Saturday, May 14, 2016

Jared C Wilson on "Troubleshooting the Celebrity Pastor Problem"-- shares concerns that boomerang back on the Gospel Coalition's role in celebrity culture with help from ... sponsored content

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/gospeldrivenchurch/2016/05/11/troubleshooting-the-celebrity-pastor-problem/

...

Yet, we are identifying something else here, something that runs across evangelical tribes. It is the “celebrity pastor” problem, where we participate in the highest elevation of a pastor’s platform as we can manage and then load him up with all the expectation we can muster. The result, naturally, is that he is top-heavy and prone to toppling. There are dangers in temptations in pastoral smallness and obscurity too, but the most prominent dangerous temptations in pastoral bigness are these idolatries — worship of the celebrity pastor by his fans and himself.

Considering that as far back as about 2008 Jared Wilson was willing to post about his doubt that Driscoll was on the right track denouncing stay-at-home-dads and has in the last few years publicly shared how he's had a change of conviction about Driscoll more generally, I would propose that what Wilson's concerned about is a decent thing to be concerned about.  Granting that we differ on the degree to which blog posts "should" be written about some celebrity pastors, I think the most useful thing to keep saying here about celebrity Christians (not just famous pastors) is that Ellul's warning to the Church about embracing the methods and means of propaganda are worth heeding. 

Yes, there is the problem not merely of the producer of the constructed mediated persona of the celebrity Christian but it's not unfair for Wilson to be concerned about the consumer side of it.  The problem is that humans are by nature drinkers of Kool-aid.  It's not a matter of "if" you or I will, it's a matter of what cause or what person for whom we'll drink a few gallons. That's how people are.

I'm about to suggest that some of Wilson's suggestions could move in the direction of discussing whether or not contemporary evangelical/megachurch culture can't be discussed more directly as a culture in which the instruments of propaganda are the norm rather than the exception  Take this:

1. Transition your “video venue” satellite campuses to church plants or at the very least install live preaching.
I have quite a few friends whose churches employ this medium for weekend preaching in their satellite campuses, so I tread lightly here, as always, but I have yet to hear a very convincing argument for the wisdom of this approach to the worship gathering

If your pastoral presence is mediated by a screen or a week delay and/or the person who has been blessed by hearing your preaching isn't in the same state or city then the "pastor" in this case is a certain kind of reality TV star.  You can't shepherd the flock by video feed, can you?  For all of Mark Driscoll's eagerness to talk about being a father figure it's worth hammering this point, you can't parent a child by video feed the way you would in person.  If this is true for parents in flesh and blood how much more could it be true for those who call themselves pastors?  Paul sent epistles ... yes ... there's literally a biblical precedent for some long-distance pastoral care but when it becomes the "norm" you have to ask whether what you're promoting is genuinely pastoral concern or a brand.  While it's partly true that the idolatry of the consumer plays a role no one who becomes a branding propagandist is innocent here.  The idolatry is synergistic.  The pastor who WANTS to be that screen presence is part of the idolatry and anyone who seizes the media means to become such an idol is an inescapable part of the idolatrous equation. 

2. No more book deals for gifted preachers who are not gifted writers.

He pulled punches here, I think.  I would suggest that if you feel any need to get help from the Docent Group to put your research together for a sermon that you SHOULD NOT BE WRITING BOOKS in pastoral ministry.  Your job is to preach someone else's book, right?  So do it.  Do it well. Do it to the best of your ability and bear in mind that the Bible has been sufficient enough a book for us Christians for a long time now.  In the era in which we live it's kind of amazing to realize how few English language translations there are of works by Bullinger when we have the technical and cultural means to bring that about but apparently not the will.  If the neo-Calvinist movement dumped as much money into translating into English some more work from the Reformers it'd be easier to respect them (a little). 

I mean, let's think about all the plagiarism scandals that have swirled up around people who at one point or another have had their names attached to the Gospel Coalition.  Seriously, if the Gospel Coalition were full of guys who were, like I was suggesting earlier, providing English translations of Bullinger that weren't previously available it'd be easier to sympathize with them.  But instead we've gotten guys like Mark Driscoll and Doug Wilson getting embroiled in situations where it seems their intellectual punches are second or even third-hand.  The irony of A Justice Primer seeming to have been about the problems of blog justice being pulled after a blog highlighted plagiarism is an irony that's hard to overstate. 

Again, this could be pinned on the consumer side but the problems start with the production.  There's a risk in Wilson's critique of focusing so much on the demand that he forgets that in a mass media age a lot of people who think they're pastors are media personalities and that we've got a ... how do I put this ... a supply side economics of Christian content thing going on. There are a whole lot of people producing content who, just maybe, shouldn't be making that content to begin with.  Wilson's #2 seems to recognize this but here's hoping he considers that that, too, is a problem on the production side the same as his #1.  Just as you shouldn't set up a satellite campus if that's the primary draw, you should refrain from writing books or "writing books" if it's not a natural outgrowth of what you're already doing. 

3. Discerning the credibility of our experts.
I had a great conversation last week with a friend who called me specifically to talk about this problem. What do we make of publishers, editors, and other public parachurch platforms who provide outlet for ministers, for which their only qualification appears to be success or popularity? In other words, how do we know the guy publishing the book on marriage has a healthy marriage himself? Why are we assigning parenting books to people whose kids aren’t even teenagers yet? What if the guy we’re paying to write and speak on grace-centered leadership is a short-tempered, domineering jerk to his staff? How would we know?


This reminds me of something I told people ten years ago at the peak of the courtship craze inside Mars Hill--Mark Driscoll's kids weren't even old enough to date and he was sounding off on the greatness of courtship.  Mars Hill peeps were bragging about how many people were getting married.  My remark was to say I didn't care how many people were getting married NOW.  I wanted to find out how many of these people were STILL married ten years later. A lot of friends I've made at Mars Hill got married and are still married today and that's wonderful. Some of the friends I made were divorced even a decade ago.  Not everybody makes it.  Not everyone who got married, in retrospect, should have married.  But Wilson's point is well worth reflecting on--some of the people who have presented themselves as experts don't seem to be able to back up the talk. 

And it's worth thinking about especially in light of this--this concern of Wilson's tragicomically boomerangs back on The Gospel Coalition as a whole but on two guys in particular.  For those who don't remember this, here at Wenatchee The Hatchet we've got ourselves a promotional plan drafted by Driscolls that mentions candidates for galley proofs of Real Marriage.

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2015/12/a-blast-from-past-mark-grace-driscoll.html#more
...

Galley proofs - Desiring God with John Piper, Purpose Driven Network with Rick Warren, Life Church with Craig Groeschel, Perry Noble, James MacDonald who runs Walk in the Word Radio and Harvest Bible Chapel, Justin Taylor and Kevin Deyoung of the Gospel Coalition, Mark Dever of 9 Marks, CJ Mahaney and Joshua Harris of Sovereign Grace ...

As yet unanswered is whether Kevin DeYoung and Justin Taylor got galley proofs and what they made of those copies.  After all, the problems of citation in Real Marriage have been sufficiently documented by the likes of Warren Throckmorton, Wenatchee The Hatchet and Janet Mefferd by now.  And things got fixed, but that raises a question that goes straight to the heart of Jared Wilson's #3, discerning the credibility of our experts.  Take DeYoung's initially glowing review of a certain book:

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2015/11/05/book-briefs-21/

Douglas Wilson and Randy Booth, A Justice Primer (Canon Press, 2015). I thought this was a book on social justice, economics, and big picture politics. It’s actually a book about how the Bible would have us judge each other (or not) in the mad, mad world of blog warriors and internet vigilantes. This book is full of refreshing wisdom. I hope it reaches a wide audience. And if you already know that Doug Wilson is a good-for-nothing scoundrel (and I don’t know him personally and do strongly disagree with him at times), then that’s an indication that you really need this book. [UPDATE: It seems that portions of the book were plagiarized, which, while not changing the nature of the content, cannot help but affect one’s opinion of the book. I hope Wilson and Booth will respond to the evidence presented in the link above. NEXT UPDATE: The book has been discontinued by Canon Press because of “negligence and gross incompetence” resulting in plagiarism and improper citation.]

Does the report that the book has been discontinued because of "negligence and gross incompetence" change the nature of the book?  And here I'd been thinking of getting that book because DeYoung had praised it as addressing the mad, mad world of blog warriors and internet vigilantes.  Given the formative influence of Doug Wilson on Mark Driscoll it'd have been fascinating to read what the case could have been for whether or not blogs ought to be used to address public issues, seeing as Wilson himself has so much experience as a blogger himself.  But, well, no ... it would seem maybe the book is hard to get ahold of. 

It's indelicate to put it this way but it seems TGC may need to have it said of them, these are guys who (excepting Wilson for the sake of friendly discourse) have been caught with their pants down in discerning how second-hand the content of some of their contributors has turned out to be. "If" DeYoung got a galley proof of Real Marriage it seems the plagiarism controversy around Mark Driscoll erupted anyway. It's totally fair and reasonable to ask whether the guys who are held up as experts really are.  One of the most unnerving things about Real Marriage was its summary narrative of how Mark and Grace Driscoll had what seemed to be a bitter and troubled marriage during a decade in which from the pulpit Mark kept saying things like "Grace and I are closer than we've ever been."   Okay, great, but the problem was that either the narrative of the 2012 book made the narrative of the previous decade of sermons into a kind of lie or the 2012 book's narrative itself was some kind of lie or Driscoll simply could not be trusted to give a coherent account of his own marriage (perhaps the most charitable approach of the three).

And The Gospel Coalition, it would seem, was one of the organizations to which the Driscolls wanted to send galley proofs.  Now maybe the galley proofs that Driscoll wanted sent to TGC never made it there or maybe they did.  Noble and MacDonald endorsed the book so SURELY that means they read it carefully, right?  Or ... well, heh, no, maybe that's not how book endorsements really work ...

The rise and fall of Mark Driscoll makes it all the more imperative (and mysterious) how we should regard The Gospel Coalition as a whole at competent to discern expertise.  There's a possible army of people who, had they read Real Marriage with more discernment and insight and background reading, could have flagged down all the citation errors that would eventually get addressed in the second printing.  Now while I think Wilson's question raises a general question about The Gospel Coalition in connection to Driscoll's scandals I don't necessarily blanket that.  Specifically, Carson and Anyabwile didn't "just" sit back and say nothing when they dissented from stuff like Elephant Room 2.  I'm the sort of dour Calvinist Presbyterian sort where, yes, I have a lot of doctrinal overlap with folks who are connected at TGC.  So I've read just enough stuff from them over the years that I'm not suggesting the failure of some at TGC to have spotted citation errors in Driscoll's work should be construed as claiming nothing positive's come out of that orbit.

But I am saying, obviously, that as sound as Wilson's concerns are they do still boomerang into questions about the production side of things, namely The Gospel Coalition, in letting stuff get cranked out maybe faster than it should have been.  The Driscoll plagiarism controversy from a few years ago could be an opportunity for TGC to reflect on whether it dropped the ball in a  way that made Driscoll's confrontation with Mefferd more unavoidable than it could have been in some alternate universe where guys who got galley proofs could have caught more uncredited materials and flagged them for better footnotes before the first printing.

4. Actual parity among elders.
I greatly appreciated this recent post by Tim Challies on Confronting the Current Church Leadership Crisis. Pastoral plurality in the local church is not just the biblical norm, it is a practical and spiritual necessity. But this plurality has to actually function as a plurality.

For those who don't just follow links ...

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/gospeldrivenchurch/2016/05/11/troubleshooting-the-celebrity-pastor-problem/

http://www.challies.com/sponsored/confronting-the-current-church-leadership-crisis

This sponsored post was prepared by the Biblical Eldership Resources team.

[UPDATE 11.38am: Sponsored content can also be known as ... an ad.  Not that you have to follow the link but I've been a fan of animation all my life and South Park had quite a run riffing on the distinctions between actual news and "sponsored content" this last season:

http://southpark.cc.com/full-episodes/s19e08-sponsored-content

So in fielding the problems of the celebrity pastor problem Jared C. Wilson links to something at Tim Challies' blog that was a sponsored post that turns out to be an advertisement ... and the irony seems hard to sum up in mere words]

Okay ... gut reaction, linking to a sponsored post hurts the case.  It's really, really hard for me to be on board with any kind of critique of issues in the contemporary north American church when the linkage is sponsored content.  Call this a problem issue for Wenatchee The Hatchet but for years I've seen Christian celebrities talk about how bloggers just do all this nasty stuff to get ad revenue and clicks and stuff like that.  One of the complaints has been that bloggers just do stuff to get clicks so their revenue goes up.  I've never monetized this blog and I don't anticipate monetizing it in the future. When I blog about stuff I blog about stuff I've invested in.  Sometimes I spent my time and money on stuff I regretted spending time and/or money on (Legend of Korra for the loss).  There's somewhere we can go with this sponsored content stuff in a moment but for now let's just get back to the idea of actual parity among elders.

Parity among elders.  Amen.  This does sorta also get back to Joyful Exiles stuff, when a parity among elders was what was pretty explicitly removed. 

Wilson's concerns seem legitimate to me and I say this because I've been saying this a lot this year, let's distinguish between men who behave as pastors, who shepherd the flock, and men who are functionally what Jacques Ellul called propagandists, mass media aristocrats whose control and integration of mass and social media makes them stars rather than priests.

Unlike some other people on the internet who could adamantly feel otherwise, I think Jared C. Wilson is trying to articulate a principled concern with Christian celebrity and his public comments about Mark Driscoll as someone who went from a staunch supporter to not is sincere.  The ease with which Mark Driscoll was part of The Gospel Coalition over the years and the ease with which he extracted himself from it in the wake of Elephant Room II should give The Gospel Coalition some things to think about--if they're going to ask people to consider who makes people experts ... well ... in Christian mass media terms isn't it guys like .... them? Not Jared Wilson himself, but the organization. 

To go by some of the comments Jared Wilson's been making in the wake of his post I think he seems to get the basic idea that  the church taking a cue from the sorts of people Ellul called propagandists is a significant part of the problem. At the moment I'm inclined to agree with the impression that Wilson may be alert to the symptoms without necessarily catching the underlying nature of the problem.  The problem isn't necessarily "just" some universalized concern that people want to hang with Jesus until it leads to the cross (there's that, too).  It's that there's this weird habit of principles being just important enough to articulate once in a while until its conference time.

Take Acts 29 leadership saying Driscoll should step aside from ministry and booting Mars Hill from Acts 29.  That was a couple of years ago and yet you'd be hard pressed to find evidence of that at the Acts 29 website very quickly.

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2016/04/mark-driscoll-to-be-guest-speaker-at.html

Then there's the puzzle that we looked at earlier this year of how Mark Driscoll and Acts 29 board member Eric Mason got scheduled to speak at a 2017 conference and how both guys seem, so far, to be totally cool with that. What good did it do for Acts 29 leadership (of which Mason is still a part) to publicly say anything about Driscoll in 2014 only to scrub it from the net and for Mason (one of the guys who signed the 2014 statement) to go speak at a conference where none other than Driscoll is also a featured speaker?  Sure, you get asked and you can go and all that; sure, we could say that whoever set up the conference maybe didn't know about Acts 29 kicking Driscoll to the curb ... but this highlights a problem that Jared Wilson's concerns don't get to, which is that there's a whole lot of his four points that highlights problems on the production side--it's really too easy to talk about the consumers buying stuff but if the media empires weren't cranking this stuff out within the context of an echo chamber group hug ... would it be so easy for the consumers to consume if the content wasn't being sold?

And so ... we get back to a word from the sponsors and sponsored content.

Let's go back to something Todd Pruitt mentioned earlier this year:

http://www.mortificationofspin.org/mos/1517/now-im-really-confused-about-complementarianism#.Vp0M5mf2a70

I know that sounds cynical. But I have been an observer of these things for too long to believe otherwise. The Reformed(ish) Industrial Complex is too insular and self-protective. It is too sensitive to anything that sounds like critique. It is too committed to its own promotion. Early on I suppose I was too sanguine about the rise of the YRR movement. I assumed that holding to reformed doctrine would guard us from unwise practice and the celebrity culture that was so much a feature of broader evangelicalism. I was wrong. [emphasis added]


Some of us who are Reformed think that the problem is on the production end as much (or more) than the consumption end.  There's a wealth of stuff that's gloriously public domain.  Why would I buy another John Piper book if the works of John Owen and Richard Sibbes are public domain? There's scholarship to be done on prophecy and divination as political speech in ancient near eastern empires and you pretty much have to pay for scholarship on that sort of thing, which is totally fair, but a lot of what gets sold by the Reformed(ish) Industrial Complex is in some sense simply repackaging stuff that is already free.

Wilson's points are worth discussing and it's cool that he brought them up.  That said, it seems necessary for people on The Gospel Coalition side of things to do a bit more digging because without understanding how the dynamics of the production side helped create the problem those who would turn everything back into the responsibility of the consumer (which is not necessarily where Jared Wilson went on this matter) will miss a forest for a few trees.

POSTSCRIPT 12.45PM

I mean, let the irony sink in here.  Jared C. Wilson discussed the problems of the celebrity pastor culture makes some points that a person could agree with and then in point 4 links to a blog post by Tim Challies that turned out to be ... sponsored content.  That might just sum up the problem right there.

POSTSCRIPT 11:23PM

Okay ... so having had some time to think about it there "is" a way to describe the irony of Wilson linking to a Challies blog post that turned out to be sponsored content.  It might be likened to this ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tz4PdpfI7zY

The Mighty Monarch makes a fearsome appearance that would chill the heart of his nemesis ... if he could only have gotten to the right address. 

Darwyn Cooke passes

http://www.comicbookresources.com/article/darwyn-cooke-celebrated-comics-artist-and-writer-passes-away

let the reader understand (or not)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Driscoll keeps coming back to a defense of substitutionary atonement and talks about how hypocrites want justice only when it's not their sins that have hurt others ...

http://markdriscoll.org/it-seems-unjust-that-god-would-have-christ-pay-the-punishment-for-another/
...
Inevitably, substitution does mean that God is punishing human beings according to their sins. This concept is increasingly unpopular, as it has been overshadowed by accepting people as they are, forgiving what they do, and forgetting the evil they have done and the pain they have caused.

This is an interesting idea for Driscoll to keep coming back to, the notion that it's unpopular these days to propose that God punishes people according to their sins because people would prefer that they be forgiven what they do and that the evil they have done would be forgotten, along with any pain they have caused.  Because he's been doing this for more than a decade ...

God is our Victim

Interesting, however, is the proclivity of people to reverse their position when the proverbial shoe is on the other foot. What I mean is this: when I sin against someone, I want them to accept me, forgive me, and let me off the hook, because that is what sinners want. As long as we view the cross only from the perspective of sinners, this is all we will see. However, when we or someone we love is sinned against, we cry out for justice because that is what victims want. For example, a father who learned that his young daughter had been sexually abused by his brother told me he “wanted blood.” [emphasis added] This, precisely, is the perspective of God, who has never sinned against anyone but is continually sinned against by everyone and is truly the greatest victim in all of history. While he is not to be pitied, such injustice must be acknowledged.

One may ask whether the Mark Driscoll who's still happy to beat this drum would be that surprised some former members of Mars Hill would be willing to name him as a defendant in a RICO complaint.  We've looked back on how ten years ago Mark Driscoll said that churches generally tend to deal with trivial matters in discipline and that when actual crimes have been committed to contact the authorities.
http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2016/03/revisiting-2006-sermon-from-mark.html

I.e. litigation was left open as an option if legal issues were at stake. This could be squared with Mars Hill counsel sending a cease and desist over ... trademark and logo concerns.  So if it was okay for Mars Hill to exercise that option then concern about the fiscal competence of the executive leadership might not be out of bounds if we go by Driscoll's past instructions.  But Driscoll's said this year that he's sure the allegations are false ... even if the allegations happen to quote verbatim a variety of statements made directly by parties and non-party associates. 

It's not that a guy like Driscoll can't say "you deserve Hell. Everything else is a gift." He can say stuff like that, it's just that his reactions to complaints about him don't suggest he really believes this is true about himself.

Some will protest that such a desire for blood and justice is primitive. But what is the appropriate response to someone who deliberately sins, shows no remorse or repentance, and maintains ongoing devotion to doing evil? The hard truth is that our sin hurts God and hurts the people that God made and loves. Like anyone who truly loves, God takes it personally when harm is done, precisely because he is loving, not because he is unloving.

Setting aside the ease with which Driscoll shared that a father confided to him that he discovered a brother had abused his child ... it's interesting how frequently Driscoll has gone for the jugular by invoking these kinds of cases.  Driscoll's eagerness to defend penal substitutionary atonement (which I am, for the record, totally for) by invoking these cases of sexual and physical abuse highlights something by omission.  Driscoll's eager to show that substitutionary atonement is valuable when the case studies involve abused women and children ... but not when the allegations involve copyright infringement, rigging a list, being verbally abusive ... stuff that Driscoll's actually been accused of over the years. If Driscoll has actually shown any signs of repentance or remorse over how he has used the intellectual property of others without giving proper credit then it'd be great to know when and where that remorse and repentance was expressed.  Quietly published second printings of Driscoll books doesn't quite count, does it?  Little footnotes in Real Marriage acknowledging a belated intellectual debt to Dan Allender might cut it if it were admitted that Allender wasn't thanked the first time, too.

If Driscoll takes this axiomatic approach to one of its potential conclusions, the people who have filed a complaint against him may have done so because they love, not because they don't.

Retribution or Rehabilitation?

Sadly, what to do with sinners has led to a political tug-of-war between the right and left. The right generally prefers retribution, which punishes sinners with such things as prison time and capital punishment but usually bypasses rehabilitation and diminishes community responsibility for correction. The left generally prefers rehabilitation, which seeks to improve sinners with such things as therapy and medication but usually bypasses punishment and diminishes personal responsibility for sin.

At the cross we see that God deals with sinners through both retribution and rehabilitation. God made us for glory, not sin. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, God honors the dignity of our personhood—we are more than animals incapable of good. By dying for us in our place and suffering our rightful punishment, Jesus also satisfies the retributive justice necessary for God the victim. Through Jesus’ death, God has secured for us who believe in Jesus the benefit of a new nature empowered by the Holy Spirit that is not only capable of being reformed but eternally guaranteed to be sinless, thereby satisfying the rehabilitative needs of us sinners.

Well ... you SAY that ...

See, it really would be nice to buy the idea that Mark Driscoll got a new nature when he said he became saved.  But the thing is not all of us who self-identify as Christians think the break between the old self and the new self necessarily always is or has to be that drastic.  And then there's the problem of Result Source. 

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2014/10/mark-driscoll-in-2001-sermon-on.html

See, we've discussed in the past how Driscoll had no problem sharing that before he was a Christian he was okay with rigging a game in his favor to get a job he wanted.  By letting Result Source move along as it did Mark Driscoll made a decision (even by omission) that suggests the possibility that on either side of the Christian conversion divide he was okay with a game being rigged in his favor whether he'd earned that success honestly or not. Like it or not Mark Driscoll has to recognize this has become a part of his legacy.

Penal substitutionary atonement doesn't really change that.  If anything, affirming penal substitutionary atonement makes it all the stranger a guy like Driscoll seems so loathe to come to terms, and to do so publicly, with the scope not only of what he's been accused of but of what's been fairly easy to document that he's definitely said and done.
It would seem as if in the last five years Driscoll's approach has shifted from retribution to rehabilitation as a preferred approach.  That and talking about crying a lot. 

Penal Substitution

Theologically, the concept of Jesus’ dying in our place to pay our penalty for our sins has been expressed in theological shorthand as penal substitution. While the church has always affirmed this aspect of atonement, it was highlighted in the Reformation and in the theologies of John Calvin and Martin Luther.

This aspect of the atonement is under the most vehement attack today by people who do not believe that people are as sinful as they truly are, that God is as holy as he truly is, or that God has chosen an appropriate penalty for sin (death). Curiously, such critics are also commonly known to be the most vocal of hypocrites, simultaneously demanding justice on the earth for the poor, oppressed, and abused, while denying God the same kind of justice that is due him by those people that he created to glorify him with sinless obedience. Nonetheless, Scripture repeatedly and clearly declares that Jesus died as our substitute paying our penalty “for” our sins, as the following examples illustrate ...

But is that the only form hypocrisy can take?  Is it possible for someone to hypocritically complain about how sermon content has been cribbed without proper acknowledgment while having published book after book in which he himself failed to adequately give credit where it was due?  Is it possible to let a public relations posse imply that a case in which citation errors with only his name on it could have potentially been perpetrated by research help while complaining that young guys need to "man up" and take responsibility?  As I've been saying, I really like substitutionary atonement but there's this other aspect of the atonement I love, it's the part where Jesus lived a life that we can use as a moral example.

A guy like Driscoll would theoretically know this, that the liberals who tend to hate substitutionary atonement tend to love the Jesus-as-moral-example atonement.  Maybe he'd even have attempted some witty observation about how they don't think they've sinned badly enough to NEED Jesus as a substitutionary/propitiating sacrifice on the cross because they feel they're following His example.  But, conversely, there's a type of guy (and it's nearly always a guy when they bother to take to social or mass media in the United States) who is so quick to defend penal substitutionary atonement that you wonder if they've ever stopped to think that maybe the atonement they'd most need is the moral example one.  If the liberals tend to think they haven't committed any sins bad enough to warrant a substitutionary sacrifice from Christ, the conservatives who want retribution (as Driscoll's put it) seem to think that so long as that substitutionary sacrifice thing is settled there's not a whole lot of need to actively emulate the example of Christ's life because,  you know, substitute! 

A guy like Driscoll has less excuse than others because back in 2005 he preached sermon after sermon on the atonement and covered substitutionary atonement and christus exemplar, too.  If there's a guy who, on paper, should know that Christ came to live and die among us as a moral example it would be Driscoll--yet it seems that what Mark would prefer to talk about is how bad those people are who have issues with substitutionary atonement.  If Driscoll were spending time singing the praises of christus exemplar and talking about how in addition to the beauty of knowing that Christ chose a place on the Cross to die for our sins this shows us what a great example He is then ,yeah, I'd call that progress.  But Driscoll opted to take potshots at the people he feels don't respect substitutionary atonement enough and calls these abstractions hypocrites. 

I've said earlier this year that what seems to be the problem of guys who are fixated on ONLY penal substitutionary atonement without turning to other aspects of the atonement is that they are quite happy for Jesus to be the substitute without taking seriously His moral example. I would venture to say the atonement is a lump sum deal.  If you reject penal substitutionary atonement you reject every other kind of atonement. If you reject Christ as moral example but claim to affirm substitution then you've really done the same thing, reject the atonement.  When you say that X is something Christ didn't need to do for you or anyone else it amounts to the same thing, rejecting that Christ atoned for you in any way. Show me the atonement you reject and I'll show you why you've rejected Christ. That Driscoll's still camping out on defending substitutionary atonement in a way that stereotypes those who have issues with it as hypocrites makes it hard to believe he's changed in any way.  This may still just be the same guy who thought it was okay for Result Source to nudge the New York Times best seller list into his favor.  Forgive me for thinking that a person who took christus exemplar seriously would have a hard time rationalizing that kind of pragmatism.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

HT Orthocuban, an Appalachian Orthodox hymn

https://www.orthocuban.com/2016/05/more-appalachian-orthodox-music/

https://youtu.be/c04QTftw4X4
...

I am of the opinion that more and more we need to make use of local harmonic singing while still following the tonal rules. It is controversial. On the forum on which the above hymn was posted, about half of the people did not like it. Interestingly enough, only one person did not like it because he felt the music was not adequate. Mostly you could hear people sniffing loudly and saying that it is not Byzantine. But, since this was produced by an OCA monastery, of course it is not Byzantine. Though I was ordained Antiochian and am at a Greek Orthodox parish, I regret very much that many in those two jurisdictions have bought into the idea that only Byzantine hymn is true Orthodox singing. Obviously, the Slavs do not think so, given the hymn above.

There's kind of a Reformed variant on this anchored in the regulative principle where if it doesn't sound WASP enough it's probably bad.

Comments that the music isn't sufficiently Byzantine or "mystical" ... are interesting.  It's not that I have no fondness for Orthodox musical idioms ... but Orthocuban raises a simple, obvious point, that American Orthodox music doesn't necessarily have to be Byzantine because, well, it's not Byzantine.

I mean ... yeah ... I suppose I could go back and try to dig up some quote from Xenakis about how the Western church botched the modes by misunderstanding the tendencies of tetrachords or something ... but I don't feel like it and I just read that Xenakis book as a library check out. :) But at one point even the Byzantine idiom must have deviated a bit here and there from the impossible-to-identify musical idiom of ancient Judeans.   It would seem that Christians could choose between a common confession and artistic plurality or an artistic monolith and confessional plurality that a whole lot of Christians "should" choose the former over the latter.  In practice we've got a plurality of confessions and a plurality of artistic expressions of those confessions. Unless we're talking about rejection of the Trinity the life and death and resurrection of Christ or something on that level of magnitude I think it's okay to have a plurality of musical styles.

since it's another election cycle, bringing back an old sonnet I wrote years ago

In all the steady hand of Providence
guides well except if, this election year,
the party I love lacks preeminence.
Then I will cry out with many a tear,
"My God, my God, why did you forsake me!
The person I want in office has lost!
In your wrath have you forgotten mercy?
Have it on me and not the foolish host!
Did you break your promise to do my will
That was given `ere the day I was born?
Or did my requests lack a prayerful skill that
You listened not, and I am forlorn?
In all things Providence can only be
The stuff that should be convenient to me!"

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

on having some doubts about the popularity of christians talking about narcissistic personality disorder in the pulpit

At this point it hardly seems worth pointing you, dear reader, to all the links on narcissistic personality disorder or to people discussing how prevalent it is in church leadership.  Narcissism seems prevalent in the United States across the board.  Given our generations of working to attain and maintain self-esteem this is hardly a surprise if it turns out that we're narcissists.

But it hardly seems worth discussing in a way ... because why would telling someone they are a narcissist cure them of that? 

And at another level, as I was noting over at Phoenix Preacher this week, I've started to get this feeling that if in the 1980s and early 1990s the Christians in America pop culture fad was recovered memories then the new fad is seeing narcissism in leadership.  Now just because NPD almost got cut from DSM 5 doesn't mean it doesn't exist, and by contrast we can say that recovered or repressed memory therapy got debunked decades ago.  If some pastor told you that something you didn't remember ever happening prior to his telling you it happened explains why you are the way you are now then that pastor is out to lunch and trafficking in a pop psychological fad that got discredited decades ago.  The other Clinton was in office during the time when that set of ideas was debunked. 

If we wanted to be even more pointed, we could say that recovered memory treatment could be described as a form of divination that's been discredited from within the academy as of a generation ago that some Christians still may find useful.  Back in 2008 when he was talking fr hours about spiritual warfare Mark Driscoll made reference to ideas that fit pretty easily into the repressed/recovered memory tropes.  That Driscoll has not publicly repudiated using such methods in pastoral counseling will be something to keep in mind if he gets momentum with this Phoenix thing.

Speaking of whom, it has been VERY popular to describe that guy in diagnostic terms.  It's something I generally prefer to avoid.  One of the problems with pop psychological diagnoses is that they tend to invoke the incurability of the condition.  This is especially and explicitly the case with narcissism when it gets trotted out.  Narcissists may be able to be managed but they can't be cured.  Depending on how you read the Psalms David was one of the greatest narcissists in the entire Bible.  Anyone who prays through the Psalms as if they were personal, individual prayers for the self would be a narcissist, too.  Super-Calvinists who regard the psalmody as corporate worship that doesn't necessarily always apply to YOU might be another story .... .

But joking aside, there's this other thing, this sense that in the age of the internet outrage is the cheapest emotion we have and that in the internet realm of socialization there could be some room ... maybe too much room for an ethos that could be summed up a bit crudely as "they who smelt it dealt it."  A slightly more dignified way of putting it would be to invoke terms like "displacement" or "transference".

But here I would mention that there was this observation by Alastair Roberts a few years ago at his blog about how blissfully unconcerned the biblical authors seemed to be about illuminating the inner emotional lives of the people they discuss.  We're not given a whole lot of insight into the emotional/psychological state of a person mentioned in a biblical narrative.  What did the person say?  What did  the person do?  What were the consequences?  Particularly as this blog tends to have some kind of reputation as a "watchblog" this has been well worth keeping in mind--if the scriptures seemed strangely unconcerned with declaring to us the motives of this or that significant figure then maybe we can discuss the actions and words of people without jumping the gun as to presumed motives.  IF authors who we Christians regard as inspired by the Holy Spirit held back from psychoanalyzing their subjects (setting aside the obvious point that psychoanalysis in its modern form didn't exist yet and that the allegorical approach of medievalists could approximate it only roughly)

There are plenty of ways to make constructive criticisms of a celebrity Christian without deigning to diagnose them.  Sure, I could have said Mark Driscoll displays misogyny like everyone else did ... but the old axiom from writing classes is that you show don't tell.  So if there was a way to "show" you through publishing "Pussified Nation" what driscoll said in character; or if there was a way to bring back "Using Your Penis" to show you what he wrote, then some things could be learned through direct observation. 

Showing the first edition of Real Marriage back to back with Dan Allender's The Wounded Heart made a case without having to be too blunt about it.

The thing about a diagnosis in our era is that once you're diagnosed that's a verdict, in a way--it closes off the potential for future changes of heart because the heart is declared to be known.  Even if it seems remote that Mark Driscoll's going to actually repent of the things he's said and done I don't see that it requires any of us to declare it as if there's no unforeseen event.  A lot of people never imagined Driscoll would quit Mars Hill for instance.  It didn't seem possible that it even "could" happen in 2006 but a lot can change in a decade.

I've been blasted over the years here and there for not denouncing Driscoll in the same vitriolic terms others have.  I think he's proven himself to be a piece of work but I don't think there's any bnefit in trying to declare what his psychological state may be or ascribing to him a personality disorder.  Partly that's because I know I don't have the skills and knowledge base from which to make such a declaration on the one hand and, on the other, we live in an era in which once a diagnosis is arrived at it can in some sense be a rationale.  In a culture where the "culture of victimhood" is said to be rampant giving someone a diagnosis is giving them something they can weld into their identity in a way that could let them off the hook for explaining their words and actions.  I've been on the receiving end of plenty of aggressive diagnoses over the years.  A few years ago at Wartburg Watch I was told I was gaslighting for doing what I thought was respectfully dissenting from a couple of accounts of events because I was at Mars Hill and knew things had happened a bit differently than reported.  It was bewildering to get told that I was gaslighting for trying to set the record straight as humanly possible, but that can happen in blog commetns sections.  Sometimes you end up being judged the villain for not denouncing someone who's a popular target.  I didn't remember writing anything in 2012 about Mars Hill that suggested to me I was ending over backwards to appease the powers that be at Mars Hill.  But that's how some people saw Wenatchee The Hatchet at the time.

So as someone who's been on the receiving end of some assertive but inaccurate diagnoses it seems the better part of wisdom to not try to divine motives and to let the human heart be as opaque as it so often is.  There's still a great deal that can be written without trying to ascribe motives that may be mysterious even to those doing the speaking and acting. 

various people muse upon the animosity between a life of art and a life of sex with its consequences (i.e. any actual children)

http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/04/portrait-motherhood-creativity-c-v-r.html
...
 “You know, a lot of people glamorize the idea of being an artist. But of course then they find that actually it sucks and that no one gives a fuck and that they can’t succeed and they can’t monetize it and they can’t even get their work out into the world and it’s really hard and thankless and they’re spending untold hours at it and their friends are becoming successful in their chosen, normative fields and they’re like the weird loser who’s going to be a writer and it was so impressive when they were 23 and now they’re 33 and they still don’t have a book out … Well, sure, it’s great to say parenting is like my art and make beautiful Rice Krispy Treats with little candy unicorns on them or some shit. I mean, why not? I love Rice Krispy Treats. I have to finish this book in a few months, and it’s like hitting my head against a cement block. Give me the fucking Rice Krispy Treats.”
 
 
I knew this feeling too, but it didn’t feel like the full answer. I pressed her again on the question I’d been turning over in my mind: Why is it that writing (or really any creative pursuit) seems to be in such conflict with parenting?
 
She answered calmly, hardly raising her voice. “Because the point of art is to unsettle, to question, to disturb what is comfortable and safe. And that shouldn’t be anyone’s goal as a parent.”   
I don’t know why it took me by surprise when she said this. I knew it to be true. I recalled an interview I read with one of my first writing teachers, Deborah Eisenberg, in which she says,, “Art, itself is inherently subversive. It’s destabilizing. It undermines, rather than reinforces, what you already know and what you already think.” Oscar Wilde said it is the most intense mode of individualism the world has ever known. Hippocrates tells us “Art is a revolt.”
People make art, in other words, for exactly the opposite reason they make families. [emphases added]
 
In New York a few weeks ago, Kim Brooks asked whether creativity and domesticity are compatible in women’s lives. The relationship between art and parenthood is an evergreen topic that makes everyone—male or female, artist or not—feel a little bit anxious, for reasons specific to their life circumstances. (“I’m a bad parent!” “I’m not creative enough!” “Maybe I shouldn’t have kids!” “Maybe I should!”) I’m no exception; as a child-curious writer, I read this last salvo as soon as I saw the link. Target audience, c’est moi.

But there was one paragraph in Brooks’ piece, about the terrible husbands and dads of literary history, that I relished with particular glee. These “art monsters,” as writer Jenny Offill memorably termed them in her 2014 book Dept. of Speculation, are sometimes women, but they are most often men. The constraints they rail against are female, either explicitly or implicitly: requests for time and attention, petitions for financial support, or expectations of conformation to social norms. To such demands, the art monsters react poorly. “Baudelaire longed for escape from ‘the unendurable pestering of the women I live with,’ ” Brooks writes. “Verlaine tried to light his wife on fire … Faulkner’s 12-year-old daughter once asked him not to drink on his birthday, and he refused, telling her, ‘No one remembers Shakespeare’s children.’ ”
 
I don’t think it’s (just) the fascination of voyeurism that makes these anecdotes so compelling. I believe it’s a salutary exercise to look back at the bad marriages of the art monsters (and politics monsters, and sports monsters, and war monsters, and finance monsters) whose names are so prominent in our historical record. Remembering how the worst among them treated the women in their lives is one way to see the invisible labor—women’s labor—that went into nourishing, cleaning, arranging, regulating, and picking up the pieces at every turn. Like white space around a striking image, this reproductive work takes squinting to see. The work of maintaining is much less glamorous than the work of making, and leaves fewer traces. With this in mind, I propose the Historical Theory of the Bad Husband: as a good a way as any to see what’s hidden. ...
 
 
 
Over the last few months, here and there, some authors have been musing upon the tension between why "we" make art and why "we" make families.
 
That calm, matter-of-fact explanation that art is about unsettling and all that, that's nonsense.  It might seem like an appealing ideological perspective on the purpose of art and the artist for a contemporary Westerner but it's still nonsense.  Art can have as its aim instruction and entertainment.  It's not like we're not about to hit the 20th anniversary of Blues Clues this year. But when you have an ideology about what art is that is defined not by what it is but by what ideological/political stance it ought to be taking then you're going to set up a purpose for art that can be at odds with the social desires that can lead many to start families.  Now if you take seriously the idea that a life of art will involve not doing stuff conducive to starting a family then it should guide you--don't waste time dating or marrying or starting a family if what you want to do is art.  That's if you accept as given that ideological notion that art "must" subvert or unsettle.  But if you're open to the iea that art does any thing else you "could" choose to have a family life and pursue the arts, too. 
 
But there's another question in all that stuff, the awkward question of whether or not what you make as an artist ever gets monetized.  It would seem some artists are upset by the decreasing odds that the art they make can be effectively monetized.  This could be a great set of case studies as to whether art for the sake of art is really what these people want.  If you'd keep making art even if you not only never made money at it but also only did it at a loss then you're doing art for the sake of art.  If you stop making art at the prospect of not making money at it then you're not making art for the sake of art.  If you make art because you want the other political party to lose then you're a propagandist, probably. You might want to just run for office at that point.  Musicians have been known to run for  office here and there when they have relized that their political ambitions were of such nature that just writing songs wasn't going to cut it.  That too, can raise a question about how far we can really take this art for art's sake dogma. 
 
A whole lot of people who, if you present the paths of life to them as a choice between either making art vocationally the rest of their lives or having sex and family "might" choose sex and family. But pursuing both isn't that hard so long as we keep in mind the low odds of monetizing the art. 
 
Art isn't a revolt, not across the board.  Sometimes art is campaign propaganda for Sanders or Trump or Clinton or ... whomever.   Ever since I saw Miyazaki's The Wind Rises I've been struck by something inherent in his observation that film critics either felt was too indelicate to state outright or actually missed, if Jiro was an artist in how he worked as an engineer he was an artist serving an empire and if that central metaphor holds then all artists are in some sense servants of some kind of empire.  It's not even a matter of "if" this is the case, it's more simply a question of which empire you are the servant of.
 
When philosophers and artists in the 19th century talked about the greatness of art and aspired to have a total work of art that unified all the arts into an indisoluable whole how many of them were thinking of TV or superhero movies?  Quite possibly none of them. But that's something in the art for the sake of art dogma that can't account for what's happened in the last fifty years, just because we don't want soap operas or superhero movies to even "count" as art doesn't mean they haven't fulfilled the art by and for the people, it doesn't mean that art for the sake of art as a dogma can get around the fact that commodification is an inherent risk in such a dogma.  If there's no other reason for art than art itself then that paradoxically ensures that it's going to be a commodity. 
 
Reification, to get Marxist with the lingo, is unavoidable in the arts in a technological society.  Technology can't be neutral and no amount of reconditioning ourselves will change that an ideological commitment to art for the sake of art alone may unavoidably land us in art as commodity just as easily as it lands us in the realm of art as a kind of civic religion.  If for mainstream moviegoers the civic religion of cinema looks less like Godard and more like Captain America: Civil War some critics can complain about that but ... on the basis of what?  The critical establishments that have the luxury of defining what even counts as art are not always examining what they exclude and why they exclude it.
 
But it's worth thinking about in an era where cartoons that sold toys to children decades ago lumber on in the form of Michael Bay films.  If "grown up" art spends so much time subverting the assurances we got in the entertainments we watched as children then what if a solution for that is not to unsettle the bromides we got in art in our childhoods, what if the alternative is to avoid inculcating those bromides into children at the outset?  But this may be where we discover that it's easier to insist that the arts (for grown ups) should unsettle and subvert because the alternative to telling kids "you can be anything that you wanna be, and do anything that you wanna do" might look like, "Have realistic goals and make sure you socially adapt to the powers that be so you don't shorten your life."  We've got generations of people who have decided that that sounds too much like accommodating tyranny.  We don't really have the nerve to tell children that in a mass society your life doesn't really matter beyond those individuals who know and love you and that one voice doesn't change the world and it's not worth it to rock the boat since society is too big to know or care that you exist; so we'll keep telling them "you can be anything that you wanna be."  Why?  It's probably not really for the children, it's probably more for ourselves.  The children just get to belatedly benefit from this deception down the road ... maybe?
 
Unless we ... really believe the moral bromides about socialization and accomplishment we put in childrens' programming ... in which case we might want to ask why, if the purpose of art is to unsettle, we seem so uninterested in doing that in art for children.  But then maybe we can just say that nothing written for children could even be art by definition.  Well ... if the aim of art is to unsettle then there's Watership Down, perhaps. That'll traumatize kids and, ergo, be art.
 
But more likely the idea that art should challenge and unsettle seems like self-assuring nonsense.  Art "can" do that stuff, obviously, but the idea that that would be the main reason people pursue the arts across space and time seems silly.  Only in a culture as dedicated to the mass production of things like the iPhone would such an individualist, upset the Apple cart (but not really!) ideology make sense.  We may find it appealing to say one person can change the course of history if we've fooled ourselves into thinking that we constitute that one person. Maybe it's more comforting to fixate on the idea that one voice can change history because we'd rather imagine ourselves that one voice ... but history suggests that while individual voices can make memorable cases for specific causes the history of history seems to suggest that it takes a full blown mob to get anything worth remembering done.

Edward Jay Epstein (in 1974) on the difference between press mythology and political history on the subject of the Nixon administration, with application to the contemporary watchblog

We're going to quote at some length from Epstein's comments at, well, Commentary, on the mythology of the press taking down and taking on government corruption because I think it is instructive not only as a corrective of the myth that the press does all that much speaking truth to power but also as a warning to those who would undertake the project some call watchblogging.  The warning is this, if your understanding of journalistic activity is more informed by Hollywood renditions of "journalism" ranging from All the President's Men through to Spotlight, don't hold your breath waiting for something to happen.

https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/did-the-press-uncover-watergate/
Edward Jay Epstein  / July 1, 1974

A sustaining myth of journalism holds that every great government scandal is revealed through the work of enterprising reporters who by one means or another pierce the official veil of secrecy. The role that government institutions themselves play in exposing official misconduct and corruption therefore tends to be seriously neglected, if not wholly ignored, in the press. [emphasis added] This view of journalistic revelation is propagated by the press even in cases where journalists have had palpably little to do with the discovery of corruption. Pulitzer Prizes were thus awarded this year to the Wall Street Journal for “revealing” the scandal which forced Vice President Agnew to resign and to the Washington Star/News for “revealing” the campaign contribution that led to the indictments of former cabinet officers Maurice Stans and John N. Mitchell (who were subsequently acquitted), although reporters at neither newspaper in actual fact had anything to do with uncovering the scandals. In the former case, the U.S. Attorney in Maryland had through dogged plea-bargaining and grants of immunity induced witnesses to implicate the Vice President; and in the latter case, the Securities and Exchange Commission and a grand jury had conducted the investigation that unearthed the illegal contribution which led to the indictment of the cabinet officers. In both instances, even without “leaks” to the newspapers, the scandals uncovered by government institutions would have come to the public's attention when the cases came to trial. [emphases added] Yet to perpetuate the myth that the members of the press were the prime movers in such great events as the conviction of a Vice President and the indictment of two former cabinet officers, the Pulitzer Prize committee simply chose the news stories nearest to these events and awarded them its honors.


The natural tendency of journalists to magnify the role of the press in great scandals is perhaps best illustrated by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's autobiographical account of how they “revealed” the Watergate scandals
...
the government's investigation of itself has become a missing link in the story of the Watergate scandal, and the actual role that journalists played remains ill understood.
...
Perhaps the most perplexing mystery in Bernstein and Woodward's book is why they fail to understand the role of the institutions and investigators who were supplying them and other reporters with leaks. This blind spot, endemic to journalists, proceeds from an unwillingness to see the complexity of bureaucratic in-fighting and of politics within the government itself. [emphasis added] If the government is considered monolithic, journalists can report its activities, in simply comprehended and coherent terms, as an adversary out of touch with popular sentiments. On the other hand, if governmental activity is viewed as the product of diverse and competing agencies, all with different bases of power and interests, journalism becomes a much more difficult affair.


In any event, the fact remains that it was not the press which exposed Watergate; it was agencies of government itself. So long as journalists maintain their usual professional blind spot toward the inner conflicts and workings of the institutions of government, they will no doubt continue to speak of Watergate in terms of the David and Goliath myth, with Bernstein and Woodward as David and the government as Goliath. [emphasis added]


So, since this blog tends to get known on account of an activity that is often called watchblogging, it's worth saying this a few times--bloggers didn't do anything to cause the downfall of Mars Hill or Mark Driscoll.  The press, the media, it didn't cause a decline. At most what the press did was happen to report things that, revealed from those who had insider access who chose to disclose things for public consideration, catalyzed a decline.  But that's not the quite the same thing as asserting that negative media coverage "caused" Mars Hill to decline or Mark Driscoll's reputation to suffer.  The problems in the lack of proper credit given to where it was due in the pages of the first print edition of Real Marriage were what they were in 2012 when the book was on sale.  What Janet Mefferd and others did was simply highlight for public consideration what was already a matter of public record. This was valuable, to be sure, but for those who would work in journalism and those who would work in the realm of watchblogging there needs to be a lot of care and consideration--it's dangerous to deceive ourselves into thinking that "we" did anything in the way of "causing" things to happen.  We didn't. 

One of the things I've considered for years is the very real limits of what the press can achieve and the even more robust limits to what a blog can achieve. It was useful to bear those things in mind while blogging about Mars Hill.  It's worth repeating over and over because while someone like Justin Dean goes out on the road and says negative media coverage hurt Mars Hill that's not a very plausible account?  Why?  Because any serious engagement with the relationship between press coverage and political scandal at the highest levels of national concern in the history of the United States suggests that the press can have an overhyped influence.  The press didn't take down the Nixon administration, the Nixon administration took down the Nixon administration. 

Now to the extent that I knew this general thing about the history of the press and Nixon, sure, I could apply it here at Wenatchee The Hatchet.  It meant I wasn't under any illusions I'd be doing more than documenting internal fractures of trust within the corporate culture formerly known as Mars Hill Church.  So when year after year stuff from The City was leaked and docs came along this was not proof that Wenatchee The Hatchet was somehow more than a conduit, maybe someone people trusted to research things carefully--but at the risk of using the Nixon administration as a comparison point, I didn't have a misunderstanding that I was doing more than documenting the dissolution of trust that was going on within the Mars Hill culture. Had Driscoll and the others not led in a way that so badly alienated the rest of the leadership culture nobody would have been leaking anything. 

That other ministries and Christian celebrity authors have weathered controversy to do with rigging the New York Times bestseller list or even, somewhat remarkably, accusations of systemic infringement, suggests that the mistake is to think of these things as abnormal.  What was abnormal wasn't that a bunch of celebrity Christians have been accused of stuff like sales rigging or plagiarism, what was abnormal (in retrospect) was that these accusations seemed to actually hurt Mark Driscoll's reputation.  Why?  One possible answer could be that while others had these kinds of controversies they did not face them while having also said and done things to alienate their support base. It may have been that it was only within the confines of Mars Hill that jobs were getting gutted in mass layoffs during a "difficult season" in which the Driscolls were getting a million-dollar house in Snohomish county while the executive leaders were telling the staff to not appeal layoffs. There may just have been too much of rules for thee but not for me going on.

What Epstein warned about the willful blind spots of the institutional press could go triple for watchbloggers. If you undertake watchblogging be prepared for complete failure.  Why?  Take it from Wenatchee The Hatchet, Mark Driscoll bailed on restorative discipline in Washington; bailed on Mars Hill as both pastor and member; and went down to Phoenix and is preparing to re:launch and re:brand himself.  If we stick with the analogy to the Nixon administration Mark Driscoll's the Richard Nixon of megachurch pastors and the Board of Advisors and Accountability can be thought of as Gerald Ford issuing a pardon.

None of this is to say watchblogging has no value.  Far from it.  It's not like we haven't had ourselves plenty of watchblogging here at this blog for half a decade or so; the problem is, as I was saying earlier, we need to abandon the Hollywood mythology of the press because that's Hollywood's glossy take on the media's own self-aggrandizing mythology, none of which is necessarily a historical or methodological foundation from which to do real journalism. 

The difference between guys like Justin Dean who say the media hurt Mars Hill and former leaders who say that the hubris and cruelty of the leadership culture was what hurt Mars Hill is that in the first category we seem to have people bent on promoting a mythology of the power of the media by people who are in the media and whose livelihood seems to hinge on selling the idea of that power, while the second category seems to be those who were actually in ministerial leadership in some capacity who concluded that it was their culture of abuse that caused the problems.  Only the people who are in that second category seem to have any clear sense what went wrong at Mars Hill--anyone clinging to the power of the media to hurt the reputation of Mars Hill in any way has bought into a myth that has largely been debunked from within the discipline of the press itself.

There IS a case to be made for the legitimacy and viability of watchblogging that I hope to make later this year, but for now the caveat is more important--it's more important that we see what a blog can't do and to see what it can't do it is useful to see what not even the mainstream press can be shown to have done--if the press didn't take down the Nixon administration in the end, how much less should we expect blogs to take down megachurch pastors. 

Years ago I was asked if I wouldn't meet with leaders from Mars Hill.  What could it hurt?  Possibly nothing, but there was no compelling reason to meet, either.  So my response was to perhaps too cryptically cite Judges 9--If Abimelek was made king through a just process then, great, but if through wrongful bloodshed then let those who appointed him and the self-selected king spew forth fires that would take them both down together.

Being around to document how that might have happened isn't even remotely the same as somehow having catalyzed it.