Friday, April 20, 2012

Mark Driscoll shows us the hat but does not produce the cattle

The trouble started with a Southern Baptist blogger . . . yes, you should have seen that one coming. Now, to be fair, the blogger quoted an anonymous “source.” And, we all know that almost everything bloggers say is true. But, when they have something as solid as an anonymous “source,” then you can rest assured that when Jesus talked about the truth over and over in John, this is precisely what he was referring to. I have a degree from Washington State’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and worked professionally as a journalist, and I can assure you that The Kerfuffle is a very serious matter to be taken with the utmost sobriety and propriety. In fact, one anonymous “source” I spoke to said that Watergate pales in comparison.

If I didn't know better I'd say 2012 was the year William Wallace II made his triumphant and inevitably self-congratulatory return.  The pre-emptive strike on Justin Brierley was a little too upset and a little too personal.  But this ... now this is William Wallace II all the way.  This is in the mode of "Pussified Nation".  If you had ever heard of "Pussified Nation" and wondered how William Wallace II came across this is probably a good indicator.  Driscoll let people know in Confessions of a Reformission Rev he adopted the persona of William Wallace II to, more or less, put those unruly and ignorant young men in their place.  It was ever thus, it seems, and so Mark Driscoll has decided the kerfuffle of Liberty University warrants a response despite his belabored joking that this all seems beneath him a little bit but he's going to reply anyway.

On a little further reflection, it's inaccurate to say William Wallace II has made his triumphant return because that would imply he ever went away or was not the real Mark Driscoll.  Let's say that Mark Driscoll has recently felt confident enough to bring William Wallace II out of the closet.

Once again Driscoll assures us of his credentials. So Driscoll worked as a professional journalist?  So did Dan Rather right up to the point when he retired in disgrace.  Connie Chung ended up stepping down in disgrace for a time after a gaffe in journalistic etiquette and ethics.  If Mark Driscoll wants to keep bragging about having a degree from Wazu and saying he worked professional as a journalist what's his CV?  What journalistic work did he do?  Which publisher? 

You see, to clear up any confusion, editorializing for the Seattle Times or FOX News shilling a book or writing for the Washington Post does not count as real journalism.  None of that is journalism in any meaningful sense.  That's editorial work and editorial work, though it has value, is saved for people famous enough or who have paid their dues enough by doing actual research to get those jobs but these days it arguably tilts more toward the former than the latter.  In Driscoll's case he's got enough celebrity to get offered to write columns by newspapers who want big names.  None of that counts as professional journalism.  Nor would anything he wrote while a student at Washington State University.  Student journalism may be cool and all but it's student journalism. 

So where's Driscoll's professional journalistic work?  It's easy to brag about it but if you can brag about it you can produce the actual published work because professional journalists keep records of things like that.  This is the second time this year Driscoll has written an attack on someone and also  cited his degree in speech communication from Wazu.  Okay, then.  If he's worked as a professional journalist where is this professional journalism? 

Now if being a professional journalist is a credential worth bragging about when Driscoll takes a swipe at Peter Lumpkins then what's good for the goose is good for the gander.  How about these professional journalists? 

Brendan Kiley,
Jonah Spangenthal-Lee,
Molly Worthen

Ah, but you see none of that counts because even though those people are professional journalists they have the wrong perspective on Mars Hill and so neither Driscoll nor his fans will take years or decades in professional journalism seriously if that credential could be brought to bear on questioning Driscoll's scholarship or approach to public controversy. Justin Brierley can't count as a professional journalist because he's married to a woman who is a pastor. He's just some journalist who was guilty of trying to "exercise authority" over Mark Driscoll by asking him about controversial things he said on record.  Now that Driscoll's played the professional journalist card he's without excuse for how he reacted to Brierley and has condemned himself.

He's also a hypocrite.  Professional journalists don't count if they don't go with what Driscoll wants them to do.  Yet if it's Driscoll putting down a blogger or an actually current professional journalist then his own credential as a professional journalist, whatever that was, becomes a big deal.  We're even supposed to take it seriously. This looks curiously like special pleading which is another way of saying Driscoll's a hypocrite working with double standards on journalism as a credential.

If Driscoll wants to keep bragging about his stint in professional journalism he's welcome to produce a story that has his byline that isn't a guest column for some newspaper that asked him to opine on religion because they couldn't think of anyone else more interesting to ask.  As in a story that had to be fact-checked, run by an editor and appeared in some setting besides the Op-Ed or Religion column on some hot topic.  If Driscoll at some point in his life wrote an article like this:

That could count.  Sure, it's a feature piece and not exactly investigative journalism.  Sure, a lot of people would describe it as a puff piece but it would count as actual journalism, even if in the human interest side of things.  It lets us know, for instance, that after James Noriega's first marriage fell apart he felt broken because his whole identity was being in a husband and father.  Noriega subsequently turned to amphetamines and became addicted but eventually came to Christ.  It's a compelling story and one that obviously got Driscoll's attention.

After all, Driscoll said that Noriega was appointed to the Board of Directors in the above 2007 sermon.  Noriega would go on to contribute material to the Redemption Groups and co-lead the ministry, apparently right up to the point where some time in later 2011 he vanished without a trace from leadership.  Driscoll has been studiously silent about that.  Driscoll can preach for a long time about people who make a positive impression on him by "seeking humility" (what that means beyond simply agreeing to do whatever Driscoll tells them to do is hard to establish). Then when something comes up Driscoll is quiet.  Driscoll gave Munson a fawning send-off in late 2011 and said Munson was above reproach.  If Driscoll says anything about Munson since Paul Petry publicized Munson's involvement in the kangaroo court proceedings against Petry and Meyer it will be interesting, though unlikely. 

Driscoll has avoided mentioning anything about Scott Thomas, whose role in heading up the EIT that found Munson's charges credible for firing Petry and Meyer has been documented.  That Scott Thomas used Acts 29 resources to lie to Mars Hill members about a "conciliatory process" as he prepared ot make the case that Petry and Meyer deserved to be fired is not likely to get any mention from Driscoll.  Scott Thomas felt released from leading Acts 29 the week after Petry went on record and shared that with Matt Chandler, who was kind enough to share that with folks.  Driscoll wrote a very long update on "What's Next For Me".  What's next for Scott Thomas, former head of Acts 29 and executive elder who oversaw the EIT?  Who's that?  As far as Driscoll's public discussion goes it's as though Scott Thomas doesn't exist anymore. 

Anyone else notice Scott Thomas isn't listed as an elder anywhere in publicly accessible websites associated with MH?  He probably wouldn't be listed as a pastor at this point even if, say, you could somehow look up his profile on The City.  We're not going to get a "What's next for Scott Thomas" update, are we?  Thomas has related that there are new ministry opportunities.  What would those be, now that Petry has been able to document the deceit and kangaroo court antics of Scott Thomas in ensuring Petry and Meyer were fired?

Anyone else notice James Noriega vanished from eldership in the time frame in which MH PR assured us two staff were let go for displaying a pattern of overstepping spiritual authority? Was one of them Noriega? They won't say anything at MH except to assure us that whomever these nameless people were their firings had no connection whatever to Andrew's disciplinary case.  Really?  Why did an anonymous tipper contacting Patrick Kyle at New Reformation Press explain that Andrew's case was at the center of a "confluence" of situations?  In the end who publicly touted James Noriega from the pulpit in 2007 as being added to the Board of Directors?  That's right, Mark Driscoll.  Noriega was a man who was not humble but was seeking humility. 

Driscoll only shoots the fish he sees being in a barrel. He has not, that I know of, fielded questions about Scott Thomas, James Noriega, the disciplinary cases of Andrew or Lance, and does not seem to have any interest in those controversies.  He must know they exist but they're not as fun or easy as keeping the focus on himself and his book (it really doesn't ultimately matter that he's credited Grace as co-writing the book with him at this point anyway).  As long as the controversy is about him or something he's said or done he's all for making a show of how Justin Brierley was some journalist trying to exercise authority over him. 

If Mark Driscoll were a truly professional professional journalist he'd remember that once something goes on record it's always there.  It was easier to attack Brierley as some guy married to a woman pastor than concede some things he's said and written were ill-advised or ill-timed.  Nobody is going to forget Driscoll used the Haggard controversy as an occasion to talk about wives who let themselves go and thanks to Real Marriage we can put together Driscoll was choosing to "take one for the team" because he was resenting his wife for not being more sexually available to him.  It's easier to share important lessons from shaking hands with T. D. Jakes that never made their way into how Driscoll dealt with Brierley, a journalist than to apply those lessons from Jakes, mere weeks earlier, to dealing with Brierley. It would seem as though there's no end to the special pleading and double standards Driscoll can and will employ to make points and win arguments. 

Oh ... but didn't Driscoll just tell us after his meeting with T. D. Jakes that we should seek to make a difference and to win people rather than make a point and win arguments?  That apparently only applies when Driscoll's shaking hands with a megachurch pastor whose got the numbers Driscoll covets.  It's not supposed to apply when Mark Dever has concerns about multisite because then Driscoll wants to make a point and win an argument. It's not supposed to apply to professional journalists who "exercise authority" over Driscoll by asking him about statements he's made on the record, especially not if those professional journalists are men married to women who are pastors.  But ... if Mark Driscoll wants to blog about a kerfuffle caused by bloggers who cares if it's the pot calling the kettle black?  Driscoll is not just a blogger, he's a blogger with his very own Pastor Mark TV.  But let's just pretend that's not the case.

As long as the controversy has something to do with him Driscoll's more than happy to jump in with both feet.  If the controversy involves his church having imcomptent or even malicious disciplinary procedures and precedents ("unclear communication" and "things did not go as they should have") Driscoll says nothing and his team even actively dissociates him from any controversy.  Driscoll craves any controversy that lets him be the focal point, whether it's pre-emptively assasinating Brierley's character, telegraphing that he'll shake hands with T. D. Jakes, or entertaining himself about Liberty University.  If the subject is Andrew and church discipline, or Lance and church discipline; if the subject is Scott Thomas or Jamie Munson and their roles in the 2007 firings; if the subject is James Noriega vanishing from eldership and MH's PR team stating some staff were let go in a time frame that suggests Noriega was possibly one of those men; if the very idea of a co-leading elder of Redemption Groups might have been removed for displaying a pattern of overstepping spiritual authority that never gets defined were to come up Driscoll is silent. 

When Driscoll was on The View he mentioned he and Grace had a good relationshp at first in the marriage and over time the stress of ministry got to them.  Barbara Walters remarked, summarily, "But I read the book and in it you said you saw sex as a god and your wife saw sex as gross."  Driscoll replied, "Yeah and ... " then proceeded to answer an easier question.  Walters point blank said that what Mark Driscoll was saying about the marriage to Grace in The View was not what either of them said in the book and Driscoll opted to answer the easier question, the topic about other people. 

Mark Driscoll has not really been swift to answer some questions about the theological implications of his story. He has made it clear God told him to marry Grace but that he wouldn't have married Grace if he'd known her whole sexual history (which included cheating on him one time when neither of them were really Christians).  That God providentially knew this and permitted Grace to lie so that Mark would be obedient to the divine command is a necessary theological ramification of accepting the Driscoll story at face value that, as yet, no one has really probed the Driscolls about in interview settings that I'm aware of.

If he wants to answer questions about other people he can field questions about Scott Thomas, Jamie Munson, James Noriega, Lief Moi, Paul Petry, Bent Meyer and the 2007 firings any time. Don't hold your breath waiting for Driscoll to do that.  Driscoll isn't interested in controversies that don't involve him.  As for the religious institution he's created, they issued A Call for Reconciliation rather than see any more professional journalists get involved.

At least for right now (and potentially forever) Mark Driscoll bragging about how he worked as a professional journalist is little more than a hypocrtical boast that demonstrates a double standard and special pleading. The boast is as yet  all hat and no cattle.  Since he keeps bringing it up he should be willing to produce his published work to prove his point.  Remember folks, being a pundit isn't the same as being an actual journalist.  Editorial work does not count. Even a puff piece like the Seattle P-I profile that mentioned James Noriega's past with divorce and drug addiction would count more than an editorial piece. Driscoll keeps showing us the hat and at some point if he won't show us the cattle his boast is empty.

Meanwhile, consider this example of some of Mark Driscoll's student editorial writing from 1992.

No comments: