' could also occasionally be read as "white" depending on ZIP codes) and you can get a sense that if there's anything weird about the replicability crisis it's that the true scope of the crisis has been downplayed across the board--the crisis is presented as the replicability itself of the major studies rather than the more foundational crisis of whether that crisis gives us reason to doubt that there's as yet any real science in social science as a field.

I've written about this off and on over the last five to ten years.  I even wrote a haiku on the topic

social science is
statistics in the service
of stereotypes

What may seem like science within the field can look like the deployment of statistics to reinforce stereotypes outside the field.  How do stereotypes play out?  Well, one of the ways they can play out is that someone like Leonard Bernstein can be regarded as heroic for being progressive even if he turned out to be verbally abusive later in life behind the scenes.  In the sense that any hero can simultaneously be a monster this is hardly a surprise.  I had a little haiku I wrote about that, too ...

heroes are monsters
whose use for a cause outweighes
their well-known vices

But the thing that seems ineradicable about humanity is hero worship.

Alex Ross on Leonard Bernstein and musical hero worship and how there won't be a Bernstein for our era because ours is a different world and ...

not that you asked but this is my blog, after all, but I thought Mass was mostly stupid.  I'm not exactly a hater of Bernstein.  The Chittchester Psalms are actually pretty good!  I sang them in choir when I was in college.  I had more fun singing Durufle's Requiem but then I can also freely and happily admit I like a lot of music by Paul Hindemith!  Maybe I should joke that the kinds of musicians who admit to liking the music of Maurice Durufle and Paul Hindemith are not necessarily concerned about whether or not they are thought of as the cool kids?

Classical music won't get another telegenic superstar like Bernstein.  Or it may be that these sorts of personalities end up capturing our collective attention whether or not they should more because of "us" than just because of "them".

John Gray has some variations on a theme.  That there is a kind of liberalism that is no longer liberal in methods is probably a conservative axiom by now ... I tend to think these days of Jacques Ellul's comment that once democracy has stopped being a method of governance and is transformed into a way of life or an etiological myth it is going to become as totalitarian as any other more officially totalitarian ideology.  What we've been seeing in the vitriol between blue state and red state could be thought of as an intra-liberal conflict where two competing definitions of what the Western liberal legacy and order is supposed to be are at odds. 

over at The New Republic J. C. Pan has a piece on the "tyranny of personality tests"

A thumbnail sketch is that Merve Emre has a book that discusses the emergence of the personality testing industry; it's roots in Jungian theories; and its connection to a managerial-corporate interest in making sure the right cogs are hired into the production machinery of the contemporary West.  This is not to say there's no room for the other use for personality tests, finding ways to see how you and X don't get along and what may possibly be done to improve social and filial relationships but it seems from the review (and from what I've read of Emre's work directly) there's likely a current of observing that the less corporate-centric uses to which people put an MBTI toward don't change the managerial means and ends of the MBTI legacy itself.  Writing as a Seattle resident I think I could jokingly attest to just how far-reaching these kinds of things became when I heard Mark Driscoll extolling a book about "love languages" and how there are five of them and learning which ones you and your spouse prefer can help your marriage.  But then lazy quips about how self-help books dont help withstanding, Driscoll seems to have put out a few books that, if you stop and think about it a moment, are basically self-help books themselves.

Pan seems more incredulous as to the basis for the four categories than seems persuasive.  It's not that difficult to think of the four temperaments (choleric, melancholic, sanguine and phlegmatic, right?) or how in Greek philosophy there were speculations about whether the cosmos was ultimately an iteration of air, water, fire or earth.  That's where The New Yorker, for instance.

It was around the year 400 B.C. when the Greek physician Hippocrates first tried to break humanity into “types”: the sanguine ones were hearty, governed by blood; the melancholic ones were of the earth, filled with black bile, colder and clearer-headed than their blood-fuelled brethren; for the choleric ones, the bile was yellow, resulting in a fiery volatility; the phlegmatic ones were of the water, brainy and rational. A scholar, depending on his age, was likely melancholic or phlegmatic. A lover or adventurer was probably sanguine; a bad-tempered rebel rouser, choleric. The model allowed for ease of explanation and categorization: instead of talking about individuals as such, it was possible to lump them according to temperament, and to explain the behaviors of entire groups at the same time. And if you knew how to classify yourself, of course, you could explain your own feelings and actions.

We’ve progressed well beyond the four humors in the two thousand-odd years since Hippocrates, but we still haven’t satisfied the urge to discover ways of sorting people into personalities and types and, in so doing, predict how they might act in specific situations. During the First World War, psychologists, led by Robert Woodworth, tried to systematize that urge, asking would-be soldiers to answer a series of questions to see how battle-worthy—or, conversely, how prone to mental problems and conditions like “shell shock”—they would be. The results proved popular enough to fuel a host of other self-assessment measures in the scientific community—and, inevitably, to spill over into popular culture.

Leave it to Menand to point out that the greatest weakness of the MBTI is that it is a test completely incapable of accounting for self-deception.  Menand also juxtaposes an MBTI personality type description with a description of a zodiac sign as a temperament indicator.  Menand also takes some time to point out that the last sorts of people who should be complaining (at all, let alone vehemently) about people-sorting and people-assessing tools are educators.  There's no point in damning the MBTI as some rote and possibly inaccurate tool for assessing people if your day job is in any way related to education.

Sure, Jungianism may be a bit ... mystical in some ways but there may not be much mystery to developing quadranted taxonomies to assess and explain why people seem to be different.  Some people don't liek being subjected to personality tests because they believe that misreads who they are or they believe that people can change.  I'm ... doubtful about how much people an change in a lot of things in life.  But then I also think most people in the United States live so comfortably within the constraints in mind and body that they have they usually don't stop to think about what those constraints may be.

If you'd like to read an excerpt of Emre's book, which, of course, is the news peg for the previous links ... head over to The Baffler for "Hitler ENTJ".

in the domain of what some have called a "supermyth"

In the past few years, the social sciences have been rocked by a “reproducibility crisis,” in which once-bedrock findings in psychology, nutrition science, and other disciplines have failed to replicate when tested. Lieberman and Schatzberg believe the same “publish or perish” incentives that drove that crisis also explain the vibrator story: Its success, they write, “serves as a cautionary tale for how easily falsehoods can become embedded in the humanities.”

“People are not rewarded for checking previous work,” Schatzberg said. “They’re rewarded for coming up with sexy new research findings. That’s true in the sciences, but it’s also true in the humanities.”


There's a strand in contemporary thought (maybe in "any" contemporary thought) in the West that makes a point of pursuing the abjection of the past.  It's not that the "Dark Ages" were less worth living in than the era in which people christened that period of Western European history the "Dark Ages", it's that people who dubbed that period so found it hard to imagine that life would have been worth living in such a time and place.  That sciences in general and social sciences in particular have been deployed in the defense and deployment of hard bigotries with a patina of scientific rationality doesn't seem like a point that can be readily contested.  Yes, when the scientific method is employed by the cumulative scientific herd long enough there's a self-correcting capability in it but the replicability crises seem to invite a question as to whether that's what has been happening in the social sciences and whether that is what "is" happening. 

To suggest that social science has not shown itself to be science in any meaningful sense of the term (capable of formulating actual scientific laws and basic replication of results) isn't being anti-science.  It takes an ideological move to insist that skepticism about the replication of results in the social sciences is even potentially anti-science. 

For those who may recall the Kennewick human skull case from the Pacific Northwest a few decades ago there was some joking and discussion about how the skull (which was described as a Caucasoid skull) ended up in Kennewick.  Well, there's a mystery of how such an ostensibly non-Native skull ended up in the Pacific Northwest if the assumption is that the land bridge is the way people ended up in the North American continent.

But ... not everyone subscribes to the land bridge hypothesis and ....

It doesn't seem hard to imagine that the "land bridge" could involve island hopping.  The "coastal migration" theory ...

Eventually, the scientists did get a legally approved (though very brief and highly constricted) look at Kennewick Man, and what they learned is truly amazing. Based on the shape of his skull and other features, they theorized that he or his forebears may have been Asian coastal seafarers. They may have journeyed by boat along the south Alaskan shoreline and ultimately all the way down the Americas, hugging the coast and living off kelp, fish, sea lions and the like.

This is the "coastal migration" theory of the peopling of the Americas, which suggests that a wave, or waves, of people traveled and lived along the Pacific coast long before other travelers chased herds of tasty mastodons and mammoths across a land bridge into Alaska.

It may be a limit of memory but I dimly recall the Native American author Sherman Alexie riffing on Kennewick man theorizing from the scientific community with a question--why was it that the non-whites were thought to have used a land bridge if as soon as a possibly white man's skull was found, of course they sailed (or paddled).  There's since been reason in the last twenty years to doubt how "white" that skull has turned out to be. 

Not being of purely white nor purely Native American descent one of the things I've observed with slowly growing frustration has been the extent to which white progressives and white reactionaries/conservatives love to scapegoat each other for a cumulatively racist history but ... that said ... there's no good reason to want the slave trade or slave systems of the Native American tribes to be brought back ...

and simply invoking that some white people fought to end slavery in the American Civil War won't suffice.  The United States fought to preserve the Union but that's not necessarily the same thing as fighting to end slavery any more than claiming to secede for the sake of states rights is any more historically or intellectual honest about what rights reserved within what states were considered at stake.  The older I get and the more I read some of the debates that have been held about the North vs the South in the American Civil War the more I can appreciate the American Indian relatives who said, "well, son, the American Civil War was about how the white racists from the North fought the white racists in the South about how to treat black people and once there was some kind of decision about that they all agreed that the thing they should be doing is killing off the Indians."  This did not mean there were no people in that war whom a person could not respect, admire, or consider historically beneficial to non-whites ... but it did mean that where American Indians were concerned it was a dubious point to consider either the North or the South the "good guys" about race. 

But that stereotyped script has been part and parcel of white progressive and reactionary polemic in the century and a half since the Civil War transpired.