Friday, April 08, 2016

some further thoughts on Justin Dean's claim Mars Hill just didn't get media, revisiting how I put together Andrew's connection to the Noriega family at the MH Ballard campus based on social and mass media alone

One of the things Justin Dean's been saying in the wake of the closure of Mars Hill was that Mars Hill just didn't understand the media, perhaps how the media worked and that the media had it out for them.

There's a significant problem with this.  Driscoll spent a year or two bragging about his media savvy and that of his wife.  Grace worked in public relations before she became a parent.  So while Justin Dean's initial defense of Mars Hill to Slate when a disciplinary situation with an Andrew became a national headline was to say there was unclear communication this plea-by-way-of-incompetence is not a defense that either of the Driscolls has been particularly demonstrably eager to endorse.

And since the topic of Andrew and Mars Hill from 2012 was the first time Justin Dean's name was likely to have been noticed ... that gets me thinking about something I was able to establish at length, as in about 20,000 words.

Mars Hill was a church culture obsessed with media tech and application.  When Myspace was a thing people were urged to get on to that.  Facebook, that too.  Twitter?  Yep.  Instagram?  Sure.  Driscoll mentioned in a media content presentation that he didn't realize he had a twitter presence until his handle/feed had hundreds of thousands of followers.  Let's keep in mind that from 2009 onward the majority of people who heard Mark Driscoll preach heard him a week later than he preached a given sermon and were watching it via DVD.  The sermon in which Mark Driscoll explained all that in detail and why it was being done turns out, in the grand sweep of twenty years of Mars Hill history, to have been one of the sermons that was not transcribed for posterity.  Should Justin Dean want to plead incompetence in his own defense of how he handled crises at Mars Hill he's welcome to do so, but it's impossible to make a serious claim that Mars Hill somehow didn't get the media, either in the sense of media technology and application within the operation of Mars Hill or even by dint of Mark Driscoll's boast that he worked as a professional journalist in particular.

Back when Andrew's disciplinary situation came up I managed to iron out the immediate parties based on the skeletal but informative story recounted by Matthew Paul Turner.  Once it was clear the campus was Ballard and that the woman had a stepfather then it was a simple process of elimination that the family had to be the Noriega family.  That's broken down each step of the way in the following series:

If Mars Hill were a church culture that didn't understand how media works or what to do with media social and mass, then how could I have worked my way back to the Noriega family being the family effected by Andrew's conduct based on Matthew Paul turner's reportage if, as Justin Dean would have people believe, Mars Hill leadership just didn't get how media worked?  Many a pastor at Mars Hill had blogs and tweets and Facebook posts and the like.  It was a fairly simple thing to establish Andrew was connected to the Noriega family because of a litany of local newspaper headlines, Driscoll sermons, and social media contributions from the members of the Noriega family themselves and all in the months before Andrew's situation became a disciplinary one.

Now if Dean wanted to make a case that the leaders of Mars Hill didn't understand how to responsibly engage media on matters that negatively impacted the church or the lives of people connected to the church "maybe" there's a case for that. But if Dean wanted to make a case that Mars Hill leaders didn't get how media worked was just a euphemism for "liberal media has it out for us" that's foolish.  I've written at some length about how what stands out about public criticism of Driscoll that had teeth was that it wasn't ten years of progressive objections that created trouble for Driscoll, it was some probing from evangelicals  and conservatives into the media ethics and practices of Mark Driscoll that led to trouble.  Driscoll's leadership style, as has been documented amply in a variety of places, became so alienating that he was losing his base of formerly erstwhile supporters. 

Now had Noriega not been one of the guys whose signature was needed to sign off on giving what was once the Mars Hill West Seattle campus to Mars Hill to begin with; and had it not been the piece of real estate Mark Driscoll had wanted for Mars Hill for a decade; the real estate wouldn't have been added and there couldn't have been any connection between Andrew Lamb and the Noriega family.  So ... in a way ... it's thanks to a piece of real estate Mark Driscoll said he'd wanted for Mars Hill since 1996 in a 2006 sermon that a confluence of situations was even possible. 

Back in 2006 the sermon "One Body, Many Parts" was 71 minutes long and now it's 27.  Once you cut out all the chatter about real estate deals and budget numbers and get to what Mark was saying about the biblical text itself it turned out two thirds of the sermon could be diced away.  What was diced away ended up shedding some light on the real estate wheeling and dealing that was a necessary precursor to the controversy that was Justin Dean's first invocation of what amounts to the "we're incompetent" defense of Mars Hill.

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