Saturday, September 14, 2013

There Are Probably No Duties. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life

So it is almost certain that duties do not exist. However, if nothing is right or wrong then religious terrorism is not wrong, inquisitions are not wrong, crusades are not wrong, homophobia is not wrong. The Taliban are not doing anything wrong when they throw battery acid in a woman’s face. One can state that they don’t like these things but subjective expressions of emotion are not a replacement for sensible public evidence like science. Those who offer moral critiques of religious practices may as well invoke the existence of fairies at the end of the garden, belief in unicorns, imaginary friends or spaghetti monsters if they want us to accept there are moral duties. Belief in duties is just a primitive Bronze Age superstition.
Flipping around arguments against a deity and re-applying them to moral duties of every kind makes for an interesting rhetorical play.  Now an atheist could still propose that the existence of a god in the mind of a theist is likely an extension of the "theory of mind" that allows for empathy between humans and even between humans and non-humans (i.e. caring about cruelty to animals) but this is the internet ... and the weekend.  So, yes, we admit we're not trying that hard here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ribbon Farm on the distinction between authority and authoritah HT to Alastair Roberts

Once authoritah has been effectively imposed, it can be exercised in dramatically leveraged and highly deterministic ways. A single phone call can move mountains, without tedious consultation, arguments, second-guessing or questioning. Connecting is for normal, nice people. Collecting is for people who are headed for either world domination or madness.

It gets better!

... Cartman is not a natural leader. He ends up leading the gang most of the time primarily because he is prepared to expend prodigious amounts of energy  to get his way. More energy than the others are willing to put into resisting him. [emphasis added, as below]

So very true!

But energy alone is not enough. Cartman is not the smartest of the gang, but he possesses social cunning, which manifests as an ability to manipulate the social realities of others. He is able to do this not because he understands social realities better (though that is sometimes the case), but because he values them less and is therefore more willing to damage them to get his way. What is sacred to others is not sacred to Cartman.

And nothing is more sacred to most people than the human quality of relationships. Devaluing the human element in relationships is at the heart of the difference between collection and connection, and the essence of authoritah.

By contrast:

Connecting is the basis of the social graph metaphor: a space of relationships whose idealized primitive building block is a one-to-one relationship based on mutual recognition.  Recognition in this philosophical sense is about more than identification in the information-theoretic sense of connecting names to unique faces. To recognize someone is to acknowledge them as fully human and with an equal claim to defining the relationship. In fact, the core underlying assumption is stronger: that there is a whole-greater-than-parts element to relationships that can only be unlocked if the relationship is defined by consensus. So with mutual recognition, the value in the relationship lies in the fact that it is mutually defined.

The relational whole can only be greater than the sum of its parts and, further, to be said to even truly exist if mutual consent creates the relationship. 

If you want a fantastic summation quote it'd probably hard to top this:

The difference between authority and authoritah is that we recognize and gladly follow authority, but we succumb to authoritah. Though authoritah is a mode of relating that applies to all relationships made by a collector, only the active, external kind of collecting behavior involves coercion. [emphasis original]

Then we get this beautiful gear-shift from quasi-academic jargon to ...

If extreme physical or emotional violence is not an option, and the connectee appears immune to flattery or incentives, the collector is likely to resort to bullshit: a pattern of persuasion based on indifference to the truth/falsity of what is being said.  But bullshit deployed as part of the exercise of authoritah is no ordinary bullshit.

Ordinary bullshit can be casual and unfocused, but bullshit deployed as part of the exercise of authoritah is like a laser beam. It drives the collectee relentlessly towards accepting the relationship structure proposed by the collector.

Authoritah works its magic primarily by wearing down the collectee. It becomes so exhausting to penetrate the relentless barrage of bullshit, cajoling, threats, flattery, intimidation, pandering and bullying that you end up yielding. [emphasis added] When this happens, you’ve been assimilated into a reality distortion field of the sort attributed to Steve Jobs and charismatic leaders of kool-aid cults who drive their followers to suicide.

There's more but I've electively quoted the most fascinating excerpts for your consideration.  ;) 

The Gospel Coalition vs The Resurgence on "intentionality"

Apparently the boundless idiocy known as "intentionality" is not just alive and well in MH teaching (alas!) but it's getting continued promotion in the same lazy categories as have existed before.

Behold!  More simplistic tedious boilerplate recycling ideas Driscoll and company were attempting to shill an entire decade ago.

Rather than quote junk I got tired of seeing a decade ago, I will note that someone at The Gospel Coalition found the Martian bromides on dating weird enough to single them out specifically.

...  For the most part, Andersen's piece spoon feeds us the same folk wisdom we've been hearing in the church since everyone freaked out when that first guy asked the first girl on a one-on-one date to get ice cream (I think the same folks are still freaking). I am disappointed that we haven't modified our thinking about a cultural practice that has evolved immensely in good ways and bad. We are stuck dealing with the most complex, dynamic relationship situations by applying clunky and awkward dating categories that are entirely unique to a historical setting at least 50 years ago in our small subculture.

Moving along ...

Andersen's language makes the "intentional" guy sound obviously intelligent, while the unintentional guy can barely put together a sentence. That contrast confuses the nature of the issue so that it is difficult to see Andersen's point. In fact, I don't think he is contrasting intentionality and unintentionality at all. He is talking about certainty and uncertainty.[emphasis added] He creates a utopian connection between intentionality and certainty (and, I suppose, a dystopian connection between unintentionality and uncertainty) that does not necessarily exist. Relationships in general are not so black-and-white, and they are far less so in the context of attraction and romance. Yet he says that if you don't act black and white, you're falling short of your responsibilities as a man. This contrast misses altogether the intentional guy who's uncertain about his feelings for a girl he's getting to know. Guys need to understand they should not necessarily feel guilty for uncertainty.

Near the end ... :

Hard-and-fast rules about intentionality could very easily be used by a guy as an excuse for trying to control the relationship, or for forcing a girl to come to terms with and articulate her feelings too early on in the relationship. That's unhealthy. In fact, it's more than unhealthy. It's untrue to life as it really is, and it will most likely suffocate the relationship and drive a person away (or draw an unhealthily insecure person closer).

One of the most striking stories one of my married friends shared with me was how he was writing to a friend about the girlfriend he had at the time.  The sentiment was that she wasn't Ms. Right but she was certainly Ms. Right-for-Right-Now.  About ten years later when my friend and Ms. Right-for-Right-Now had been married for years she came across a box of letters that had this sentiment in it!  She read the letter!  Fortunately for my friend his wife has a pretty keen sense of humor and irony, and she laughed, maybe even laughed pretty hard.  These two have been married for more than a decade now and my friend said he was embarrassed his wife discovered something he wrote in a letter ages ago but grateful she could laugh and take it in stride. 

If that was a story shared with me by a Mars Hill pastor about his own wife (and it was!) then public blathering about "intentionality" is unalloyed effluvium.  Or as an apostle put it in a letter, look here you people who declare that you will do X, you don't know what will happen tomorrow ... .

At the risk of playfully interpreting Maxwell's response to Anderson, when even a Gospel Coalition contributor responds to a Resurgence article parroting Mars Hill bromides on dating and basically says "The stupid, it burns" we've seen a fairly strong cleaving between Mars Hill and The Gospel Coalition crystalized into a single talking point.

Hanna Rosin provokes ire for saying the patriarchy is dead and that the most powerful and affluent white women seem most upset to hear the news

... But most of the resistance to the idea that men have ceased to be the dominant sex has come from women—not from working-class women, who seem to find what I’m describing painfully familiar, if not totally obvious, but from women in the college, professional class.

and from the follow-up:

... In the real world it’s hard to find a young woman who spends her time scanning for sexist insults. But on the Web it’s a steady job. And you can, if you look hard enough, find some sexist bastard at a tech company or a hedge fund or a frat who says insulting things every day. But this doesn’t mean that the patriarchy is thriving. The satire response to my piece from the Cut, “The 39 Things We’ll Miss About the Patriarchy,” includes a handful of genuine, timeless horrors such as rape and honor killings but also dozens of minor ones such as juice cleansing and vibrators shaped like cupcakes. See what I mean? Look hard enough, and you’ll never run out of examples.

Certainly managing to stir things up a bit. 

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Mars Hill Church in May and June of 2012: systemic deficits and a million-dollar home purchased in Snonohomish county

We'll just start with some numbers because these numbers tell a story.
From the May 2012 update

April vs March 2012
              Adults that give  weekly giving per A.  Giving Households  Weekly attendance
April        42%                     $29.13                                   5,490                   14,059
March      41%                     $32.79                                   4838                    13,125
The June 2012 budget update included the following
                                             PAST     PRESENT       FUTURE
Weekly giving per adult        $20.25     $30.25           $35.00
church costs                        -$14.20   -$11.82         -$10.00
facilities costs                     -$12.37   -$8.81           -$10.00
central costs                        -$22.69   -$16.07         -$10.00
projects/investments           -$3.60     -$0.99           -$3.50
Margin/Loss                        -$22.61    -$7.44           $1.50

presents list of weekly deficits per campus, we'll add corresponding percentages of givers per campus into this list since Driscoll went to that stat set next
                           wkly deficit  % adults that gave
Rainer Valley      -$3.39                27%
Portland              -$3.74                42%
Federal Way        -$4.71                42%
Ballard                -$4.81                41%
Everett                -$5.73                45%
Bellevue              -$6.14                54%
Albuquerque        -$7.16               38%
Downtown           -$8.29               24%
Olympia               -$8.35               59%
Orange County    -$8.65               32%
Sammamish        -$9.75               64%
West Seattle        -$11.55              66%
U-district             -$11.82              29%
Shoreline             -$18.02              67%

So after a few years of every year being best-year-ever by the summer of 2012 Driscoll was sharing that every campus was running systemic deficits. He also alluded to what seemed to have been a mass layoff or termination process of some kind. 

So if you hear, "Hey, Mars Hill's canceled a few programs. The staff is shrinking a little bit. They're making some transitions," it's not that anybody has sinned, or done anything wrong, or is in touble, it's just that we had an economic model that wasn't sustainable for our future.

Nobody sinned but there were systemic deficits?  What happened to financial stewardship?  Who was falling short of the best they could do?  There's an explanation Driscoll would proffer elsewhere in the June 2012 update but let's take a little detour into real estate that probably wouldn't qualify as a Mars Hill campus.

In late May of 2012 the following real estate transaction was listed in Snohomish county records

The sales price was $1,055,888.00 and sold to a grantee/buyer that had its base at the physical address of the corporate headquarters of Mars Hill Church, namely

1411 NW 50TH ST, SEATTLE, WA 98107 

So however lean and difficult the financial season at Mars Hill was in June of 2012, as Mark Driscoll explained things, there was still someone who 1) had some affiliation with the Mars Hill corporate headquarters address 2) and had enough money to buy a roughly one-million dollar home in the previous month. For people with a background in fundraising in non-profit settings the address (which we're not going to actually publish here) is nested in what might be called a "prestige ZIP code".  It's sexier to say you live in X than, say, Edmonds. 

And, let's face it, while the exact person(s) party to the transaction may not be listed, in the lean season Driscoll said Mars Hill was going through last year, there weren't exactly a whole lot of people affiliated with 1411 NW 50th St in Seattle, WA 98107 that were going to be in a position to buy a house that cost a million in the midst of what Driscoll called one of the tougher financial seasons of the church. 

And because government websites tend to make things available to the public, it's no secret that by later 2012 Mark Driscoll was listed as Manager for a couple of LLCs that are registered with Washington state but incorporated in Colorado.

UBI Number                   603258278
Category                        LLC
Active/Inactive              Active
State Of Incorporation    CO
WA Filing Date               12/06/2012
Expiration Date              12/31/2013
Inactive Date
Duration                        Perpetual
Registered Agent Information
Agent Name                  C T Corporation System
Address                         505 Union Ave Se Ste 120
                                     Olympia, WA 98501

For governing persons the title, name and address are as follows:
1411 NW 50TH ST

Then there's ON MISSION, LLC, the owner of the copyright in Mark and Grace Driscoll's book Real Marriage:
UBI Number                 603258287
Category                      LLC
Active/Inactive            Active
State Of Incorporation CO
WA Filing Date            12/06/2012
Expiration Date           12/31/2013
Inactive Date 
Duration                      Perpetual
Registered Agent Information
Agent Name                C T Corporation System
Address                       505 Union Ave Se Ste 120
                                   Olympia, WA 98501
Governing Persons
Once again, the title, name and address turn out to be
1411 NW 50TH ST

Now, in a way, whose million-dollar house in Snohomish County it is that has some affiliation with the corporate headquarters of Mars Hill is not particularly important.  An author can sell tens of thousands of books and can have earned the revenue to live in a spendy house in a prestige ZIP code.

Mark Driscoll also owns or co-owns the copyright for most published things with his name on it (that Driscoll owns the copyright and not the church is another topic for discussion at some other time).  Driscoll can sell as many books as he likes and put that revenue to whatever use he sees fit, and "if" he bought an expensive house in Snohomish county he can do that. 

And Snohomish county publicized that information for anyone to consult as government registers have a habit of doing. And as for search tools, Google is pretty popular.  It's just a matter of popping in the MH-HQ address alongside "Snohomish County" and it's the first result that pops up.  Anyone can do that. Simple as that. 

This real estate transaction, whatever its connection to parties at Mars Hill, retroactively sheds some new light on an older post at Wenatchee The Hatchet.  Namely the one posted here about how Mark Driscoll told Mars Hill "We're not a wealthy church."  However not-wealthy Mars Hill Church was someone felt confident enough in their revenue stream to buy a house, a million-dollar house, at a time that Driscoll described as one of the tougher financial seasons in the history of Mars Hill.  

Yes, in June 2012 Mark Driscoll was explaining the systemic deficits Mars Hill Church was running at each and every campus and explained that nobody sinned, MHC just had a financial model that wasn't sustainable for the long-term future.  Apparently systemic deficits don't indicate even the possibility of any kind of sin within Mars Hill.  Well, maybe giving needed to improve alongside scaling back staff and programs and, meanwhile, the month before Driscoll would share about systemic deficits someone with an affiliation to the corporate headquarters of Mars Hill bought a roughly million-dollar house in Snohomish county.

Who bought that house?  Well, in a way it's not very important, is it?  People can buy real estate if they can afford it.  But we're on the other side of a housing bubble, aren't we?  And who bought that house is, in another way, obviously the point anyone would be likely to care about when the topic is Mars Hill and at ... some blog.  We're not going to bother explicating that, because it's not 100% certain through primary documentation (at this point) who bought the house.  We do not necessarily provide answers (most of the time) so much as raise questions.  [Edit. If you want to plug the parcel number into a county auditor's index of public records ... you're free to do that. The answer is not exactly a great big shock.]

So let's let the question float around a little for consideration as we close with Mark Driscoll's dry aside from his sermon about the church in Philadelphia.  In discussing the sytemic deficits and how things would improve going forward Mark Driscoll would publicly explain to Mars Hill Church what myth pervades the church when it comes to finances (sermon transcript):

Now, you look at this, you say, “Fourteen churches.” See, this is the myth at Mars Hill: “There’s a money fairy somewhere and the money fairy takes care of it.” Okay. You’re the money fairy. Okay.

POSTSCRIPT 05-09-2014
Seeing as Mars Hill Church has pulled the "Update" page and introduced robots.txt to preclude the use of The WayBack Machine readers who want to learn what's in the "Update" that was originally quoted in this post may need to try out some links over here if they want to see and hear for themselves what was discussed by Driscoll that was quoted in this post.