Saturday, June 08, 2013

Jim West: What you need to know about the SBC

1- It meets this week in Houston.
2- Its decisions (resolutions) are non-binding.  Churches are free to ignore them or embrace them.
3- Its main purpose is to adopt a budget.  Why it takes three days to do that is a grand mystery.

heh, "a grand mystery".  Each group of people probably has a grand mystery all its own. accountability

Friday, June 07, 2013

some thoughts on what some call watchblogging

Earlier this year Wenatchee The Hatchet wrote a guest piece for Internet Monk. The very recently linked article in Slate on how most people don't read all of or all the way through articles on-line reminded me of how it seemed a lot of people read about a lot to do with a certain gigachurch. 

The more years go by the more Wenatchee The Hatchet has pondered the possibility that WTH was trained in writing in an era before the internet was available for civilian and commercial use.  If you grow up in a setting in which you voluntarily read the unabridged Moby Dick and love Dostoevsky you're not dealing with a type of reading that fits the internet we have now, at least in some ways.

Reading reactions to the guest piece impressed upon me that people felt the writing was of poor quality.  It was in the sense that a first draft went up without expected rewrites.  So it went.  But other comments involved either a belief that a certain public figure who blogs about how lame bloggers are had to be behind everything.  Driscoll ultimately had to be the big guy behind Andrew Lamb's situation ven though when Lamb's situation became a headline Driscoll was selling Real Marriage (more on the book later in some other posts).  Driscoll was preparing to shake hands and make friends with T. D. Jakes.  Driscoll was touring to promote his book and taking pre-emptive strike action toward Justin Brierley.  Yet for some reason people who already didn't like Driscoll insisted that Driscoll had to somehow know about Andrew Lamb's situation and somehow be directly involved in it.  Anyone who thought that was not in a position to have read Joyful Exiles (which, of course, didn't go up until months after Lamb's story made headlines).

But it appeared that even those who read Joyful Exiles didn't exactly read Joyful Exiles.  Piecing together the role Scott Thomas played as head of the EIT is clear enough if you know what you're looking at but not everyone knew what they were looking at.  Not long after the site went up correspondence was added in which Thomas stated that "a conciliatory process" had been completed and stated this days before, as head of the EIT, Scott Thomas would affirm that Munson's charges against Meyer and Petry were legit.  So what conciliatory process was that?  Hmm ... .

But you'd have to search far and wide to find any other blogs, let alone any journalistic coverage, that even discussed the roles of Scott Thomas or Jamie Munson in the controversial firings of 2007 at Mars Hill Church.  Munson's got his own domain and a book on authority out now, so maybe he'll be happy to field questions about those topics.  Yes, there's mention of Moleskins for those who are curious about whether he'll fit the New Calvinist demographics.  :)

But a majority of readers who click on a link in any way discussing Mars Hill want the topic to be Driscoll, not executive elders who were involved in firings six years ago or more.  They want things to be about Mark, even though Mark is in a sense just a brand, an icon who has his own domain name.  That Andrew Lamb got put through some kind of bureaucratic disciplinary meat-grinder didn't make Lamb a completely innocent person anymore than it made Kaitlyn Noriega a completely innocent person.  It took two to tango but for those against Mars Hill none of that mattered, and for those for Mars Hill none of that mattered, either.

Unsurprisingly comments asking Wenatchee The Hatchet to bottom-line things confirmed precisely the problem the guest post was written to address.  The for and against teams were (and still are) so eager to just get to the point they don't care whether or not there are other things to consider.  It didn't matter what the confluence of situations was because everyone had their minds made up.

It's not practical to find out how many people who wanted to know if Andrew's story checked out actually bothered to read the more than 15,000 words in "A Confluence of Situations" to find out whether the story checked out.  In the age of the internet readers want you to bottom-line it and research it for them so they simply don't have to.  There may not have been much traffic for A Context for A Call for Reconcilaition, either.  Dostoevsky once wrote that a young man will gladly die for a cause he cares about but ask him to devote five years of his incendiary youth to a cause and you'll find how swiftly his ardor cools!  So it is with readers and bloggers who think they have thoroughly investigated a matter.  No, you probably haven't, I'm afraid.  At least on the subject of a certain megachurch that Driscoll now calls a gigachurch Wenatchee The Hatchet can at least hope to provide some example of how to improve on what is written here. 

But you see, dear reader, the goal here is not precisely partisan.  The goal is not exactly to "win".  There's a difference between advocacy journalism and educational blogging.  It is Wenatchee's biased opinion that the majority of the very best people in the history of Mars Hill Church have come and gone.  There are still wonderful people inside the church but the church is in tens of thousands now and most of those people wouldn't know the name Brad Currah if their life depended on it.  They probably don't even know who Mike Gunn and Lief Moi are.  They also probably don't care.  Wenatchee cares, quite a bit, obviously, and one of the aims of this blog (besides pontificating later this year about why Wenzaslaus Matiegka's guitar sonatas are better than Sor's) is to find a way to share the stories of people who stepped off the bus, got thrown off the bus, or got thrown under the bus while the bus turns out to be some kind of triple-changer that turns into an airplane.  If that means that in some sense Mars Hill shifting from bus to plane makes the place seem like a Decepticon triple-changer you could do worse than Astrotrain. 

And bloggers who have set Mars Hill in their sights could do better about not fixating on Driscoll.  There's a little bit of history on how Mars Hill has acquired its current real estate, for instance. There are questions that can be asked about how a convicted felon on his second marriage and a relatively new Christian faith got fast-tracked into leadership in Mars Hill as quickly as he did and how and why he got vanished from leadership as swiftly.  But defenders of Mars Hill were eager to say "We're not perfect, just better than Andrew" and detractors only cared about Andrew largely, it seems, as a suitable icon for a prejudice against Mars HIll, a thing that could only play into the hands of a leadership culture that already found it easy to present itself as embattled over problems that were in several cases self-fulfilling prophecies or self-inflicted dramas.  If there had been an appeals process in place by which Andrew Lamb could have made a case that his discipline seemed retaliatory given that he was having sex with a pastor's kid maybe none of that situation would have made headlines at all.  Had Mars Hill not posted things to The City due to "unclear communication" Andrew wouldn't have known what was going on for a while. 

In fact one of the things that may be worth emphasizing in light of, say, the NSA headlines we're seeing lately, is that we must remember what a startling amount of information we often dump on to the internet.  Mars Hill leaders had blogged and tweeted so much that, as "A Confluence of Situations" established in exhaustive detail, the privacy of parties involved was dead in the water before Andrew Lamb was even beginning to get put through the disciplinary machinery.  If Bill Watterson is as much as a net-luddite as we may speculate he is then he's got nothing to worry about.  But for bloggers and for Mars Hill folks who tweet and blog about stories of redemption about how they didn't quite get expelled because a father-figure stepped up for them after they'd lied about having sex to bolster their school rep, well, even dead links can tell stories.  Andrew's girlfriend and Andrew himself were not exactly making shrewd decisions along the way and it's not to the credit of partisans to transform either of them into icons of virtue or vice.  Their young people with hormones and emotions they didn't have complete grips on and they said and did things together and to each other that, one surmises, they regret by now.

Wenatchee The Hatchet has gotten unhappy comments from fans and detractors of Mars Hill alike over the years.  In Driscollian parlance that would mean that if Wenatchee The Hatchet has ticked off the people who love Mars Hill and hate Mars Hill then, well, Wenatchee The Hatchet is doing a good job.  Those are the sorts of rhetorical flourishes through which Driscoll can constantly position himself as the center around which everyone else he doesn't consider important becomes a left and right that can be dismissed.  Well, maybe it is so for Wenatchee The Hatchet. 

Let's play with an idea, that a substantial critique of Mars Hill as a culture is not likely to emerge from the theological left or right of where ever Driscoll's fidgeting near.  Anyone he deems to the doctrinal left doesn't really love Jesus or believe the Bible is true and is therefore at best an unwitting instrument in the hands of Satan.  Anyone he deems to the doctrinal right is a legalist who doesn't know how to have fun and no one is in the center except whomever is "friend" material for the time being.  It wasn't long after Don Carson politely indicated that maybe Driscoll was an ignorant troll on British evangelicalism that Driscoll decided to leave. Driscoll has made much about how it's vital to support in public and criticize in private ... at least where he's concerned.  When it's Driscoll himself speaking of others he can say whatever he wants to or about Justin Brierley (go look it up) and he can cheerfully saying that picking on people is his love language (buried amid much other discussion about four points that Chris Rosebrough has discussed here).

To date Mars Hill fans have not really addressed the content at Joyful Exiles in any fashion.  Driscoll has not directly referred to it in any way that Wenatchee is aware of, though there's this.  When any form of criticism can be subsumed into attacks from the Devil Driscoll defines the in team as essentially who is for him and for him in a way that doesn't involve public criticism in any fashion, and he gets to share jokes about people as his love language. 

But the thing here, for those few of you who may have read this far (see the Slate reference above), Wenatchee The Hatchet does not see Mars Hill as some kind of enemy.  Wenatchee The Hatchet can admittedly make a distinction between Mars Hill the people (many of whom are lovely and are friends to Wenatchee The Hatchet whom Wenatchee would help in any practical way possible) and Mars Hill the principality (let the reader understand).  Wenatchee The Hatchet has Mars Hill members as not only friends but also neighbors and Wenatchee The Hatchet has been given work by people who call Mars Hill home.  It's not a hugely difficult task to find out who Wenatchee The Hatchet is, though the odds of being stonewalled by Wenatchee in a unilateral request for contact are very, very high!  Either you know you're in the loop by now already or you can guess that Wenatchee's not going to be hugely responsive.  Don't take it personally. 

What that means is that when Jesus teaches about what it means to love your neighbor in the parable of the Good Samaritan that means that Mars Hill people are your neighbors, especially if you should somehow hate them.  Wenatchee doesn't and so it's all the more true that loving your neighbor as yourself means not being merely a cantankerous troll even when many at Mars Hill might be so themselves.  It also means not simply assuming any old horror story about Mars Hill has to have been told by someone who's an innocent little lamb.  Some of the people who left Mars Hill were treated terribly and ostracized for standing on principle.  Some of the people who left Mars Hill were straight-up egotistical assholes who probably to this day think they were victims when they remorselessly threw their weight around to belittle people they disliked.  Some people voluntarily didn't renew when 2007 rolled along and were dismayed at the lack of fiscally sound policy in real estate expansion.  Surely by now you can guess where on this spectrum Wenatchee The Hatchet is.  Those 40-some posts on real estate didn't just appear out of nowhere.

But this is the internet and on the internet people don't want there to be ambivalence.  People don't want there to be some reality in which Mars Hill members would give Wenatchee The Hatchet a job, for instance, or in which Wenatchee The Hatchet would accept such work.  People don't want to imagine that there are plenty of people at Mars Hill Church who voted for Obama (Wenatchee knows some of them and promises not to name names). 

So for those who come to this blog wanting to read about Mars Hill, okay, that's clearly the most popular line of enquiry that leads people to this blog.  A decade inside the institution and meeting all the founding elders has given Wenatchee an unusual opportunity to share history that seems to just not quite make it into the official narrative lately.  But this is not to say that Wenatchee has any mad skillz that some other person couldn't bring to a situation.  The goal here is, as said before, not necessarily to change your mind (which is probably already made up by the time you got here) but to educate you.  There's a lot of history that isn't exactly swept under the rug but that is hidden in plain sight, that isn't attended to because nobody's thinking to look for it or at it.  That's where this blog can sometimes, perhaps, be of help to people.  There's very little here that doesn't rely on primary sources.  You don't need to contact me personally, dear reader, because the stuff Wenatchee knows is stuff made available through sources that are linked to and quoted sufficiently that you can make use of that primary source material as you see fit. 

None of this means Wenatchee The Hatchet is absolved from loving Mars Hill people as neighbors, seeing as Jesus' teaching properly understood makes that clear.  It also doesn't mean there's any obligation to avoid presenting some frankly ugly history about a place that Wenatchee used to attend, either.  But what you won't necessarily find here is a tone of moral outrage that has characterized a lot of writing about the subjects at hand.  It's not that Wenatchee the Hatchet hasn't felt outrage.  Waited at least a month for the blood to stop boiling before writing this series. Driscoll managed to subtextually transform Esther into a not-so-good-girl who was used for God's perfect plan--which, of course, couldn't be interpreted at a meta level as Mars Hill being embattled in a godless setting and doing their best despite critics, right? Mark keeps joking that he doesn't write the mail he just delivers it.  If that were so then it looks like he appends a few sticky notes on to the envelop that ostensibly got mailed to you from someone else. 

It's easy to blog about what Jesus was supposedly really on about but if you forget that even these Mars HIll people are neighbors to love if you take Jesus' ethical teaching seriously (not that all of you do, of course) then you're no better than you think they are.  You may even be worse.  There are not necessarily good guys and bad guys without blemish in the real world but the real world is not necessarily what the blogosphere wants. 

Slate: How people [don't] read online--why you won't finish this article

Wenatchee The Hatchet has a propensity to write things longer than even the aforementioned article.  It's not like there aren't tagged series of posts sprawling the length of 15,000 words anywhere at this blog, after all. 

It can often seem as though the internet has played a role in catalyzing a shift in attention and reading.  To be sure there are bloviating sorts who say the same fifteen different ways when they could say something once and move on but those sorts predate the emergence of the internet.  Mojo Jojos existed before Mojo Jojo even if their triplespeak was never so glorious as his. 

Be that as it may there can be many a case in which someone wants an author to just get to the point and boil things down when the point is precisely that things are not so readily boiled down as that.  Things are not so get-to-the-point as people will insist things need to be.  It's common enough that a person who says we should be making a difference and not a point is simply making a point and not a difference by trying to get to the point and win the point rather than make a real difference.  It was ever thus. 

So in an uncharacteristic way that's all Wenatchee The Hatchet has to say on this for the time being.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Krystian Zimerman walks out of concert in protest at being filmed during performance

Hadn't heard of anyone stating they lost a record deal because there was a bunch of stuff already on Youtube, but there's a little piece in The Telegraph about it.

before sunrise, before sunset, before midnight ... art as iconography and narcissism of choice

Apparently 30-somethings of a certain sort view Richard Linklater's trilogy as some kind of touchstone for their own romantic lives and the passage of time.  Not Wenatchee The Hatchet.  While Julie Delpy was most assuredly memorable in the Kieslowski film White, Wenatchee The Hatchet has never much cared for Ethan Hawke or even Richard Linklater generally.  Never seen any of the films with "Before" in the title.  A friend of mine couldn't finish the first one. 

Apparently not everyone's sold on the trilogy.  Take Richard Brody.

What happens to Linklater, one of the better American filmmakers, when he takes on this couple whose lives seem so close to his heart? His best films (including last year’s “Bernie”) are ones in which the subject itself is inquiry, in which deception and reality are themselves at stake in the action; in which mirror games of performance are built into the drama, in which he devises a method that poses questions. In the “Before” trilogy, he films in a way that delivers the answers in advance. He has run up against the bedrock of his character, the part of himself that isn’t up for questioning—his secular faith in an idealized vision of love. His essential repudiation of his own art in the face of this faith makes the movies curious and even touching. It’s rare for filmmakers to reveal so much of themselves in movies that reveal so little. It doesn’t make the watching of them any more satisfying or substantial to watch, but it certainly renders their dullness more interesting to consider afterward. [emphasis mine]
Now some folks get the idea that characters who function as icons of ideals or times or cultural values are lame if the iconography involves spandex.
Despite Berlatsky's interesting observations about Jane Austen and avowed work on a pending Wonder Woman book the invocation of Klosterman doesn't establish that the rebooted franchises are without empathy.  In fact the Klosterman quote can be wielded as a double-edged blade.  After all.
Fiction connects you to other people—or as Chuck Klosterman said, "Art and love are the same thing: It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."
Who says this has to be an act or process of empathy rather than narcissism?  If memory serves when Joss Whedon was asked what made superhero films and stories unique he said that there's no pretense or necessity for subtext of the sort you'd have in some other genre that has a story discussing or presenting ideas about the nature of humanity and human societies.  You can just get the competing ideals out in the open. 
When you put it that way the problem with the superhero genre is that it has already turned Republicans into red-headed skull-faced monsters, right?  :)  People will continue to lament the shift through which Superman stopped being a champion of populist leftist ideas but to this one can propose that perhaps populist and leftist (and rightist) do not have to be the same thing.  Grant Morrison has articulated well enough that the plebian/patrician divide between the working class Clark Kent and the billionaire Bruce Wayne was bridged by their respective reluctance to kill (and in both cases that's a later editorial accretion, it's worth noting that the old-school Supes who was more a working-class hero could show quite a bit less remorse about adversaries dying). 
We live in an era in which the pop culture mythologies we embrace are frequently affiliated with other ideological commitments and one of many side-effects is that if there's something we don't enjoy or dislike we tend to have identity politics and cultural indicators serve as stand-ins, as shorthands for why we don't like something that we may dislike for less rational and more visceral reasons than we may be able to articulate.  I could say I dislike romantic comedies because of Matthew McConaughy (sic) but that wouldn't be true.  I love Pride & Prejudice but I also enjoy Batman Begins.  When the Nolan film came out Ebert said it was nice to finally see a Batman movie that was actually about Batman.  Even Charles Mudede spoke up in favor of Nolan's film as a blockbuster in which a billionaire was thinking about what role he and his family's legacy could play in making a better society.  Dislike the movie if you want but to find it wanting compared to actual political theory when Nolan's made a popcorn movie is moving the goalposts.  Mudede's an ardent enough Marxist that for him to say such things was saying something.  :)
But in a political climate in which "one percent" is invoked as an indictment the idea that Batman has always existed as a kind of folklore for what Americans think would be the ideal "one percenter" will get translated into "no empathy" by someone.  We live in a time in which Star Trek fans who were watching the original show in the 1960s could complain that the new Star Trek has no heart even though we know there were no Eugenics Wars in the 1990s and that Khan never existed.  The utopia of Trek will never happen but as optimism goes the dystopia of the Eugenics wars and the War to End Tyranny (ha) didn't happen.  Nuclear Armageddon didn't overtake us as so many feared it would.  There's a sense in which the pop culture franchises that can seem fusty now (whether Star Trek or James Bond) are franchises that retain their iconic and, yes, emotional appeal, but which have labored under a kind of survivor's guilt having gone so many decades beyond the Cold War milieu in which the franchises were initially conceived.
Except for Batman and Superman.  Those two comics titans developed in the pre-World War II period. 
While some film critics may not like the rebooted franchises or the iconography some of us don't see the point in watching films by Linklater that can be so readily read through as a great what-if built on a one-night stand that happened decades ago.  Capturing that feeling may have been a laudable goal for somebody but it's not necessarily more "real" in emotional range.  Art is not necessarily about seeing yourself in something that's not you, after all, it can be about you investing yourself into something or someone that's not you.  It may be that all entertainment is, in that sense, capable of being middle-brow narcissistic self-affirmation in the guise of "art". 
Which is why in film Wenatchee's got no problem admitting to an appreciation of pulpier stuff. 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Slate--Carl Wilson vents considerable spleen against "Crescendo Rock"

Beneath the surface, the National’s work is full of moves like that. But I still dislike the surface. I dislike the traces of a British accent in Berninger’s rich baritone (he’s from Cincinnati). I dislike the midrange restraint of most of the melodies and the sleepy midtempo pace, making it artificially thrilling when things pick up at all—as when drummer Bryan Devendorf kicks the march beat into double-time, two-thirds through the new album’s first single, “Sea of Love,” though Berninger carries on the same oh-so-stately procession. Most of all, I dislike the way many of the songs milk themselves, doubling down on their repetitions by getting denser and louder in later sections.

This is a common trait of many popular and acclaimed bands that turn me off. I call it Crescendo Rock—I’ve had similar misgivings about U2 and Radiohead, though I’ve aired them less because their fans go way more apoplectic. To me, the bands each sound like a group of guys who feel they’ve got something to say and demonstrate their significance by saying it over and over, getting louder and louder.

In the "classical" tradition this sort of extensive expansion on a single, simple musical idea is often thought of as variation.  More particularly, we could speak of the chaconne or the passacaglia.  There's some foundational musical idea that gets built upon in increasing complexity until it reaches whatever climax the composer(s) settle on and then the music reaches some kind of conclusion (or in pop music the big fade-out).

Unlike sectional variation forms a chaconne or passacaglia is a continuous set of variations.  In other words the bass line never stops moving along to the next variation.  There's no abrupt resolution to each variation the way we would hear in the Goldberg Variations of Bach or the Diabelli variations of Beethoven.  Nope, just a continuing surge toward the next iteration of the idea.  Shostakovich wrote some solid passacaglias in his string quartets if you're curious to hear a 20th century version of an old, old idea.  If you want to hear a pop passacaglia then U2's "With or Without You" is probably the best example, right down to the Pachelbel re-heating of the big FOUR CHORDS. (See Chords for Heroes and its follow-up here at Wenatchee The Hatchet, if you like).

Still trying to muster up the resolve and research to discuss Matiegka's approach to sonata form in his Grand Sonatas for solo guitar.  :(  In lieu of that discussing, briefly, how formulaic certain brands of "crescendo rock" are might be a useful detour. 

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Cinemagogue has something about the new Star Trek film

After a bit of a hiatus in the wake of the Iron Man 3 release last month Cinemagogue is back with a little piece on Star Trek Into Darkness and the reactions of some Trek fans to the newer franchise.  It's called "New Kirks Judged by Old Khans". 

More linky stuff

Why even in the future lie detection technology will probably keep failing.  It's an interesting overview of how many false positives come up in detection processes, something that didn't keep Nixon from advocating the use of polygraphs to scare up dissenters.

Daft Punk has a new album out (not that I really listen to them, though.  Here's a little piece declaring that Daft Punk saved pop music and doomed us all (whomever "us" refers to). Along the way there's reference made to a cranky take-down on techno in the late 1990s as an enemy of all things true  and soulful and conducive to proper humanism.  Not that Wenatchee makes a point of listening to much techno in general, either, but the seeds of techno in minimalists like Reich and Riley and Glass seems so easy to establish it's a puzzle why their music wasn't mentioned in the acrimony.  Oh well.  Stuff that's interesting to read all the same.

Perhaps to prove that Slate writers have less to blog about these days or that Game of Thrones is really popular there's a set of posts on economic theories as they apply to the storylines.

Ever heard of the Wesleyan quadrilateral?  It's pretty sweet, actually, and the gimmick may be awesome enough that Mark Driscoll subconsciously cribbed it for his "four points" ramble.  Chris Rosebrough at Fighting for the Faith is pretty singularly negatively impressed by it.  While a stand-out line is Driscoll joking that picking on people is his love language Rosebrough deals with the substance of the four points/quadrants.  There's Calvinism/Arminianism (which in Driscollian parlance is not synergism proper but Pelagianism).  There's complementarian/egalitarian (which, according to Carl Trueman, is something new Calvinists seem to think is a bigger deal than even sacraments instituted by Jesus according to the Evangelists).  Then there's charismatic/cessationist thought in the third quadrant, though even by this point no mention is made of things like atonement theories.  Finally, Driscoll proposes that missional/fundamental is the fourth grid.
Rosebrough discusses the audio at some length so there's little to add except to note that Driscoll fans are very likely to presuppose that Driscoll is discussing people who are considered "in" on the basis of traditional orthodoxy.  They are likely to hold this idea despite the fact that if Driscoll really has defined Arminianism in Pelagian rather than traditionally synergistic terms that a "tribe" he could potentially learn from could include a Pelagian egalitarian and that there'd be some bishops in the Episcopal church he could learn from.  At least if Driscoll was serious about the learning from all the tribes he'd go there but when he closes with the necessity of confronting people about sexual sin it sounds like he's not really claiming that liberal Episcopalians who back gay marriage are a tribe he considers he could learn from.  Rosebrough's critique is still worth noting but perhaps Driscoll's rhetoric is ever so slightly more pragmatic and cynical than Rosebrough may have considered.  Just proposing that as an idea for consideration.