Saturday, December 20, 2014

Vanderbloemen misses what Mark might have called the big E on the eye chart, the smaller controversies still had a center, the use of power and money to promote a brand rather than serve the church

Driscoll‘s recent resignation from the church he founded was followed by another shocking announcement: Mars Hill is dissolving by year’s end, with its 11 congregations becoming independent houses of worship.

And Vanderbloemen said that the stunning situation carries with it a plethora of lessons to be learned.

“Mark stepped down at his own choice, but it wasn’t without a lot of pressure,” he said. “Mark’s departure didn’t contain any of the normal elements of a scandal.”

There wasn’t an extramarital affair nor any other explosive singular event that contributed to his downfall, he argued, calling Driscoll a “brilliant communicator.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” Vanderbloemen said, noting that Driscoll ended up leaving over a wide variety of smaller infractions and debates that were perpetuated on the Internet. “We have seen a lot of guys have to leave, but never from the death of a thousand cuts that happened online.”

He continued, “There was a weird sort of perfect storm of critics and disorganization.”

The problem with this lessons learned variation is that there kind of "was" one thing that could be identified as the start of the end, Real Marriage. The thing is complex enough a numbered list seems necessary to show just how far short of Mars Hill history Vanderbloemen has fallen in diagnosing the decline of Driscoll.  It's true that a lot of little things showed up but there's this unnerving pattern of where all these smaller things have clustered, Real Marriage.

This was the book for which a side company was created in 2011 years after Mark said he didn't have a side company.  And yet here in a 2009 sermon we heard Driscoll say he hoped one of his books would "pop" so that he could just live off his royalties and not even draw any salary from Mars Hill.  Did that ever happen?  The side company was incorporated in Colorado for reasons that have never yet been explained.

So there's just the side company, for starters, but there were other problems.

This was the book in which it was awkwardly obvious Grace Driscoll made use of phrases and concepts developed by Dan Allender, an author whom she publicly listed as one of her favorites circa 2000, without giving him so much as a single footnote's credit.   While subsequent editions fixed the problem of mentioning Allender at all and including a footnote, there's been no explanation why this couldn't have been done for the first edition.  Wenatchee The Hatchet understands that the Driscolls might feel less than eager to give thanks to Wenatchee The Hatchet for pointing out the failure to properly credit Allender's work the first time around. 

And why does it matter that there weren't footnotes?  Because Driscoll told Janet Mefferd "maybe I made a mistake" a few years after he'd boasted about his impressive long-term memory.

The problem wasn't just that there were questions of citation in the book (many), because while some of these look like they got fixed the problem is that they were ever there to begin with.  Mark Driscoll and his editors had to have seriously dropped the ball for so many errors to just slip by, assuming for the sake of discussion that it wasn't planned.  Even if we assume for sake of conversation Driscoll was somehow not a plagiarist the evidence spoke otherwise and the evidence was what editors and publishers let hit the market.  Even if we assume Mark Driscoll never intentionally plagiarized the doubt this all could cast on the integrity and ethics of Thomas Nelson is a bit troubling.

This was the book that was rigged a place on the NYT bestseller list.

So not only was this a book in which there were citation errors it turns out a company was basically hired to help facilitate the appropriate number of geographically diversified sales to ensure that this Driscoll book would land a #1 spot on the NYT bestseller list. Even though some remarkably restrained words were published in a memo asking whether this campaign to promote the book might raise questions about ethics at Mars Hill and potentially give outside critics a basis for criticism ... the campaign was undertaken anyway.

The implications of the Result Source side of things would be hard for an outsider to fully appreciate.  There are questions to be dealt with as to how the individual and bulk orders could have been fulfilled.  Throckmorton has touched on a website that could have taken care of the individual orders.

But the bulk orders, most likely given what little information has been available, could have been handled by the Mars Hill Military Mission, whose mission was simply distributing Mark Driscoll books.  The mission was based in the Olympia campus and then moved and assimilated into Mars Hill Global some time in 2012.  For a screencap variation go here. Seth Winterhalter should get some probing questions about what, if anything, MH Olympia and associated military mission may have known or done with respect to the Real Marriage promotion campaign. 

In other words, for folks who don't have the full background here, the reason Result Source was a bit of a scandal was that in addition to rigging a bestseller list it looks more and more as though the resources and money of the church and its volunteer ministries may have been put to use to promote the book. 

This was the book whose existence and associated sermon became the campaign through which Mars Hill launched half a dozen plants or replants.

2012's book and sermon integrated campaign was also, incontestably, the first time in the history of Mars Hill that a sermon series was designed explicitly and extensively around not a book of the Bible but a book from Mark and Grace Driscoll.  Maybe half a dozen campuses were launching or getting a relaunch and the sermon series uniting them all was Real Marriage. This was the unified campaign.
Even though Sutton Turner was concerned about the fiscal viability of launching half a dozen campuses while also promoting the book as a "world war three" process, it all happened anyway.

This was the book whose narrative overturned nearly a decade's worth of the public narrative about Mark and Grace Driscoll's marriage as the story of Mars Hill.  It also introduced statements by Mark Driscoll that he was bitter against his wife (Grace) over a lack of sex in a 2012 book and, if Mark's 2008 axioms about bitterness as a demonic foothold in 2008 were true, should cast doubt on Mark's spiritual health in the 1996-2007 period, to put it mildly.

The narrative of Real Marriage also jarred in its story of the vomit dream because that story was remarkably similar to a story from Confessions of a Reformission Rev.  Not only did it seem to some longtime attenders of Mars Hill that Mark and Grace Driscoll were revealing their marriage was not so hot, this was being conveyed in a way that seemed to change the dating of a story that had previously been shared for the record.

Now there's the obvious and necessary "so what?"  So what if Mark and Grace Driscoll had a sorta meh marriage?  Well, let's go get a quote from Pastor Tim Smith
I didn't have as much of that community in Portland and I wanted to go be an intern at Microsoft because you could make 60k, and just do

tech support over there at the height of the boom over there.
and you could wear flip-flops to work and--[TS starts speaking]
Yeah, exactly. You could have BEER at work. And it seemed like a good plan at the time but the last thing I thought I would be when I came here was a pastor. I was not, I was not in good shape. My marriage was not in great shape. I had no idea what it meant to be a husband,  biblically. There was a lot of hidden sin in my life. It was just a mess and I thought I knew what it meant to be a pastor because I'd been a church kid all my life. It wasn't anything--I just didn't want anything to do with it.

But really, really seeing Mars Hill; seeing how God had changed peoples lives, changed people that would never darken the door of most churches that I went to was completely transformational to me.

And moving into your house, it was that fateful summer you were trying to  paint your house yourself, and so I was helping you paint and we were talking theology. And I thought I was a theological but I really didn't know jack. And so just starting to read, starting to think, having a ton of conversations with people that love Jesus but didn't necessarily grow up in the church and have the baggage like I had, was just a huge transformation for me.
Tim Smith's story isn't uncommon in the history and press of Mars Hill, a guy shows up with a Christian background of some kind but professes to not know anything about how to be a proper biblical husband to his wife and then comes to Mars Hill and is transformed by seeing all the transformation.

And for that, well, it becomes impossible to not discuss Mark Driscoll's challenge to men to be men without dredging up William Wallace II and "Pussified Nation" because it was during that, um, season, that Driscoll particularly hammered on the issue.

IF it turned out amidst all that life-changing transformational community stuff Tim Smith described in the 2008 Resurgence interview with Driscoll was covering up a lot of bitterness that Mark Driscoll was harboring against his wife over a lack of sex then, well, that disparity between the public narrative and the private reality matters.  It would matter even if we didn't consider the possibility that if Mark Driscoll were judged by the spiritual warfare axioms he's used on others he might have to explain why all that bitterness about a lack of sex didn't make him demonically influenced.

Those are the four basic reasons Real Marriage could be seen as a fulcrum in the history of Mars Hill.  The cumulative concerns can be put this way, as more information about the nature of the book and its promotion came to light it began to seem to people who were part of Mars Hill that the Drisccolls sacrificed scholarly and organizational integrity and used the resources of Mars Hill Church to promote a slipshod product for the sake of Mark Driscoll's celebrity at the literal and figurative expense of the people of the church. 

The aftermath, in which mass layoffs occurred at MH in 2012 during the season in which the Driscolls bought a million-dollar house in Snohomish county

As if that weren't enough, season after season of layoffs built up in which Dave Bruskas could say "we need your help", telling MH leaders to not question layoffs in a message sent days after Mark and Grace Driscoll finalized the purchase of a million-dollar home in Woodway.

Believe it or not these are only the controversies that are in some way actually associated with just the book Real Marriage and the events surrounding its publication.  We know from Mark Driscoll's own tweets that two finalists for publishers for the marriage book were considered as far back as December 2010.

In other words, if someone were to wonder whether Mars Hill was sold out to promote the brand of Driscoll this looks more and more like Real Marriage was the book for which the sell out was done.  In light of statements from Dave Bruskas of late, it's also begun to sound as if Munson was inseparably involved in the 2011 process, too.

You can't knock out a book with borrowed ideas and a lack of credits that is then rigged a spot on a bestseller list using church resources that earns royalties funneled into the kind of side company you said years before you didn't have and maybe even turn out to have bought a million-dollar home in secret and have this be a small thing.

Vanderbloemen may sincerely have no idea what was going on but as yet his opinion doesn't seem material beyond his promoting of his services and products.  Folks get to do that, to be sure, but why he'd be quoted as having any familiarity with the Mars Hill situation in particular seems a puzzle.  He's sort of right that what made the Driscoll resignation unusual is that it didn't involve a sex scandal or some "single" explosive event.  But, in a way, it did, a prevailing and possibly seven-year long pattern in which Driscoll treated Mars Hill not as a community to be served but a piggy bank to be cultivated.  After sermons in which he said you should use money and love people the wheeling and dealing to get the 2012 book to "pop" begins to paint a portrait behind the scenes of a man who may have begun to love money and to really, really use people.

If there were a way to try to sum up what happened it's that it looks like Mark Driscoll and his executive leaders made a sacrifices of the resources (and possibly even the legitimacy of the 501(c)3 status) of Mars Hill Church to raise Mark Driscoll's celebrity up to the "next level".

If Vanderbloemen hasn't figured that out then he has, to borrow an old phrase popular with Mark Driscoll, missed the big E on the eye chart.  And it's starting to seem as though in the long run Mark Driscoll missed it, too.


Vanderbloemen on corporate rotation in a church staff suggests, if anything, that Mark Driscoll was following those ideas.  For everyone who remembers the revolving door of employment at Mars Hill, how many people got gutted from staff because the ministry had outgrown the giftings of the men and women who had founded some of those ministries?

As MH dissolves and the campuses reincorporate as "new" churches, MH issues note on year end giving, thanking donors for support
Without generous people like you continuing to give through the end of the year, many of these churches may not have the necessary funds to continue as new churches.

So relaunching eleven Mars Hill churches as church plants sure looks like a distinction without a difference.  The difference would be the corporate umbrella and that none of these churches are probably going to be allowed to use "Mars Hill".  Ironically if Mars Hill had played by the game plan Driscoll espoused circa 2002 in the Dead Men era all the churches would have spun off as independent church plants with their own government anyway rather than having spent the last twelve years under the corporate umbrella of Mars Hill with week-delay reruns of sermons Driscoll had preached earlier for so much of its history.

What's been fascinating about the plagiarism controversy as it got covered is that people like Mefferd and Throckmorton were able to go through the books of Driscoll and cross reference what he published to other published works.  While some Mars Hill and Driscoll advocates have attempted to say "there's two sides to this story" the whole nature of the plagiarism/book series of scandals is that the primary source (Mark Driscoll) himself was quoted as the catalyst for the controversy.  It's been Mark Driscoll who has by and large opted to not address in any public fashion the citation errors that were rampant in the first printed edition of Real Marriage. Nor has Grace Driscoll (assuming for sake of discussion she even wrote any of the words in the 2012 book credited to her name) seemed to have fielded the question of why she never made a reference to Dan Allender in Real Marriage from the beginning.  Press coverage has in the last year focused solely on Mark Driscoll without looking at Grace Driscoll and the degree to which materials credited to her could be shown to have used ideas of other authors without citation. 

All that to say this, that Mark Driscoll's publications were speaking for themselves as the catalyst of the controversy to begin with and to date Mars Hill has not revealed the extent to which Driscoll products included ghostwriters or the extent to which Docent Group research may have comprised X proportion of the published products of Driscoll.  Take away the Docent Group help; any possible ghostwriters; any self-recycling across publishers that might have caused licensing trouble; and leave Mark Driscoll to his own devices alone and what will happen to his literary output?  Will it continue or will it disappear?  The scandal of Driscoll as author may simply be that the machinery that went into creating the brand all got exposed at once in a tense year's worth of a news cycle.

And what that suggests about Christian popular authors and publishing should be really, really creepy to people.  How many staff members paid at Mars Hill may have had jobs of writing stuff in Driscoll's name? Now to be sure pseudopigrapha kind of has a history in religious writing ;) but evangelicals who might defend Driscoll cribbing here and there and maybe using a ghostwriter might not be so thrilled if we turned the discussion around and proposed that a huge chunk of the Pauline corpus was not written by Paul but by those appropriating Paul's name to produce content useful to local church communities.  The extent to which any conservative Protestants might try to defend the gist of what Driscoll's brand has been like might be the extent to which they would mount an intellectual and sociological defense of liberal mainline Protestant scholarship about the nature and origin of the Bible.  Just an idea to consider there, okay?

One of the reasons it still seems important to transcribe and discuss more of the 2008 spiritual warfare session is because in the third part on trials Driscoll gets into the practical approach of counseling, an approach that may still inform the "biblical living" pastors of all the upcoming Mars Hill plants that are basically looking like rebranded continuations of business as usual.  If things are going to change we need to look carefully at what has been so that people have a shot at recognizing what might need to change if there is, by now, in fact anything left worth preserving of the cultural system.

Might just skip the last half hour of part 2 and focus on transcribing part 3.

DG Hart on The New Republic and a comment of "I miss liberalism. Now all we have left is the Left". Wenatchee recalls an old warning from 22 years ago about a lost middle

A very short but memorable comment is this one:

Posted December 19, 2014 at 10:48 pm | Permalink
I miss liberalism. Now all we have is left is the Left. Humanists are the enemies of humanity.

A bit sweeping, of course, but it reminded Wenatchee The Hatchet of something a college friend said 22 years ago, "There aren't any liberals or conservatives anymore.  All we're getting are radicals and reactionaries. This is going to destroy any chance at genuinely productive political discussion in the country."  Wenatchee is obliged to say this is a paraphrase but the idea seems to have had some merit. 

Over the last few decades Wenatchee The Hatchet has tried to read a spectrum of right and left and has come to the possibly unfair conclusion that if you move too far to the left or right you pretty much end up with people spouting off ideas that could come out of the Protocols for the Elders of Zion.  TVD might not be a particularly avid read of Jacobin, then? ;)  Not that Wenatchee The Hatchet actually is ... but it can be interesting to see what ideas persist in different streams of thought.

As Wenatchee has been writing at length this year, nobody on the left had managed to ever publish two sentences that created any trouble for Mark Driscoll over the course of a decade.  The gap between today's left and right has grown large enough that who among the "liberal" camp could have paid enough attention to Driscoll's writings to have spotted the problems that were brought to light by the likes of Warren Cole Smith or Janet Mefferd or Warren Throckmorton?

Identity politics have so become the order of the day that the all-or-nothing scorched earth approach too commonly prevails.  The only way to be more idiotic than Tony Jones was in sounding off about Mars Hill (or Peter Rollins) would be The American Spectator approach.

But that's kind of the point, move far enough left or right even on the subject of Mark Driscoll and uninformed lazy idiocy is the result. Sometimes it seems as though people on the left and right perceive the problems of today as having been the result of not embracing their convictions strongly enough when it "may" be possible the problems of today were caused by their doctrinaire approach to some degree and that the art of politics, compromise, has been forsaken for constituency success.  Meh, or there's other things to consider on a weekend.


Since 2014 was kind of a big and long year on the subject of Mars Hill and because the span from November 2013 through now saw the emergence of some actually good coverage of Mars Hill and Driscoll from the mainstream and Christian press, it seems pertinent to share that Wenatchee The Hatchet got contacted by a handful of people over the years and in a number of cases just stonewalled them.  You can go read about the certified letter from Scott Harris to Wenatchee The Hatchet at your leisure.  Emails from leaders within Mars Hill or other missives were received and Wenatchee didn't respond.  Why?  Because when this blog has dealt with Mars Hill the concern has been to provide a kind of storing house of publicly accessible on record statements by primary sources.  The hope in the long run was for reform but since it seems Mars Hill has never opted for that reform just yet that's all moot.

But Wenatchee The Hatchet was suggested to discuss things with television journalism. Offense meant, television journalism has largely been ill-suited to a subject like Mars Hill.  It's a medium that too inherently caters to Driscoll's strengths. A real push forward was more likely to (and did) happen via radio and print.  That was going to be a sheer function of wordcount possibilities. 

There have been writers and bloggers Wenatchee The Hatchet has been willing to correspond with, however, and if you're an alert and regular reader you probably already know exactly who those people are.  Wenatchee The Hatchet has never actually been anonymous except to those too lazy to do the most remedial research.  Now those authors with whom Wenatchee has been willing to interact have not been characterized by endorsing or espousing ideas Wenatchee agrees with, as such, by by a demonstrated body of work that shows a clear understanding of the actual culture and history of Mars Hill.  There's also something to be said for being willing to network ideas and information behind the scenes.  If there was a way to respond to Mark Driscoll's Chris Rock knock-off screen-reliant persona that wasn't in trying to match his style or methodology.  The alternative to Driscoll's in-your-face public persona seemed more discreetly networking resource contacts and information behind the scenes and carefully vetting the published work of interested parties before starting conversation.  I.e. by their fruits you will know them. 

The operating value was not "What could get the most clicks and make MH or MD look bad?" it was "Who is demonstrating by the quality of their research that they are moving the discussion of Driscoll and Mars Hill by virtue of bringing new facts to light rather than highlighting just the old left/right bromides?"

But now, of course, the postscript is longer than the original post. :) 

Kyle Gann: Analyzing Music No Longer Allowed

It's so short it can be quoted in full:

One of the things my Concord Sonata book is being criticized for is that all I do is analyze the music. Apparently I’m supposed to be bringing in multidisciplinary approaches: I dunno, historiography, reception history, gender studies. Musicology has moved on from the mere analysis of music, and by analyzing a piece I must be implicitly asserting that all I care about is the glorification of Dead White Males and the Great Western Canon. I am accused of a “music in a vacuum” approach (I thought that was called music theory) – and seriously, that’s being taken as a reason to prevent publication of the book. But as I say in the book, you have to see what something is before you can compare it to everything else in the world, and a lot of nonsense has been written about the Concord because no one’s ever written a close textual analysis of it. And what if analyzing music is what I’m trained at, and what I’m good at? Really, musicologists? To ply the trade I was academically trained in makes me a racist and sexist troglodyte? No good insight can some merely from close examination of a complex score? Even if I’m not trained in those other fields, even if other people are already doing that work, I have to do it too? As Larry Polansky once said to me, “Composers are now doing the work that musicologists used to do, while the musicologists are all off doing gender studies.” And now composers aren’t even allowed to do that in books anymore.

Richard Taruskin has written that the reason music criticism about popular music gets read while criticism of concert music doesn't get read as much is because most music criticism of concert music has devolved into shop talk.  Much as Wenatchee The Hatchet is curious to see what writers have to say about the emergence of sonata forms and particularly how sonata form gets handled in guitar literature, that's pretty hard core.  There's still that question of why people would listen to guitar sonatas to begin with. 

And if there's a flip side to all this, Gann seems to be facing it lately, that there's a problem going the other way, so far into the cultural criticism and politics about the cultures that indirectly spawn music that you don't bother getting to the music itself. There has to be some golden mean in which we can discuss what the notes mean and also what the notes on the page do, or is there?

Michelle Fletcher discusses Mark 7:14-23 and provides an application of "into the body" that applies to more than food.

With a HT to Jim West.
The central logion is believed to be v.15: ‘There is nothing outside of a person that goes into them that has the power to defile as much as the things which come out.’ Here Jesus discusses the person (ὁ ἄνθρωπος), which includes male and female. However, prior to my work on this passage, not one scholar had read it with a female body in mind. The generic body (aka male body) had been the point of focus for all scholarly discussions. Much has been done to undo readings which argued it abrogated Levitical laws, and attention has turned to other forms of bodily impurity in light of second temple Judaism. These examinations found no possible cases where something entering into a body could cause less contamination than what leaves it, and so conclusions centre on unwashed hands and contaminated food, for as Sanders says ‘Nothing else goes in and comes out.’

Well, that’s not quite true, is it.


Fletcher goes on to discuss childbirth because insemination is a process in which semen enters a woman's body and she's impure for one day but the impurity that comes from childbirth lasts longer.  Reading Jesus' statement not just in terms of the bodies of males but of females gets read not just as a statement about food as such but about ritual uncleanness in other terms.

Something to read if it's of interest. 

who makes a musical star, riffs on Taylor Swift's slight pivot; actual pop vs sponsored pop; and how establishments made both Miley Cyrus and Elliott Carter stars

There's a sprawling and at times muddled riff on Riley's In C cross-cutting to a discussion of Taylor Swift songs.  Before getting to the actual paragraphs ruminate for a few seconds on an idea, that the artistic crisis some think we're facing may be a crisis not of creativity as such but of patronage.  There's more stuff being made than people can or do pay for and at the risk of making a wildly sweeping claim that possibly can't be backed up any artistic canon ultimately starts as a question not of aesthetics as an end unto itself but aesthetics in the context of patronage.  The canon, whether pop music or concert music, can be measured by what a group of people decided to pay money to keep around. So, with that little idea in mind ...

Those hi-hats might sum up the difference in mood between “Happy” and “Shake It Off”—ineffably laid back vs.insistently upbeat. But, in “Shake It Off,” that slight upward sizzle takes on added significance because of the comparative stasis of the rest of the song. Like “Happy,” “Shake It Off” never modulates; in fact, it goes “Happy” one better by never even changing its harmonic progression. Verse and chorus are a regular tread—ii-IV-I-I, ii-IV-I-I, in sæcula sæculorum. That fillip of hi-hat is the only upward trend in the song. Maybe it can be heard as the equivalent of a safe, prudent investment: the unchanging status quo dotted with a periodic, predictable appreciation of interest.

Is that too much? That last paragraph could well be a parody of the sort of writing that has sprung up in response to Swift and “Shake It Off.” But it says something about the cultural place and purpose of the song that such writing is so easy. Money has been so bound up with the publicity around the song, the commentary about the song, the mere fact of the song, that it is difficult to not hear financial considerations wending their way through the production. Taylor Swift, after all, is the center of a formidable corporate enterprise. The discourse around “Shake It Off” and 1989, the album featuring it, has never been far from industry matters. The album’s completion of Swift’s turn from country-pop to pop? An occasion to analyze the navigation of genre-based and artist-based fan bases. The impressive rate and quantity of the album’s sales? An invitation to make a state-of-the-industry address. Swift’s much-noted decision to pull her music from the streaming service Spotify? An indictment/day of reckoning for streaming services as a whole. And so forth. This is what it means to be located within the cultural establishment, when the values of the establishment are congruent with those of the market.

But in terms of musical forms and textures Taylor Swift switching from country pop to just plain pop might not be a move toward the "mainstream" depending on regional preferences.  Moving from country pop to pop might be the avant garde move. ;)  Ever since the industry tinkered with how to more reliably and accurately measure what the most popular stuff actually is we've been hearing that rock has been on a decline while rap and country have "surged".  Was this surge a rise in actual popularity or perhaps also a belated recognition of the actual popularity of the genres?
Billboard replaced its honor system with hard numbers in 1991, basing its charts on point-of-sale data from cash registers. “This was revolutionary,” says Silvio Pietroluongo, Billboard’s current director of charts. “We were finally able to see which records were actually selling.” Around the same time, Billboard switched to monitoring radio airplay through Nielsen.

When that happened, hip-hop and country surged in the rankings and old-fashioned rock slowly began to fade—suggesting that perhaps an industry dominated by white guys on the coasts hadn’t paid enough attention to the music interests of urban minorities and southern whites.

Another sea change came in the mid-2000s, when Billboard started tracking music streaming and downloads. Songs that weren’t label-picked singles, like the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps” in 2005, began outperforming the tracks that executives expected to do well. “Deep cuts”—songs that labels didn’t hype but that fans nonetheless loved—used to fly under the radar. (There is no evidence that Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” one of the most famous rock songs of all time, was ever played on the radio in the years immediately after its release, and it never cracked the Hot 100.) But because the industry can now track what people are listening to, any song that catches on can become a hit.

To be sure, it took a massive corporate cultural investment to get the Beatles to eventually shake off the constraints of being yet another boy band to become the most famous rock band in the history of rock n roll ... but if there's some "lesson" in the Beatles in terms of their musical taste, it's that they were ultimately middle-brow in the best possible sense.  They omnivorously ran through every genre of popular music and some concert music, found the stuff they liked, and remixed it all into something that less musically omnivorous listeners misunderstood to be more innovative than it was.  It wasn't exactly innovative for breaking new ground in musical language (i.e. we're not talking Stravinsky, Schoenber, Xenakis, etc) but what was still ultimately innovative was their capacity, both as the four guys and the corporate structure backing them, to consolidate the wider range of what was available.  If Elvis and other early rockers were Haydn then The Beatles were Mozart, refiners and extenders of innovations and inventions brought about by others. 

We'd be remiss to ignore the corporate/collective decision-making power that could decide Taylor Swift would be a star but we might also do well to recognize two things.  First, there's a limit to this power.  Witness that that annoying ubiquitous Zeppelin song may not have been played on the radio in the years after its release and yet it ended up played to death anyway! 

Second, it'd be foolhardy to imagine that the corporate mandate model of deciding what's worth paying attention to is restricted to pop music.  Let's take this amusing little anecdote by Kyle Gann

I played the first several minutes of Elliott Carter’s Double Concerto.

Student #1: Who decided that this work was one of the great pieces of 20th-century music?

Student #2: It’s just like what happens in popular music.

Student #1: But no, popular music becomes popular because people like it.

Student #2: No, popular music is made popular by the industry. Somebody decided that Miley Cyrus could be popular, and so they poured a ton of money and publicity into her. Her career was completely orchestrated.

Me: Between the two of you, you have just arrived at the insight that Elliott Carter and Miley Cyrus are mirror images of each other.

[General laughter]

UPDATE: Let me be clear – other examples besides Carter and Miley Cyrus (whoever she is) could have served. I’m trying to teach the class that the canon is an artificial construct, and that it is indeed created by people in power making decisions. Musical academia has its collective narrative, critics tend toward a different narrative, the classical-music performance world has yet another narrative, and the corporate world makes decisions on a different set of criteria. All of these narratives are contaminated by self-serving premises, and none should be misunderstood as resembling any kind of pure meritocracy. And thus every student needs to judge every piece on its own merits as they appear to him or her, and such decisions should not be made on the first listening, or necessarily the second or third. It took me listening to the Double Concerto about a hundred times before I decided there just wasn’t anything there for me. It’s part of what Bard calls “Critical Thinking,” and I’m really into it lately.

Wenatchee The Hatchet hasn't heard a whole lot of Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus (given how profoundly annoying Wenatchee found Billy Ray Cyrus decades ago, Cyrus is probably never going to be heard). 

But let Wenatchee float an idea here, that the boundaries between musical styles may reside in the boundaries of the thoughts that give rise to musical languages.  The barrier between country pop and pop might not be as big or as small as some might imagine it to be.  We've had a century in Western music of styles exploding into various different directions and while it may be annoying that legions of pop songs all sort of start sounding the same perhaps this is the kind of correcting balancing movement we might anticipate humans as a whole embracing after Rite of Spring blew so many things up a century ago. The Baroque era was an era in which there were two dominant styles and the Baroque masters composed music informed by elements of the old Renaissance approach as well as the emerging major/minor key system with associated steps toward equal temperament and other moves toward a more just intonation.

What if the problem with a Miley Cyrus or an Elliott Carter is that the endorsement of both by establishments indicate the dead ends embraced by those establishments?  What if one possible path "forward" is going back and consolidating a musical taxonomy in which the boundaries across styles can be recognized as permeable and demonstrate that by cross back and forth?  "If", to be purely speculative on a weekend before Christmas, is a possibility then a way forward might not be in a Miley Cyrus or a Carter, it might be a Taylor Swift.  And perhaps a Terry Riley or a Steve Reich ... what if the nexus of "classical" and "pop" may be a path forward?  Or the old Third Stream proposal about fusion between classical and jazz.  It may well be that fusion IS a way forward but one that will be fraught with a lot of trial and error but forward to what?

Fusion will be a way "forward" for people who may not be particularly concerned that purity in and of itself is as important as sustainability.  White music can be white music and black music can be black music but if the end goal is affirming a racial or cultural purity that's not something Wenatchee feels like signing on for, ever.  If it weren't for an interracial marriage Wenatchee The Hatchet wouldn't exist. 

If Taylor swift crossed from country pop to pop odds seem pretty good her approach to subdominant substitutions wasn't what signaled the change in musical terms.  We can't exactly say the patronage system backing her has changed but perhaps the shift, such as it is, signals a belief that Swift has graduated from the possibly safer confines of country pop to more general pop?  I wouldn't know, I'm just playing with an idea on a weekend.  If the boundary between the two kinds of pop is imagined to exist at all that might just be in the minds of people who imagine there's an actual boundary there in terms of musical form and the structure of music as an expression of thought rather than the distinction between Fender or Gibson guitars or between Marshall and Pignose amps.  Nobody gets to say the banjo is only a country instrument, for instance--it's been used to play jazz and Telemann and if Elliott Carter decided to compose something for banjo ... Wenatchee The Hatchet would be curious to hear it.

Noah Berlatsky laments that sci-fi stopped caring about the future, but he could have proposed we're witnessing a crisis of American colonialist imagination instead

It's not just Star Wars either. Science fiction is everywhere in popular culture, and it seems like it's managed to be everywhere in the present by largely jettisoning the future. The massive, major franchises are all decades-old; the triumphal rhythmic successes of Star Wars and Star Trek and Dr. Who vie with sporadic reboots of Robocop or Planet of the Apes. Even newer stories, like The Hunger Games or Divergence feel less like fresh visions than like re-toolings of stagnant dystopias. Poor George Orwell wants his panopticon back.

It's no accident that the most ubiquitous, overwhelming sci-fi sub-genre around is the one that has the least to do with the future: superheroes. Much of the superhero genre, in fact, is devoted to the fantasy that we don't need to wait for technological marvels, but can experience them right here, right now. More, we can do so, magically, without the comfy old familiar world we know changing that much at all.

Tony Stark invents new magical energy sources three times before breakfast, but he uses them mostly to punch Thunder-Gods in the head, rather than, say, to completely transform the world's technology and economy. Aliens land on earth, and rather than conquering England with H. G. Wells or forming an utterly new human race through tentacle-sex gene splicing a la Octavia Butler, they perform minor acts of altruism while taking their shirts off to reveal the pecs of Henry Cavill. Superheroes are sci-fi wonders without consequences, the future resolutely flattened by today.

This from the author who switched back and forth being saying Wonder Woman didn't need the Hollywood treatment and that she ought to have her own movie already may be a telling example in itself.  After all, why champion Wonder Woman as better than Batman or Superman if in the end superheroes are sci-fi wonders without consequences.  If they were just that then Wonder Woman could be counted as the first Mary Sue in the history of the comics genre.  Would Berlatsky take that route? 

What makes Berlatsky's piece on the failure of sci-fi imagination seem a bit specious is that it doesn't take THAT long to see that Berlatsky has thrown out the idea for us to consider that science fiction can be thought of as organically emerging from within a culturally colonialist imagination.

Reverse colonial sci-fi don't always have to be anti-imperialist, though. Ender's Game, both film and book, use the invasion of the superior aliens not as a critique of Western expansion and genocide, but as an excuse for those things. The bugs invade human worlds, and the consequence is that the humans must utterly annihilate the alien enemy, even if Ender feels kind of bad about it. Olympus Has Fallen runs on the same script, as a North Korea with impossibly advanced weapons technology lays sci-fi siege to the White House, giving our hero the go-ahead for torture, murder, and generalized carnage. In Terminator, as well, the fact that the robots are treating us as inhumanly as we treated them doesn't exactly create any sympathy. Instead, the paranoid fear of servants overthrowing masters just becomes a spur to uberviolence (as shown in Linda Hamilton's transformation from naïve good girl to paramilitary extremist). The one heroic reprogrammed Terminator, who must do everything John Connor tells him even unto hopping on one leg, doesn't inspire a broader sympathy for SkyNet. Instead, Schwarzenegger is good because he identifies with the humans totally, sacrificing himself to destroy his own people. Terminator II is, in a lot of ways, a retelling of Gunga Din.

Okay, let's not forget that The Terminator cropped up about a year after the start of the Strategic Defense Initiative, folks. Forget the historical setting of a James Cameron giving us a story of sentient machines designed by humans who subjugate humans as an in-the-decade complaint about what was potentially nothing more than a massive, crazy psy-ops operation (this was the decade in which non-Americans like James Cameron and Alan Moore were imagining some stupid cowboy president type could nuke the planet) and you will forget that sci-fi is always and only ever talking about imaginary futures as a way of addressing today. 

Cameron's Terminator franchise shouldn't be ahistorically interpreted as some timeless meta-historical musing on colonialism for the 21st century.  Anyone who keeps in mind the narrative rules of the world has to keep in mind that the terminators do what they're programmed to do.  It's only some kind of projection that lets us vicariously humanize the bot in the sequel when the bot was sent and did its mission.  It wasn't until Reagan stopped being in office and signs that the Cold War might potentially end in something other than nuclear oblivion that it became convenient, not to mention financially lucrative, to revive the franchise in a way that let Arnold play the good bot to his old bad bot.

Berlatsky's more recent piece is just going for low-hanging fruit of the most over-ripe kind.  There are obviously sci-fi stories being told and in light of his earlier piece he could have easily floated an idea--the continual revival of sci-fi franchises from the Reagan era and from the era of Kennedy and Johnson's New Frontier/Great Society epochs tell us something about what franchises have stuck around in American popular imagination, the ones in which the left or the right could imagine it still had both the moral authority and the clarity of vision to properly engineer a suitable future for the world.  These could be described as the franchises birthed in the period in which Americans could (and did) have some confidence about making the world a better place.  Want an example?  Let's go back to Star Trek.
... By viewing each of the original 79 episodes, Bennett and Meyer learned everything they could about what worked and what didn't. With changing times, they left behind the 1960s image of the U.S.S. Enterprise as a galactic Peace Corps bringing American-style enlightenment to benighted heathens on faraway worlds. Rather, what worked were elements that bolster the best screen science fiction by transcending the genre ghetto — an emphasis on storytelling over winky-blink hardware, character-oriented writing, plots that freshened up clichéd SF concepts, and gee-whiz spaceships and ray guns that existed for more than their own sake. Not every episode was first-rate stuff, to be sure. One can imagine Bennett and Meyer setting fire to their contracts while sitting through all those shitty third-season eps. But there were enough strong stories to make clear what girdered the show's stubbornly stalwart appeal to an audience still swelling more than a decade after the series' brief network lifespan.
But the flash of imagination doesn't have to be about optimism, per Planet of the Apes.  If evolution has no set trajectory it's possible for humans to evolve backwards into more barbaric and destructive times. 

If Berlatsky had the time (or the permission from editors? or interest?) he could have proposed that the failure of the sci-fi imagination in popular cinema is, perhaps at most, an American crisis.  It's not like Neill Blomkamp or Christopher Nolan haven't done some sci-fi films in the last four years but neither is American.  If Berlatsky wants to float an idea, how about this, the lack of creativity on the part of American pop sci-fi could be because of a failure inherent in colonial imagination.  We are no longer in a position where we can be sure that, whatever the future may bring, the future will be something we can engineer through the long-term effects of our policy.

Paradoxically, the genre Berlatsky says is least interested in imagining an actual future may be more rather than less relevant to the sci-fi landscape of popular American culture because the superhero genre tends to focus on the nature and proper use of power.  Berlatsky has championed Wonder Woman but depending on what you pick up from the 1940s comics the Wonder Woman of that comic was an unabashed champion of the American way no less than Superman.  Berlatsky may not care as much for Batman but in a post-Cold War era the superhero who recognizes that a great deal of corruption and evil exists within the United States is an easier sell than the two bonafide super superheroes whose advocacy for the American way as the ideal by which to light up the world has taken some hits.

After all, after so many decades we've had a chance to live past the times of the future imagined by the sci-fi past.  Stanley Kubrick's 2001 imagined a world in which American and Soviet ambassadors could play a verbal game in which neither acknowledged the existence of a monolith and by the real 2001 there was no Soviet Union.  Alan Moore's Watchmen imagined an essentially inevitable nuclear annihilation for the human race that "might" have been averted by the schemes of Ozymandias, yet the mass murder and deception were about to unravel in the final panels.  As Grant Morrison put it in Supergods, you the reader were shown that the secret was out by the end of the comic. Of course some might balk at precisely that moment in imagining that "breaking the fourth wall" was part of the design.

And yet decades later, in spite of the dour possibilities foretold by Moore or Cameron, we're still here. What if in the long run science fiction has never been about any real future but imaginary futures used to either party or panic about our present?  That seems more likely.  We might see Skynet or the Master Control Program or we might not.  And after so many decades do we think Voyager is going to return as V-ger?  Probably not.  One of the problems with sci-fi over the last half century is that it dates.  We know there was no one named Khan ruling a chunk of the planet in the wake of euguenics wars in the 1990s, for instance. 

If we keep going back to the sci-fi franchises where we either defeat the Galactic Empire or try to stop Skynet from destroying us maybe sci-fi isn't "moving forward" because it was never moving forward to begin with.  If Berlatsky wanted to stick consistently with the idea of sci-fi colonial imagination maybe he could borrow a phrase from Fukuyama and suggest that the crisis of science fiction in American terms is that we have reached a moment of the end of history, at least the end of a future "history" that we know we can write.  We're not the Great Society nation that could imagine sending out the Galactic Peace Corps of the Star Trek world anymore.  We're not the Reagan-era America whose Skynet obliterated or subjugated humanity.  If anything a lot of people have touted the internet as a tool for speaking truth to power and all that. 

The trouble with Berlatsky's pessimism is he only went half-way.  He could have probed a bit further and, beyond that, the problem with the half-way pessimism is he didn't get past it to see a basis for optimism, if American popular sci-fi can't imagine the future beyond what was imagined in the Reagan or Johnson/Kennedy era past then our inability to imagine.  If science fiction is the result of colonial imagination then the prevalence of the superhero genre, with its direct questions about the nature and ethics of power, may be exactly what we would expect for a colonial empire nearing the end of the possible futures it can imagine.  Perhaps a superhero story in which the superhero creates a massive surveillance system and only "wins" by capturing people and then lying to the public about the real techniques used to solve a terrorist problem only to discover that these makeshift techniques could not avert a pending disaster and crisis of collective moral action might be what we expect.  

In that way we can get a Captain America in the 21st century saying he heard "we" won World War 2 but he can't shake this feeling that maybe in the long run we actually lost.  In the wake of the Cold War Superman and Wonder Woman have receded because they represent Americas we not only struggle to believe in but that only had emotional resonance in an era in which we could more unabashedly affirm our belief in the United States as the morally superior culture.  Ergo Marston's Wonder Woman as a champion of America as the hope for women or Superman fighting for truth, justice and the American way.  By contrast, Batman kept battling evil within Gotham (e.g. New York, e.g. America) and the battle never ends.  In a post Cold War era Batman is the superhero who most readily lets us ask whether we "won" the Cold War and whether the moral cost of how we "won" wasn't far too high. 

If science fiction is an outworking of colonialist imagination and we're not imagining new futures in American science fiction that might be a reason to celebrate.  Instead of lamenting that the Star Trek revamp of Wrath of Khan is a reboot let's consider its innovation in Star Trek Into Darkness, that the Federation itself was fraught with imperialist and totalitarian temptations.  Retrofitting the naive optimism of Star Trek with an awareness of the essentially imperialist motives inherent in Roddenberry's vision isn't exactly a bad thing, it highlights the cultural imperialism inherent in the would-be optimism.  The trek into darkness wasn't a trek into the darkness out there on Klingon but into the darkness of the motives of people within the Federation.  Or, to borrow some lines from another franchise, if you don't die the hero then you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.  If you think of it that way then Yoda went from being the lovable wise muppet of Episodes IV-VI to the arrogant, self-assured but ultimately incompent Jedi mob boss whose neglect led to the massacre of the Jedi council and the erection of the Galactic Empire.  Yoda might as well have called his policies The Jedi Patriot Act or something.

Whoever envisions that new future that ever actually takes hold may not be in the United States.  Given the likelihood that Berlatsky wrote one thing but an editor chose a trolling headline here's guessing that Berlatsky's think piece was just half-way to something else.  Wenatchee The Hatchet's playfully proposing that we should move past the reboots and revamps in general to see if there are any patterns about what gets rebooted or revived or kept around and why that might have been.  That America keeps coming back to the sci-fi franchises where we fretted about steering the world wrong or congratulated ourselves for steering the world right seems like a possibility to consider. 

If science fiction is an outworking of colonial imagination engaging the consequences of activity then perhaps the only best and brightest possible future for science fiction is for it to die off altogether as empires wane, wars cease, and there are no colonial empires left to impose their wills on the world ... but that's the point at which we've probably seen a shift past the apocalyptic imaginings of science fiction as science fiction and gotten back to the straight up 200 proof apocalyptic idiom of old school religious apocalyptic literature.  It's hardly a surprise if the optimistic future of Star Trek doesn't always seem fundamentally different from some of the idyllic visions of Isaiah 40-66. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Mars Hill in 2014 and Slate's "The year of outrage", it took moving beyond outrage and into investigation for things to change (kind of)

First ...
No matter which poison you pick, the Rolling Stone piece has irrecoverably degenerated into a story about a particular event on a particular date, and it’s unlikely we can reverse that now. Erdely’s heavy-handed reliance on the narrative of one specific crime for the entirety of her argument invited this misdirection, which is the problem underlying all her other mistakes.

and now we get to ...

It's quite a sprawl, even for Slate.  The proposal that liberal outrage and conservative outrage look remarkably alike these days wins points for a Captain Obvious observation but a teacher once advise "Never underestimate the obvious."  It may be a useful if not entirely accurate bromide to propose that the age of the internet has passed through puberty and become the age of outrage.

Having blogged about Mars Hill for a few years, off and on since 2008ish, one of the things that keeps coming to mind is that for the better part of the last decade coverage and discussion of things Mars Hill has tended to take the form of either affirmation or outrage.  You were either for or against Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll, and the various ideas and actions you tended to associate with all the above.  A bit more than a year ago the dynamic of public discussion about things Martian changed.  A very specific and general claim was made about the integrity of Mark Driscoll's intellectual property and from there more things emerged.  As Warren Throckmorton described things in an interview this week, he wasn't so sure the allegation of plagiarism checked out at first but over time began to observe that the citation errors were far beyond the handful of things highlighted by Janet Mefferd.

While not a progressive or very left about anything what Elizabeth Stoker Breunig says is worth noting, kind of because Wenatchee The Hatchet has been in the habit of reading through left, right and center out of curiosity:

None of this is to say that personal narratives have no place in journalism. It is only to point out that the habit of presenting individual tales of trauma — absent any interrogation or probing — now comprises a troubling share of argumentative content in left journalism.

In the case of Mars Hill in general and Mark Driscoll in particular the emotional power of a single over-riding narrative has had a lot to do with how Mark Driscoll rose and fell.  What's more, so long as people to the political or theological left or right of Mark Driscoll focused on the persona and his stunts that just fed into the power of the persona and became, as it were, fuel for the fire of the individual narrative.

Outrage begat outrage, wagons got circled, and so on.  Ruth Graham, if memory serves, wrote that the striking thing about Driscoll's rise and fall was that there was no one thing that accounted for the decline.  Depends on what you mean by one thing.  Systematically and categorically flip-flopping on nearly all the key planks in your public platform defining what a qualified pastor ought to be isn't exactly a small thing.  In 2009 he said he didn't have a side company to manage book royalties because that was a sign of selfish gain.  In early 2011 he set up such a company.  He spent years saying that guys who crib the works of others without giving proper credit should rethink their fitness for ministry.  In the last year Mefferd, Thorckmorton and others have managed to comb through Driscoll's published works to show that there's reason to believe Driscoll cribbed more than he credited in possibly half of his published books.  That one of the books with a startling number of less-than credited ideas was also secured a place on the New York Times bestseller list courtesy of Result Source was just one more thing.

It's not any one thing, it was the cumulative impact of dozens or hundreds of things gaining momentum over the course of years.  To get back to the Jacobin piece, here's a useful summation from someone on the left that could not just explain the reason Jackie coverage problem with Rolling Stone but could also sum up the abject failure of progressives to, by and large, have said anything remotely useful or even basically accurate about Mark Driscoll:

These are our goals. They are the right goals. But if leftists’ eagerness to promote personal narratives winds up irreversibly coupled with a resistance to probing those narratives, then it will continue to cause harm.

It didn't matter that Mark Driscoll never once said Gayle Haggard let herself go as a reason Ted Haggard got into a scandal, enough people on the left wanted to believe Driscoll said such a thing and found an emotional appeal in the tale and its retelling that it got retold without anyone bothering to see if it was, in fact, true.  It wasn't true and in spite of the fact that Wenatchee The Hatchet scrupulously reproduced the text of what Mark Driscoll did write a few times there may yet be people who still insist that Mark Driscoll made comments about Gayle Haggard.  That has to stop ... and it will probably only stop now for so long as Driscoll avoids the spotlight, which he may or may not be able to ultimately do.

Wenatchee The Hatchet has spent years documenting the history of Mars Hill and statements made by its leaders.  It has felt important, even a matter of principle, to largely refrain from framing this presentation in terms of outrage.  There were plenty of people willing to only discuss Mark Driscoll in terms of outrage and that played into his persona and public activity.  It gave Driscoll the opportunity to constantly reposition himself as the sensible center amidst all the crazy of all the critics who just didn't get that it was all about Jesus, you know?  Paradoxically Wenatchee The Hatchet got labeled a Driscoll apologist for a couple of years.  Why?  WtH was proposing in 2012 that the discipline of Andrew looked like it might have been tainted by double standards, nepotism, conflicts of interest, in plain old punitive activity in comparison to the pastor's daughter and yet, still, there were people insisting that Wenatchee was some defender of the powers that be at Mars Hill.  Why?  Well ... the echo chamber effect of outrage on the internet might be a potential explanation.  When we feel outraged then we're apt to feel outraged that other people don't share our outrage and that becomes fuel for more, you know, outrage.

And a whole lot of people have been eager to boil Driscoll down to this or that essential motive.

It's not without cause Warren Throckmorton mentioned the fundamental attribution error as a reason to avoid attempting to speculate as to what Mark Driscoll might have thought or what his motives were. 

For too long discussions of Driscoll and Mars Hill were more advocacy than journalism.  That needed to change and Wenatchee The Hatchet spent a few years wondering if that even would change.  It kind of did.  It seemed to take a collective moment where institutional media stopped focusing on the brand and the persona and took a long, hard look at the products of that brand.  This wasn't possible when the only operating mode was outrage.

It was also probably not possible for either the left or the right to have accomplished all of what was written and published.  It took evangelicals and conservatives critiquing Driscoll for momentum to pick up.  There have been progressive writers who have done some solid reporting, too, and Wenatchee The Hatchet is going to stump for this idea, that it took the left and the right being willing to listen and compare notes rather than just reinforce prior assumptions; it took examining the narrative in its details before the coverage moved from heat to light.

There come moments when you have to trust that if what is brought to light is truly outrageous in some way you won't need to say it's outrageous.  If at times Wenatchee The Hatchet has been described as a persistent Driscoll critic this seems a bit inaccurate because if what it took to be a "critic" of Mark Driscoll was simply quoting him accurately and in context and revealing that he made himself look bad by flip-flopping on publicly stated convictions; ostentatiously changing the public narrative of his life or (more commonly) the history of Mars Hill; or by parading assertions about biblical literature that can be shown to be specious then, well, the bar for being a "critic" has been moved very, very low. 

One or two commenters have said in the wake of Driscoll's resignation, "you got what you wanted, move on already."  Well, what Wenatchee wanted was actual reform of the use of power and money within Mars Hill and for Driscoll to return to the precepts and principles he once espoused but that Wenatchee The Hatchet believed Driscoll has basically betrayed.  None of that happened, basically.  In fact over time it has seemed more and more that if one takes the teaching of Driscoll's 2008 spiritual warfare session at face value and cross-references it to Driscoll's public career it suggests Driscoll should get some counseling and reconsider his fitness for ministry.  Of course ever since he decided that a passage in 1 Tim 5 meant that if a husband is out-earned by his wife he's denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever Driscoll has, by his own measure of pastoral qualification, not only never been fit for ministry but was worse than an unbeliever.  Convincing people to give him a salary is moot.  "If" Driscoll's interpretation of 1 Tim 5 was valid (not that it is by any stretch of exegetical study) Driscoll declared himself unqualified years ago and yet he soldiered on anyway, obviously.

So Wenatchee The Hatchet didn't see the hoped-for things come about.  Moving on ...

The thing about "move on" is that it tends to come across, after so many years, as a shorthand for "shut up and drop the subject" rather than an actual wish for activity in other spheres.  It's not that Wenatchee The Hatchet has done more than devote some time here and there to the history of Mars Hill, it's that people may only pay attention when the blog discusses Mars Hill.  If there were, say, a long post on sonata form in the work of Diabelli, Sor and Giuliani it would get ignored by people who might come here and say "all you ever do is bash on Driscoll." 

But there's a variation of this in-progress dissent for those who did "move on".  The reason so many more dollars may have been misspent and so many more people may have been harmed by "biblical living" counseling at Mars Hill would be, if only in a small part, because so many people decided to "move on".  They not only washed their hands of whatever their personal contributions to the empire may have been they washed their hands of reaching out to see how far all of this went. 

The danger of trying to zero in on "lessons learned" is that we've had a chance to see, if we survey the whole scene of coverage about Mars Hill, that most of the lessons learned are self-exonerating "lessons" and those are the lessons we may most need to unlearn.  If the lessons you think you learned just prove you were right all along you're probably part of the problem, too, alas. 

And roundaboutly that may be what makes outrage so dangerous, because so long as we nourish an outrage that's directed outward rather than also add to that a capacity to be outraged at ourselves for what we may have contributed to Mars Hill while we were there then lessons learned will be paths of self-justification.  Jesus said "you will know the truth and the truth will make you free" ... but the truth doesn't necessarily exonerate us, does it?  It may, in fact, eventually implicate most of us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mars Hill and the temptation of presuming karmic imputation

As Mars Hill moves toward its dissolution one of the ideas that may be floating around could be summed up as "those evil/stupid/selfish people got just what they deserved."  Maybe so ...

but on the basis of what?

Wenatchee The Hatchet was at Mars Hill for about ten years and the transition away from Mars Hill was in some ways less about seeing a lot of bad and objecting to it in other people than about something else.  In a run of interactions between ten and eight years ago Wenatchee The Hatchet was told by a variety of people this basic idea, "You have this ability to be callous, cruel and dismissive in the way you deal with people online."  This didn't seem like all that big a deal twelve years ago but in the aforementioned period it started to seem like maybe ... maybe there was something to this idea.  Maybe some people were overly sensitive and unreceptive to being confronted but what if the overall concern was true?  What if Wenatchee The Hatchet was/is a jerk? 

Well, hadn't Wenatchee The Hatchet spent years within Mars Hill as a member in more or less good standing?  Hadn't Wenatchee been recruited into a number of ministries?  If Wenatchee was a callous jerk in disagreements with people was this anything remotely unusual within the culture of Mars Hill?

No, not really.

So "if" Wenatchee The Hatchet had a problem with being cruelly dismissive toward people in online arguments then this was a habit of relating that was basically "normal" within Mars Hill as an online community ... IF this was really a problem then shaking free of that problem probably wasn't going to happen within the social confines of Mars Hill.  To put it another way, if Wenatchee The Hatchet was a symptom of a relational problem in the culture of Mars Hill there was no way that staying within Mars Hill was going to remedy that problem.  Repenting of a sin that fit in so very well with the culture of that church was going to require no longer being at the church, and it was going to require an understanding that the church as a whole social system was not responsible for the individual who at times writes at Wenatchee The Hatchet. I.e. you have to repent of your sinful ways of dealing with people regardless of whether or not the cultural system you're part of is necessarily involved.  It took several years for that observation to take shape in spite of some pretty direct and confrontational suggestions!

Perhaps a small anecdote from 2007 may elucidate, a friend was remarking about how Mars Hill was nothing more than a good ol' boy network and what did WtH say in reply?  "Well, you sure weren't bitching about the good ol' boy network a couple years ago when you were in with them better." Or something very much like that.  That the person is still friends with Wenatchee The Hatchet may be one of those mercies of friendship ... .

So with that in mind, it seems that one of the currents that can run swiftly around the subject of Mars Hill is who the real jerks were or are and who may have had something coming or not.  The temptation to decide that this or that person deserves a more miserable fate because of this or that action is fundamentally graceless and should be avoided by those who would describe themselves as Christians.  Why?  It "should" be obvious but it probably won't be to those who are already comfortable in looking down on other people besides them who were part of Mars Hill.  After all, if someone's already made up their mind to look down on people they're already working from their specific moral intuition and judgment.

So let's play with another example from the last twelve years that doesn't have anything directly to do with Mars Hill. If people deserve all the suffering and misery of the unforeseen consequences they should have seen coming if they weren't evil or stupid people who voluntarily joined on to a team with problematic goals and methods then ... what about every person who voluntarily enlisted to serve in the armed forces in the United States in the wake of September 11, 2001? 

Did all those people "deserve" whatever they may have lost, lost time with children and spouses, lost physical health, lost limbs, and so on? If they did, why did they deserve it?  Because they believed what was said about the situation in the Middle East?  Wenatchee The Hatchet saw and heard people in the Seattle area say in various ways that anyone stupid enough or evil enough to voluntarily enlist in the military deserved whatever awful things might come their way.  It's not like there's ultimately a small list of people who both enlisted in the armed forces and spent time at Mars Hill but Wenatchee The Hatchet considers it exceptionally bad to presume that either of these paths somehow merit misery for those who chose them.  There are no doubt people who would say anyone dumb enough to voluntarily enlist in the armed forces after 2011 and/or participate in Mars Hill deserved at least whatever bad may have happened to them.

It is probably going to be no surprise to read that Wenatchee the Hatchet rejects this entire line of assertion in both domains, whether with respect to those who have enlisted in the military or those who have participated in Mars Hill.  It's one thing to disagree with the reasons and foundations for making a particular set of decisions (whether the grounds for Gulf War 2 or the grounds for being part of Mars Hill Church) and another to impute some kind of punitive karmic destiny that somebody must somehow deserve for having joined up with the movement.  IF someone were to have signed up for military service and participated in Mars Hill this kind of karmic imputation would necessitate double disaster for destiny and it's just not at all given why this should be. 

Now it is a fair point to observe that many men and women only left Mars Hill after it became awkwardly clear they weren't going to get what they wanted from having joined up.  Dan Savage may exemplify the same kind of Driscollian rhetoric of inflammatory put-downs and moral superiority but there IS something to be said about men who voted into the kind of governance they came to regret.  There have been people who only discovered injustice once they were on the receiving rather than the giving end of it. And there are people who did seek a role and a purpose or a status or activity within Mars Hill and, when they failed to attain that or keep that, decided to leave.  So it's not as though a person couldn't play the sour grapes card and say that the people who left Mars Hill were, in the end, just bitter people who didn't get what they wanted. 

But the trouble here is that there shall be so many pots calling so many kettles black it isn't productive to try to look at what could have been better from others as though that were the end of things.  Think of it this way, if you can't see yourself as a symptom of the spiritual disease it would be prudent to avoid diagnosing it in others.  If you can see in yourself how you harmed others without any remorse it becomes easier to be able to speak to that when it is done by others.  This blog, when it has been on the subject of Mars Hill, has been a venue in which Wenatchee tries to offer a kind of, I dunno, repentance of having been part of a culture that can be blunt and dismissive in a way that provides what is hopefully a contrasting ethos.  Only time could establish whether this has been a success.  Meanwhile, it will be kind of cool to have readership go down because as Mars Hill winds down there's going to be less to write about it and more time to write about other things.

Even if it may be popular for a handful of people to imagine that whatever ordeals people who committed to Mars Hill may have endured must have been ordeals they got because they deserved that, Wenatchee The Hatchet would rather avoid that presumption.  It would be pretty easy to figure that people who are in miserable marriages were foolhardy enough to marry over butterflies and fantasies but people don't know the future.  Something can feel like or look like the right decision today that in ten years will seem the most foolish possible decision. It would be easy to suppose that those who suffer because they enlisted into the military somehow "deserved" to lose limbs because they should have known what the risks were when they signed up.  But as with soldiering or marriage the tragedy of loss is that even when you think you know what the risks are you don't, not really.  Richard Baxter once wrote that a man may suffer any number of indignities himself with equanimity but his heart will collapse from sorrow if he sees one of his children going hungry.  You can't anticipate that, can you?

That gets to one of the core problems of the karmic condemnation gambit, it's that you don't have to go all that far along with it to discover that there are lives of people connected to those who found misery who didn't deserve that misery at all.  In a setting like Mars Hill it would be remarkably easy to find children whose teeth would be set on edge because fathers ate sour grapes.  Suppose a dad signed up, did his kids deserve the sadness of his being away on tours?  Well, no, why would they?  By extension, even if someone were to somehow "deserve" problems because of bad decisions why would their kids deserve that?  So by extension, the children of leaders at Mars Hill no more deserve trouble for ill-advised or even immoral acts than the children of soldiers would.  Whatever disagreements Wenatchee The Hatchet has come to have with the leaders of Mars Hill the children of those leaders haven't in any way "earned" some kind of karmic payback any more than the children of soldiers have earned a karmic punishment for their parents enlisting in a time of war. 

The simplest reason to refrain from running with an ethos of karmic imputation for those who have been at Mars Hill (particularly if you were ever there yourself) would be some axiom passed along by those who claimed to follow Jesus colloquially known as the golden rule--treat others the way you'd like to be treated.  If you want to find compassion from those who might otherwise decide that all the suffering you faced in your time at a place was deserved because you were evil and stupid then maybe extending that kind of consideration and compassion to others might be something to do.

And perhaps, to just link to some writing by Alastair Roberts here, we should bear in mind that one of the disciplines of being a Christian is growing in our understanding that in Christ we do not have the privilege of looking down on other people.  We don't have the luxury or privilege of being able to look down on other people if we even begin to understand what mercies have been extended to us through Christ, do we?  Nevertheless, Paul did write that we should consider others as better than ourselves, most likely because if we weren't told to cultivate that disposition in our hearts we'd very likely never get around to even trying to.

As the history of Mars Hill with an internet presence goes Wenatchee The Hatchet may well have been the jerk of jerks.  Learning to embody a different ethos takes time.  Embracing and embodying a different sort of ethos than what emerged within Mars Hill has been a small part of how this blog works and it's been embraced with an understanding of how steadily WtH contributed to the other ethos.  It's easy when you're a guy in your 20s or even early 30s to be sure you're know everything and to be willing to put down the people who don't convince you.  If someone like ReformUrAss were to look back on what he wrote he'd have a lot to regret but, then, so does Wenatchee The Hatchet.  Someone once told Wenatchee he was afraid to comment on the Mars Hill forums for fear of being fisked for inevitable spelling mistakes.  The admonition was, "If you're fighting over an issue that's a core belief of the Christian faith then I'm right there with you.  It's just it doesn't seem like that's what you're getting into fights about."  If there were just one moment instead of dozens or hundreds that set Wenatchee The Hatchet on a different path that is probably the moment. 

So it is remembering how much a person can contribute to the ethos of a culture whether in person or online that has helped inform the approach of Wenatchee The Hatchet.  The golden rule, to put it simply, is in mind.  Things seem to have gotten to a point where not a single person who for any length of time has called Mars Hill home should imagine having any moral superiority over just about anyone else who also called Mars Hill home.  After all, if you were so much better than the others why were you there, too?  If I was smarter than other people about theology why didn't I spot just how far off the rails everything began to go?  I can't look down on anyone after ten years of giving time and money to the place but I can attempt to model a potentially different ethos and method.  It's at least possible to preserve some of the story of the place and the people and to try to do so in a way that refrains as much as humanly possible from looking down on people who sincerely believed Mars Hill was going to be a force for positive change in the Puget Sound area.  After all, Wenatchee The Hatchet used to sincerely believe all of that, too.  It's even still possible to believe that Christians can contribute to the betterment of the region but tis doesn't necessitate participating at Mars Hill, does it? 

question: who were the three required executive elders at Mars Hill from Dec 2010 to July 2011?
page 124 of 145
Article VI
The Executive Elder Team

SECTION B – The size of the Executive Elder Team shall be no less than three men and no more
than six men.

As a follow-up to yesterday's question, if Dave Bruskas was not already an executive elder by July 2011 it remains to be established who the other executive elders were besides Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson.  Scott Melson had already gone by 2010 and Tim Beltz had also already vanished from the scene.  While it might be possible to suggest former executive elder Scott Thomas as possibly having had a role there's a problem, that in the announcement of Jamie Munson's resignation Scott Thomas was nominated to a return to executive eldership by Mark Driscoll in September 2011.

since the MH announcement has been scrubbed and robots.txt may still be in effect, here's the lengthy relevant excerpt as preserved by Wenatchee The Hatchet:

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. [emphasis added] 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.
So the third executive elder couldn't have been Bruskas without some evidence and it certainly wasn't Rick Melson or Tim Beltz and it also couldn't have been Scott Thomas.  But someone had to be the third man, correct?

Then again, there was a period in 2007 where only Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson seem to have been executive elders at the corporation when the minimum required was four and not three.  It's conceivable, then, that there simply were no other executive elders besides Driscoll and Munson in the December 2010 through July 2011 period in spite of the requirement of the bylaws that Munson drafted that there be at least three men occupying executive pastoral offices.  Then again, if the protocol in 2011 was like 2007 where it could seem as though things were done based on the new rules that hadn't been written down yet perhaps Sutton Turner's being on the executive team in any fashion was considered sufficient reason for his signature on the Result Source Inc. contract to be the equivalent of a signature by an executive elder even though Turner wasn't even formally installed as an elder until a month or so after the contract was inked.

"If" that were the case it could suggest that regardless of whatever ways the leadership of Mars Hill rebrands itself or drafts newer bylaws the historical precedent may be that the leaders occasionally elect to disregard their own bylaws depending on what they believe the situation calls for.

As Mars Hill is just a week or so away from dissolving only the Board of Advisors and Accountability would have any power at all to make any decisions and it seems that reincorporating and dividing up the real estate holdings to subsidiary campus corporations may be the order of the month.  Without a president or a secretary/treasurer to get things done it'd be left to the BoAA, such as it is.  Meanwhile, if someone can establish who the third man (if there even was one) in executive eldership at Mars Hill in the aforementioned slot of December 2010 through July 2011 a confirmation would be handy.

If time and resources permit the 2008 warfare transcription and discussion should eventually resume.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Throckmorton: Bruskas has recently sounded off on Strange Fire, Result Source and other stuff

There's a video and about 2:15 Bruskas described himself as having been part of a leadership culture that was "heavy handed and domineering".   He also described these problems as still being within the community (though the audio is a bit muffled). 

Throckmorton notes in the reent post Bruskas describes regretting participation in the Strange Fire stunt.  That Bruskas was at the Strange Fire stunt Driscoll seemed to spearhead has been documented generously via social media and if you want a synopsis of that ... there's a post here:

Last Wenatchee can readily recall discussing things at much length in connection with Bruskas would have been ...

The time Bruskas told leaders "we need your help" facing down a layoff season days after Driscolls finalized buying a million-dollar home in Snohomish county. 

Throckmorton's recent post adds some new elements to consider about what Bruskas may or may not have been in a position to know in 2011 when Real Marriage was getting drafted and RSI was being contacted.

For himself the three things he felt grieved about were the New York Times best-seller scam, the Strange Fire conference, and the performance driven culture of ministry.

Bruskas said he was a new executive elder in 2011 who was informed about the ResultSource contract by Jamie Munson in a car ride to work one morning. He asked if the approach had integrity and was financially feasible. Bruskas said Munson answered yes to both. After that, according to Bruskas, he didn’t ask any more questions.

Bruskas disclosed to friends that he was going to take the #2 position at Mars Hill in July 2011. That was about a month after Mark and Grace Driscoll and their agent Sealy Yates met at Thomas Nelson to discuss the ResultSource approach to scamming the best-seller list.  This June 27, 2011 note from Sealy Yates to Kevin Small was included in a Mars Hill memo on the ResultSource-Real Marriage campaign.

Read more:
Of particular note ...

There's a partial correspondence Throckmorton quotes from regarding Jamie Munson interacting with the Mars Hill Board about Result Source.  Throckmorton has lately asked who might have been on that board.  Well, absolutely not Rick Melson, though Rick Melson had a role at Mars Hill.

Long ago before it was scrubbed from something like a LinkedIn Profile it was said of Melson that:

President/Campus Network Director
Resurgence/Mars Hill Church
January 2009– June 2010 (1 year 6 months)

And it couldn't have been Tim Beltz, who stopped being an executive leader in 2010.

Executive Pastor
Mars Hill Church
October 2007 – November 2010 (3 years 2 months)|Greater Seattle Area

So if Melson and Beltz were both gone by the middle of 2010 who was still on the executive team? The accounts about and by Sutton Turner about his joining executive leadership raise some questions about whether he ever intended to become an executive elder at Mars Hill.

Turner was brought on during a period in which Munson was still an executive elder and president. Driscoll was technically vice-president and while Turner was on the executive team he was not yet an elder.  It was conceivable that during this time to ensure the bare minimum of three executive elders required at the time that Dave Bruskas may have been added, whether by invitation or self-nomination.  Given the pattern of men who played roles in acquiring real estate landing prestigious jobs at Mars Hill Bruskas' possible role in getting City on a Hill in Albuquerque to Mars Hill in 2009 may or may not have been part of a possible pattern.  Driscoll had expressed some interest from the pulpit in the New Mexico site being a hub for further interstate expansion in 2009.

As preserved at the above post there's some indication that the summer of 2011 was when Bruskas transitioned out.
a quick note about Dave Bruskas

August 16, 2011

Mike DeLong

Yes, Dave Bruskas, now-former pastor of City On A Hill (now Mars Hill Albuquerque) has apparently [link] left Mars Hill Albuquerque for a position in the Seattle area [link]. The transition was apparently an amicable one [link], although I have not seen an official announcement for those of us outside the Mars Hill Church circle of light, etc. We wish the Bruskas family all the best in their new situation.
So summer of 2011 seems to match up across the board.  With Turner on the executive team but not yet installed as an elder and with there having been just Munson and Driscoll as official executive elders it's not clear even to Wenatchee The Hatchet whether between November 2010 and August 2011 there were the bare minimum three executive elders required by the by-laws Jamie Munson drafted.  Was Scott Thomas still in executive eldership in 2011, possibly?  Wenatchee The Hatchet can't recall him being on the executive leadership side of things in MH in 2011, though he had a significant role in Acts 29.

The excerpt published by Throckmorton involving Yates and Small is interesting not just because it raises a question as to who the full roster of executive elders would have been in June 2011 when Rick Melson and Tim Beltz were both definitively out of executive eldership, leaving open the question of who the third executive elder required by the bylaws would have been if it wasn't Sutton Turner (yet).  There might have been some executive elder in there for the third slot Wenatchee The Hatchet just forgot about.

And it all makes it seems as though RSI was more connected to Thomas Nelson and BOTH Driscolls than a reader might have previously imagined.  "The Driscolls and I" leaves little doubt that Grace seemed to be involved, too.  By "The Driscolls" it seems a reasonable guess to refer to just Mark and Grace Driscoll.  One Rick Sprull is described as agreeing to work with Mars Hill and Result Source to make the campaign work. 

There's a question lurking in the paragraph quoted by Throckmorton and it has to do with Jamie Munson.  Since Munson was in 2011 still the legal president of Mars Hill based on the bylaws that were voted through in 2007 it would make sense that Munson would have necessarily played an active role in dealing with Result Source and in discussing the viability of using Result Source on a Driscoll book with boards at Mars Hill in 2011.  And yet ... let's revisit something in a memo credited to Sutton Turner from March 17, 2012.

One of the greatest and most harmful events was Pastor Jamie resigning and leaving me in this job as

General Manager/Executive Elder. From early June until he resigned in August, he had basically checked

out. So I had less than 6 weeks as General Manager before becoming #1 King without being an Elder.

Then finally in November, I was made an Executive Pastor without have any creditability with the staff.

This single fact hindered my ability to really even understand the organization or the people, much less

see the problems as they had existed for a long time.

How was this "basically checked out" possible if in the midst of the summer of 2011 Munson has been described as talking with the Mars Hill board about the viability of the Result Source Inc deal?   If by "checked out" the reference was to the ordinary operating processes of the corporation known as Mars Hill was there evidence?  Or was "checked out" something that has to be modified by our increasing awareness that Munson played a role in the Result Source deal? 

And if Thomas Nelson people were meeting with the Driscolls and with Kevin Small of Result Source then ... how much disavowal from the publisher holds up?  If a paragraph of correspondence suggests Thomas Nelson people agreed to work with Result Source people then it doesn't seem to matter if it wasn't the idea of someone at Nelson if they at some point agreed to go along with the idea, does it?

And for those who don't recall, the book that came to be known as Real Marriage had been incubating since at least as far back as later 2010.

For those who didn't spot this, way back in January 2011 Driscoll tweeted the following:
Talking w/Grace about our book. Big idea God has hit me with is that marriage is about being a best friend so that's my top goal for 2011

And even earlier:
Grace & I are writing re sex & marriage is making progress. With the 2 publisher finalists in town. Title is unsettled - Your Best Wife Now?          

So based on the late 2010 tweet the Driscolls had narrowed the publishers down to two finalists and Driscoll cracked a joke about a working title.  Two finalists by December 6, 2010.  According to the statement by the MH BoAA this year ...

In 2011, outside counsel advised our marketing team to use Result Source to market the Real Marriage book and attain placement on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Of possible interest for the incubation of Real Marriage may be cross-referencing the Result Source collaboration with the financial instrument developed to purchase a million dollar home in Snohomish County.

Let's review the chronology in its bare bones.  It seems we've learned that BOTH Driscolls had to have known about the RSI deal by at least June 27 2011.  By this time On Mission LLC had been incorporated in Colorado in January 2011. The financial instrument Future Hope Revocable Living Trust was created in February 2011 according to the deed of the house in Woodway purchased May 2012. So in December 2010 the two publisher finalists had been chosen.  In January 2011 the side company to manage book royalties was incorporated in Colorado.  In February 2011 the financial instrument that was used to buy the Woodway house got created.  Some time in 2011 "outside counsel" advised RSI and by the end of 2011 the deal was inked.  The rest was history.

At the moment what's not clear to Wenatchee The Hatchet is who the third executive elder from November 2010 to June 2011 would have been.  If Bruskas was on board as an executive elder in August 2011 he wasn't on the executive team yet and yet there's no clear documentation as to who the necessary third executive elder would have been.  We know Driscoll and Munson were there but perhaps alert readers can explain who the third executive elder at Mars Hill was from the months of November 2010 through July 2011 was?  Even Wenatchee The Hatchet forgets stuff.   If Bruskas became an executive elder some time in August 2011 then his connection to RSI and knowledge of it may have been minimal if it was Munson and/or Turner doing a lot of the meeting.  But if Bruskas wasn't on the scene in the executive eldership yet in June 2011 and Sutton Turner was in the executive leader circle but not yet an elder there needed to be a third man.