Saturday, August 22, 2015

on the Ashley Madison hack, information disclosure and ethics in watchblogging

But while it’s impossible to know exactly why so many signed up for Ashley Madison accounts—with their work emails, no less—one can imagine that there was an extent to which the website’s mere existence, its promise of a sheltering and complicit community, soothed many consciences.

Because that’s what Ashley Madison did: it organized and fostered a community around cheating. We speak of the importance of private associations, their ability to inculcate habits of virtue. But here, we see the opposite: we see an association fostering and even facilitating vice. And this is the dark side of community that we forget about: we forget that peer support and approval will motivate us to do things we may otherwise have avoided—or at least felt guilty about.

For numerous, obvious reasons, the fact that someone’s name appears in the Ashley Madison database does not mean they have engaged in marital infidelity. To begin with, it is easy to enter someone else’s name and email address, as happened to The Intercept’s Farai Chideya. [emphasis added] Beyond that, there are all sorts of reasons someone may use this website without having cheated on their spouse. Some may use the site as pornography because it titillates them, or because they are tempted to cheat but are resisting the urge, or because they’re married but in a relationship where monogamy is not demanded, or because they’re researchers or journalists observing this precinct of online interaction, or countless other reasons. This permanent, highly public shaming of these “adulterers” is not only puritanical but reckless in the extreme, since many who end up branded with the scarlet “A” may have done absolutely nothing wrong.

So ... let's just assume everybody knows about the Ashley Madison hack and the basics of what just happened.

Wenatchee The Hatchet is not particularly pleased.  There's no reason to talk about poetic justice for cheating men who cheat on their wives and it's not because they're cheating on their wives, though that's no good.

No, the problem is that cheering the hack suggests we might want to consider what standards we have about information disclosure.  When and why do we consider info-dumping of information that was intended to be kept private to be a heroic act?  When and why do we consider info-dumping of information that was meant to be secret despicable?

It's not always clear that we, as a society, exactly know or care.

By now it would be difficult to escape the idea that the only thing Wenatchee The Hatchet is known for is as some kind of watchdog blog.  It's lame to have been so thoroughly typecast but so it goes.

Give or take some scholarly debates about provenance and textual transmission, the story of how David arranged for the death of Uriah the Hittite in battle can be described as a biblical story in which we have been given, so to speak, to a "hack".

Jacob Wright touches on this aspect of the biblical narrative in his book David, King of Israel, and Caleb in Biblical Memory. He states that the correspondence is most likely a literary license taken by the authors whose work became part of the canonical narrative.  However, for the point of this blog post, it suffices to say that a "leak" or "hack" of royal correspondence made it into a biblical text. Even the staunchest unbeliever will easily appreciate why that literary/historical "hack" happened, nobody in any age, even the most patriarchal bronze age around, thought there was anything remotely ethical or civilized or appropriate about a regional warlord using royal status with the gloss of divine endorsement as a thing to be used to arrange for the death of a loyal soldier to ensure that the sexual use of the soldier's wife was not discovered. 

As a lengthy aside, there are several things about David's conspiracy against Uriah the Hittite that evangelicals seem to perpetually overlook. The first and most basic one is that had David not already engaged in war against the Ammonites he would not have sent people off to war while staying home. Jacob Wright laid out an interesting and persuasive case that this war, being the first war that was undertaken by David not for the benefit of Israel but from a personal sense of honor, the biblical author(s) may imply that David was already on morally shaky ground in what he was using royal power and resources for and why even before he spotted Bathsheba one fateful day.

Secondly, when Nathan confronts David about the murder he doesn't condemn David's polygamy. Had the wives not been enough, Nathan explained, God would have provided more.  Contemporary evangelical commentary to the effect that David was an adulterer misses the boat if it goes beyond Bathsheba, unless Abigail counts on the presumption that David murdered Nabal (which seems to be where Joel Baden has gone on the matter but this blog post isn't about his book).

Third, although in a number of places in the canon Gad the seer gets described as David's personal seer there's no sign of Gad in the narrative where Nathan appears (Nathan will later appear in Kings as a lobbyist for Solomon, more or less, opening up the possibility that today's principled prophet can still end up next year's mercenary backdoor schemer even if the cause is a nominally correct one). Speculative as this theory is, it seems that Nathan felt obliged to speak up and confront David for his crimes because Gad, the king's official prophet, was nowhere to be found. Either the prophet was not around to begin with or Gad was around and potentially looked the other way or didn't know what had happened because David's secrecy was solid.

So even in the Bible, we could say, there's a precedent for a "hack" in which correspondence meant to be secret not only sees the light of day but literally ends up as part of a canonized document.

So that might read as if it were a defense of a hack for those readers who haven't yet read between the lines.

This is not a defense of hacks or leaks.  How does this connect to the title that mentions watchblogging?

We're just getting to that.

The vast majority of material published here about the history of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill was stuff that was published in social and broadcast media in various ways over the course of sixteen years.  Yes, including all the William Wallace II stuff. Hacking was never used, it was never necessary.  People sent stuff along and for many years Wenatchee The Hatchet was simply given a ton of content or had access to a ton of content by virtue of being a member of Mars Hill and an occasional ministry volunteer.  It was just a matter of the providence of keeping stuff rather than deleting it, and then other stuff got volunteered.

There's a substantial and obvious difference between people voluntarily sending potentially sensitive information and finding mountains of information has been dumped onto social and broadcast media by the parties themselves, and recent hacks. Like it or not Mars Hill leaders have had to face the reality that even if the Result Source deal had not been leaked to World Magazine there was a super-majority of content already made available to the public at large by Mars Hill itself.  When the plagiarism controversy erupted it was only possible precisely because the published works of Mark Driscoll were mass market products.  Wenatchee The Hatchet didn't get any of the RSI stuff.

So what about all those years of leaks from The City?  Stuff was sent.  Simple as that. People trusted Wenatchee The Hatchet with insider communication. So when Driscoll was claiming Mars Hill was somehow not a wealthy church in spite of a roughly $30 million dollar annual budget, people who were still part of the Mars Hill community at some level conveyed this absurd assertion on the part of Mark Driscoll via The City to Wenatchee The Hatchet. The same went for the resignations of Bill Clem and a number of other Mars Hill staff.  Some of the staff transitions were easy to document simply because names started vanishing from the websites.

Back when Wenatchee The Hatchet was a young journalism student one of the bits of advice WtH received was to avoid relying on anonymous sources.  You can't be sure they aren't lying, you can't be sure they haven't gotten the cold shoulder because of their own ethical lapses that may have gotten them fired from a job.  The risks of someone opting to become a source out of retaliation can be too high.  And in many cases what you think you may need a secret source for you don't need that secret source for; a remarkable amount of stuff is sitting in plain sight if you're just patient enough to look in the right places.

Take the million-dollar house in Woodway the Driscolls bought during the "season" when non-negotiable layoffs were happening.  That real estate was found in a roughly ten-second online search based on a select pile of informational statements that led directly to county real estate records.  Wenatchee The Hatchet found that stuff quickly but without setting out to find that stuff, not specifically.  There may still be those out there who think it was terrible Wenatchee The Hatchet found information that's been a matter of public record for years on county websites but it's tough to sty angry at the vicissitudes of providence.  And because that Woodway house purchase is a matter of public record it raised a simple and blunt question, how does a megachurch pastor afford to buy a million-dollar piece of real estate in Woodway, Washington?  If Mars Hill was not a wealthy church where were the Driscoll's getting the money to buy a house in Woodway? 

What was publicly available naturally led to questions about what was not disclosed.  You can't just go buying real estate that expensive if you can't afford it and if you can afford it how affordable is it?

Sources over the years indicated that one of the biggest and most opaque mysteries within Mars Hill was how much Driscoll got paid and how he got paid.  Within the culture of Mars Hill this was one of those mysteries that couldn't be worked out. Gone were the days were the books at Mars Hill were open for anybody to go read.

Now Mark Driscoll and the leaders of Mars Hill had spent years telling the members sand lower level staff to keep sacrificing and keep giving.  They also conveyed that in tough seasons some people had to be let go and that this was part of the mission.  The sheer number of people cut loose in the 2011-2013 period was given witness by the BoAA when it mentioned more than 100 people got transitioned off staff at Mars Hill in that fateful two-year stretch.  It wasn't just that Mark Driscoll and the leadership culture kept urging sacrificial giving, they kept doing so in a corporate culture in which layoffs were legion and the leaders were increasingly evasive about what compensation the top dogs got.

Meanwhile, Driscoll's public career kept picking up steam.  In 2012 he was confident enough to go on a pre-emptive character attack adventure against Justin Brierley.  Driscoll evaded any controversy that didn't make his personality front and center, so he never said a word on record about the disciplinary case involving Andrew Lamb.  Driscoll was so busy promoting Real Marriage in early 2012 some one-time disciplinary case involving some young horny dude at the Ballard campus wasn't worth thinking about, perhaps. Besides, there was that meet-and-greet with T. D. Jakes to look forward to, not that you'll see a whole ton of reference to that even from Driscoll these days. 

For those at Mars Hill who saw the progression Mark Driscoll made from denouncing preachers like Jakes in 2007 to shaking hands with Jakes in 2011; for those who saw how the finances became more opaque even as the requests to sacrifice stayed strong; a few people here and there across a variety of campuses began to share stuff with Wenatchee The Hatchet.  Wenatchee The Hatchet also took the time to document real estate acquisitions and subsequent leadership appointments. 

Wenatchee had no idea that such a thing as Result Source existed.  For years it seemed probable there was some remarkably lazy attribution and sourcing in Driscoll books.  The plagiarism scandal seemed like a high probability but it wasn't until Wenatchee read Real Marriage that it became clear such a scandal was likely to occur.

Mark Driscoll ruefully explained via video last year, that because of the kind of celebrity he had attained he did not have the same kinds of standards from which to plead a point for privacy as other individuals.  That's soft-pedaling it, still, because Mark Driscoll spent decades questing for a level of celebrity that made him a public figure and a public moralist to boot.

So when Driscoll ever sounded off on the wrongness of people plagiarizing the works of others in sermons or books it became a matter of public record and a matter of public service to document any applicable cases in which Mark Driscoll may have not only failed to live up to the standards he judged others by, but flagrantly contradicted the ideals he said people should live by. It's important to keep in mind just what a mind-bending amount of content Team Driscoll and Mars Hill put out there over the years. 

So it mattered a great deal that in Real Marriage it turned out the Driscolls did not acknowledge the work and influence of Dan Allender in the first print edition. Even if somebody were to reject the legitimacy of copyright and intellectual property (which some Christians do) the point is not lost, it's still hypocritical for the leadership of Mars Hill to have lamented in late 2011 in the wake of a trademark and logo scandal that some people copied Mars Hill content without attribution when it would turn out a great deal of Mark Driscoll's published work turned out to have made use of the ideas of others without adequate attribution.  For the folks who don't remember the Mars Hill 2011 trademark/logo scandal ...
Sadly, in addition to giving things away, we’ve also had things taken. We’ve had churches cut and paste our logo, take our website code and copy it completely, had ministry leaders cut and paste documents of ours, put their name on them to then post online as if it were their content, and even seen other pastors fired for preaching our sermons verbatim.

We’re not the only church called Mars Hill, and occasionally there arises confusion between us and other churches that share the “Mars Hill” name, particularly as we now have our churches in four states. This was the case recently when one of our members called us to find out if we had planted Mars Hill churches in the Sacramento, California area. We had not, but when we went to these churches’ websites, it was obvious to us how people could be confused. Each of these three connected churches in the Sacramento region—planted in 2006, 2007, and 2010—bore the “Mars Hill” name and their logo was substantially similar to the logo we’ve used since 1996.

When cases like this arise in the business world, it’s customary for a law office to send a notice asking the other organization to adjust their branding to differentiate it. This is commonly referred to as a cease and desist letter. On September 27, 2011, our legal counsel sent such a letter to these three Mars Hill churches requesting that they change their logo and name. In hindsight, we realize now that the way we went about raising our concerns, while acceptable in the business world, is not the way we should deal with fellow Christians. On Friday we spoke with the pastor of Mars Hill in Sacramento to apologize for the way we went about this. We had a very productive conversation and look forward to continuing that conversation in the days and weeks ahead.

It didn't matter if a person rejected the idea of intellectual property in this case, the flagrant hypocrisy alone was damning.  If you complain in public that other people crib your stuff you better make sure you're not guilty of doing the same thing. There was a time when Mars Hill leaders said copyright was outmoded and not the way of the future.  There could be some story about how THAT changed but that's not the point of this already sprawling post.

By the time Janet Mefferd confronted Driscoll on air about plagiarism Mark Driscoll and the leaders of Mars Hill had already established Driscoll as a public figure willing to sound off on how bad it was that people cribbed from his sermons.  That turned out to not be the only problematic thing about Driscoll's published work.

It mattered that Mark Driscoll said from the pulpit in 2000-2001 that guys shouldn't cheat, they shouldn't take the shortcut to getting what they want because a decade later when Mars Hill contracted with Result Source to rig a #1 spot for Mark Driscoll on the NYT that revealed that the Mark Driscoll who told guys to not take the shortcut to their goals was willing to take a shortcut.  If your book didn't make it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list without a little help did it deserve to be there? 

Whoever leaked the Result Source contract to the press was leaking something that had been hidden not only from the public but from a probable majority of Mars Hill members and even leaders.

That was information that needed to be made known.  Why?  Because it didn't just open up for public discussion that Mars Hill arranged to rig the New York Time bestseller list to promote a book that turned out to have "citation errors" in it, it revealed that this scheme was employed by other Christian authors within the Christian publishing scene.  The company that has done this was already a matter of news, however. 

Leaks of sensitive information to the press, formal or informal, aren't like hacking.  A history of leaked content dealing with public figures occupies a different ethical space than a hack.  A hack cannot, as Greenwald has noted, account for the reality that many people who would use Ashley Madison might never use their real names or contact information.

Information is the foundation of our entire economic system.  We use fiat currency.  Sure, we have paper and metal money but in the normal business day goods and services can be exchanged with a series of 0's and 1's. Who you even are, in this economic system, is a sequence of information.  You're flesh and blood, too, of course, but that's not how you are mediated in an information economy. 

Why is it that people who might object to NSA surveillance might have no problem with the hack? Why is a lack of informed consent a prerequisite people care about in one case but potentially not in another?  If information wants to be free then why wouldn't the NSA have every ground to keep up a surveillance program?  It's not like the military and the industries of national defense didn't, you know, kind of invent the internet.

Hacking or not, when you have access to information that can potentially permanently destroy the livelihood of someone you have to weigh the significance of whether it is worth it to disclose that information.  In the history of blogging about Mars Hill there are occasionally folks who seem to think any and every form of hardball is acceptable. The Ashley Madison hack has opened up the floodgates to a process that will destroy the lives of people who are not public figures or who are not public figures in any sense that could even theoretically merit the disclosure of the information.  That Duggar guy was already in the crosshairs for other things besides what has lately been reported about his name appearing in a list of hacked names.  Even assuming that email/contact information is connected to a real Duggar (and that should not be assumed, per Greenwald's recent writing) the disclosure of the information in itself was not exactly "necessary".

Over the years Wenatchee The Hatchet has repeatedly deleted occasional comments from former Mars Hill attenders with axes to grind against some former employees of Mars Hill. Some allegations were occasionally made that, if they had substance behind them, would be better transformed into actual litigation than some kind of passionate cyber-justice.  A watchblog can preserve for the public record information that has, for the most part, been a matter of public record already.  In exceptional cases information disclosed to thousands of insiders in an organization has been disclosed for public benefit--when you see how cordoned off the Mars Hill campuses were from each other disclosing resignations with leaked City content was a way to disclose what communication to a thousand or more people was, but the eventual and inevitable disappearance of the names from the public roster was happening anyway. 

But Wenatchee The Hatchet has not disclosed everything discovered over the course of five or six years of blogging about Mars Hill.  If "that" were done some people would never be able to move past things that happened to them while they were at Mars Hill.  Although there is no right in America "to be forgotten" there's such a thing as pity and compassion.  The majority of people, even in the leadership culture of what is the dissolving Mars Hill, don't qualify as public figures.  Let's be clear here, Mark Driscoll's arrogance and incompetence brought him down.  He destroyed his own reputation through the way he spoke and published in the public sphere.  There's not much reason to feel bad for him.  Other people who got fired and laid off were not public figures seeking the spotlight.

You have to assess whether the story warrants permanently damaging someone's ability to work in a given field before you run with something.  In the case of a Mark Driscoll, who has at length betrayed so many of the doctrinal and ethical norms he spent decades espousing from the pulpit, that seems clearcut to Wenatchee The Hatchet. The sheer number of points at which Mark Driscoll's conduct has by now contradicted the precepts he espoused as a public figure precludes his legitimacy in ministry as far as Wenatchee The Hatchet is concerned.  It doesn't mean the guy isn't a professing Christian, it just means that, dude, the guy destroyed his own credibility to a point where it can't be repaired.  Now Mark Driscoll has to live with the reality that one day his kids could stumble upon William Wallace II rants and because Mark Driscoll spent decades telling young guys, yelling at them, to think of their legacy and live accordingly, that's something Driscoll has to live with.  He has to live with the reality that in 2008 he compared having womens' ministry to the prospect of juggling knives.
Whatever different feelings he has now compared to 2000, as he told Brian Houston earlier this year, the substance of what Driscoll has said remains. 

There's a world of difference between preserving what Mark Driscoll dumped onto social and broadcast media for his entire public career and a hack. The differences are obvious but people who cheerlead the results of the hack may not be thinking through the implications of those differences.  The ethics of information access and distribution are always going to be issues. The difficulties raised by our technology having evolved faster than our applicable laws has meant that, for instance, we dn't actually have applicable laws about how to deal with data leaks in a way that's always clear.  This year there's the Ashley Madison hack but a while back there were the nude leaks of celebrities, some of whom took to using intellectual property law as a basis for taking legal action against content that was never intended to be formally published.

If this were just a matter of who doesn't want what published it wouldn't remain simple because our entire economy is based on information. Our identities in this economic system are the information about us. It's possible to buy and sell that information without our knowledge or consent in some cases.  Even if you've never logged onto the internet a single day in your life in the United States that doesn't mean basic information about you isn't on the internet.  It doesn't mean a person couldn't, with the right price or the right effort, find out things about you. For those who have fretted about the NSA, worry not, you may have voluntarily dumped more information about yourself through technology use than the NSA would ever even care to know.  There's a case to be made that if you're going to be online at all you shouldn't be doing anything you wouldn't be willing to have a matter of public knowledge but that's pretty clearly not how things work.  People pay their bills online, should the water bill for your home be a matter of public record?  Isn't it already, some might suggest.  If "information wants to be free" which information are we really talking about? Social security numbers?  If you have children and they have medical conditions how many people need to know about that?  Everyone?  Does that information want to be free?

It's not as though there don't come times when things that have been concealed are shouted from rooftops.  The golden rule doesn't become irrelevant in cases like this does it?  What about yourself would you be willing to have disclosed, even at the point of ruining your life, would you condone someone else disclosing about you if it were for some greater good?  Reputation is a zero-sum game, you have a good one or a bad one.  What's worth destroying a person's reputation for?  In a day as ostensibly individualistic as ours it's remarkable how much we have retained a notion of class-based guilt. Not that you asked, dear reader, but Wenatchee The Hatchet got information from people in the community known as Mars Hill in part by not presuming upon a class-based guilt.  Was Obadiah evil for being in Ahab's court?  For saving the lives of prophets whose lives were sought by Jezebel?  Today's categorical approach to guilt can overlook things.  This isn't to suggest there are "heroes" who use Ashley Madison, the question the hack renews for us is to ask about the ethics of information access and disclosure. 

Jonathan Haidt has written that our moral intuitions come first and the explanatory reasoning comes later.  We decide we're okay with something being done and THEN we rationalize it. What a hack introduces, particularly when the information is dumped online for public consideration, is that declaration through action that consent is not necessary for finding out something that was not already disclosed to the public. There's no need for any relational context in which to seek or obtain the information.   If there's a thread in philosophical questions about hacking, content piracy, and government surveillance that have something in common, it's the moral question of when and why it's okay to ignore that you haven't been given consent to gain access to the information you're after.  Haidt has said that we decide something is right first and rationalize later. 

For those whose moral intuition settles that it's okay to gain information of some form without the consent of the one from whom the information is obtained, what's the rationale?  In the case of Wenatchee The Hatchet everything given to Wenatchee The Hatchet was given, everything was volunteered, whether directly or by way of information published to mass and social media.  It's difficult to think of a single thing published at Wenatchee The Hatchet in which informed consent was not the basis of the content received; the people who voluntarily sent in information WANTED to send it. The histories of real estate acquisition and leadership appointments were things Mark Driscoll bragged about from the pulpit. It was simply a matter of preserving things for the record. For those who share content that was not volunteered, what's the incentive?  What is the good for which consent is not only not required but for which consent is irrelevant? 

Of course it's not just in information exchange that informed consent is a crucial ethical question, informed consent is also the crucial ethical question in the exchange of bodily fluids.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Naxos release--Shin-ichi Fukuda playing the guitar music of Toru Takemitsu

See, if certain topics in the Puget Sound region weren't distractingly high profile in 2014 Wenatchee The Hatchet should have caught this release last year when it came out in April.

If you didn't manage to get Fukuda's sublime 1997 recording of Takemitsu you may be in luck.

Being the proud owner of the two volumes Fukuda recorded that were release in 1997 and around 2004 ... if you like Takemitsu's music for guitar and don't already own this guitarist's recordings go remedy that crime against the art of guitar and the beauty of Takemitsu's music as quickly as you can afford.  Fukuda's interpretation of "All in Twilight" was so incredible that I think it's the best one I've heard and I say that as someone who has the Bream recording, for whom the piece was originally written.  There's virtually no case where I'd say a more recent guitarist did better than Bream did in an interpretation, but I'm willing stick my neck out and say that Shin-ichi Fukuda's interpretation of Takemitsu's "All In Twlight" is so sublime it has an edge on Bream's.

a heretofore never-done thing at Wenatchee The Hatchet, linking to a bunch of podcasts about punk music, but for a reason

Wenatchee The Hatchet may be known for any number of things but listening to and/or playing punk music would definitely not be one of them.  Jeff Bettger and Matt Johnson, however, they've been known to jam punk here and there over the last twenty years. 

What Matt and Jeff are both eloquently able to express is what it was like in the earlier years, what it was like for people who were into the arts and into the musician thing to join the church in its earliest years. If someone were to write a history of Mars Hill it would be important to explore the history of the community and not just write about the Mark Driscoll show.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Alastair Roberts on Austen's Pride & Prejudice's Meryton as a collapsed social space

Many readers of Pride and Prejudice have fancied that Elizabeth represents a clear exception to this pattern, someone who thinks for herself and is no prisoner of convention or dupe of communal judgment. Yet, as Deresiewicz observes, Austen shows us that, rather than arriving at judgments independently, Elizabeth assumes them from her community. Elizabeth’s conviction concerning Darcy’s ‘pride’—a judgment that is pivotal for the plot—is one that moves from her community to her family, and which she accepts without real question. Her initial reaction to Darcy’s snub at the ball is to make light of it with her friends: it is her community that presses her to feel ‘mortified’ by it. ‘In short, while Elizabeth herself sends the story of Darcy’s snub out into the community, she gets her opinion and feeling about it handed back to her’ (508). Likewise, in her dealing with George Wickham, Elizabeth displays her conformity to her community’s manner of thinking, her unwillingness to ‘let the facts stand in the way of what she wants to believe’ and her uncritical dependence upon universal judgments (Wickham is a man of pleasant countenance; therefore Wickham must be amiable).

Elizabeth’s seeming unconventionality is nonetheless contained within the bounds of convention: ‘In a community that includes everyone by allowing each a slightly different role, the role it allows her—but it is only a role—is that of the person who is not fully included.’ Indeed, like her community, she is unable to cope with contradiction: ‘modification, not rejection, is her typical mode of response’ (514). This failing is most notably displayed in her conversation with Wickham about Darcy: ‘For all that she can play the gadfly, let it once become clear that she will hear only what confirms her own judgments, and she settles into a steady rhythm of assent’ (521). The result is a ‘positive feedback loop, a conversational form of circular reasoning.’ It is telling that Austen describes the characteristic of Wickham and Elizabeth’s conversation as ‘mutual satisfaction’. Such a conversational dynamic is encouraged by the character of the community: the intimacy of the group makes conflict quite unwelcome and encourages the use of modification rather than contradiction, smoothing differences over into ‘a semblance of concord’ (522). For the sake of social harmony, important differences are dissembled and contradiction cannot be admitted. The result is a suffocation of careful and critical thought and judgment.

Yes, Elizabeth can seem to an disengaged reader as someone who is feisty and self-governed but the small talk of the town and its prejudices become hers.  While Jane Austen has been described as the least romantic author to have written romance it might be more accurate to suggest that Austen wrote satires of manners in which the engine of the narrative was the customs of marriage in class categories. There's another essay over at Mere Orthodoxy about how Jane Austen and Fyodor Dostoevsky can be construed as having parallel concerns about the nature of philosophy and applied ethics but from vastly different cultural perspectives and with different senses of scale for their narrative settings. But you can go look that up on your own, dear readers.

The dynamic in which self-reinforcing judgments within a community are not carefully examined leading to a feedback loop of misunderstandings ... it gets Wenatchee The Hatchet thinking about what ribbon farm contributor Sarah Perry referred to as "preference falsification" and that reminds Wenatchee The Hatchet of how things seemed to be at Mars Hill.  For an old post ...

Roberts continues and WtH wants to highlight this:

What the Internet and the mobile phone make possible is the establishment of a new ‘saturated social environment’, which shares a number of common features with the society of Meryton as Deresiewicz described it. Modernity has rendered us more detached from each other and more disembedded from particular contexts, yet our communications technology offers us a way seemingly to overcome this social alienation, providing us with media with which to ‘connect’ to each other. Our lives are caught between this profound condition of alienation and a sort of ersatz state of hyper-connection that substitutes for what we lack in our offline existence. While some might have expected the Internet and mobile phones chiefly to be used for the communication of information, their primary significance in most people’s lives is their provision for the communication of presence. The Internet often feels a lot less like an ‘information superhighway’ and much more like a virtual village, where, through countless intertwined lines of relationship, everyone is minding everyone else’s business. - See more at:

Before Mars Hill became a virtual city it sometimes feels as though it was easier to stay truly connected to the social life of the place when social activity had to be physical rather than virtual. It's possible to maintain a sense of what Roberts might describe as social presence thanks to the internet but actual time spent together in conversation can precipitously decline. But on the other hand for those who lack vehicles or the bodily ability to just go "be" where a social scene is, the internet can be a remarkably powerful tool to facilitate connection. It's difficult to not reflexively propose that the people who complain most on social media about the shallowness of social media are the ones who 1) most benefit from this arrangement 2) most want that arrangement to stay as it is.  It may be a paradoxical humblebrag, the user of social media lamenting the lack of connection to "real" people when the whole point of social media (as an extension of broadcast media) can be for the mass, impersonal audience.  There can be an illusion of connection and also a reality of connection.  A great deal depends on what you intend to make of it and what you do with it.

Austen insightfully recognized the manner in which our delight in tight-knit, pleasant, and agreeable communities—and in conversations marked by ‘mutual satisfaction’—renders us susceptible to deep distortions of communal discourse, knowledge, and judgment.  When we are all so relationally cosy with each other, we will shrink back from criticizing people in the way that we ought, voluntarily muting disagreement, and will shut out external criticism, reassuring and reaffirming anyone exposed to it. In such contexts, a cloying closeness stifles the expression of difference and conversations take on a character akin to the ‘positive feedback loop’ that existed in Wickham and Elizabeth’s conversation, where affirmation and assent merely reinforced existing prejudices. In such contexts, communities become insular (a tendency that can be exacerbated by algorithms), echo chambers of accepted opinion, closed to opposing voices.

Wow, that DOES seem familiar, doesn't it!  That dynamic is more benign in a Jane Austen novel than it was at Mars Hill.  Her novels are small and quotidian in focus but the potential harm in letting the social dynamics Roberts describes in her works aren't so small in real life. 

It's feeling weird to realize that in the years before I shifted out of Mars Hill I was on a little bit of a Jane Austen binge.

Roberts, as usual, has quite a bit more to say.  The observation that one of the dangers of the online village is that there are rarely occasions for the kind of isolation in which a person will readily if steadily arrive at his or her own actual view of things is a useful one.

Particularly illuminating is the observation that Elizabeth Bennett's mind about Mr. Darcy begins to change when she's away from her hometown. She isn't able to begin shaking off not only her own prejudice but that prejudice which has been shared with her by her community until she's literally and figuratively in a different place.

A critical turning point in the plot occurs when Elizabeth receives Darcy’s letter. It is significant that she receives the letter while away from her community, without recourse to its communal processes of judgment. Had she been at home in Longbourn, she would have talked over the letter’s contents with Jane, potentially defusing it in the process. Elizabeth later remarks of her situation that she was ‘with no one to speak to of what I felt, no Jane to comfort me and say that I had not been so very weak and vain and nonsensical as I knew I had.’ Her characteristic judgment and coping mechanism of talking things over in intimate and affirming community not being open to her, Elizabeth had no excuse but to engage in the painful and unsettling introspection that her highly affirming friends and family members had hitherto discouraged. Admitting the voice of contradiction required a non-social space and time, it required being forced to think self-critically, rather than receiving an affirming judgment from her community.

Now Wenatchee The Hatchet can only surmise at this point but it has been interesting over the last four or five years to hear from a handful of people who were once at Mars Hill that reading blogs and websites alone, whether Warren Throckmorton's or Joyful Exiles or others, played a role in the decision to either transition away from Mars Hill or to begin voicing some concern inside the community about how things were being handled.  To take up Roberts' observation, there seems to have been a need for solitude, for wrestling with contradictions and problems that were being too readily smoothed over within the social confines of the community itself.

Roberts describes a community in which there is a high level of social saturation.  In family therapy jargon a comparable term could be the undifferentiated ego mass. A developmental/social challenge in such a context is threading the needle, finding a balance between differentiation and belonging.

Yet this establishment of distance neither entails pure rejection nor abandonment.

There could be a lot to unpack from such a sentence.  There was some inspiration to revisit an Atlantic piece about Joan Didion recently, another favorite author of Wenatchee The Hatchet.  Her beautifully icy detached literary style has been a touchstone.  Maybe there's some poetic justness to Wenatchee The Hatchet, having written so much about Mark Driscoll and his strange ideals of manhood being a fan of Joan Didion and Jane Austen.  It's certainly quaint to observe that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Mark Driscoll's much-loved Braveheart and Wenatchee The Hatchet's much-loved Toy Story. I would firmly propose the cartoon had the less cartoonish understanding of masculinity ... but it feels like there's been enough words typed for the evening. We can stop here.

HT Phoenix Preacher, Aimee Byrd at Mortification of Spin on the problematic gender views of John Piper

Even at the peak of my contentment within Mars Hill I never quite got John Piper.  The guys who liked John Piper seemed to not have enough good to say about him and when I read him my impression was, so he's a Calvinist Baptist, I guess.  What's so special about this?  Christian hedonism?  Meh.

Over time Wenatchee The Hatchet went from finding Piper unimpressive to finding Piper annoying.  It was as though every natural disaster was a time for Piper to reflect on what a gentle reminder the disaster was.  If your puppy got hit by a runaway truck Piper would be there to meditate on what a gentle reminder it was for you to repent.  Piper and Pat Robertson began to seem in the same orbit in the solar system.

And then as I read Piper's notions about gender roles it began to seem weird.  Not weird in the sense that Wenatchee The Hatchet is rah-rah for progressive anything as such, weird as in Piper's views were vague at best and the less vague they got the dumber they seemed.

Fortunately complementarians of the Piperian variety can get to saying stuff so weird that even really conservative types can begin to say "Wait a minute ... you can't seriously mean that." 

Thus we get Aimee Byrd at Mortification of Spin, sharing that John Piper's ideas are idiosyncratic, incoherent and seem to have no plausibly defensible basis in biblical texts.

Have you heard or read the transcripts of a recent episode [WtH, for those who don't scroll-over] , regarding a woman who wrote in asking, “Can a single Christian woman, who is a complementarian, become a police officer?”
When I saw the question, I thought, “Well this should be a short episode. Yes, as long as she can pass all of the education, physical, and background requirements for the job.” But I guess I didn’t realize that there is a biblical manhood and biblical womanhood filter that this question needed to go through. Dr. Piper lays out his definitions:
At the heart of mature manhood is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships. The postman won’t relate to the lady at the door the way a husband will, but he will be a man. At the heart of mature womanhood is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.
It's a shame, really.  Such profligate imprecision in language on Piper's part.  After all, the indefinite article does not indicate whether "a husband" is "her husband", which may get to a core idiocy in the ambiguity of the language John Piper uses that is more delicately addressed by Aimee Byrd.  Perhaps a Piperite might consider it befitting the gentleness of her femininity?
I find these definitions troublesome. Some of the words used here to describe mature manhood sound an awful lot like the Hebrew word ezer, or as we know it helper, that describes Eve in Gen. 2:18, and in verses like Ps. 20:1-2, 33:20 and 121:2, describes God’s provision and protection for Israel.
Byrd quotes some more from Piper:
There is a continuum from very personal influence, very eye-to-eye, close personal influence, to non-personal influence. And the other continuum is very directive — commands and forcefulness — directive influence to very non-directive influence. And here is my conviction. To the degree that a woman’s influence over a man, guidance of a man, leadership of a man, is personal and a directive, it will generally offend a man’s good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God’s created order. To an extent, a woman’s leadership or influence may be personal and non-directive or directive and non-personal, but I don’t think we should push the limits. I don’t think those would necessarily push the limits of what is appropriate. That is my general paradigm of guidance. And you can see how flexible it is and how imprecise it is. So let me give some examples.
I am glad that he articulated that this is his own conviction, rather than saying flat out that this is what Scripture teaches. I find it very confusing
Because it's completely idiotic, that's why it's confusing.  Did John Piper forget that, as Aimee Byrd noted, there's this woman named Deborah in the book of Judges?  Byrd does not mention Huldah but Huldah the prophetess was consulted about the authenticity of a book of the law, right?  Skeptical biblical scholars and skeptics have even gone so far as to propose that that book was probably Deuteronomy and that a Huldah and/or Jeremiah formulated the book within that generation. Whether a person accepts or rejects that we can switch back to a commentary like Barry Webb's on The Book of Judges and not that, contra the deep and fervent wishes of contemporary complementarians, there isn't any textual evidence or even inferential basis for the idea that anyone thought it was unacceptable for Deborah to be either a prophetess or a judge.  Reading that back on to the text won't make it so. 
Would Josiah have been an unmanly man for heeding the words of Huldah?  Sure, Barak was told the glory that could have been his would go to a woman, because rather than accept Deborah's instructions and go as commanded he insisted that she be with him.  That was acceptable, but in exchange, Barak would not get the glory of the victory.  For whatever reason, Barak seemed totally okay with this.  God's people were delivered in a time of battle and God was praised and maybe Barak didn't care quite as much amidst that that he didn't get the gold star for the victory. 
Piper is vague and if he weren't vague he'd get to explain how a teenage son should respond to a direct and personal order from his mother to wash the dishes respects his manhood.  After all, physically speaking, the guy's a man.

Monday, August 17, 2015

John Oliver's church, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption

Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption ... that's quite a church name there.

West Seattle follow up once again the church that has met at that building seems to have had to buy back its own building

7551 35th Avenue SW
Seattle, WA 98126
as of July 22, 2015 Trinity West (formerly Mars Hill West Seattle which was formerly Doxa) now owns its own real estate. Gross sale price was a bit under 2 million. The officer on behalf of Trinity West on the transaction is named as David Lee, one of the directors in the WA SOS listing.
What was once Mars Hill Seattle has the most comprehensively documented history, at least here at Wenatchee The Hatchet. You can peruse the other tagged posts with "west seattle" at your leisure.
There's a peculiar way that history has repeated itself here with the church at the formerly Doxa real estate that may be best summed up by words in a sermon from 2006 preached by Mark Driscoll.
Since Mars Hill yanked so many sermons over the last calendar year, and since it's not clear whether Mark Driscoll Ministries will feature this content it seems, once again, that Wenatchee The Hatchet has to quote something that was documented by Wenatchee The Hatchet:

Part 26: One Body, Many parts
1 Corinthians 12:12-26
Pastor Mark Driscoll
July 30, 2006

… In the meantime, we also picked up another miracle. This is West Seattle. This is on 35th at the top of the hill in West Seattle as you head toward White Center. I grew up in this neighborhood. This is a church building that is an absolute miracle. I’ll tell you the story on this space. I tried to launch Mars Hill Church in that building ten years ago, and we were rejected, and I’ve always wanted to be in there since. And what happened was, is we were growing. I went to Pastor Bill Clem, who was leading that congregation. He planted it for Acts 29 Church Planning Network [emphasis added], him and James Noriega, who is the other elder there and I said, “We’re maxed out. You got a fat building, 50,000 square feet, 1,000 seats.:” It’s a bigger building and the one you’re sitting in right now. I said, “Is there any way we to use it?” They said, “Well, we wanna reach as many people in West Seattle as possible. How about if we give it to you and work together?” we prayed about it for a second and said, “Yes.”

That is a $5 million gift. That is a $5 million gift, right? And I don’t know if you’ve been tracking the real estate market, people aren’t giving away a lotta real estate right now in Seattle and so we have – we’ve taken Pastor James and Pastor Bill on staff at Mars Hill. We have taken their members through the Gospel Class and they’re now members of Mars Hill. [emphasis added] They’ve been meeting as a core group over there. As we speak, there is $1.5 million of construction going on at the West Seattle campus, with the intention of opening in October in time for our ten year anniversary, and we want to expand over to West Seattle as well. We were thinking, “Well, we can borrow $8 million from the bank. We can spend $3 million and for $11 million, we can open up a 40,000 square foot location.” Well, we can now open more square feet for $1.5 million. So obviously, you take that opportunity.

The two cool aspects of this particular campus is one, is already zoned as a church, so we don’t need to fight use permits. We don’t have to bring it up to code. We can just walk in and use it immediately and it saves us, literally, a few years of permitting. Secondly, the lot that it is on is only zoned for 15,000 square feet of building and it already has 50,000 square feet, and because as grandfathered in, we could use it all. We could never build this building today as it exists.  And the cool thing with this building, a very Godly church that loved the Bible – started this church, built it, their denomination went liberal, dropped the doctrine of the inerrancy or perfection of Scripture and this building went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and was the test case for who owns the church building, the congregation or the denomination. The congregation lost and these people actually bought their own building back, because they refused to drop the authority of Scripture as their value. [emphases added] And so, there were some Godly older saints who paid for this building twice. It then went into decline but there is still a core of these people, like in their 70s and 80s, that are now members of Mars Hill. Grandmas tithing, waiting for us all to show up and fill that thing up again, and they’re praying us in. It’s a really cool God story and what God has done is pretty amazing.
Last October Mark Driscoll resigned and as Kerry Dodd has mentioned via LinkedIn he's been successfully overseeing new entities emerging away from the corporation known as Mars Hill Fellowship, Inc.  Once again faithful churchgoers have apparently had to pony up the money to buy back the building of their own church.  Plus or minus a few fees it looks like Mars Hill bought the real estate from Doxa for a gross sale price of slightly over 180,000 ... so it looks like anyone who stayed at what was Mars Hill West Seattle through it's Doxa-to-Mars-to-Trinity stage got to see the people at that church sell the real estate to Mars Hill for about a tenth of what they recently had to pay to get the same building back.

So ... basically, it looks like what was once Mars Hill West Seattle is re-incorporated in some fashion where the Mars Hill corporate/board leadership required Mars Hill West Seattle turned Trinity West to have to BUY BACK ITS OWN REAL ESTATE.  Why?  ...

Here's an excerpt from Driscoll in 2004.
1 Timothy
Part 12: 1 Timothy 6:1-10
Pastor Mark Driscoll
March 21, 2004

These silly, stupid, little denominations, what they do is this. Hank in Dubuque, Iowa, is a union farmer. He goes to his local church, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, whatever mainline liberal denomination it might be. Hank loves Jesus. Hank gets radically saved. Hank takes 10 percent of all the money from his plumbing job, and he gives it to his church 'cause his pastor there loves Jesus, and he doesn’t know any different. The pastor’s a good guy, and Hank’s a good guy, so Hank gives 10 percent to the church. Hank thinks it’s going to the church.
Well, it doesn’t go to the church. Hank’s 10 percent goes into some fund that’s far away from Hank in some bureaucrat’s office. And that bureaucrat’s paid by Hank to sit around and make decisions and write silly little books that’ll govern Hank’s church. And if Hank doesn’t agree with it, that’s just tough 'cause Hank doesn’t have a Master’s degree. [emphasis added]He only loves Jesus. He’s just a plumber. He should shut up. He’s like Jesus. He’s a blue collar guy, not really fit to do doctrine.

And so this guy over here and his bureaucrat friends who get their salary paid by Hank’s 10 percent and his buddy’s 10 percent from the union hall, they decide that all the sudden Hank’s gonna have a homosexual pastor. All of the sudden, Hank’s not gonna believe that the Bible’s the Word of God 'cause they took a vote.

All of the sudden, they’re gonna send theologians in to do a conference telling Hank that maybe Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. And Hank wonders, “Why do I gotta put up with this? Am I not paying your salary? You don’t seem to love Jesus.”

And then those guys say, “Well, you know what, Hank? We own your building. You and your kids and your grandkids and your friends, you guys worked really hard, and you’ve given sacrificially to pay off that building? Ultimately, Hank, we own your real estate, so Hank, you gotta put up with this, meaning you gotta keep paying our salary to abuse you. And if you try to rebel, we’ll steal the real estate that you paid millions of dollars for, Hank.” That’s how mainline denominations work. You wonder why people don’t leave their denomination? Because the denomination – the liberal ones – own the property. Guys, think about that.

We bought this building a year ago. You guys are giving sacrificially. We’re paying for this building. Can you imagine working very, very, very hard as a church to pay this off and we don’t own it? Some bureaucrat in office somewhere that you never met, that doesn’t know you, that when you get sick won’t be at the hospital laying hands and praying over you, won’t baptize your kids when they get saved, won’t officiate your wedding, won’t sit down and study the Bible with you? A guy you can’t even meet with, you’ll never know, just some guy pushing paperwork somewhere who’s not your pastor, he control your building that you paid for. [emphasis added]
And where does the money netted from the sale go?  Kerry Dodd can boast that he's overseeing the dissolution of Mars Hill Fellowship, Inc. and the liquidation and distribution of its assets.  But where's all the money for the sale of Mars Hill Ballard to Quest going?  Where's the money for selling West Seattle to Trinity West Seattle going?  If as Sutton Turner explained earlier this year Mars Hill is basically just a holding company what is the company holding the returns for the real estate purchases for? 

2745035 20150723001577 6/24/2015 $1,711,768.00MARS HILL CHURCHTRINITY WEST SEATTLEStatutory Warranty DeedNone
2212348 20060606001775 6/2/2006 $180,236.00GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCHMARS HILL FELLOWSHIPStatutory Warranty DeedNone

who has recognized Kerry Dodd for successfully launching 11 new independent entities by separating the organization (Mars Hill?) from it's 15 operating locations? Kerry Dodd?

As the corporation now known as Mars Hill Fellowship, Inc. continues (apparently) to dissolve, it's been interesting to read Kerry Dodd's self-description lately.

President and General Manager

Mars Hill Fellowship, Inc.
– Present (less than a year)Seatlle, WA
- Keen management to daily operations to guarantee proper handling of all legal affairs and creditor obligations
- Tactical administration to the liquidation of real property and other assets; along with the distribution of net assets
- Recognition for the successful launching of 11 new independent entities by separating the organization from its 15 operating locations
- Appointment as corporate president of the board of directors; as well as promotion to general manager, in charge of leading the transition team in settling the affairs of the corporation toward the distribution of net assets and dissolution
Dodd's LinkedIn profile says "recognition" but who has recognized Dodd for this stuff? Himself?  Most people didn't realize Kerry Dodd was president until ... maybe ... when the news coverage detailed how a piece of Mars Hill real estate got sold and the signature was Dodd's rather than someone else.  Who appointed him?  Members of the BoAA, probably?
Liquidation of property and other assets would probably include that auction Driscoll mentioned.
It's a bit early to know which of the 11 will go the distance.  Dodd seems to be counting chickens before they've hatched.  Cross & Crown may have a good base from the three prior campuses and possibly grandfathering into the old U-district real estate to survive.  It's tough to know for sure, though.

Chief Financial Officer

Mars Hill Church
(3 years)Seattle, WA
- Effectual support to 15 locations and collaboration with other executive team members and board of directors to decide on critical business areas as a director and member of the Corporate Executive Team
- Hands-on supervision to five direct reports in three departments, such as Finance and Accounting, Human Resource Management, and Information Technology
- Efficiency in handling key tasks such as financial stewardship, organizational strategies and vision development, annual planning and budget process, variance reporting, cash flow management, and research and monitoring of financial trends
- Development and cultivation of relationships with bankers, auditors, and attorneys to coordinate legal affairs
- Keen management to more than $30M annual revenue, $40M assets, and more than 150 staff
- Acknowledgment for creating a 104-page operations manual and implementing its policies and procedures on financial stewardship, personnel, technology, facilities, legal, and communications
- Facilitation of in-depth research and execution of a robust software package to support the expansion of financial operations and donor management, while driving the organization toward domestic growth and international development
It's difficult to know who was recognizing Dodd for successfully separating the campuses from central operations other than Kerry Dodd himself unless other insiders were recognizing.

Jeff Bettger talks with Zac Gandara about punk music and being an elder at Mars Hill

language alert, just in case. 

Wenatchee The Hatchet has intermittently tried to explain that for people who were never actually part of the early Mars Hill scene it's very difficult to convey that there was almost an artist/musician community/commune vibe to the place.  Jeff's more capable of conveying that sense than Wenatchee The Hatchet, particularly in this lengthy podcast interview.  For Jeff it was the punk/new wave/indie rock scene and Mars Hill was kind of a space where people with evangelical backgrounds who had arts and music interests that didn't fit the "normal" could fit in. For Wenatchee The Hatchet it was being into anime and liking films by Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon and also being into classical music but not always the kind of classical music that people listen to for fun.

What's funny is that while Zac and Jeff thought The Shining was super scary when I saw it I was in my early 20s and was already listening to Bartok and Penderecki and Ligeti and Messiaen for fun. So my gut reaction to Kubrick's film was "This movie is actually pretty boring ... but the soundtrack is amazing!"  And then there's adoring the string quartets of Haydn but, anyway, if you want to listen to a long podcast that I think goes a long way to explaining the music side of the culture that was once MH it would be difficult to find someone better than Jeff to explain the early scene.  Here's hoping more people who were part of the music scene at Seattle and also part of Mars Hill may share their stories moving forward.  It would go a long way to being able to share with people who were never at Mars Hill that while Mark Driscoll was at times able to be a catalyst in a scene he was a catalyst as much or more than an integral participant in the musical scene that was a significant early attraction for those who joined MH.

I could try to get into the cinephile side of the early scene but to do that would require the overdue and inevitable review of Cinemagogue, which is seriously overdue.