Saturday, August 25, 2012

Slate: Why do so many politicians have daddy issues?

American politics is overflowing with stories of absent fathers, alcoholic fathers, neglectful fathers, and untimely deceased ones

And here ...

This isn't just cherry-picking either. It's a representative window into the emotional makeup of our political class. While there are few academic studies on the subject of political daddy issues, the ones that do exist suggest an outsized percentage of prominent politicians have absent or dysfunctional fathers. The most methodologically credible of these is actually a British study called The Fiery Chariot: A Study of British Prime Ministers and the Search for Love, which found that, in the words of a peer reviewer, "the rate of bereavement amongst prime ministers was exceptionally high," somewhere around half of all British prime ministers. That was much higher than the estimated rate for the population as a whole, and the bereavement rates for Cabinet members also ran consistently higher than the general public. What could be going on here? Is this simply politics imitating Shakespeare, or is there some causal reason that so many people with father issues make it to the upper reaches of public office?

It's Slate, and a Slate author ruminating on a Republican candidate.  As I have noted here a time or two I've begun to be less than awestruck by Slate but this polemical proposal is interesting because it crosses party affiliation.  If the question amongst evangelicals is "where's dad?" with a rhetorically assumed answer that young men will go on to greatness if dads were more involved the example set by history in American politics may provide a startling counternarrative.

In fact it's not entirely certain that even among mover-and-shaker preacher-men that dad being present always leads to the big producers.  An emotionally absent father might be a greater catalyst for a preacher to accomplish big things in American-style Christianity than a truly involved father.

But perhaps things depend on what accomplishments are sought.  If what is sought is a modest legacy of faithful service, productivity and anonymity a present, able, and helpful dad could be a great thing.  But if the legacy you may want for the kid is for something fantastic, something great then it may paradoxically turn out that the faster path for that is for a dad to be ... absentee?  Or maybe even neglectful or abusive?  Or for parent and child to have a problematic relationship? Huh ... . does that seem counter-intuitive to some?  Inevitable to others?

HT Jim West: Michael Pahl on Ephesians 6:10-20

Michael Pahl blogs about how he used to enjoy the Frank Perretti spiritual warfare books long ago and no longer thinks that way, in part, because he no longer thinks as he once did about the relevant Ephesian text.

One of the first and basic problems of a Perretti-style approach to Ephesians 6:10-20 is its conception of what principalities and powers are in the text.

these powers are anything or anyone apart from God that orders our world, that controls our destiny, that demands our allegiance, whether spiritual beings or structured systems or human persons. Nation states and economic systems, invisible spiritual beings and human rulers, the "gods" and "lords" of this world—which are never to be our God and Lord (1 Cor 8:5-6)—are all candidates for these "powers." These are not inherently evil—indeed, Paul affirms God created such entities (e.g. Col 1:16)—but they become evil to the extent that they do not align themselves with God's self-giving, life-giving, peace- and justice-bringing purposes revealed in Christ.

There's more in the post but I'm not going to quote the whole thing.  It's an interesting reflection for a particular direction in interpreting a famous Ephesians text.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Since we're on the Atlantic side of the cost ....

The onstage Phyllis Diller fans came to love in the 1960s wasn't just laughably unfortunate-looking, though--lest we forget, she was also lazy, rampantly irresponsible, clumsy, and as hopeless in the bedroom as she was in the kitchen. Diller told audiences she hated office Christmas parties because it was such a bother to look for a new job the next day; she professed to love going to the doctor because, as she put it, "Where else would a man look at me and say, 'Take off your clothes'?"

But Diller, who was married three times and had five kids, clearly wasn't quite as much of a slouch in the love and relationships department as she made herself out to be. She also held a degree from Bluffton College, and she worked steadily and successfully from the time she was 35 until as recently as August of last year, when she appeared on her friend (and disciple) Roseanne Barr's reality show.

Fey, similarly, is married with two daughters; she's the face of Garnier hair color treatments, and lives in a posh apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. But many of the running gags on 30 Rock revolve around Liz Lemon's sloppiness and chronic singledom. So why are we laughing at Diller and Fey for their shabbiness, their sofa dependence, and their chronically sad love lives? Why do these well-loved, impressively accomplished women invent incompetence to fuel their comedy?

Barreca, a humorist herself, puts it simply. "Women lead with their vulnerabilities," she says. "This is how we get men and other women to like us."

Humor, Barreca explains, is in itself an act of power and aggression; audiences are known to be intimidated by comedians, especially at live venues. (That's why nobody sits in the front row, she says.) "When women in are in comedy, there still needs to be a certain mitigating factor for the ferocity that goes with any kind of effective humor," Barreca says. "So if we show someone our neck, rather than our squared shoulders, we'll be more appreciated--and they'll permit us into their company." 

Robert Lynch, a cultural anthropologist from Rutgers University and a part-time stand-up, agrees: "Maybe women have to go overboard with the self-deprecation because comedy can be an alpha thing," he says--the alpha being the class clown, the attention-grabber, the presence dominating the room. "Women alphas in general tend to be disliked. They can sometimes be distrusted, I think. And they're not sought after." 

This, however, may be the money quote:

Lynch says. "A big part of humor is rearranging hierarchies, and putting other people down." So comics of both genders, he says, often self-deprecate early in the routine to, one could say, come down to the audience's level.

If someone were looking for a reason why a great pastor should not also be a gifted comedian/ienne this might be a reason.  It may be that centuries of pious Christians who seemed to lack a sense of humor did not truly lack a sense of humor, they might just have had too acute an awareness of what humor entails to see it as necessarily befitting truly Christian humility. ;-)

Just kidding.

HT Mockingbird: The Atlantic has a write-up on Roslalind Cartwright's book on sleep

Of note in the piece is a lengthy citation which includes:

Despite differences in terminology, all the contemporary theories of dreaming have a common thread -- they all emphasize that dreams are not about prosaic themes, not about reading, writing, and arithmetic, but about emotion, or what psychologists refer to as affect. What is carried forward from waking hours into sleep are recent experiences that have an emotional component, often those that were negative in tone but not noticed at the time or not fully resolved. One proposed purpose of dreaming, of what dreaming accomplishes (known as the mood regulatory function of dreams theory) is that dreaming modulates disturbances in emotion, regulating those that are troublesome. My research, as well as that of other investigators in this country and abroad, supports this theory. Studies show that negative mood is down-regulated overnight. How this is accomplished has had less attention.

Dreams, perhaps, can be seen not as revelations of things we never thought about before but as lightning strike moments in which the accumulating electrical charge of seemingly unimportant, irrelevant, and pointless datum in daily life explode into what seems like revelation because our conscious self has never before considered what was going on around us.

That dreams indicate what we're already obsessed about whether we admit it or not, and that dreams in this light are not necessarily portents of divinity as the assemblages of uptight people is something that, depending on how we interpret certain biblical texts, may be the zinger the author of Ecclesiastes had in mind in the beginning of chapter 5.

Batman: The Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire Part 5D is up

For those who might be interested, and today's installment deals with Harley Quinn.

Phoenix Preacher on an Oregonian consideration of Californians

"God has his people everywhere.  Even California."

We're invited to make our own application.  Oh, and I have.  There are wonderful beautiful people who love the Lord and serve Him and are blessings to other people even though they live in or have come from places that annoy me a great deal.  Daniel worked in the court of pagan kings.  Obadiah worked in the court of Ahab.  It's tempting to take the all-or-nothing approach one way or another but Jesus Himself said that one day the wheat and the tares would get separated.  Not every person who went to Eugene to stone out to the Grateful Dead is a true Oregonian.  It takes more than some concern for the spotted owl to be from Oregon.  Simply knowing who Mark Hatfield and Bob Packwood were is not quite enough.  These provide the simulacra of being Oregonian.  But I digress.

Lance Armstrong in the news and the art of the narrative as polemic

AUSTIN, Texas — With stunning swiftness, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Thursday night it will strip Lance Armstrong of his unprecedented seven Tour de France titles after he dropped his fight against drug charges that threatened his legacy as one of the greatest cyclists of all time.


Travis Tygart, USADA's chief executive, said Armstrong would also be hit with a lifetime ban Friday. And under the World Anti-Doping Code, he would lose the bronze medal from the 2000 Olympics as well as any awards, event titles and cash earnings.

Armstrong, who retired last year, effectively dropped his fight by declining to enter USADA's arbitration process — his last option — because he said he was weary of fighting accusations that have dogged him for years. He has consistently pointed to the hundreds of drug tests he passed as proof of his innocence while piling up Tour titles from 1999 to 2005.

"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough.' For me, that time is now," Armstrong said. He called the USADA investigation an "unconstitutional witch hunt."
"I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999," he said. "The toll this has taken on my family and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today — finished with this nonsense."

USADA reacted quickly and treated Armstrong's decision as an admission of guilt, hanging the label of drug cheat on an athlete who was a hero to thousands for overcoming life-threatening testicular cancer and for his foundation's support for cancer research.

"It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and athletes," Tygart said. "It's a heartbreaking example of win at all costs overtaking the fair and safe option. There's no success in cheating to win."
Tygart said the agency had the power to strip the Tour titles, though Armstrong disputed that.
"USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles," he said. "I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours."

Still to be heard from was the sport's governing body, the International Cycling Union, which had backed Armstrong's legal challenge to USADA's authority and in theory could take the case before the international Court of Arbitration for Sport.

This could be (and is) read as proof that the United States Anti-Doping Agency is finding Armstrong guilty without evidence.  To this end political retribution could be considered, I suppose.  I know that some guitarists and luthiers consider the raids on Gibson over alleged violations of the Lacey act are better explained by politics related to Gibson executive contributions and "right to work".  Since I am not comprehensively versed in the entire situation with with respect to Gibson or to Armstrong I can't speak definitively to that.  It remains to be seen in the case of Armstrong.  I do understand why some people consider the Lacey Act enforcements with respect to Gibson deeply problematic.  I remember enough about allegations of Armstrong's doping to recognize this recent news is significant in either direction.

I do not normally make it a point to really care about sports but this year things like the Sandunsky case suggest that scandals about corruption or cheating or abuse within American athletics may be considered indicative of broader cultural issues.  Particularly in a United States in which so many pastors and preachers invoke and compare their work to athletics then the question of sportsmanship and ethics in both professions seems more salient than would otherwise be.  I am, in a potentially once-in-a-lifetime moment, about to quote from Fox Sports.

Lance Armstrong is the Great American Sports Cheat. Our greatest ever.

It’s not just that his Tour de France titles have been stripped. By now, we’ve dealt with plenty of amazing feats taken away because of doping.

Or not taken away. Guilty or innocent, Barry Bonds never asked us to believe that he was all about the potential of human spirit. Roger Clemens and Marion Jones didn’t represent hope.

Armstrong tied his cycling titles and his cancer victory and his charity into one heroic narrative about himself. We all bought in. Who wouldn’t? But as the years went on, and the doping allegations built up, he used all his good will to mobilize forces against anyone who dared to point a finger at him. [emphasis added]

It was such a shockingly mean-spirited turn. And now his narrative comes off as such a big lie, no matter how many people he helped.

He played us to the end. He brought us along through so much, asked us to believe so much. And then, rather than going into arbitration to fight his most serious doping allegations, Armstrong ...
Gave up.

A federal court wouldn’t throw out the case earlier this week.

And when Armstrong decided Thursday to stop fighting, the US Anti-Doping Agency said it would -- and did on Friday -- take away his Tour de France victories, ban him from cycling for life and label him a cheat.

There are still questions regarding statute of limitations, and whether all of Armstrong’s wins are subject to being stripped, or just two of them.

“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough,' ’’ Armstrong said on his website, calling the USADA’s case against him an “unconstitutional witch hunt,’’ and saying the doping allegations were taking too much time away from his charitable work.

From "never give up" to "enough is enough". This doping fight was too rough for him? No, he just played us all again.

How sad that he hides behind his foundation, his charity, his army of followers, including cancer survivors. Armstrong leaves by saying that he’s not guilty. He just isn’t going to keep fighting.
Roughly, he’s saying: I am so tired. I have no more strength. Let them do what they want to me.
It is a genius play, really, pitching to his followers that he’s the victim. His dwindling numbers of believers will see him as an even bigger hero. But it’s a losing end-game now that he didn’t push his case to arbitration.


If you want to believe Lance Armstrong cheated his way to his seven Tour de France titles, there’s sufficient evidence—blood samples and accusations from former teammates and cycling officials—to convict him a dozen times over. And, up until this week, if you wanted to believe in the innocence of the man behind the yellow bracelet, there was more than enough to grab on to as well. Two of Armstrong’s most prominent accusers, after all, are a pair of brazen liars.


This has been Armstrong’s default mode for a decade: angry, defensive, paranoid, self-aggrandizing, and messianic. This isn’t just a defense mechanism—it’s a brand. [emphasis added[. In 2005, Neal Pollack wrote a piece for Slate called “Lance Armstrong Ruined My Gym,” describing how his local 24 Hour Fitness converted itself into a “Lance Armstrong shrine” that featured “dozens of photographs … alongside various laminated newspaper articles, Sports Illustrated covers, line-by-line breakdowns of his workout regimen, a racing bike in a glass case, and a history of his life broken into four sections: In The Beginning, The Detour, Born Again Cyclist, and The Road Ahead.” Looming over the weight room was the following Armstrong quote, lifted from a Nike ad: “This is my body, and I can do whatever I want to it. I can push it. Study it. Tweak it. Listen to it. Everybody wants to know what I'm on. What am I on? I'm on my bike busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?"

For a long time, these sulky, aggro monologues worked as a PR strategy. When nobody thought he would endure testicular cancer, Armstrong got healthy and became the greatest bike racer ever. The world’s most famous cancer survivor then stared down drug accusations the same way that he did disease. His accusers were doubters, and doubters were poisonous.  When everyone is against you, the only way to prove them wrong is to fight and fight and fight some more. Eventually, you’ll wear them down, win, and be a hero. That is the way Lance Armstrong saw himself, and that’s the Armstrong we came to know in Nike spots.

This news is something in itself but I'm going out on a limb here because today's news about Lance Armstrong under fire comes to light the day after the centennial of Gene Kelly's birthday.  This could be an opportunity to consider whether legendary performers in sports and entertainment are what they used to be or if, perhaps, there's always been a mixture of legacies that may tell us as much about what we want to believe about ourselves and our causes as about the men and women through whom we credit or blame them. 

Now Gene Kelly's legendary dance sequence from Singin' in the Rain is just one of dozens of on-screen demonstrations to the joy, charm, and power of what the human body can express.  Athletes have another way of expressing what the human body can do.  Kelly's legacy inspired countless dancers and at least one world famous action star (Jackie Chan).  If it turns out Gene Kelly could be short-tempered, occasionally a competitive jerk, and at times a startlingly demanding taskmaster we can consider the Freakonomics observation about the worthiness of a cause.

For instance Debbie Reynolds once said that the sheer physical torture of learning all the dance styles for Singin' in the Rain was more torturous than childbirth.  She also said, if memory serves, "I've had four kids so I'm not just making that up."  She also said that after the sheer ordeal of what Kelly put her through it was rough but she said proudly that when she was through with that she never wanted for finding work in show business for the next fifty  years.  She was grateful that Kelly put her through that much punishment and taught her that much about professionalism and art.

A man with flaws, no doubt, a man with pretty decent-sized ego, sure, but in the decades since his death there has been plenty of time to show whether or not the man's legacy was based on some kind of cheating.  The man's legacy is not just in his own work but in his followers and apprentices. Even though Hello Dolly may not rank as a truly great musical millions of people got to hear some of its music through Andrew Stanton's WALL-E.  The pedestrian, the forgotten, the overlooked can be where beauty still resides.  If Gene Kelly were alive to have seen the Pixar film maybe he would have scratched his head or maybe he would have felt glad to know his attempts to express love and joy in film have made a difference.

Now Couch's comments today may end up being wrong but they seem particularly salient about Armstrong's public stance.

Armstrong tied his cycling titles and his cancer victory and his charity into one heroic narrative about himself.

This has meant that if a person were to question the narrative in part then the best defense would be offense, some variation of a standard ad hominem.  Thus, "Everybody wants to know what I'm on. What am I on? I'm on my bike busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?" As Levin puts it, Armstrong's accusers were doubters and doubt was poisonous.  Armstrong can choose to be the fittest person at 40 on the planet and raise his five energetic kids and pretend that allegations or accusations or evidence against him won't matter.  People blog, you know?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

compiling ideas for Chamber Music Week 3

There's more about Rebay to write, and Tedesco.  However getting to that will necessitate more musical analysis and that has not been possible because many of the works are ones for which I have no scores.  There's only so much thematic analysis you can do without a score in your hands.

There's just listening to a lot of music over and over.  Sometimes that's easy, sometimes it's work.  In some of Rebay's pieces the re-listening is pleasing in other cases it can be a bit more of a chore, i admit.  His work is never less than respectable but like any composer there are some moments that feel less inspired.  However, Rebay's work warrants further discussion and I still hope to get to that here.

I am also investigating a few other avenues for unusual ensembles that happen to include the guitar.

spiritual authority, accountability--Driscoll and Brierley 8 months on

This year's series of incidents with a Martian theme have not just included Curiosity.  A few significant changes have happened at Mars Hill.  Earlier this year the following document showed up online.  I will quote from it at length.  The question of the basis and nature of spiritual authority in the pastorate is not a minor one.  The nature of spiritual authority as a claim to power and how it ought to be used will be a subject for discussion and debate for as long as anyone claims that mantle.

What is an elder/pastor?

At Mars Hill, we use the term elder and pastor interchangeably. Elders are the male leaders of the church chosen for their ministry according to clear biblical requirements after a sufficient season of testing in the church (1 Tim. 2:11–3:7; Titus 1:5–9). Elders are nearly always spoken of in plurality because God intends for more than one man to lead and rule over the church, as a safeguard for both the church and the man. This is illustrated by Paul when he speaks of a council of multiple elders ruling in a local church (1 Tim. 4:14; Titus 1:5). Currently there are more than 50 elders and another 50 men being trained and examined for that role. Some elders are paid, and some are unpaid.

What are the qualifications for of an elder?

The Bible defines the qualifications of elder in two primary places in 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:5–9, and the lists are virtually identical.

From 1 Timothy 3:1–7

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

From Titus 1:5–9:

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

So a pastor must not be arrogant or quick-tempered.  Progress Driscoll made on that seems to have come years after he already started being a pastor. Even as late as March 2008 Grace Driscoll could describe her husband as "a short-fused drama queen".  If you listen to the relatively recently circumcised presentation "The Man" Driscoll camps out a lot on the idea that pastors should get angry at sin.  Ergo, should get angry.  Now that is true but that is not, strictly speaking, any exegesis of the passage from Driscoll was ostensibly teaching.  It sort of gets overshadowed by jokes like saying the Baptists would be okay with Driscoll being gay so long as he didn't have a beer in his hand.  Or at least it used to include that joke.

Whatever improvement Driscoll's made on being less arrogant or quick-tempered, it would appear that in Driscoll's understanding of pastoral conduct as of 2012 pre-emptive strikes on British journalists are okay.
January 12, 2012

There is reportedly an article coming out in a British Christian publication that features an interview with me. As is often the case, to stoke the fires of controversy, thereby increasing readership, which generates advertising revenue, a few quotes of mine have been taken completely out of context and sent into the Twittersphere. So, I thought I would put a bit of water on the fire by providing context.


 I have a degree in communications from one of the top programs in the United States. So does my wife, Grace. We are used to reporters with agendas and selective editing of long interviews. Running into reporters with agendas and being selectively edited so that you are presented as someone that is perhaps not entirely accurate is the risk one takes when trying to get their message out through the media.

With the release of our book, Real Marriage, we have now done literally dozens of interviews with Christians and non-Christians. But the one that culminated in the forthcoming article was, in my opinion, the most disrespectful, adversarial, and subjective. As a result, we’ve since changed how we receive, process, and moderate media interviews.  

The interview in question had nearly nothing to do with the book or its subject matter, which in my understanding was supposed to be the point of the interview. My wife, Grace, was almost entirely ignored in the interview, and I felt she was overall treated disrespectfully. The only questions asked were about any controversial thing I’ve ever said in the past 15 years with a host of questions that were adversarial and antagonistic. It felt like a personally offended critic had finally gotten his chance to exercise some authority over me.

Things got particularly strange near the end of the interview. I was asked a question about, if a woman was the pastor of a church which that pastor’s husband attended, would that be emasculating to him. The question was asked in such a pointed way that it was odd.

At the end of the interview, I started asking questions of the interviewer. He admitted that his last questions were really about himself and his wife. Apparently his wife is the pastor of their church, he’s strongly committed to women as pastors, disagrees strongly with our complementarian position, and takes it to some degree personally.

This not only became more significant with Elephant Room 2's result and Driscoll's reflections on important lessons from it, it also took on significance when people had a chance to hear the interview Driscoll was blogging about for the Brits.

A short excerpt from the interview included the following:

Driscoll: No, no, you don’t want to sit in my seat, I understand. So does your wife do counseling with men? Sexual counseling? Does she talk about masturbation, pornography, the stuff that I do?

Brierley: Well no, she doesn’t.

Driscoll: Well, who does talk to the men about those things, especially the young men?

Brierley: Well there are other people that she can pass them on to. We have male elders in our church who, you know, would be able to tackle those kinds of questions. I mean, but would you speak with those kinds of issues to a female in your church?

Driscoll: Uh no. If they’re a married couple we might meet with them as a couple. But if it’s a woman, we would have women leaders meet with them.

Brierley: Sure, well it’s the same scenario in our church really.

Driscoll: Well except for who’s in charge.

Well, there's no difference at all about who's in charge if Grace is Mark's "functional pastor", is there?

As for the Brits, one of the responses to Driscoll's comments about the Brits came from Don Carson, a member of The Gospel Coalition from which Driscoll politely dropped out earlier this year:

(2) The phenomenon of the state church colors much of what is going on. Whether we like it or not, in England itself (the situation is different in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) the Church of England is the source of most heterodoxy and of much of the orthodoxy, as well as of everything in between. It has produced men like Don Cupitt and men like Dick Lucas. Exactly what courage looks like for the most orthodox evangelicals in that world is a bit different from what courage looks like in the leadership of the independent churches: their temptations are different, their sufferings are different. Although I have found cowardice in both circles, I have found remarkable courage in both circles, and the proportion of each has not been very different from what I've found on this side of the Atlantic.

(3) As for young men with both courage and national reach: I suppose I'd start with Richard Cunningham, currently director of UCCF. He has preached fearlessly in most of the universities and colleges in the UK, and is training others to do so; he has been lampooned in the press, faced court cases over the UCCF stance on homosexuality, and attracted newspaper headlines. Then there's Vaughan Roberts, rector of St Ebbe's, Oxford, in constant demand for his Bible teaching around the country. I could name many more. In Scotland one thinks of men like Willie Philip (and he's not the only one). Similar names could be mentioned in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Now mere weeks after the Justin Brierley interview and Driscoll's pre-emptive strike Elephant Room 2 took place in which T. D. Jakes was presented as on the same team as Driscoll and this despite questions from some Gospel Coalition associates about 1) whether Jakes had really repudiated modalism and 2) whether Jakes had repudiated any aspects of any Word-Faith style teaching.

Even on the count of women as pastors and teachers Driscoll gave Jakes a pass despite Jakes' role in the career of, for instance, Paula White.

We seem to have been tipped off far back by the distinction between Driscoll hammering The Shack in 2008 and his late 2011 admonition that nobody make any final judgment about Jakes until Driscoll got on a plane for Jesus.  

If Brierley was a guy whose wife was a pastor and this was a problem was there no problem with T. D. Jakes having played a role in backing the career in ministry of Paula White in any way?  Or does T. D. Jakes get a pass because his church is bigger than Driscoll's for the time being?

The thing about Driscoll's treatment of Brierley is that unless Tim Challies is hugely mistaken in his reading of Real Marriage Driscoll comes off like a first-class hypocrite. Now maybe Challies just misread the book but here's what he wrote:

The highlight of what the Driscolls teach on marriage is probably the importance of friendship. This is, indeed, an overlooked topic and experience shows that many of the best marriages are the ones in which the spouses are fast friends. A strange mis-step in this chapter is Mark’s statement that he has asked Grace to be his “functional pastor,” Because he is a pastor and he does not have anyone to pastor him, he has asked Grace to fill that role. [emphasis added] This must speak as much to his church’s leadership structure as to the Driscoll’s marriage; it is an unusual position and not one I would want others to emulate.

Yes, Tim, it does speak as much to the church leadership structure at Driscoll's church as to Driscoll's marriage.  Driscoll can't very well use the punchline "Except for who's in charge" if Grace is his "functional pastor".  Driscoll's teaching on headship is well-known and, perhaps, has evolved a bit.  Driscoll's comments on spiritual authority as relates to church discipline (and the husband is the head of the wife and "pastor dad" to his children) may be worth revisiting, even from some older material.

Driscoll addressed the topic of spiritual authority and church discipline a bit in April 2006.

Church Discipline
Pastor Mark Driscoll April 11, 2006

In discussing spiritual leaders given authority, in a discussion on Hebrews 13:17 Driscoll mentions at about the 1:21 mark:

"... I always like to say `It's not really submission until you disagree.' Up until that point two people can agree and there is no such thing as submission, there's agreement. Submission is required when there is disagreement. That's when it is required."

Later Driscoll explains about 2:08 through about 3:09:

What he [the author of Hebrews] essentially says is this: that, as a leader, if people respect your authority and follow your leadership, then they are joyous people. It makes things so much easier, and life is happy in the church. Subsequently, conversely, if people do not respect your authority, if people do not follow your leadership, if people do not have ANY regard for the spiritual authority that God has given you then what he's saying [the author of Hebrews] is that such people are burdensome. They are exhausting. 

These are the type of people where, in the middle of the night, rather than sleeping, you're laying in bed thinking about them, talking to your wife about [them]. These are the people, when you go to the church as a leader, you're not wanting to see. You avoid eye contact. When the phone rings you're hoping your caller ID identifies them because you just don't WANT to talk to them and they're email comes into your inbox you are just stricken with some sort of stress because here we go again. And such people are a burden. 

Driscoll then shares an interesting, if obvious point--theological error and moral sin will occur in even the best of churches.  It's what we see in the biblical texts and it's what we'll see in every church. The questions at hand, Driscoll proposed, were 1) if sin would get dealt with and 2) get dealt with in a biblical way.  This is a salient way of addressing what will be problems in every church.  If Driscoll's right, and I think here that he is, that it is inevitable that every church will be faced with theological error as well as behavioral sin then this will appear in every church.

Driscoll went on to explain that a significant risk in church discipline is to show partiality or favoritism.  You have a friend in sin and you are apt to take a more lenient approach in disciplining them than might be appropriate for the reputation of the Gospel in an area. You end up sacrificing the reputation of the Gospel (i.e of Christ by showing partiality in dealing with someone who should be disciplined for sins. (around minute 7)

It's in minute 7 that Driscoll says leaders must not abuse their authority by lording it over people. Authority is not to be used to be heavy-handed, to be dictatorial, to be authoritarian, to be mean-spirited. The use of church discipline is to be just and to do what is right.   I agree!  Whether or not that is how church discipline has actually been used within Mars Hill is something I'm going to set off to the side for a while.  The broader principle Driscoll articulated is "It's not submission until you disagree." This means that whether as applied to the spiritual authority of a pastor or as the spiritual authority by virtue of being the man, husband and head of the home, for Driscoll to make Grace his "functional pastor" is to invert the very doctrinal and gender value of masculinity he has become famous for championing.  Now if he were an egalitarian I don't think this theological conundrum would exist at all.  The point, however, is that we know Driscoll is not, in fact, an egalitarian about anything.

Then again considering how Driscoll fields the question of how the role of the founding pastor changes as a church grows:

Driscoll makes it clear that the whole nature of the sport changes every time the church reaches newer levels of complexity through larger numbers.  People who are not willing to play the new game can't stay on the team and the game changes depending on how big the church is.  Now it would appear that as Mars Hill hits particular ceilings of complexity and growth a bunch of guys can lose their jobs because Mark Driscoll (and whomever he consults) has decided that the whole nature of the game has changed.  Once there was basketball, now there's football.  That analogy was in place in 2008.  Perhaps the distinction now that football is played out would be to mark the delineation between junior varsity and varsity.  Sure, Driscoll spent his first ten years saying that distinction was inaccurate and kinda unfair but if he's going to keep using sports analogies it would appear Driscoll's gotten to football and the goal is to get past what appears to be junior varsity if I understand the sports-obsessed metaphors and analogies.

So, all that is to suggest that perhaps with new ceilings of complexity Driscoll can make his wife his "functional pastor".  Driscoll can rip apart Justin Brierley's theology and character because Brierley's wife is his pastor but it's official and is a spiritual subordination recognized by other people in the church.  Maybe Driscoll can have his wife as his spiritual authority informally just so long as other people don't recognize her as the spiritual head over Mark Driscoll and ... well, except that if you announce that in a best-selling book that becomes the basis for a series of sermons at your own church ... .

Now setting aside the question of whether by Driscoll's own doctrinal understanding Grace even "can" be his "functional pastor" without his sinfully abdicating his role as the spiritual authority over his house (it's conceivable, though difficult, to imagine that Driscoll could mount such a defense) there's another simple question.  Before we get to that let's get back to Challies for the sake of review.

The highlight of what the Driscolls teach on marriage is probably the importance of friendship. This is, indeed, an overlooked topic and experience shows that many of the best marriages are the ones in which the spouses are fast friends. A strange mis-step in this chapter is Mark’s statement that he has asked Grace to be his “functional pastor,” Because he is a pastor and he does not have anyone to pastor him, he has asked Grace to fill that role. [emphasis added] This must speak as much to his church’s leadership structure as to the Driscoll’s marriage; it is an unusual position and not one I would want others to emulate.

Because he does not have anyone to pastor him ... ?  Since when!?  Does Mark Driscoll have absolutely no comprehension at all as to what "on the record" actually means?

Let's do a quick review of some men that Driscoll has said were or are pastors to him in publicly accessible settings.  How about we start with David Nicholas, co-founder of the Acts 29 Network?

How do you do this over such long distance?

Driscoll: We talk all the time. David is my pastor.[emphasis added] He prays for me. He invests in me. He doesn't tell me what to do, but when he sees things in my character or theology that need to be challenged, he speaks to that very directly. I desperately need that. I tend to be stubborn and aggressive. I need someone strong speaking into my life, saying, "Think about this." But it has to be predicated on friendship and love.

So David Nicholas was Mark Driscoll's pastor in a tag-team interview the two did with Christianity today more than a decade back when Acts 29 Network was just getting started.  So if Challies believes Driscoll said he made Grace his 'functional pastor' because he didn't have anyone playing that role then was the above interview with David Nicholas for show?

In the February 2008 at a Q&A Driscoll also said the following:

Some of my dearest friends today are not at Mars Hill. They're also pastors at other churches.  Darrin Patrick is here. He's the vice-president of Acts 29. I love him. He's a brother. He's the guy I call. ... He's a pastor to me, you know? [emphasis added[

Now "He's a pastor to me, you know?" suggests that Driscoll considered the guy a pastor.  What Driscoll thinks pastors are supposed to do for him is a question that may be tough to answer.  Darrin Patrick was then vice-president of Acts 29.  For a time Mark Driscoll reinserted himself as president of Acts 29.  So was there some kind of spiritual authority/submission thing for Driscoll to Patrick?  Not sure.  But if Darrin Patrick was a pastor to Mark Driscoll why was there any need for Grace to be Mark Driscoll's "functional pastor" given Driscoll's nearly continual statements about the need to respect spiritual authority and the need for the man to be respected and be "pastor dad"?  There's at least two guys mentioned by Driscoll by name as being pastors to him who were .  "He's my pastor" and "He's a pastor to me, you know?" Are not statements that can be taken out of context.  They're flat categorical declarations that are either true or not true.  Now maybe NOW Driscoll may say he's got nobody to be a pastor to him besides Grace but if that's true what was wrong with Patrick or Nicholas? They were good enough to get name-dropped.

What seems to be the case with Patrick is that, at least according to Scott Thomas, Scott Thomas has gotten a job at The Journey now that Scott Thomas is no longer a pastor at Mars Hill or functioning in leadership at Acts 29. 

So if Driscoll publicly announces that at least two different guys fit the role of "pastor" for him then what would be the point of making Grace his "functional pastor"? As the wife she's supposed to respect the spiritual authority of the husband and regarding spiritual authority Driscoll "may" still feel that it's not real submission until you disagree.  On theological and practical grounds how does Mark Driscoll avoid putting his wife into an impossible double-bind? Maybe because I'm not married I don't know how this paradox can work.  I'll just grant that up front.

I admit, again, those confessions of the Driscolls in their marriage book rattled me.  Maybe they rattled me because somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered hearing this:

I promise you before the Lord Jesus Christ I'm not a perfect man, but I'm a qualified man. I don't have any secret thing going on. [emphasis added] But should there ever be, do not--if we ever have to discipline an elder--do not ever see it as a bad thing, because you know what? God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ and the holy angels are watching because the reputation of God is at stake.

Driscoll has at times explained that he and his wife had an unhappy marriage but not a marriage that disqualified them from ministry.  It was, however, a marriage that Driscoll did consider bad enough that if any Christian counselors had a marriage as bad as he felt his was that person wasn't qualified to counsel them through their trouble, possibly even to the point where these people were not even qualified for ministry.  Now it would seem that if you feel that way about your own marriage you should avoid counseling young married couples yourself. Not Driscoll.  He even went so far in his best-seller Real Marriage to state that he needed, basically, to stay in the game because young people were depending on him (like he wasn't one of those young people himself?):

Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll
Chapter 1
page 12

Had I known about this sin, I would not have married her. But God told me to marry Grace, I loved her, I had married her as a Christian, we were pregnant, and I was a pastor with a  church plant filled with young people who were depending on me. 

In other words Driscoll couldn't very well stop counseling people in their marriages even though his marriage was often bitter and miserable.  Publicly we'd occasionally hear things like "We're closer than ever" and "I'm faster than she is so we're happy" or some sentiment like that.  Privately, however, things were not quite so happy, at least according to Real Marriage.  The retroactive light this sheds on maybe half a decade of Driscoll sermons would take too long to discuss. While on the subject of "young people who were depending on me" a lot of us were not drawn to Mark Driscoll's teaching as such but the dynamic of Driscoll, Gunn and Moi as a team.

Mark and Grace Driscoll's story in their best-seller, taken at face value, raises a question about sovereignty and providence. God told Mark to marry Grace.  Mark wouldn't have married Grace if he'd known about her single moment of sexual infidelity in the earlier stage of their dating period, prior to marriage.  God knew, however, that Mark Driscoll wouldn't marry Grace if he knew the truth, therefore God providentially permitted Grace to hide this because nothing is beyond God's control.  God dispatched a lying spirit to the prophets of Ahab to entice the king to his death.  God also sent an evil spirit to afflict Saul.  God can and does use evil to accomplish His purpose and in the two aforementioned cases can even use demons.  Judges 9 mentions a case where a man publicly rebukes the men of Shechem and, we are told, God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. Judges 9 details the rest.  In other words, Grace not telling the full truth about her sexual history could have been necessary for God's will to be accomplished through Mark Driscoll as Driscoll has kept telling his story.

It's just that the theological implications of this with respect to the Driscoll marriage and Driscoll's approach to pastoral ministry and biblical instruction may be troubling.  Still, it's not as though David stopped being king over Israel despite having killed many non-combatants, having married many wives, having committed adultery, having a few concubines, failing to punish one of his sons who was an incestuous rapist, and being played (perhaps) into installing Solomon on the throne in a story of royal impotence at every possible level.  Nonetheless David did not stop being king.  So it's possible, I grant, that when God told Mark Driscoll to marry Grace, plant a church, and do all that that may all be the case.

And yet this does not stop being a puzzle  ...

page 14

We didn't know how to talk through these extremely hard issues without hurting each other even more, so we didn't talk about them at all. I just got more bitter, and Grace just felt more condemned and broken, like a failure. Occasionally we'd meet a Christian pastor or counselor who was supposed to be an expert in these areas, but we never spoke with them in much detail, because in time we found out they either had marriages as bad as ours [emphasis added] or they had been committing adultery and were disqualified for ministry. We felt very alone and stuck. 

But overall all those years didn't Mark Driscoll make statements on record that he had guys like David Nicholas, Mike Gunn, and Lief Moi who could speak into his life?  We've reviewed just a small snippet of public statements in which Driscoll said which guys were his pastors. Where were these guys when the Driscoll marriage was at its nadir?  Not at Mars Hill?  Was Driscoll not talking with these guys? If not why not? A pastor leads by explicit teaching and also by example.  What example through his life did Driscoll teach on these issues?  What failures in these men or in Driscoll existed that Driscoll of late has wrote, in Challies' reading at least, that Grace became Mark Driscoll's "functional pastor"? This example seems to contradict almost everything in "The Man".  It also makes Driscoll a hypocrite if he sticks to his guns about Justin Brierley.  It even makes him a bit of a hypocrite for not calling out Jakes on the subject of Paula White or women in ministry, doesn't it?

Even if there weren't a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus this would seem like something that complementarians who take that teaching should remain concerned about.  Of course by now Driscoll has extracted himself from The Gospel Coalition and whatever accountability he has, if Grace is really his "functional pastor" is a woman who, in Driscoll's interpretation of the Bible, seems to have to submit to him.  If the "functional pastor" Driscoll has chosen is obliged to submit to his authority and not the other way around then how could it get any clearer that the ideal form of accountability Driscoll seems to be seeking is pretty much an accountability that is accountable to him?  In that case Grace has been given a role that is incoherent and unacceptable given Driscoll's teaching on spiritual authority and submission in marriage. It's a relational double bind in which she has to submit to him and he submits to her ...

unless they just admit they have an egalitarian marriage and a complementarian church polity. Who knows, maybe the Driscolls have announced that already and I just didn't notice it?

Otherwise Driscoll and Brierley seem to be living in the same glass house in which Driscoll threw a very hefty stone.  The question of what forms of accountability are in place is a subject that we plan to return to.  There are some committees to eventually get to and a comparison of two sets of by-laws to the governmental structure indicated in 2012's announcement.  That, as you can well imagine, will take some time.  This is not bad because in the time it's taken to get to this a few people on the committees are not listed as employees or associates of the church.  Others who are still present will be familiar names.

today might be a good day to watch Singin' in the Rain

After all, Gene Kelly would have been 100 today.

The movie is worth watching anyway but, really, today might be a good time to watch a Gene Kelly movie.

Maybe not that one with Olivia Newton-John, though.

When I was in my teens I sang in the choir at my high school.  That was fun, though looking back the choir director had a penchant for ...schmaltz.  I don't regret singing motets by William Byrd, though, and that kinda offset singing stuff like "O my love's a red, red rose".  I'm never going to get over "Of Love", though.  Oh how I hated that piece.  I'm not going to sit down and rest for that treacle ever again if I can help it.

Where was I?  Ah, yes, well sometimes the choir director would put on musicals to entertain us kids while he graded papers or whatever.  Generally the selections were either Oklahoma or The Little Mermaid. Let's say I know a boy who spent a year in Oklahoma and he did not like it so much there excepting the time his dad took him and his brother to see The Empire Strikes Back.  That's a fond memory, though it's a fond memory that has no essential thing to do with the state. The musical is sorta meh.

Then there's that Disney princess, about which the less I write the nicer I'll be.  This was the beginning of the end for any artistic credibility Disney might have possibly had in my book.  Yes, they made mountains of money and began to announce every movie as they're newest masterpiece while a little studio called Pixar was in the works and Studio Ghibli was actually making masterpieces.

But those were the two options.  Joy.

So I hated musicals ardently in my teen years.  I resolved that there was nothing interesting or appealing about the whole awful genre.  If there ever was a bright golden haze on the meadow I don't recall that meadow actually being in Oklahoma, ever. And, again, the less I attempt to say anything about Ariel and her story the better.

In college I learned that there were, in fact, other musicals.  I knew of some other musicals but I'd never recalled them.  So I came across musicals from time to time over my life that I didn't mind watching.  As my brother once put it, "I'll watch The Sound of Music if children are present." No argument there.  Some fun songs but I don't own it.

The thing about an art form is that even if there's very little that you like in it, even if you hesitate to call something an art form, there's likely to be something so remarkable in its ingenuity, so deft in execution, and so resplendent with discipline as well as genuine sentiment and thought that you can say, "Well, that's okay." in your gruffest and crankiest mood.

Gene Kelly pulled that off with musicals.  Singin in the Rain was the musical that changed my mind about whether the entire genre of musical theater of film had any right to even exist.  Where DIsney's 1990s films got me to loathe the entire genre Gene Kelly's legendary film got me to concede that at some point in the distant past the genre produced some truly lovely film.  Having spent my teens determined that the musical was terrible the second DVD I ever bought in my life was Singin' in the Rain.  (The first was Zoolander.  You may disagree, but t's a funny movie, okay? David Bowie showing up out of nowhere for a walk-off is funny)

I can also admit that there were a couple of extenuating factors that got me to consider watching Kelly's most famous film.  One was that Jackie Chan and John Woo both admitted that Gene Kelly was one of their heroes.  The other, well, I was a guy in my earlier 20s and admit that seeing the film in the video library of a breath-takingly gorgeous woman did influence my judgment.

Years ago when a certain local theater got back in business I made a point of seeing the classic film.  It was not far from my home at the time.  So I went and saw it and quickly realized I was the only single person in the theater.  Don't read that as no one else was in the theater, read that as I was the only person in that entire theater who didn't have a date.  The movie was amazing and funny and beautiful and by the time I was ten minutes into the film I wasn't thinking about whether or not I had a date.  I went from my earlier view of hating musicals on principle to deciding that this one was great.

A crucial part of its greatness, for me, was that when the dancing started THE PLOT AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT DID NOT COME TO A SCREECHING HALT.  I get that songs are supposed to be moments for expressing the feelings of a character and all that but when those dance routines kicked in during that state movie I defy you to explain why some of those routines were in there.  Really, you can mount a defense but I ain't buying it (I don't own that movie even now, if you want proof).

Meanwhile, the dance routines in Gene Kelly's classic always did at least one or both of two things 1) uniquely express the character of the parties involved in the dance routine 2) played a role  in commenting on the NARRATIVE.  That huge sequence with "Broadway Melody", there was an actual story in there.  After the assault and battery of those other two musicals I was crying tears of joy just seeing a musical in which SOMETHING HAPPENED while the song and dance stuff kicked in.   I'd spent time like Crow T. Robot on Mystery Science Theater 3000 thinking, "For the love of God would something PLEASE JUST HAPPEN."  Singin in the Rain delivered. I own it and I love the film even though I am still not exactly what I'd call a big fan of musicals.  I've got a handful of them.  I've got Fiddler on the Roof, South Park, and Singin' in the Rain. You may note, if you've seen those musicals that the song and dance routines in those films also establish either points 1 or 2 or both.  When Cartman sings about what he thinks about Kyle's mom we're getting both, though the second doesn't hit Cartman until the very end of the song.

Now sometime, years later after first seeing Singin' in the Rain, I saw a documentary on Kelly's work on TV.  It was exceptionally late at night and I couldn't sleep so I just watched some TV hoping I might get sleepy.  That didn't happen but I saw a documentary in which Kelly, at some point, was asked what he most wanted to express and explore through his art.  He said the first was love and the second was joy.

Love and joy are not necessarily what this blog is read for, this I know.  You've probably seen me refer to Dostoesvsky and Batman and Solzhenitsyn way more often and that would be true.  This year's been a year of blogging about things like Roy Baumeister on sadism and abuse or Daniel Kahneman on heuristics, cognitive biases and the human brain's capacity for self-delusion.  It's not lost on me that probably 90 percent of the people who come read this blog are reading about Martian stuff.  That's why once in a while I set aside a week to blog only about things like an obscure Austrian composer of chamber music you've probably never heard of and will never listen to because he wrote a few sonatas for oboe and guitar.

But when I do blog about stuff for which I realize I get most of my traffic it may be necessary to clear something up.  Nobody in their right mind has a problem with love and joy being pursuits in life.  Life is, so the axiom has it, nasty, brutish and short.  To the extent that love and joy can be found in this life (even if we do not discuss the possibility of a next) it is a pursuit and consideration about which nearly all fighting occurs.  The fights occur about how and why this or that love or joy is pursued.  What love and joy do we choose to pursue and why, and what costs and sacrifices are we willing to accept in the pursuit of that love or joy?

Now here is where I, as I inevitably would this year, bring it back to Batman.  Sorry, I just went there. What appeals to me about Batman is that this is a guy who has seen the people he loved most killed right in front of him at the age of eight.  He's caught in a moment where he'll never get his parents back and they can't be replaced, he can't be with them even in death.  His thoughts turn to revenge but ultimately how he works out that thirst for vengeance is what makes him unique in superheroes.  By the time someone shrewdly determined that Batman doesn't kill we were shown a clearer insight into the character.  The villains Batman continually faces are all, in their way, pursuing their own ideas of love and joy.  See an earlier blog post this week where I refer to Roy Baumeister on power as a motivation in sadism.  Batman is Batman because he fights those people who pursue their ideas of love and joy predicated on what may be called human sacrifice.  Now lots of superheroes fight bad guys in that way.

What makes Batman distinct is that at a personal level he could have chosen to embrace the path of doing the same kind of vengeance his adversaries have.  He was also better financially and personally situated to exploit his standing in order to obtain those things.  Bruce Wayne may never be able to experience unalloyed joy or unmitigated love the way he dimly remembers those things as a child but he remembers them just clearly enough that he's willing to risk his own life to fight sociopaths like the Joker so that a bunch of people who may not even deserve his help do not have what joy or love they have taken from them.  It's okay to sacrifice yourself out of love for neighbor it's never okay to sacrifice your neighbor on the altar of your own dreams of greatness or legacy.  I suppose that gets at why I like Batman but what, if anything, does that have to do with Gene Kelly.

Love and joy, though all the more conspicuous by their apparent absence.  It doesn't mean they aren't ever there.

But they're easier to spot in a Gene Kelly movie.  And you might want to consider watching one today. :)

the new Phoenix Preacher is up

I don't know how many of you actually visit/ed the Rogue River down in Oregon but this post brought back some memories and, of course, provides an opportunity to "make your own application".  I'm glad to say that though I grew up in Oregon I managed to avoid living in certain parts of Oregon when flodding hit in the previous century.

Anyway, it's good to have Michael back.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Slate: Pitchforck's People's List indicates indie rock is white, tedious, and male

How's that for a deliberately tendentious blog post title?

Here's the list:

And here's the amusing rant:

Even if we accept the inevitable narrowness of such an undertaking—even if we concede that, in a poll of indie-rock devotees, 24 albums by black people out of 200 is a pretty solid showing—even on its own parallel-universe Pitchforkian terms, the results are an embarrassment.

I’m referring to the list’s gender breakdown. If I’m not mistaken, there are just 23 records by women artists in the top 200, and only two in the top 50. And that’s a generous count, making room for co-ed acts like The xx, Beach House, and Portishead. Again, we can look to the self-selecting voting base. According to Pitchfork’s own stats, 88% of the poll respondents were men. “The Dudes’ List” might have been a more accurate title.

Still—what the hell is wrong with these dudes? Did it escape their attention that for much of the past decade and a half, female artists have had a stranglehold on the popular music zeitgeist? Have they never heard of Missy Elliott? Can they really prefer The National to M.I.A.’s Kala, to Bjork’s Homogenic, to Joanna Newsom’s Ys? Where are politics in all of this? If you surveyed the roughly 24,600 men who submitted “People’s List” ballots, I wager you’d find nearly 100 percent espousing progressive views on gender issues. This would not be the case if you took a similar survey of pop, R&B, or country music fans—yet a “People’s List” of top recordings in those genres from 1996-2011 with a similar gender breakdown is unimaginable. The fact is, when it comes to the question of women and, um, art, the Top 40’s great unwashed—and even red state Tea Party partisans—are far more progressive and inclusive than the mountain-man-bearded, Fair Trade espresso-swilling, self-styled lefties of indiedom. Portlandia, we have a problem.

Well in these parts I swoon to Hilary Hahn's Charles Ives recordings and I think Bjork's Vespertine is one of the best albums made in the last eleven years. I hardly ever get rock or pop albums of any kind but I did get Third by Portishead. Radiohead ... dude ... I don't really get what people think is so great about a Pinkfloyd knock-off that managed to pick up bits of Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman.  If you actually like Radiohead then, okay, knock yourself out.

And to this day, even as a Weezer fan, I have no idea why people think Pinkerton is the best stuff they did.

Of course I don't for a moment consider a rant on Slate about pop music to be a serious thing, just as I have stopped thinking of Slate as being all that careful about background research after seeing how they linked to something I blogged without having read (evidently) a single word of it.

But I'll keep reading Slate if only for Anne Applebaum.  

Who wrote Ecclesiastes and why would it matter?

Over the years I ended up hearing a few sermons on Ecclesiastes.  At the time I heard the sermons I thought they were pretty good and generally well-informed.

I no longer think that.  One of the most basic questions about the book of Ecclesiastes is who wrote it and the case that Solomon wrote the book near the end of his life as he was repenting of his apostasy doesn't add up.

It happens I read Martin Shields' The End of Wisdom this summer, his commentary on Ecclesiastes (HT Jim West).  Shields points out that while traditionally Ecclesiastes was credited to Solomon there are some significant internal problems in the text for establishing this claim.  There are two kings in the Davidic dynasty recorded as having made contributions to the wisdom literature/wisdom movement--Solomon and Hezekiah (see Proverbs 25:1 where it mentions that Hezekiah had proverbs of Solomon copied).

The trouble is that Ecclesiastes 1:16 reads

I thought to myself, "Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge."

If this was really Solomon then he had just two predecessors, Saul and David.  Now even if we grant the proposal that this reflects a standard formula found in royal self-promoting propaganda it's a short list.  Still, if it is "just" a formulaic statement of the sort we'd expect in royal propaganda then Solomon might be identifiable.  It would have been highly implausible for Hezekiah to have made such a claim for himself.

But then, as Shields points out, there's Ecclesiastes 1:12

I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem.

Now some translations render the passage as saying "have been king". The indication, Shields points out, seems to be that whoever wrote Ecclesiastes was king over Israel in Jerusalem but was not so at the time of writing the book (or by the time the editor compiled the material. significantly more on this later). The trouble is that there is simply no evidence that Solomon or Hezekiah abdicated.  There is also no hugely compelling evidence, I might add, to explain from just the canonical texts that Solomon ever had a late-in-life case of repentance.  In addition to a possible explanation of "more than anyone" being a royal formula "son of David" was not necessarily a given as being taken at a completely literal level either, for all we do and don't know about the text.  Shields suggests that how we interpret the text will not necessarily depend on having to identify Koholeth with a specific historical figure and that by now even most conservative scholars have not attempted to identify Koholeth with Solomon.

There's a distinct lack of actual historical references in Ecclesiastes that presents another problem for dating and identification of the author. It has been common among scholars (less conservative ones) to propose a post-exilic authorship.  Shields points out that a large chunk of Ecclesiastes 5 includes instructions about temple behavior and Ecclesiastes 8 includes advice about conduct in the royal court that would be completely useless if the material only reflects post-exilic concerns.  If Ecclesaistes was written in a post-exilic setting it had to have been in a setting where the author expected readers to play roles as court functionaries to a king of some kind for which the advice in Ecclesiastes 8 would actually be relevant.  

Shields presents an interesting and persuasive (to me) case that Ecclesiastes can be thought of as a kind of Pentagon papers of a wisdom movement.  In the canon we get Proverbs but we get Job and Ecclesiastes as correctives.  I had come to this conclusion years before discovering Shields' commentary but I admit it's a relief to discover at least one biblical scholar laying out this case formally.  It is not a given that the ideas expressed by Koholeth in Ecclesiastes are orthodox and this is another problem with a traditional view that Solomon was writing this book as he was repenting of stuff.  If that was the case the actual text of most of Ecclesiastes makes that impossible to sustain but that will require other blog posts.

When "Worship" is Wrong--conference Christians--and a quest for influence, glory or power

Chaplain Mike quotes from Skye Jethani's blog entry here:

 A University of Washington study has found that megachurch worship experiences actually trigger an “oxytocin cocktail” in the brain that can become chemically addictive. The same has been found at large sporting events and concerts, but attenders to these gatherings don’t usually attribute the “high” to God.

I'm going to quote from another segment:

... This pursuit of transformation by consuming external experiences creates worship junkies who leap from one mountaintop to another, one spiritual high to another, in search of a glory that will not fade. As one church member interviewed for the University of Washington study said, “God’s love becomes … such a drug that you can’t wait to come get your next hit. … You can’t wait to get involved to get the high from God.” In response, churches are driven to create ever-grander experiences and more elaborate productions to satisfy expectations. But if lasting transformation is our goal, mountaintops–even God-ordained ones–will never suffice.

The problem, of course, is not our gatherings, but what we expect from them. If we have an ongoing, internal communion with Christ, then our gatherings will be where we reveal the continual worship that marks our lives. However, if we have no real communion with Christ through his Spirit, we will come to worship seeking a transient dose of glory to carry us along, and we will demand these external events to permanently transform us–something God never intended them to do. We may draw people to our mountaintops with promises of transformation and a genuine encounter with God, but we must ask whether they leave these experiences radiating the unfading glory of the Lord, or merely sprouting the horns of consumerism.

Having spoken at conferences for various groups over the years, I’m amazed that the faces of attendees are starting to get familiar. Such conference Christians somehow make the rounds between seemingly all the big events. I have literally had a photo taken with some people at five or six different conferences in a single year. These are usually single white guys from decent families who treat preaching the way other guys do porn—obsessed with it and devoting hours to it every day. Here are my concerns with conference Christians:

Now that's a significant point but when a pastor is part of a church that puts on a huge show. 

As I see it, conference Christians really only have three options. One, they can repent of attending too many conferences and pour themselves out as servants in a local church rather than consumers at yet another conference. Two, they can continue to attend conferences but mainly for the purpose of growing as a humble servant-leader with new passions and ideas to implement in their local church. Three, they can now start discussing why they disagree with this critique, which will give them something to do until conference season kicks up again in the fall.

Once again, though, the options are not comprehensive. The burden is on the conference Christians.  The idea that some people withdraw from conference activity didn't come up.  The trouble with this approach is more than simply finding the addict to be morally failing and in need of repentance (though repentance arguably being necessary is something we could agree on).  The trouble can be summed up a bit more like this, if you and your associates accept their money anyway whether or not you personally invest in determining whether or not these people are conference junkies couldn't you be part of the problem?  

Framing it only in terms of the emotional high or hit the seeker seeks ignores the level at which the production side seeks to create an experience where people can "enter in".  

I'm going to risk suggesting that if the conference Christian or the "encounter" church attender is hooked on an experience that the conference building set and the "encounter" building church are equally hooked on something.  What?  A feeling of power and glory.  Now, bear with me, I'm going on another limb here.  When Mark Driscoll wrote that he found it troubling that he'd spoken at enough conferences that he could recognize faces he was sharing what he considered to be a problem.  The problem?  That he was able to recognize faces.  From a purely business standpoint there should be no perceived crisis at all.  After all, Driscoll and the other conference speakers have been paid already.  

So what's the problem?  Driscoll says the reason conference Christians are a crisis is ... :

They give the impression that there is a growing upsurge in passionate young evangelicals. This is particularly true when you see large crowds at various Reformed events, such as those put on by Desiring God, Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, Resurgence, Acts 29, Sovereign Grace, 9Marks, and so forth. However, if a decent percentage of those attendees are in fact conference Christians simply touring around like Deadheads used to, then we’ve got more of a crisis than an upsurge. [emphasis added]

The crisis may be described, then, as an inflationary bubble with respect to the appearance of influence. Conference Christians present a crisis because if they're conference junkies who keep spending money to attend teaching by their favorite Christian luminaries then this means that Driscoll begins to recognize faces and this suggests an insular self-reinforcing bubble rather than an expanding influence that is transforming culture for Jesus. 

A crisis of this sort doesn't emotionally resonate with me, though I can intellectually grasp it.  If I were to attempt to explain the nature of the crisis conference Christians could present, and if I were to attempt to explain at the other end what the push for creating worship that lets the people "enter in" have in common it would be power.

A crisis of conference Christians would be the inflationary bubble suggesting the conferences are having more real cultural influence than they actually have.  The conference scene won't stop taking the money of conference Christians, though, but they can make conference Christians feel inadequate and unspiritual by not submitting to local authorities along the way. This may prompt them to go join an actual local church that has nothing to do with the conference scene but it may also inspire people to feel, for sure, that God has called them to go participate in God's amazing mission in effect at the church in which one of the conference speakers is preaching and teaching.  How would Driscoll imagine that I and thousands of others ended up at Mars Hill if not for that?  

What is at bottom for all these experiences, good or bad, is power.  Power and influence is the goal. Conferences are given so as to influence, guide, and inspire the masses one has at one's disposal.  These are the people who are on mission enough to pay you to tell them what the mission is.  Let's not kid ourselves.  In the United States you certainly don't pay from your own money to be part of a voluntary society that has nothing to do with your goals, hopes or dreams.  So if I pay money to be part of a music society I'm showing that music is something I value.  When I tithe to a church I'm expressing confidence in the work and beliefs of that community.  Now it hasn't been a good few years for me to invest in either music societies or churches, unfortunately, but I've got the voluntary part covered and may God grant me the blessings to eventually put some money there, too.

Now you may be wondering why I have framed this all in terms of a quest for power.  It's simple, because it's the case.  When a guy like Driscoll is concerned that he's actually recognizing faces on the conference scene and considers that a reason to write about the crisis of conference Christians it seems he wants the conference scene to have so many people that he doesn't recognize faces.  The crisis is that instead of an upsurge there's a group of "Deadheads".  This is a crisis about whether or not the conferences are having the right kind of influence, which is about power. 

On the subject of power as a motivator I can't improve on Roy Baumeister's explanation from his book Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty.  (from pages 244-245)

The need for power is essentially the motivation to have an impact on other people. Power, intimacy, and achievement were the three main motives that garnered the attention of researchers during the glory days of motive psychology. Achievement involves the wish to do better and succeed at tasks. Intimacy involves forming close emotional connections with other people, based on mutual understanding and caring. Power refers to having an impact on other people, for better or worse. Each motive has its own hell. The achievement seeker is miserable when he or she fails at a task. The intimacy seeker is miserable when he or she is unable to form a close, mpositive connection with one or two other people. The power seeker is miserable when he or she fails to have a strong effect on people. To be ignored, to be treated as irrelevant, to believe that one's own presence and actions make hardly any difference in what others do--these are the experiences that upset and frustrate people who have a high need for power. [emphasis added]

Pretty eloquent, no?  If tons of people are going to conferences but they're all the same people then there's a lack of influence.  Conversely, if tons of people attend the church services and they are not emotionally stirred up enough to clap or sing along then the worship service, music, and all that is powerless to emotionally move them.  

Baumeister has a few more things to say that seem relevant. (ibid.)

Thus, power is a matter of eliciting responses from others. Of course power may be sought as ameans to an end, such as if someone wants to be elected president to carry out some reform or change. But power is also sought as an end in itself. Powerful people find validation in seeing others change their actions because of them. Power may be used to help or to thurt others, but the goal is to produce an effect. To be powerless is to live among people who go on about their business exactly as they would if you were not there. Rape, sexual harassment, and even children's teasing can also be understood in terms of power motivation.

Again, eloquent, simple and to the point.  For those motivated by the pursuit and use of power to have no effect is to be miserable. Conference Christians and mountain-top junkies may be addicted to the power-and-glory experiences they get at those services but it is arguably just as much the addiction of those who keep putting on those conferences (if catalyzing and empowering cultural transformation is their goal rather than sharing academic and cultural resources like musical and scholastic and industrial societies do).  In contrast to intimacy, power is something that does not require any meaningful personal connection.  In contrast to achievement power does not actually demand the refinement of competency.  Unlike achievement, the motivation of power requires someone else, just as the motivation of seeking intimacy does. As Baumeister puts it: 

Power is thus an interpersonal motive, not a solitary pursuit. As the political scientist Hans Morgenthau argued in a famous essay, power and love may spring from the same root of loneliness. Love seeks to unite people by dissolving the boundary between them, so that they may merge into one. Power likewise merges two into one, but it does so by imposing the will of one on the other. The power seeker wants to connect with others, but the connection is sought in order to have an impact on those people so that they change their actions. [all emphases added]

Power is not inherently bad. Indeed, someone might find a very satisfying exercise of power in giving money to people, because the money will make a big difference in their lives. The leaders of large philanthropical organizations, for example, probably do not get much satisfaction of either their  achivement or their intimacy needs in their work, because giving money to needy people neither creates close and lasting bonds nor produces direct successess. Such individuals probably do get immense satisfaction in power terms, however, because the money they give makes a huge difference in the recipients' lives. [emphasis added] The distribution of charity is a very positive, beneficial, and socially desirable way of exercising power. 

So when a Christian hooked on emotional highs from worship that is "annointed" doesn't like the music or the worship experience; when a Christian who speaks at conferences where he is dismayed to find he's recognizing faces over and over; when a Christian in a church setting laments that there's no emotional response to the kickin' worship band or the preaching these are all laments that the person isn't getting the buzz they want, they're not feeling the power, intimacy or achievement they were hoping to get out of the proceedings.  To put it in suitably Reformed lingo both the conference attenders and the conference speakers may have an idol of power. 

Now the thing is neuroscience has established that religious experiences do involve an altered state in the brain.  We should be cautious in taking seriously every critique of seeking religious experiences, especially from religious leaders.  Not everyone who seeks power wants to use it for evil, even though that will be the rhetorical assumption made by many on this topic. Those people will not be so cynical about how all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely when they seek a raise at their job or look for better-paying work or work that has better medical benefits or what have you.  The rouble with cynicism of this sort is that it is the sort of self-exonerating special pleading that allows us to be the same sorts of people we pretend we aren't like.  Everyone wants at least a little power in and over their lives even if it is not the chief motivation for all of us.  Neither the mountains nor the valleys last in our spiritual and emotional lives.  We become unsatisfied with the level of our achievements; begin to feel stasis in the level of our intimacies; and begin to succumb to downward grading ourselves on a scale of power.  As Koholeth put it in Ecclesiastes the eye never has enough of seeing nor the ear of hearing and he who loves money never has money enough. 

By extension, whoever loves power and influence will never have enough of either. Whoever loves legacy can't have legacy enough.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mars Hill Church Pastor Tim Beltz and qualifications for executive eldership under pre-11-07-2007 by-laws

Section C
The executive elder team shall consist of men who meet the following criteria in addition to the qualifications and duties of an elder outlined in Article I:
* The elder must be a full-time employee of Mars Hill Church
* The elder must have served as an elder for at least one year [emphasis added]
* The elder must nominate himself for consideration to be a member of the executive elder team
* The elder must receive a two-thirds vote of approval by all elders
* If more than seven men meet these criteria, then those seven men receiving the highest number of votes will be accepted
* If there is a tie among two or more men for the seventh seat on the lead elder team, a new vote will be taken by all elders (on only the seventh position) with the man receiving the highest vote total being appointed to the lead elder team.

In October 2007, Tim was ordained at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA and served as the executive pastor until November 2010 when he became pastor of operations. [emphasis added] As executive pastor, his responsibilities included overseeing the financial, HR, legal, technology and capital programs for the church. He transitioned off staff July 2011 and now serves as an unpaid elder at MHC West Seattle and as a member of the MHC Board of Elders. Tim is a faculty member at the MHC Re:Train program and regularly presents workshops at regional and national executive pastor seminars and conferences.

Tim has extensive executive experience in the non-profit, public and private sectors...7 years as a CEO and 8 years as a COO. From 2003-2007 he was the executive vice president and COO of CRISTA Ministries, a North Seattle-based Christian organization of nearly 2,000 employees and a $170M annual budget...the 2nd largest non-profit in the state. [emphasis added]

There are two basic questions here.  First, for how long was Tim Beltz employed as a pastor at Mars Hill when he nominated himself to be an executive elder?  In order to be an executive elder he had to have been a pastor for a year before nominating himself.   Second, was Tim Beltz a full-time employee of Mars Hill Church at the time he nominated himself?

According to the by-laws in effect before November 1, 2007 an executive elder had to be a full-time employee of Mars Hill Church.  He also had to have served as an elder for at least one year.  Prior to being an executive elder at Mars Hill Tim Beltz was Chief Operations Officer at CRISTA Ministries.  When was he going to have found time to have been a full-time employee of Mars Hill Church?  He could have conceivably been an elder for a year up to that point but nowhere does Beltz say he was a pastor at Mars Hill prior to immediately becoming an executive elder.  Was Beltz aware that the by-laws of the time made it impossible for him to just jump straight into being executive elder out the gate?

Tim Beltz has a diverse background with 7 years experience as a CEO and 9 years as a COO in leading military, business, and non-profit organizations ranging in size from 8 local staff to 1,900 spread around the world. Since 2006, he founded and operates 10 Talents Consulting.

He currently serves as the Executive Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington - one of the fastest growing and most innovative mega churches within the United States. He oversees Human Resources, Finance, Legal, Technology, Logistics and campus launch functions.

Prior to that, he served as the COO of CRISTA Ministries, a large faith-based and multi-faceted organization in Shoreline, Washington, where he oversaw the operations of 10 ministries and Human Resources. [emphasis added] Tim also served 25 years in the US Coast Guard where he attained the rank of O-6, commanded multiple units and served as the Special Assistant to the US Secretary of Transportation.

Again, you can't be the Chief Operations Officer at CRISTA Ministries and oversee the operations of 10 ministries as well as human resources in a ministry that size while being a full-time employee at Mars Hill Church.  Now if he quit his job and were a full-time employee, okay.

Now on July 30, ,2006 Mark Driscoll preached the sermon "One Body, Many Parts" and discussed how through CRISTA Mars Hill got a fantastic rent-free deal to use Schirmer Auditorium. Tim Beltz was Chief Operations Officer of CRISTA at that time. 

Now in Driscoll's account of Beltz joining in "The Rebel's Guide to Joy in Humility" Beltz proposed to work 50 hours a week for six months free of charge.  He also proposed to quit his well-paying job, shut down most of his consulting business, and nominate himself for eldership.  He also agreed to submit to Jamie Munson and work for free for six months.  Whether or not the first and second six month sequence counted as one year of being a pastor would be something others can clarify.  Perhaps that counted?

But the by-laws stated that to be eligible for executive eldership the man had to be a full-time employee of the church.  Working 50 hours a week for free wouldn't really count, would it?  The man also has to have been a pastor for at least a year BEFORE being eligible so Beltz couldn't have been working fifty hours a week for free at MH while still being Chief Operations Officer for CRISTA. Nobody can do that.  What Driscoll describes as being pretty neat had absolutely no way of conforming to the by-laws that were still in effect prior to November 1, 2007.

Of course Driscoll preached "Joy in Humility" November 4, 2007 just after those newer by-laws got approved.  But when Beltz was ordained in October 2007 as an executive elder it would have been impossible for him to be have been regarded as qualified at that point based on what the by-laws required.  If it were possible perhaps someone can explain that. It would have been impossible for Beltz to have done the six months of free work and working for free would not have made him an employee qualified to be self-nominating into an executive elder role.  Retroactively crediting a year's time of pastoring at Mars Hill just wouldn't have worked.  It may have been what was applied to Beltz after the Munson-drafted by-laws were passed but those were not the by-laws in force when Beltz was ordained.

It's not clear whether there were at least four executive elders in place in September 2007 at the point when Mars Hill made a bid on Tabella of some kind.  There may, in fact, have only been two executive elders in place at the time. It is also not clear how Tim Beltz could have qualified to be an executive elder in October 2007 pretty much instantly.  He'd attended Mars Hill for about four years and that while Chief Operations Officer at CRISTA Ministries.  Who brokered the rent-free access Mars Hill got to Schirmer Auditorium?  Driscoll never seems to have answered that question.  It was cool to share about getting rent-free access to Schirmer and it was cool to mention that Tim Beltz became an executive elder in 2007 in "Joy in Humility" but it does matter who brokered that rent-free deal.  Was Tim Beltz in any way involved in that rent-free deal?

On what basis was Beltz qualified under the by-laws in force at the time to be an executive elder in October 2007? We know he nominated himself but who told him that under the by-laws in force at that time that he was in any way qualified? If Beltz was told by someone he was qualified to be an executive elder in 2007 we don't know who made that case, but in 2006-2007 Beltz might not have been the only man who got the idea to nominate himself when he may not have been considered completely qualified, yet, to be a pastor at MHC at the time of his self-nomination.  

Solemnly stating what is and isn't permitted members of Mars Hill in a membership covenant only works if the covenant gets enforced in a clear and consistent manner.  For instance, if a person were a member of Mars Hill Church in any capacity and a pastor at some other church that would be a problem.  It would be a breach of the MHC member covenant.  Is it the case in even one instance?  If it were then it could establish a question of consistency and application regarding the membership covenant.

Lengthy statements from a church about all the checks and balances in place and having by-laws are only meaningful and reassuring if there's an established record of the institution actually operating in conformity to those by-laws and if those checks and balances mean something.  In the cases of Mars Hill Church purchasing Tabella and Tim Beltz being installed, it seems, immediately as an executive elder at Mars Hill Church in October 2007 without pre-amble, it's not clear that the by-laws were being observed at that time.