Saturday, February 28, 2015

a New Republic piece associates Mark Driscoll's ideas on men and women with the ethos of the pick-up artist

Per another recently published post, Irish Catholicism as a formative influence on Driscoll has not exactly gotten a ton of informed discussion in the press.  The article botches a basic point in asserting Driscoll was fresh out of seminary when he started Mars Hill.  He wasn't.  At least Mike Gunn and Lief Moi got mentioned, which is a nice change in journalistic coverage from discussions of Mars Hill half a decade ago.

Having published the, er, extant works of William Wallace II Wenatchee The Hatchet is better informed than average what Driscoll was willing to present for public consideration.  The trouble with the New Republic piece is that while conflating the pick-up artist ethos with Mark Driscoll's ideas is interesting it seems a little speculative.  Driscoll used to go on tirades against Tom Leykis and men who use women.  Now a compelling case could be made that despite his objections Driscoll's "practical" teaching landed more or less in similar territory, that Driscoll paradoxically managed to ultimately embody the kind of ethos of men toward women that he convinced himself he was against. 

The New Republic article repeats the old, long since debunked canard that Mark Driscoll addressed Gayle Haggard in any way as having let herself go.  Wenatchee The Hatchet has documented this so many times it won't be hard for an interested reader to go look that up here.

The Real Marriage book played a role in the downfall of Driscoll for several reasons not adequately addressed by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig's piece.

First, the narrative of Real Marriage that anchored all the practical teaching flew in the face of the public narrative Mark Driscoll shared about life with his wife.  Instead of the "I'm happy" and "I love my wife" that had been shared from the pulpit from 2000-2008 we got a story of bitterness and resentment and sexual hang-ups and a Mark Driscoll who convinced his wife the cure for his mood swings and depression was more frequent sex.  This was a disturbing story not just because it made the public narrative of the Driscoll narrative retroactively seem like a sham, it also intimated the possibility that in spite of his rants against other guys for using wives for sexual gratification that Mark Driscoll's private ethic seemed to employ sex as a mood stabilizing drug of choice, to put things in blunt terms.  It's difficult to find an alternative explanation for how and why a guy might conclude that more sex would cure his depression.

Second, it turned out that Real Marriage made use of the ideas of other authors without adequate (or even any) citation in the first print edition.  Wenatchee The Hatchet and Warren Throckmorton have discussed that in such comprehensive detail you'll forgive a mere allusion.

Third, on top of all that there was that Result Source controversy.  In addition to the narrative gap and the lack of adequate citation it turned out that the book wasn't even a bestseller on its own terms; a place at the top had been procured for it.

The New Republic article gets to some of these things but it seems important to restate their cumulative impact.

There's something that could be discussed a bit further that's latent in the article, Driscoll was targeting young men but arguably not just any kind of young man.  Driscoll was aiming for aimless young men with growth potential.  Some early observers of Driscoll got wise that his aim was not necessarily to get conservative culture warfare after the older and more overt model.  What was endorsed instead was formulating a "counterculture" which, in a Puget Sound context, could be described a fairly simple middle American aspirational dream.  Married with kids and owning real estate.  But it was not enough to just tell guys to "man up" and go do these things.  The long-term failure of Driscoll could be formulated in Lutheran terms as a whole lot of Law and no Gospel.  Or you could say that grace was the bait on the hook and once a person was reeled in the mountains of Law were presented afterward. 

Now there "is" a kind of case to  be made that the Mosaic law was given as a pattern for living by after the deliverance of the Exodus but we're not going to get into all that in this post.  Debates about whether there is a legitimate application for the Third Use of the Law is for some other occasion. With respect to Driscoll the application is that he preached grace just enough to draw people in and then once they were in the metrics and measurements became the revealed internal cultural norm. 

It should be said that the New Republic piece associated Driscoll and the pick-up artist ethos in a way that doesn't fully account for negative reactions to Driscoll from what may be termed the "man-o-sphere".
Driscoll defines the eight types of worthless men he regularly comes across.   They are all either cowards or chauvinists and bullies.  And again, Driscoll is addressing this not to men outside the congregation, or even a smallish subset of the men in the congregation.  He means nearly all of the men in the congregation:


The hallmark of a real man, a real Christian man, according to Driscoll, is looking around at the other men in the room and knowing that they are pathetic compared to you.  This is of course exactly what Driscoll is doing throughout the sermon. [emphasis added]

The sermon Dalrock interrogates is over here:

And it was, in summary, recycled as a chapter into Real Marriage.  The litany of male losers in chapter 3 of the book can be found in the sermon featuring the "How Dare You!?" rant.

What Dalrock touches upon Brad Sargent has explicitly discussed,
"Mark Driscoll's culture of contempt"

It would be difficult to overstate that the long-term significance of Real Marriage was that it revealed a narrative that showed that in spite of Mark Driscoll's public excoriation of other men as failures in marriage or in sex, Mark Driscoll himself generally seemed to fail to live up to the ideal he set up for others and at times implicitly presented himself as living out.

As discussed here in the past, it's one thing for writers to note that Mark Driscoll used the pen name William Wallace II and to note that he said he was playing a character.  It's another thing to ask where on earth he might have drawn upon for the actorly method of what role he was playing.

If there's anything we've managed to observe in the wake of the plagiarism controversy and the subsequent materials in Driscoll books that have been analyzed by Throckmorton and here, it's that it seems unlikely in the extreme Mark Driscoll formulated the character of WW2 fresh, from whole cloth. 

Nor would the 2012 confession of bitterness be without a context

One of the matters writers have not probed deeply enough that Wenatchee The Hatchet has felt obliged to revisit is that if you took the sum of Mark Driscoll's teaching on bitterness and spiritual warfare and cross-referenced that to his story of resenting his wife over a lack of sex in their marriage, the self-indictment becomes, well, severe.

It's not entirely inaccurate to say that Mark Driscoll reached a point where the sheer mass of information in what became the public narrative, taken as a whole, took on distressingly self-incriminating turns.  This wasn't a matter of making Mark Driscoll look bad by wresting some quote from its original context.  Wenatchee The Hatchet was able to take reams of material from Driscoll and associates, quote it accurately, quote it in context, and meticulously source everything and if Driscoll came out looking bad, well, there was a simple explanation for that.


One of the reasons the conflation of Driscollian ideals with the pick-up artist scene seems so speculative to someone who was at Mars Hill or near it for ten years would be the author seems to have had no knowledge of the courtship fad at Mars Hill.  It's tough to apply the precepts of the pick-up artist inventory for picking up on women in a cultural context where the fad was insisting that the guy approach the father or father figure of a woman he was interested in.  Unless, of course, the whole pick up artist scene systematically factored in for that, too, which may be possible.  Wenatchee has not been interested in reading the writings of PUAs.  This is not to say there weren't pick up artists at Mars Hill, you can't exactly disprove that for a church that was as large as Mars Hill was.  But it does seem that without a firsthand knowledge of the courtship fad the easy association of Driscoll's ideas with the pick up artist scene seems like going for low hanging and over-ripe fruit, even if the common denominator across both scenes could be an ultimately low view of women. 

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