Monday, January 30, 2012

HT Phoenix Preacher: Mark Driscoll & Church Discipline

Normally I have no keen interest in podcasts and don't listen to podcasts.  I make exceptions however, such as for this podcast. I hadn't planned on blogging about this (as I blogged earlier) but I have been following enough other blogging on the subject and reading enough comments that I do feel somebody should say the stuff I'm about to say. I'm going to discuss what concerns about Mars Hill discipline "should" be getting discussed in light of Andrew's story.  I am also going to discuss why I have not blogged about some of this stuff and why I have not made comments of the sort other people have. There are folks who have commented here in the past whose comments display an approach I avoid for reasons I'm going to explain at some length.

As I blogged at some length at various points here, Mark Driscoll's Christian porn take on Song of Songs will be the sort of thing to help unmarried Christians become aware of techniques, positions, and ideas they will have not have heard of before.  Driscoll's defense of "If I don't talk about it all your kids are gonna learn about it from porno anyway" is not a particularly viable defense.  It certainly didn't make sense ten years ago when he said it in a sermon you probably won't even be able to find; it makes less sense now if Mars Hill is as gung-ho on home-schooling and web-filtering as I imagine they might be.  It will mean that a generation of Martian kids are more likely to find out about anal sex being possible from a Driscoll book or a sermon than from official porn.  Note I used the word "official" there.

I agree with the sentiment that if a guy like Mark Driscoll spent months extolling the wonders of wifely stripteases and holy blowjobs as the literal and only viable reading of Song of Songs; and then is incensed that impressionable and horny 20 somethings end up trying these things out because they lack self control; that a man like that is either a complete idiot or is not being honest about inevitable implications his teaching will have in a church that has reached into ten thousands.

When marriage is touted as the proof of true adulthood by a man who is capable of putting singles in a double bind by saying they're idolizing marriage if they feel lonely without someone and yet that they're idolizing independence if they don't to marry because they have other things to do this is the kind of blatant double bind that, should people end up having sex, is not a huge shocker. As I've blogged various times here, in Martian martial theology the only person who isn't in this double bind forever is whomever happens to already BE married. The rest can often end up being what my blogging friend Mara Reid has called the "sucks to be you" gender gospel.

I'm following the stuff related to Andrew and have not done much to blog about that.  I have, however, made some comments here and there. The controversy surrounding Andrew's discipline contract is an occasion for people outside Mars Hill to ask whether or not, if the things Andrew shared are true, that discipline at the Ballard campus has not at some point been tainted by any one or all four of the following miscarriages of discipline in Andrew's case:

1) nepotism
Andrew was engaged to a pastor's daughter. When he admitted to cheating on her I don't see how nepotism wouldn't kick in. In fact if Andrew had not been engaged to a pastor's daughter it's hard to know that any of this would have gone down the way it did.

2) conflict of interest
Andrew was disciplined by campus pastors who would be in a conflict of interest if the pastor whose daughter Andrew was engaged to and had cheated on had any say in the disciplinary proceedings

3) double standard
Any word in the shunning document about the pastor's daughter?  The public notice about Andrew scrupulously avoided mention that "a member" with whom Andrew was involved in "unrepentent sexual sin" was a pastor's daughter

4) simple retaliation
I don't think I have to explain this one.

These are all risks that anyone who read what Andrew shared with Matthew Paul Turner would legitimately be concerned about given what Andrew related about the disciplinary proceedings he was told he had to be part of.

Seeing as spouse and offspring information about campus pastors has been pretty well scrubbed off of Mars Hill websites when folks used to trumpet that information in prominent campus pastor profiles it does at least suggest the possibility that Mars Hill leaders somewhere have put together that members of the press or bloggers could put these things together and wonder if Andrew ended up being railroaded despite having done everything right by confessing his sins.

Newsflash to some folks, not saying you did something is not the same as deliberately lying about it.  A dad angry about his daughter being betrayed by a fiance with whom his daughter was sexually involved is going to make that dad apt to assume the worst if he wasn't aware of what was going on--this could be the case if the fiance admitted to sexual activity the pastor's daughter never mentioned.  IF that's what happened (and I'm not saying this is what actually went down) it wouldn't even be the first time a dad at Mars Hill retroactively made every effort to slam an emergency brake on a relationship his daughter was in with a man where he hadn't pieced everything together yet.  This is my way of saying that the odds of a pastor avoiding a conflict of interest, the temptation to retaliate, or to exercise a nepotistic double standard in church discipline in the kind of case Andrew describes is not possible unless the dad in question defers to others.  Andrew not saying earlier he was sexually active with a pastor's daughter during his engagement to her is not necessarily active deceit and even if it was that would only be possible to sustain if the daughter went along.

I've already written at some length about what I observed at Mars Hill that led me to believe disciplinary procedures were, let me put this discreetly, ad hoc and frequently done without any regard to the significance of procedural precedent.  Don't shun the unrepentant adulteress who pulls the "I've never been a Christian card" do shun the fired pastor who objected to the by-laws. 

Now I know people in the past have come here and shared (almost always anonymously) conspiracy theories and the "true" explanations about what happened to this or that person.  Well, I have not been a fan of those.  Anyone can post an anonymous comment.  My educational background is in journalism.  You'll notice that even though I have a pen name (because it sounds cool to me) I have made no secret of who I actually am here. Back in the unmoderated Midrash I was the only person who used my actual name.  Full actual name, not a shorthand like PastorMark.  I may say stupid stuff but I am willing to admit I said stupid stuff on record.

Something that happened in 2007 after the firing controversy was that somebody leaked stuff to the press.  That somebody created a press release.  A whole bunch of Martians assumed that somebody ELSE had to be responsible.  That somebody was (and is) a friend of mine.  The reason I take the tone and approach I do to blogging about Mars Hill is I was trained to approach things as a journalist.  I was taught that there are times when the real story is not what everybody is writing about but what nobody is writing about.  I was also told that you should not assume that anonymous sources or people who only want to speak off the record can be trusted. 

If the story is real, if the story is legit, and if the story needs to be told do not take shortcuts by way of anonymous tippers who in all likelihood have their own agendas.  Be willing to slog through obscenely large amounts of publicly accessible information to put the story together.  Use an anonymous source as an absolute last resort and only if you are sure that the story of the anonymous source fits information you are able to obtain through other means.

A little backtrack into the history of the press and the Nixon administration. For decades the press had a self-congratulatory love affair with itself for having taken down the Nixon administration.  That's not exactly what happened.  Disgruntled people within the Nixon administration took down the Nixon administration and made use of the press to do so.  There was a synergy at work. The Nixon administration fell apart through the momentum of its own graft. In fact people who suggest that there are Watergate like elements to this situation are right. Someone inside Mars Hill cared enough about Andrew to keep him in the loop. Andrew THEN went to Matthew Paul Turner.  All the same, that things have been off can be observed through just about any rant Driscoll makes.

If Mars Hill is on a course for disaster we don't have to keep looking for the secret or "real" story built off of people who won't speak on record.  The story of the things going wrong in Mars Hill theology or procedure is, in its way, staring us all in the face and within publicly accessible documents and statements. "I break their nose" for instance.  "If I weren't going to end up on CNN" for instance. We can see it even in the curious case of shredding William Young while urging us to wait and see with Jakes. 

That the case of Andrew was leaked does not surprise me any more than that the firings of Paul and Bent were leaked.  However, as a blogger I am not the kind of person who will just blog out everything I have learned. I've seen first hand how a friend's life became more unhappy than it already was because Mars Hill members assumed the worst about him and would not listen to me when I pleaded with them (and non-members) to NOT view my friend this way. 

In other words I've seen people act like complete assholes in anger and outrage about Mars Hill and not realize that how they reacted was perpetuating wrong-doing against people already harmed by disciplinary processes at Mars Hill.  This is not abstract for me, one of my friends got screwed over not just by a disciplinary procedure at Mars Hill but even by the blowback that came from people assuming he had to have leaked things to the press when he didn't. Your words, both their content and their tone, will have consequences in the lives of people you probably aren't thinking about.

If some people think I have been overly cautious it may be because I really am overly cautious, but I take my approach because I have seen just a few too many people hurt by amateurs who don't understand the significance of what it means to violate the privacy of already hurt people by going to the press.  Let me put it as scandalously as possible so that this can be more clearly articulated--if a person has been raped how much good do you think it may do the victim to go out and announce the person has been raped to the press if we're in a cultural context in which victims get blamed?

There's a lot I haven't blogged and probably never will blog because I know what "on the record" means.  Now if you're someone who wants to blog or comment about something to do with Mars Hill and disciplinary abuse and you use a pseudonym, okay. I honestly do get that.  But if you want to claim to have inside knowledge while simultaneously refusing to go on record or say anything concrete you're a coward. Period. There's no qualifying that. I'm not saying there's no legitimate reason to be afraid for your reputation, mind you.

If you're only willing to take the posture of someone who knows the real deal but won't use your real name or go on record as you insist people believe your anonymous comments on blogs, well, I've already seen my friends' privacy violated by assholes like you. You'll have to do better than that.  Bent Meyer has just shown you what "better than that" looks like over at The Wartburg Watch if you need an example.

You don't know, watchblogger or anonymous commenter, whether or not your desire to vent your anger won't inadvertantly hurt the cause and life of someone who has already been hurt by this institution.  Using already hurt people as props to win your crusade can still be secondary abuse. Don't be so quick to vent your spleen that you inadvertantly sacrifice those people on the altar of your crusade.  I've already seen this done to one of my friends and I don't want to see it happen again. 

And this is why, crazy as this may sound, Andrew's case is encouraging to me.  Someone who is a MH member cared enough to share with Andrew that he was being declared an unrepentent sinner by a campus machine.  Andrew then had the freedom to break his story to Matthew Paul Turner. Someone cared enough about Andrew to have more real regard for his privacy than an entire campus system. Now people can understandably believe that a church willing to treat Andrew that way may "deserve" to have something leaked (amen) but it should be (and was) Andrew's decision to share the story.  Compared to what went down in 2007 this is still terrible but in one crucial respect it's a step up and a step in a better direction.

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