Saturday, January 05, 2013

HT Mockingbird: Link: In a Crisis Humanists Seem Absent

“You can’t just be talking about cowboy individualists anymore,” Dr. Ray said. “We have to get out of this mentality we’ve been in over the past 50 years of just saying how stupid religion is. We have to create our own infrastructure.”
Mr. Epstein is currently involved in a three-year, $2.5-million project to study, develop and spread the concept of nonreligious community. But he believes that better organizing must be accompanied by better messaging.
Fair enough.  What alternative forms of community there are to religious community tend to bracket into other realms of life like national identity, family association, political ideals and sports teams.  Alternative infrastructures may already exist, in fact, but they may not exist in forms that can be easily or readily recognized as distinctly secularist. 
On the other side of the divide it's possible evangelicalism has had the same problem in the last fifty years of being significantly better known by what they are against and not also what they're for.  Evangelicals, however, very obviously have some options to explicate what they are for precisely because they're Christians.  A Christian may forget what he or she is for in the midst of politicking but it's possible to remember.  Secularists are not necessarily in the same position.  They may not be able to remember what they are for because the "for" hasn't been formed yet, the infrastructures, as Dr. Ray put it, aren't necessarily there at this point.

It probably won't be easy to make them, either, because infrastructures that provide support and meaning won't be less apt to harm or corral people simply for lacking religion.  It's not like communism posited the existence of any deities, for instance, and insisting that oppressive communism was oppresive because it was treated like a religion proposes that it's possible to have a religious approach in the absence of any deity.  If that's the case, though, then does it mean anything to say that religion poisons things or could it be just as possible that certain types of people poison religion or communism?  It can become a chicken and egg situation quickly.

Orthocuban link 2: Basil on sex outside marriage


Canon 69 addresses only the Reader. Why only him? Because it is assumed that a deacon or priest will have been married before they are ordained. This canon made me grin, although fornication is a serious subject. You see, the canon differentiates between fornication after betrothal, and simple fornication with a woman with which the Reader has no other relationship. The treatment of the Reader who is betrothed is breathtakingly light. Let him be apart from the ministry for a year is giving him just enough time to finish the betrothal period, be married, and to have a couple of months of marriage under his belt. You can almost hear Saint Basil sigh about betrothed couples who could not wait. There is an almost charming pastoral approach to this.
However, notice in that canon and the other canons, that should a Reader, a Deacon, or a “minister” be involved in fornication outside a betrothal, they are deposed and removed for life. They are still allowed to receive communion, as their deposition is already such a severe punishment that to also remove them from communion would be too harsh. Nevertheless, there is no give in Saint Basil when he writes about fornication outside of either cohabitation or betrothal. Note that the person cohabitating may still serve a multi-year penalty, but it is not a lifetime or prohibitive penalty. I say "may still serve” a penalty because it is not fully clear (without more study on my part) as to whether Saint Basil would have treated the cohabiting couple more like the Reader and his betrothed or more like a simple fornicator.
The person who serves the least penalty is he who commits fornication with his betrothed. And his only penalty is to not be allowed to serve “up front” until after his marriage. Most of us today would agree with that very light approach toward engaged couples who fall into that particular type of sexual sin. It is not that we approve of fornication in any way. Rather, it is with a sigh and a recognition of how often (even back when) an engaged couple gave in to temptation. It obviously happened often enough, even among those ordained to minor orders, to need a canon written about it.
It's not surprising that Basil observed that once betrothed a lot of people just didn't wait. That doesn't mean they shouldn't have waited, but it could mean, as Steve Hays over at Triablogue mentioned about OT case law, that case law deals with situations common enough to develop a law for.  The potential application to canon law may be similar, though of course I'd defer to my Orthodox friends and associates as to whether or not I've accurately inferred this. 

Orthocuban on the fact that there have been more American soldier suicides than combat deaths in 2012

Orthocuban proposes two reasons why the declaration of hostilities in the wake of 9/11 was problematic.  Had formal war been declared the Geneva convention codes would be considered applicable.  If a nation wanted to retaliate militarily but not do so in a way that would be considered obliged to Geneva codes a semi-war could be declared. 

The clarity of objectives could be in doubt which Orhocuban explains becomes the second problem, not simply that the war is not as formally declared a war as it needed to be but because at length American soldiers who want confidence that they went into the right conflict for the right reasons can't withstand having killed or shot at.

... But, the second reason for its being a mistake is the suicide rate listed above. We have a set of conflicts without a clear explanation as to why we are there and when that commitment ends. This is bad enough for us here, but it is horribly worse for those who have to serve in foreign countries, killing others and waiting to be killed. You see American soldiers are mostly moral, and they think morally.
And the major problem is that for an American soldier to kill or be killed, s/he needs to believe that they are doing what is moral. When there is no declared war, when there is no clear reason to why we are somewhere—regardless, of what Limbaugh, Beck, etc., say—, when there is no clear “leaving” strategy, then the morality of what you are involved in is called into question. And, when your morality is called into question, your internal moral compass is thrown into disarray. And when that happens …
I haven't linked to anything from Orthocuban in a while so it seemed like something to link to. 

Thursday, January 03, 2013

O Gracious Light: a song over at Chad and Keisha story

I realize that nearly all of you would have no idea who Chad and Keisha are. But some of you who are regular readers of this blog and share some history with us will know instantly who Chad and Keisha are.  I don't always link to or mention all the blogs I follow (which anyone could notice from the conspicuous absence of a blogroll, eh?).  Well, dear readers, Keisha posted a song I enjoyed both for its text and because the music nerd in me can't resist using it as an example to explain one of my favorite bits of harmonic theory.  Yeah, it's just that kind of blog. Besides, Keisha's posted a lot of sweet songs and it seems good tonight to finally link to one and discuss it at least a little.

O Gracious Light is a song Keisha posted early last December.  It's a nice short song suitable for Advent. It has a neat doo-whop vibe to it

Being the composer and musical nerd that I am I can't help but praise her deft use of chromatic mediant chords as secondary leading tone chords.  She opens with B major and shifts to E flat major which then goes to E major.  Thus my earlier comment about secondary leading tone chords, except that the chord isn't a diminished chord (i.e. the usual leading tone triad) but a full-bore major triad.  In the instrumental tag at the end she shifts back and forth from G major to A flat major and back to G major, the two chromatic submediants available in B major, whose normal submediant chord would be G sharp minor. 

Nicely done, Keisha.  I hope you, Chad and the kids are all doing well.  :)

Acts 6: ad hoc ecclesiology and dealing with injustice in the church
Acts 6:1-7
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews[a] among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
It's providential that Steve over at Triablogue discussed this passage of scripture recently.  I'd been planning for weeks to blog about this topic as it was the text for a sermon I heard last year that's stuck with me.  Acts 6 is often presented as a narrative in which we get the first deacons.  Maybe, but we're not told that in such explicit terms as to make that beyond all doubt.  What we can observe is that the situation was a case of systemic neglect that was brought to the attention of the twelve.  What did Peter and the Twelve do?  They summoned everyone and said that it wouldn't be right that they give up preaching to serve tables.  BUT at no point did they deny there was a problem, and a very serious problem. 

What was the problem?  The neglect of Hellenist widows in the food distribution.  To more fully appreciate the significance of neglecting widows as a sign of a failure in Christian practice go look at 1 Timothy 5.  There Paul wrote that if a man would not care for and provide for his own family that he had denied the faith and become worse than an unbeliever.  This was not about your wife and kids at all, dear reader, it was about a widowed mother.  If a man felt no obligation to care for his widowed mother then he was in fact worse than the pagans, pretty much all of whom would agree that your momma kept you from starving to death so you ought to do right by her in her old age.  So let's just run with the idea that the neglect of widows was a given as a substantial economic and social problem that gets discussed at various points in the OT and NT. 

Let's notice that this neglect of the Hellenistic widows happened in the apostolic church no less.  For those who may have had a church background in which the NT church was the great example back toward which we hoped revival might bring us (any Pentecostals, for instance, heard that one?) this story is a sobering reminder that there was never a golden age.  Neglect of a people group that didn't fit the common language happened even in the midst of the explosive growth of the early Church. 

The neglect was likely not intentional but that did not make it less unjust or less dangerous for the long-term health of the early Christian community.  Partiality whether by active bias or unobserved neglect would harm everyone eventually. 

So the Twelve are presented with the fact that there was a complaint, that the Hellenistic widows were neglected.  What was their response?  It's true they said that it was not good that they should wait until tables when they could preach the word.  But notice what they didn't say, "This isn't really a problem."  The Twelve did not deny that a significant injustice was happening.  How do we know?  They advised that seven men be appointed to deal with the problem.  Seven men who the church was to appoint who were of good repute.  This might come across like a case in which Peter, the first pope, was part of a committee that came up with a surprisingly Baptist solution to a systemic injustice in the apostolic church.  The congregation should appoint a committee and those guys should tackle the problem. 

Now some scholars have proposed that Luke's account of the early Church is idealized, particularly where Paul's relationship to other apostles was concerned, and so "if" we go there on that matter then Luke's observation that a systemic injustice was happening months or years after Pentecost becomes even more significant.  Even if we assumed the Lukan account of the early Church in Acts was whitewashed or idealized in some way this problem still shows up.  What can we make of that?

Well, the simplest point would be to observe that no matter how amazing you think your church is there will come a day when there is an injustice in it.  That's the simplest observation.  It won't matter if it's a big old institutional church or maybe an informal gathering of guys around a fire.  Maybe an injustice would be a termination.  Maybe an injustice would be a guy leveraging the term "Christian" as a way to drum up business when his work on its own might not merit recommendation.  Whatever it may be at some point your church is going to fail in the justice department and that failure may be unintentional or intentional.  As a certain guy might put it, if the church runs into trouble even when it was being directly supervised by guys who wrote books of the Bible .... you can't expect your church to be less susceptible to developing a culture in which injustice and inequality incubates.  Not that we know for sure that that guy would ever concede to that point for his church, mind you, but if he were talking about some other church he might make that point.  ;)

Neglect of the widows gives us some insight into how to understand what an injustice would be.  For instance, an injustice would be a minority being sidelined by another group.  Widows might not have been a majority in themselves and could have been a minority but within that minority there were subsets and one of these subsets was being overlooked in the distribution. 

Let's diverge for a moment into the topic of music, a topic near and dear to the heart of Wenatchee the Hatchet.  Let's suppose that there was a church somewhere with a popular church musician, well-liked and long-standing in a given role in the congregation.  Everyone who'd been around any length of time knew the songs and knew the material.  All was well, right?  Well ... maybe not altogether well.  What if new people came, people who had never heard this type of music before.  In a church with some liturgical elements the old school would easily follow everything but newcomers might be lost.  What about people with disabilities?  If a newcomer had a disability of some kind and showed up late what if there were no worship notes?  That person would be stuck spending pretty much the entire service not being able to really participate in what the congregation was doing, which would be of no significance to all the old-school folks who knew all the material backwards and forwards.  Music in the church is a small thing in many ways compared to the neglect of widows, obviously, but by analogy ...

Suppose leaders decided the musical style had to change because it became apparent it was not helping everyone actually participate in congregational worship?  that might go over badly for all the people loyal to the popular church musician and such a decision would hurt.  But, on the other hand, the musician was popular enough to eventually get session work and the change facilitated some additional congregational activity.  Any church musician who's been a professional will realize that your job is to serve the congregation first and if that happens to let you strut your sutff then okay.  But you can't forget that your first aim is to help the congregation worship God.  There have been, can be, and will be times when the inertia of a popular musical idiom can trump congregational activity.  Does anyone remember the bit where Protestants began to work toward vernacular worship in contrast to Latin? 

Well, changing things would help newcomers and folks with disabilities ... but the change might prove very unpopular with folks who thought things were just fine the way they were.  The change would be seen as a terrible injustice to people who might not for a second imagine that they are actually the ones in a place of privilege and convenience with respect to a church tradition and that if they were in the position of the newcomer, the outsider, or the disabled person that their own comfort and luxury would be what made the other person unable to participate in the congregation during a chuch service.

Now as the deployment of terms like social justice go in congregationial activity who would a church have a greater vested interest or obligation to help more fully and directly participate in the life and work of the church together?  The comfortable insider or the awkward newcomer, maybe the one unable to follow?  The answer is, I admit, a bit rhetorical.  People translate sermons into sign language for the deaf, for instance.  People invest in audio systems to help teaching and participation become more easily heard across a room.  Music often gets calibrated down to the lowest common denominator not to be insulting to musicians or musical taste but because if you're really good you can be humble enough to enjoy doing the simple that helps everyone and not just the difficult that impresses everyone (or almost everyone, there might be some musicians in the crowd who could have different ideas ... but you know how that goes).

Now music is hardly what we'd normally have in mind if we were talking about the church addressing an inequality but there was a time when the language of worship was actually a very big deal in the life of local and regional churches.  If you don't know Greek you might want to skip the Greek Orthodox church and go for a Russian Orthodox church if you're inclined to be Eastern Orthodox.  The Antiochian might be the best option if you want vernacular liturgy.  Yet notice that even within the Orthodox tradition you're not tethered down to having the liturgy and service in just one language.  Now we could try to get all Spock about this and say the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and there'd be weight to that but as Hellenistic widows among the widows go the needs of the few have to be considered as part of the needs of the many.  Their neglect signifies an injustice of omission in a church that is no less serious in the long run than outright oppression.

Well, back to injustice of the neglecting widows sort.  The Twelve did continue to preach and teach but they entrusted to the people the appointment of qualified men for the task of making sure the Hellenist widows were not neglected in the daily distribution.  That meant there was something around already for the daily distribution but that what was in place had a neglect built into it.  In other words the injustice within the the early Church came about because of a flaw in the very thing that had been set up to deal with a problem, the care of widows in the community.  It was once this daily distribution had been set up to solve a general problem that a specific injustice took shape.

The injustice that happens in your church or my church may paradoxically come about precisely because of how someone goes about solving what they consider to be a problem.

So if the Twelve hear that there is a complaint that the Hellenist widows were getting neglected in the daily distribution, if they were hearing complaints of an injustice within the church, what would the Twelve sya or do if they thought and behaved as we do?  Is it possible that in some fashion you or I might be someone who thinks all is well because the widows are being provided for?  I mean if just a few Hellenist widows have been neglected, well, that's stuff that's not even on purpose, was it?  It's not like someone did something wrong or just lied to make it seem like things were okay when they weren't, was it?  I'm comfortable, I've got things the way I like them so ... why would anything need to change? 

Yet dealing with the widows was precisely where the neglect came because one group was favored and another overlooked.  The paradox is that it was ameliorating a need that brought about an injustice.  It was trying to solve problem A that led to the injustice of B.  It's a detail that's easilly overlooked when considering this text which so very often has been presented as an explanation for why churches have deacons.  It may have been the beginning of that, true, but it was the beginning of that because the early Church and its leaders could admit to a systemic injustice happening in their midst and that it came about through the paradoxical fact that there was a daily distribution from which Hellenistic widows were excluded. 

Something to think about for a while if you feel like it.

Practical Theology for Women: Wendy has a new book available

She's written Practical Theology For Women and a study in Ephesians and now has a new book ready.

Thought I'd mention that here. 

... over at Linkathon ... there's this in a comment: Perry Noble and Newspring Church Settle Lawsuit over Harassment of blogger and his family

For those keeping tabs on this

Mockingbird: Love in the Time of Credit Scores

If you've never imagined that you'd be asked what your credit score is on a first date then this article linkage from Mockingbird today might interest you.

One of my friends told me she got resumes from guys who basically were applying to be her husband.  If that sounds weird to you then all I can say is if you were at the same church we both were you'd understand that the reverse-engineering your life fad in the middle of the courtship craze led some women to get some profoundly strange bids from guys for their hands in marriage.

Maybe they should have opened with "What's your credit score?"

The financial stewardship ministry would have exploded with activity, I suppose. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Old Life: Neo-Calvinists and whether or not the Bible speaks to all of life ... including cat litter

... under the logic of the comprehensive sweep of Christianity and biblical testimony, neo-Calvinists claim powers for believers what the church lacks, namely, the ability to apply biblical norms to all walks of life. We do not let ministers preach sermons on tax rates, rotation of crops, exercise, or television game shows. But now along come neo-Calvinists to tell us that any Tom, Dick or Mary, who has no training in biblical exegesis or may not even be catechized, is going to tell us how the gospel transforms cat litter, Alfred Hitchcock movies, and meteorology?
And people wonder why the institutional church ends up suffering in neo-Calvinist contexts, or why the convoluted notion of kingdom-work has given every member a ministry.

As I say, neo-Calvinists intentions may be admirable. But Calvinists, who put the T in TULIP, were not supposed to be suckers for good intentions.

I suppose I could add more but will just note that this is the part that seemed most worthy of quotation. 

Let's remember that in the realm of neo-Calvinists they prefer the approach of training the called rather than calling the trained.  After all, those seminary degrees aren't really good for anything according to some neo-Calvinist preachers who ... for some reason went and got those sorts of degrees ... and in some cases through not-quite-accredited ... ah, but we're saving that for later. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2012 in retrospect part 2: the arts and vocation

If a reader only read this blog and wasn't paying very careful attention the reader might imagine this blog was about fewer topics than were actually discussed at various points.  2012 was a challenging year but, looking back on it, it was also a productive year.

One of my works for classical guitar got published in later January.

In February I got a small but fun paid commission to compose a chamber work for guitar and viol. The piece was performed in a church service over the summer. 

It's a little tough to remember but this year I think I completed my sonata for violin and guitar.  I also made some revisions to my older sonata for double-bass and guitar with some kind feedback from a couple of musicians I respect.  I completed a trio for violin, guitar and cello this year.  I kinda remember composing a giant sonata form for clarinet, bassoon and guitar, too.  Along with this productivity I completed a sonata for banjo in guitar in three movements and finally completed composing 24 preludes and fugues for solo guitar.  I also have finished at least good first drafts of what I hope are completed sonatas for trumpet and guitar as well as tuba and guitar respectively. 

It's a bit nerdy but some of my work got bibliographic reference in a doctoral dissertation on bassoon and guitar literature.  I had the pleasure of reading two dissertations on guitar and bassoon literature over the summer by a bassoonist and a guitarist respectively. 

As mentioned elsewhere I spent a single but busy week blogging about music by Ferdinand Rebay, which I hope to do again in 2013 as time and resources permit.

I also completed Batman: The Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire for Mockingbird.  Essays on Justice League are slated for 2013. Since last year was the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking, classic cartoon yours truly was not going to pass up an opportunity to do his best to commemorate the wonderful show.  My efforts convinced DZ to actually watch the episode "Baby Doll" and an associate of mine liked the essays enough to decide to go get the series, possibly at that point sight unseen.  I even had time to throw in "A Path Through Three Prisons" because Nolan's Batman trilogy wrapped up last year.  It was not that bad a year for the Bat where Wenatchee The Hatchet was concerned. 

So I wrote a lot of music and by a lot of music I mean a lot.  The contrapuntal cycle I completed should clock in at about 2 hours and that took about five years to complete.  If you work on things step by step and bit by bit then after a decade you can write about five hours' worth of stuff to the tune of a dozen chamber sonatas pairing the guitar with woodwinds, strings and brass; a complete set of 24 preludes and fugues for solo guitar; 12 studies in harmonics; three guitar sonatas; a couple of movements for string quartet; and a few assorted trios.  But on the blogoshere your blog might be known mainly for a narrow field of blogging activity that includes historical research into real estate acquisition.  Rest assured, dear readers, Wenatchee The Hatchet has at least a little bit more going on than "that". 

I've been advocating semi-offline for certain blogging friends to touch upon certain topics and in lieu of their having the occasion to do so (or making the occasion to do so on a blog) I may just have to blog a few things.  Yes, real estate history may make a comeback and other related topics will return.  We're not really done with blogging about the personality-test variants on prophets, priests and kings yet.  What might to normal interpreters of biblical texts sound like an opportunity to discuss Deuteronomy or roles fulfilled by Christ can turn into a kind of 21st century Please Understand Me for self-appointed pastoral dudes getting degrees at a would-be seminary of some kind.  More, significantly more, on this later in 2013.

But amidst all that stuff one must find other things to do that are fun.  Few things in life are more fun for yours truly than the work of composing music.  My idea of fun is discovering how to compose a stretto passage for a solo guitar fugue in which the subject is answered by its own retrograde.  I am not making that up (it's in my fugue in C major).  I wouldn't say I was on Cloud 9 when I wrote that but maybe I was on at least Cloud 6 or 7.  Right now the prospect of completing chamber sonatas pairing the guitar up with mandolin, alto flute, alto saxophone, euphonium, French horn, tenor trombone, and recorder all sound interesting to me.  We'll just have to see what 2013 brings.  Whatever comes in 2013 it is heartening to remember that 2012 was an artistically fruitful year.  It was full of music; it was full of ruminations on the agony of loss and the madness of desire; a path through three prisons; and it included some ruminations over at Internet Monk on musical styles.  Blogging as mere soap-boxing isn't as fun as blogging with and for others.  Let's say that if invited I wouldn't say no to an opportunity to blog at Mere Orthodoxy or to maybe collaborate with folks at Wartburg or even with MPT (let the reader understand).  But I'm particularly looking forward to more work for Mockingbird because while the fists of justice may love at arm's length, there's no end to protecting the world from better worlds.  If I time things right I might be able to unveil some of that in time for Man of Steel.

2012 in Retrospect: Curiosity and Mars

You'll have noticed by now that 2012 was a busy year for Wenatchee The Hatchet.  In 2011 a total of 381 posts went up.  In 2012 the number has been 706 (not counting this one).  So that makes for a year of higher productivity in sheer words and that's not even counting guest posts written for Internet Monk or Mockingbird.  We were nearly writing ourselves into cramps this year.

About what?  That may be the most rhetorical question that could have been posted on this blog this year.  You probably know what, things connected to Mars Hill, which is annoying but understandably inevitable.  I was more proud of the blog posts nobody seemed to read about Ferdinand Rebay's chamber music than about Martian stuff.  I mean, sure, I did what I could with those posts, too, but this blog seemed to get pigeon-holed by a lot of people as a blog for the "other side", to go by a stray comment or two. 

And, yes, this blog has dealt with things related to the history and development of Mars Hill.  As a former member who actually, believe it or not, still gets along well enough with people who are still there it could be remarkably easy to read this blog as some kind of "anti" blog, which is certainly what some have wanted it to be (or have not wanted it to be but convinced themselves surely was).  For folks who labor under that illusion go read that blog post on sonata form in the works of Sor, Giuliani and Diabell, or maybe go read that blog post about conflicting foundations for identity in Brad Bird's film Ratatouille.  Or maybe you could read the blog post about Batman as the ideal 1% and the significance of that in American popular mythology.  In other words, the stuff people come here looking for most is not necessarily indicative of what goes on at the blog.

But what has gone on at the blog has included debunking repeated and spurious claims that Mark Driscoll talked about Ted and Gayle Haggard's marriage.  He didn't, he merely used the occasion of that encounter with the gay hooker and meth on Ted's part to pontificate on a bunch of issues and to "take one for the team".  It was confounding in the extreme what "taking one for the team" about pastors who were exasperated by their sex lives with their wives ... until this year when Real Marriage came out.  Then what was inexplicable to Wenatchee The Hatchet for years became depressingly explicable and retroactively cast a shadow on a decade of preaching and teaching.  Driscoll wrote of Grace's single dalliance that had he known about it he would not have married (apparently never mind that God commanded him to marry her at that point); by analogy, there were surely more folks than WtH who could say "If I'd known this was what the Driscoll marriage was really like during roughly a decade of the church's history I would have had doubts about his qualifications to be a pastor."  Driscoll used to say that if you had a marriage on the rocks it would be better to quit being a pastor to fix your marriage. 

Or you could fix your marriage after years of secretly having problems in it and then write a best-selling book about that.  Far be it from me to be sad if the Driscolls fixed their marriage, I could even express some happiness on behalf of Benny Hinn and his wife fixing their marriage even though I still think Hinn's doctrine is terrible and that he's basically a con artist.  On that note, a  marriage healed may be a good thing but a healed marriage is not in itself an indication that a person is fit to be a pastor or teacher. 

Although given the way Driscoll shook hands (inevitably) with T. D. Jakes early in 2012 it confirmed some skepticism I expressed the previous year.  Driscoll had no problem eviscerating William Young's fictional work The Shack and shook hands with Jakes, piously blogging about the lessons learned about winning people and not arguments weeks after pre-emptively assasinating the character of Justin Brierley over issues such as women in ministry and holding to more than one approach to justification than penal substitutionary atonement.  Jakes was a mentor to Paula White and Driscoll didn't seem to have any problem with that at any point.  For that matter Driscoll's own earlier preaching in Christ on the Cross had him espousing multiple approaches to the atonement.  Eventually in 2012 the Driscolls would convey the idea that Grace was Mark's functional pastor, making Driscoll's quip to Brierley on the subject of "except who's in charge" one of those strange acmes of double standards that seem, unfortunately, to be more characteristic than unusual in Driscoll's public approach.

But double standards seemed to work themselves out at the cultural level within Mars Hill, too, and few cases were more symptomatic of this than how the disciplinary situation with Andrew was approached.  Andrew's disciplinary case was esscalated to a point where something was posted on The City (which Mars Hill's PR person Justin Dean said was due to "unclear communication").  Someone who had access to The City conveyed the escalation letter to Andrew and Andrew, in turn, contacted Matthew Paul Turner.  Mars Hill members would go on to say that the only reason it was widely known was because Andrew went to bloggers and the press. 

Well, no, Andrew only knew of it because it got posted to The City due to "unclear communication" and was given the document after he'd left the church and stopped being a member.  It almost goes without saying he was no longer dating a pastor's daughter (or stepdaughter, a detail that virtually no bloggers or journalists seemed to pay any attention to even though that not-so-mundane detail and the campus location made it all but certain one could identify several of the parties by name based just on that single piece of information).  To be fair, it would be all but impossible for people who have never been in the church culture or observed it for a good span of its history to be able to work out the names of parties involved over a single weekend.

Or in the case of another former member who shared a story anonymously, it might take as few as thirty seconds reading four sentences to make a probable identification. There were simply not that many high-profile divorces within the Mars Hill community in 2005 involving founding members of the Mars Hill group in which a woman married a musician and had two kids.  No, don't attempt to name names here.  I've deleted comments that have attempted to finger specific people. 

One of the disconcerting things about Mars Hill's public response, whether attempting to "clarify" or issue "a call for reconciliation" is their double-standardized approach.  For instance, people might anonymously suggest Andrew was a duplicitous man-whore without so much as expressing any thought about whether his girlfriend might have lied about any thing at any point.  What if she did?  What if she had a history of lying about her sexual history to bolster her reputation?  How would any of us know?  Even the description of the presumably now very-ex-girlfriend as a fiancee is not entirely certain.  If there's something about the Mars Hill culture can't possibly be expected to know it's that all sorts of things were able to be interpreted as being further along the path to marriage or romantic interest than might actually be the case.  This is not to say everyone was leading everyone on but that Mars Hill was the sort of place where you'd read posts on the Midrash about engagements having never heard of so-and-so dating so-and-so before.

It was not impossible for Andrew and his girlfriend at the time to have simply been dating but presumed engaged.  "If" that were the case then perhaps this could explain why some people considered Andrew to be deceptive when the nature of the deception lay not in what a guy said or didn't say but in tacit or explicit expectations imposed on the situation from the outside.  To allude to Baumeister and others on this topic, we are more apt to lead ourselves on through our desires than others are to lead us on about the real nature of their intentions.  But I digress.  All that was to say that Mars Hill advocates were very swift to assume the worst about Andrew in a situation where, fornication being what it was, it seemed highly improbable that Andrew alone would have been the wolf. 

While Andrew's confession and subsequent disciplinary escalationw as taking place in late 2011 James Noriega had stopped being listed as a pastor in any capacity, despite a meteoric rise within Mars Hill since 2006 and co-leading Redemption Groups.  Noriega just vanished from the Mars Hill scene in terms of leadership.  The odds that Noriega is still at Mars Hill now are zero.  Men who rose to the role of pastor within Mars Hill who got fired or deposed or relegated to lower ranks from their previous place rarely stay for long.  Some of them may stick around but that might be more a point of keeping in touch with the legacy anticipated than the social role of the present.  So Noriega vanished from the leadership scene shortly before Andrew's case picked up steam in disciplinary terms.

Had the Mars Hill PR machine not stumblingly "clarified" that they had released two staff for "overstepping spiritual authority" (whatever that means) then Wenatchee The Hatchet would not have remembered that Noriega vanished from the leadership roster at around the point the MH PR statement said staff were let go for overstepping spiritual authority.  So thank MH PR, you did a great job of clarifying things in a way that required a reclarification that let Wenatchee The Hatchet work out who one of the fired staff probably was.  With PR like that who would need access to The City?  Andrew didn't even have access to The City and somehow against all odds got notified of the escalation of discipline.  The entire case that Noriega was no longer employed by Mars Hill was one Wenatchee made inferentially by simply keeping tabs on the Mars Hill media scene.

That included some blogs and blog posts that were linked to in late February this year that vanished by March 2012.  For some reason, possibly just a church-wide reboot of the websites, all personal information and archives about Mars Hill pastors, their spouses and children (or stepchildren) got expunged from Mars Hill's online media.  The likely reason was pretty simple, anything possible to prevent the identification of the parties involved was worth trying.  Given the way church counsel and discipline worked it was probable that Andrew ended up talking to someone like Phil Smidt, who was biblical living pastor around Ballard.  Mike Wilkerson's role was too high up in oversight and Noriega was no longer a pastor at that point, making Smidt at least a possibility for the one who talked to Andrew.  But we can't be sure, we can only propose that a process of elimination regarding who held what roles at what campus at the time provides a narrow field of choices. 

Some people on blogs just named names, or at least named Andrew.  They were not quite so willing to name the others.  That hardly mattered because in a culture like Mars Hill, which seems almost addicted to the use of social media as a way to expand the brand, the identities of many parties had been floating around in the internet for quite some time.  Most people would not know what to look for or bother to look if they did, which is fine.  It's not the goal of Wenatchee The Hatchet to name any of those people, just to remind Mars Hill advocates that "privacy" isn't privacy when it's been blogged and tweeted and Facebooked and news covered away.  Mars Hill has been a culture that reserves the right to say lots of stuff but has not fully grasped the significance of what "on record" mixed with "broadcast media" really entails. 

When the call for reconciliation happened it was basically, ultimately, impossible to believe.  It read more like an attempt to get fewer people to go on record with their stories.  No offense meant to KOMO but their coverage was not going to inspire confidence even if dozens of people agreed to talk and my guess is most people were simply not willing to talk.  For TV coverage who could blame them? 

The KOMO story was too bad, and they may have had to work with what they had, which was not enough sources to build much of a story on.  Some of us prefer working in print form and it has been in print that the most detailed coverage of events has happened.  The Stranger, its animosity toward Mars Hill a given, did a pretty decent job covering the Andrew situation.  They even got on record statements from Pastor Jeff Bettger, which Mars Hill's PR in its anonymous boilerplate somehow overlooked, claiming that only Slate attempted to contac thtem.  So besides inadvertantly tipping off Wenatchee The Hatchet that James Noriega had probably been fired Martian PR also bungled factual accuracy regarding who outside Mars Hill reached out to Mars Hill and who inside Mars Hill had made any response.  Mars Hill PR seemed to be more consistently apt to spread misinformation than Andrew's story which, again, was startling in its level of detail.  Not even some obviouf obfuscation on Matthew Paul Turner's part kept us from identifying a few names. 

But Matthew Paul Turner's blog was arguably the exception that proved the rule with bloggers, many of whom had already made up their minds about Mars Hill based on what they already thought about Mark Driscoll.  It's to Turner's credit that he wrote about Mars Hill as a culture and not merely a cult of personality (which I think most normal people would probably agree it is, too).  As the Andrew case unfolded it began to seem to me, at least, that the Mars Hill faith in the power of social media and its capacity to control and guide its media presence and social media system was gravely misguided.  There are things that Mars Hill folks posted to Twitter that can't be unseen.  You probably know who you are and wish I hadn't seen what you tweeted if you're reading this and you've been in leadership at Mars Hill.  Sorry, `twas your tweets not mine.  Having an actual private life often entails not using broadcast media. 

Anyway, in the wake of Andrew's case and Lance's case making headlines clarifications were issued, a call for reconciliation was issued, and basically nothing happened that got much coverage.  Wenatchee knows of a few people who did go to meetings but the arc of the meetings was often a campus pastor or Dave Bruskas in some cases basically hedging on whether it was even likely that leadership at Mars Hill could have said or done things to raise doubts about essential qualification.  Agree to disagree and avoid conceding much seemed to be the general report.  Whether anything internal to Mars Hill was conveyed beyond a possible "people are hardhearted and over that we feel more sorrow than anger" would be hard to know. 

But in mid-June it turned out a bunch of layoffs happened across Mars Hill.  Driscoll explained that this was not because anybody sinned but because Mars Hill had been pursuing an economic model that was not viable for the long-term future.  Mull that one over, folks.  If this were a family or a single person who was running systemic deficits over revenue what would a Mars Hill response likely be?  Repent of bad financial stewardship?  In late 2011, in fact, the annual report and accompanying DVD God's Work, Our Witness basically ended with the case that Mars Hill could do better with giving.  Go to Are Women Human? for at least one overview of the DVD.  Whether or not AWH had a chance to review any letters or the annual report associated with the DVD isn't clear to me but the blog posts are a good reference point for folks who want some context for the 2011 giving request. 

So in late 2011 Driscoll made the case that the people of Mars Hill needed to give more and/or more sacrificially.  In mid-2012 Driscoll was conceding systemic deficits at every single campus and that the financial model the leaders had committed to was not viable for the long-term future.  Which leaders?  Well, uh the executive elders would seem to have been the ones who'd been doing that.  Which executive elders?  Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas and, at least in 2011, Jamie Munson (who stepped down in September and got a remarkably fond send-off from Driscoll talking about how above reproach Munson was).  But when Sutton Turner was introduced he was introduced as someone with kingly gifts Mars Hill had been badly needing for some time.  What about Munson's kingly gifts?  Didn't he scout out the 50th street real estate purchase according to Driscoll himself in Confessions of a Reformation Rev? Wasn't Munson's leadership so paramount that questioning it or being perceived as questioning it was one of the principle charges in having a couple of pastors fired as employees and removed from eldership?  We'll get to that later. 

For now the observation is that for a guy who was touted as always above reproach Munson's articulation of the idea that a church should seek to be growing even when it's not a good idea could be construed as a "too big to fail" approach to church growth that wasn't so far off from banking problems. The opposite of growth in a church is not necessarily the death that Munson asserts rather than defines, because sometimes in a non-profit a period of growth isn't as important as cultivating the donor base you have.  That Mars Hill had a loyal and centralized donor base at one point prior to multisite would "seem" to have been settled but multi-site meant many very loyal and long-time members went out to campuses while Ballard ended up laying people off about every 18 months.  But the looming problem of Mars Hill growing even when it wasn't a good idea was going to hit a crisis point at some point and that crisis point was, apparently, some time in 2012.  Just as the Andrew situation getting to a point where Andrew went to a blogger and the story went to the press was depressing but not surprising, neither was the admission of Mark Driscoll that Mars Hill's top brass had embraced an economic model that was not viable for its long-term future.  That, too, was something Wenatchee The Hatchet privately warned could become a significant problem or should at least have been a concern. 

Now to be sure Mars Hill may have applied the brakes under Turner's leadership and the collateralized debt of Mars Hill may have dropped from it's 19 million number and, in any case, Mars Hill's real estate investments don't seem near the trouble MacDonald got for his church as discussed on The Elephant's Debt.  Whether or not MacDonald's gambling and the debt he seems to have gotten his church into will have any impact on his being Mark Driscoll's latest "good friend" remains to be seen.  After a few years a person might be forgiven for thinking that in the Driscollian lexicon "good friend" means "has a book I can promote at the book table". 

As books go Real Marriage made a best-seller list and brought Wendy and Andy Alsup over at Practical Theology for Women .  That some newlyweds have genuinely benefited from the book I take as beyond dispute.  That the book was depressing reading for any former Mars Hill member is something I've also found to be generally true.  That Andrew's disciplinary case involved a guy who was fornicating with a pastor's daughter while the Driscoll's book discussed how the founder of Mars Hill (now that the co-founderes have been scrubbed away from the story) was fornicating with a pastor's daughter.  Curious and probably of no real significance other than coincidence.

But the book prompted the Alsups to publicly review the book and add some context that had not been made available before. It's a testament to how incendiary that review could have been that Wendy had comments closed at post publication, something she virtually never does.  Trust me, I've been reading and loving her blog for enough years that I know whereof I speak!  She normally encourages participation and discussion but it was prudent for her and Andy to put their thoughts in print in a way that did not include comments. 

Bent Meyer made a public statement that he was one of the two fired pastors from 2007 in late January.  In mid-March Paul and Jonna Petry went on record with Joyful Exiles.  Regular readers of Wenatchee The Hatchet will be aware of the prodigious use to which Petry's documentation has been put to blogging here.  The documentation is instructive both to Mars Hill defenders and Mars Hill critics.  Mars Hill defenders will likely defend the firings to this day and will probably do so on the basis of an argument that goes roughly like this, "I know person X and he's a good guy and he voted that Bent and Paul were guilty therefore I stand by that decision being the right one even if it wasn't perfect."  Critics will take essentially an opposite view. 

What was not discussed in any fashion at all by the blogs that deigned to discuss Joyful Exiles was the actual bureaucratic procedure itself.  The assumption was that Mark Driscoll fired Meyer and Petry and the rest was mere formality.  The formality was arguably far more important than bloggers seemed to realize.  Can someone produce a formal statement, email, or document that establishes that Mark Driscoll did the firing?  Even when Driscoll was recorded in audio saying that two guys had been fired for the first time in the history of Mars Hill.  Now it can sure sound as if when Driscoll says "we fired ... " that it's some kind of royal "we".  A person may conclude that the 2007 audio represents Driscoll from years ago and that Driscoll's totally repentant now.  Now if Driscoll were repentant of anything there would be some indication of it, and by indication that would mean saying anything at all, particularly anything to the effect that how and why the firings were undertaken was improper.  Nothing of the kind has been said that I'm aware of.  In fact it would appear that no pastors in any capacity have acknowledged either that Joyful Exiles exists  or that there is anything broken in the relationships that were fractured in 2007.  When Driscoll gave Munson a loving send-off from being the lead pastor (which meant Driscoll became president under the Munson-drafted by-laws and Sutton Turner's replacing Munson constituted replacing what became the Secretary's role, so to speak) Driscoll made a point of saying that Munson was above reproach and always had been. 

So Munson was above reproach in formulating the charges upon which Meyer and Petry were considered unfit for ministry.  Some of those charges included nepotism in the case of Meyer.  But what were Munson's qualifications to be a pastor, let alone the lead pastor of Mars Hill?  Was his experience in the corporate world prior to Mars Hill actually all that significant?  When did he actually preach such as a pastor would be expected to do?  If he had kingly gifts did those involve scouting the 50th street real estate that was eventually purchased and found to not be useable as a church facility because the zoning was for industrial use?  And was Munson above reproach in being the lead pastor who formulated the charges that became the basis for putting Meyer and Petry on trial and simultaneously appointing Scott Thomas head of the Elder Investigative Taskforce?

About that task force, what evidence was presented at the trial?  What evidence did Scott Thomas collect and why did Scott Thomas tell a member of Mars Hill that a "conciliatory process" had been completed days before he and the EIT would make a case that Meyer and Petry ought to be fired?  Why was a member of the EIT, Dave Kraft, not even at the trial and able to vote in absentia?  In what trial would an absentia guilty vote seem to be a legitimate option? 

Now people might appeal to the fact that the guilty vote was unanimous.  The sticky wicket there is that there's enough research about crowd conformity, cognitive biases, and boardroom manipulation techniques in, say, Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast & Slow, that we can establish that even a fully unbiased group will conform to steering methods such as a vote by show of hands rather than secret ballot.  So it would appear that in addition to claiming that a conciliatory process had been completed for two men who were about to be removed from eldership on the basis of a swift investigation of some fashion (the evidence for which should be able to be produced at any time) it would appear that the very nature of the vote was a methodology well-suited to steering what may have been an already biased jury. 

Might someone fairly wonder if the entire process was nothing more than a kangaroo court at best and that in any other procedural setting that the methods employed could be considered jury-poisoning?  If as a comment at Wartburg recently alleges Dave Kraft voted in absentia what made him so sure of the guilty of Petry and Meyer that he somehow mailed in or phoned in the guilty vote?  From a procedural standpoint should the elders who were on the investigative task force even have been given the ability to vote on the matter?  For that matter did the lead pastor who made the accusations vote "guilty" or did the lead pastor abstain?  Not that Mars Hill would be interested in answering any of these questions, it seems, but they seem to be relevant questions raised by the documents and correspondence at Joyful Exiles.

But if Mars Hill and its advocates are not interested in considering those issues neither were Mars Hill critics in 2012 particularly interested in even looking at the substantial role Scott Thomas played in the trial and virtually no one could have known about the gap between what Thomas said had just been completed and what was about to occur in late 2007.  So far as critics of Mars Hill were concerned it had to be all Driscoll.  Guys like Munson or Thomas didn't matter even if they were essential cogs in the procedural machine that ejected Meyer and Petry from eldership.  If Driscoll were considered to be the unquestioned authority then what the documents and correspondence at Joyful Exiles would illustrate is that however centralized the authority may have been the responsibility for the decisions made at the top were so utterly diffused to the entire leadership culture and Driscoll's committment to the use of a royal "we" so steady that the likelihood of actually getting the firings back to Driscoll himself was remote. 

It may be impossible to overstate the significance of this situation--when authority is heavily centralized into a coterie of top-level leaders while responsibility for controversial or unpopular decisions are diffused to every level of the leadership set (whether in fact or in name only) then decisions can be defended as having been made unanimously across the entire culture even when the decision may have originated in two or three or even a single person in the uppermost echelons of leadership.   At that point we would be discussing a process in which a person might fairly wonder whether the whole point of the process could have included plausible deniability at multiple levels across a leadership culture for a decision that originated with just one or two guys. 

Now some might say at this point that the roughly 24-26 elders who voted to fire Meyer and Petry may still be at Mars Hill but are effectively neutered.  Fair enough but I would propose that the moment of being neutered had to have significantly if briefly predated the 2007 firing for every man in that room to have raised his hand for a guilty vote.  This is not in contradiction to any of them sincerely believing there were grounds to remove Meyer or Petry from eldership.  To be plugged in at any capacity into the leadership culture at Mars Hill is to have been plugged in by endorsing that mission whatever form it took.  The nature of how the mission was implemented clearly changed and it may well be many men who voted in 2007 aren't paid staff now but the majority of men stayed and that they raised their hands may indicate that they weren't neutered in any capacity.  They were, however, convinced for some reason to remove Meyer and Petry from eldership based on the charges formulated by lead pastor Jamie Munson who appointed Scott Thomas as head of the EIT.

And within a week of this being documented at Joyful Exiles Scott Thomas was relating to Matt Chandler that he felt "released from leading Acts 29".  In mid-June around the time Driscoll was announcing that Mars Hill had been running systemic deficits across every campus Darrin Patrick apparently announced that Scott Thomas would be joining the team at The Journey.  Scott Thomas had not particularly bothered to resign his membership at Mars Hill during this period but apparently even being a former executive pastor conferred, perhaps, some privileges? For those inclined to see the 2007 firing process as little more than a kangaroo court Scott Thomas would have had the most dirt on his hands and it was going to be imperative that he either fall on his sword like a good soldier or get cut loose or maybe just given an offer he couldn't refuse from some other church within the Acts 29 network or some other possibility. 

What seemed unlikely to work out as a status quo was an Acts 29 board in which a 2/3 majority of the board members were Mars Hill executive elders pastor or present.  Having Driscoll, Turner, Bruskas and Thomas on the Acts 29 Board; having 80% funding of A29 from Mars Hill; and having a great deal of the staff consisting of Mars Hill members meant that any distinction between Mars Hill and Acts 29 was starting to become a distinction without a difference.  In April 2012 collosal changes happened in Acts 29 in leadership and location.  By this time Mark Driscoll had met with James MacDonald and T. D. Jakes and shook hands with Jakes as a proper trinitarian weeks after pillorying Brierley in "A Blog Post for the Brits".  Whatever work Driscoll did as a "professional journalist" he's yet to produce a by-line for a single non-editorial article he's written for a publication and if he's got a problem with bloggers the pot should be slightly more careful about calling so many kettles black.  After all, there was that kerfuffle.  

But when Driscoll announced "What's Next For Me" the casual reference to even renting the city of Ephesus for a day was a strange thing.  Where was this money coming from to rent Ephesus for a day?  When Driscoll would, months later, say that Mars Hill had embraced an economic model that was not viable for the long-term future did something like renting Ephesus have anything to do with that?  A good deal of central expenses got cut, it seems, but a lot of campus jobs got cut or people dropped out.  Executive pastors at campuses like Kyle Firstenberg, James Harleman, and Chad Toulouse disappeared.  Toulouse was listed as one of the members of a committee to keep executive elders responsible.  More and more of the committees, such as they were, began to include newer names or the reliable Munson.  You can go hunt up the names if you like. 

Amidst all these changes Driscoll never uttered a word about Scott Thomas.  It was as though Scott Thomas didn't exist.  There wasn't even any cryptic reference to how two men who were least administratively gifted for a task rose up and opposed some stuff.  Of course one of the two men who got canned amidst opposing the 2007 by-laws helped draft the earlier by-laws.  Whatever it was that made Munson more qualified than Petry to draft by-laws for a church was simply never explained at any point or to any degree.  Because simple majoritys and not 100% agreement were prescribed in the old by-laws the very idea that two pastors in a group of 24-26 had to get fired has never once been explained. 

There are some decisions that may seem needless that make sense.  For instance, if you liked the earlier Raimi Spiderman movies you might ask why there'd be a remake?  Because Sony didn't want to lose the rights to make Spiderman films and have those rights revert to Disney, that's why.  You may not agree with that and that's fine but there's an actual explanation for that.  It makes sense.  The reasoning behind why two pastors had to get fired given what the pre-November 2007 by-laws said doesn't add up.  If a guy like Driscoll has repented of anything he would have publicly repented of specific things instead of generalities.  After all, he used to teach that your confession should be more specific than general at some point, didn't he?  When pressed to explain himself or apologize he still seems more likely to blog about what the issue under a lot of issues must be rather than admit he said or did something mistaken.  He regrets, he's said, that his bitterness at Grace led him to preach some chauvinistic things against women he regrets now.  So what was that stuff?  When did he repent of this because 2011's anatomically male effeminate woship leaders didn't look like a change from Driscoll circa 2006. 

Meanwhile, Scott Thomas managed to get a job at The Journey without resigning his membership.  how does Wenatchee The Hatchet know this?  A little bird told me.  This will get to a point that critics have not had much use for.  You see in the real world Mars Hill members and even some folks within leadership have not had much trouble hanging out with Wenatchee The Hatchet.  They know who the blogger is but it's no obstacle to friendship and it's no obstacle to Wenatchee The Hatchet to regard them with affection despite some disagreement.  By now it would hardly need to be explained that Wenatchee's got some significant differences with a few things that have gone on at Mars Hill; what's more Wenatchee warned of a few things as potential bombs that could blow up in the faces of Mars Hill that pretty much all seemed to blow up this year.  There is as yet no evidence that Mars Hill has reformed its approach to member discipline or set real limits on pastoral authority in member discipline.  It has not established, as yet, an explication of the foundational competencies for its biblical living pastors (formerly known as counseling pastors). 

While some moves have been made to ameliorate what is retroactively acknowledged as a fiscally dangerous approach to managing the church the retroactive significance of this has not, as such, been acknowledged.  In other words there was confession and what fans will call repentance but the confession was half-hearted.  This may be observed from the sad reality that if the bad steward of money was a family or a single person sin would get bandied about far more quickly than the never-mentioned possibility of sin in financial stewardship on the part of the leadership class.  In other words Mars Hill may not have needed to do "epic" filming in Ephesus for The Seven or for any ramp-up for Who Do You Think You Are? but all that's just petty stuff compared to members not giving sacrificially enough so that new campuses can be set up, or so it seems. 

There's a temptation for former members and critics that's easy to fall prey to this year, to assume the worst about the whole venture from jump.  It was somehow always that bad.  Really?  Some of the people who are inclined to say this now were people who enjoined me to become a member of Mars Hill because if I didn't become a member, for real, then I was just being a "consumer".  The thing is that it won't suffice to say that, oh, so-and-so just drank the kool-aid because anyone who's looked over social scientific research on conformity will recognize how very swiftly we can all conform given the right set of circumstances. 

Rather than suggest the water in the well was always toxic we who were in there should recognize we, so to speak, put some of our poison in the well.  We played a role great or small in assuming the worst about criticism and critics while choosing to overlook significant problems.  How many hundreds of people heard some guy say that if he didn't have sex for a period of longer than three days he'd get wiggy?  How many people read William Wallace II's screed known as "Pussified Nation" on the old unmoderated Midrash and cheered Wallace on when he was acting like an irresponsible reprehensible punk?  If Driscoll had ever really repented of that whole mentality he would have confessed as much in Confessions of a Reformission Rev.

He didn't. He presented that phase of his life as his deciding to make guys man up rather than presenting it as a pseudonymous tirade about the nation being a nation of pussies who won't man up. I mean it's not like sorenchurchyard or Crusty or Eschato-Man or Feedback Seed or Laika or maybe even aold or Satin Cog/Saint Cog couldn't just opt to show up from the Midrash or Babblerash ether and mention a thing or two.  Or maybe sean or Viper with Venom.  Whether or not tetsuo would want to wade in is some other matter and I wouldn't blame tetsuo for not feeling like going back to that.  ReformUrAss, I know you're out there and I hope you and the wife and kids are doing great.  :) See, you'd have to be the oldest of old-school to know any of those usernames from the unmoderated Midrash.  Having said that, there was plenty of fair warning way back in Pussified Nation that something was off and though I considered the whole WWII a sign of stupid hot-headedness and immaturity I convinced myself he'd get over that, grow up, and move on.  Well, sometimes people don't change as much as we may hope they do and that includes me. 

How many people from that old core, that foundational group, are still at Mars Hill?  Mark and Grace are still there but what about the Gunns?  What about the Mois?  What about other people like the Schlemleins or Chris Comis?  Skye? Heard he's Eastern Orthodox.  The Rorabacks, no real need to rehearse what happened to them for folks who know that.  As a commenter put it here at the blog of the original core that founded Mars Hill only three of that original core are still around.  Let's remember that at that stage there were no Driscoll kids and that means that two of the three who are said to be the only remaining core of the original Mars Hill would have to be Mark and Grace Driscoll.  Have a guess who the third one is and whoever that third one is must be resolved to stay in the proverbial marriage no matter what happens or how bad it gets even if a bunch of terrible mistakes were made.

The thing that people like to say about cults is how bad they are but the truth is that if it were only ever bad nobody could possibly get suckered into being in them.  If Mars Hill is a cult it's a cult because the sense of community feels electric at first, the glory fades and the routine sets in but in your heart you still think it's gotta be whatever that was you felt years ago.  Maybe ten years go by and you realize it's not that community anymore.  You don't get to see your friends any longer because they're married and have kids or live too far away.  You don't hang out until the late hours talking about anything and everything and sharing your lives together.  You stop being in your 20s that feel full of unlimited possibilities and get into the 30s where the world and its opportunities seem to shrink around you. 

Maybe you begin to discover that that marriage that seemed so exciting in your young dumb horny 20s has turned into the misery of your 30s.  Maybe you discover you're stuck in one dead-end job after another. Maybe you discover your child has a learning disability that some Christians consider a sign of rebellion.  Maybe you find out that your friends or that you yourself are willing to compromise for the sake of a legacy.  Maybe you know that the legacy being forged is being forged by a person who's a jerk ... but you get to be part of that legacy and the person is, at any rate, not being a jerk to you.  Ergo, whoever thinks he's a jerk and won't qualify it ... must have some kind of problem with spiritual authority.  That's what you tell yourself right up to the point where you get both barrels in the face or someone close to you does. 

Then the temptation is to view it as all bad.  Suppose a guy gets the bad side from the culture.  What does it matter than that the person has three of his or her children find wonderful spouses in that culture?  Forget that, the whole thing is damnably evil and it was all about numbers?  Was it?  It wasn't just about numbers all the time.  There was also that courtship fad?  ;-)  Most males willing to go along with the courtship fad were probably trying to get with a couple of attractive ladies and very, very little more.  It was fascinating to watch a bunch of single guys go along in the hopes of getting sanctified matrimonial tail.  Yours truly, almost notoriously, kept repeating that he found the whole charade idiotic and based neither on a plausible reading of biblical literature or on even a particularly honest appraisal of social conventions from the Mediterranean and other regions.  It was just a stupid self-congratulatory fad drummed up by dads who had control issues and either lost track of who their daughters were already in love with or who wanted some magic bullet pre-emptive veto on boys their prepubescent daughters wouldn't even be thinking of dating yet.  I didn't put it that strongly because I realized that would be a really jerky way of putting it.  But that's what I thought. 

In one of life's strange paradox I got along great with the women who were most sought out in that fad.  While a lot of guys lamented "the friend zone" and "the other f-word" I got along well with a variety of lovely women.  For a lot of beligerent horny unmarried males the friend zone may not be such a bad place for you, especially if all you can do is assess women as wife or not-wife possibilities.  But in a setting like Mars Hill not being in a rush to be married could often play out as you being assigned a group guilt in the form of the "selfish single".  You can only shake that off in so many ways.  If you pay your bills on time, try to do right by family and friends, and manage to have money to spare to help friends with disabilities or in financial straits then that's what you can do but in a culture where Markulinity flourished the just not-being-married part could mean that the guy was not living up to his full potential.

It's easy for people who left Mars Hill on bad terms to completely poison the well even when they benefited from it in a variety of ways.  Some of the bitterest people were more than happy to wield their social clout to bludgeon others' reputations and the thing is some of those people have gotten to a point where they can admit that they were fans of the Man.  Maybe I was, too, even though I convinced myself that it was the three co-founding elders together that made the community what it once was.  Those who would say now that it was "always" the Driscoll show weren't actually there early enough, or have re-remembered things in a way that doesn't fit what the people who were around at the start may still recall.  Or maybe we were all suckered by something we didn't understand. 

Informally I've noticed that there are people who turned away from formal churches and there are a lot of people who turned to more traditional churches.  Maybe Mars Hill was a kind of spiritual junior-high or high school and some of us graduated?  Or maybe, as I'm more inclined to put it, we found it exciting in our 20s to discover things that in our 30s and 40s we began to realize was nothing more than reinventing the wheel.  Even as far back as 2002 when people asked me to describe Mars Hill I would say, "Basically TULIP Baptist."  That was before Driscoll got chummy with John Piper but in retrospect it would seem to make some sense.  It took me a few years to observe that my theological views simply didn't run TULIP Baptist as such and so I found a new place to be. 

But the exigencies of life were such that I had no spouse to "pour myself into" (a possibly archaiv Martian phrase).  I ended up in a position where I was stuck in almost every sense and as I was stuck the lives of my friends and family moved along sort of with me and sort of without me.  I began to observe over the years that there were people who would say they'd "moved on".  Well, I'm not convinced everyone does move on or that "move on" always means what people hope it means.  Hey, I'm into Batman so this one won't shock you, there are things traumatic enough in your life that you can't just move on, the trauma or the experience (maybe even a good one) becomes an organic part of who you are and how you think.  Watching a family fall apart before your eyes as a child may not be a formative experience for others but it was for me.  It doesn't matter how good you tell yourself you are you, too, can somehow end up being immersed in the brokenness, become a part of the fracture, maybe without realizing it.  Maybe some things break in a way where what is broken is broken as a gesture of self-defense that is perceived as malice and is forever after interpreted in that way.  Perhaps you get sucked into the vortext of competing loyalties in which your decision is tacitly, if perhaps often internally, drags you into a bog in which you feel an irreducible, unresolvable double-bind and yet not making a decision is a disaster of its own. 

I've been described as a friendly pessimist and by friendly pessimist that can mean I notice that everything and everyone must die.  There were some great things I discovered at Mars Hill, people with whom I can recognize that while everything and everyone eventually dies it's okay to enjoy the beauty of life and friendship that we have together now.  For reasons I don't quite understand I'm not sure I picked up on that as a realization until the time when I began to be at Mars Hill.  As ugly as the shunning and related fiascoes seemed to be I was put in a position where I had a chance to decide whether I would choose to be a team player or choose to remain friends with people despite disagreement and despite some of those friends being kicked out of the house.

You see this is the thing that bugs me about blogs for and against, it's that they brook no ambivalence.  Life is more compromised and ambivalent than we like to imagine in our selves that we fashion in social media ... isn't it?  It's surprisingly easy for the self-described exiles to speak as though they weren't complicit in the things they now condemn and it's surprisingly easy for the insiders to essentially imagine that however dicey this or that may be that, ultimately, the legacy is worth sacrificing a few less-than-worthy participants in the legacy.  This blog has been a sometime exercising in questioning both kinds of thought.  What former insiders may not easily concede is that we invested in a legacy we're no longer sure was worth it.  What outsiders may be unwilling or unable to grasp is that we can all fall prey to this kind of temptation that a legacy that seems bright and shining enough will inspire us to go along with something. 

After all, despite pious bromides about movements and legacy, and this and that, what was the inspiration for building a tower in the plain of Shinar?  Legacy.  Legacy may be presented as one of the most pious of Christian impulses but on more careful examination it can be the impetus to create not a new Jerusalem but another Babylon.  We're fools if we convince ourselves we can't fall prey to this temptation even as we would condemn those who we think are trying to build that tower of legacy.  Some of us cooked more bricks and made more mortar for that tower, whatever it is, then we might be comfortable acknowledging.  In my 20s I thought talk of legacy was great and in my late 30s I have come to believe that legacy may be the most single dangerous temptation any group of Christians can have.  It is for the sake of legacy that piles of dead bodies are strewn outside the place of sacrifice. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

HT Internet Monk: Why C.S. Lewis didn't write for Christianity Today


Before introducing the world to The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis published Miraclesin 1947. It was his last straightforward defense of the gospel. Lewis told his friend and biographer George Sayer that he would never again write another "book of that sort." And he didn't. From that point forward he published primarily fictional, devotional, and biographical material. His passion for explaining and defending the Christian faith could now best be found in a magical world of talking animals.

That's why when Carl Henry asked him to write articles on topics of Christian doctrine, he had to decline. As Lewis told Henry, "My thought and talent (such as they are) now flow in different, though I trust not less Christian, channels, and I do not think I am at all likely to write more directly theological pieces. The last work of that sort which I attempted had to be abandoned. If I am now good for anything it is for catching the reader unawares - thro' fiction and symbol. I have done what I could in the way of frontal attacks, but I now feel quite sure those days are over."
One of the things evangelicals seem to feel obliged to do is to see theological points in everything.  Everything has to be justified by a theory of justification, so to speak.  Americans in particular can want there to be some "redemption" in the stories they embrace.  The idea that a story could be about someone who doesn't find "redemption" (like the protagonist in John Woo's The Killer, or King Saul within the biblical narrative) or even a character like Wickus in District 9 who stumbles upon redemption without accepting some invitation, and this even amidst his various ethical failings, is not what evangelicals seem interested in.  We want our redemption straight, no chaser.  We want the unmediate 200 proof propositional statement, preferably explicated in the past-tense so there's no doubt who the redeemed one is.  We may say we affirm an Augustinian approach to sanctification in American evangelicalism but in pop culture we seem to have more of a, how do we put this, Keswickian approach to the sanctification of somone in his or her character arc. 
We can pay lip service to the idea of vocation but for cultural artifacts we may know but we don't care that it's possible to do things as Christians that don't have to announce at every single step "This was made by a Christian."  I spent a few years over at Mars Hill and while some folks can talk about going "upstream" where culture gets made it remains to be seen whether or not that infiltration project has worked out or that it even needs to be consciously undertaken by a group of people gathered together under 501(c)3 status for that to be accomplished.  After all, if you just do your job you're not actually going to change the world unless your job happens to be changing the world. 
Suppose, for the sake of making a polemical point, the essential difficulty of evangelicalism is we've wanted to do the direct propositional hour-plus sermon about things.  The writerly axiom is that you show rather than tell and evangelicals want to tell, tell, tell all the time.  A skilled writer knows there is a time to tell and certain roles within the life of faith do, in fact, involve telling things but there's also the showing part and that may be where we have a lot of people who only know how to tell and haven't managed the showing part.  It is funny that even within the art of writing there is an axiom to show rather than tell.  How do you tell in a way that shows and in the visual media how do you show in a way that tells?  That many people opt not to bother with these questions does not mean the questions don't get answers. 
If many of today's evangelicals had gotten what they wanted they'd have gotten a Lewis who wrote more variations on Mere Christianity and never wrote any fiction.  How obvious is the doctrine of justification by faith alone in the narrative of Samuel-Kings?  I'm not saying it isn't in there, I'm just pointing out that in the narrative literature even the Bible itself seems to completely fail the propositional statement approach to doctrine that many evangelicals have wanted for how Christians write about Christian belief.