Saturday, May 28, 2016

while folks are free to spend their summer weekends as they choose, Mark Driscoll's The Trinity Church is inviting people to spend those weekends on work parties
These Sundays are an open event welcome to anyone interested in being part of The Trinity Church Launch Team. This is the best way to learn who we are, what we believe, and the mission we are on. After our Sunday Bible Study, we will be having work parties at the church that people are invited to serve at for any length of time.

Saturday Work Parties

In addition to our Sunday Bible study and work party, there will also be work parties every Saturday from 8am-4pm at The Trinity Church, excluding the weekends of Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, and Independence Day. You can come anytime, for any length of time, and do not need to pre-register. If you want to bring landscaping, construction, or cleaning items that would be helpful. If you have any questions, specific skills, or want to work at the building at a time other than a weekend

This year there's been no shortage of posts on Jacques Ellul's book Propaganda and while the book could certainly be discussed in light of the 2016 election it has seemed more necessary to discuss propaganda and propagandists in Ellul's writing as a way to understand the contemporary megachurch pastor.  It is easy to look at a political candidate and say of him or her "That is a propagandist" and it could be said about just about any successful politician in American society today, left or right.  But it could equally be said, I think, about pastors who have mastered organizations that distribute content across all manner of social and mass media platforms.  A Christian could be a propagandist in a more limited sense even if not a pastor.  Should you wish to revisit or read anew the blog posts discussing Jacques Ellul's work in connection to the history of Mars Hill in general and the activity of Mark Driscoll seen in the light of being a propagandist (as distinct from a pastor) here's the tag:

And among megachurch pastors it would be very difficult to find someone who has been more explicit about the need for a church leadership culture to master and deploy every conceivable form of media to get messaging out than Mark Driscoll in the history of Seattle.  While the tag will bring up all the posts a few highlights seem worthy of renewed mention:

Mark Driscoll as propagandist: excerpts from Driscoll presentation from 1-23-2013 on social media content cross-referenced with content from Jacques Ellul's Propaganda--updated with audio link

nearing the 10th anniversary of Confessions of a Reformission Rev--exploring the Midrash/Dead Men era as an integrated propaganda campaign with help from Jacques Ellul

a postscript to an earlier post on Pussified Nation and Dead Men as agitation and integration propaganda within Ellulian terms

That's why it seems useful to quote from Ellul here, again.


Because this year it seems that Driscoll has modified the branding and jargon a bit but that the process of exciting and integrating volunteers into an ambitious project of re:branding and re:birth for his public career in ministry is intended to be this summer's big thing for Team Driscoll..

Mark Driscoll and others are inviting a bunch of people to spend their weekends out in the Arizona sun to participate in work parties however much they see fit to.  Work parties ... Bible studies ... this sounds kind of familiar to me.  Back in 2000 there was that Dead Men thing launched in the wake of "Pussified Nation".  I've written at great length about how what seemed a bit frazzled at the time could, in hindsight and with some help from Ellul, be seen as a two step process of agitation propaganda followed by integration propaganda.  The agitation was, indisputably "Pussified Nation" and the collected writings of Mark Driscoll under the pseudonym William Wallace II.  The integration propaganda process was a kind of initiation rite process that came to be known as Dead Men. 

Well, here's Ellul on what agitation and integration propaganda are intended to do.

Translated from the French by Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner
Vintage Books Edition, February 1973
Copyright (c) 195 by Alfred A Knopf Inc.
ISBN 0-394-71874-7

page 72
In all cases propaganda of agitation tries to stretch energies to the utmost, obtain substantial sacrifices, and induce the individual to bear heavy ordeals. It takes him out of his everyday life, his normal framework, and plunges him into enthusiasm and adventure; it opens to him hitherto unsuspected possibilities, and suggests extraordinary goals that nevertheless seem to him completely within reach. Propaganda of agitation thus unleashes an explosive movement; it operates inside a crisis or actually provokes the crisis itself. On the other hand, such propaganda can obtain only effects of relatively short duration. If the proposed objective is not achieved fast enough, enthusiasm can give way to discouragement and despair.  Therefore specialists in agitation propaganda break up the desired goals into a series of stages to be reached one by one. There is a period of pressure to obtain some result, then a period of relaxation and rest. ...

page 75
... Propaganda of integration aims at making the individual participate in his society in every way.

"a series of stages" can be managed by work parties on the weekends.  We could float the idea here that the propaganda of agitation can include the work parties because, as Ellul wrote so presciently half a century ago, one of the most powerful forms of propagandistic society is ... the small group.

The small group, whether at Mars Hill or in other contexts, can be an ideal means to allow the effects of agitation to work itself out in integration and not just at the level of work parties.  Weekend Bible studies can also get this task done. 

Driscoll has not let up on the blogging and vodcasts.  There's something every week.  There's usually been three to five posts of some kind a week or a post averaging about one every 1-3 days.  Old sermons from the Mars Hill days of old keep coming back, albeit in some cases dramatically sliced down in size.  Driscoll's made sure to share what products he's got coming up and what books he's thinking of tackling and there's stuff being shared.  He's still got conference activity lined up and sermons here and there.  It's as if there's no kind of mass media or social media channel he's not availing himself of in the preparation for the big launch.  There's a fully integrated social and mass media push to get things going.

Which is exactly what Jacques Ellul said propaganda is and what it aims to do.

Translated from the French by Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner
Vintage Books Edition, February 1973
Copyright (c) 195 by Alfred A Knopf Inc.
ISBN 0-394-71874-7

page 9
Propaganda must be total. The propagandist must utilize all of the technical means at his disposal--the press, radio, TV, movies, posters, meetings, door-to-door canvassing. Modern propaganda must utilize all of these media. [emphasis added] There is no propaganda so long as one makes use, in a sporadic fashion and at random, of a newspaper article here, a poster or a radio program there, organizes a few meetings and lectures, writes a few slogans on walls; that is not propaganda.

page 20
To begin with, propaganda must be organized in several ways. To give it the above mentioned characteristics (continuity, duration, combination of different media), an organization is required that controls the mass media, is capable of using them correctly, of calculating the effect of one or another slogan or of replacing one campaign with another. There must be an administrative organization, every modern state is expected to have a Ministry of Propaganda, whatever its actual name may be.
page 46
.. Once again, we note that propaganda should be continuous, should never relax, and must vary its themes with the tide of events.

page 61
Propaganda is a set of methods employed by an organized group that wants to bring about the active or passive participation in its actions of a mass of individuals, psychologically unified through psychological manipulation and incorporated in an organization.

Which is to say that Mark Driscoll hasn't even launched The Trinity Church yet and he already has a fully integrated propaganda apparatus.  Moreover, it's not that difficult to consult Mark Driscoll from instructions past about what he regarded as the necessity to use every available channel, get a message out, and even how he managed to kind of sort of prooftext a Pauline epistle into defending this.

Pastor Mark Driscoll Address
January 23, 2013

14:15... the hard thing is how to have enough fresh content to keep interest. It becomes very difficult.  Like, for me, I've got a weekly podcast/vodcast thing to fill; I've got my own website with a daily blog to fill; I've got Resurgence blogs to fill, I've got Mars Hill blogs to fill; I've got books to fill. I mean I've got Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and I don't even know where other stuff is because I never go on to those places but it's just a constant flow of content. So if you're going to open a communication channel then you have to fill that communication channel and it can get very laborious.
So we've built this (and I've brought myself into that same negotiation. We're all in it together) to provide us a way of getting our content out in as expedient a manner as possible through as many channels as is possible. And this is what Paul, I think, is alluding to in 1 Corinthians 9 when he says "I became all things to all men so that by ALL means, ALL means, I might save as many as possible." And in "all means" what he's saying is, "if there's a way to get the good news of Jesus out, I'm gonna look for that opportunity and I'm gonna take that opportunity." [emphasis added] And so these are various opportunities but I would encourage you, you're now part of a system where if you are a content creator, and you build a tribe, and you provide good content there really is no limit (all the way to the New York Times best seller list) for an opportunity for you. I can't guarantee you anything but we can provide you an opportunity. ...

What's the big idea I'm sending out right now?  Identity. One big idea and it's a hook and then all the other ideas hang off that big hook. So for the whole 16-week sermon series there's one big hook called identity. All the social media, all the blogs, all the community groups everything's hanging on the hook. And then it's even consistent. So you walk in and you see "I am a saint" and, all of a sudden, the theming is consistent in the building. And so it's just, every medium, how do we communicate this message? And so for 16 weeks it will a concentrated content message on identity in Christ. But then once we're done with the series, let's say somebody gets saved in two years and walks in all of that content's available. [emphasis added]

Back then it was "identity" and now it's "the father heart of God", but in terms of overall technique and process, it can still be described as propaganda.  The key is to use every channel available to constantly keep a message getting out there and it can function to excite participation and integrate volunteers into the nascent church launch Team Driscoll has in mind.  If we remember that back in the old days of 2012 Mark Driscoll boasted that he had a degree in communications from a top university program and that his wife Grace did, too (her background was in public relations) we're looking at a rare case of a megachurch pastor who was basically bragging that both he AND HIS WIFE had academic credentials in what Ellul would describe as propaganda.  Even if we could make a case that a majority of megachurch pastors are propagandists Mark Driscoll's unusual in the sense that he actively sought education in getting the tools of a propagandist and that his wife did, too. 

And if people want to spend their weekends this summer under the Arizona sun working to get The Trinity Church off the ground that's their call.  It's just that having seen where things went with Mark Driscoll as a preacher and propagandist in the last ... twenty years here in Seattle ... it seems necessary to say a few things for the folks in Arizona.  If you're in Arizona and you actually see Mark Driscoll do actually ask him when the last time was he talked to Mike Gunn or Lief Moi.  When's the last time he talked to Dave Bruskas or Sutton Turner?  What about Gerry Breshears?  What about John Catanzaro?  What about Phelps?  James MacDonald?  The point isn't too complex, if Driscoll's going to share proverbs about ways to be a better friend, it might be worth asking him about some specific friends.  And if people get to talk to Grace now they could ask her when the last time she talked to any of the above. 

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