Saturday, September 19, 2015

Carl Trueman "On Gender Differences and Evangelical Complementarianism"--Piper's brand of complementarianism is increasingly stymied with the mundane details of how the real world actually works
But to be serious: To say that one disagrees with John Piper (and perhaps David Talcott) on complementarianism is not necessarily to say that gender makes no difference.  It is thus unnerving that such seems now to be how such disagreement is immediately understood.  And that is another part of the problem with evangelical complementarianism: It is in danger of becoming simply a reactionary movement, defining itself over against feminism, and apparently seeing any criticism of the party line as a fundamental betrayal of the cause.

For those worried about my views on the significance of gender differences, sexuality etc., I refer you to my previous First Thoughts posts passim.   For Aimee’s, check out her book, The Housewife Theologian, which has a whole chapter on the matter. And the fundamental challenge we posed to the organized evangelical complementarian movement still remains unanswered: Where does their version of evangelical complementarianism end and patriarchy begin?  Reading the various critical responses to our initial posts, I have a sneaking suspicion that I now know what the answer is.

To frame Trueman's response in light of recent online discussions about the culture of victimhood and microaggression frameworks, what we have here is a perfect example of how fanboys of John Piper and the CBMW fans treat any disagreement, even from conservative Christians, as reason to doubt group loyalty to the core of the Christian faith.  I.e. Trueman and Byrd can be read as displaying microaggressions against complementarianism by people who feel John Piper's a victim of microaggressions because complementarians view Piper's form of complementarianism as idiotic.

Trueman's too nice be half here.  The Piper-ian version of complementarianism seems completely unmoored from even the possibility of having a practical working definition of what manhood or womanhood even is. I tried slogging through CBMW sprawls and a friend and I were talking about their stuff.  The friend said after all that reading and reading nobody could come up with a simple definition of what "manhood" even is.  There isn't one, not even for the people who say they want to recover biblical manhood and womanhood.  Now if somebody asked me (not that they will) I'd say that Roy Baumeister's observation has been that across cultures in space and time there's basically two criteria to be met for manhood, and these could be extended to adulthood more generally the way I see it:

1) you produce more than you consume
2) you display a willingness to share with others and do so

For every guy who worries about all the expenses of kids, guess what?  You being a dad who buys food and clothing and gifts for your children, you passed the test for manhood some time back when you stuck around long enough to admit you're the legal father of the child and stuck around to invest your life in them.  You're a man.

If anything one of the existential crises of pop culture these days is that the capacity to reproduce has been so divorced from functional adulthood the question of what constitutes growing up keeps coming up and so far between secular and Christian pop culture the only answer anybody seems to want to keep coming back to is getting laid and sticking around to deal with the consequences of babies showing up.  ... in theory. 

But ...

Any reading of the exchange to which David Talcott refers would make it clear that Aimee Byrd and I made one central point and that was not to claim that gender makes no difference.  What we did argue was that the kind of complementarianism advocated by John Piper and company, focused as it is almost exclusively on issues of authority, hierarchy, and submission between the sexes, leads to horribly complicated micro-management and confusion once it is extrapolated to the whole of life.  The evidence?  That there is so much agonizing over how women should give travel directions to men who are lost, whether women should lift weights in the gym, how a housewife should relate to the mailman, etc.  To those unfamiliar with the evangelical discussion on this, yes—these are things which have been raised as serious questions. I leave the reader to decide on whether my use of the term ‘silliness’ was appropriate or excessive.

Trueman's running into this problem, when he or Byrd point out that the Piperian version of gender roles is idiotic when you try to apply it to the simple details of the real world, somebody gets this idea that what they're doing is declaring that gender makes no difference.  That could be seen as someone declaring that when someone says that mobs and corruption have stifled a truly free local market economy and the democratic process, that what a person is REALLY advocating is a socialist totalitarian state. 

As I was writing just earlier this week the culture of victimhood and microaggressions has to be rampant in evangelicalism for anyone to imagine that Carl Trueman has just argued against the idea that gender matters in the public sphere.  He's been saying that Piper's version of gender identity and gender essentialism is, at best, a ludicrous and untenable ideology about gender to try to apply in the majority of real world scenarios.

One of the simplest conundrums in the Piper approach is the teenage son who gets a direct order from his mother.  This "should" be a no-brainer.  If Mom tells you to take out the trash you do it because you love your Mom and you were told to take out the trash.  But that's issuing a direct order and exercising authority over a man on the part of a woman, right?  Of course it is.  Once we set aside the historically unusual category of "adolescent" by any conventional biological standard of a capacity to sexually reproduce the teenage male is a man. Even in the most patriarchal societies around there'd be at least some consensus that, dude, respect your mom. 

Piper's team has had decades to work out what a simple practical definition of manhood and womanhood might be but the stuff I've read from them suggests that they keep falling back on relational dynamics in dyads rather than looking for functional definitions of adulthood for the sexes that can be kept in mind even by celibates who never get married or become sexually active over the course of their lives. Just like all the heathens worshipping at the temple of Aphrodite, it seems a lot of complementarians literally cannot imagine adult life without sex being involved.

It could be tempting to claim that someone lie Trueman has to consider the outworkings of his more minimalist position but I have my doubts about that.  A person can be a pretty conservative Presbyterian and note that because Deborah was a prophet and a judge; and because Huldah was a prophet that women having roles of authority did happen in the biblical texts; the basis from which to say those cases were not normative or signs of divine disapproval need to be defended if they're going to be espoused; and so limiting complementarianism to an approach to ecclesiology and married life isn't unreasonable.

Whether it's progressives relying on "born this way" to advocate for gay marriage or complementarians of the Driscoll/Piper variety appealing to questions of an either/or construction of gender as a social or biological construct, both groups can be off base by trying to stick to a biologically deterministic understanding of sexuality that has been taken up not so much out of an interest in the baffling intricacies of the real world as from an ideologically predetermined aim to make "is" fit their "ought". Or at least that's how it seems this weekend. 

tales of variance and invariance in musical styles--emergence, consolidation, and drift (either into mannerist complexity or simplified redundancy)
...The musicologist Stephen Ledbetter was a student of Gustave Reese, and he tells a story of taking a class with Reese in the 60s:

At one point in class, when the discussion came around to recent trends in music…, someone asked him where he thought music was heading. Reese made the point that the history of music, from at least the 14th century on, has consisted of a series of waves of development in which the style reaches a level of complexity beyond which it seems impossible to go (perhaps for reasons of apparent limits in human perception on the listener’s side or of technical ability on the performers’), and that this “crisis” leads to a radical simplification in one or more elements of music, after which the process begins again….

So when put to the specific question in class about what would happen next in contemporary music, Reese responded, “I have no idea, but I’m sure that it will involve some dramatic simplification, because we seem to have gone about as far as we can on the current track.”

Of course, at just about this time some composers named La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass were simplifying music as dramatically as they could figure out how.

Interestingly enough, we find the same insight once again, elaborated in far more detail, in Leonard Meyer’s book Music, the Arts, and Ideas. In the chapter “Varieties of Style Change,” he theorizes that “once its fundamental material, formal, and syntactic premises have been established, a style tends to change or develop in its own way, according to its own internal and inherent dynamic process.” (p. 114) Meyer goes on to delineate three stages in the development of a style:

* Pre-classic, in which the music has a low level of compositional information and a high level of redundancy, as is necessary for the new style to be intelligently understood;
* Classic, in which the tradeoff between information and redundancy reaches an optimum balance for maximum enjoyment by those listeners educated to understand the style; and
* Mannerist, in which the amount of information rises and redundancy decreases so that the music becomes overly complex for the average listener, and ceases to be understandable by all but a few cognoscenti.

Each cycle in the history of music ends and is replaced by the beginning of a new cycle. As examples Meyer gives the extremely elaborate music of the late Renaissance by Lassus, Palestrina, and especially the mannerist Gesualdo, which was replaced around 1600 by the extremely simple and redundant music of the Florentine Camerata; the highly saturated polyphonic music of Bach and Handel, which gave way in the 1720s and ’30s to the simple, redundant symphonies of Sammartini, Monn, Wagenseil and others; then the hugely elaborate symphonies and tone poems of Strauss and Mahler, which were replaced after World War I by the more modest forms of neoclassicism and early atonality. And at the time Meyer was writing, music had once again reached an apex of complexity and a nadir of redundancy in the works of Babbitt and Boulez. ...
... Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Medical University of Vienna, Austria, scientists found that the more popular a musical style grew, the more generic it became—partly due to the glut of artists that flock to a burgeoning sound and the drop-off in innovation that tends to accompany demand.

The study looked at the "instrumentational complexity" of more than half-a-million albums from 1955 to 2011, across 15 genres and 374 styles as diverse as "hyphy," "viking metal," "acid jazz," and "Korean court music." Within those styles, researchers analyzed the use of nearly 500 instruments. Styles that used generic instruments found in many other styles had low complexity, while styles with a wider array of instruments that were used in fewer styles had high complexity.

Perhaps most interesting is the study's tracking of "complexity life cycles." For one, "experimental," "folk," and "folk rock" consistently maintained high levels of complexity through each time period studied. Others weren't so lucky: "Soul," "classic rock," and "funk" started out high on the complexity scale but have since plummeted.

At different points in time, styles such as "euro house," "disco," and "pop rock" decreased in complexity, but enjoyed higher average album sales, while "experimental," "alternative rock," and "hip hop" became more complex, but saw overall sales decline. "This can be interpreted," the researchers said, "as music becoming increasingly formulaic in terms of instrumentation under increasing sales numbers due to a tendency to popularize music styles with low variety and musicians with similar skills." (In terms of instrumentation being the key here—and the study only looked at complexity factors that lent themselves to quantitative analysis such as acoustics and timbre).

The Hot 100 matters because it doesn’t just reflect listener preferences, it also shapes them. In a groundbreaking 2006 study on the influence of song rankings, three researchers at Columbia University showed that popularity can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The researchers sent participants to different music Web sites where they could listen to dozens of tracks and download their favorites. Some sites displayed a ranking of the most-downloaded songs; others did not. Participants who saw rankings were more likely to listen to the most-popular tracks.

The researchers then wondered what would happen if they manipulated the rankings. In a follow-up experiment, some sites displayed the true download counts and others showed inverted rankings, where the least-popular song was listed in the No. 1 spot. The inverted rankings changed everything: previously ignored songs soared in popularity, and previously popular songs were ignored. Simply believing, even wrongly, that a song was popular made participants more likely to download it.
Billboard replaced its honor system with hard numbers in 1991, basing its charts on point-of-sale data from cash registers. “This was revolutionary,” says Silvio Pietroluongo, Billboard’s current director of charts. “We were finally able to see which records were actually selling.” Around the same time, Billboard switched to monitoring radio airplay through Nielsen.

When that happened, hip-hop and country surged in the rankings and old-fashioned rock slowly began to fade—suggesting that perhaps an industry dominated by white guys on the coasts hadn’t paid enough attention to the music interests of urban minorities and southern whites.
Now that the Billboard rankings are a more accurate reflection of what people buy and play, songs stay on the charts much longer. The 10 songs that have spent the most time on the Hot 100 were all released after 1991, when Billboard started using point-of-sale data—and seven were released after the Hot 100 began including digital sales, in 2005. “It turns out that we just want to listen to the same songs over and over again,” Pietroluongo told me.

Because the most-popular songs now stay on the charts for months, the relative value of a hit has exploded. The top 1 percent of bands and solo artists now earn 77 percent of all revenue from recorded music, media researchers report. And even though the amount of digital music sold has surged, the 10 best-selling tracks command 82 percent more of the market than they did a decade ago. The advent of do-it-yourself artists in the digital age may have grown music’s long tail, but its fat head keeps getting fatter.

Radio stations, meanwhile, are pushing the boundaries of repetitiveness to new levels. According to a subsidiary of iHeartMedia, Top 40 stations last year played the 10 biggest songs almost twice as much as they did a decade ago. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” the most played song of 2013, aired 70 percent more than the most played song from 2003, “When I’m Gone,” by 3 Doors Down. Even the fifth-most-played song of 2013, “Ho Hey,” by the Lumineers, was on the radio 30 percent more than any song from 10 years prior.

And not only are we hearing the same hits with greater frequency, but the hits themselves sound increasingly alike. As labels have gotten more adept at recognizing what’s selling, they’ve been quicker than ever to invest in copycats. People I spoke with in the music industry told me they worried that the reliance on data was leading to a “clustering” of styles and genres, promoting a dispiriting sameness in pop music.

In 2012, the Spanish National Research Council released a report that delighted music cranks around the world. Pop, it seemed, was growing increasingly bland, loud, and predictable, recycling the same few chord progressions over and over. The study, which looked at 464,411 popular recordings around the world between 1955 and 2010, found that the most-played music of the new millennium demonstrates “less variety in pitch transitions” than that of any preceding decade. The researchers concluded that old songs could be made to sound “novel and fashionable” just by freshening up the instrumentation and increasing “the average loudness.”

The problem is not our pop stars. Our brains are wired to prefer melodies we already know. (David Huron, a musicologist at Ohio State University, estimates that at least 90 percent of the time we spend listening to music, we seek out songs we’ve heard before.) That’s because familiar songs are easier to process, and the less effort needed to think through something—whether a song, a painting, or an idea—the more we tend to like it. In psychology, this idea is known as fluency: when a piece of information is consumed fluently, it neatly slides into our patterns of expectation, filling us with satisfaction and confidence.

“Things that are familiar are comforting, particularly when you are feeling anxious,” Norbert Schwarz, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California, who studies fluency, told me. “When you’re in a bad mood, you want to see your old friends. You want to eat comfort food. I think this maps onto a lot of media consumption. When you’re stressed out, you don’t want to put on a new movie or a challenging piece of music. You want the old and familiar.”

Floating an idea here, after all that--it's interesting that on the classical side of things the shift in a developed style is toward more complexity and mannerism.  From the Classic era to the Romantic era a sonata would drop the structural repetition of the exposition, for instance, or it might introduce larger or a larger number of themes. A development section might introduce a new theme altogether. 

But to go by how people describe the evolution of styles of popular music, once a style has emerged it explodes with variety that later shifts toward what some would feel is a stultifying sameness.  Dwight Macdonald's vituperation against pop culture and the corporate systems that promoted it generally was that it was going to boil out and away every folk and regional/communal element that made folk art and folk music actually interesting in favor of an undifferentiated mass culture.

Fortunately musical styles can never even possibly exist in isolation.  Still, these patterns of evolution within musical styles are interesting to read about.  I think that Leo Brouwer and Toru Takemitsu were both on to an interesting idea proposing that if there's a "future" in music it will be in fusion.  If any given individual style calcifies and de-verifies or becomes overly mannerist WITHIN the style, and if we're living in an era in which revolutionary change is not likely, the revolution won't be a "new" style but fusions of existing styles.  It's not like Miles Davis and the Beatles and countless other musicians within and across styles haven't been showing us the way on this for the last half century.

musical trivia post, the time Rachmaninoff donated money to Igor Sikorsky, inventor of the helicopter

HT Ribbon Farm

My absolute favorite story of clod-snowflake relationships is that of Rachmaninoff and Sikorsky. The former, a wealthy and successful musician, gave the latter, a struggling inventor immigrant, a check for $5000. That eventually led to the perfection of the modern helicopter.

Read that again. A musician gave an engineer money to perfect the helicopter.

So in addition to having composed a gorgeous setting of the All-Night Vigil and the Liturgy of St. John Chrystostom and other musical works, here's something else you might not have heard of before about Rachmaninoff.

Noah Millman on Pharisees, Christians, and Hypocrites--" ... the standard of saintly humility can't be met either. But there's limited evidence that the kinds of people who are typically charged with hypocrisy were even trying to live up to it."
Finally: it’s worth pointing out that Christians have a particular problem with charges of hypocrisy, for two reasons.

Here’s the first one:

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying,
The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

Jesus’s denunciation of hypocrisy is hard to square with the wisdom of “the tribute vice pays to virtue.” Close to the core of Jesus’s ethical message is the claim that the Pharisaical approach – articulating laws for every aspect of life such that, if you stay within their bounds, you are righteous – far from being the path to righteousness is a path to sin. The law is still the law, and we’re supposed to follow it, to the best of our ability. But we should not follow people who declare themselves masters of the law, and we should not be impressed by people who make a show of their righteousness – we should not be hypocrites ourselves and we should not follow hypocrites.

So, when Christians act like Jesus’s Pharisees, they have a harder time relying on defenses that are explicitly rejected by Jesus.

But the deeper reason for the difficulty is that Christianity’s alternative answer to the problem of sin is, well, hard to swallow. Grace, justification – these are very weird, mysterious ideas that I suspect most Christians don’t really understand. They can sound, to someone who hasn’t swallowed them, an awful lot like a get-out-of-jail-free card, like a claim that once you say you’ve been saved, then you have no further obligation related to your past sins, and even future sins will be readily forgiven. It can sound an awful lot like, well, hypocrisy.

It isn’t – or needn’t be. Whether it’s true or not, and whether it “works” or not (which – for a pragmatist like me – amount to the same thing), Christianity is a powerful and sophisticated system. But as I understand it, the way you’re supposed to comport yourself within a Christian framework is rather like the way a member of AA is supposed to comport herself: as someone permanently addicted to sin, powerless to fight that addiction, seeking always to confess and make amends for past sins, and aware that only by the grace of a higher power has she made it through this day, and that
tomorrow is yet another day in need of that same grace.

The standard of sinlessness cannot be met – that’s part of the Christian system’s point. And the standard of saintly humility can’t be met either. But there’s limited evidence that the kinds of people who are typically charged with hypocrisy were even trying to live up to it. [emphasis added]

That may be the biggest reason why the charges so often stick.

from The American Conservative, Noah Millman on outrage porn
Outrage is a kind of drug, one that gives the illusion of involvement, of caring, when [it] really derives its power from an emotional and informational distance that the stories themselves then strive to deepen, laying the groundwork for the next piece of outrage porn to do its work. And thus proceeds an addictive cycle.
And I don’t know what to do about that. In my own life, and my own writing, I strive to follow the line from “Wargames” – “the only way to win is not to play.” As a consequence, outrage, like cheap vodka, which once seemed to reduce my inhibitions and make me feel strong and confident, now makes me feel a bit ill, and puts me to sleep.

But without it, the job of blogging is a whole lot harder.

Ted Gioia at the Daily Beast, describing copyright law in contemporary society as a "corporate welfare program" rather than something to serve the interest of artists and musicians


Copyright law wasn’t always a corporate welfare program. The first federal copyright law, from 1790, only allowed a 14-year copyright, with the possibility of an additional 14-year extension if the right holder were still alive. That bill, signed into law by George Washington, didn’t even take up an entire page when it was published in the newspaper. But current copyright statutes, in comparison, would fill a thick book. And the general trend has been to give more and more protection to those intellectual property owners who have money to hire lobbyists and lawyers.

We can’t even pretend that these extensions protect the rights of composers—no songwriter in history has lived long enough to survive a current-day copyright term. Even Irving Berlin, who died at age 101 in 1980, couldn’t outlive the rights to his songs. In 2015, if you want to sing “White Christmas” or another classic Berlin hit on record or in public, be prepared to fill up the stockings of the corporate owner.

Over at The New Yorker, Louis Menand has proposed that the philosophical arguments about copyright and intellectual property are ultimately irrelevant to the real battle, which is between the corporate/industry haves and have-nots interested in monetizing content or the capacity to look for it.
At bottom, the argument about copyright is not really a philosophical argument. It’s a battle between interest groups. Baldwin points this out—although, like everyone who takes a position on copyright, he also thinks that his is the philosophically defensible one. In the copyright wars, there are many sets of opposing stakeholders. Much litigation involves corporate entities, which have the financial resources to pursue cases through the courts. In these copyright battles, the main antagonists are the businesses that own copyrighted goods and the businesses that don’t.

Let’s call the first type of business Hollywood and the second type Silicon Valley. Hollywood, along with the music industry and the publishing industry, which are the other major analog-era corporate interests, makes money by producing and distributing content. Silicon Valley makes money by aggregating other people’s content. Hollywood fears pirates; Silicon Valley fears paywalls. Silicon Valley accuses Hollywood of “monopoly” and “artificial scarcity,” and talks about the democracy of the Internet. Hollywood accuses Silicon Valley of “free riding” and “contributory infringement, ” and talks about protecting the dignity of the artist. But each side is only trying to defend its business model.

Freelancers versus salaried content creators is another interest-group antagonism. Most of the people who are critical of the length of copyright protection today are academics. (Patry is an exception, but he’s the senior copyright counsel at Google.) This is probably not unrelated to the fact that academics have almost no financial stake in copyright. The research and writing they do is part of their job as employees of universities, or as the recipients of external, usually taxpayer supported grants. They don’t depend on sales to survive.

Freelancers, on the other hand, are unhappy with what they regard as the erosion of their right to control copying, which they see, for example, in the legally sanctioned practice of posting “snippets” on sites like Amazon, iTunes, and Google Books. Musicians and other artists tend to regard the Internet as a place where anything goes, an ungovernable Barbary Coast. On the Web, the general rule—known as a “take-down notice”—is that you can post almost anything as long as you take it down when the rights holder complains. No harm, no foul. There are some technical preconditions that the poster has to meet to earn the protection, but this does not seem to freelancers to be a very effective way to discourage copying.

another piece on the Cascade subduction zone, this article shifts some emphasis to reliance on folklore as actual history

Two observations on this for the weekend before you read the excerpt:

1) even in science intuition and hunches have a role.  The ideological insistence that all science is only ever guided by "the scientific method" forgets that there are a lot of methods for testing a hypothesis for the confirmation or rejection of the applicability of a hypothesis.

2) consulting folklore from American Indian tribes along the Pacific Northwest coast played a crucial role in the formulation of the idea of the Cascade subduction zone.  If all the white settlers and 19th century thinkers who believed the forward progress of the American manifest destiny who wanted to kill off all the Indians had gotten their way there'd have been no folkloric legacy from which the scientists could have formulated their theory.
Then in the early 1980s, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission was considering whether to locate nuclear power plants in Washington and Oregon, and just to be sure, asked the U.S. Geological Survey whether the Cascadia subduction zone was safe from earthquakes. Heaton, then at the USGS, knew about subduction zones because he’d consulted for Exxon on oil platforms in earthquake-prone Alaska. He compared the Cascadia zone with known earthquake areas and told the NRC, “Well, maybe it is aseismic, but another interpretation is, it looks like Chile—which is also aseismic, except for the big ones.” Perhaps, Heaton suggested, the Cascadia zone had escaped earthquakes only because it was currently locked.

Heaton published his surmise in 1984, and within a few years, Brian Atwater, also at the USGS, and other geologists found evidence of moving ground and great floods. But building geological evidence into a credible theory can take decades, and in the meantime, a colleague of Atwater and Heaton’s named Parke Snavely had been reading stories from the Makah people in Washington that described what sounded like floods. One Makah story in particular resembled the 1700 tsunami. “A long time ago but not at a very remote period,” the story began, the ocean receded quickly, then rose again until it submerged Cape Flattery; canoes were stranded in trees and many people died.

Snavely told Heaton about the stories, and the two of them did something un-geoscientific: They decided to take the Makah story not as myth, but as history. That is, they assumed the Makah were describing a geologically recent tsunami, compared the Makah narrative with their understanding of Cape Flattery’s geology, found the similarity between story and geology “noteworthy,” and published their findings in the scientific literature. After that, other scientists also went looking in the stories for history. A team of anthropologists, geologists, and indigenous scholars led by geologist Ruth Ludwin of the University of Washington took 40 stories collected from native groups along the entire Cascadia subduction zone. They compared the narratives to what was known of the 1700 earthquake and tsunami and found in effect that the whole coast had been telling stories about it.


Many scientific papers say that the indigenous stories are reasonable records, covering an unknowable amount of time, of earthquakes and tsunamis along the entire Cascadia subduction zone. They also add that so much destruction repeated for so long must have had a terrific impact on the indigenous groups’ worlds—that given their history, the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest would have taken catastrophe to heart. You might expect that they’d arranged their culture and lives around disaster. And further, you might hope that the impact on them would have some message, some advice, for us in the 21st century, waiting for our own disaster. But here’s where this storyline goes cold. Any such impact ought to show up in archaeological and anthropological evidence, and it just doesn’t.
The people must have lost their houses and villages and livelihoods—they must have been ruined; but afterward they went back to living in the ruined places. McMillan went looking in the archaeological record for evidence of habitation and abandonment over the past 3,000 years in 30 excavated villages along the Washington and Vancouver Island coasts. “The seismic events were catastrophic but short term,” McMillan says. “The evidence is all that the sites were reoccupied afterward.”

These last two quoted paragraphs seem to reflect an assumption that the local tribes had cities and civilizations of the sort that foster stuff like Seattle, which doesn't even allow for its own public transit and foists that on to King County infrastructure. :) How hard is it to re-occupy where you used to live if you live in tents compared to if you live in multi-story condos?

Atlantic: "What a $1,500 sandwich tastes like" the limits of the DIY locavore ethos in food

Over at Mockingbird there's been plenty of  content posted about purity codes and food

for everyone who might scoff that in ancient Israel there were ridiculously legalistic food restrictions, let's not forget that in our own day it was easy for Portlandia to riff on "is this chicken local?"

Somebody decided to DIY/locavore the most Americana of American cuisine, the sandwich.  All the ingredients done according to the purity of local/DIY stuff.  The result?  A $1,500 sandwich that gets described as what you'd have if you dipped cork board in lemon juice.

The latest episode of How to Make Everything finds George applying his global-trade-networked approach to that most basic and yet most profound of American food items: the sandwich. In this case, a chicken sandwich with cheese. Making the sandwich requires George to, among other things: grow his own vegetables, milk a cow (for the cheese), evaporate ocean water (for the salt), collect his own honey, grow and then grind his own wheat, preserve his own pickles, and slaughter/de-feather/butcher/cook a chicken. The whole thing takes six months, George says, to put together. It ends up costing him $1,500.00

The result of all that was a lesson in the complex nature of even the simplest foods, in how easy it can be, in a world of Walmarts, to take our conveniences for granted. [emphasis added]
But the result was also, though, an actual, edible food item. So how does a sandwich that costs the amount of a used car end up tasting?
“It’s not bad,” George concludes. “That’s about it. It’s not bad. Six months of my life were … not bad. Yeah.”
At this point in the video, he removes his glasses and puts his head into his hands. There’s a literal head-desk situation. And, there, the video ends.  
But: There’s a follow-up video! George also shared his sandwich with a mostly anonymous selection of taste-testers who are very likely members of his family. They gave slightly more detailed assessments of the sandwich.
A guy, probably in his late 20s or early 30s (brother?), concluded that the sandwich “tastes like a cork board dipped in lemon juice.”
But the kids might have had the most telling reactions to George’s $1,500 foodstuff. A young girl, putting a large, pre-cut bite of the sandwich into her mouth, chews the whole thing dutifully. And then her eyes widen. And then she looks like she has just, for the first time in her life, understood what betrayal tastes like. [emphasis added because these sentences are too beautiful]
A boy, even younger, chews the sandwich briefly, then yells an indecipherable bit of kid-profanity, then reaches into this mouth and removes the offending contents. He then walks to the kitchen, presumably to get a drink to wash away the taste of the sandwich forever.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

the first-person industrial complex, the victimhood culture, and a theory about Mark Driscoll's career in social and mass media


from Laura Bennett's The First Person Industrial Complex, published September 14, 2015

... As long as there have been bloggers, there have been young people scraping their interior lives in order to convert the rawest bits into copy. But we are currently in the midst of an unprecedented moment in the online first-person boom. The rise of the unreported hot take, that much-maligned instant spin on the news of the day, has meant that editors are constantly searching for writers with any claim to expertise on a topic to elevate their pieces above the swarm. First-person essays have become the easiest way for editors to stake out some small corner of a news story and assert an on-the-ground primacy without paying for reporting. And first-person essays have also become the easiest way to jolt an increasingly jaded Internet to attention, as the bar for provocation has risen higher and higher. For writers looking to break in, offering up grim, personal dispatches may be the surest ways to get your pitches read.

... despite the wide-ranging hardship these pieces catalog, they also share a tendency to reach for the universal even as they dig into the acutely personal. [emphasis added] A Vox essay titled “How I Came to Forgive My Rapist” starts out as a powerfully specific story and ends with this: “All that endures now is my wish for an end to rape for everyone else.” XoJane’s “Cheating on My Boyfriend When He Died” ultimately declares, “I hope someone can learn from my mistakes.” A PostEverything essay about one man’s descent into, and emergence from, white supremacy is framed as a kind of how-to manual: “This Is How You Become a White Supremacist.”

As for Chenier, the original ending of her essay was: “What I want to say about all the women out there who have ever been victimized is you are beautiful and it’s not your fault.” Tolentino tweaked it in the edit to read, “To the victims of their abuse, I want to say what I have finally been able to understand myself: that my attraction, and what it led to, was not my fault.” As Tolentino explains, she “tried to cut everything that would trigger a ‘YEA girl!’ response”—hoping to strike a balance between reaching a broad audience and positing one extreme individual experience as a global truth. [emphasis added]
This is a key problem with the new first-person economy: the way it incentivizes knee-jerk, ideally topical self-exposure, the hot take’s more intimate sibling. The mandate at xoJane, according to Carroll, was: the more “shameless” an essay, the better. Carroll describes how “internally crushing” it became to watch her inbox get flooded every day with the darkest moments in strangers’ lives: “eating disorders, sexual assault, harassment, ‘My boyfriend’s a racist and I just realized it.’ ” After a while, Carroll said, the pitches began to sound as if they were all written in the same voice: “immature, sort of boastful.” Tolentino, who worked as an editor at the Hairpin before Jezebel, characterizes the typical Jezebel pitch as the “microaggression personal essay” [emphasis added] or “My bikini waxer looked at me funny and here’s what it says about women’s shame,” and the typical Hairpin pitch as “I just moved to the big city and had a beautiful coffee shop encounter, and here’s what it says about urban life.”

This observation that a typical Jezebel pitch is the "microaggression personal essay" will get us to our next point quickly but there's an important idea within Bennett's piece, this explosion of first-person narration in which the personal is presented as pointing to universals is all over the net.  To frame the potential risk here as expressed by people on the progressive/liberal side, there's a real and substantial danger that in a traffic-grabbing rush to get the juiciest and raciest content on the net editors may be publishing material that is, let's be blunt here, sloppily written and hazily conceived but full of zing; the price paid for this by the editors will be controversy about traffic, maybe, but the price that could be paid by writers is that they could be given a one-off publication experience and try to write more only to discover nobody wants their other writing.  The way progressives might put this that seems worth writing is that you have a situation here where people could be revictimized or if not that literally exploited for web traffic when what they may need far more is therapy, emotional and social support, and to not have their story exploited by those aiming to make a cultural polemical point.

Although not progressive myself I think that's an absolutely vital concern.  When people began to share stories about things they went through at Mars Hill in a number of blogs there were at least one or two cases where people who posted began to have second thoughts about what they contributed to the public sphere and deleted comments. You need to keep in mind that if you put it on the net you absolutely must consider the possibility that even with a pseudonym someone "could" figure out it's you. The case of Chenier, mentioned in Bennett's article, may be a sad example of someone who had one hot story to sell based on scandal and salacious content alone who may or may not be able to pitch any other published work.

While Chenier's case recounted at the Slate piece is extreme, we can move along to a more typical case, that "microaggression personal essay" because it doesn't just so happen that's been getting some discussion in the media here and there.


from Conor Friedersdorf's Readers Defend the Rise of the `Microaggressions' Framework, published eh ... today.
I also want to make clear—and I’ll return to this in a later installment—that in my view “victimhood culture” isn’t something black, Asian, and Hispanic people do on college campuses. It’s something all categories of Americans engage in, on and off campus.
The reader wrote, “What irks me about this label is that it treats victimhood as a performance, as a costume we can put on to make ourselves a spectacle and garner sympathy.” Neither I nor the sociologists believe that all victimhood is a performance. Rather, part of the culture they are describing is characterized by instances when victimhood is performed. Because look, victimhood just is a costume that people can put on to garner sympathy—such performances are everywhere.
At the college I attended, a white professor on a neighboring campus faked a hate crime against herself. Sarah Palin’s entire 2008 campaign was an extended exercise in gaining status by exaggerating “microaggressions” directed against her and her tribe. [emphasis added] Pro soccer and basketball are full of grown men committing obvious fouls and pantomiming outrage as if they’ve been wronged when carded or whistled. Ferris Bueller is a stand-in for every kid who has performed victimhood to avoid school or homework. I don’t mean to suggest there are no real victims. Quite the contrary. The argument is that huge percentages of the population will, if given the opportunity, exaggerate their victimhood in order to get the gains that come with it. Many people will even fall for their own act to a degree. None of us are immune. I’m often tempted to view myself as an aggrieved party in some dispute.
This aspect of the culture isn’t a race thing, it’s a human nature thing. You can’t set up a system where status accrues to victims and then let people determine their own victim status. [emphasis added] Insofar as this is true of black and brown people on college campuses, it’s only because they’re no different from white people on college campuses, who participate just as much in victim culture, and many people off campus. Every human is vulnerable to the perverse incentives of “victimhood culture.” [emphasis added]

There may be a temptation among evangelicals who tend to vote Republican to imagine that the things described in articles at The Atlantic or at Slate would be typically liberal/progressive traits. 
But ... Friedersdorf has explicitly written that the victimhood culture dynamic is a temptation every single one of us is vulnerable to.  A Christian might suggest that it is a characteristic of the Fall that we can each be tempted to see ourselves as victims when we have privilege.

The culture of victimhood as a phrase does not diminish actual harm or the liberty of those harmed to discuss what has happened to them.  The culture of victimhood  concept may be understood as a mode of public discourse; which is most typically observed in social media more than traditional mass media but which may synergistically interact with it; and which has come to be characterized as making use of reports of what are now called "microaggressions."

Let's play with the idea that the victimhood culture be understood as a rhetorical stance mediated by the narrative tropes of the first-person industrial complex microaggression narratives.  The message has its medium.

While those who have written to Friedersdorf, and his responses to them, have tended to suggest there's dissent from the term "victimhood culture", this dissent seems to circle around a defense of

1) the legitimacy of the shaming techniques and narrative approach inherent in the microaggression narrative when deployed against those with privilege and

2) a suspicion that the label "victimhood culture" must indicate a dismissal of power differentials. 

Friedersdorf has been repetitively clear in stating that the reservations he has about the microaggression framework is that it isn't necessarily the best way to approach the things it has been used to address. He has also noted that for people in academic settings there's a good deal of privilege, as opposed to high school dropouts.


Lest evangelicals scoff at tales of microaggressions and of victimhood culture let's ask ourselves, do we do that stuff, too?  We just might.  No, we absolutely do that stuff, too. If the first-person industrial complex Laura Bennett described can be seen as the preferred narrative approach the victimhood culture can describe the sociopolitical stance the narrative approach is intended to cement. 

What I think evangelicals are too sorely tempted to say and think the culture of victimhood is something for Oberlin college, and that microaggression stuff, that's for Jezebel and the people who read it.  The victimhood culture, that's for people who read Slate or Salon

But presenting yourself as the hapless victim of the frenzied wrath of spluttering hypercaffeinated furies on the internet is a move that has been played by evangelicals, too.  Before he changed his mind, a couple of posts by Samuel D James over at Inklingations went this route.  Unfortunately since he deleted the evidence you had to have seen it to know what stuff he wrote.

But ...

You can go read the whole thing if you're a completist but what James wrote next is what's illustrative for this gigantic post.

Thursday, Somewhere in Cyberspace
Scene 1: A humble, 20something blogger writes a short, probably simplistic post about how (not) to talk about the church.

Scene 2: Our youthful hero writes disparagingly about a certain genre of online blogging that he finds distasteful and generally unhelpful. He is careful, however, to mention no names and no real scenarios.

Scene 3: He publishes the post, expecting little feedback. After all, it is a brief post, and makes only one real point: That Christians should not be bitter towards the church.

With a cold open like that it's not hard to see the self-pitying direction things went from there, is it?
This gambit of saying something polemical and then coming back after the dust clouds erupt and presenting yourself as the sensible centrist who didn't say anything THAT inflammatory, after all ... that's still able to be read within the first-person story of a microaggression.  The paradox in a tale of a microaggression is that that the story is presented to INCITE microaggressions, if you will, by having Twitter or some social platform explode with moral support for the victim. 

Samuel D. James' post "For Whom the Blog Trolls: a drama in 10 acts" didn't come across as though he thought that what he wrote might be trolling in itself. Now if you want to go read a big piece on the social value of trolls Alastair Roberts has one but we'll just allude to that.  James, at least, seemed to get the idea that maybe what he wrote shouldn't have gone up.  He deleted his posts, after all. But while they were up there they managed to playfully cast himself as a victim of internet rage and he also cast doubt on the value of watchblogging. Ironically Samuel D. James exemplified the victimhood via 1st person narrative trope. 

But Samuel D. James' long deleted posts are far from being a magnum opus of an online victimhood trope in the way of first-person stories.  In fact I'm going to suggest that the first-person narrative is the mode of communication the stance of the victimhood culture and that if we put these together we get a surprisingly plausible account of the public ministry of Mark Driscoll.

Here's the belated introduced theory now that the foundations are set, if there is a victimhood culture in American internet discourse, and if there's a media web-publishing empire of trading first-person tales of unique incidents extrapolated out to universal concerns, we're pretty much looking at the whole public career of Mark Driscoll since the start of the century.


When Friedersdorf wrote that the microaggression framework can be used by anyone this is a compelling reason to doubt its utility.  After all, if it can be employed by a megachurch pastor over ten years of public trolling and flame-baiting how useful is the framework of microaggressions for addressing the powers of privilege, exactly?  Very useful!  In fact Friedersdorf's concern with the framework is that ANYONE can convince themselves they get to use it. "You can’t set up a system where status accrues to victims and then let people determine their own victim status." Working the internet culture in which status accrues to victims by defining himself as the victim in a decade-long string of personal narratives seems like a large part of how Mark Driscoll even became a celebrity in the first place.

If anything one of the great failures of progressives over a decade of observing Mark Driscoll could be that he played the victimhood card better than they could and was far more adept at the first-person style of what Laura Bennett has called the first-personal industrial complex in web-publishing. If anything Mark Driscoll may have genuninely NEEDED progressives to react aversely to him in order to cement his reputation.  What if in this internet game of victimhood tropes and first-person tales to get sympathy the left made no progress against Mark Driscoll because he was better at playing the game?  After all ... well ... we'll get to Mark Driscoll bragging about the media savvy of himself and his wife later.

There's a lot that's been published here about Driscoll's use of social and mass media to share tales of his woe

Throckmorton quotes Driscoll "I made the mistake of trying to be under the authority of my elders" two types of revision in the history of MH

Houston interviews Driscoll, Driscoll's claim "The first three years we didn't collect a salary" seems to skim over Driscoll's own public testimony to the contrary

Mark Driscoll's eye twitch, naturopath and reverse-engineering life since 2005

There's also a lengthy series tagged "Mark Driscoll and the power of the sob story" that goes through about seven years worth of stories in which Driscoll first shared how rough he had it and then began to shift to stories about how rough things were for his wife but particularly his children.

and ...

Evangelicals need to consider that as the "victimhood culture" gets talked through we have to keep in mind it's not just about who claims to be a victim.  The cultural dynamic also includes those who INVOKE the victimhood of others as a rationale for words and actions.  Longtime readers may recall the Andrew Lamb disciplinary controversy and in 2012 Mars Hill stated that they did not want to disclose things to the public to protect the privacy of people who had been hurt, mainly women.  The prospect that Mars Hill as a culture might hurt women wasn't going to come up, but women could be invoked as cyberspace reputational meatshields to stonewall inquiry into what was going on in a specific disciplinary situation. 

But that's a case Driscoll skipped past.  Having written so much already this is probably too long and there's a point to that, the internet age we live in is full of people who TL:DR their way past observing the kinds of patterns that would be easy to spot with a focused reading pattern.  A figure like Mark Driscoll could most effectively use the dynamics of victimhood culture and tales of microaggressions in his own way precisely because the failure of his critics to closely attend to what he did and didn't say FED THE VICTIMHOOD NARRATIVE. 

As writing teachers insist, show, don't tell.  So we can observe just from 2011-2012 highlights how Driscoll presented himself as a victim in his use of mass and social media. Ironically he'd be blogging about how bad bloggers are.  We can hit just the more infamous examples of Mark Driscoll taking to social media to present himself as the victim of misunderstanding or misrepresentation and using a cozy first-person story to make his case. 


This week the Christian blogosphere worked itself into a frenzy over a Facebook status posted by Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. The status, which was later removed, read, "So, what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you've ever personally witnessed?"
Mark Driscoll 7-13-2011
I then put a flippant comment on Facebook, and a raging debate on gender and related issues ensued. As a man under authority, my executive elders sat me down and said I need to do better by hitting real issues with real content in a real context. And, they’re right. Praise God I have elders who keep me accountable and that I am under authority. 

Real Issues in a Fuller Context

So, we are working on a new website where I can speak to these real issues in a fuller context. Lord willing, sometime in September, after my trip to Europe with my family and a lot of other people, and then some recovery time, we will launch a new website. 
In the past, I’ve not had a regular place to work out personal commentary on social issues, and so I’ve erred in sometimes doing so in places like Facebook, Twitter, and the media, where you can have a good fight but don’t have the room to make a good case.
The first content on the new website will be about gender, and much of it will be around a book my wife, Grace, and I have completed together called Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together, to be published by our friends at Thomas Nelson in January. 
Both Grace and I will be blogging at the new site on issues related to gender and marriage, including mistakes we’ve made, sins we’ve committed, and convictions we agree on. And, we’ll have lots of other content on other issues as well. Until then, have a great summer, and a sincere thanks to all my critics who sometimes have good wisdom that helps me out.

So if we were going to take Driscoll literally, he was saying he had not previously had a regular place to work out personal commentary on social issues.  Ah ... so there was never a Midrash where Mark Driscoll once wrote as William Wallace II about how America had become a "Pussified Nation" or about "Using Your Penis"? He'd never preached any sermons about masculinity in the 2001 Proverbs series warning that some guys like to take shortcuts to the pleasures of adulthood while avoiding responsibility? He wasn't addressing social issues about gender or sexuality when commenting about the Ted Haggard scandal in 2006 because he didn't have a platform like Resurgence? Mark Driscoll never had an opportunity to work out personal commentary on social issues in any of his books?

What about the Midrash 2.0? Where Driscoll, in 2004, vented spleen about James Dobson and Ken Hutcherson?

Or did Driscoll simply mean he didn't have a PUBLIC platform from which to make personal commentary on social issues?  You know, besides books and the pulpit and the first version of Midrash where he posted as William Wallace II. Driscoll's story presents him as not having a platform for social commentary yet over the course of fifteen years social commentary about men, sexuality, and his working definition of adulthood was essentially Mark Driscoll's hallmark.

Mark Driscoll didn't just incite controversy through social media in 2011, he also skipped past even the possibility of an apology to promote Pastor Mark TV and the forthcoming book Real Marriage.

Yet I think a case can be made this embodied the victimhood culture as a rhetorical stance and used the first-person anecdote as a way to frame Driscoll as the target of social media dogpiling.

In 2012 he'd take a couple of further steps.  By 2012 he wouldn't even wait for the "other side" to get the "first shot".  It's here we get to the interview Mark Driscoll had with Justin Brierley.

Mark Driscoll 1-12-2012

There is reportedly an article coming out in a British Christian publication that features an interview with me. As is often the case, to stoke the fires of controversy, thereby increasing readership, which generates advertising revenue, a few quotes of mine have been taken completely out of context and sent into the Twittersphere. So, I thought I would put a bit of water on the fire by providing context.
 I have a degree in communications from one of the top programs in the United States. So does my wife, Grace. We are used to reporters with agendas and selective editing of long interviews. Running into reporters with agendas and being selectively edited so that you are presented as someone that is perhaps not entirely accurate is the risk one takes when trying to get their message out through the media. [emphasis added]

 With the release of our book, Real Marriage, we have now done literally dozens of interviews with Christians and non-Christians. But the one that culminated in the forthcoming article was, in my opinion, the most disrespectful, adversarial, and subjective. [emphasis added] As a result, we’ve since changed how we receive, process, and moderate media interviews.

 The interview in question had nearly nothing to do with the book or its subject matter, which in my understanding was supposed to be the point of the interview. My wife, Grace, was almost entirely ignored in the interview, and I felt she was overall treated disrespectfully. The only questions asked were about any controversial thing I’ve ever said in the past 15 years with a host of questions that were adversarial and antagonistic. It felt like a personally offended critic had finally gotten his chance to exercise some authority over me. [emphasis added]

 Things got particularly strange near the end of the interview. I was asked a question about, if a woman was the pastor of a church which that pastor’s husband attended, would that be emasculating to him. The question was asked in such a pointed way that it was odd.

 At the end of the interview, I started asking questions of the interviewer. He admitted that his last questions were really about himself and his wife. Apparently his wife is the pastor of their church, he’s strongly committed to women as pastors, disagrees strongly with our complementarian position, and takes it to some degree personally.

 He then admitted that he very much struggles to believe in penal substitutionary atonement—that Jesus Christ died in our place a substitute for our sins—and that he does not believe in a literal hell. In short, the reporter is a very liberal Christian, and on these issues I am not.

 Subsequently, I am not surprised that after a very long interview, which took the better part of an hour, that I may be selectively edited and presented in a way that is not entirely accurate. In particular, the quote about cowardice may not fit all British men, but for men who misuse their authority to advance their agenda, it seems applicable.
It's All about Jesus

In the providence of God, I trust everything will sort itself out in time. The best thing is to not waste time blogging, twittering, and talking about me. I was not born of a virgin, have not lived without sin, and am not going to judge the living and the dead. Jesus is all that matters.

For sake of ending this sooner rather than later we'll skip the T. D. Jakes stuff because the next case in which Mark Driscoll paradoxically blogged about being the victim of a misunderstanding it dealt with Liberty University. Here he went back to waiting for stuff to be said about him.


Mark Driscoll April 16, 2012
Lately, I’ve been busy with something you may have heard of called Easter. So, I’ve not been on the Internet much but instead busy with church and family. However, rumor has it there is a bit of mushroom cloud of controversy over my planned trip. So, I asked our community relations manager, who gets to enjoy reading blogs about me while eating breakfast every day (it’s amazing he holds anything down), to give me a summary of this kerfuffle. (Henceforth, we will officially refer to this situation as “The Kerfuffle.”)

The trouble started with a Southern Baptist blogger . . . yes, you should have seen that one coming. Now, to be fair, the blogger quoted an anonymous “source.” And, we all know that almost everything bloggers say is true. But, when they have something as solid as an anonymous “source,” then you can rest assured that when Jesus talked about the truth over and over in John, this is precisely what he was referring to. I have a degree from Washington State’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and worked professionally as a journalist, and I can assure you that The Kerfuffle is a very serious matter to be taken with the utmost sobriety and propriety. In fact, one anonymous “source” I spoke to said that Watergate pales in comparison. [emphasis added]

This particular blogger’s anonymous "source" says that the Liberty University Board of Trustees met and voted unanimously to not to allow the harmless, ruddy, pleasant, and often gregariously enjoyable Pastor Mark to speak at the university. The source said that two motions were presented and voted on. The first was to unequivocally express that Liberty University Board disapproves of the invitation for me to speak in chapel and the invitation to host the Real Marriage Tour. The second motion was to create a vetting council for future speakers at Liberty. He also states that he believes the reason why they haven't actually disinvited yours truly is that they have a contractual obligation and thus can't disinvite me. As we all know, every kerfuffle has to have a villain, and when all else fails the best thing is to pick an attorney as that villain. In fact, one anonymous “source” I contacted for this blog said that in the Greek text of the New Testament the name Judas actually literally translates as “contractual obligations.”

Driscoll's blogging here is at a peak.  He's locked in his NYT best-selling author status.  He's managed to shake hands with T. D. Jakes at Elephant Room II.  Whatever that scuffle was over the discipline at some campus was of no concern.  Multiple campuses had opened up.  Sure, behind the scenes there was some memo where some guy fretted about Mars Hill being on the brink of financial ruin, but so what?  In April 2012 Mark was confident and also condescending.  He trusts the reader, with him, will reflexively assume a blogger isn't credible, even when named.  He also presumes that a blogger with a source is still not to be taken seriously because anonymous sources don't have credible information. 

Actually, I totally agree with the need to be skeptical about anonymous sources as a general rule.  Driscoll contended Peter Lumpkins was totally wrong.

Notice how Driscoll really leans on his school cred and the prestige of his credentials here.  He doesn't say he went to Wazoo.  He went to the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.  We're told how Mark Driscoll worked as a professional journalist.  To date Mark Driscoll has not produced a byline or an article to show that he worked as a journalist covering a beat. He'd already talked about how savvy and trained his wife was in media.  Here was Driscoll not just dismissing the credibility of the character and the information a blogger disclosed (Peter Lumpkins in 2012), Driscoll was also bragging again about his media credentials.  Driscoll wanted to assure us all that he was a master of things media.  He also played up the idea that concerns about him as reported by bloggers were a "mushroom cloud", nuclear detonations in the mind of a critic and his sympathizers.  Meanwhile Driscoll described himself as:

This particular blogger’s anonymous "source" says that the Liberty University Board of Trustees met and voted unanimously to not to allow the harmless, ruddy, pleasant, and often gregariously enjoyable Pastor Mark to speak at the university.

Oh!  Who would say anything bad about the sweet lil' teddy bear Pastor Mark!?  Some dumb ol' Baptist blogger?  With an anonymous source.

This kind of rebuttal depended on the first person character of blogging in general.  It also depended on what could be described as an evangelical skepticism about blogs as a way to express concern about celebrities in the Christian media complex. 

But there's something interesting about Driscoll explicitly saying the problem started with a Southern Baptist blogger.
Admittedly, sometimes when speaking, a teacher presents a belief in a way that is inaccurate and unclear. So called “discernment” bloggers who are usually not connected to any noteworthy or respected evangelical Christian theologians, schools, denominations, ministries, churches, or pastors make their living taking what people said wrongly, transcribing it, and then falsely—or at least wrongly—accusing them of heresy when it is untrue. 
The ear is more forgiving than the eye, and when we say something wrong, people tend to give the benefit of the doubt. But, when what is said is then written down, there is far more scrutiny as a statement is parsed like a Bible verse, which is unfair.
Yes, you should have seen that one coming, right?  So even when a blogger with an identifiable theological/denominational association could be identified by name it didn't matter. But back in 2011 in the run-up to shaking hands with Jakes as if he were a Trinitarian and not still a word-faith wingnut of the sort Driscoll denounced in 2007, Mark Driscoll's concern was that online discernment bloggers were usually not connected to any noteworthy or respected evangelical Christian theologians, schools, denominations, ministries, churches, or pastors and made their ... living?  Talking about people? 

See this could be a whole different topic, this myth on the internet promulgated by Christian celebrities like Driscoll that bloggers monetize their blogging in a way that they somehow make their living just doing that.  Last I checked Warren Throckmorton DOES actually have a day job at Grove City College, for instance.  In other settings Driscoll seems to have quipped bloggers were jobless people.  The point was never so much what they did or didn't do for a living as a blanket dismissal of their credibility based on who they were presumed to be.

I've already written plenty about how the most persistently critical voices online addressing Mark Driscoll's doctrinal and character issues have not only been Reformed but of the PCA/OPC variety.

It would eventually turn out that bloggers dealing with problems in Driscoll's handling of biblical texts and Mars Hill handling of real estate acquisition and leadership appointments would have specific denominational affiliations and even be part of the same Reformed "tribe" Mark Driscoll kept saying he was part of. But by not naming names Driscoll could stick with the story that he was a victim of willful misunderstanding on the part of ignorant bloggers. He didn't have any platform to sound off on gender and society issues before Pastor Mark TV.  Then he had that book about marriage and some nasty British journalist with a wife who is a pastor was adversarial in an interview, supposedly.  Then there's the kerfuffle.  Meanwhile, thanks to Result Source Inc., Real Marriage secured a short stint at the top of the NYT bestseller list, a book that had a part to play in the 2013 plagiarism controversy before the news broke in 2014 that Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill had gamed the system in favor of Real Marriage. But even in late 2013 Driscoll was still playing with victim stories, he'd just switched from stories about himself to stories about his children.

I think Friedersdorf is right, one of the key problems of the microaggression framework and the culture of victimhood is anybody can appropriate it. If someone like Mark Driscoll can spend a decade sharing tales about how rough he's got it because people just don't get him, and how he has somehow lacked a platform through which to address social concerns (in spite of twitter and Facebook and Instagram and a dozen books and blogs and countless hours of sermons) then we have to step back and ask ourselves, does this culture in which stories of microaggressions and victimization "work"?  Sure, it's possible some people are able to help other people stop saying unknowingly hurtful things ... but I'm floating this idea here that Mark Driscoll's public persona depended in part on leveraging stories of victimhood and the power of the first-person narrative as universalizing vehicle for bromides about classes of people for him to get where he was in 2012-2013.  He needed this culture of victimhood and the emotionally dominating tone of the first-person tale of woe as symbol of what's-wrong-with-America-today to get where he was before scandal brought him down.

For those who doubt the concerns some of us have about this victimhood culture, consider that it's broader than a university setting.  The combination of the theory of victimhood culture as an internet dynamic combined with the first-person industrial complex proposal that says we have a web publishing culture that exploits novelty to share stories from emotionally and physically harmed people in a way that may just re-exploit and re-victimize them isn't just something people on the left have to think about.  It's something evangelicals and people on the right have to think about because playing the victim to leverage sympathy, as all Christians should know by now, does go all the way back to Genesis 3.

a bit from Samuel D. James' "For Whom The Blog Trolls--a drama in 10 acts"

Thursday, Somewhere in Cyberspace
Scene 1: A humble, 20something blogger writes a short, probably simplistic post about how (not) to talk about the church.

Scene 2: Our youthful hero writes disparagingly about a certain genre of online blogging that he finds distasteful and generally unhelpful. He is careful, however, to mention no names and no real scenarios.

Scene 3: He publishes the post, expecting little feedback. After all, it is a brief post, and makes only one real point: That Christians should not be bitter towards the church.

The rest of the scenes ... well ... I'm afraid you can pretty well get an idea where he went with this from scenes 1-3.

revisiting Samuel D. James' post "What Not to Do When a Fellow Christian Embarrasses The Rest of Us"

What Not to Do When a Fellow Christian Embarrasses The Rest of Us
May 7, 2015 by Samuel James

It happens. It’s happened before, it’s probably happening right now somewhere, and it will happen again. People who take the name of Christ and identify with His church are going to say or do something so inexplicable, so ridiculous, and so embarrassing that the rest of us will either shake our heads in disbelief or groan in frustration. Sometimes it’s something silly. Sometimes it’s more serious, and even blasphemous. It happens. There’s no use or honesty in pretending it doesn’t.
Sometimes it won’t even be necessary to respond, but other times, people around us need to know that this particular person does not speak or act on behalf of the church. Discernment and common sense will usually illuminate when that kind of response is necessary. When it is, I’d like to offer a simple list of some “Do Nots.”

When a fellow Christian embarrasses you and the Church:
1) Don’t make excuses or minimize it to make it go away.  The Scripture expects Christians to live and love differently because of the Spirit inside them.

2) Don’t use the person’s error as leverage to draw attention to how not like that you are.

3) Don’t apologize to the mass, outraged public for the person (if someone is personally and individually affected, that’s a different matter). Doing so is tempting but is almost always done for the wrong reasons (see #2).

4) Don’t have the same kind of response as those who scoff at Christ and the church. You might agree with Christianity’s critics that ______ was a horrible thing to say, but you most certainly don’t agree with them about why (an offfense against the truth and/or those made in God’s image) or how to make things right (repent and seek Gospel reconciliation).

5) Don’t talk in collective terms about “why the Church always” or “why can’t Christians ever.” It’s not true, firstly, and secondly, it can make you stumble on the next point.

6) Don’t ever, ever, ever, EVER even passively, suggestively, or indirectly legitimize or rationalize bitterness and suspicion towards the church. If someone says to you, “This is why I don’t go to church,” they might think they’re telling the truth, but they’re not. They don’t love the church because they don’t love Jesus. Saying, “Yes, you have a point, church can be so frustrating” feels like empathy, but it’s not. It’s self-preserveration at the cost of slandering Christ’s body.

7) Don’t start a “watchdog blog.” Seriously, don’t ever.

8) Don’t read the comments.

9) Don’t leave a comment.

10) Don’t ever forget: No human being is truly incapable of anything. Remember Augustine: “Despair not: One of the thieves was saved. Presume not: One of them was not.”

from April 16, 2012 Mark Driscoll's An Official Response to The Kerfuffle At Liberty University
An Official Response to The Kerfuffle At Liberty University
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Apr 16, 2012

This week Grace and I are thrilled to be making the long trip from the great Northwest to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. After a full day of travel that concludes with a plane too small to carry a sizable Mormon family, we will celebrate by teaching the Bible.

On Friday, I will speak to the Liberty student body, which I’ve heard is like 12,000 students fired up for Jesus, from Luke 15:11–32 on the topic of "The Rebellious and the Religious." My big idea will be that sin and religion are equally contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

On Friday night and Saturday morning, Grace and I will teach as part of our Real Marriage Tour. Across the US, we’ve been humbled and honored to see people saved, marriages mended, divorce proceedings ceased, sin confessed and forgiven, sexual assault and addiction healed, and single people taught with this content, and we rejoice that we get to share it yet again.

Lately, I’ve been busy with something you may have heard of called Easter. So, I’ve not been on the Internet much but instead busy with church and family. However, rumor has it there is a bit of mushroom cloud of controversy over my planned trip. So, I asked our community relations manager, who gets to enjoy reading blogs about me while eating breakfast every day (it’s amazing he holds anything down), to give me a summary of this kerfuffle. (Henceforth, we will officially refer to this situation as “The Kerfuffle.”)

The trouble started with a Southern Baptist blogger . . . yes, you should have seen that one coming. Now, to be fair, the blogger quoted an anonymous “source.” And, we all know that almost everything bloggers say is true. But, when they have something as solid as an anonymous “source,” then you can rest assured that when Jesus talked about the truth over and over in John, this is precisely what he was referring to. I have a degree from Washington State’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and worked professionally as a journalist, and I can assure you that The Kerfuffle is a very serious matter to be taken with the utmost sobriety and propriety. In fact, one anonymous “source” I spoke to said that Watergate pales in comparison.

This particular blogger’s anonymous "source" says that the Liberty University Board of Trustees met and voted unanimously to not to allow the harmless, ruddy, pleasant, and often gregariously enjoyable Pastor Mark to speak at the university. The source said that two motions were presented and voted on. The first was to unequivocally express that Liberty University Board disapproves of the invitation for me to speak in chapel and the invitation to host the Real Marriage Tour. The second motion was to create a vetting council for future speakers at Liberty. He also states that he believes the reason why they haven't actually disinvited yours truly is that they have a contractual obligation and thus can't disinvite me. As we all know, every kerfuffle has to have a villain, and when all else fails the best thing is to pick an attorney as that villain. In fact, one anonymous “source” I contacted for this blog said that in the Greek text of the New Testament the name Judas actually literally translates as “contractual obligations.”

Despite the rock-solid credibility of the blogger’s anonymous “source,” Liberty University sent a cease and desist email to the blogger the same day and issued this statement on their website:
On April 4, 2012, a Southern Baptist blogger, Peter Lumpkins, wrote an inaccurate account of Liberty's recent Board of Trustees meeting as it relates to the university's invitation to Mark Driscoll to speak in Convocation. Lumpkins’ recent blog contains information that is defamatory and portrays Liberty University in a false light.
The Board of Trustees of Liberty University did not vote unanimously that Mark Driscoll is not welcome on campus, as the blog states, and, in fact, Mark Driscoll is still scheduled to speak in Convocation at Liberty University on April 20, 2012.
Liberty University's legal counsel has demanded the immediate removal of the post. Liberty University is also posting this notification so that our community is informed as to the inaccuracy of the post, and advised that Lumpkins’ blog is clearly being used to disseminate misinformation about Liberty University and to cause strife and harm to the university.
For the record, kerfuffles are nothing new. The first kerfuffle started when Jesus rose from death. He left Christianity in his wake and told us to love one another like brothers and sisters. Acting like a Christian, Jonathan Falwell invited me to drop in and see the church and school in Lynchburg some years ago, as I was not far away in Raleigh. I accepted his invitation, and I found him to be one of the most humble, gracious, and enjoyable, world-class leaders I’ve ever met.

As we walked around the church where he pastors, he seemed to know literally everyone by name and gave out a lifetime of hugs and encouraging remarks. I missed two meals waiting for him to stop loving and hugging people, as it took us forever to leave the church. He showed me where his dad, Jerry, used to office, and with tears in his eyes, where his father is now buried until the resurrection of the dead. He told me stories about what an amazing father and man his dad was—including Jerry Falwell’s friendship with pornographer Larry Flynt, whom he evangelized while riding on the Hustler jet. Apparently people are different than sometimes portrayed to be, and I learned a lot that day.
So, when Liberty asked me to come and preach chapel, we also offered to do a Real Marriage Tour event, and they kindly accepted. If for any reason they don’t want me, I am happy to be loving and gracious and back away peacefully, as the last thing I’d want is to act in a way that is adversarial to my brothers and sisters in Christ at Liberty University. I’ve received nothing but love, grace, and kindness from them.

But, since they’ve asked me to come, I receive that invitation with great joy. Rumor also has it there are some amazing Christians there doing great things for Jesus, and I look forward to meeting them.