Sunday, April 23, 2017


Sometimes things going on independent of blogs take precedence.  A bit of that going on.
Sometimes a topic warrants enough research and writing beforehand that the proverbial hot take is not the best way to handle things.  The interview somebody had with Walsh fits into that category.  One of the disadvantages the era of blogging can have is that the hot take approach can lead to what is passed off as analysis that is timely but not necessarily accurate or "deep". 

There are personas that benefit from and perhaps even depend upon the short-term memory of the contemporary news cycle.  It's possible to have doubts about a recent narrative presented by Drsicoll not on the basis of hostile press coverage but on the basis of Mark Driscoll's own testimony about himself and the history of what was once Mars Hill.  Assembling that case from the extant public record is not a small task

The Walsh/Robison interview merits a more detailed historical survey than may have been provided--on the one hand it's understandable that what could be construed as a puff piece interview would be a puff piece interview. On the other hand, the claim that there was an eight-year governance battle inside the church that was only made public in the last year of Mars Hill is so at odds with Mark Driscoll's own previous accounting of things that it has been necessary to compile all of the pertinent statements to demonstrate that this new narrative is a new narrative. It's not that any one statement is necessarily false, but it is more like that there's an element of factual accuracy in a variety of individual statements that cumulatively present a wildly implausible account of what the nature of governance conflicts in the history of Mars Hill were like.  

But the temptation of those who already distrust Driscoll is to assume everything is lies.  Even if a person would regard Mark Driscoll as a propagandist rather than a pastor in a traditional sense it's useful to remember what Jacques Ellul said about propaganda, that contrary to stereotype propaganda is often meticulously accurate about verifiable facts and that the deception is in the interpretation of the presented facts rather than in the facts themselves.  In Driscoll's case one of the things he has done is to let audiences compress events that may have transpired over ten or twenty years into an undefined "season" that is presumed to be the last year or so;  a ore detailed examination of what was described may reveal that the events Driscoll described took place across years and a couple of locations.

What is impressive (and not in a good way) about Mark Driscoll's recent story is the extent to which he is crediting his children with the idea to plant a church and to formulate the branding of it.  Mark Driscoll used to teach that headship means the man is responsible even if it's for something that is not technically his fault.  Mark Driscoll, twenty years ago, said he was a very confrontational guy and not some pansy ass therapist.  Now when Driscoll gets asked, repeatedly, what he said or did to make people hate him so much he retreats to stories about his children.  Back in 2004 Mark Driscoll had a book in which he shared that he wrote columns that were so inflammatory they inspired bomb threats and that this was wonderful because the only thing lamer than death would be a boring life.  So for Driscoll to tell either Robison or Walsh he's a lovely guy so he really doesn't know why people would hate him is ... less than forthright.

The trouble is that in the age of the internet and social media forthright can involve answering questions and discussing issues in the era of the TL:DR attention span.  A persona such as Driscoll's thrives on this kind of systemic cyclical forgetting.  So now when a Mark Driscoll from 20 years ago would say he's not a pansy ass therapist today's Mark Driscoll can talk about the father heart of God.  Back then the angry young prophet talked about a Jesus who shook things up and was the prophetic son.  Now, as Driscoll sees his kids going on to college and the nest will eventually be empty the father heart of God is important.  What hasn't changed is that the vision of God's love and power seems to be calibrated to the life stage in which Mark Driscoll finds himself and the role model he aspires to be for the public record. 

So, fair notice in advance, when the analysis goes up it's going to be long, detailed and very likely boring.  It seems necessary for the sake of historical record to do this.  It's not a matter of whether or not those people disposed to take anything Driscoll says in front of a camera at face value will have their minds changed.  Their minds may have already been made up.  No, to borrow Mark Driscoll's theme, the consideration is one of legacy.  Mark Driscoll's revisionist take on his own legacy merits a corrective survey even if we didn't already have evidence to observe that Driscoll's sermons have been scrubbed of a variety of references to historic transition points in the history of Mars Hill.   The nature of the conflicts that erupted at Mars Hill probably cannot be fully or truly understood without a firm grasp of the history of real estate acquisitions at Mars Hill.  The governance war was, when we go back and look at real estate history, something that emerged when a Plan A didn't pan out and a Plan B was embraced for which, as Driscoll would recount it, Mars Hill governance was not adequately designed. 

The series of posts analyzing the Walsh/Robison interview with Driscoll is now up, and is an eight-part series.

Some striking oddities in the narrative feature the claim that Driscoll never got to say good-bye while explaining that he and Grace decided to stay in the Puget Sound area long enough for their eldest child to graduate from high school.  Since Driscoll resigned in October 2014 and a normal academic school year goes from about October to June across calendar years it would sure "seem" like six to eight months would have been time enough to say good-bye to whomever the Driscolls wanted to say good-bye to. 

The part where the Driscolls were doing church while the media was on the other side of the fence seems very hard to take at face value since the only documentable case of media outside the fence of the Driscoll house in Woodway was a report done by Russ Bowen for KOMO in August 2014, which was nearly two months before Mark Driscoll would decide to resign. 

The room for misdirection isn't in the concrete details which can often as not be looked up and verified for people who were at Mars Hill, it's in the decision on the part of Mark Driscoll to collapse widely separated events and details into a narrative which, thanks to sympathetic auditors or readers who weren't actually at Mars Hill in the last twenty years can be easily construed as happening all in one "season" that Driscoll avoids defining; this permits people to imagine that everything was happening within an implied small narrative timeline when the events referenced may have taken place as described with the caveat that they did so over the course of ten or even twenty years.


Anonymous said...

"this new narrative is a new narrative."

Nice way to say, "It is a lie."

Casabeca said...

So well done, all the time spent on your series, your meticulous record, is important .
One more area of stories in conflict might involve MD's failure to mention the pickets/protests outside Trinity Church in Scottsdale. Those "angry people" were not only in the greater Seattle metro area.
Thank you for your faithful service.