Saturday, July 12, 2014

sex as god, gross or gift? Mark Driscoll self-identified as leaning "god" early on, a survey of Driscoll on marriage and sex or a lack thereof from 2004-2012


There are a few things that never got particularly thorough discussion about Real Marriage when it was first published.  The most significant thing that wasn't discussed in 2012 that should have been was the amount of plagiarized material that showed up in the book.  But Driscoll as a lightning rod tended to dominate discussion.  What didn't get discussed at all were some basic questions about narrative in the book.  The book was billed as a self-help/marriage advice manual and so the fact that the framing sales pitch for the entire book was a narrative of Mark and Grace Driscoll's marriage and their history as the founding couple of Mars Hill went undiscussed.  That they were not the only founding couple to establish Mars Hill has been taken up in other posts.

But amid all the fracas about the Driscoll book over citation problems or the Result Source controversy some other things have not come up for discussion, such as a basic question about narrative.  Mark Driscoll mentioned that he tended to view sex as a god but didn't describe how or why this was.  In fact the story of the Driscoll marriage seemed to be that the cure for Mark Driscoll's depression was more frequent sex.  Grace Driscoll described a tendency to view sex as gross and yet Mark Driscoll's account within the opening pages of Real Marriage raise some question about whether husband and wife were ever on the same page.  Why?

Real Marriage
Mark and Grace Driscoll
Copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
Thomas Nelson
ISBN 978-1-4002-0383-3
ISBN 978-1-4041-8352-0 (IE)
page 9-10
To be honest, fornicating was fun. I liked fornicating. To stop fornicating was not fun. But eventually Grace and I stopped fornicating, got engaged, and were married between our junior and senior years of college.

I assumed that once we were married we would simply pick up where we left off sexually and make up for last time. After all, we were committed Christians with a relationship done God's way.
But God's way was a total bummer. My previously free and fun girlfriend was suddenly my frigid and fearful wife. She did not undress in front of me, required teh lights to be off on the rare occasions we were intimated, checked out during sex, and experience da lot of physical discomfort because she was tense. [emphasis added]

Keep that emphasized material in mind as we go.

Before long I was bitter against God and Grace. It seemed to me as if they had conspired to trap me. I had always been the "good guy" who turned down women for sex. In my twisted logic, I had been holy enough, and god owed me. I felt God had conned me by telling me to marry Grace, and allowed Grace to rule over me since she was controlling our sex life. [emphasis added] I loved Grace, but in the bedroom I did not enjoy her and wondered how many years I couild white-knuckle fidelity. ... We desperately needed help but didn't know where to turn. Bitterness and condemnation worsened.

page 14
I grew more chauvinistic. I had never cheated on a girlfriend, but I never had a girlfriend who did not cheat on me. And now I knew that included my own wife. So I started to distrust women in general, including Grace. This affected my tone in preaching for a season, something I will always regret.

There's an entire post to be written about just that quote.  It's striking that Mark Driscoll expresses regret about his tone but no regret at all about the substance of what he said over the years.  Now, on to the pertinent quote about sex as gross and sex as god.


page 121
... When we married, I (Mark) tended toward sex as god. I was a newer Christian who had accumulated most of his knowledge about sex from culture, locker-room talk, and sinning sexually with a few young women. Conversely, Grace was raised in a home that was religiously conservative when it came to sex, had sinned sexually, and had been sinned against sexually. She considered sex gross. For her I was too much sexually. For me she was too little sexually. We made very little progress for many years until we had spent considerable time talking through our sexual history and beliefs, working together through many hours in the Bible and Christian books to arrive at a unified view of sex as gift.  Once we came to the same place in our thinking about sex, we began to work as allies instead of enemies. Our marriage has never been the same since, and our sex gets better all the time.

When we got married, I (Grace) didn't understand the physical and emotional aspects of sex for men. It seemed with his high sex drive that was all Mark wanted from me and that he didn't appreciate anything else I did. His drive seemed to get stronger the less we had sex, and I wondered if it was an idol to him or if that was normal for me. I later realized it was partially a real physical need, not an obsession, since he wasn't masturbating  or getting relief some other way, which I am thank for. I read somewhere that if you have sex more, it actually decreases the necessity for frequent sex over time for most men. I tried that but it didn't seem to change anything for Mark.

Grace refers to sex as almost a physical need.  What never gets discussed is whether males have almost a physical need for sex regardless of whether or not they are married.  Mark Driscoll has only intermittently addressed the connection between male sexuality as an identity and the sex drive in particular but that is the subject for some other post.  What we can establish from the cumulative Driscollian narrative is that Mark Driscoll believed that he needed to have more sex, convinced his wife of this reality, and it was made so.

While Grace Driscoll describes how she tended to view sex as gross Mark Driscoll's account about a hundred pages earlier remarks on how unpleasant a surprise he had when his previously fun and carefree girlfriend turned out to be his frigid and fearful wife.  What happened?  They decided to stop fornicating and wait to resume sex until marriage.  It's certainly possible Grace tended to view sex as gross and who can know the thoughts of a mind but the mind itself, as Paul the apostle so famously noted?  Still, by Mark Driscoll's own account he seemed pretty satisfied with the nature and frequency of sex he was having with Grace before they decided to take their respective Christian faiths seriously.  There's a paradoxical sense in which a heathen would suggest the problem was just that, that the Driscolls took their respective Christian faiths seriously, stopped having the kind of sex they'd been having, and then found they couldn't get back to the old normal once they were married.  The solution outlined by the Driscolls later on looks lie something a completely secular counselor would have advised, communication.  At least the communication part.  Can't see a reason to address the rest.

page 164

As with many things in marriage, communication is key. When I cam to the conclusion that the cure for a lot of my moodiness was having more frequent sex with my wife, I simply told her. Yes, it's that simple. For years, when I would endure depression, I tried to talk to Grace about it. Her natural inclination was to want to have long talks about our feelings toward each other, and I know that connecting with her like this is important. But sometimes I was jsut too frustrated and ended up blowing up and hurting her feelings. The truth was I wanted to have more frequent sex with my life, and we needed to discuss how that could happen. 

To make matters worse, seemingly every book I read by Christians on sex and marriage sounded unfair. Nearly every one said the husband had to work very hard to understand his wife, to relate to her, and when he did that to her satisfaction then, maybe, she would have sex with him as a sort of reward. After many years I finally told Grace that I needed more sex. I asked if we could have sex more days of the week and try a variety of positions. She'd be the one to decide exactly how we would be together> Grace said that helped her think about our intimacy throughout the course of the day, which helped prepare her mind and body. To our mutual delight, we discovered that both of us felt closer more loved and understood, and were more patient with each other if we were together regularly in some way. And whether my depression was testosterone-induced or not, I just generally felt happier.

For a wife, sex comes out of a healthy relationship, whereas, for a husband, it leads to one. 

That last sentence is a zinger for anyone who has read some Puritans.  It would be difficult to overstate the contrast here between the Driscolls on sex in marriage and Richard Baxter's statement that an impotent man and a frigid woman can nonetheless enjoy the fellowship and benefits of marriage as there are other positive things to be enjoyed therein regardless of whether physical infirmities may prevent the husband and wife from having any sex at all.  But this is not a post to rehash the matter of the Driscolls vs the Puritans.


As noted elsewhere in this blog neither Mark nor Grace Driscoll saw fit to mention in their 2012 book that Grace endured no less than five C-sections and a miscarriage and that this just "might" have negatively impacted her willingness and capacity to have sex as often as Mark Driscoll may have wanted it.  This matter is made all the stranger by the reality that none other than Mark Driscoll himself saw fit to inform the entire world of these details of Grace Driscoll's medical history in the 2008 book Death By Love.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
Published by Crossway Books
PDF ISBN: 978-1-4335-0423-5
ISBN-10: 1433501295
ISBN-13: 9781433501296

page 164
My wife, Grace, and I love Gideon and thank God for him often. My wife is petite, and I have a big head, which resulted in C-sections with the birth of each of our children. Having endured one miscarriage and four C-sections, Grace was ready to be done with pregnancies. But I was not yet ready to do anything to prevent God from giving us a child. So, we left it in God's hands and we were given Gideon, whom I affectionately refer to as Guppy, for being the youngest, and as Flip Flop, because at a very young age he decided he only wanted to wear flip-flops on the wrong feet for the rest of his life.  To her credit, Grace often gives me a hug and thanks me for not stopping at four children, because Gideon has been an absolute blessing and a joy to our family.

page 166
... For example, before I met Jesus I was guilty of sexual sin. I was sexually active prior to marriage and also occasionally looked at pornography. But because Jesus died for those sins and saved me from them, I have been able to put those sins to death. As a result, you were brought into a family where your mom and I truly love one another and have been faithful to one another in every way.  We know that apart from Jesus , dying for our sin, sin would have killed our marriage. You would have been either raised by a single mother or trapped in a home of sin and bitterness, marked by unrest and hostility between your mother and me, if it were not for Jesus' death on the cross.

page 176
After four children, we thought we were done having babies because your mom suffered through painful C-sections with each birth, and we feared for her health. Yet, as I prayed, I believed that someone was missing from our family. Your mom prayed a lot and trusted me to lead our family. Out of our love you were conceived, and we were both thrilled because we believed that God has chosen you to be a blessing to our family and to the world in some way.  Throughout the pregnancy, your mother and I, and your siblings prayed daily for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

But with respect to the statements from page 166 ... it kind of seemed as though the first chapter of Real Marriage established that there was sin and bitterness marked by at least some unrest and hostility between husband and wife, didn't it? 


Now there is something worth noting in addition to all the above, that when Mark Driscoll referred to how he felt Grace was controlling their sex life and that he felt there wasn't enough sex in the marriage that based on a February 2008 lecture given to Mars Hill leadership Mark Driscoll considered this the first category in what he called the "ordinary demonic".
Spiritual Warfare part 2, The Devil
February 5, 2008

Ordinary demonic, about 10 minutes in

Sexual sin, a married couple should have sex frequently otherwise 1 Cor 7 says Satan will get in there and destroy everything.

"How many of you would think that a couple that doesn't have enough sex is experiencing demonic spiritual warfare? It's true. How many Christian marriages divorce?  Well, statistically, more than those who are not Christian. When non-Christians can work it out a rate that is more successful than Christians that would indicate to me that Satan has really found a way to climb into bed between a husband and a wife and, in one way or another, cause devastation.

When I'm meeting with a couple and one of them, maybe it's the husband, says, "Well, my wife's not being very nice to me so I'm gonna deny her sex and until she's nice to me I'm gonna withhold it."  That's demonic. The wife who says, "You know, I'm just never in the mood and, you know, I know you love me and we have a decent marriage and there's no reason I shouldn't have sex with you, but, I'm just not in the mood or, you know, I don't feel like giving it to you until you give something to me and it becomes a bartering chip in the relationship." That's demonic. That's demonic.

To be sure, there are sex addicts in marriage who are unreasonable in their expectations of their spouse but what I'm talking about is the common situation where one person in the marriage wants to be intimate more often than the other and they're rejected, they become bitter,  Satan comes in and feeds that bitterness, baits the hook of their flesh with the temptation of the world, and all of a sudden Satan puts in front of them images and people and opportunities to lead them astray and to destroy everything.

It doesn't make anyone a victim. It doesn't make anyone a victim because we all of our own choosing choose sin but it does mean you're giving Satan an opportunity to literally sleep between you and your spouse.

So it seems pretty clear Mark Driscoll viewed denying a spouse sex was Satanic as a general rule.  The case Mark Driscoll made to his wife for the necessity of him getting more sex was that it remedied his moodiness and depression in the 2012 book but in 2008 the instruction to leaders within Mars Hill Church (the 2008 Spiritual Warfare series was a lecture given to Mars Hill staff that was not shared from the pulpit on any regular Sunday service) the leadership culture of Mars Hill was told in pretty blunt terms that denying sex within marriage was simply Satanic.  A week after Wenatchee The Hatchet quoted from the 2008 Spiritual Warfare material Mars Hill decided to withdraw all of the audio.


And for all that, if the question one asks is how Mark Driscoll may have viewed sex as a god there may be hints from the pulpit preaching itself which has since been removed by Mars Hill.  But Wenatchee the Hatchet has a bunch of that stuff still at hand.

Part 8: 1 Timothy 4:1-8
February 22, 2004

You guys should aspire to get married.  You guys should aspire to get--you gotta get a job first. You gotta get a job, not a job where you wear a uniform and ask people fi they wanna supersize something. You gotta get a job.  You gotta get a job so you can get a wife so you can get kids.  And it's a great, glorious thing to be a husband and a father, and only a demon would tell you otherwise.  Only a demon would tell you otherwise. [emphasis added]

And if you're a guy in this church, c'mon. I mean look around.  It's like fishing in a trout pond. I mean, any woman that is in this church and endures me as her Bible teacher is obviously patient, kind, forgiving and loyal, right? She's just--she's got all this stuff to be a wife. She does.
There are universal sins, which are a sin for everyone: murder, rape, theft, lying.  For everyone, everywhere, all the time, all circumstances, those are universal sins.

Then there are also particular sins, which maybe your conscience won't permit you to involve yourself in but are not universal sins, so you have to obey your conscience. Maybe your conscience doesn't allow you to eat meat. Maybe your conscience doesn't allow you to participate incertain forms of diet.  Maybe it doesn't. And you know what? A good teacher will tell you to obey the universal principles and to obey your conscience in all of the particulars.

A false teacher will take their beliefs on all of the particular sins, and they will force them on everyone. We need to be very, very careful that we say what the Bible says, and where it's silent, so are we.  And if someone should ask, we can be free to say, "My convictions and my conscience is this way, and I conduct myself this way for these reasons. ...

We're all weak and strong in different areas, and we gotta abide by conscience. If the Bible doesn't prohibit something, we can't enforce prohibtion on one another, but bad Bible teachers don't know that. They make rules and legalisms and moralities; and they enforce their conscience on everyone. And in so doing, they're acting in a demonic way because they're going against the freedom that the Scriptures give.

We might get back to how that was all hypocritical in light of the courtship fad inside Mars Hill going on at that very moment some time later.

Still, for a reader who was never in Mars Hill at that time, that might all still look innocuous enough.  How about this?

Part 8 of 1 Timothy
Pastor Mark Driscoll
1 Timothy 4:1-8
February 22, 2004

So as a young boy growing up, I aspired to be like my father. I’m thinking, “You know what? I can’t wait to get married, have kids, be a dad, coach Little League.” This is like my vision and goal. I go to church. Catholic priest is effeminate. No wife, no kids, no Little League, can’t catch, can’t throw, can’t change his own oil, nothing. And I’m looking at him and I’m looking at my dad, saying these two guys are totally different, and I wanna be like my dad. So I didn’t go to church anymore. I just checked out till I got saved at 19, just checked out. Didn’t want anything to do with it. I was thinking, “You know what? I don’t wanna be like this guy. I don’t wanna be single.” Like virginity is a season, not a goal. [emphasis added] Sorry. I wanna have kids. Just thinking about that sort of just – it just hit me like how ridiculous that is. I wanna have kids. I wanna be a dad, and I wanna love my wife, and I wanna coach Little League. And like yesterday, I’m outside and my kids are riding their bikes.

"Only a demon would tell you otherwise?" eh?  Was Mark Driscoll positive about that because it kind of looks like Paul could be seen as saying that marriage, however valuable and positive, is not strictly necessary. 

Curiously, over in 1 Corinthians 7 (NIV)

25 Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

36 If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong[b] and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. 37 But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.[c]

Was Mark Driscoll going to suggest that Paul was demonic?  No, the explanation was Paul was referring to a time of persecution or famine and that the normative pattern was that unless God called you to do something like smuggle Bibles into China you needed to be married.  Never mind the eschatological component that's not even latent in Paul's instructions. It wouldn't have been the first or last time Mark Driscoll made a sweeping pronouncement on who should get married and why without necessarily bothering with the whole counsel of Scripture, as the old saying goes.


But perhaps the 2004 quip about virginity being a season and not a goal was due to whatever had not yet happened in 2006 in Mark's conversations with Grace.  Very well, then. Let's consider a curiosity from 2008's Peasant Princess.  Behold!

MH-17? Seriously?
God gives young men such strong sex drives because that drive to have sex is what they're supposed to harness into becoming adults?  This sounds like what some folks in Seattle might call a heteronormative biological determinism!  That in 2008 Mark Driscoll would hinge so much of the impulse for a boy to become a man because he wanted to have sexual intercourse with a woman opens up an interesting conundrum to the sex-as-incentive-to-grow-up ... what if a person wants to have sex with someone of the same gender?  If that were to somehow turn out to be the case then the entire matrix of honorably pursuing a formalized heterosexual marriage as the simultaneous means and end of growing up evaporates.  It's astonishing that for all the work Mars Hill Church did to scrub away material from Peasant Princess this stuff is still sitting around in plain sight ... for now.  Let's give them a few days to decide to delete this stuff, too. The screen capture is still here at Wenatchee The Hatchet.


Now it's not just in 2008 that Mark Driscoll made a point of explicitly linking functional adulthood with an active sexual relationship.  He flipped things around in 2012 during the Esther series in his jocular definition of what a eunuch was.
Jesus Has a Better Kingdom
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Esther 1:10–22
September 21, 2012
about 8:39 into the sermon.

Number two, men are castrated. Men are castrated. I’ll read it for you. “He commanded—” and these guys got names. “Mehuman—” That’s kind of a rapper name, I was thinking, like, ancient Persian hip-hop artist, Mehuman. That’s how it’s spelled. “Biztha.” Sounds like a sidekick. “Harbona, Bigtha.” That’s my personal favorite. If I had to pick a Persian name, Bigtha. Definitely not Littletha. I would totally go with Bigtha. “Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas.”

Okay, a couple things here. The Bible talks about real people, real circumstances, real history. That’s why they’re facts. It’s not just philosophy. Number two, if you ever have an opportunity to teach the Bible and you hit some of the parts with the old, crazy names, read fast and confident. No one knows how to pronounce them, and they’ll just assume you do.

Here are these guys. So, you’ve got seven guys, “the seven eunuchs.” What’s a eunuch? A guy who used to have a good life, and joy, and hope. That’s the technical definition of a eunuch. A eunuch is a man who is castrated. [emphasis added] Proceeding with the story before I have to fire myself.

So that meant in Mark Driscoll's joke a man who had been castrated was a guy who used to have a good life, and joy, and hope.  Why?  Because of the possibility of one day having sex?  There's a point at which the kinds of jokes a person makes suggest what the person feels is safe to joke about.

If Mark Driscoll would have the world believe that at some undefined point in the past he tended to view sex as a god an explanation of how that was is not necessarily lacking.  We haven't even touched the Scotland sermon with its "Jesus commands you to do this" comment about wives and oral sex. There's no need to, really.  Alternately claiming in 2008 that God gives young men a huge drive to have sex because that's what will help them ... grow up?  That might be a sign of putting too much stock in sexuality as a basis for defining functional adulthood.  And the joke that a eunuch was a guy who used to have a good life, and joy, and hope?  There's a chapter in Isaiah devoted to sharing with eunuchs that might not be in the Bible that Mark Driscoll reads. 

Even if we assume for the sake of discussion that at some point Mark Driscoll made a god of sex in the past there's no clear reason to assume that has stopped being the case, particularly not when Mark Driscoll worked in the idea that denying sex in marriage is Satanic in a 2008 spiritual warfare teaching; when Driscoll seriously claimed in 2008 that God gives young men a high sex drive to spur them to grow up; when Driscoll joked in 2012 that eunuchs were guys who HAD hope and a future before being castrated; and when in his 2012 book Driscoll declared that the cure for his moodiness and depression was more frequent sex.  Where in that decade-spanning sequence of material is there any sign that Mark Driscoll stopped making a god of sex if he assured us he tended to view sex as a god to begin with? 

What is most striking about all of this content is that to date Mark Driscoll has been willing to sort of say he's sorry about his tone but has never once apologized for the substance of things he has said.  That's not a small thing.  It's all the difference in the world in relational terms to say "I'm sorry you were offended by what I said" on the one hand and, "I am sorry for what I said, it was wrong, and I ask that you forgive me."  In older Mars Hill terms one would be described as a sign of real repentance and the other as an evasive concession that maybe something happened amiss but nobody's going to confess to the true scope of the problem.

POSTSCRIPT 7-23-2014
If withholding sex within marriage is satanic and a category of the "ordinary demonic" then who knows whether one of the most satanic things a group of women could propose to do would be a sex strike? Like the one proposed earlier this year by Ukrainian women to protest recent events, for instance.

a blast from the past, a Resurgence blog post from Mark Driscoll indicates that Death By Love was taking shape in 2006

It's Always Something at Mars Hill Church
Author: Mark Driscoll
POSTED ON: 09.19.06

October 1, 2006 is the ten-year anniversary of the church that I had the privilege of founding in Seattle when I was twenty-five years old. We started as a Bible study about the size of an average Mormon family. Over the years, God has been gracious to us in one of America's least Christian cities, where there are more dogs than Christians.

For ten years we have gotten virtually nothing but very positive media coverage. I've worked hard behind the scenes to make sure we were presented as we are and not used for some subversive agenda. To date, we've gotten good press from ABC Television, NPR, Mother Jones magazine, Christianity Today, and others.

In the past week we got our first two negative pieces beyond the usual rants of bloggerdom. The first is a book called The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right by Robert Lanham, who was Baptist and is now an atheist as far as I can tell. It's a funny book with some funny cartoons on everyone from Rick Warren as the evangelical Jimmy Buffett to a guide for Christian haircuts that is hilarious. The cover actually has Jerry Falwell, George Bush, Pat Robertson, James Dobson (I think), and Ted Haggard posing like the Reservoir Dogs, which was pretty clever.

He sent me a copy and I was chuckling until I saw that I am the postscript! It's a cartoon of me with a bigger gut than I actually have and my shirt tucked in (blasphemous), holding up a pitchfork guitar as the Devil disguised as a rock star. The rest of the chapter laments the fact that the future of Christianity may be like me and Mars Hill. Apparently, I am Rob Bell's evil doppelganger, which I guess is true, but deciding which one of us is in fact the evil one would depend on whether you are a theological liberal or conservative.

The second is the recently released book called Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement by Lauren Sandler. She came out to Seattle some years ago and did a feature on us for Mother Jones magazine. She was nice and did a rather positive piece. Her latest book is saddening because she was welcomed into Mars Hill and treated well, as she states clearly. However, she sees everything in our world as a condemnation on hers. As such, she is the one who is righteous in her own eyes-lamenting that people don't think and vote and live like her. It pains me a great deal to see our great women leaders and deacons like Judy and Sarah take shots in the story, but it was inevitable. Poor Sarah, we are told, has essentially ruined her life by adopting two African-American kids to be their mom because now she has less time to read Gloria Steinem.

I'm not recommending the book, but the chapter on us is online for free and, like the old adage says, you get what you pay for.

For the record, I do believe men and women were both made equal as God's image-bearers and, though different, maintain equality. I also believe that marriage is a good thing and that children are a blessing. I am not politically active, and neither is our church, which probably splits down the middle between Democrats, Republicans, and a smattering of independent types longing for a third party. On the big issues, we hold a literal biblical position.

To be honest, it's all getting a bit surreal lately with who is calling to be friends and who is criticizing what we believe and what we are doing. God has showed up and we feel like a kite in a hurricane, strained beyond our limits at times, trying to serve Jesus as best we can by the grace He provides.
Since a lot of folks have an opinion about Mars Hill from the outside, I thought that it would be clarifying to provide a quick glimpse of what is going on inside Mars Hill right now. Many of our staff became Christians in the church, were married in the church, and birthed their children in the church. Our staff is now maybe seventy people (I'm actually not exactly sure) and we are busier than ever. Right now construction is underway on an office campus for us to actually have enough space for people to work. We hope to enter into that space in October around our tenth anniversary. Our video campus in North Seattle is less than a year old and has packed out its building, which means we are adding a second service in a few weeks. That will require live-streaming video of the sermon and the tech gurus are fast at work trying to figure out how to make it work.

We are also renovating a 50,000-square-foot, 1,000-seat church in West Seattle that was given to us. We hoped to launch a new campus there on our tenth anniversary, but things are sadly not moving as quickly as we would like. So, last week we signed a rental contract to use Chief Sealth High School one mile away from our building as an interim meeting space. We have two weeks to pull off all the logistics (parking, sound, light, video, kids, etc.) to have our first service there September 24. We are praying for six to eight hundred people to kick it off. When we pull it all off, we'll be at seven services in three parts of the city with me preaching live four times and via video three times.
The next issue facing us is what to do when the current services at our Seattle (Ballard) campus overflow, likely by November. Right now we have a few seats at the 9 a.m. service, none at the 11 a.m., a few at the 5 p.m., and nearly none at the 7 p.m. Plus, we have grown by 1,200 people there each of the last three years.

Things are getting complicated, to say the least. To cover some of the real estate debt, we're also asking our people to give over $1 million in a single day in a few weeks, which is a big stretch since many are young and most are still single.

Meanwhile, we are training ten new pastor candidates to bolster our existing fifteen. We have a few dozen deacons (male and female) and are training nearly fifty new deacons to help lead the church. We're pushing to increase our home community groups to more than two hundred around the region this fall. We're also going from one to three nights and locations for midweek classes and programming around the city. In addition, over one hundred couples are getting married every year and hundreds of babies are being born. Just baptizing the new Christians is getting complicated and we recently did more than sixty in one day.

We are still giving 10 percent of our money to help lead the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. I'm still writing a lot, including a book titled Death by Love on the subject of the cross that is nearing completion. [emphasis added] This week we did a free training about preaching for nearly a hundred pastors in our area and the guys ate a lot of meat for lunch. We captured my lecture on preaching and will vodcast it in chunks here on this site free of charge, as always, before too long. We've also upgraded our cameras to high-def so that the free stuff we do give away through Resurgence and Mars Hill will be as high quality as possible in an effort to help equip as many people around the world as possible on our dime.

We're also moving as fast as we can to increase our ability to do biblical counseling. Our recovery groups for drugs, alcohol, and sexual addiction are maxed out and growing all the time. Perhaps our most encouraging ministry is happening with our Grace Groups for people who have been sexually abused. This is an epidemic in our church and the number of folks who have been molested and/or raped is almost overwhelming. Hundreds have been helped or are getting help and hundreds more need help from the sin that has been committed against them. Many of the most affected are dear friends and it has been quite a heavy-hearted journey to hear that the people I love as a pastor and friend have been so horrendously violated before coming to our church.

I know a lot of people, especially idealists with blogs and small churches, think they know what we should teach and what we should do. All I can say is that we are working hard and trying to figure it out, but to be honest, it's not an easy task. We're all a bit tired, humbled, and honored that Jesus would use us.

More than ever, I really love Mars Hill. There is no desire in me to do anything but what I'm doing with the people I'm doing it with. I often tell my people that I am giving them my life and intend to preach my own funeral and then climb into my coffin and shut the lid to go see Jesus. The work is hard, we are stretched beyond our limits right now, and I'm actually home sick with the flu after some really long work days lately along with the other elders and deacons. But, deep down I'm really happy. I have seen my kids born in Mars Hill, seen the lives of everyone in my family changed by Mars Hill, and seen myself been transformed by my brothers and sisters in Mars Hill. Not to denigrate any other church, but this is a special place and I'm honored and humbled to be here. And I'm having a lot of fun.

It does sadden me when I see cheap shots taken at our people because, in some ways, they are just getting some of the stray bullets that missed me. I'm sure we'll be here again soon and before long it will seem more normal. I guess I've been taking hits for so long that I'm more accustomed to it. This is one glimpse into the tough and sometimes darker side of the job that I wish I could shield my people from. In some ways, I must confess that I do bring it on myself because at times I do cross lines and I have not learned the art of subtlety.

We're not a perfect people and this is not a perfect church led by perfect men. But we worship the perfect Jesus and He promises to make everything perfect in its time. These seasons are the means by which He sanctifies us to be more like Him if we lean into them with gladness and trust that God is loving and works out all things for our good and His glory.

In conclusion, if anyone wants to pray for us in this crazy season, please do. I would especially appreciate the prayers of our critics because some of their criticisms may in fact be accurate and we are straining to keep up with the wildfire that God has set ablaze in our midst. After ten years we have certainly not figured it all out. But we are sure having a lot of fun together with Jesus and every day is quite an adventure.

Death By Love got published in 2008 and turned out to be co-authored with Gerry Breshears.  It's conceivable Driscoll had a working title that may or may not have been the same book that was published with Breshears as co-author years later.  In any event, in the midst of 2006 it has been established that mark Driscoll was familiar with and recommended Dan Allender's The Wounded Heart.  There's room to debate whether everyone would agree that Death By Love may have been the first instance in which Driscoll made use of Allender's ideas without giving any citation at all. 

If the book Death By Love had been mostly written by Mark Driscoll as far back as 2006 this could explain why it seemed as though the majority of case studies for each chapter referenced people who seemed to be around in the earlier but not necessarily later years of Mars Hill.  By 2006 Driscoll was working on improving things in his marriage and handed off his counseling activity, it seems, to Bent Meyer (if not earlier than 2006 since Bent Meyer has been shown to be playing at least some role in connection to Mars Hill counseling as far back as 2002. 
As for other details about Death By Love.

Jan 2012 Sutton Turner published "Jesus Just Stepped on the Gas", June 2012 Mark Driscoll update, and now both statements are gone, kind of.

Anyone else recall this old post from Sutton Turner a couple of years ago?  Yet another dead link.
Jesus Just Stepped On the Gas

Dear Mars Hill, 

We have 14,876 reasons to celebrate. God exploded our church over the weekend with the biggest Sunday we’ve ever had (not including that one time we rented a football stadium). To give you some perspective:
• We have grown by 50% (5,000 people) since this time last year.
• We have grown by 12% (1,500 people) since this time last week alone.
• This past Sunday, six of our churches had more than 1,000 people in attendance: Ballard, Shoreline, West Seattle, Bellevue (almost 2,000!), Downtown Seattle, and Albuquerque. 
• All this despite the fact that two of our churches, Olympia and Federal Way, had to meet in temporary buildings on Sunday due to power outages.
• Church-wide, we’re at 82% capacity and have 36 weekend services at 14 churches.
• Downtown Seattle is now larger than it was before it sent a few hundred people out to launch the Rainier Valley church.
• The total number of Community Groups is now up to 551. We’ve added 60 new groups since the end of 2011.

Praise God! It’s incredible to see what Jesus is doing at Mars Hill. What an amazing miracle we get to be a part of! We have a ton of momentum heading toward Easter, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store next.

Where We’re Going
Now that we’re on the cusp of 15,000 people, we’ve got our sights on 20,000. We always want our church to grow because as the church grows, the gospel will spread. As the gospel spreads, more people will meet Jesus and be saved.

How Will You Bless Others?
Our church cannot continue to grow if we do not grow in maturity as its people. There are a lot of new folks around Mars Hill these days, which means the rest of us need to think more about how we can bless others in the same way the we have been blessed. Here are some simple ideas:
• Show up to church with a servant mentality (looking for needs you can meet) rather than a consumer mentality (looking for your needs to be met).
• Join a Community Group—and participate: talk to people, bring some food to share.
• Give.
• Attend the first or last service of the day to make room during prime time for newcomers.
• Attend one service and volunteer at a second.
• Be friendly. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” Introduce yourself to somebody this Sunday. Invite them to your Community Group.

We serve an amazing God who has blessed us with an incredible church. Let’s enjoy it and make the most of it so that more people can meet Jesus!

Sutton Turner is the executive pastor of Mars Hill Church.

A few months later, for those who might not recall, Wenatchee The Hatchet noted Mark Driscoll's update on Mars Hill financials circa June 2012 and wrote the following:
If in January 2012 Sutton Turner was saying Jesus had just stepped on the gas the eviction of Orange County and in June Driscoll shared about the eviction, systemic deficits, a mass lay-off, and the decision to not plant new churches this year does that mean Jesus slammed on the brakes?

And now?  There's no longer any web page from Turner saying Jesus stepped on the gas. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Update on Mars Hill Global only 4 or 400 who signed an outside petition gave to Mars Hill Global

Seen anything like this recently?

Update on Mars Hill Global
We are very thankful for what Jesus has done through our global family since 2009, with many disciples made and churches planted in the US, Ethiopia, and India.

As we strive to communicate the vision of Mars Hill Church, there has been an outside petition asking questions of Mars Hill. However, of the nearly 400 signers, only four have ever given to Mars Hill Global. We sent letters this past week to over 6000 Global donors giving them the option to designate their funds solely for international work if they wish. We received many replies of encouragement, as well as a few people who asked to change their designation, and we have gladly made those changes.

If you have any questions regarding Mars Hill Global, we have recently posted updates to our Global FAQ online page that you might find helpful.

Something like this seems to have made rounds recently.

So somebody cared enough to find out that only four of four hundred people ever gave to Mars Hill Global.  This sort of resembles another situation in which Mars Hill folk seem to have been informed that only a tiny ratio of respondents to a survey responded and even those respondents had nothing of note.

It got discussed over at this blog post:

As noted at that blog post, the letter that was sent never got any substantial description from Van Skaik.  If more than a hundred letters were sent out in response to formal charges the letter published at Wenatchee The Hatchet betrayed no indication the letter was in response to or in any way prompted by any formal charges of any kind.  It was only in 2014 that Michael Van Skaik offered an explanation that a bunch of letters were sent to assess the legitimacy of charges made against Mark Driscoll, not in the actual body of any letters we can be sure about.

and for more direct consultation of Michael Van Skaik's description of 100+ letters .... :

Dear Mars Hill Leaders,
I wanted to take the opportunity to give you, the current leaders of Mars Hill Church, an update as to the status of some of what we’ve been working on as a board over the course of the past year. Thank you for all that you do. We know it is extra difficult right now, but good fruit is coming out of these trials!

On May 10, 2013, a now former elder filed formal charges against Pastor Mark Driscoll and other leaders at Mars Hill. While stating that he had not personally been sinned against by Pastor Mark, he had at least seven unnamed witnesses who would testify to the offenses and hurts he claimed, which if found to be substantiated, could result in disqualification. We requested the names of the witnesses to exercise Matthew 5:23-25, but he refused to disclose them. While the issues cited as evidence from these charges came from anonymous sources, the issues all revolved around the theme of mistreatment of fellow leaders and staff. As the governing body responsible for the accountability of Mars Hill’s senior leaders, the Board took these charges extremely seriously.

In an effort to substantiate the validity of the anonymous charges, we immediately sent out over one hundred letters to former elders and staff at Mars Hill Church from the previous two years, inviting their feedback and perspectives regarding their time on staff at the church, particularly their interactions with Pastor Mark and the Executive Elders. We received eighteen responses. [emphasis added] While some were very positive, every response was read and reread, looking for anything that would disqualify Pastor Mark and any other Mars Hill leaders from serving, or that would require further investigation. Additionally, the Board looked for repetitive patterns that may also lead to potential disqualification. After a thorough review, the charges were determined to be non-disqualifying. [emphasis added] However, the Executive Elders were individually and corporately given corrective direction by the Board. Those corrective actions have been followed and have been bearing fruit over the last seven months. We have been very encouraged to see the Executive Elders learn, grow, and repent where needed.

However, we are hungry for reconciliation and are continually grieved that many offenses and hurts are still unresolved. We want to seek out and hear the hurts in a biblical manner. A Board-approved reconciliation process is currently underway and is being overseen by Dr. Paul Tripp who flew to Seattle and recently spent a day with the Executive Elders. He has also been in conversation with a person who is very capable of facilitating these reconciliations. Additionally, each of the Executive Elders has taken the initiative to reach out to people with whom they may need to reconcile. Our prayer is that as a church we can learn from this experience as we continue to grow in love and grace.

You need to know that I and the other Board members have witnessed the Holy Spirit’s work in Pastors Mark, Dave and Sutton as they’ve grieved deeply over the hurts and sorrows that they’ve been the source of. Their hearts yearn for repentance and reconciliation with those that have been hurt and offended.

By God’s grace, the reconciliation process will continue to move forward one person at a time.
Michael Van Skaik

Board of Advisors and Accountability

Jamie Munson: Own it and Move On--own and move on from what?

In a somewhat Driscollian fashion, Jamie Munson recounts a story about his son as a way to springboard on to nothing in particular beyond some bromides about leadership and moving on.  Precisely what Jamie Munson could own up to and move on from about Mars Hill in the post is impossible to guess at because Munson's not exactly advertising his career at Mars Hill as much these days as he once did.  Mars Hill, for its part, has gone from Mark Driscoll publicly sharing that Munson was always above reproach to not taking much effort to even mentioning Jamie Munson's name.  And, of course, the link just previously mentioned is utterly dead.

For those who might want to read at least some of that content:

My proposal to the Board of Directors (BOD) is that Pastor Jamie Munson remain an elder at Mars Hill Church Ballard. Following a sabbatical through the end of the year to enjoy his family, rest up, and finish writing a book, he will rejoin us as an unpaid board member at the highest legal level of Mars Hill Church. [Munson ended up on several boards] In God’s providence, the same day that Pastor Jamie made this decision, one of our unpaid BOD members had to resign due to escalating demands at his place of employment. So, while this man will remain an elder at his local Mars Hill Church, it opened a seat on the BOD for an unpaid elder, which Pastor Jamie fills perfectly. We need many more unpaid elders and Pastor Jamie helps us to raise the profile of that service. The plan is simply that Pastor Jamie will remain an elder at Mars Hill indefinitely. He has clearly communicated his desire to stay at Mars Hill and serve as an elder and we welcome this. So, Pastor Jamie is still Pastor Jamie. Also, the door to employment is always open to Pastor Jamie. It has been clearly communicated to him by myself personally and by his performance review team collectively that should he ever change his mind, we would welcome him back on staff at Mars Hill Church. Our bylaws require that our Executive Elder (EE) team have at least three members. Pastor Dave Bruskas and I remain on the EE. Thankfully, Pastor Dave and his family recently moved to Seattle after leading Mars Hill Albuquerque. His leadership, wisdom, and experience come at just the right time and we praise God he is on the team. In God’s providence, the sermon he preached at Mars Hill Ballard will air this Sunday at all our other churches, helping you to get to know him better. To fill Pastor Jamie’s vacancy on the EE, I am recommending that the BOD vote for Pastor Scott Thomas to join the EE for at least the foreseeable future. Pastor Scott has served faithfully for many years as an elder at Mars Hill, is among our most trained and seasoned leaders, is already a BOD member, and has served previously for many years as an EE member while also leading Acts 29.[emphasis added]  Pastor Dave and I both believe Pastor Scott is the best choice for this role in this season. Pastor Scott has been very clear in his love and commitment to Mars Hill and has said he will gladly serve wherever he is needed, which we deeply appreciate. Administratively, Pastor Jamie was our senior "king" and his departure requires very competent leadership to cover his many responsibilities. Thankfully, Pastor Jamie was a great leader and humble man. He surrounded himself with great people.

We are inviting other churches to join us on this big campaign, and in the grace of God I believe 2012 will be the biggest year we’ve ever had. While we celebrate the past and honor the present, we also need to prepare for the future by God’s grace. We’ve been here before, many times before, in fact. As our church grows, we encounter obstacles and hit ceilings of complexity and need to adjust as necessary to get through the next size barrier. This was true at 200, 800, 2,000, and 6,000, just like the experts predicted. At 10,000 we are there again. I’ve been working on the beginnings of a comprehensive plan, as I can see into the future to 25,000 people a week, Lord willing. A finished version of that document will be released once it is revised with input and change from various leaders in the church, as well as wise counsel from leaders of churches larger than ours who have become friends.

For those who are curious, the most significant early event in Jamie Munson's tenure as Lead Pastor at Mars Hill Church was the termination and trial process for Bent Meyer and Paul Petry.  Among the charges Munson formulated for the immediate termination of both men were a couple of points about his authority not being respected.

To date Munson has yet to provide an explanation for why the firings of 2007 were both inevitable and necessary.  The grounds for immediate termination included allegations of nepotism and of disagreement with ministry programs in spite of the fact that none other than Mark Driscoll himself had pilloried some of the kinds of ministries Munson said Petry had been critical of. 

While Munson would eventually explain the bylaws he drafted were needed to architect the church that was Mars Hill Fellowship for a multi-site approach a thorough examination of the 2005 bylaws and the 2007 bylaws does not show that there was more language addressing multi-site.

Munson clearly seemed to consider nothing at all from the 2007 firings and trials to be problematic. 

There is a potential lesson here in Munson's absence from the public face of Mars Hill in spite of Mark Driscoll's accolades, and the lesson is that no matter how important you may think your role is (important enough to decide someone needs to be terminated immediately for not respecting you as you think you deserve) you're still a replaceable cog.  There's not necessarily any reason to even consider Jamie Munson important to the history of Mars Hill now that the guy with "kingly" gifts has been replace with Sutton Turner, who is himself another guy with "kingly" gifts who isn't fundamentally necessary.  Mars Hill is about dudes but what sociologists and psychologists could and have brought to light is that when dudes get together and make systems and organizations those things don't need any one person to survive.  It's been shown true of Jamie Munson, former lead pastor and legal president of Mars Hill, and it may yet even be true of Mark Driscoll himself some day ... assuming at this point that Mars Hill survives Driscoll's bound-to-be-decreasing relevance in the grand arc of human history.

As for what, if anything, Munson would consider worth owning and moving on from his tenure at Mars Hill that would be interesting to consider ... if Munson had said anything other than pious bromides about generic leadership concepts that have no connection to any jobs he's actually had as a leader. Meanwhile, as noted earlier, at this point in the history of Jamie Munson's public career if he doesn't address Joyful Exiles directly at some point it may be the only publicly available witness to his leadership style and substance anyone may be able to consult.

Celebrate the fact that Pastor Jamie is Mars Hill 1.0. He is exactly why Mars Hill exists. A lost young person meets Jesus and grows to be a godly leader, spouse, and parent who loves and leads well by the grace of God with humility and passion. He has given us every day of his life since he was 19 years of age. Mars Hill does not exist as a church of more than maybe a few hundred without God’s grace through Pastor Jamie. If a book were written about what God is doing among us, at least one whole chapter would be devoted to telling the story of God’s grace in Pastor Jamie’s life.
... whether or not a book about Mars Hill gets written remains to be seen but Wenatchee The Hatchet is willing to guess that Mars Hill would not want Wenatchee The Hatchet writing that book.

noting the passing of Charlie Haden

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

links here and there

Someone at Slate makes use of the Christianese slogan "true love waits" but applies it to academia on account of the frequency with which professors have romantic and sexual relationships with grad students.  Never thought I'd see a non-arch invocation of "true love waits" ever show up at Slate.

Over at the Atlantic Sara Boxer asks "Why are all the cartoon mothers dead?"  You haven't watched enough cartoons, that's why?  Mothers aren't always dead in Miyazaki films, for instance.  Ponyo, Kikki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and in non-humanoid form Princess Mononoke all have mothers who are alive.  Mothers are certainly present in Legend of Korra. Just because Disney and associated spin-offs in the United States have a couple of clich├ęs doesn't mean the medium is being well-represented in Boxer's piece.  The inevitability with which the word "patriarchy" comes along had me wondering if this was a polemic against mainstream America animated feature films which, okay, fine, it's something to be concerned about but as a representation of the art form as a whole ...  no and Boxer must undoubtedly know this.

After all, she mentions Brave.  But with that Pixar film the central conflict is between a mother and a daughter over what form of femininity is ideal and acceptable and the dad is the one who has obviously found all sorts of things to love about both his wife and daughter.  While Brave has been read as a mother/daughter adventure that happens when the boys aren't around it can also be read as a story in which a husband and father is befuddled by his wife and daughter refusing to accept that femininity can manifest in a countless ways.  The idea of framing discussions of gender in terms of class warfare, whether via feminism or the "manosphere" is baffling and more than just a teensy bit annoying. 

Then again, as Hanna Rosin noted a while back, the patriarchy as feminists have often defined it hardly seems to exist anymore.  She made a more particular point, that the patriarchy isn't much of a variable for affluent white women in urban centers who can actually make careers for themselves in liberal arts compared to the rest of the nation, let alone the world. That men with the most patriarchal views about marriage and gender are most likely to be abusers, particularly when they have paired "up" is forensically beyond question.   There's still a harmful patriarchy out there for plenty of women, after all, but it's not necessarily going to hugely impact the women who are most likely to write about it in certain strands of social media, or so Rosin seemed to be proposing.

Regardless of how enlightened a person may seem or be in one sphere it's possible to be endarkened in another.  We live in the age of the internet, an age which is no less prone than earlier epochs to want all or nothing.  Our heroes must be pure heroes and our villains must be pure villains.  Things that introduce ambiguity or ambivalence, and things that reveal that heroes can also be monsters, these things are less easily digested on the internet some of the time. 

courtesy of Jim West's blog, a link to a piece discussing John Howard Yoder and sexual violence
I have heard of other notable theologians having sexual foibles, e.g., the womanizing and sadomasochistic practices of Paul Tillich, the apparent live-in-mistress of Karl Barth, and the sexual failures of Martin Luther King. Yet, of course, Yoder’s behavior is not on the same level with these other men, for it is more coercive than the others – though I don’t think the reported behavior of the others –if accurate– is anything to gloss over either.

For those who didn't catch the allusion to Yoder in David Fitch's recent blog post about airing dirty laundry, you've got a starting point for further reading.

No matter how enlightened we may think we are the heart is still deceitful above all things, and who can understand it?  Even Daniel Kahneman can say that after decades of studying cognitive biases he's no less susceptible to them now than he was before.  You can reduce the rate at which heuristics and cognitive biases mess you up but they never go away, so part and parcel they are to "System 1".  Let the reader understand. :)

apropos of nothing ... here's something from old Ribbon Farm that WtH has linked to in the past.
Since income being generated at an individual level is not a reliable indicator that work being performed, I prefer a different distinction: schlep work versus sexy work. If there is schlepping involved, it is more likely to be real work. If there are sexy elements involved, it is more likely to be conspicuous production pretending to be work.

It's an interesting read, particularly for the proposal that the sexy work is going to be tougher to "save" in the job market than the schlep work.  The boring tedious scut work is what we may want to hand off to machines but there are things computers are positively terrible at which humans can do without even realizing they're thinking about it.  A computer can slaughter us at sheer linear number crunching but when the time comes to figure out how to pack X number of objects into the backseat of a station wagon humans have a spatial/visual capacity to reason that computers have not yet beaten ... and since computers don't go on vacations it's going to be left to you, dear reader, to figure out how to pack all the stuff you need into the station wagon to go on a camping trip. 

What won't go away are the boring jobs bereft of glamor or prestige that involve things that people can't just hand off to others or to machines.  Maybe we could take the case of high prestige jobs that are defined as 'creative'.  Ribbon Farm wouldn't pick this particular job but a pastor could be considered such a job.  The actual measurable productivity and creative content generated by a pastor could be considered zero but the vocation certainly has prestige even if that didn't come about by association with a deity.  On the other hand, the janitor is someone whose work has no prestige or clout but which is incontestably more necessary for a sustainably hygienic living space.  Not that being a pastor is exactly a bad thing by any means but we won't run out of a need for janitors.  Ribbon Farm's author of the above-linked post would likely point out that the janitor has a low prestige job doing what needs to be done while the pastor has a high prestige job that doesn't necessarily even indicate the pastor is using his/her own words.  Let's put it this way, a pastor can plagiarize from the works of others but no janitor can do the equivalent of plagiarizing when it comes to cleaning toilets and sinks.  Those toilets and sinks are either clean or they aren't!

postscript, 7-12-2014
apropos of nothing ...

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

HT Christian Brady: Wondermark on Superman as all the animals in Noah's ark and not as Jesus

Christian Brady, who regular readers of Wenatchee The Hatchet "might" remember as one of three scholars to take Driscoll to the woodshed over his and Breshears' failure to accurately date the rabbinical commentary on Genesis known as the Targum Neofiti, recently linked to a dryly amusing comic strip riffing on how Superman more closely resembles all the animals on Noah's ark than Jesus ... and of course even this is acknowledged to be a bit of a stretch.

Remember, when in doubt, invoke blood-spitting iguanas!

Having thoroughly and enthusiastically rejected even the possibility of a Christ typology in Superman ... elsewhere, it's just fun to link to someone else making some jocular remarks about how readily certain types can be imposed across genres of literature.  :)

David Fitch: On Posting Dirty Laundry about Mark Driscoll and other sundry megachurch pastors

David Fitch (who shouldn't be an unknown name for longtime readers of WtH) has written in response to Mike Anderson's post from last week with a few thoughts about if, when and how to broach certain controversies involving church leaders in an online format.

Fitch mentioned that as a rule he tends to not link to material coming from people who are outside the conflict in question.  Per the stated precept, linking to Mike Anderson's recent confession is linking to someone who had a significant role in contributing to, shaping, and marketing the Mars Hill brand.  Just as Dalton Roraback's testimony as a former community group leader/coach has borne witness to changes in Mars Hill since its inception, Anderson's story shows that former members and staff have been willing to share that the Mars Hill you are most likely to have read about is least likely to resemble what those of us who joined circa 1996-2002 might even recognize any longer.

Anderson's recent testimony is the sort Wenatchee The Hatchet hopes to see more of.  As I noted last week, we won't get anywhere demanding that people confess and repent and share in public what they have seen and heard but we can invite them to do these things.  The Mark Driscoll of 2000-2002 might have said "You don't HAVE to do these things you GET to."  But that was before Driscoll visited Crystal Cathedral or shook hands with T.D. Jakes or ... even had a book published.  And if Mark Driscoll had contented himself with doing evangelistic/missional stuff without also having to be a cultural pundit the history of Mars Hill might look slightly (if only slightly) different.

As noted here repeatedly, I privately shared concerns with leadership back in 2008 about problematic directions Mars Hill seemed to be taking.  Those privately shared concerns went unheeded (a disappointing but not entirely surprising turn of events).

But what makes the Mars Hill situation somewhat unique is the sheer scale of its social and broadcast media presence.  Driscoll had visions of a music label and a Bible college from the beginning, claims that he never imagined MHC would get this big now withstanding.  In fact the number of times Driscoll circa 2011-2014 has flip-flopped on basic points of Mars Hill history, philosophy of ministry and practical ecclesiology have been so severe a Republican circa 2004 might wonder if Driscoll was a John Kerry. 

What has made Mars Hill efforts to limit public discussion and to insist on "private" reconciliation processes has been that until they began to implement a sweeping retroactive media purge in the last four months a staggering amount of material was available for people to download and read or listen to. Wenatchee The Hatchet most noticed that Grace Driscoll looked like she made use of a lot of Dan Allender ideas without so much as a footnote of attribution or thanks.  Warren Throckmorton would go on in the last year to document citation problems in no less than seven Driscoll books.  R. Scott Clark and others have long since noted basic problems in doctrine and historical facts in Driscoll/Breshears books, and at this point the question of whether Driscoll is even a competent exegete of New Testament texts (a point about which Wenatchee The Hatchet was personally completely convinced ten years ago) is open for discussion.

What has made Mars Hill unique as a focal point for public controversy is how astonishingly public so much content has been.  Being able to assemble a case for the identities of key parties in the Andrew Lamb disciplinary situation of 2011-2012 based on social media and broadcast media alone is not a small feat.  Being able to discover that a Mars Hill pastor who was newly into his second marriage and had a history of felonies who happened to be one of a couple of votes necessary in an Acts 29 church plant setting to get real estate to Mars Hill that Mark Driscoll had been wanting for the church for an entire decade took some time, but it wasn't a matter of anything being hidden.  It was all bubbling to the surface in newspaper articles, Driscoll sermons and so on.  And then in the last four months Mars Hill has implemented a sweeping retroactive media purge.  It's almost as though content has gotten purged if Wenatchee The Hatchet, Joyful Exiles, or Warren Throckmorton linked to it ... which can't possibly be the case.  Still ... an awful lot of content has been purged, such as the Spiritual Warfare series from 2008, that Matthew Paul Turner was enjoined to listen to back in 2012. 

Regular readers will know that Wenatchee The Hatchet privately shared a few concerns about a few problems.  Those problems never really got addressed and four years later those problems all blew up in one way or another.  Mars Hill might wish for controversy and public discussion to go away but purging Driscoll's sermons won't change things.  Driscoll's publishers can go fix all the plagiarism in the seven books but the genie is out of the bottle.  By now no less than the BOAA itself has admitted there have been gag orders; admitted that more than a hundred staff transitioned out in one way or another since roughly the start of Sutton Turner's joining the executive leadership scene at Mars Hill and has admitted to the existence of Result Source arrangements. Yet after admitting to all but the plagiarism documented by Throckmorton and others the BOAA has opted to stand by the executive elders.  It was outside counsel for Result Source? Fine.  Who?  If there was nothing illegal about the idea then just say who came up with it.  We can pretend for the moment that even saying "outside counsel" couldn't possibly constitute blame-shifting. 

But it's worth reminding everyone by now that a great deal of controversy surrounding Mars Hill has been involving intellectual property for years now.  It's not just a matter of plagiarism in seven books, it's also in how back in 2011 Mars Hill let a cease and desist letter be sent on behalf of itself by lawyers to a church down south and this was done in the same late 2011 period in which Sutton Turner signed that contract with Result Source; when Driscoll was lamenting how stingy MH members were in a fundraising film; when Driscoll was preparing for a big push to promote Real Marriage which was possibly the first time Mark Driscoll was making an entire sermon series not around a book of the Bible or a set of topical sermons as he'd done before but around one of his own books.  For those who have read the book and know not just what works were plagiarized but how much self-recycling Driscoll did in that book, the not-really-a-NYT-bestseller book was another nail in the coffin of what Mars Hill was to anyone who joined circa 1996-2002. 

At this point whether Mars Hill leadership is capable of realizing this or not, a church that has hitched its wagon to the star of social and broadcast media has to realize that there aren't really take-backs on the internet and that if you purge about two thirds of your star preacher's material and introduce robots.txt to all the church associated websites that all this effort to prevent Mark Driscoll from even being quoted accurately and in context should raise some questions about what on earth people think there is to hide?  It's not like there's really anything that scary in just going through every Mark Driscoll reference to recently acquired real estate in the history of Mars Hill and looking at which leaders go which plum jobs in the aftermath ... is there?  If Munson was always above reproach why has Mars Hill gone to such pains in the last three months to virtually scrub away any trace he was ever there?  And this after Driscoll said that if there were a book written about Mars Hill a chapter would need to be written about Munson?

The controversies surrounding Real Marriage in the last year are arguably a microcosm of the macrocosm that is the history of Mars Hill itself, a story that is not just about a church with a man who seems eager to change the world, but about a Christian media empire that has seemed eager to make him a star and what scores of people could have seen and prevented and, for whatever reasons, chose not to. 

While David Fitch's restraint in directly addressing things about Driscoll and Mars Hill is admirable there's a larger story here that Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll controversy points to--a whole lot of editors, fact-checkers and publishers had to have either not spotted all the citation errors in the last six years and a whole lot of people seem like they had to be committed to hitching their wagon to a star pastor to just look the other way if they truly didn't spot all of the problems in Driscoll's books.  The story of these controversies may prove to be a story of problems in an entire set of industries and not just in a megachurch and its pastor. There were a whole lot of people determined to make Mark Driscoll a star (and that had to include Mark Driscoll himself) who may or may not have thought through the consequences of everything that was literally and figuratively being signed off on.

The 2012 Driscoll book had mainly as its selling point that it was the Driscoll narrative about the Driscoll marriage and about Mars Hill, and this was the framing narrative that became the basis for marketing everything else about the book.  The reason controversy and enquiry about Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll can't go away altogether in the wake of the plagiarism and Result Source controversies is because while Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill "could" have made that marriage book about marriage in general some people insisted on making it about Mark and Grace Driscoll's marriage in particular and that marriage as a measure of the history of the community that has been known as Mars Hill.  It's only natural that controversies about Real Marriage became controversies about not just the Driscolls but about Mars Hill as a community and a brand because, simply put, Mark Driscoll and a team of people made a point of not making (or was it permitting) any distinction to be made between Mark Driscoll and the brand/church/community/corporation that is known as Mars Hill. 

Ever since the late 1990s when Mars Hill was getting coverage and contrary to the occasional lament about "critics" Mark Driscoll was finding ways to parlay even hostile coverage into a potent branding narrative. "I'm very confrontational," he says, "not some pansy-ass therapist."  Assimilating negative press and publicity into the brand that is Mark Driscoll has arguably been an essential component of Mark Driscoll the persona and public figure since the birth of Mars Hill.  That worked fine, perhaps, for as long as Mark Driscoll could have the focus of controversy about what he said and how he said it.  Once controversy shifted to things he's done and how he's treated people and how the corporation he's president of has treated people it's begun to look as though Mars Hill wants to put the genie back in the bottle.