Saturday, December 20, 2014

DG Hart on The New Republic and a comment of "I miss liberalism. Now all we have left is the Left". Wenatchee recalls an old warning from 22 years ago about a lost middle

A very short but memorable comment is this one:

Posted December 19, 2014 at 10:48 pm | Permalink
I miss liberalism. Now all we have is left is the Left. Humanists are the enemies of humanity.

A bit sweeping, of course, but it reminded Wenatchee The Hatchet of something a college friend said 22 years ago, "There aren't any liberals or conservatives anymore.  All we're getting are radicals and reactionaries. This is going to destroy any chance at genuinely productive political discussion in the country."  Wenatchee is obliged to say this is a paraphrase but the idea seems to have had some merit. 

Over the last few decades Wenatchee The Hatchet has tried to read a spectrum of right and left and has come to the possibly unfair conclusion that if you move too far to the left or right you pretty much end up with people spouting off ideas that could come out of the Protocols for the Elders of Zion.  TVD might not be a particularly avid read of Jacobin, then? ;)  Not that Wenatchee The Hatchet actually is ... but it can be interesting to see what ideas persist in different streams of thought.

As Wenatchee has been writing at length this year, nobody on the left had managed to ever publish two sentences that created any trouble for Mark Driscoll over the course of a decade.  The gap between today's left and right has grown large enough that who among the "liberal" camp could have paid enough attention to Driscoll's writings to have spotted the problems that were brought to light by the likes of Warren Cole Smith or Janet Mefferd or Warren Throckmorton?

Identity politics have so become the order of the day that the all-or-nothing scorched earth approach too commonly prevails.  The only way to be more idiotic than Tony Jones was in sounding off about Mars Hill (or Peter Rollins) would be The American Spectator approach.

But that's kind of the point, move far enough left or right even on the subject of Mark Driscoll and uninformed lazy idiocy is the result. Sometimes it seems as though people on the left and right perceive the problems of today as having been the result of not embracing their convictions strongly enough when it "may" be possible the problems of today were caused by their doctrinaire approach to some degree and that the art of politics, compromise, has been forsaken for constituency success.  Meh, or there's other things to consider on a weekend.


Since 2014 was kind of a big and long year on the subject of Mars Hill and because the span from November 2013 through now saw the emergence of some actually good coverage of Mars Hill and Driscoll from the mainstream and Christian press, it seems pertinent to share that Wenatchee The Hatchet got contacted by a handful of people over the years and in a number of cases just stonewalled them.  You can go read about the certified letter from Scott Harris to Wenatchee The Hatchet at your leisure.  Emails from leaders within Mars Hill or other missives were received and Wenatchee didn't respond.  Why?  Because when this blog has dealt with Mars Hill the concern has been to provide a kind of storing house of publicly accessible on record statements by primary sources.  The hope in the long run was for reform but since it seems Mars Hill has never opted for that reform just yet that's all moot.

But Wenatchee The Hatchet was suggested to discuss things with television journalism. Offense meant, television journalism has largely been ill-suited to a subject like Mars Hill.  It's a medium that too inherently caters to Driscoll's strengths. A real push forward was more likely to (and did) happen via radio and print.  That was going to be a sheer function of wordcount possibilities. 

There have been writers and bloggers Wenatchee The Hatchet has been willing to correspond with, however, and if you're an alert and regular reader you probably already know exactly who those people are.  Wenatchee The Hatchet has never actually been anonymous except to those too lazy to do the most remedial research.  Now those authors with whom Wenatchee has been willing to interact have not been characterized by endorsing or espousing ideas Wenatchee agrees with, as such, by by a demonstrated body of work that shows a clear understanding of the actual culture and history of Mars Hill.  There's also something to be said for being willing to network ideas and information behind the scenes.  If there was a way to respond to Mark Driscoll's Chris Rock knock-off screen-reliant persona that wasn't in trying to match his style or methodology.  The alternative to Driscoll's in-your-face public persona seemed more discreetly networking resource contacts and information behind the scenes and carefully vetting the published work of interested parties before starting conversation.  I.e. by their fruits you will know them. 

The operating value was not "What could get the most clicks and make MH or MD look bad?" it was "Who is demonstrating by the quality of their research that they are moving the discussion of Driscoll and Mars Hill by virtue of bringing new facts to light rather than highlighting just the old left/right bromides?"

But now, of course, the postscript is longer than the original post. :) 


chris e said...

"Nobody on the left had managed to ever publish two sentences that created any trouble for Mark Driscoll over the course of a decade"

There is a 'problem' with this line of reasoning. In that nobody on the right had really managed to publish two sentences that created any trouble for Mark Driscoll either [Carl Truemans claims about teampyro aside] at least not in any sense you mean.

The issue was that he was a brand with his own constituency. The reason he finally fell was not because of some sudden discovery of conscience, or the idea that paying a PR company for a book ranking was suddenly found to be sinful. It was that he had started to attract a steady stream of negative publicity, and so the brand had become tarnished.

In so far as this is the case, it's not so much a story of the impotency of the left or the right. It's that church leaders of a certain stripe are more akin to CEOs than politicians. You can double down for as long as you like - until your antics hit the bottom line, at which point things become unsustainable.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Yes, and that's a good thing to point because while I think a case can be made for saying that the press/bloggers didn't accomplish anything until intellectual property, real estate acquisition, and fundraising/expenditure got examined by the media ... the history behind the scenes was that these were the things alienating members and leaders within Mars Hill over the last three years before there was any awareness of what was going on on the outside. Driscoll, particularly in the wake of the corporate approach of Sutton Turner, stopped alienating outsiders and started alienating his base.

So in that sense no media or blogging or criticism did anything to bring Driscoll down, Driscoll brought himself down through the pervasive longterm consequences of his own character flaws.

Or to borrow an analogy from earlier discussions of the press and those with power, someone at Slate said 12 years ago that once we found out more about who Deep Throat really was journalists had to concede that the press didn't take down the Nixon administration at all, the Nixon administration took down the Nixon administration and the press was just there to observe that it happened.

The same is very probably true with journalists and bloggers. We didn't "do" anything except document the transition through which Driscoll alienated so much of his base that his former supporters began to consider him a liability rather than an asset.

chris e said...

"So in that sense no media or blogging or criticism did anything to bring Driscoll down, Driscoll brought himself down through the pervasive longterm consequences of his own character flaws."

Up to a point. The stream of negative publicity that tarnishes the brand has to be separated from character flaws per se.

It's quite possible to imagine a scenario where flaws aside, nothing else happens to start the steady drip drip of bad publicity.

To an extent it's a failure of the megachurch model - even when part of a denomination.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

kind of agree there. This is a blog that's loathe to make simple what is complex or to attempt to make coherent what doesn't seem to be coherent. Almost anything written at the blog here could be prefaced with "it seems" or "up to a point". :)

chris e said...

Maybe I wasn't clear enough, or I didn't understand your response :)

I meant that it was quite possible to imagine a scenario where Mars Hill was able to continue ad-infinitum as many churches have done before, with a very flawed leadership structure. MD could have continued for years, speaking to just his own constituency and being the infante terrible even as fewer and fewer other leaders mentioned him.

In some ways it's just down to fortune that things turned out this way in this particular case.

Even denominational structures don't really stop this in the main - as most people have gone down the baptistic route.

Shifting a mega church leader of any sort for anything short of adultery or actual crime is very difficult these days.