Saturday, February 07, 2015

and a short note on musical stuff

there's some musical stuff incubating but it may not emerge in a blog-able form.  There's some discussion of sonata form in early 19th century guitar literature incubating, of course, but that stuff will take some time.  Also, this year there's been some actual practice of music happening ... there might even be some composing again. 

"war on men" ... maybe some men have resisted finding out what their "sexual market value" actually is and it's substantially lower than they hoped?

In a breath-takingly long feature years ago, Katie Bolick at Atlantic Monthly wrote "All The Single Ladies".

For thousands of years, marriage had been a primarily economic and political contract between two people, negotiated and policed by their families, church, and community. It took more than one person to make a farm or business thrive, and so a potential mate’s skills, resources, thrift, and industriousness were valued as highly as personality and attractiveness. This held true for all classes. In the American colonies, wealthy merchants entrusted business matters to their landlocked wives while off at sea, just as sailors, vulnerable to the unpredictability of seasonal employment, relied on their wives’ steady income as domestics in elite households. Two-income families were the norm.

Not until the 18th century did labor begin to be divided along a sharp line: wage-earning for the men and unpaid maintenance of household and children for the women. Coontz notes that as recently as the late 17th century, women’s contributions to the family economy were openly recognized, and advice books urged husbands and wives to share domestic tasks. But as labor became separated, so did our spheres of experience—the marketplace versus the home—one founded on reason and action, the other on compassion and comfort. Not until the post-war gains of the 1950s, however, were a majority of American families able to actually afford living off a single breadwinner.

Not that this was exactly a huge epiphany but the nuclear family of the sort some social conservatives would like to see resurgent was a historical freak of statistical trends. 

Bolick's article emerged in the wake of Hanna Rosin's "The End of Men" and while Bolick noted that women had more options about managing fertility and family life it seemed that these newly available options were available chiefly to women above a certain threshold of economic stability.  Put simply, while a lot of new options are available for some women those options would be available by way of economic and social privilege. 

As noted elsewhere in the Atlantic, "marrying down" is less common and less acceptable as a goal.

While historically men have "married down" when the tables are turned there are some statistical reasons why a woman marrying down is probably a dangerous idea, literally dangerous.  The people most likely to be physically abusive partners are males who have "married up" to a woman who has higher economic, educational and social status and who has a more conventionally traditional view on masculinity.  When conflicts emerge a woman with a higher status than her partner may find the male tries to "even the field" by resorting to physical force.  So the reasons for a woman to "marry down" are few and there may be significant risk in at least some cases.  But since the "mancession" the "available pool" from men without higher education gets smaller, or so the articles linked above suggest.  Throw in spiraling educational expenses and debt and college education seems like a set of diminishing returns out of proportion to the debt being incurred.  But, and here may be where the socio-economic double bind may kick in, where's the job market for "unskilled labor" again? 

Having more people in the United States get more education won't do any good if there isn't a job market to absorb them.  During the three years I was unemployed it turned out that a majority of the options for continuing education hinged on having brought a child into the world.  Marriage, family, even divorce, or military service.  If you had none of the above theoretically you "could" go back to school but in reality financial help didn't exist and if you'd already managed to land an undergraduate degree grad school was basically a waste of time in advance. 

As Bolick proceeded:
Some even believe that the pair bond, far from strengthening communities (which is both the prevailing view of social science and a central tenet of social conservatism), weakens them, the idea being that a married couple becomes too consumed with its own tiny nation of two to pay much heed to anyone else. In 2006, the sociologists Naomi Gerstel and Natalia Sarkisian published a paper concluding that unlike singles, married couples spend less time keeping in touch with and visiting their friends and extended family, and are less likely to provide them with emotional and practical support. They call these “greedy marriages.” I can see how couples today might be driven to form such isolated nations—it’s not easy in this age of dual-career families and hyper-parenting to keep the wheels turning, never mind having to maintain outside relationships as well. And yet we continue to rank this arrangement above all else!

Well, this might presuppose the nuclear family, which not every social conservative would necessarily affirm as the ideal or the historic norm.  If ours is an age in which the pair-bonded marriage that sees itself as a cohesive entirety rather than part of a broader social system then, okay, it may be that our conception of romance is virulent enough to be a problem.  When Mark Driscoll used to admonish singles to not be selfish it was hard to shake the sense that the way dating and mating work in American culture is that people go on a series of entertaining consumeristic ventures; once people have spent enough time together figuring out they like to play together they take a stab at actually working together and that's what gets called marriage. 

When Bolick got to this paragraph:
Now that women are financially independent, and marriage is an option rather than a necessity, we are free to pursue what the British sociologist Anthony Giddens termed the “pure relationship,” in which intimacy is sought in and of itself and not solely for reproduction. (If I may quote the eminently quotable Gloria Steinem again: “I can’t mate in captivity.”) Certainly, in a world where women can create their own social standing, concepts like “marrying up” and “marrying down” evaporate—to the point where the importance of conventional criteria such as age and height, Coontz says, has fallen to an all-time low (no pun intended) in the United States.

It was hard to avoid a gut reaction, that if that's the aim of and basis for pair-bonding then in some sense the game has been called, and the aim of pairing in contemporary American culture is as the ultimate self-actualizing consumer/luxury experience regardless of socio-economic status.

The suggestion that autonomy and intimacy are mutually conflicting goals, however, seems like a good way to put things.

People both want to be needed and resent being needed. 

Well, as debates and discussions about status and privilege go, that's been rambling along.

While useful when used properly, the privilege framework, as overused now in public discourse, is an obstacle to dialogue and understanding more often than it is an asset. What people mean when invoking "privilege" varies dramatically, adding imprecision to exchanges that unfold with buzzwords rather than plain language and specific claims. And like "structural oppression," which also shape-shifts enough in its actual usage to permit all manner of rhetorical imprecision and mischief, the privilege framework makes many conversations much less accessible to the majority of people who aren't acculturated into academic social-justice jargon.

Even when these rhetorical obstacles are overcome, there is no faster way to short-circuit cooperation than treating overall degree-of-privilege and degree-of-victimization as vital questions to adjudicate before identifying or addressing specific problems.

The idea that there will ever be "progress" in how the sexes relate can seem optimistic.  Not that men and women should not work to get along and build a shared life together, it's more that, well, having been a single guy for life and not anticipating that changing it can be strange to read those with sex lives speaking about rights because it seems that unless you're a rapist all sexual intercourse is a negotiated privilege and that privilege has been conferred on the basis of a status assessment.

The mating/dating game patterns associated with time in schools seems to have gone a long way to define how we see our role in society.  And yet the teenager we take for granted is, as a socio-economic trend, not even a century old yet.  Yet, cue Ribbon Farm:

There are many “mirrors”—novel sources of accurate information about the self—in our twenty-first century world. School is one such mirror; grades and test scores measure one’s intelligence and capacity for self-inhibition, but just as importantly, peers determine one’s “erotic ranking” in the social hierarchy, as the sociologist Randall Collins terms it. Of the school sexual scene “mirror,” he says:
…although the proportion of the population whose sex lives are highly active is small, this prestige hierarchy nevertheless has an effect on persons ranked throughout. Particularly among young persons living in public sexual negotiation scenes, there is a high level of attention paid to erotic stratification criteria, and acute awareness of who occupies what rank in the community’s ratings….

The popular crowd is the sexual elite. Being in the center of attention gives greater solidarity, closer identification with the symbols of the group, and greater self-confidence. Conversely, those on the outskirts of the group, or who are excluded from it, manifest just the opposite qualities. Being part of the sociable/erotic elite produces an attitude of arrogance; the elite know who they are, and the enclosed, high-information structure of the scene makes visible the ranking of those lower down as well.
(Interaction Ritual Chains, p. 253; citations omitted; emphasis mine.)
There are many more “mirrors” available to us today; photography in all its forms is a mirror, and internet social networks are mirrors. Our modern selves are very exposed to third-person, deflating information about the idealized self. At the same time, say Rochat, “Rich contemporary cultures promote individual development, the individual expression and management of self-presentation. They foster self-idealization.”

The reason inequality will never be eliminated is because it's always going to exist.  Easy though it may be to look at the past as somehow failing to recognize inequality, what if the metaphysical/social crisis in American culture is that we would prefer to not talk about inequality and would prefer to only acknowledge status differences as though they were to be ignored?  Years ago I had a conversation with a guy who declared he thought of it as sinful to think of any woman as out of his league.  Well, you say that, but ...

There are some guys who seem to think there's a war on men.  Highly unlikely, that.  What is more likely is that there are some of the guys who decided that nobody should be deemed "out of my league" have, at length, discovered what their real "sexual market value" is and it's not nearly as high as what they thought it was. 

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Slate: Wikipedia problems of its own making

Could say a few things but probably won't ... still ... it has to be said that there were a couple of years in online discussions where Wenatchee The Hatchet would try to clarify a few points only to be told by someone that because the Wikipedia entry on Mars Hill or Mark Driscoll said X that X was how things happened.  Never mind that Wenatchee The Hatchet spent a decade at Mars Hill; met all the co-founding elders; was recruited into a number of ministries; and spent about half a decade meticulously documenting things ... somebody who read a Wikipedia entry that discussed Driscoll had the facts. 

It was weird and often very annoying but, fortunately, it could be the use of Wikipedia as a resource to discuss all that could be on the wane. Better to consult a litany of work at World by Warren Cole Smith; coverage by The Stranger; Becky Garrison's work; Warren Throckmorton's blog; some more recent stuff by Brad Sargent; Molly Worthen has had a couple of decent articles; Joyful Exiles has a helpful timeline; Repentant Pastors and We Love Mars Hill have some primary participant accounts ... and if you don't mind trawling through a sea of sourced statements with often rambling commentary and observation over the last half decade, well, you could also read Wenatchee The Hatchet.  But if all you want is the Wikipedia level summation of who said or did what ... well ... that might be the problem to begin with.  At this point the viability of Wikipedia on a subject as controversial and storied as a Mark Driscoll should be moot, as in not taken seriously to begin with. 

But if you wanted to amuse yourself reading about the character Starscream ... that's fine.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

HT Phoenix Preacher: Roger Olson "The Problem with Men ... " and a problem with a generic discussion of the male desire for respect

... I am no expert on gender matters, but I’ve read a lot of the literature that exists and I’m not convinced by most of it. Oh, of course, there’s some truth in most of it, but I don’t think the experts have, by-and-large, hit on the right causes or solutions. But I admit that my own thoughts about this are based largely on my own observations of boys and men over six to seven decades of life. I consider myself a fairly keen observer of people’s behavior and not particularly bad when it comes to deducing their causes and concluding about some workable solutions.

I suspect, in fact I believe, that human males crave respect. For most males, boys and men, respect is somewhere near the top of their hierarchy of needs. I would go so far as to say that, if they were to be completely honest, when asked which they would prefer if they had to choose one over the other most males would take respect over love. And, perhaps unfortunately, part of that craving for respect is desiring to be respected for their maleness.

Well, respectfully, Wenatchee The Hatchet disputes this particular point.  People in general like to be respected but that's not exactly the nature of the concern I'm about to put forth.

It's not enough for males to get respect, the respect has to be something the recipient can reasonably perceive has been earned.  There may be guys who want respect "just" because they're males but a lot of guys, if they want respect, they want that respect to reflect on their character and productivity.

Roy Baumeister, in his book Is There Anything Good About Men?, put it this way--male social structures tend to make it so that any one male is ultimately superfluous to the life of the organization or movement.  A corporation will tend to survive (if it's going to, anyway) whether or not any one person is part of the corporation.  Baumeister also noted that pretty much the world over the rite of passage from boyhood to manhood has tended to be when a male produces more than he consumes.  Whenever and however he crosses that threshold the boy becomes a man.  So, perhaps unsurprisingly, rites of passage could tend to involve activities in which productive activity play some role.  Hunting for food, cultivating a crop, mastering a trade, whatever it may be, the boy becomes a man when he is able to not just consume but produce more than he consumes, and in more traditional/parochial societies that could be construed as enough "more" to feed a wife and children.

Baumeister went a bit further, though, in proposing that the essential trait of masculinity is that males are disposable and that it is this disposability of the male that makes their contributions to culture paramount.  Males have historically embraced the high risk/high payoff activities that advance civilizations, while the energy and activity of motherhood was so intensive cultures generally refused to put women at the kinds of risks that men were not only put to, but often actively sought out.

That might be like saying that guys want respect but they want it by virtue of having proven they're useful and needed.  While social systems in which everyone is considered essential and has a role to play apply across the board, if Baumeister's right, his proposal would be that guys tend to create teams in which you first have to prove you're worthy of being on the team and then once you've done that then you get respect.  Olson's proposals seem rather generic and unhelpful because while it may be the average male craves respect the average male might also not like respect that he feels has simply been given to him because it's what everybody else is getting.  Maybe guys compete because they want a pecking order and want a basis from which to understand social rankings.  It doesn't matter how progressive or egalitarian humans may try to be, it seems we fall back on hierarchies of status and pecking orders. 

There's been a lot of Christians talking about a crisis in masculinity but what, exactly, is this crisis?  That guys aren't rising to the challenge of adulthood in contemporary society?  Let's reframe the nature of the question, what is it that's worth rising to these days?  Family?  Career?  Education?  These are all positive things but perhaps the cart has been put before the horse because in many societies a lot of these things were decided for you rather than by you. 

Take songs from the 18th century like a jovial number by Haydn, it's a song about this guy who creeps up to visit a beautiful girl cloistered in a nunnery and for the labor of climbing the walls to visit her he asks to be rewarded by her with a kiss.  Haydn himself was nearly turned into a castrato, if memory serves, and he was never able to marry the woman he was crushing on because of class barriers.  What may be different in our age is that there's an elephant in the room, and it may be the real nature of the "crisis" Christians talk about when they talk about a crisis in masculinity.

In social science terms the phrase would be "sexual market value", how viable on the market for mating a person is or isn't.  It may be the crisis in masculinity is not that a whole bunch of guys aren't getting married and getting jobs and starting families already, the crisis may be that in a post-modern information age it's easier than ever for males to realize how disposable they actually are.  When this crosses their mind they may just "opt out" of what has traditionally been called functional adulthood and not because none of them ever want that but because the risk to reward equation may seem stacked against them.  It may just be that for American Christians there's no practical teaching of any value for how to live a Christian life when a person's "sexual market value" is zero other than "well ... get married already."  It can seem as though functional adulthood is so thoroughly defined by sexual activity (since, well, we're all mammals here, right?) that the idea that one size does not fit all has been lost.

A lot has been said about Mark Driscoll over the years but there were some things he understood and even did right, at least early on.  Driscoll used to say that guys need something to do to motivate them.  You can't just confer "respect" on guys and have them buy it.  They have to get the sense that the respect they get is respect they've earned.  If you get guys together and tell them there's something you want done, something that can't be done without them, and then give them the agency to go do that thing then you've gotten the young guys.  The way Driscoll did it was pretty simple, really, he promised a legacy.  Had the legacy that Mark Driscoll invited young guys to participate in and contribute to remained a shared legacy rather than what increasingly seemed to be the personal legacy of Mark Driscoll there might still be a Mars Hill today.  Be that as it may, it's worth suggesting in light of Roger Olson's recent post that while his diagnosis and proposed solution seems nebulous and even lacking, it's kind of a reminder that at one point Driscoll had this nailed down.  He did know how to appeal to and motivate young guys who had previously no investment in "growing up". 

But if we're going to get guys inspired by giving them something to do what would that be?  That is probably the insoluable conundrum within American culture.  Unlike earlier times and places we don't really have a set of options that people could take up when they were deemed not-marriage material.  In the past someone who was at the end of the line for inheritance had to make their own way and if they couldn't they might end up in an army or in a monastery. We don't exactly have those equivalents in the same way.  Rather than even discuss that plenty of people are not marriage/family-building material Christians in particular seem to want all able-bodied or even semi-bodied males to "man up".  One of the numerous shortfalls in Real Marriage was Driscoll opining that some guys didn't trust God enough to provide for children and thus sinfully resisted their wives wanting to have babies.

But if Driscoll has retained any fondness for Bonhoeffer he might have recalled that Bonhoeffer wrote that while abortion was always wrong it might still be more moral to refrain from bringing children into the world you couldn't properly support than to just have them anyway.  Driscoll simultaneously set the bar too high by defining functional adulthood in terms of nuclear family building and yet also too low in the sense that he went so far as to propose that the reason God gave men a huge sex drive was so that that sex drive could spur a boy to become a man and take a wife.  As has been discussed at some length here before, same sex attraction obliterates the viability of Driscoll's own taxonomy of manhood on its own terms, given Driscoll's stance on gays.

So ... even with that in mind, it seems that Mark Driscoll's success was in inspiring young guys in the sorts of ways that those who talk about a crisis in masculinity have kept coming back to. 

At the moment with Driscoll in some kind of stasis sounding off on the crisis of contemporary males is going to be asking a question that probably isn't that contemporary.  The book of Proverbs was advising against joining gangs of worthless young rascals millennia ago.  And it seems that the real crisis American Christians may be facing is that as the nuclear family becomes less and less economically viable tethering all the "practical teaching" to that ideal may reveal the limitations of the "Law" of family as economic realities shift.  For American conservative Protestants it may just be that marriage is the new circumcision and not surprisingly, focusing on the necessity of marriage in other ways may be a progressive Christian concern, too. 

It kind of seems that whether it's a Christian left or right the idea that there's no place for eunuchs, and if we go by Jesus' words on the subject two of three categories of eunuchs didn't pick that status.  And let's not kid ourselves too much, in most times and places the mating game has been a status game.  What if in the age to come the absence of marriage or being given in marriage might have something to do with that, something to do with status indicators in ancient societies that we find hard to appreciate because we've got a romantic sentimental notion that "there's someone for everyone" when in possibly any and every earlier epoch of humanity people may have known better than that?

Monday, February 02, 2015

a statement from James Harleman at Repentant Pastor--some observations about how the water boiled and why 2007 was in one sense symbolic rather than substantial

The above went up Saturday morning and Wenatchee The Hatchet has waited a bit to discuss the content. 

It took a few years longer than hoped for, but it is nice to see the statement.

Regular readers of Wenatchee The Hatchet should already know that one of the long-term contentions here has been that identity politics as usual made it impossible for the theological "left" and "right" to get an accurate or even honest understanding of what was at play in the history of Mars Hill and in the public/private ministry of Mark Driscoll.  While for a time Driscoll and his advocates had mastery over the public narrative both for and against him, the level of control possible over that narrative eroded over time.  This doesn't mean that there aren't people who have jumped up to talk about the "lessons" we can or should all learn from the demise of Mars Hill; there have been plenty of those and the problem has been that most of those people have thrown lessons our way that seem like exercises in self-justification.  As Wenatchee has written more and less obliquely in the last year, if the "lessons" you have to share with the world about Mars Hill are lessons that exonerate you then, well, you probably learned nothing.

Which is why Harleman's statement was encouraging to read.  For those unfamiliar with his work or his writing "I was Jar Jar Binks" is a pretty concise and hefty admission of guilt. 

You can go read the statement if you haven't already.  This post will be ruminating about a few things touched on in James' statement that bear further thought.

It has been necessary for someone who was in the leadership culture of Mars Hill to observe, no, let's say it is helpful that someone has observed that what happened in 2007 was surely important but that it was, in many ways, symbolically important.  How Mark and other leaders spoke to and treated people before and after was not necessarily any better.  Some might say that up until 2007 there was at least the formal possibility of Driscoll being held accountable.  That's ultimately nonsense since 1) we know the elders did not hold Driscoll accountable and 2) that would be, as James put it in his statement, belittling to those who were mistreated before 2007.  James would know where some of the proverbial bodies got buried.  We hail from early enough in the history of Mars Hill we can remember a few things that went down that people who showed up even as early as 2002 or 2003 couldn't have known about. 

There was a lot that happened that happened in plain sight.  Those who remember Driscoll saying to a guy "Shut your wife up or I'll do it for you" may not remember it was in the context of a discussion about the film Lost in Translation. They may remember the topic in discussion was whether men and women could have close friends of the opposite gender.  There were people who would go on to be Driscoll critics who at the time concluded that the woman Driscoll put in the place he thought she needed to be just had issues with spiritual authority.  Because Real Marriage had not been published and the Driscolls had not revealed how rickety their marriage truly was a lot of people could just trust that even if Driscoll was too harsh it was still for a good reason. 

James' statement gets at some of the general process of how rationalizing that the positive fruit outweighed the negative fruit looked in a slice of the church history.

It is true that 2007 was a landmark year in the history of the church but Wenatchee The Hatchet is going to propose that it was not because the change of the by-laws necessarily became a point of no return.  That Driscoll was left in ministry in the wake of 2000's "Pussified Nation" would seem to have settled further back that leaving Driscoll in ministry might have been a bad move.  But by the time many former pillars in the community showed up circa 2000-2002 "Pussified Nation" had been thoroughly scrubbed.  There were men who served as pastors who never even heard of the thread, let alone saw it.  In the years before 2007 there had been things that could have been scandalous but things were able to be suppressed quickly enough that things died down.  That Driscoll could be verbally abusive and bullying wasn't news by 2007.  As Dan Savage so bluntly put it, there were a lot of guys in leadership at the formal and informal level in Mars Hill who only concluded Mark Driscoll was a nasty piece of work when they were directly harmed by Driscoll's action.  For Savage that made each and every one such man a complicit asshole. 

Which is why reading James articulate that the strictly binary script the for and against crews have brought to bear on the history of Mars Hill is encouraging to see.  When Wenatchee The Hatchet felt obliged to leave Mars Hill a parting concern was to observe that I can't diagnose a spiritual ailment in the community of Mars Hill without acknowledging that I am also a symptom.  Those who diagnose a disease without seeing themselves as a symptom may not yet understand their contribution to the spiritual and social malaise. 

That said, to get back to the earlier observation about 2007, what made things different was that by 2007 the php discussion boards made cross-campus communication and enquiry so swift and so simple that the kind of information suppressing damage control that might have worked wonderfully in the past was no longer possible.  The by-laws changes and the firings did not happen in a vacuum, either.  Questions had emerged about the $1.5 million boondoggle that was supposed to be Ballard campus II.  It would be a huge mistake to fixate on the bylaws as indicative of a serious change for the worse within the leadership of Mars Hill because there was a unified vote for that 2005 boondoggle.  Frankly the fiscal foolishness of that 2005 decision, when the details finally started to belatedly get conceded, was more infuriating than the secrecy surrounding the 2007 firings.  Why?  Because even the fired pastors voted for that real estate purchase. 

What James Harleman's statement touches upon is that the water was coming to a boil for years before 2007.  Anyone who was at Mars Hill circa 2002-2007 may recall the courtship fad and it was one of the more idiotic fads in the history of the church.  Wenatchee The Hatchet's disdain for the fad would be easily known to those who know who Wenatchee The Hatchet is.  It's one thing to urge people to respectfully pursue marriage in a way that respects the concerns of all concerned parties, and another to present courtship as the "Christian" alternative to modern dating practices.  There's no methodology that is fire insurance against the temptation to evil in your own heart.  And yet there was a weird lockstep enforcement of the story of how great courtship was.  What did it matter that one of the textbook/poster couple courtships didn't exactly fit the mold?  The mold was more important than the reality. 

In terms of cultural enforcement there was a sense in which a culture that would enforce the silly legalisms of the courtship fad could be relied upon to enforce draconian expectations when actually important things, like governance and finances came up.  Harleman's statement touches on these things but they seem worth mentioning explicitly.  There were a whole lot of people who went on to be Driscoll critics who played roles in enforcing the expectations and rules formal and informal in the culture.  The point here, muddled though it is, is that 2007 was symbolically important and meant a big change in formal governance but the crisis only emerged when people who were in some sense expected to keep operating by the informal script broke from their script.

What was different in 2007 was that by 2007 Mars Hill had cultivated information distribution, social media and mass media tools of the sort that made fully suppressing scandals nearly impossible.  It wasn't possible, any longer, to just scrub a "Pussified Nation" away and hope nobody noticed.  Ironically and yet inevitably the strengths of Mars Hill became weaknesses, the information distribution culture that had been cultivated within Mars Hill became a means of articulating the beginnings of some dissent.  The php forums were swiftly scrapped and replaced with The City.  As Wenatchee The Hatchet has demonstrated vividly in more than a dozen posts, even The City eventually became a point from which members expressing dissent began to leak content.  Or as an old-time Mars Hill song could have put it "Strength is my weakness."  When it became impossible to suppress the rumbling of discord the leadership culture had to seize control of the narrative in a forceful way, which is pretty much what happened.  What James Harleman has opened up is a glimpse into how even the process of the leadership selling itself on the plausibility of what was done planted the seeds of what grew into a crisis. 

The majority of readers last year probably wouldn't know Wenatchee The Hatchet has known James for at least fifteen years now.  Our friendship was probably not something anyone with ten years inside MH wouldn't already know about.  There's a whole lot of blogging about cartoons that wouldn't have happened the way it did without the two of us sharing many a thought about animation and about superheroes.  A write-up about his book is still pending.

But in a way what James has shared about reconsidering the narrative of his life and his time at Mars Hill is an example of what he's done for years.  He spent many a Friday evening over the years discussing narrative in film and ways we can analyze narrative and character arcs to discover what is or isn't true about the human condition and connect it to what he's called the meganarrative.  So in many ways what James published this last weekend fits into all of that.

Others have pointed out that what happened in the last few years was that Mark Driscoll and his advocates lost control of the public narrative. That would be accurate.  It might be even more accurate to add to that observation that what transpired was the narrative that had always been public was finally able to get examined with enough primary source citation and, not to put this pejoratively, critical apparatus to reveal that the public narrative had changed in ways that were drastic enough to cast  legitimate doubt on its overall veracity.  Driscoll was starting to contradict his own public narrative at too many points about too many big events in the story for the public narrative to remain coherent.  The tipping point there was, in many ways, Real Marriage.  What James Harleman's latest statement gives us at least a glimpse of is that there were people within the leadership of Mars Hill who had moments of doubt about what was going on and how they persuaded themselves things were okay, at least for a while.

This rationalization process would be  easy to condemn if it weren't seeming so awkwardly evident lately that it doesn't matter what team you're on, this process of overlooking the bad because you think it's outweighed by the good can happen anywhere.  It remains to be seen how things will play out regarding Tony Jones and Julie McMahon but we don't even need to look at the realm of religion.  What about Penn State and Joe Paterno?  Even without religious ideas at stake if there's enough money and power in play overlooking or dismissing allegations of severe wrong-doing can still happen. 

Wenatchee The Hatchet admits to being a bit gloomy about the human condition.  One of the laziest canards from people who seem to imagine themselves above this sort of thing would be the "lol don't drink the kool-aid" sentiment, as if humans had a capacity to inherently resist drinking kool-aid.  What if drinking the kool-aid is actually inherent in what humans do?  Think about it this way, what are the great works of art and philosophy if not, at the end of things, definitions and defenses of what would be worth "drinking the kool-aid" for?  Take Driscoll's one-time favorite film Braveheart.  What's worth killing and dying for?  Freedom ... theoretically. But having never much cared for Braveheart compared to Toy Story Wenatchee The Hatchet will borrow some phrases from the buddies at Mockingbird and say that the problem with the Gibson film is that in the end it was not really a rumination on freedom as much as a rumination on the glory of fighting for freedom. Call it a theology of glory rather than theology of freedom if we're even going to "go there" in discussing the film as any theology of any kind.  Certainly in the hands of a Mark Driscoll, with his career-long drive toward "legacy", it would be almost impossible not to think of that push for legacy as tinged, at least, with a theology of glory.

And this gets roundaboutly to something else Harleman touches on, that there were men in leadership who could not raise doubts about Mark Driscoll without ultimately raising doubts about their own fitness for ministry.  There were men who only ended up in ministry at Mars Hill because Mark Driscoll recruited them.  It could have been guys like Petry and Meyer, in fact, recruited into ministry, who ended up fired when they didn't go on script about governance.  Take a group of men who ended up in ministry because they were recruited by Mark or men who came to or back to the Christian faith on account of Mars Hill and questioning Mark became too self-indicting to be emotionally sustainable.

This gets to a point that Wenatchee The Hatchet has presented before, that it's important to understand that many people over the years who have defended the situation at Mars Hill were ultimately not defending Mark Driscoll, necessarily, as they were defending themselves.  People were defending their own emotional investment of their selves into what became Mars Hill.  Wenatchee The Hatchet used to make defenses of how Mars Hill did things but not generally of Mark Driscoll the person, who often enough said stuff so stupid there was no point in defending that stuff.  Over time Wenatchee began to realize that a defense of a conventionally evangelical Protestant, let alone Reformed, Christian confession was not only not going to benefit from any defense of Driscoll but that Mark Driscoll began to seem more and more like a RINO, Reformed-in-name-only.  At length he tipped his Amyraldian hand.  But by the time he did there was this problem, so many journalists and writers, even those who supposedly knew what they were talking about, had already labeled Mark Driscoll as Reformed.  Even among Mark Driscoll's critics, the price of backpedaling on the narrative was too high.  And it turned out to be the same for many of Mark Driscoll's supporters.

The term repentance can be easily wielded by Christians.  In a setting like Mars Hill it tended to refer to either behaviors or doctrines. What beliefs needed to change?  What behaviors needed to change?  But there's something in addition to that that defines what repentance is in Christian terms, it's recalibrating and redefining the story we live by.  When we find our story meets the story of who Christ is and what he said and did our story changes ... and it has begun to seem more and more over the years that at Mars Hill we were told "It's all about Jesus" and it began to seem as though, as more than just a few people tried to point out, that Jesus seemed to be someone remade more and more into Mark's ideal of who Jesus ought to be than the one presented in the scriptures.

Understanding that following Christ hardly entailed remaining at Mars Hill and that Mars Hill was hardly the only place (if that) in which to follow Jesus was a years-long process for Wenatchee The Hatchet.  Repenting from being the kind of Christian I was while I was there isn't even a finished process and to the extent that this blog has preserved the story of Mars Hill it could be read as a form of repentance.  I've never told anyone they "have" to leave Mars Hill but I've invited them to reconsider the narrative.  That's a path that people may not choose to take but for those who do, it's probably a never-ending path.  If anything the most dangerous thing for us would be to think we've "arrived" because, after all, wasn't that how we felt when we landed at Mars Hill? 

To piggyback a bit on what James published this weekend, a more thoroughly Christian understanding of the world we live in should neither make us a hero or even a villain in the story of our lives.  One of the most pernicious temptations for those who would either defend or attack what has happened within what was once known as Mars Hill is to make ourselves the hero in the narrative.  If we did that while we were there let's all the more resist the temptation to do that when we are away.