Thursday, December 31, 2015

a blast from the past: Mark & Grace Driscoll Marriage Book Marketing Plans: observations on a mid-2011 document and discussion of integrated marketing approaches

Every once in a while something comes along.  This is not a dated document on the document itself.  From the wording and referenced timelines, however, an inferential case can be made that it was composed some time in the middle of 2011.
Driscoll himself leads early with his degree in Communications from one of the top 5, and he was quick to mention that his wife Grace has a degree in Public Relations.  Then, quickly, he moved to state "we are happy to help craft a marketing strategy with Thomas Nelson and enjoy doing so."
For those who want to read the doc, it can be read after the break.  You might want to collapse all the menus on the right side of the blog before reading further.

a year in review on things related to the year of dissolution for Mars Hill Church/Mars Hill Fellowship and Driscoll's pending re:launch

It was more than a year ago that Mark Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill as both a pastor and as a member.  Here on the eve of 2016 almost nothing seems more ill-advised and basically wrong than the sentiments of William Vanderbloemen, who wrote over at The Observer on three reasons why ... well ... here you go.
Maybe social media is a powerful double-edged sword.  We've touched on the matter of social media being an idol. Privacy isn't dead unless you sacrifice it on the altar of celebrity and social media activity. Words last forever?  Did Vanderbloemen forget how quickly we forget?  Or is the thought in mind something about how Jesus said that one day we will have to account for every idle word? As for every pastor needing to realize he or she is an interim pastor ... Driscoll spent years regaling people with reasons "I'm not going anywhere" right up to a few months before he decided to quit. Although in 2014 he wrote to Mars Hill, "I don’t see how I can be both a celebrity and a pastor, and so I am happy to give up the former so that I can focus on the latter." by the end of the calendar year
he was still a celebrity but had chosen not to be a pastor. 

And it's only been in 2015, in the year after he threw in the towel and was speaking on the road on the conference circuit that he began to share stories about how God audibly released him from ministry at Mars Hill. 

As we've noted over this last year, there are basically six available accounts of how and why Mark Driscoll resigned.
There's also some discussion here about questions as to the continuity of the accounts as timelines. One of the most striking gaps is the time between Monday evening, when Driscoll said God spoke to him about "a trap has been set" and the day of the resignation announcement on Wednesday which was, per the account given at the Thrive conference, when the Driscoll kids first learned their father had quit being pastor at Mars Hill, by way of social media.

Why neither Mark nor Grace Driscoll told any of their children that their father had resigned for a roughly 18-24 hour period has never even been asked in interview contexts.  It is not likely the Driscolls will grant interviews to journalists who ask for interview time, it seems, but that's a fairly natural question that could be asked.

An eve nsimpler question is why in the midst of the 2014 announcements no public statements were given to indicate that God told Mark Driscoll he could quit.  Why?  Well, in any event if we take Mark Driscoll's own preaching and teaching as a guide we should be skeptical about a man who abruptly quits serving as a pastor at a church and only a year later says "God told me ... . "

And, hey, since it's over at the website we can just quote it.
Pastor Mark Driscoll
ACTS (5:12-42)
May 04, 2014
So I want to be careful with this because this can be an opportunity for spiritual abuse. Because sometimes people say, “God told me.” Well, we’ll see, OK? You can’t just pull out the “God told me” card. Ladies, let’s say you meet a guy and the guy says, “God told me to marry you.” “Interesting, he didn’t tell me or my dad, you know, so I don’t have to just assume that because you say the Lord says that the Lord in fact has spoken.”

You need to be very careful. Somebody comes along, “God told me to plant a church.” Let’s check that. All right, you can’t—I mean, 1 Corinthians 14 is clear. If you think you got a word from the Lord, you’ve got to check it by the leaders. So what we’re looking for, if you believe God has told you something, especially to do something that is difficult like this, we’re looking for a godly person—Peter’s a godly person. In godly community—it says he’s with the apostles, they’re all agreed. Under godly authority—they all agree on this. With a godly motive—to talk about Jesus. Doing a godly thing—wanting to minister to people. In a godly way—by being open in public and not hiding anything. So if you believe the Lord has told you something, he may have, but I would ask, “Are you a godly person in godly community under godly authority with a godly motive doing a godly thing in a godly way?” And what they are demonstrating is what we would call civil disobedience. Civil disobedience like in China where they have population controls. If a woman who loves Jesus gets pregnant, the government comes and says, “You have to have an abortion.” She could say, “I can’t do that. I need to obey God. I can’t obey you.”

Given that Driscoll was the subject of a potentially never completed investigation or report (although Driscoll's 2015 interview with Brian Houston invites questions as to whether or not 1) a report WAS complete and 2) its results could, as Driscoll recounted them, be summarized by the Board) and one end of that report was a proposed restoration process, it doesn't seem as though Mark Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill in a way that was incontestably a godly move done in a godly way submitted to godly authority.  By definition, Driscoll's warned us against anyone who plays the "God told me" card.  So if the guy doesn't get to pull that card and is also not formally submitted to a spiritual authority then this alone would be reason to not take Driscoll as being particularly repentant.  Starting up a new church in 2016 in Phoenix hardly seems to conform to what Driscoll said others ought to do with respect to submission to spiritual authority.  This might even be a case not unlike the Pharisees of whom Jesus said that because they sit in Moses' seat you should do what they tell you but, whatever you do, DO NOT FOLLOW THEIR EXAMPLE, for they do not practice the things they teach.

So, that would be a reason to be skeptical as to whether Mark Driscoll says "God told me" was sufficient reason to resign.  The second reason is that in none of the 2014 accounts presented by people about Mark Driscoll's leave of absence and resignation was any indication given that God was involved.  Not even Driscoll himself said God was saying anything in the October 2014 resignation letter. If God did say something that would be something to lead with up front, wouldn't it?

That Driscoll shared the "God said ... " narratives at the Thrive conference and in an interview with Brian Houston invites a question as to why I twas only on the road and for camera that these new accounts came up.  The old filmed Robert Morris account had it that Morris advised Driscoll.  Over on Facebook, Warren Throckmorton recorded that one Erma Gauthier claimed the board was preventing Mark Driscoll from preaching even though he wanted to, which so flatly contradicts everything Mark Driscoll has said on the road in 2015 that while neither one might be presumed to be lying only one of them could be conveying a factually accurate account.

So, one of the stories this year was just how many stories there were about Mark Driscoll's resignation and how the threads and narratives didn't always seem to "quite" fit into a single coherent narrative.  It may be there isn't a single coherent narrative.

The next notable incident to do with Mars Hill involved the sale of a list, the sale of which came to light when Craig Gross spammed a bunch of people. The sale had some kind of connection to Justin Dean, former media guru for Mars Hill. Dean even came by to the blog Wenatchee The Hatchet and claimed that The Stranger published a fabricated conversation but has not, to this day, clarified which conversation he alleges was fabricated.  What was cleared up, in other contexts, was that whoever sold the list to Craig Gross did not have legal authorization to do so.  It was also cleared up that someone didn't.

In the first half of 2015 Sutton Turner blogged about some of his time at Mars Hill.  He provided an explanation of how he disagreed with the Result Source agreement but signed the contract anyway because people should be submissive even in settings where they dissent from leadership, or at least that's how it read at the time. It was possible, of course, that Turner could have opted to not sign the Result Source contract and let someone else sign it but that, for whatever reason, didn't happen. The story of how Turner was in some fashion intimidated out of his role can't be independently confirmed but it is difficult to imagine that former staff would have had access to the kind of information Turner indicated was leveraed in some way agains thim.  Given that Mars Hill was such a secretive leadership culture a lot of people didn't even know how much money Mark Driscoll made a year, it would have taken someone so close to the top as to have been an assistant to one of the executives to have had access to information about Turner's pre-Christian conversion activities.  it's not that the scenario Turner described seemed impossible, it just seemed remarkably hard to square with the level of secrecy and insider-knowledge that seemed typical of the Mars Hill leadership culture.

Turner's indications that the board of Mars Hill split on the matter of whether to scapegoat Turner over Result Source is another thing that can't be confirmed or denied.  Whoever might still be involved in administration of the corporation known as Mars Hill Church or Mars Hill Fellowship could theoretically address some of these unanswered questions.

One of the biggest unanswered questions is where th monies from real estate sales and asset liquidation have gone or will go.  Mars Hill was sitting on a lot of real estate and othe rforms of property.  Where the money for that will go has not yet been disclosed.  Mars Hill Foundation for Planting Churches has been renewed into the end of next year.  Mars Hill itself is set to expire as a corporation tonight.

On Missions Charitable Remainder Unitrust (OMCRU) INvestments LLC
On Mission LLC

Lasting Legacy is set to expire in April 2016

expired 11/30/2015
expiration 10/31/2016 there

Mars Hill itself ... set to expire tonight in just a few hours.

The reason it can be useful to tend to the boring details of registration listings for LLCs is that sometimes the listings change.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

a handful of brief not-quite-spoilery thoughts on The Force Awakens

I think the cases that have been made that Rey is a Mary Sue forget that if what they considered the same set of traits were comingled in a male lead character played by a Tom Cruise that we'd be having different comments.  Not being a woman myself I do wonder how many eye-rolls there have been at male heroic leads in films who were as "perfect" as some have said Daisy Ridley's Rey is.  If you want a Gary Stue, just consider the extent to which some Star Wars fans claim Palpatine controlled everything from Episodes 1-6 when he says "Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design."  Instead of taking this in the context of conventions of action adventure films of the Reagan era (i.e. villains talk smack and talk big as if they are more awesomely competent than they actually are) some guys insist that EVERYTHING that transpired from the start of Episode 1 to the climax of Episode 6 was engineered in some fashion by the Emperor.

When fans of the franchise are actually making serious attempts at anything like "that" claim, it's impossible to say that Rey is a Mary Sue within the Star Wars universe, not when you see what some fans actually claim Yoda and Palpatine can do.   Rey is fairly "normal" perfect for a comparable male heroic lead in an action film. 

Considering how many action movies we have it's not "that" conventional yet to have a female heroic lead in an action adventure film who is not a trophy or arm candy.  Bear in mind that Star Wars still hews more toward the all ages audience rather than the more PG-13 dystopias of Hunger Games. 

So how many heroic action leads are female in films that are suitable for all ages that may have a woman who is considered pretty but is also not sexualized and does not trade on sexuality in some fashion?

That list could be ... well, if you stop and think about the history of the action genre Rey might just be the only one.  Well, okay ... maybe Twilight Sparkle but that's a different kind of genre.

So Rey seems too perfect because she's a competent scavenger, interested in machines and figures out how to fly a certain spaceship with enough skill that she gets props from Han Solo.  Let's bear in mind that back in Episode 4 Luke says a certain shot is, in a word, kinda easy.  He didn't say this because of Force skillz but because he lived on a litter box planet full of sand and had nothing much else to do except test out marksmanship.  The idea that Rey can't be an inventive mechanic who can improvise solution on legendary freighters doesn't seem that far-fetched in the Star Wars universe.  A girl who has a burgeoning interest in mechanical things, science, and at least some interest in staff-fighting should find Rey a delight to watch on screen.  I'd never heard of Daisy Ridley before Episode 7 but now that I've seen Episode 7, well, she's definitely a star now. 

Rey is what Korra from Legend of Korra should have been if she was well-acted and written by writers who had the slightest clue how to write for women characters, something I was swiftly convinced by seasons 1 and 2 of Legend of Korra the key writers either no longer knew how to do or maybe never knew how to do to begin with. 


Remember back when Megan Fox was on press promotional duty and explaining how she was playing a "strong female character"?  No?  Well Daisy Ridley's Rey, in terms of an action/adventure film heroine, is entering the fray in competition against that Megan Fox character.  Is this really a contest which of the two characters you would present to your daughters or nieces as the one most worthy of emulation?  This seems like a no-brainer to me and I'm not even a parent.  If Rey and Finn seem like retreads of characters we've already grown to love compare them to the characters played by Shia Labeouf and Megan Fox in the Bay-formers franchise and I think we could find it in our hearts to go easy on the Ridley and Boyega characters.  There's a difference between casting a pretty woman from England as an action/adventure movie star and casting a ... Victoria's Secret model to play Sam Witwicky's girlfriend in the third Bay-formers film. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

answers to questions you didn't ask: what are your favorite tv theme songs?

It would seem part of the history of this blog is a whole lot of declining to answer questions from commenters (the few times they ask) while answering or raising questions that readers don't care about.

That's part of the art of a blog, right?

So, sometimes I have posts that I've called "answers to questions you didn't ask". This is another one of those. 

What are your favorite TV show theme songs?  Well ... in no essential order ... and without any attempt at being a comprehensive list ...

Transformers opening theme

Wow, it's remarkable how out of tune that electric guitar is, and those singers.
Still, one of the more unforgettable opening theme songs for a TV show.  Still like it.  It dates me a bit because I remember when this toy commercial series was first on the air.  Not sure I could revisit the series from back then but Transformers Prime sure is fun.  This is a blog that occasionally discusses animation when some readers aren't waiting for it to keep discussing Mars Hill, remember. :)

This was cleverly reconceived as a slow jam and all the instruments are actually in tune for this version, and the singing is ... well ... anyway, just go watch it. :)

And switching over to the other side of the Pacific ... this one's a predictable one, too.

Tank! opening theme song for Cowboy Bebop

Opening theme for the A-Team
Yeah, this one also dates me a little.  The 00's movie got rid of the bridge for this theme song, which was a mistake.  Cheesy as that bridge with the brass fanfare in the middle is (about 1:03), it musically needs to be there. It introduces some fun cross-beat/cross-measure syncopation that isn't in the marching part of the form.

But if I had to pick just one theme song that is my favorite ...

That'd have to be J. G. Thirlwell's No Vacancy, theme song for the start of The Venture Bros. The fanfare on brass and bass starting at 0:35 is triumphant!

If a theme song for a TV show is supposed to let you know what you're in for in the actual show then Venture Bros has a theme that lets you know up front the show's going to be a little ... off.  The charm of this little beauty is after thundering along four-on-the-floor you get this slick wind-up and when the fanfare kicks in it's in counts of 7.  You have some part of you that wants those riffs to still be in common time but the effect is of the brass and bass chorus rushing along faster than you can hum along if you've made the assumption that we'll still be four on the floor for this part of the theme song.

Which makes it hilarious and charming all at once.

Kyle Gann riff on Orchestrating a Nation (a book), an accounting of the double bind American critics and concert organizers used to sideline American symphonic music

Two books I’ve read recently had a notable impact on me. One was Orchestrating the Nation: The Nineteenth-Century American Symphonic Enterprise (Oxford) by Douglas Shadle, who’s at Vanderbilt. It’s a history of the relationships among 19th-century American composers, critics and conductors, and particularly of the Europhile bias American composers had to face at every step. Music critics were enamored of what came to be called The Beethoven Problem: a composer of symphonies had to both imitate and expand on the Master’s principles. They developed a set of binary goalposts that could be relocated to frustrate any American contender: If your music was too similar to Beethoven’s, it was derivative; if not similar enough, it failed to build on eternal principles. If it followed the Mendelssohn-Schumann line it was timid; if it veered toward Liszt and Wagner, it was damned for being mere program music. If it used American source material, it lacked “symphonic dignity”; if not, it represented inauthentic European wannabe-ism. If audiences loved it though the critics didn’t, then it merely appealed to the superficial; and even if critics liked it and audiences didn’t, then it may be intellectual but will never appeal to the common man. [emphasis added] Meanwhile, Europeans as minor as Jan Kalliwoda were enthusiastically welcomed into the repertoire. As Shadle puts it, “critics relegated the music of nineteenth-century American composers to the dustbin of history while applying mutable standards of criticism to each new crop [p. 263]”. And so each new American symphonist – Anthony Philip Heinrich, William Henry Fry, George Frederick Bristow – would create a frisson of public excitement only to be forgotten and dismissed in short order, creating a mistaken impression that no history of American symphonic music existed.

Critics had more power back then than they do now, but Shadle makes clear that star conductors like Theodore Thomas nurtured similar sets of shifting criteria to save themselves the trouble of performing American works. The book’s arch-villain, though, is famous Boston music John Sullivan Dwight. For decades I’ve tried to find something to admire about the guy because of his connection to the Transcendentalists, but he was the worst of the worst of those who thought the Europeans had said it all and so Americans shouldn’t bother trying, and Shadle hangs him with his own hypocritical words again and again. (I’d like to think his type of critic died out with the late Andrew Porter.)


More than anything else, Orchestrating the Nation illuminates the origins and myriad strategies of the classical music world’s eternal animus against American composers. As I teach every week among student composers who can’t be bothered with Ashley or Nancarrow but sing the praises of Kurtag and Lachenmann, Saariaho and Haas, I feel like little has changed. If it takes a hundred points to achieve parity with Beethoven, you get fifty free points just for being born in Europe. Shadle shows how long that’s been going on. [emphasis added]

Interesting observation about the endless double bind with movable goalposts there.

Taruskin's polemic has been that the whole idea of art for the sake of art, art as an autonomous thing from daily life, could be the core problem.  He's been proposing the reason classical music is ignored in favor of pop music is that pop music has not forsaken a self-understanding, so to speak, of music having some social or communal function.

To say that  art has no end other than itself is to basically say it's useless except as ... maybe on object of veneration?  For some art essentially is their religion and they would rather more officially religious people not heretically interfere in whatever they define as art.  For those of us who are actually religious, though, art gets to be subordinate.  It "can" be a beautiful thing appreciated on aesthetic grounds, but life is more than art.  As a certain Jewish teacher once put it, the Sabbath was given for man not man for the Sabbath.  It can be said to be so with the arts.  Art should bring us some pleasure and edification in different degrees rather than we being the ones who must somehow please or placate ideals about art. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Kyle Gann on the word games of artistic movements and self-identification, some lengthy excerpts presented (for now) without comment
I don’t know whether it’s symptomatic of the decline of culture, but it seems that most people these days no longer understand the word game of artistic -isms and movements. A term denoting inclusion in an artistic movement is a kind of performative utterance masquerading as a descriptive one. A performative utterance, as J.L. Austin defined it, is one that is itself an act, one that changes the truth value of something by being spoken, like “I pronounce you man and wife,” or “I accept your offer.” If someone with the authority to make this statement says, in appropriate circumstances, “I pronounce you man and wife,” you can’t contradict him by saying, “That’s not true, they aren’t married.” The fact that he says it is what makes it true. Of course nothing in physical reality is changed by the utterance. The statement is a command that we should consider something to be changed.

Likewise, using an artistic term is an act of political demarkation; it only pretends to be a descriptive, and that pretense is its power. When critic Louis Leroy, in the April 25, 1874, issue of Le Charivari magazine, dismissed Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Renoir, and others as “Impressionnistes,” he was not describing them, as if he had said they were “tall,” or “Catholic,” or “wearers of berets.” The word “Impressionist” did not yet exist; the moment before he wrote it, it didn’t mean anything. His intent was to marginalize those painters, by insinuating that they had attached themselves to some deficient and trivial artistic principle (snidely inferrable from the indistinct word “impression”). By coining an adjective that had the appearance of objectivity, Leroy was performing the act of commanding the reader to regard those artists as mistaken and ins[i]gnificant.

The artists, however, as often happens, grabbed on to the word and subverted its meaning. They called themselves “Impressionists” in their next group show – not because it was an adjective with specific denotations that accurately depicted them, but as an act of self defense. By calling themselves Impressionists, they were telling the public, “Do not regard us as painters who have tried to master the conventions of realism and failed, but as painters who are working on something new, who have collectively perceived that there could be a different approach to visual phenomena.” By calling themselves Impressionists, they protected themselves from what they considered false criticisms, charges of deficiency based on inapplicable criteria. Years later, once those criticisms ceased to be common, they abandoned the term and went back to calling themselves merely painters. But the term itself has lasted in history.


The really sad thing is, I think, that the kneejerk adamant resistance to new movements indicates a loss of faith that new perceptions are possible. “I refuse to participate in your culture of word games,” means “I no longer want to build this culture up, I’m ready to start tearing it down.” Impressionism happened because a bunch of people realized about the same time that realistic art didn’t do justice to the way we really perceive color. Totalism happened because a bunch of people realized that, within minimalism’s stripped-down context, it was possible for people to perform and keep in their heads several tempos at once. A person convinced that there will be no more movements is a person for whom the history of culture is basically over, a person who believes that everything possible has already been perceived, and that there are no new avenues left open to us. We whine about the sanctity of the individual, but art grows by leaps and bounds when groups of people start to have collective realizations. 18th-century music sprang out of a 30-year slump in 1781 when Mozart and Haydn started copying and combining each other’s ideas – neither of them had been able to do it alone. Wagner’s music burst into flames when he discovered Liszt’s harmonic innovations. Modern art changed forever when the Abstract Expressionists started meeting every night at the Cedar Bar. Occasionally one person creates a compelling new language on his own, but it’s extremely rare. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our music, and consciousness of those things is not likely to dawn on only one person at a time. Artists need each other, and the anti-ism diehards want to imprison them each in solitary confinement. A sense of creative community, so crucial to the development of an art, is devalued by the ideology that pooh-poohs purported movements.

Or to personalize it: In the early 1980s, I had a lot of cool ideas about rhythmic structure. I thought those ideas alone would make me the King of Composers. When I got to New York and it dawned on me that Rhys Chatham, Mikel Rouse, Michael Gordon, and Ben Neill had all had the same ideas, I had to jump up off my butt, steal what I could from them, and raise my music to a whole new level to avoid being just one of the crowd. That’s how music history happens (even among the so-called American Mavericks) far more often than the more popular lone-genius theory. ...

Saturday, December 26, 2015

some links for the weekend, a theme and variations on art as propaganda reflecting the anxieties and aspirations of empires

Perhaps this has only been brought back to my memory because a friend recently showed me one of his favorite films, Babette's Feast. 

The Myth of 'Easy' Cooking.

That said, many a guy who doesn't cook or says he can't cook has simply lacked the will or interest to cook or considers it the work of others (hint).  Cooking isn't easy but it's something you can do if you set your mind to it.   As culinary competency goes I'm probably more on the end of blues and ragtime for forms rather than fugues, sonatas or fantasias.  But I'm able to cook the stuff I need to get by.

Over in the realm of Oberlin there's plenty for writers to talk about.  Some propose that students are learning the ways to interact with the world to address injustice they see.  Well, every student generation gets to do that.  Friedersdorf's concern is that students at places like Oberlin may be learning ways to address what they consider to be social ills in ways that will be too specific to the academic world and not be useful for the world beyond the walls of the academy.
Freddie de Boer put it more pointedly:
an undergrad at a $50K/year liberal arts college berating cafe workers making $12/hour in the name of social justice on a human face forever
— Fredrik deBoer (@freddiedeboer) December 19, 2015
These critiques may be harsh, but are not grounded in antagonism toward the students. Were I an Oberlin administrator, I’d diligently inquire into any complaints about poor food quality and negotiate for the best fare possible, given cost constraints, even if students expressed their dissatisfaction in an off-putting manner.

But I like to think I’d call them on their nonsense, too.

It seems to me that staff and administrators at Oberlin ill-serve these students insofar as they accommodate behavior of this sort without offering any critique in response. After all, beyond allowing them to persist in their highly dubious and wildly unpopular beliefs, they’re training students to air grievances in a way that will be counterproductive—and thus serve them ill—everywhere except college campuses. As de Boer wrote, “I'm a college educator. It's the only job I ever wanted. It's my job to take college activists seriously. And this reflects bigger problems … life is full of political injustice, but also full of just sucky and disappointing shit, and you need to know the difference … I have this crazy hang up: I care about student activists so much, I pay attention to whether their tactics can actually win or not.”

A few old links from Richard Brody, whose angle on film I often don't agree with (but particularly the assertion that Michael Bay has and gives more fun than George Miller). However ... Brody's crankiness can still at times be interesting in its aims to illuminate.  Brody has been writing about the dangers he considers the real threat to independent film and to liberalism in cinema and it's not movies by Michael Bay and it's not films made by people who aren't very liberal.
But there are also aspirational movies—those of the art-house consensus—that feed what might be called “upmarket” or “sophisticated” viewers a pre-packaged set of comforting verities and soothing moods that are, in relation to the rarefied cinema of classical inspiration, what Mantovani is to Beethoven. These movies join a faux-objective aesthetic of ostensibly humanistic realism with comforting, politically liberal enthusiasms to match. The problem isn’t with the point of view (which is one I share) but with its jollying. The large-scale, mass-market demagogy of movies such as “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is no worse than the niche-market demagogy of, say, “Obvious Child.” Both movies appear tailor made to their target audience’s expectations and prejudices.
You won't find that link to his take-down of "Obvious Child" by the way.  The New Yorker team pull it down but if you want to read his brutal but terse beat down of what he considered the smug self-congratulatory blue state high-five of the film, the Way Back Machine can help.
It’s natural to worry that the colossal success of a tightly formatted movie such as the new “Transformers” will only stiffen the resolve of studios to repeat it, or will only solidify the shapes of existing pigeonholes and sideline unusual and distinctive movies even further. Yet such concern reduces to a mere snobbery of taste, a straw-person diversion akin to an opera house blaming low attendance at a production of “Salomé” on a Miley Cyrus concert. The most audacious low-budget American independent filmmaking is threatened much more significantly by misplaced critical praise for art-house mediocrities than by Hollywood.
Elsewhere Brody wrote that liberal cinema is in danger, paradoxically but perhaps inevitably, from its own self assurance of the rightness of its notions
The greatest political filmmakers, from Charlie Chaplin to Jean-Luc Godard, are masters of the imaginary. The uninhibited inner life and the power of art to delve into fantastic elements that grant characters dimensions possibly unsuited to a constructive political program are themselves aspects of a higher politics. That’s why there are so few good political films these days, and why such comedies as “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” and “Norbit,” with their messy (even chaotic) boundary-blurring, are superior to the films listed above as approaches to hot-button issues. And, in an entirely different and grander and finer register, Spike Lee’s “Red Hook Summer” faces the deep unpleasantness that can mark characters who are, in many ways, admirable; revels in their extravagant expressivity, whether to ecstasy or to self-destruction; and dramatizes the warping and self-warping force of the will to document the supposed facts.
The facts do not speak for themselves, and there’s a remarkable and disheartening correlation between those who film as if they do and those who, imbuing these facts with a built-in point of view, are unwilling to stand in front of those facts and state that point of view. The underlying question is why movies made by many filmmakers whose point of view is, by and large, so sympathetic, tolerant, and liberal (and whose point of view I tend to share, by the way) are built on such a painful narrowing of experience and a surreptitious attitudinizing—why they’re films of personal commitment that remain, nonetheless, impersonal. It’s as if filmmakers (and, for that matter, critics, playing a surreptitious role as op-ed columnists) were protecting viewers from the potential effect of nasty or regressive or hateful thoughts; their own cultivated selves are are immune from them even if angered by them, but the poor bewildered viewer needs some protection from loose ends of imagination that could potentially lead in the wrong direction.

Which, in its way, is saying that liberal cinema has the same problem that "Christian" cinema does.  Only perhaps we could propose that liberal cinema is more evidently able to be seen as propaganda promoting an ideology to even one of its advocates.  Brody has liberal sympathies and so he's willing to endorse liberalism espoused in cinema. 

But perhaps the distinction between art and propaganda is not whether or not something constitutes advocacy for an ideology but that art is what we call it when we are able to fail to recognize the propaganda for what it is because it embodies our highest ideals.  "Your" art could be "my" propaganda and vice versa.  Take how authors at Salon declared Christopher Nolan to be a fascist on the basis of his Batman films.  Is Nolan actually a fascist?  We've had decades to find out.  In response to a recent piece at The Stranger about the Christian pop music scene that touched upon the history of Mars Hill a commenter stated flatly "Christians should not attempt to make art."  Yet the history of written music in the Western tradition began because of the Church.  The idea that the Christian tradition that did so much to promote literacy and helped to formulate the written customs of Western musical notation is somehow exempt or ineligible to contribute to the continuation of this enterprise is not a claim about the arts so much as an ideological assertion; perhaps for those for whom the liberal arts is itself a religious and ideological commitment those who adhere to a more traditional and formally recognized religion you aren't allowed to love both God and art. 

But it's not like William Byrd didn't write some remarkable choral music as an expression of his recusant Catholic faith.

Brody may be right about his concerns, and it may be the core of the problem is that liberal cinema has simply arrived at the place that evangelical American Christian cinema has never been able to transcend, propaganda.

We live in an era where a movie depicting football as an evil empire Will Smith has to face down ...

I'm reminded of watching Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises a few years ago.  Let's note but not in passing that there are liberals who are worried about how if some red state darlings get more influence we'll be facing down another Dark Ages.  But what do we mean by another Dark Age?  The Dark Ages began in the West when ... the Roman Empire collapsed.  Do liberals necessarily think through that this necessarily conflates the existence of liberal arts and politics with a massive globe-spanning military-economic empire?  If the neo-conservatives seem to liberals like paranoid war-mongers perhaps Christopher Hitchens was nonetheless right to throw his hat in with a bit of that cause, if only in the sense that as someone who was part of the British empire he was better able to observe what Americans stubbornly evade, that the arts flourish in empires.

Miyazaki's film, to get back to that, has been described by film critics as a meditation on the life of the arts.  It can be that, too, but it's formally about an aeronautical engineer who designs a warplane.  It could be said that Miyazaki, having built a kind of artistic empire and legacy of his own, has been confronting in one of his late films the realization that no matter how beautiful it mayh be, all art that reaches a high level is in some sense a reflection of the aspirations and anxieties of an empire.

Caproni asks Jiro, "Tell me, Japanese boy, which would you choose?  A world with ... or without the pyramids."  The art that survives long enough to be preserved in a fixed form (as opposed to, say, folk art) since the dawn of humanity has not just been art but also, if you will, marking a fence post, staking a claim, declaring a presence.  We can talk on and on about the potency of art for the sake of art in the West because since we long ago moved away from high art that was funded by kings and bishops and cardinals to corporate ventures and do-it-yourself indie projects we've had the luxury of imagining that high art is NOT propaganda.  This is not because it ever STOPPED being propaganda but because we've formulated an ideology that lets us convince ourselves that OUR ART is not propaganda because it promotes ideals we take for granted as universal liberties and rights.

This may be what Richard Brody was getting at in his discussion of a crisis in liberal cinema.  It can certainly explicate his conviction that you have to say what your point of view is up front and not take it for granted.

One reason that this kind of commitment can be so perilous is that, as Jonathan Haidt put it in The Righteous Mind, morality both binds and blinds.

With the closing of Fitzgibbon Media a person could propose there was a "nice guy fallacy" at work, per the title of the Slate piece (which, given how things work in journalism, may no have been the author's idea for a title at all). Having blogged for half a decade about the life and times of Mars Hill and its leadership culture I think there's a potentially better way of describing what happened with the Fitzgibbon Media situation.  It's not necessarily "just" a nice guy fallacy, it's a "not my team" fallacy.  Just as for years it was not open to consideration among conservative evangelicals that Mark Driscoll's writings may have featured a whole lot of second-hand insight (to put it mildly) until the plagiarism controversy emerged, so it was apparently not open to discussion within the progressive camp that a man well-known in that camp was a bad dude when it came to how he treated women, again, to put it mildly.  What it seems like I'm seeing here is that people on the left and right can easily succumb to the temptation to think that "their" team is full of scoundrels while "my" team is on the side of angels.

The internet hardly helps things here when authors can damn Gandhi for being a racist and a misogynist in a way that can take it for granted that what Gandhi did in advocating for Indian independence is not in itself valuable.  In an era where the fallibility and imperfection of every human being is more easily established than ever in the era of the internet we want our heroes and our victims to be ever more perfect.  Back when I began to discuss the matter of how much of Allender's work Mark and Grace Driscoll used without credit, I noticed that at a web discussion venue that the topic came up and one woman's reaction was "So maybe Grace Driscoll is a plagiarist?  So what?  What about her being a victim of abuse?"  So what?  Does being a victim of abuse, terrible though that is, excuse Grace Driscoll from not giving credit to Dan Allender in the first print edition of Real Marriage, a book that was rigged a spot on the NYT best seller list? 

Back when Mars Hill was distributing God's Work, Our Witness, it was not difficult to suss out that this was a fundraising pitch.  The thing was distributed along with an annual report.  The film was well put together, told an interesting if remarkably selective narrative of Mars Hill and featured stories shared by people I know and like.  I still like those people, by the way.  But what I knew I was looking at, thanks to more than just a couple of years of experience working in supporting fundraising activities in non-profit, was that this movie I was looking at was propaganda.  Maybe it was not "just" propaganda but the idea that an artistic creation can only be just one or the other may be one of the grand delusions of the post-modern West. 

What was striking about the Driscoll plagiarism controversy as it played out was seeing evangelical Christians say that basically copyright is unchristian.  Really?  This is proposed in spite of the history of conflation of church and state in the West and the life-threatening risk of producing English translations of the Bible?  If anything the progressive and conservative evangelical wings are more committed, at a functional level, to a basically authoritarian approach to the press and media than in many a time since the dawn of the Reformation.  The plagiarism controversy connected to Mark Driscoll highlights, for those who kept track on how pervasive the matter was in Driscoll's published work, the question of ethical constancy  was or wasn't in play for an entire industry, the popular Christian publishing empire.  To say that journalists at Rolling Stone have invented things is to misrepresent and misunderstand what happened there.  In both cases we can simply propose that what was going on was propaganda.

Liberals and conservatives have ideological commitments they want to stick to that highlight difference and minimize overlap.  A Mark Driscoll will stick to a heteronormative biological determinism in which any guy who has a boner needs a woman to put it in, most likely. A Rob Bell can stop pastoring and go Oprah.   But both men can still be reflections of the Emergent church and where it has gone, and Alastair Roberts' surmise that Rob Bell's is the "Ad Man's Gospel" can apply to Driscoll.  If the sixteenth century theologian was a lawyer, per Roberts, then the 21st century theologian is a marketing representative.  Neo-cons will stick with the idea that war in Iraq was necessary for promoting freedom.  A contributor to Salon will celebrate Planned Parenthood helping her get the abortion she sought and both the neo-con and the abortion champion end up championing the same American luxury of pre-emptively employing lethal force to preserve a consumer set of options.  The trouble with their respective ideologies is that they are able to see each other as more different than they may ultimately be. 

It would seem we live in a world in which the difference between art and propaganda is not just about production values but also about whether or not I already agree with the ideas.  If I already agree with the ideas I think are in the product, then its art.  If not, then its propaganda.  In a culture that values art for the sake of art I wonder if we've thought through that one of the potentially unavoidable end points for art for its own sake with the reproduction technologies we have is that the commodification of art is unavoidable.  The way to counteract the complete objectification of art, however, can seem to be, itself, an ideological gambit.  The ideologies that we embrace that the arts may express are the ways in which art can be sacralized beyond being "just" a commodity.  It isn't propaganda if the art is made by the team you've gained admittance to, is it?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas, "Star in the East", an Advent hymn from the shape note tradition performed by the Rose Ensemble

One of my favorite hymns for the Advent season generally and from the American shape note tradition particularly. This isn't as rough-hewn as the original work but it's a beautifully done arrangement. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Stranger has a retrospective on how Christianity infilitrated the Seattle music scene with help from Mars Hill and a city council decision

One of the things that's been too easy for people to do is write about the history of Mars Hill as if it was simply a history of Mark Driscoll.  Driscoll was determined to play the defining role, fairly obviously, but there were other people.  Co-founding pastors Lief Moi and Mike Gunn played important parts and it was the dynamic of the trio that I found encouraging, not Mark Driscoll's generally self-congratulatory frat boy persona.

It's tough to convey to people who weren't there that there was this evangelical art commune component.  That Driscoll was shrewd enough to exploit it is not quite the same thing as assuming you know the scene itself.  Having written just recently on Mark Driscoll's virtuosity in formulating pseudo-events, it's convenient that The Stranger looked at another side of the big messy history of this region, there was a Christian musical culture, in some senses underground, that was genuinely a part of the Seattle scene.  That Driscoll eventually found it useful to exploit that movement as part of cementing his empire is certainly what it is, but it's possible, at least given that I've come to know people who have been part of the music scene in Seattle, to make a distinction between ... at the risk of putting it rather obscurely and polemically, the distinction between Obadiahs who served in the court of Ahab and king Ahab.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

HT Phoenix Preacher, Joe Carter writes at The Gospel Coalition about pseudo-events and evangelical outrage, revisiting a case study in the pseudo event generated from within the evangelical culture

Are Evangelicals Addicted to Pseudo-Events and Media Outrage?    
December 8, 2015


Because there is not enough news to fill our insatiable demand, the media (including social media) feasts on what Boorstin refers to as pseudo-events:
A pseudo-event, then, is a happening that possesses the following characteristics:
(1) It is not spontaneous, but comes about because someone has planned, planted, or incited it. Typically, it is not a train wreck or an earthquake, but an interview.
(2) It is planted primarily (not always exclusively) for the immediate purpose of being reported or reproduced. Therefore, its occurrence is arranged for the convenience of the reporting or reproducing media. Its success is measured by how widely it is reported. Time relations in it are commonly fictitious or factitious; the announcement is given out in advance “for future release” and written as if the event had occurred in the past. The question, “Is it real?” is less important than, “Is it newsworthy?”
(3) Its relation to the underlying reality of the situation is ambiguous. Its interest arises largely from this very ambiguity. Concerning a pseudo-event the question, “What does it mean?” has a new dimension. While the news interest in a train wreck is in what happened and in the real consequences, the interest in an interview is always, in a sense, in whether it really happened and in what might have been the motives. Did the statement really mean what it said? Without some of this ambiguity a pseudo-event cannot be very interesting.
(4) Usually it is intended to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The hotel's 30th-anniversary celebration, by saying that the hotel is a distinguished institution, actually makes it one.
The media, politicians, or public figures create most pseudo-events. But the advent of social media has allowed the common man to get in on the act.
A prime example is the “call to denunciation.”
Not all calls to denounce the comments or actions of a public figure are cynical and unwarranted, of course. You can usually tell which are genuine because they tend to be broad and generic (e.g., “All people of goodwill should denounce such violent rhetoric.”) They tend to become “pseudo-events,” though, when they share certain characteristics:
(1) Person A calls for Person/Group B to denounce Person/Group C—although A has no personal relationship to either B or C.
(2) B has no real connection to C, other than both being members of a large, generic group (e.g., Muslims, evangelicals).
(3) The addition of a time element (e.g., “It’s been three whole hours and B hasn’t yet publicly denounced C!”).
(4) A isn’t as interested in the comments or actions of C as in trying to find a reason to criticize B.
Search through your social media and you’ll find examples of this trend. On just about any given day someone in your social media circle is complaining because Pastor X or Organization Y didn’t denounce a comment made by some pastor they have no association with or some politician they would never, ever vote for. In the age of instant media, it’s not enough to simply be our brother’s keeper. Now, we must also be their round-the-clock, always-on-call denunciator too.
Some well made points.  And you know what's interesting about the schematic?  What we can do here is introduce a prelude and a postlude to the pseudo-event as it plays out.  It could go something like this.
Prelude: Person/Group C decides to post something to the internet that is sweeping in its generalization and without qualification or that invites an open season response in a given venue. This may be posted in a publicly accessible venue in which it may be observed by person A.
(1) Person A calls for Person/Group B to denounce Person/Group C—although A has no personal relationship to either B or C.
(2) B has no real connection to C, other than both being members of a large, generic group (e.g., Muslims, evangelicals).
(3) The addition of a time element (e.g., “It’s been three whole hours and B hasn’t yet publicly denounced C!”).
(4) A isn’t as interested in the comments or actions of C as in trying to find a reason to criticize B.
Now we get to ...
Postlude:  Person/Group C decides to blog about the whole situation and introduces a bunch of background narrative and qualifying information that was not presented in the initial inciting/inspiring remark on social media that Person A denounced.
So in the history of this blog is it possible to imagine a scenario in which this slightly modified account of a pseudo-event can be described as applying, possibly, to a particularly situation.
July 13, 2011
This week the Christian blogosphere worked itself into a frenzy over a Facebook status posted by Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. The status, which was later removed, read, "So, what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you've ever personally witnessed?"
The news of this post quickly drew responses from bloggers like Rachel Held Evans, who called Driscoll a bully, and Tyler Clark, who reflected on his own experience as an oft-labeled effeminate male. These responses consequently elicited counter-responses from writers like Anthony Bradley, who accused Evans of libel, only to be met with counter-counter-responses, such as Brian McLaren's contribution to The Washington Post. The discussion finally culminated with Driscoll issuing his own response, admitting his comment was both "flippant" and failed to address "real issues with real content in a real context."

Some Backstory

I had a recent conversation with a stereotypical, blue-collar guy who drives his truck with his tools, lunchbox, and hard hat to his job site every day. He said he wasn’t a Christian, but he was open and wanted to learn what the Bible said. In that conversation, he told me he’d visited a church but that the guy doing the music made him feel uncomfortable because he was effeminate (he used another more colorful word, but that one will suffice in its place). He asked some questions about the Bible, and whether the Bible said anything about the kind of guy who should do the music. I explained the main guy doing the music in the Bible was David, who was a warrior king who started killing people as a boy and who was also a songwriter and musician.
I then put a flippant comment on Facebook, and a raging debate on gender and related issues ensued. As a man under authority, my executive elders sat me down and said I need to do better by hitting real issues with real content in a real context. And, they’re right. Praise God I have elders who keep me accountable and that I am under authority.

Real Issues in a Fuller Context

So, we are working on a new website where I can speak to these real issues in a fuller context. Lord willing, sometime in September, after my trip to Europe with my family and a lot of other people, and then some recovery time, we will launch a new website. 
In the past, I’ve not had a regular place to work out personal commentary on social issues, and so I’ve erred in sometimes doing so in places like Facebook, Twitter, and the media, where you can have a good fight but don’t have the room to make a good case.
The first content on the new website will be about gender, and much of it will be around a book my wife, Grace, and I have completed together called Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together, to be published by our friends at Thomas Nelson in January. 
Both Grace and I will be blogging at the new site on issues related to gender and marriage, including mistakes we’ve made, sins we’ve committed, and convictions we agree on. And, we’ll have lots of other content on other issues as well. Until then, have a great summer, and a sincere thanks to all my critics who sometimes have good wisdom that helps me out. 
Now notice how much back story Driscoll included only after the internet caught fire for a hardly contextualized general invitation.  Driscoll simply asked on a Facebook page for people to share stories of the most effeminate anatomically male worship leaders people had come across.  Cue the reactions from the likes of Rachel Held Evans and others in the summer of 2011. 
What's most important to note here in Driscoll's response, however, is not just the lengthy backstory that wasn't included in the initial process.  What's critical to observe is that once Driscoll was the focus of so much attention what did he do?  He presented the rambling backstory to show, more or less, how out of proportion and crazy all the adverse reactions were.  He set up an elegantly false dichotomy asking a rhetorical question whether gender was either a social construct or a reflection of nature.  By now most people who think on the topic at all agree some mixture of nature and nurture, doubtless complex, informs things like gender and sexuality.  But a figure like Driscoll depends on binaries, perhaps most so when those binaries are artificially introduce, in this 2011 case post hoc.
But the real conclusion?  Driscoll promoted his forthcoming Pastor Mark TV website and, yup, forthcoming book Real Marriage.  This was not news, Jimmy Balmer would assure us, this was t-t-totally an ad.  This was arguably a pseudo-event par excellence. 
Driscoll could fit the slightly modified taxonomy of Joe Carter's Person C and Rachel Held Evans could be described as the Person A in the denunciation scenario.  Rachel Held Evans found it easy to criticize Driscoll for remarks that came off as demeaning gays and women.  It was handy to call Driscoll a bully during the year she also had a book to promote.  It can sometimes seem that whether it's a Mark Driscoll or a Donald Trump that Rachel Held Evans speaks up but if you only do shooting fish in the barrel criticism any partisan can do that. 
Now there's more discussion of Driscoll's use of social media, playing the public victim card, and how it shaped his persona. You can read about that over here.
For now just the 2011 incident will suffice as a case study in which an evangelical was the focus of a pseudo-event. If anything a case could be made that by writing what he did when he did, and in the way he did, that Mark Driscoll created a pseudo-event that was well calibrated to get a heated response which would allow him to further "clarify" things by describing what new products were going to be out there to promote and that could be bought. 
The problem is not that we notice pseudo-events or that we occasionally comment on them. The problem is that we evangelicals appear to share the culture’s addiction to pseudo-events and social media outrage. If you’re enaged in the practice every single day or week then you should really ask yourself, Is this incessant focus on daily trivia the best use of my God-given time and energy?

As Christians, we’re expected to take an eternal perspective, viewing events not just in their historical context but also in their eschatological context. But we can’t do that while focusing on the pseudo-events and social media outrages of the last 24 hours. We can’t keep an eye on what is important while we are furiously scripting our reactions to pseudo-events that will be forgotten within a week.

Truly important events are not always captured on the front page of a daily paper or found in your social media feed. ...
There's much about Carter's critique of the pseudo event and associated outrage I find agreeable.  I would add a small modification, which is to point out that not only are evangelicals (and others, really) addicted to this pseudo-event cycle and its associated outrage, there are figtures within evangelicalism who have made the dynamics of the pseudo event with the clarifying modifications I've provided central to their public persona.  Not just Mark Driscoll did this.  After all ... earlier this year some dude blogged about why he thought Christian girls were prettier and the internet lit up and then, oh gosh, the dude just had to blog about how crazy it was he was getting, like, friendly fire.   Doug Wilson and company retracted A Justice Primer and there's something to be said for that, but that doesn't really change how remarkably well Doug Wilson's public blogging career can be understood as including in its utility kit the occasional pseudo-event.  Doug Wilson can opine on this or that topic in a way that just so happens to inspire the ire of those whom he identifies as "intoleristas" and he can back up and winsomely and gently explain how what he said was misconstrued and willfully misunderstood. 
We've discussed this little incident that could be described as another pseudo-event in the past.
Posted on Wednesday, September 23, 2015 by Carl Trueman
Over at his blog, Douglas Wilson has an interesting post on why Christian women are prettier.  [that was Tuesday, September 22, 2015] I was particularly struck by this paragraph:
"Unbelieving women either compete for the attention of men through outlandish messages that communicate some variation of “easy lay,” or in the grip of resentment they give up the endeavor entirely, which is how we get lumberjack dykes. The former is an avid reader of Cosmopolitan and thinks she knows 15K ways to please a man in bed. The latter is just plain surly about the fact that there even are any men."
So there you have it.  That is Mr Wilson's sophisticated take on the psychology of non-Christian women: they either aspire to be sex mad prostitutes or, failing that, turn into butch lesbians.
I guess he must be describing my mother because she is not a Christian -- but I am not sure at what point in her life she quite fitted this description.  I must have missed it.  When she married, still chaste, at 20?  Throughout her 46 years of faithful, devoted marriage to dad?  When she patiently and lovingly nursed him through his long, final, painful illness, administering his meds, lifting him on and off the toilet, attending to his most basic and undignified bodily needs? During the years since his death when she has been faithful to the memory of 'the only man I will ever love', to use her phrase?
To be sure, she is not a Christian.  She needs Jesus as her saviour.  But I suspect the reduction of non-Christian women to whores or lesbians says more about the psychology of the writer than it does about my mother.  And maybe other mothers too?
Wilson, for his part ...
Thursday, September 24, 2015

Well, you’ve gone and put your foot in it now, Wilson. Why, what have I done? It’s all very well to aspire to become the bad boy of Reformed letters, but there are supposed to be limits. But this piques my curiosity. To what might you be referring? Yes, you pretend to be ignorant, but you know very well what you have done. Well, yes, I actually do know. I did toss a cinder block into the goldfish bowl.

As I mount the gallows and look out over the crowd gathered for the festivities, the chaplain accompanying the hangman asks me if I ever thought it would end this way. Well, kinda, I did, but to be honest, I hadn’t anticipated that it would be for believing that Christian women were prettier.

The only thing worse in this scenario than garnering controversy is to not get attention.  Now some of you readers may be noting, fairly, that perhaps Wenatchee The Hatchet could just ignore guys like Doug Wilson and Mark Driscoll already.  That would be nice, really, but these are guys who insist on staying in the public sphere against what some might consider better judgment.  Moreover, Driscoll, long ago in his blog post for the Brits, boasted in his professional credentials in media and journalism and also on behalf of the credentials of his wife.  Driscoll, in other words, was saying to us "we're professionals."  Indeed.  It could seem that Driscoll's mastery of the pseudo-event gives us some evidence for Driscoll's interest in and, indeed, at least partial mastery of, the tools of spin and counterspin in social media.
If he's insisted on telling the world how qualified he is for that sort of game and insists on staying in the public eye then it doesn't hurt to remind the world that Joe Carter's concern is a legitimate one.  It's also worth noting that at least one former member of the Gospel Coalition itself has some history of pseudo-event generation.  If Doug Wilson's got any observable history of inciting pseudo-events that might be something for The Gospel Coalition folks to consider.  If we're going to rise above the temptation to participate in pseudo-events and vent spleen it would really help if we survey our own team and aks whether any of us, whatever our team is, isn't guilty of leveraging and creating pseudo-events to promote products and causes instead of covering actual news and observing important historical events.

After all, we've since learned that when it came to things Mars Hill inking a deal to rig the New York Times bestseller list was incontestably a bigger deal than the summer publicity stunt Driscoll did that Rachel Held Evans and a whole lot of other people got played by. Carter's right that truly important events are not always captured on the front page of a daily paper or in your social media feed.  That had everything to do with why Wenatchee The Hatchet spent half a decade blogging about the history of Mars Hill and the decisions of its leadership culture. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

some riffs over at Slate, some interesting some embarrassingly belated.

Some movies so telegraph their righteous moral in the trailer you don't really even need to bother seeing the film at all.  Wasn't going to waste any time on the Fifth Estate even though Cumberbatch is fun enough on screen.

The latest OScar bait big idea moralizing film for the season is probably Concussion.   Not particularly interested in either football so probably not going to get to seeing it but somebody considers the rhetorical game played by the film to be so dishonest as to require an extended rebutta.

Was it Ebert who wrote a while back that films never traffic in rational discourse and ideas but play straight to emotional manipulation?  Film even ostensibly documentary film, is paying with emotions and pushing buttons.  It's a show-and-tell medium.  Even those films that might be described as not telling you too much show you things, and there are films that permit you to read yourself on to the film but this, too, is still a form of emotional steering, if less direct. 

Now maybe this is an unfair proposal, but in some sense any kind of film is some kind of propaganda for something.  That's just how humans are.  If your message film rides the crest of a wave of social activism and manages to be well-timed you get to have your moment at a moment when people pay attention.  If you have your big message badly timed and you make your pitch too late then you come across as having made propaganda untimely born. 

Well, take this piece over at XX.

Evangelical pastor Mark Driscoll, who’s been castigated by his own flock for his misogynist, sex-obsessed teachings, thinks the labia mania started at the very dawn of the human race. From a 2000 post in an online forum:
It all began with Adam, the first of the pussified nation, who kept his mouth shut and watched everything fall headlong down the slippery slide of hell/feminism when he shut his mouth and listened to his wife who thought Satan was a good theologian when he should have lead her and exercised his delegated authority as king of the planet.
What would a truly, madly, deeply pussified America look like?

It only took about four years of slow and steady networking to finally dredge up the William Wallace II writings.  It took a while.  Some of the weirdest stuff "Using Your Penis" wasn't even all that widely circulated.  It's perhaps too characteristic of the piece that the references are second and third hand before getting to the google docs cache.  And, as Driscoll's posse put it last year, this was commentary on culture dating back to 2000.  Wenatchee The Hatchet brought the content back not because it was of recent vintage but because the moutning evidence of Driscoll's views suggested his fundamental thinking had not changed over the course of those 14 years.  He's never actually repudiated any o fthe ideas he had or espoused, just told Brian Houston he feels differently.  So a Trump/Driscoll comparison might not be all that unwarranted, really.

It's just that Slate was behind the curve even a couple of years ago. 

just because, the Austen family (yes, that Austen's family) music books, available to peruse at

some of them require a login before you can read them, though.

Which is a reason why if you're going to adapt Austen it would be a good idea to avail yourself of musical ideas from that time.  So much of the music from that era's so grandly public domain that it would seem establishing period detail via music shouldn't be too difficult.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

on the general imcompetence of Jedi, and a rumination on how Star Wars is a battle of text, subtext and metatext

Looking back on Episodes 1-3 it's hard to escape the impression that for all his sanctimony and the appearance of wisdom Yoda was an imcompetent blowhard. Contrary to the axiom that the Jedi uses the force for defense and never for attack Yoda seemed pretty able and willing to do offensive moves in the prequels.  So if youre not angry or afraid and just kill people, though, that's no the Dark Side.  Well, great, so if it's nothing personal when you take someone's life then Heath Ledger's Joker could totally be a Jedi knight.  No hard feelings, buddy, you have to die for the sake of a good cuase, the Jedi retaining their influence in the Galactic Senate for no clearly defined reason.

Now I enjoyed Episode 7 but there is a question in that backstory there (spoilers ahead).  How exactly did one apprentice manage to take down a nascent Jedi school and the master/teacher managed to fail to do anything to observe warning signs and/or stop it?  Now if we stick to prequel paradigms and propose there's an inversely proportional dynamic between how revered a Jedi knight is and how copetent that Jedi is then, okay, Luke might be second to Yoda in terms of overall fame (or have some other numeric ranking) but the inverse of prestige kicks in and .... Luke fails.

So long as you can run with the idea that the Jedi can never get things together long enough to avoid being massacred then, yay!  The story holds up. 

I enjoyed Episode 7, it's the first time I enjoyed a Star Wars film while I was in the theater watching it since 1983.  But it may be Lucas lowered the bar so very low with the prequel episodes that we're breathing a collective sigh of relief and forgetting that this narrative universe has always been about absurd coincidences and begging questions big enough to fly a Star Destroyer through. 

In this case, the backstory is a big "really?" 

But then what has been brought back to the franchise is something the rpequels lacked.  Let's put it this way, Star Wars in some sense exists as a tension between text, subtext and metatext.  The text was, well, we know the story.  The subsext Lucas said was behind Star Wars (Ep 4) was America as the empire and the Rebellion as Vietnam. Of course we were kind of out of Vietnam by the time Star Wars got released.  Chalk this up to Lucas' attempt at political relevance not lasting long enough to get the film released.  But that's okay, he turned to Joseph Campbell for the monomyth in which Americans imagine that our conception of mythology explains mythology across the world.  Yep.

But there's another mythology in America that basically overrode George Lucas' subtext, a metatext, a kidn of metamythology in which we Americans could see ourselves as relating t the Rebels who defied the Empire of the King of England.  Lucas' attempt at a subtext was overpowered by the cultural influence of what I'm calling the metatext.  He drew on so many pulp influences steeped in American popular imagination that the movies came to be interpretable as within that pulp framework and its attendant mythologies. 

Well, okay, with the prequels Lucas could try again and recast the subtext as the American war on Terror and the Bush administration.  This was supposed to be Anakin's story of temptation and fall.  Well, it was boring, painfully and tediously and insultingly dull for the most part.  The biggest narrative problem was its oucome was a foregone conclusion but Lucas and company failed to generate sympathy for Anakin along the way.

But if Star Wars exists in the ambient space in which text, subtext and metatext are actually in conflict then that's where the suspense can come from.  We had some actua suspense whether Luke would decide to kill his father.  After all, it sure seemed as if Kenobi was sure that if Luke wasn't willing to kill his dad the Emperor has already won.  Yoda doesn't deny the point.  So the Jedi seem to be telling Luke the only way to save the galaxy is being willing to kill Vader even though Yoda had explicitly told Luke in Ep 5 that a Jedi uses the force for defense, never for attack.  Luke, it seems, would have to figure out how to be a better Jedi than the masters who instructed him.  The conflict between a personal ethical code and set of emotional loyalties with what is expected of a role to fulfill isn't just in the Star Wars franchise.  It's also what we see in The Last Airbender series.  The real engine of tension isn't whether Aang is going to defeat the Firelord.  The tension is between how Aang wants to realize that act of defeating evil with how his allies tell him he must do it.  There's a lot more I could say abuot that but I'm saving that for later.

Star Wars is a uniquely American franchise and perhaps the most distinctly American thing about it is its ardent desire to eat its cake and have it, too.  We want a remarkable destiny we can't outrun or escape but we want 100% percent personal agency, too. This was sent up wonderfully in a South Park episode where Toweliee decides that of two things he chooses both and he gets to.  American stories love to traffic in the dichotomy of a choice between two mutually exclusive things but getting to have it both ways.  That convention was so worn down in, say, th Batman franchise that Nolan rocked the boat by having the Joker present Batman with an either-or in which NEITHER o fthe people Batman hoped to save ultimately survived. 

What seems to be back in the Star Wars franchise is paradoxically not the binary ontology of the dark and the light in the abstract but the idea that there's some kind of tension between the two in which active battle remains an element.  Star Wars may never be able to overcome the necessity of eternal dualistic conflict because that's what it needed.  The only way to bring balance to the Frce would be to snuff out the Force itself and if it's an energy field created by all living things (rather than emitted by midichlorians) then only in a lifeless cosmos could there be no Force. 

But it's apparent we're only going to see balance achieved by the never ending struggle between the light and the ark.  There won't and can't be a galaxy suffused only with the light or dark side of the force because there's too much money to be made from making more of these movies, first of all.  Let's not forget this.  Second of all, in terms of the ontology of the Force in this cinematic universe, it would only be within the context of an eternal battle that there would be balance in the Force, a matter that is not necessarily adequately addressed by any of the films.

And maybe not addressing the actual questions inherent in the set-up is another way this franchise is uniquely American. 


You know ... it seems Yoda said something about how the Dark side of the force isn't stronger but it is quicker and easier.  And it would seem that any time Jedi deign to train people the most promising pupils shift over to the Dark side ... or maybe it's the laziest students?  Still, if you're training to be a knight and you only train on defense rather than offense ... .

But then it seems that the Sith had this habit of mooching off of the padawans of Jedi, sorta like an American multinational that leverages a buy out of local potentially promising firms?  ;)  You know, like the Jedi in training is some local microbrew and the Sith are Budweiser; or the Jedi in training is some small locavore coffee company and the Sith are Starbucks.  Just mulling this over a bit.  The Sith or those who practice the Dark side tend to poach the most glamorous pupils of the Jedi ... which is why no member of the Sith ever tried poaching Yoda, who was able to get super old without falling prey to the Dark side. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Fighting for the Faith revisits Driscoll, discusses the new corporate re:launch of Driscoll, notes that this is a corporation and not actually a church.

but first ... he discusses that kinda weird version of "Silent Night" Hillsong went with.  Let's just say it's a long way from a German dude with an autoharp.

Chris Rosebrough notes the obvious but necessary point that this entity Driscoll has going may be called The Trinity Church, but it is a corporation that has no members.  This is a corporation rather than a church.

Now, to be clear, it has never been clarified by Mark Driscoll what the nature of the trap was that had been set. 

It is worth revisiting that Driscoll left Mars Hill after, by his account to Brian Houston, agreeing to submit to a restoration/disciplinary process given to him by the board of Mars Hill.

If Driscoll never defines what "a trap has been set" even means then there's plausible deniability across the board about everything except the assertion that God audibly released him from ministry.  We've discussed how in the course of biblical narrative literature the guys who get verbal releases from divinely appointed jobs are guys like King Saul.  Guys who get divine notices that "a trap has been set" don't get to escape them.  If anything, Mark Driscoll seems to have skimmed over that for particularly wicked and self-serving rulers who abuse their power, prestige and social authority to get what they want rather than serve the good of the regular people God occasionally permits a lying spirit to delude said king into going to his doom.  That's how it went with Ahab, after all.  So even if Driscoll sticks with the 2015 narrative that God told him he could quit that wasn't what he led with in 2014 when he wrote his resignation letter, which was full of "godly counsel" from men and women across the country.  In 2014 the wording of the resignations uggested an informal behind-the-scenes poll had been taken and the conclusion was it would be good to quit.  Robert Morris volunteered that he played a role and that he and Mark Driscoll agreed Mark should step down for a season. 

Then in 2015 suddenly, lo and behold, God told Driscoll to quit.  Well, if God told Driscoll "a trap has been set" Driscoll's resignation could catalyze whatever that trap is.  After all, in resigning in the way he did Mark Driscoll destroyed any last vestige of credibility he had as someone who would opt to live by the kind of submission to spiritual authority he'd spent his public career admonishing others to follow.  And now?  The "church" that exists in a box at a UPS Store in a mall in Phoenix, Arizona could be described in any number of ways but as Chris Rosebrough has put it, it's a corporation, not a church.


There's been some guesswork that Driscoll would re:brand and re:launch as soon as he could manage.  At one point I'd guessed he'd rely on "covering" from people in Texas to re:locate to the OC.  That was largely mistaken guesswork and yet with Jimmy Evans there does still seem to be a decent presence of the Lone Star State.  One of the lessons learned from On Mission LLC is that Driscoll was willing to incorporate in Colorado while doing activity in another state, Washington, when the time came to roll out Real Marriage.  Of course Driscoll's in Phoenix now and the UPS box that with "church" in the corporation name is also in a shopping center in Phoenix. But if the church is pending a launch in January Driscoll doesn't have the resources to pull off a launch.  The place is in a mall.  Rent theater space?  That's been the "new" and edgy thing to do.