Monday, July 11, 2016

Real Marriage in 2016, looking back on those endorsements and the tussles that touched the endorsers

Back in January 2012 Mark and Grace Driscoll had their book Real Marriage published by Thomas Nelson. Festooned with advance praise, it went on to land a place on the New York Times bestseller list.  The book stirred up some controversy and not even among evangelicals was there agreement as to the books merits. But the names of those who were willing to sign their names in praise of the book before it came out are worth mentioning.  By now we can recall the extent to which the first edition of Real Marriage was found wanting a bit in the footnotes and credits department in its original form. As praiseworthy as it was that things got fixed, particularly in the case of the work of Allender, the plagiarism controversy that surrounded Mark Driscoll cast doubt on the competency and legitimacy of mainstream Christian popular publishing in a way that was awkward, to be friendly about it.  I haven't even considered getting a Thomas Nelson book since, but that's just me.

But even if Christian publishing as a whole was not marred by the controversies surrounding Driscoll's books, it can seem as though there was a foundational failure on the part of the neo-Calvinist/Young Restless and Reformed movement to have spotted the citation failures that emerged in the 2013-2014 plagiarism controversy.  That's not even counting the matter of Result Source.

There is a sense in which Real Marriage could be seen as a touchstone of what seem to be problems within American celebrity Christianity, problems that are not necessarily unique to evangelicalism but that may be more prominent because evangelicalism has a greater mastery of what Ellul would have called propaganda in comparison to mainlines.  Sadly, we could basically go down the list of people who endorsed the book Real Marriage for a few non-random case studies.

Thank you, Grace and Mark for your extraordinary transparency and spot-on biblical insights. Whether engaged, newlywed, or veteran, Real Marriage will serve as an invaluable resource. I highly recommend this book.
Andy Stanley, author of The Grace of God and Senior Pastor, North Point Community Church

Andy Stanley had a relatively minor gaffe earlier this year.

The next person on the list of endorsements was Darrin Patrick.

With more and more couples living more like business partners rather than friends, we don't need another safe, sterile marriage book. We need a direct, compassionate and realistic view of what marriage is, what it can be, and how we can lovingly befriend our spouse for a lifetime. Mark and Grace have helped all of us who have vowed "I do" to wildly enjoy our spouses.
Darrin Patrick, Lead Pastor, The Journey, St. Louis, Missouri

That was back in 2012, and at one point Mark Driscoll said of Patrick, "He's my pastor, you know?"
Patrick was a pastor,  past tense. Earlier this year it was announced that Darrin Patrick was removed from Acts 29 leadership and from leadership at The Journey.

Darrin Patrick, vice president of the Acts 29 church planting network and founding pastor of The Journey megachurch in St. Louis, has been fired for violating his duties as a pastor.
The Journey cited a range of ongoing sinful behaviors over the past few years including manipulation, domineering, lack of biblical community, and “a history of building his identity through ministry and media platforms.”
In a letter announcing its lead pastor’s removal after 14 years of leadership, the church clarified that adultery was not a factor, though elders looked into inappropriate interactions with two women.

So Patrick is no longer in leadership.  There are, of course, other folks who endorsed Real Marriage. We'll get to them presently.

Real Marriage is brutally and sometimes painfully honest. Further, it is frank and direct in addressing a number of important marital issues. Sometimes you probably will feel uncomfortable. And, you may not agree with everything Grace and Mark Driscoll say. We didn't. However, this is a book we will gladly use and recommend to others who care about healthy, biblical marriages. We believe both husbands and wives will be blessed by  and benefit from its content. Grace and Mark are to be commended for writing a book that bares their souls and, more importantly, points to the redeeming power of the gosel in the sacred covenant called marriage.
Charlotte and Daniel Akin, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

If Akin demonstrated support to a campaign to reduce discrimination against secularists ...

That's probably not something that would seem controversial to people in Seattle.

Miles McPherson endorsed the book in so brief and non-descript a way it's blink-and-you-missed it. 

Real Marriage is a powerfully transparent perspective on marriage for all couples, both single and married.
Miles McPherson, Sr. Pastor, Rock Church

He's on the prayer support list for The Trinity Church.

Also on that prayer support list are Les & Leslie Parrot, who endorsed Real Marriage as follows:

Wow! This is the most vulnerabe marriage book we've ever read. Its honesty will take your breath away. Mark and Grace expose their relationship--its pain and passion--for all who care to learn the rudiments of real marriage. They don't dance around the tough issues. They don't tip-toe over dicey topics. The Driscolls jump in with wild abandon, and the result is a book that is frank but not crass, practical but not pedantic. If you're married or plan to be someday, do yourself a favor and read every page of this book.
Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott, Founders of and Authors of Love Talk

As reported by Warren Throckmorton, it turned out that Result Source was suggested to leadership at Mars Hill after RSI's services had proven useful to Les & Leslie Parrott in the promotion of one of their books.

As the board of the former Mars Hill Church put it, "In 2011, outside counsel advised our marketing team to use Result Source to market the Real Marriage book and attain placement on the New York Times Bestseller list. While not uncommon or illegal, this unwise strategy is not one we had used before or since, and not one we will use again."  

The link to the mars hill site is likely dead so ... over here.

There are some Christians, however, who DO think that gaming the New York Times bestseller list is an ethical problem.

But, on the whole, the Parrotts didn't resign from their posts and it turned out that other Christian authors have availed themselves of the Result Source service.  As would-be scandals go rigging best-seller lists is not thought of as all that career-ending a gambit.  No, for that you need something else ... and that sort of gets us to the next person who endorsed the book.
At last ... a marriage book that balances pastoral compassion with prophetic courage! The taboo questions every couple secretly wants to ask are courageously confronted without compromising God's Word or will fo rcouples. Mark and Grace have taken the subject of marriage to an unprecedented place of true transparency, profound practicality, and scriptural solidity ... which is a place every marriage needs to be.
Bob Coy, Senior Pastor, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale

Bob Coy, host of one of iTunes most-popular podcasts on Christianity and known for his teaching on marriage, has resigned as longtime leader of one of America's largest multisite churches after confessing to a "moral failing."
One interesting trend among the widespread reactions: Followers want his past teachings put back online.
An ex-cocaine-using megachurch pastor in Florida — who gave up a life of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’roll — has been toppled after committing adultery and having a penchant for porn.

Sure, a guy could get removed from being a pastor over something like wire fraud or alcohol abuse (not yet, folks) but traditionally to get removed from pastoral office in an American church the failings literally have to be sexier.  But it would be a mistake to think that just because a majority of people who endorsed Real Marriage in our list so far have had some flap or other that trouble is all across the board.

Mark and Grace have written an extraordinary book characterized by compassion for a bewildered generation which has failed to grasp the significance of marriage and covenant love, conviction that God's grace and truth provide healing and guidance, and courage to go where few would dare to go as they display a costly and selfless transparency.
Terry and Wendy Virgo, New Frontiers and Church of Christ the King, Brighton, England

Not aware that there's anything like a fracas connected to Virgo.

There's a relatively recent bit of news about this guy, though.

One of my greatest concerns is that culture is going to continually define and redefine what marriage is and is not, and the church is going to simply sit on the sidelines and react rather than seeking to actually become proactive by confidently teaching what the Bible has to say about it.  That is why I am so thankful that Mark and Grace Driscoll wrote this book.  Their approach to marriage, its benefits and challenges are transparent and challenging and I honestly believe that every married couple who will work through what they lead us through in this book will not just merely have a marriage that survives in this world but rather thrives in it.
Perry Noble, Senior Pastor, NewSpring Church


Few were fully braced for the news that awaited: Perry Noble, the only senior pastor the church has known, has been removed from his duties for personal issues related to alcohol by the church's leadership team.  ...

Noble supporters may not have the best track record for good behavior ... although one needn't read everything Duncan has blogged about his experiences to appreciate that Noble's recent removal from pastoral office because of alcohol abuse is not a small bit of news.

Wayne Grudem signed off with praise for Real Marriage when it came out:'

While some sections will be controversial, this bok as a whole is a wise, insightful, biblical, and startlingly honest guide to a happy marriage. Mark and Grace Driscoll rightly warn about the long-lasting consequences of sexual sin, point the way to a very happy marriage in obedience to God, and bravely address questions that are rarely brought up in a church setting. We are happy to recommend it.
Wayne and Margaret Grudem, Phoenix Seminary, Phoenix, Arizona

As recent debates has probably established more than most people would care to know, some folks are concerned that certain types of complementarians are insisting on a set of relational dynamics within the Trinity that seem to have veered from what is considered Nicene.

We're in the home stretch and when it comes to this next guy there's, well, ironically yet another history (not as recent) of associations that had people concerned about who he considered to be making orthodox statements about the Trinity.

Our thanks to Mark and Grace Driscoll who have served this generation well by tastefully but boldly addressing the real issues facing real marriages. Taking the unchanging truth of God’s word and sprinkling in is the story of God’s mercy in their own marriage they have filled every chapter with real helpfulness. This book is powerful, biblical, practical and healing for marriages that hurt. My wife and our adult children read it to great profit.
Dr. James MacDonald, Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel and Bible teacher for Walk in the Word

I.e. Elephant Room 2 stuff for the folks who don't remember.  There does come a point where even Wenatchee The Hatchet advises folks look things up on their own initiative.

There was that apology for how Harvest Bible Chapel employed what came to be regarded as essentially punitive church discipline ...

On Sunday, prominent pastor James MacDonald told his 13,000-member Harvest Bible Chapel congregation that he and his elder board were wrong for how they publicly disciplined three elders last year.

and there were concerns about the extent of debt that HBC acquired in the real estate acquisitions that were taken up under someone's leadership.

MacDonald was, for those who don't remember, was on the Mars Hill BoAA at one point.

you know, the James who Mark Driscoll said had the spiritual gift of real estate acquisition at 1:50 in the video ...

So ... anyway, you can see that overall it seems a majority of those who signed off on endorsing the book managed to get into a small or not-so-small spot of trouble, or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that their names showed up in headlines about things upon which not all Christians might agree the right things were done. 

Now that we have four years in which to look back on the 2012 Driscoll book it can seem a touchstone for evangelical American publishing not just in terms of the controversies that surrounded the book and the promotion of the book in itself, but also even in terms of what controversies or questionable practices ended up coming to light about some of those who endorsed the book.  No need to assume any of these people aren't sincere believers, obviously.  But it can seem as though that book wasn't just the book for which the reputation of a church ended up being harmed, it can also seem as though it's a book with a larger production and promotion history that can be a portal into seeing problems within American evangelicalism and particularly its celebrity culture that need to be more squarely addressed. 


Cal of Chelcice said...

I also recall that Thomas Nelson was bought out by News Corp (Murdoch of Fox News repute), which also owns Zondervan. It seems evangelical Christian publishing has become an arm of right-wing propaganda money making endeavors, though clearly Murdoch, or Fox News for that matter, is hardly conservative in anything but, perhaps, corporate capitalism and bigotry. Which fits the theme of evangelical publishing, which now tends towards eschewing any sense of theological integrity and drifting along with the zeitgeist.

I understand why Ellul disliked Billy Graham so much. By his methods and medium, the gospel became propaganda. Questions of fidelity are eclipsed by "culture-making", "influence", and "witnessing", where numbers and celebrity outshine any need to be held accountable for one's flaws. The current insanity is a fruit of the Crusade-style, and perhaps whatever good Graham did may have inoculated a generation or so from realizing how corrupting the medium can be, no matter the message.

St. Paul warns us of peddlers of the Gospel (2 Cor 2:17), it's a much needed warning.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

perhaps it's fitting that ...

this piece showed up.

My own take, polemical though it may be, is that the Religious Right has run aground on the same problem that the mainlines had a century earlier, what white Christians in the United States presumed was that their interests were the same as "real" Christianity when what they were both promoting was more like a form of cultural empire building.

Cal of Chelcice said...

I just thought of this (though it's hardly novel), but perhaps this is the unveiling that both the Modernists and Fundamentalists in their particular controversy were really two sides of the same coin, and that they are more similar than different. Namely, both sides had stakes in a White American Empire (whether bio-racially or culturally constructed). The fruit of this commitment, with the so-called eclipse as per the article, represents both their ships sinking (with Evangelicalism (as an -ism) as the compromising, hip, ecumenical, recasting of the Fundamentalists).

I don't think it will be too long until both political cultures, left and right, completely eschew anything resembling orthodox Christianity. I suppose that's a prophetic recurrence of the Whore of Babylon being devoured by the Beast she rode upon for so long. I hope this teaches Christians here that we ought to get out of the empire game for good, but I think that's far from over.