Thursday, December 10, 2015

Driscoll tweet on Ecclesiastes 9:9 as a ... prooftext for the trophy wife? This doesn't look like progress on the views-on-women front.

Driscoll's days of being away from social media have clearly been over for some time.  And so he's back to Twitter.  Sometimes he unfurls stuff like this.
The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil. Eccl 9:9

5:09 AM - 5 Nov 2015
No doubt Hosea agreed!  How he must have thought Gomer was the reward he got for his earthly toil on that wedding day.
Job, too, when his wife admonished him to "bless" God and die, she was at that moment the reward for Job's toil.
How about Ezekiel, being warned by God that he was about to lose his wife, the delight of his eyes, and that he would not be permitted to mourn her death in public?
Yep, nothing proves Driscoll's views on women and marriage have totally changed for the better like prooftexting Ecclesiastes 9:9 in a way that easily reads as a defense of the trophy wife.

more drama connected to Doug Wilson and company, visiting a Doug WIlson video commentary a few days after Driscoll's resignation and Wilson's theory of the revenge of the beta males (Janet Mefferd was a beta male?)

It's been a while since Doug Wilson managed to become a lightning rod in a way that had some discussion, maybe a month and a half?  That's potentially a long time for Wilson.

Now before we get to the latest, it seems worthwhile, Wenatchee The Hatchet sometimes doing what it does, to revisit Doug Wilson's occasional commentaries on controversies connected to Mark Driscoll since late 2013.

It's interesting to go back to a video Wilson did October 20, 2014, just a few days after Driscoll announced his resignation.
about 4:40ish Wilson addressed the concerns that arose about plagiarism with Driscoll's reputation. Wilson conceded that there was something objectively wrong with one of Driscoll's books.  Well, yes, and Wenatchee The Hatchet was part of the process of documenting work that was not adequately credited.  Now Wenatchee never attempted to formulate an explanation for WHY Dan Allender's work was not adequately cited in the first edition of Real Marriage. That was not necessarily the point, the point was to point out a result in a published work in which the publication process failed to give adequate credit to an author whose work both Mark and Grace Driscoll had amply attested they benefited from.
Wilson's theory that Driscoll angered many beta males by way of his success ... eh ... this video was days after Driscoll's resignation. 
Now about 8:40 in the video Wilson explained how mistakes happened in his books, stuff he had published under his name but didn't write.  If that was an attempt to explain how maybe Driscoll's plagiarism question arose because of sloppiness from research help.  No, dude, Docent Group spelled out that the research assistant was not responsible for the failures that had Driscoll's name attached. 
Wilson might have a point saying that those who try to game the system are gaming a system that's already gamed ... but hat could be misconstrued so easily as saying it's okay to cheat the system because the system cheats that that might not be the best way to frame things.  To be sure there's been plenty I've read in the last year or two about the problems of a winner-take-all publishing world ... from folks on the left.  Whether Douglas Wilson might agree with that isn't THAT interesting.
In all the conversation about rigging the game the question that Wilson and interviewer did not address in the clip is why there would have been any reason to write the book in the first place.  It's not like a reissue of Richard Baxter's The Christian Directory hadn't come out. Marriage books are a dime a dozen in Christian publishing.  Never before had Mark Driscoll built a sermon series around one of his own books.  Previously the preaching was through books of the Bible or on a set of topics--take the 2005 atonement series.  The debt to John Stott's work was not that hard to spot and he even shared with members on Midrash it was a key influence.
Wilson did not address back in 2014, or since, any of Driscoll's on-the-road in-front-of-camera narratives about God telling him he could quit.  Whether Wilson ever does address such issues remains to be seen.  Doug Wilson's theory that what we saw in 2014 was revenge of the beta males seems remarkably implausible since, last many of us checked, Janet Mefferd has never qualified as a beta male.  How was Mefferd confronting Driscoll on air about the intellectual integrity of his products constitute a revenge of beta males narrative? 
Wilson can't resist formulating controversies in terms of narratives in which envious lesser attack greaters, perhaps? 
A pertinent question here near the end of 2015 is whether Mark Driscoll and Doug Wilson have shared any conversation this calendar year.  It's easy to say so and so is a friend in the midst of a controversy but what has Wilson had to say about Driscoll since the resignation beyond the above referenced video?  How does the revenge of the beta male narrative Wilson went with square with anything shared in 2015 by Sutton Turner? 
All that by way of background, it seems that while Wilson has been vague about plagiarism and things Driscoll it's at least possible because of a lack of direct familiarity with the books and situations. 
What about a book closer to "home"?  It's just been in the last few days a matter of intellectual property has come up for a book that was published by Canon Press.
Doug Wilson's publishing company has withdrawn the book and apologetic statements have been issued.  Perhaps it's for the best that neither Doug Wilson nor associates attempt to address the plagiarism controversy of Mark Driscoll circa 2013-2014 at any serious level.  After all, in the video where Wilson floated the point about how research help someties screws things up, it was the previous year that Docent Group clarified about the Trial study guide that that can't be what happened and they proved it wasn't what happened.  For more detail on that explore at your leisure.  We can't backlink to EVERYTHING in the controversy surrounding Driscoll's published books because before it ran its course it began to look as though questions of proper citation spanned as far back as the beginning of his book publishing career. 
We haven't touched on Wilson here in a while.  This was one of the last times that springs to mind.
The ideological/intellectual relationship between Mark Driscoll and Doug Wilson has been discussed here in the past. Here are others for those who aren't already up to speed:
The book A Justice Primer hasn't been on my radar and will likely not rise to the level of seeming to need to be on my radar.
There's no mystery that Wenatchee The Hatchet is not, in fact, what's often called a watchblog.  This year the blog posts finally  got back to things like discussing examples of sonata form in early 19th century classical guitar music; writing about musicology; and discussing cartoons here and there.  Those who have tried to describe this blog as some "watchblog" or as "only" ever writing bad stuff about Mars Hill or Mark Driscoll say more about themselves than about this blog. There may be those who are so set on an either/or they can't read what is before them.  It has at times seemed that Wilson fans can be that way in a way not unlike Driscoll's fans and adversaries. 
But if Miller's analysis is cogent, it seems A Justice Primer has leaned so heavily on particular cases of church judicial and disciplinary issues that to divest the book content from the cases that inspired the adapted material could seem a bit ... dodgy. 
If you come to Wenatchee The Hatchet to read about Mars Hill you're likely to run into a mountain of text cited from primary statements by primary sources.  For a good chunk of a year preserving stuff faster than Mars Hill could purge it from their websites was a part-time job here. 
Not everyone who has been critical of Driscoll but has been fond of Wilson has been entirely happy with the increasingly unavoidable history of Wilson's influence on Driscoll's thought.  It may be embarrassing or even downright shameful but it cannot be avoided forever.  Driscoll and Wilson did at least once conference together and the positive mentions of Wilson's work in the extant writings of Mark Driscoll as William Wallace II has been amply documented here and elsewhere.
If Doug Wilson opts not to comment about Driscoll moving forward that may be prudent, but Wilson and Driscoll may have in common a propensity to say and do things that get them in social media.  Wilson wasn't wrong to say that if you live by the numbers you die by the numbers.  Well, sure, and if you live by the brand you die by the brand.  Driscoll so badly damaged the credibility of his brand between 2013 and 2014 that this year he apparently concluded it was a good career move to say in an interview he felt obliged to repent and make nice to Joel Osteen, someone whose preaching and teaching he described as errant back in 2007. At the time Driscoll was laying into Osteen for a prosperity mindset Osteen was asking "Mark who?"
Driscoll, if he does relaunch himself, may not have any words to say about Doug Wilson ... and unless someone can chapter and verse it, it doesn't seem as though Doug Wilson's had a ton to say about Mark Driscoll in 2015. 
Earlier this week Trueman wrote a piece at First Things.
a few quotes ---
"Douthat’s argument—that conservative Catholics overestimated their success and influence both in the political and ecclesiastical sphere, has limited parallels in conservative Protestantism."
Actually, overestimating success and influence seems like it could be a fantastic explanation of what happened at Mars Hill.  When Driscoll was promoting A Call to Resurgence in 2013 he was talking about how the decline of Christendom in the West was bad, even though back in 2006 he was celebrating precisely that decline as an assurance that Christian nominalism was going to decline and that this was better for the health of the church.  At what point did Driscoll do such a big 180 as to decide that the decline he celebrated in his 2006 book was something to fret about for his 2013 book? And in any event did Driscoll actually think Mars Hill's history of growth and popularity meant he was primed to call anybody to any resurgence of anything?  Apparently ... it's just too bad there were some problems with a lack of footnotes.
"Roman Catholics might look on Protestantism from the outside and see it as theology ruled by a mob. Speaking as an insider, it often seems to me to be ruled more by the Mob."
The things that slowly and steadily came to light about the disciplinary culture of Mars Hill make it hard to disagree with this.
"There is indeed an unbearable, kitschy lightness to so much that passes for conservative Protestant life and thought. The theology that sells is by and large a cheap, rootless imitation of the real thing. Year after year, the same brand names churn out bland, lightweight books on whatever is the topic of the moment, with no regard to authorial competence. It is the names that sell, after all."
It wasn't that long ago the controversy Wilson was facing involved a question of why he was willing to officiate the wedding of a convicted sex offender.
This, as was noted by Dan over at City of God, seemed to fly in the face of the alpha male precedent Wilson's rhetoric would seem to have established.  How did such a gap between what Wilson would have been willing to say and what Wilson did emerge? 
It can be popularly said that many do not take Christianity seriously because of Christian hypocrisy.  That no longer seems like the real core of the objection.  Gandhi's negative views of women and his racism with respect to blacks didn't prevent him from being a hero to the cause of Indian independence. Martin Luther King Jr. may have been a womanizer and even a plagiarist but did those things invalidate the cause of civil rights for blacks?  But when it turns out that the guy who is connected to Canon Press has his name connected to a book that has to be retracted because of plagiarism has proposed that maybe the real reason things went bad for Mark Driscoll was a vendetta against him by beta males when the actual controversy that began to sink his public credibility was brought up by a woman ... the reasons Douglas Wilson thought that narrative of his made any sense may be possessed by Douglas Wilson alone.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Carl Trueman writes about a particularly specious variation of "we're all sinners" and the "if only sinless perfection is acceptable no one could minister"--the base line for ministry could be summed up as basic human deceny
...One thing I would like to add though is a comment on a particular version of the ‘we’re all sinners, so it’s really ok’ argument.  In one instance, while debating whether a particular individual was qualified for office, a person read to me the list of qualifications for eldership and declared: ‘If we apply those, then nobody will ever be qualified!’

Really?  Is it so hard to be faithful to one’s wife? To be sober minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach?  Not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy for money? A good manager of one’s household, and well-respected in the neighbourhood? The list, as far as it connects to personal qualities, is simply demanding what my father would have called ‘basic decency.’  To use the list as if it demands sinless perfection is perverse.  Ironically, it can then lead to dismissing it as irrelevant in practice.  That actually leads to a lowering of the bar below the level of basic decency, which is clearly an abuse of the text.

The idea that adultery is not disqualifying for office because all are sinners is a silly, self-serving argument.  The options are not ‘sinless perfection’ or ‘nothing really matters.’ Basic biblical decency is the standard.  Not hard to achieve.   And the argument for permanent disqualification for adultery rests upon the peculiarly heinous nature of the violation of the marriage bond.  The unique significance of physical, sexual union, the depth of betrayal of trust involved, and the mockery of the relationship of Christ to the church which such constitutes, all serve to make this particular transgression exceptionally serious.  Not the unforgiveable sin by any means but certainly irreversible when it comes to its significance for office-bearing in the church. 

What can also result that Trueman didn't touch upon in the post is this, there can become a double standard in which my failure to live up to the holy checklist can't disqualify me but your failures to live up to it disqualifies you. One of the most damning self-testimonies from Mark Driscoll in Real Marriage was when he flatly stated that he and Grace saw a number of reputedly good marriage counselors but it turned out those people had marriages no better than the rickety Driscoll marriage--ergo, they were not qualified to instruct Driscolls on marriage, not this stopped Mark Driscoll from being a marriage advisor himself.  Herein is a dangerous precedent--hypocrisy may often be unobserved and unintentional but a double standard may often have to be known. 

The flip side of requiring nothing less than perfection when we want a sympathetic victim or saint is that once that status is granted their real imperfections can be utterly ignored.  Or in a defense of the scarcely defensible we can be tempted to bring up the sinless perfection standards.  "Nobody's perfect" may not be as acceptable when you're the recipient rather than the perpetrator of a wrong.  As Driscoll used to put it so axiomatically, when I sin against you I want mercy but when you sin against me I want justice.  That dynamic played out at least a little bit in 2011-2013.  In later 2011 there was that cease-and-desist incident with Mars Hill over trademark and logo.  At the time the concern was that people had been cribbing stuff from Mars Hill.  Then in 2013 when confronted by Janet Mefferd with the allegation of plagiarism Mark Driscoll's response included "maybe I made a mistake". All of a sudden someone was described as "accusatory and unkind".

People make mistakes but when the mistakes span a man's entire published career in books while he'd intermittently sound off on how bad taking the lazy route was in other dudes, it's not unwarranted to point out, by way of Carl Trueman's discussion of the pastoral qualifications list, we're not talking about sinless perfection here--we're looking at basic human decency and if someone falls short in some glaring way on the basic human decency part maybe they are no longer fit for pastoral office.  They don't stop being believers, they aren't forever barred from Christian fellowship, but they may have broken trust in ways that preclude them from ever being ministers in a church setting.

we prefer our victims of injustice and our saints to be perfectly sinless

There's not going to be a whole ton of backstory setting this one up. This is more for those who already have the background.

It's been striking how differently a man can be perceived based on what is and isn't known about him.  From being a prisoner to being described as a spouse abuser, sympathies have shifted. 

And perhaps in various respects sympathies should shift.

Still ... we like our symbolic victims to be sinless, or at least sinless in the sense that we can't hold anything against them.

It's easy to quote someone from the past for as long as we tie them to a sufficiently righteous cause.  Gandhi, for instance.  Sure, it could turn out some writers highlight that Gandhi could be misogynistic and racist but Gandhi's usefulness to the cause of Indian independence doesn't change. Blacks in America may not approve of Martin Luther King's history of womanizing and plagiarism but his advocacy for civil rights is not categorically jeapordized on philosophical grounds just for that ... is it?

The possibility that people can be both truly heroic and truly monstrous may be the least acceptable premise on the internet. Still less acceptable may be the possibility that someone can be a victim of one kind of injustice while having perpetrated other kinds of injustice; that someone might be heroic in one respect but utterly villainous in another.

So, obviously, we can come to the biblical narrative literature.  Saints described in the Bible have some grisly histories.  I've struggled for years with Hebrews 11 mentioning Jephthah as a hero of the faith.  No, I don't for one second accept the claim that he did not immolate his daughter as a holocaust. The Hebrew word leaves no wiggle room for that when you see it show up all over Leviticus.  Barry Webb's commentary on Judges fielded this issue and he laid it to rest.  Jephthah burned his only child as an offering.

William Lane's commentary on Hebrews mentioned, if I recall correctly, that considering the level of ostracism Jephthah faced as the illegitimate son of a prostitute, disinherited from any of his relatives' estates and functionally driven out of Israelite society, he could have chosen to not call upon Yahweh and not even bother to go help the people who spurned him.  He decided to fight to defend the people that spurned him, in exchange for getting to rule them, of course. He also opted to make a calculated vow that wasn't necessary and then when it boomeranged on him in the worst possible way blamed his daughter rather than himself for his cagey promise. It might be helpful to point out that Hebrews 11 directs us to a list of those who trusted in Yahweh and that the hall of faith, so to speak, should be considered a list of those who trusted in God rather than those who through their words and conduct merited unqualified praise.
But there's a flip side to this dynamic of wanting sinless perfection in our publicly identifiable victims and saints, it can be that once we've labeled someone as being in the right cause we'll excuse just about anything in them ... that could lead to another slippery thing ...

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

a property formerly owned by Storyville Coffee has new owner, a brief look at the speed with which Storyville associates disassociated from the former Mars Hill

Long ago there was some mystery as to what Storyville Coffee was going to do with some space it bought in Bainbridge Island.

It was a news-making purchase back in 2013 for the local press, because the property had been purchased back in 2011.

and then, later ...

Of course by then Jon Phelps had joined the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability ...

and not everyone was persuaded that there was no connection between Storyville and Mars Hill
If anything, The Stranger took some time to point out, the formal connection between Storyville Coffee and Mars Hill became more explicit if Phelps was owner of the coffee company and on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability to boot. It was not necessarily a question of how formal the connection was as that it could be observed that there was a history of some connection between Phelps and Driscoll by Driscoll's own account.

BoAA members Paul Tripp and James MacDonald had both jumped ship by the time Phelps arrived on the BoAA, if memory serves, and Phelps and Matt Rogers were added to the roster. The BoAA apparently existed for just long enough to have some kind of role to play during the season Driscoll said he was presented with a restoration plan that he agreed to and then didn't agree to.  And once Driscoll resigned the decision was made to formally dissolve the corporation that has been Mars Hill Fellowship aka Mars Hill Church.  The formal dissolution has not been completed just yet and the foundation for planting churches has been renewed through 2016. There are still about eleven spin off churches that may potentially get some kind of funding from the foundation for planting churches, though that's just a guess.

What did get clarified by March of 2015 was that whatever connections Storyville Coffee once had with Mars Hill those were disavowed and apparently ended.

As of mid-November 2015, the neglected Bainbridge real estate has a new owner. Based on local coverage asbestos removal was an issue that dogged the property.  That might have been one of any number of potential variables that kept the real estate from getting developed by Storyville while it owned the property, which is just a guess here.

What's not a guess is that there's nary a trace of a Jamie Munson or other Mars Hill associated leadership in the membership of Storyville Coffee in the current SOS listing for Storyville.

Munson's blog has not exactly been burbling with activity.  One of the last posts was more than a year ago, announcing that Money was available again.

a few other entries ...


A false deadline –that is, an arbitrary deadline we’ve created for ourselves – can quickly lead to mediocre production. For all the good intentions behind creating deadlines for ourselves, we can unwittingly get hasty, missing strategic opportunities. In the rush to meet a deadline, we can make tactical mistakes that should never have been made.

When a deadline is fixed outside of our control, we can excuse some degree of error in the act of prioritizing for the deadline. You’ve seen it happen: your colleagues look you in the eye and say, “It is what it is. We’ve got to work with what we’ve got. There’s no time to go back and make it perfect.” It’s all well and good in those circumstances, and in the best organizations, those kinds of intense decision points can actually save you from a heck of a lot of unnecessary debate that  slows down the project.

The real problem is that when we set our own false deadlines, we can take those “it-is-what-it-is” moments and live with them as though we don’t have the option of moving a deadline. When you fix a false deadline, it’s easy to sacrifice quality for the sake of production. And that can be detrimental to your organization.

How much Munson was writing from direct experience never got clarified because the post wrapped up a few sentences later but since Mars Hill no longer exists and managed to scrub away any vestiges of Munson's legacy within it almost as thoroughly as Storyville representation disavowed any connection to any Mars Hill anything it's tough to know whether Munson's generalizations have had any connection to any practical experience or not. 

Although ... with that warning in bold about how a false deadline can lead to sacrificing quality for production that "could" sound to a few former Mars Hill members like what happened back in 2007 when a high pressure push to pass revised bylaws was coming up and two guys in the leadership roster were seen as standing in the way of that set of bylaws getting passed. 

Well, moving along ... Munson explained a little about his later days in a company ...


When I was leaving my last role as an executive in a start up retail coffee company, I was torn. I enjoyed what I was doing but I felt like something was missing that I couldn’t put my finger on. One day it clicked, I need to prioritize what I’m looking for in my career to help me make the decision of whether I should go or stay. If you’ve read my blog long enough you’ve started to notice that I love to prioritize. It’s the single most helpful thing I’ve found to more effectively manage my life and leadership. It’s a process that can be applied to anything, including how to make a really big career decision. Beyond myself, I love helping clients walk through this process; clarity is a powerful tool.

Why, yes, clarity is a powerful tool ... if you ever use it.  And it is surely clear, as Munson put it in the prior paragraph from the quoted post that he has received and given a lot of cliché advice! Like "Own it and Move On".  If you managed to read through the "Key" and got any clarity as to what on earth Munson was missing that he couldn't put his finger on comments are an option (though they automatically go into moderation).

Meanwhile, Storyville seems to have moved on from seeing any need to acknowledge any history of any connection to anybody from Mars Hill. 

In other news ... Full Sail has gotten some flack on the matter of being a for profit college whose students have some pretty high levels of debt.

and in more local real estate news ... Throckmorton's noted that ...

stories from left and right about each other sometimes suggest the paranoid style is mutual and both sides are happy to live up to the other team's narrative of dread

Trump's various statements have inspired some shock and awe from people who are concerned that there's an apparently larger-than-thought constituency of the American public that agrees with his sentiments.  That may well be ... although the various mass shootings have suggested to some in the public sphere that the people most likely to engage in mass shootings are not necessarily couples of Middle Eastern descent but downwardly mobile resentful middle-aged white guys who have either failed to get or keep this or that woman of choice.

Sometimes it seems as though the left and right hate profiling but only if it's profiling a group they've decided they're for.  If we don't rush to commit to either the left or the right we might take a wild guess that a common denominator is that it's not just radicalized Muslims or socially and economically faltering middle-aged white guys who feel they haven't gotten what they deserve out of life ... you might almost wonder whether the common denominator is a form of class warfare in which people get killed because of what they are believed to represent in the minds of the killers rather than for anything meaningful about the individuals who have been slain.

For decades the Religious Right has inveighed against abortion and gay marriage. There are some progressives who have insisted that just because gay marriage has become the law of the land doesn't mean all the other things social conservatives have fretted about are going to come to pass. 

Okay ... but maybe it would be good to point out that neither the left nor the right are as monolithic as they like to say the other is?

Couldn't an article like the above play rather easily into the slippery slope narrative social conservatives of various stripes have been warning was likely for decades?  Even though plenty of progressives may be pretty sure pederasty will never be socially acceptable it's been socially acceptable in the past.  Shamus Khan wrote not so long ago that the gay rights advocacy narrative that could be summed up as "born this way" could have been a dangerous shortcut.

Blacks did not appeal to innate biological distinctions in lobbying for civil rights and proper recognition within society so what was appealing about making such an appeal for gay rights advocates?  Khan proposed that it was the fastest way to get the desired long-term results but that there was an intellectual and philosophical price paid along the way that ... maybe wasn't worth it.

Let's float the possibility that the price paid was conceding the very form of slippery slope argument social conservatives have fretted about.  And now gay writers have shown some signs since Obergfell that some believe marriage itself creates social inequality and some worry that once some gays can get married like they've wanted to that they will stop participating in other LGBTQ causes.  The conundrum could be one that is paradoxically wrought by a success, a recent ruling, and there's a risk in any activist campaign of discovering, once you have what you want, ,how many alliances you had were less alliances of principle than alliances of convenience. 

Meanwhile, one of the problems with Trump being so public a face for people who root for conservative causes is that it would not take THAT much effort for folks on the left to run with their narrative about the other side, that the social conservatives and right-leaning folks are paranoid racist gun-loving thugs.  A further component of the narrative about the right that can take shape from the left is that the Religious Right can be construed as having taken shape because of opposition to racial desegregation activity and that the neo-conservative movement can be described as what emerged when previously liberal Jews in academia felt threatened by the prospect of affirmative action, a policy shift that could signal a decline in the Jewish influence within the academy.  For that ... there's a synopsis of this narrative at Jacobin.

For the Religious Right as spurred more by racial tension than abortion ...
Another variant ... courtesy of Salon.
Sexual purity movements, past and present, are not ultimately about promoting a biblical view of sexuality. They are about explaining large-scale culture crises (e.g. Anglo-Saxon decline, the Cold War, changing gender roles and sexual mores) and providing a formula for overcoming those crises.
Today’s movement is laden with a therapeutic rhetoric that presents these choices as the best choices for those who seek to conform their behaviors to God’s will. It promises that those who conform will enjoy spiritual, physical, and emotional satisfaction in their marriage relationships. Other scholars have parsed these claims in more sophisticated ways than I do and many other writers have demonstrated that these expectations are anything but a path to personal well being. What I’m saying is that sexual purity has never been about personal well-being for evangelical adolescents— or anyone.

Each historical example I analyze demonstrates that purity work and rhetoric has emerged at moments when socially conservative evangelicals seek to assert and maintain their political power.
Sometimes it seems as though the most ardent partisans of left and right are not particularly happy with sweeping narratives and stereotypes when wielded by the other team ... caricatures they are all too happy to take up when they want to play hardball.

Everyone else on the other team is basically fascist in this kind of political discourse, while anything our team might do is just for the public good. Decades ago an older man I got to know in college fretted (and this before Clinton was sowrn in) that the two party system wasn't what it once was.  Instead of liberals and conservatives the party hearts had been commandeered by radicals and reactionaries, people who kept moving the goalposts of who counted as being "in" and that this was going to annihilate the possibility of real-world political work, real world compromise for the good of the nation. 

Sometimes it seems he was right.  Sometimes it seems that the left and the right are not interested in anything that could be construed as a shared history or shared ideals.  This has seemed awkwardly manifest in family policy.  Social conservatives have seemed for decades to want to move us back to a nuclear whitebread family circa 1955 toa  past that never quite existed.  But for those on the left they seem determined to impose an egalitarian political ideology onto the very definition of family that flies in the face of the majority of the history of the human specis.  It can seem that whether it's the American left or the American right what they trumpet as the best way to conceive of the family is nothing more than unexamined American cultural imperialism. It's not necessarily for the family so much as ensuring the family as some abstraction can be properly vetted as being sufficiently American for the interests of ideologues. 

And it seems that whether left or right there are narratives in place to blame the other and exonerate the self.  The trouble with every totalitarian is they're doing what they consider necessary. It's awfully easy to think that "your" interest in the use of power is tyranny while mine is "reasonable".  It's not at all clear that red state and blue state narratives about each other aren't equally immersed in a paranoid style.  I admit to being a fatalist and a pessimist about American politics. 

It can seem that whether it's the left or the right we have armies of people who have doubled down on narratives that amy be incomplete at best or wildly inaccurate at worst.  It's been nearly impopssible to take AlterNet/Salon seriously for their decade-long glib misrepresentation of basic details abou the life and times of what was once called Mars Hill.  Conversely, people who would be particularly sympathetic to Driscoll then or now have probably never so much as read a single paragraph in, say, Jacobin or Salon.  There's been jokes by some with left interests that leftists want to bring abou tchange and rightists want to stop change and the moderates keep everyone from being able to do anything.  Maybe that's as it should be?  For as polarized as the left and right, whether in dogmatics or politics (which can end up seeming pretty much the same in American terms since it's inconceivable to Americans that someone could be doctrinally conservative in religion while progressive in politics) maybe a few stubborn moderates have some role in the public discourse. Not sure what that role could be ... other than existing.

The rise and fall of Mars Hill may still offer a potentially instructive case history.  For as long as Driscoll was getting name-dropped with disgust by progressives this could only ever play into his persona.  The fateful on air conversation with Janet Mefferd changed things. Once intra-group critique emerged, once it was possible to set aside "he may be a dog but he's our dog" things changed.  The trouble with the left and right, it seems, is that there's not so much of that going on and yet it may be most necessary for our time and place.  Perhaps there's no such thing as principled stick-in-the-mud progressives and conservatives depending on what team you've committed to.  But it seems the art of real world policy and politics and social life may still depend on finding ways to respectfully differ on basic principles in the public sphere in a way that avoids stooping to the pat narratives that circulate in the age of the internet.  The worst thing we can do is conscientiously choose to live up to the paranoid slippery slope narratives we're telling about each other during election cycles.