Friday, February 03, 2012

Batman: The Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire Part 4b just went up

Part 4b of "The Wounds of Discovery" just went up over at Mockingbird.  This week's feature is the villain Jervis Tetch, aka the Mad Hatter.  This is the segment where I'm able to demonstrate most clearly why I've titled the entire project of writing about Batman: the animated series as I have. I've left you, to wit, some clues as to which villains I'll be discussing in future installments.

As you can see I've been a restrained blogger this week.  I've limited myself to breaking the news that I have had my first composition published and the publication of my latest essay on Batman: the animated series this week.  This just seemed like a good week to post few posts and have them be about some happy events in my life as a composer and author. I hope you enjoy the latest essay and there are four more pieces to come in this series within a series about the DCAU.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Guitar Sonata in F minor published

My Guitar Sonata in F minor is now published.  This is my first published composition.  Don't let the tempo scare you.  Think of it as a guideline.  If you get in the zone of 152 beats per minute that's fine by me.  If you can actually go faster than the ideal of 160 bpm don't go faster than 168 bpm. I wrote this piece 12 years ago and back then 160 beats per minute was easier for me than it is now.

"The Wounds of Discovery" is wrapped up

I just wrapped up the sixth and final part of "Wounds" today.  I would suggest that if you haven't read "Heart of Ice, Heart of Wrath" at Mockingbird to look that up first. There is a complex double structure I've been using for "Wounds of Discovery" that depends at a small level on a reader remembering what I wrote about Mr. Freeze.  The two levels of structure work as follows: I examine Batman villains on the spectrum of loss and desire and thread that through a particular aspect of brokenness that defines the motivation and/or gimmick of particular Batman villains.  I'm not going to give away the villains but I WILL share with you this, that I run with a tryptich of the heart, mind, and body. 

XKCD--Etymology Man

Just because

Unsettled Christianity by way Scotteriology: Gay angels are a sign of the Apocalypse

Don't watch the video clip from the Fantastic Four cartoon clip.  Just don't.  Do, however, read both blog posts.

I dreamt of a X-Files/A-Team crossover show ...

I had a dream that I was watching part of a movie my brother rented because everyone was snowed in during the holidays and no one could go anywhere and I was at my brother's place.  And for some reason the movie was this thing were Mulder and Scully from The X-Files were about to get killed by some black ops assasin , who had boasted he was so good a shot he could kill both of them with a single bullet, who was stopped by members of The A-Team.  Not Liam Neeson, no, Peppard and the old school crew. 

I mean, yeah, I was a kid during the Reagan years and I saw footage of the Berlin Wall coming down on TV but this dream personally has to go on my list as a weird mash-up dream.  It's as weird as the mash-up dream I had where Mike Nelson and the bots did a treatment of what was going to be Star Trek movie using Next Generation characters.  I still remember Tom Servo's line in my dream about Jonathan Frakes' character, "Watch me hold my shirt down so my chest looks big."

Sometimes a person just has weird dreams that reflect the pop culture they grew up with.

"The Wounds of Discovery" is coming along nicely

What I originally planned to be a mere three parts has grown into six parts, the sixth part to be done shortly. I feel pretty good about how it has been turning out.  I think I may have outdone myself with this new segment.  You really can't go wrong writing about the classic Batman villains and it's equally hard to go wrong writing about classic villains depicted by Batman: the animated series. Well, Hugo Strange could have been better and, let's face it, Bane was not really a classic Batman villain twenty years ago. But, with those vital historical caveats aside, BTAS gave us some of the most compelling versions of the Dark Knight's foes of the last two decades. 

And, as Bat-fans know, when you have a hero defined by his villains as strongly as Batman is it's important how you develop them and what they are about.  When you've done that there is then the challenge of making sure that after getting to the heart of the villains you don't forget the important stuff about the hero who stops them.  It is this, more than any other set of considerations, that has made BTAS the classic television show it has become.

So now that "The Wounds of Discovery" has grown into six parts it feels more natural and effective.  My hope is you'll enjoy it.  If I've done my work well you can appreciate the ideas I'm working through even if you've never watched an episode of Batman: the animated series in your life. My hope, of course, is that if somehow this is the case you'll go and watch at least one or two episodes.  If you come to these essays appreciating BTAS and the rest of the DCAU I hope you'll find it enjoyable and thought-provoking. This week Part 4b of "Wounds" should probably be going up and I begin to get into the heart of why I've called this series Batman: the Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire.  I can't think of a better title for a series of essays about this wonderful show.

I do have other bits of news to share here this blog a bit later.  I'll have links for new Mockingbird essays as they pop up and this year I'll have some news about musical stuff.

HT Kinnon: comment from Scot McKnight on NeoCalvinism and NeoPuritanism and ...

2. On Driscoll representing the NeoPuritan group. We probably need to distinguish the movement/group from its leaders, and see the ordinary participants — say, in TGC or T4G — as diverse and more pastorally and local church in orientation. Driscoll represents the theology of its leaders but his brash and crude edges clash dramatically with the sanity, care, caution and focus of the Puritans. So, to me, he is an outlier who, because of his charisma and strength of influence, can’t be ignored by the NeoPuritan leaders but who surely vexes them with his over-the-top sexual angst and desire to talk in crude and strong ways about it.

Yeah, Mark Driscoll is not the kind of guy who would have ever come up with a book like Puritan Richard Sibbes' The Bruised Reed. In fact if anything Driscoll's anti-typological anti-allegorical take on Song of Songs just suggests that he's only Reformed or an admirer of Puritans to the extent that if he name-drops them often enough (and shares that old saw about Puritans setting up church discipline on a guy who didn't want to have sex with his wife as much she wanted sex (and by now we know why he'd find that story compelling thanks to confessions in Real Marriage)) people will think he's in the same team. After about ten years of this it's going to be tougher to insist against all evidence that he's a Puritan or Reformed so much as a Baptist TULIP. But if this is seen for what it is then suddenly Mars Hill will come off not like an up and coming church that isn't an institution, it will come off more like Calvinist Baptists 52.5

Maybe someday there will be an article about the guy that resembles the article I read in Slate years ago about Howard Stern, "The Shock Jock in Winter". For now it's becoming more evident that Mark Driscoll is no longer young, will probably always be restless, and is not even especially Reformed.

reblog: "I see things", cessationists, prophets, and recovered memories

I spent months researching different ways of understanding Deuteronomy as a foundational text for guiding a discussion of cessationism/continuationism on the subject of Driscoll's 2008 claim to "I see things". The more I began to study the matter the more I began to realize the charismatic/cessationist debates ultimately has nothing to do with gifts the apostle Paul did not bother to define.  Paul cared more to have love be the guide through which gifts not only operated but emerged.  Notice that Paul spent a a good bit of space talking about spiritual fruit and bracketed spiritual gifts as a manifestation of spiritual activity.

More to the point, the cessationist/charismatic debates in the last century are not really about what Paul seemed to be talking about but about the foundation for institutional authority in contemporary ecclesiology.  Do we build a church as an institution upon a confessional tradition or out of the power of a charismatic personality? It is entirely possible for even a person who is formally a cessationist to essentially be a charismatic personality whose sayings and writings and activity completely shape the church. 

Thus, paradoxically, a pastor who is formally a cessationist in doctrine can still lead and organize his church around the force of his personality and his partisans in a way that demonstrates that the foundation of his church is, in a beautifully ironic way, charismatic. In case Christians forgot this obvious point, "charismatic" does not always default to a theological position regarding pneumatology!

But that's enough for now.  I'm still just re-linking to some writing and thinking I did last year, after all.  And here you go:

Monday, January 30, 2012

Because it's worth posting again, from The Book of Common Prayer

Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices; Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

SotteVoce at a comment on Internet Monk discusses MH community groups.

Check out comment from SotteVoce January 27, 2012 at 3:36pm

Here is the excerpt that has stuck with me:
I think the problem that we see here is that the church, in taking over the formation of small groups, is trying to force community and intimacy among its people, which is impossible. Intimacy and trust simply cannot be coerced. I would not say that deep “confessions” were actively sought out by the groups that I have attended, but there is a kind of unspoken pressure in that environment to unburden yourself of anything and everything, because sharing secrets can foster intimacy in the right environment (not to mention it gets you attention). Unfortunately, in the wrong environment, it can lead to power trips, emotional blackmailing, and escalated incidents ... .

... it’s pretty easy to convince young people looking for something “authentic” and “real” that they need to be honest to the point of oversharing in order to have real spiritual fellowship. (I believe it is a natural outgrowth of the blatant emotional manipulation that is frequently employed in youth groups to get young people to open up and act spiritual.) “We’re your friends and your mentors, you should let us help you.” Except that in these situations, your “friendship” was systematically manufactured for you by a bureaucracy and all but forced upon you instead of developing through shared experience and fellowship.

There have been some awkward confessions I have heard in Mars Hill community groups, which I will not repeat.  Sad and troubling confessions, confessions where people went out on a huge limb and shared things that were very real, very full of hurt, and very risky to share.  Unfortunately these were done in settings where absolutely no one had the competence to speak into those situations.

One of the things a friend and I discussed about Mars Hill community group--no, various friends and i have discussed this--is that you can't manufacture intimacy and affection. In my time at Mars Hill there was basically only one community group where I simultaneously felt welcome and liked. I was in some groups where I didn't feel welcome and was not liked.  I have been in some groups where I was liked be a few folks but didn't quite feel welcome. 

I was in some settings where I felt welcome and liked and yet there was this weird, inexplicably awkward pall over everything. It was as though just when people were becoming truly at ease and getting to know each other the group leader would steer everything toward yakking about the Driscoll sermon.  Or a group leader might share this and that about community and friendship and the air in a room would just die when someone admitted they not only voted for Obama but liked his policies.  Then someone would mutter something about socialism.  I didn't vote for Obama, mind you, but I don't have to spell this out, do I?

I've been in settings where someone shared a testimony that touched me a great deal. I realize, looking back, that the person shared a testimony a few weeks after in a group discussion a few folks at the group talked about how family can help you get through rough times and be there for you.  I said something that nearly killed the mood of the room and said, "That's true, but family can do more to destroy and discourage you than anyone else, too." Everyone except one person looked awkward.  That other person looked me in the eye as if to say, "You and I are the only two people in this room who know what that means." Later that person shared a testimony. 

If my saying that thing that made the room feel awkward made that ONE person feel safe sharing a hard testimony then I believe that was the right and honorable thing to do. Fortunately in the setting this did not fall into dead air because there was real friendship and community. But it was part of another group in which we had all grown to love each other.  I can't really describe that kind of connection except to say that though most of us see each other at most one or two times a year there is a strong affection and bond as though the months or even years had not really changed anything. 

Now obviously that is the kind of friendship and mutual affection a church WANTS a community gruop to develop but in many cases a community group falls short of successfully manufacturing the semblance of that.  In a setting like Mars Hill I think the most common cause for the failure to attain this affection is simple--too many people want the group to be where things get heavy, deep and real.  There's no eagerness to kill an entire evening on things that are light, shallow and fun.  I felt connected to people talking about the Bible or about sermon talking points, yes. But I also felt stronger connections watching Scrubs episodes or discussing Gene Kelly movies with the women in a CG while some of the guys either pretended they didn't know what was going on or really didn't know what was going on.  I liked these people enough that I put up with Family Guy.  Now if you know me and know how much I hate Family Guy that can tell you how much I like these people!

You can't manufacture that no matter how many coaches you set up or groups you put together. It happens or it doesn't. Part of how it happens is that people who work together have often learned how to play together.  Think of it this way, in our society people date, do tons of fun things together and as that moves along they begin to work together, build lives together, get married.  Think about how children play and learn to exercise their minds and relational tools to grow into becoming functioning, working adults. There is a life cycle to a friendship and to a fellowship.  In many cases it has seemed that a community group has been erected so as to jump straight into adulthood when there has been no childhood period of play.  The child, if you will, can be put into a cotton mill to work the machines for production.

I look back with some sadness realizing that some of the most heartbreaking stories shared in community groups were ones where people badly needed to be able to share what had been done to them and I and the rest of the group were completely inadequate to say anything.  I didn't feel I could speak up because if I shared something it would be the wrong thing or the wrong kind of encouragement.  I also felt that if I shared something about why my heart went out to someone it would compromise the trust of someone else whose trust I did not want to compromise. In other cases I just realized I could not understand where that person was coming from so I said nothing and just prayed. 

There's a difference between sharing something very hard to share because you've had enough fun with friends you can share the serious stuff and sharing something very hard because you've heard the talk about how "things are real here" or "things won't leave this group" and feeling a need to share because you've been primed to believe that confessing the heavy, deep and real stuff is okay because everyone says they want to do that.  They don't usually do it, though, at least in my experience. When they do the blank expressions and awkward looks leave a person feeling as though it was better to have not said anything.

The sad thing is that should you happen upon a small group where real affection and trust has developed and you end up in other groups you begin to realize how far short other groups fall.  They're not falling short because other people aren't obtaining friendship and intimacy necessarily it could be because you are like a child who has to learn how to play before you can go to work.  Of course, sometimes it's that the group trying so hard to be heavy, deep and real doesn't realize that because they aren't taking time to be light, shallow and fun they end up just being awkward, perfunctory and fake. Awkward and heavy are not the same and fake isn't just about not being honest it's about the moment where honesty is met with an emotional vacuum that reveals that these people weren't really ready to grasp what you shared from your heart. 

Not that I'm necessarily against community groups. I could try to say something pious and trite about being the change you want to be or being that kind of person but the race is not always to the swift, nor victory to the strong, nor wealth to the wise but time and chance happen to them all. To the extent that Christians try to manufacture intimacy and fellowship in a way where it won't matter who is in the group it will be the degree to which it shows.

HT Phoenix Preacher: Mark Driscoll & Church Discipline

Normally I have no keen interest in podcasts and don't listen to podcasts.  I make exceptions however, such as for this podcast. I hadn't planned on blogging about this (as I blogged earlier) but I have been following enough other blogging on the subject and reading enough comments that I do feel somebody should say the stuff I'm about to say. I'm going to discuss what concerns about Mars Hill discipline "should" be getting discussed in light of Andrew's story.  I am also going to discuss why I have not blogged about some of this stuff and why I have not made comments of the sort other people have. There are folks who have commented here in the past whose comments display an approach I avoid for reasons I'm going to explain at some length.

As I blogged at some length at various points here, Mark Driscoll's Christian porn take on Song of Songs will be the sort of thing to help unmarried Christians become aware of techniques, positions, and ideas they will have not have heard of before.  Driscoll's defense of "If I don't talk about it all your kids are gonna learn about it from porno anyway" is not a particularly viable defense.  It certainly didn't make sense ten years ago when he said it in a sermon you probably won't even be able to find; it makes less sense now if Mars Hill is as gung-ho on home-schooling and web-filtering as I imagine they might be.  It will mean that a generation of Martian kids are more likely to find out about anal sex being possible from a Driscoll book or a sermon than from official porn.  Note I used the word "official" there.

I agree with the sentiment that if a guy like Mark Driscoll spent months extolling the wonders of wifely stripteases and holy blowjobs as the literal and only viable reading of Song of Songs; and then is incensed that impressionable and horny 20 somethings end up trying these things out because they lack self control; that a man like that is either a complete idiot or is not being honest about inevitable implications his teaching will have in a church that has reached into ten thousands.

When marriage is touted as the proof of true adulthood by a man who is capable of putting singles in a double bind by saying they're idolizing marriage if they feel lonely without someone and yet that they're idolizing independence if they don't to marry because they have other things to do this is the kind of blatant double bind that, should people end up having sex, is not a huge shocker. As I've blogged various times here, in Martian martial theology the only person who isn't in this double bind forever is whomever happens to already BE married. The rest can often end up being what my blogging friend Mara Reid has called the "sucks to be you" gender gospel.

I'm following the stuff related to Andrew and have not done much to blog about that.  I have, however, made some comments here and there. The controversy surrounding Andrew's discipline contract is an occasion for people outside Mars Hill to ask whether or not, if the things Andrew shared are true, that discipline at the Ballard campus has not at some point been tainted by any one or all four of the following miscarriages of discipline in Andrew's case:

1) nepotism
Andrew was engaged to a pastor's daughter. When he admitted to cheating on her I don't see how nepotism wouldn't kick in. In fact if Andrew had not been engaged to a pastor's daughter it's hard to know that any of this would have gone down the way it did.

2) conflict of interest
Andrew was disciplined by campus pastors who would be in a conflict of interest if the pastor whose daughter Andrew was engaged to and had cheated on had any say in the disciplinary proceedings

3) double standard
Any word in the shunning document about the pastor's daughter?  The public notice about Andrew scrupulously avoided mention that "a member" with whom Andrew was involved in "unrepentent sexual sin" was a pastor's daughter

4) simple retaliation
I don't think I have to explain this one.

These are all risks that anyone who read what Andrew shared with Matthew Paul Turner would legitimately be concerned about given what Andrew related about the disciplinary proceedings he was told he had to be part of.

Seeing as spouse and offspring information about campus pastors has been pretty well scrubbed off of Mars Hill websites when folks used to trumpet that information in prominent campus pastor profiles it does at least suggest the possibility that Mars Hill leaders somewhere have put together that members of the press or bloggers could put these things together and wonder if Andrew ended up being railroaded despite having done everything right by confessing his sins.

Newsflash to some folks, not saying you did something is not the same as deliberately lying about it.  A dad angry about his daughter being betrayed by a fiance with whom his daughter was sexually involved is going to make that dad apt to assume the worst if he wasn't aware of what was going on--this could be the case if the fiance admitted to sexual activity the pastor's daughter never mentioned.  IF that's what happened (and I'm not saying this is what actually went down) it wouldn't even be the first time a dad at Mars Hill retroactively made every effort to slam an emergency brake on a relationship his daughter was in with a man where he hadn't pieced everything together yet.  This is my way of saying that the odds of a pastor avoiding a conflict of interest, the temptation to retaliate, or to exercise a nepotistic double standard in church discipline in the kind of case Andrew describes is not possible unless the dad in question defers to others.  Andrew not saying earlier he was sexually active with a pastor's daughter during his engagement to her is not necessarily active deceit and even if it was that would only be possible to sustain if the daughter went along.

I've already written at some length about what I observed at Mars Hill that led me to believe disciplinary procedures were, let me put this discreetly, ad hoc and frequently done without any regard to the significance of procedural precedent.  Don't shun the unrepentant adulteress who pulls the "I've never been a Christian card" do shun the fired pastor who objected to the by-laws. 

Now I know people in the past have come here and shared (almost always anonymously) conspiracy theories and the "true" explanations about what happened to this or that person.  Well, I have not been a fan of those.  Anyone can post an anonymous comment.  My educational background is in journalism.  You'll notice that even though I have a pen name (because it sounds cool to me) I have made no secret of who I actually am here. Back in the unmoderated Midrash I was the only person who used my actual name.  Full actual name, not a shorthand like PastorMark.  I may say stupid stuff but I am willing to admit I said stupid stuff on record.

Something that happened in 2007 after the firing controversy was that somebody leaked stuff to the press.  That somebody created a press release.  A whole bunch of Martians assumed that somebody ELSE had to be responsible.  That somebody was (and is) a friend of mine.  The reason I take the tone and approach I do to blogging about Mars Hill is I was trained to approach things as a journalist.  I was taught that there are times when the real story is not what everybody is writing about but what nobody is writing about.  I was also told that you should not assume that anonymous sources or people who only want to speak off the record can be trusted. 

If the story is real, if the story is legit, and if the story needs to be told do not take shortcuts by way of anonymous tippers who in all likelihood have their own agendas.  Be willing to slog through obscenely large amounts of publicly accessible information to put the story together.  Use an anonymous source as an absolute last resort and only if you are sure that the story of the anonymous source fits information you are able to obtain through other means.

A little backtrack into the history of the press and the Nixon administration. For decades the press had a self-congratulatory love affair with itself for having taken down the Nixon administration.  That's not exactly what happened.  Disgruntled people within the Nixon administration took down the Nixon administration and made use of the press to do so.  There was a synergy at work. The Nixon administration fell apart through the momentum of its own graft. In fact people who suggest that there are Watergate like elements to this situation are right. Someone inside Mars Hill cared enough about Andrew to keep him in the loop. Andrew THEN went to Matthew Paul Turner.  All the same, that things have been off can be observed through just about any rant Driscoll makes.

If Mars Hill is on a course for disaster we don't have to keep looking for the secret or "real" story built off of people who won't speak on record.  The story of the things going wrong in Mars Hill theology or procedure is, in its way, staring us all in the face and within publicly accessible documents and statements. "I break their nose" for instance.  "If I weren't going to end up on CNN" for instance. We can see it even in the curious case of shredding William Young while urging us to wait and see with Jakes. 

That the case of Andrew was leaked does not surprise me any more than that the firings of Paul and Bent were leaked.  However, as a blogger I am not the kind of person who will just blog out everything I have learned. I've seen first hand how a friend's life became more unhappy than it already was because Mars Hill members assumed the worst about him and would not listen to me when I pleaded with them (and non-members) to NOT view my friend this way. 

In other words I've seen people act like complete assholes in anger and outrage about Mars Hill and not realize that how they reacted was perpetuating wrong-doing against people already harmed by disciplinary processes at Mars Hill.  This is not abstract for me, one of my friends got screwed over not just by a disciplinary procedure at Mars Hill but even by the blowback that came from people assuming he had to have leaked things to the press when he didn't. Your words, both their content and their tone, will have consequences in the lives of people you probably aren't thinking about.

If some people think I have been overly cautious it may be because I really am overly cautious, but I take my approach because I have seen just a few too many people hurt by amateurs who don't understand the significance of what it means to violate the privacy of already hurt people by going to the press.  Let me put it as scandalously as possible so that this can be more clearly articulated--if a person has been raped how much good do you think it may do the victim to go out and announce the person has been raped to the press if we're in a cultural context in which victims get blamed?

There's a lot I haven't blogged and probably never will blog because I know what "on the record" means.  Now if you're someone who wants to blog or comment about something to do with Mars Hill and disciplinary abuse and you use a pseudonym, okay. I honestly do get that.  But if you want to claim to have inside knowledge while simultaneously refusing to go on record or say anything concrete you're a coward. Period. There's no qualifying that. I'm not saying there's no legitimate reason to be afraid for your reputation, mind you.

If you're only willing to take the posture of someone who knows the real deal but won't use your real name or go on record as you insist people believe your anonymous comments on blogs, well, I've already seen my friends' privacy violated by assholes like you. You'll have to do better than that.  Bent Meyer has just shown you what "better than that" looks like over at The Wartburg Watch if you need an example.

You don't know, watchblogger or anonymous commenter, whether or not your desire to vent your anger won't inadvertantly hurt the cause and life of someone who has already been hurt by this institution.  Using already hurt people as props to win your crusade can still be secondary abuse. Don't be so quick to vent your spleen that you inadvertantly sacrifice those people on the altar of your crusade.  I've already seen this done to one of my friends and I don't want to see it happen again. 

And this is why, crazy as this may sound, Andrew's case is encouraging to me.  Someone who is a MH member cared enough to share with Andrew that he was being declared an unrepentent sinner by a campus machine.  Andrew then had the freedom to break his story to Matthew Paul Turner. Someone cared enough about Andrew to have more real regard for his privacy than an entire campus system. Now people can understandably believe that a church willing to treat Andrew that way may "deserve" to have something leaked (amen) but it should be (and was) Andrew's decision to share the story.  Compared to what went down in 2007 this is still terrible but in one crucial respect it's a step up and a step in a better direction.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bent Meyer posts on The Wartburg Watch about being fired from MH in 2007

Before you read the news peg link read this first:

THEN read this, not before:

Bent Meyer UNITED STATES on Sun, Jan 29 2012 at 06:06 pm

I am one of the men fired the day of Mark’s rant about two elders he felt needed to broken noses. Someone asked what has happened since that day.

I am happy to say, the next Sunday my wife and I attended another Church with far better expository teaching and a community that authentically and generously helps the marginalized.
I also finished my master program and have a private mental health practice serving the Seattle and Eastside area. This was a very good and satisfying result.

Regarding, whether I spoke up or not. I have not been silenced by any direct or implied threats of retaliation. It is clear that the one who possess the air waves controls the content and spin of a story, so there was not much to be done.

I thought a lot about how I would response and just what my motives would be. I chose not to be lured into a public argument through the Seattle Times asking me for a blow by blow description of the events I have documented. I have a tendency to keep material for years and years.
I did prepare my narrative, including supporting documents for members only to read who came to me for explanation. They had to agree, never to disclose any of it to the media. These people have been honorable. As best I know, none have. By doing this I opened up myself to their scrutiny and possible rebuke. I have received nothing but kindness and support.

As to my motives, I want Mark’s best. In my opinion he is a very troubled man. He is caught in his own hell. The consequence, of course, is the influence he has on others, which is mixed.
He, Lief Moi, and Mike Gunn, together the founders of Mars Hill Church, sent out to focus on those that were young, upwardly mobile and future leaders. They wanted to position themselves to influence their faith decisions and their life choices. This is a lessen for many church leaders to learn from and choose for themselves.

The downside is Mark’s pathology shows up in ways that are impulsive, aggressive, irascible, shut off from effective relational influence, and most apparent not respectful and submissive to no one, though he claims otherwise.

I have hoped and still hope for something short of him destroying himself would bring about substantial change for this every increasing population of worshiper. Some have fretted there will be a great loss of Christian’s with the demise of Mark and/or the Church. I don’t think so. The church the comprises all of us will survive. The chaff will be blown away, but the church will remain.
I would speak a caution to all of us. There is much to be learn for the Mars Hill phenomena. Don’t dismiss the hunger and openness to be influenced represented in those ages 18 through 30. Invent content that is useful and distribute it freely on the web. Always incorporate creatively some explanation of the gospel at the end of every teaching session with an invitation to do business with Jesus.

Even though Mark’s portrayal of masculinity is more like a comic book superhero and women as needing to be protected and rescued his focus on young men coming into manhood richly is important. Absent fathers is epidemic. Think about what it is that has caused them not to attach to their families. Mark comes at it from the standpoint of duty and responsibility, which is mechanical, missing other primary questions, Why do some many men not attach to their families? Why do they abandon family so easily? Mark uses shame and intimidation as the means of gaining compliance, which has the appearance of working, but is not transformative in the long run, or creates other issues of abusive relationships related to power and control. In many men, the tendency is understood in the short saying, “Monkey see monkey do.” Don’t over react, young men need to mature.

I feel like I need to give attention the needs of women with equal if not more space, since women are marginalized and silenced in so many ways. But, I will leave that for another time.

I hope this will satisfy the primary curiosity of those who wonder what has happened to me. I will say, the other elder fired at the same times is a good friend and doing well.

This is the very real Bent Meyer. Beyond that words are pretty much failing me so I'll post and link. I'm going to need a few hours or maybe even a few days on this one.

But for now I can manage to write out this much: to the best of my knowledge this is the first time any man who was fired from being a pastor at Mars Hill has made a public statement on the record about having been fired from Mars Hill. 

iMonk: Hard Talk II--Defending Dissent

After all, since this is something Michael Spenser wrote at Internet Monk and I've been reading Internet Monk since, I dunno, ten years ago, I'm linking to it.  I have a feeling we may be sharing similar thoughts about the necessity within evangelicalism to give room for dissent.  It'd be an irony that evangelicals whose roots emerge from what was considered historic and necesary dissent of the abuse of church power would now themselves represent the same kind of self-preserving and self-justifying misuse of power in the very churches where leaders would decry Papists as holding wrong doctrines.  Well, when Israel became the divided kingdom which of the two groups faithfully and always served the Lord?  Yeah, that's right, neither of them.

Now my own assessment of the prophetic role is going to come off as substantially less exalted than what others may have suggested.  This is not because I consider prophets unimportant but because I have begun to appreciate the significance of Deuteronomy 16-18 that many people using "prophets" as a basis for defending their own authority tend to skip over; the prophet was a role provided within the Torah as an ad hoc committee role to adjudicate issues that the Torah did not cover in case law. In other words the understanding much of the time was that the majority of life within Israel did not require a prophet to be consulted all the time. 

It is true that prophets often played a critical role but that is because we have written documents from prophets whose work got canonized. This is not the same as looking to Deuteronomy 16-18 to get some idea of what was considered a normative role for a prophet. Some of the most important prophets (Elijah, Nathan and Huldah) in the history of Israel and Judea did not write anything down. They were also not necessarily critics.  They could, however, be construed as policy advisors.

The prophetic job was to advise a king whether to go to war because a military situation came up that the Torah didn't address.  The prophetic role as to assist in adjudication of an unusual case that was not adequately adressed by case law in the Torah.  The prophetic role was also to challenge Israel to be obedient to what was revealed and to not digress into the worship of other gods on the one hand nor to the neglect of obedience and faithfulness while professing a nominal faith on the other. The role of the prophet prescribed in Deuteronomy 18 was not to "write books of the Bible".  Eschatological prophecy is not even on the table there, despite the fact that many, many Christians assume it must be. 

There's a difference between a later Christian gloss on a passage in the Torah and what the passage was originally actually talking about. We can get to the Christian appreciation of Jesus as the ultimate prophet when we read Deuteronomy 18 but before we skip straight to the big old meaning with the indefinite article we need to properly come to terms with the definite article that doesn't have a capital letter in it, and with indefinite articles.  Any old preacher can claim to be a prophet because he preaches but that does not make him a prophet, it makes him more like a priest. If the preacher fields theological and ethical issues that are not directly dealt with by the Bible then, sure, he's started to play a prophetic role.

When Paul urges people to seek the higher gifts he doesn't write this as though there was some one and done litany of Spirit-given super-powers you get for life.  His corretion to the Corinthians assumes that they knew who had the gift of tongues and who had the gift of interpreting tongues. He also assumed that there was an ability to acquire the better gifts. When we consider that the fruit of the spirit is pretty prosaic it might also suggest that the gifts of the spirit may be roles we grow into and take for occasions rather than lifetimes; roles that can be informed by those things that out of love we do for the church/Church. 

Paul's instruction about the spiritual gifts has often been misused by cessationists and charismatics who are bickering about whether these gifts are really available now and what that is supposed to say about which of the two teams can make the greatest claim to legitimate institutional power.  Paul skips past that and doesn't bother to define the spiritual gifts contemporary Christians debate about.  He provides a few general guidelines and, famously, says "And now I will show you a still better way."

When Paul says to earnestly seek the better gifts he does not describe the gift very clearly, what he does describe clearly is the role the gift of service plays in a community.  In other words, cultivate the fruit of the Spirit and love your fellow believers and this will in itself constitute seeking to embody such gifts as Paul enumerates.  Pursue love of Christ and of neighbor and the spiritual gifts you actually need will take care of themselves for two reasons: 1) the fruit of the Spirit that grows in your life will prepare you for service and 2) the role you are able to play by the cultivation of that fruit in seeking to love the Lord and your neighbor will be something the Spirit takes care of without you having to constantly fret about it. 

You don't need to really ask yourself "Is what I am doing prophetic?" or "Is what I'm doing the gift of healing?" or "Is what I'm saying a sign of the gift of exhortation?" The gift of healing may not be something as flashy as laying hands on someone and healing their illness.  A gift of healing may be something such as a providential giving that allows someone who is going blind to see.  A person who plays a prophetic role does not have to always be speaking in oracles with King James English like, "Thus sayeth the Lord", a person who plays a prophetic role does not need to know he or she is doing so.  But a person who considers, as the prophet Jeremiah did, that the lying pen of scribes has transformed the Scriptures themselves into a lie can perform a prophetic role without having to display some kind of superpower. Yes, we're told about floating ax handles and parting seas and all that but we all know that the real Christian life is far more prosaic and we can forget that there was a more mundane concern in ensuring a floating ax handle was rescued.

At the end of days I would rather be in a position to wonder when I did anything like speaking in a prophetic way or bringing the gift of healing to someone when the Lord speaks than to boast in the things I was sure I did in Jesus' name only to discover He says "I never knew you." The world has been full of self-appointed prophets but what the Church may need are more accidental prophets, prophets who speak not because they want to or can't think of better things to do with their time, but who through providence and eagerness to love and serve the body of Christ bear the fruit of the Spirit and live the role when needed rather than thinking of it as some permanent vocation. 

Do you think Amos was a full-time prophet?  No, he tended sheep and dressed trees, right? Prophets did do ordinary things, too. There were some people who played the role of prophets as formal cabinet advisors to a king or priest in Israel but there were, we know this from Amos alone, some prophets had day jobs and only spoke when it was necesarry, when seeing the corruption of leaders and self-appointed spiritual authorities grew too be too much and they spoke against corruption and wickedness.

How could there be corruption and wickedness in the Christian community, you ask?  We all know the answer of course, but the need for a prophetic activity is that all too often we assume we're the ones who get to play that prophetic role for that other sinner rather than consider that God may have appointed that other sinner (of all people!) to speak in a prophetic way to us.  Schlatter was right to observe we do not lessen our share in evil by condemning evil in others yet the history of prophets has often been that though they, like Isaiah, recognize they are sinful folks with unclean lips, God sends them to speak up anyway. Tricky thing is that we may not recognize them when they speak to us because we're so sure they can't be legit.  Unsurprisingly, there were religious leaders and advocates who said the same thing about the greatest prophet, weren't there?