Monday, August 17, 2015

Jeff Bettger talks with Zac Gandara about punk music and being an elder at Mars Hill

language alert, just in case. 

Wenatchee The Hatchet has intermittently tried to explain that for people who were never actually part of the early Mars Hill scene it's very difficult to convey that there was almost an artist/musician community/commune vibe to the place.  Jeff's more capable of conveying that sense than Wenatchee The Hatchet, particularly in this lengthy podcast interview.  For Jeff it was the punk/new wave/indie rock scene and Mars Hill was kind of a space where people with evangelical backgrounds who had arts and music interests that didn't fit the "normal" could fit in. For Wenatchee The Hatchet it was being into anime and liking films by Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon and also being into classical music but not always the kind of classical music that people listen to for fun.

What's funny is that while Zac and Jeff thought The Shining was super scary when I saw it I was in my early 20s and was already listening to Bartok and Penderecki and Ligeti and Messiaen for fun. So my gut reaction to Kubrick's film was "This movie is actually pretty boring ... but the soundtrack is amazing!"  And then there's adoring the string quartets of Haydn but, anyway, if you want to listen to a long podcast that I think goes a long way to explaining the music side of the culture that was once MH it would be difficult to find someone better than Jeff to explain the early scene.  Here's hoping more people who were part of the music scene at Seattle and also part of Mars Hill may share their stories moving forward.  It would go a long way to being able to share with people who were never at Mars Hill that while Mark Driscoll was at times able to be a catalyst in a scene he was a catalyst as much or more than an integral participant in the musical scene that was a significant early attraction for those who joined MH.

I could try to get into the cinephile side of the early scene but to do that would require the overdue and inevitable review of Cinemagogue, which is seriously overdue.


Anonymous said...

Possibly it's a reflection on evangelicalism in America, but as someone in the UK who liked arts (including various Japanese film makers) that didn't fit into the mainstream particularly well, it never occurred to me that these were problematic against my (then) evangelical belief, nor that I should seek to share them with my fellow evangelicals, nor that I should necessarily be alienated because I was in a context in which those were seen as 'odd' pursuits.

I liked going to L'Abri later though - and did wonder how my life would have developed differently if I had done so earlier in life. Having said that, the 'arty' American students I met there always seemed a little too earnest in their pursuit of the alternative.

(Posting anonymously)

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I don't know if there was a European equivalent to the Wesleyan Holiness movement. In the UK, maybe, but my theory as to the appeal of neo-Calvinism, being a former Pentecostal, is that for a lot of kids who grew up in church traditions in America influence by Wesleyan Holiness codes or comparable codes, the sales pitch at a cultural level for a movement like Mars Hill was you could drink, smoke and get laid and want to do those things and still be an evangelical. You could watch R-rated movies (probably) and that'd be alright. Maybe European and British evangelicalism never could have a neo-Calvinist movement because all that stuff about alcohol and tobacco was already okay?

Or done in moderation. Simon Pegg, years ago, wrote that the British think Americans don't do satire. Yet The Simpsons and South Park have been around for years. Pegg proposed that the British do satire like they do tea, there's always a spot of it going on. Americans don't do satire that way, it's all or nothing, the keg or dry. I'm paraphrasing a bit but what Pegg suggested about Americans and humor might go equally well for politics and religion these days, there's no idea that moderation is an option.

Anonymous said...

The UK does have similar Holiness influenced movements - most notably our local Pentecostals. I suspect the difference is that the UK christian scene is smaller, so it's harder to remain hermetically sealed.

Whilst each movement has its own conferences and things, it remains hard to be completely isolated - so meeting a christian who smokes is a common enough occurrence that one doesn't feel the need to then create an alternate hipster-christian movement where smoking cigars is celebrated once one realizes that this isn't a cardinal sin. Modulo those who are always in really restricted environments of course.

So I suspect you are right, there is just enough of this kind of thing to serve as a pressure valve, and meanwhile Brits have a natural suspicion of someone who is overly demagogic - most of the Pentecostal denominations have a fair number of working class congregants who often have a kind of anti-tolerance for nonsense.