Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sean Blanda "The Creative World's Bull$h1t Industrial Complex, with some consideration of such a complex as the Christian conference scene by analogy

During just the weekend when I've been musing about how every last vocational artist is inevitably the servant of or the builder of an empire ... I come across this.
The bullshit industrial complex is a pyramid of groups that goes something like this:
Group 1: People actually shipping ideas, launching businesses, doing creative work, taking risks and sharing first-hand learnings.
Group 2: People writing about group 1 in clear, concise, accessible language.
[And here rests the line of bullshit demarcation…]
Group 3: People aggregating the learnings of group 2, passing it off as first-hand wisdom.
Group 4: People aggregating the learnings of group 3, believing they are as worthy of praise as the people in group 1.
Groups 5+: And downward….

At my most charitable level of assessment I used to think of Mark Driscoll as having had a place in Group 2.  He was never going to be in Group 1, but he managed to summarize the writings of people in Group 1 if he read them.  But now it seems that, at best, he's in Group 3 and has been in Group 3 for some time.  His fans have largely been in Group 4 to the extent that they've published books. 
Creative people often despise those that criticize work without having work of their own. Something Teddy Roosevelt referred to as “being in the arena.” We respect opinions from those that are in the trenches with us, doing the hard things that we try to do. But this creative expert class is worse than any critic, offering other people creative salvation in an attempt to find their own. We despise critics with no skin in the game but we’ve handed them the keys to our kingdom and the space on our library bookshelf.

Ah ... yes ... and here at Wenatchee The Hatchet we discussed that famous Roosevelt address in which he also said

      It is a bad thing for a nation to raise and to admire a false standard of success; and their can be no falser standard than that set by the deification of material well-being in and for itself.

and ... as noted earlier:

But if a man's efficiency is not guided and regulated by a moral sense, then the more efficient he is the worse he is, the more dangerous to the body politic. Courage, intellect, all the masterful qualities, serve but to make a man more evil if they are merely used for that man's own advancement, with brutal indifference to the rights of others. It speaks ill for the community if the community worships these qualities and treats their possessors as heroes regardless of whether the qualities are used rightly or wrongly. It makes no difference as to the precise way in which this sinister efficiency is shown. [emphases added] It makes no difference whether such a man's force and ability betray themselves in a career of money-maker or politician, soldier or orator, journalist or popular leader. ...
in place of "popular leader" you could insert "popular megachurch pastor".  Now, getting back to Blanda:

Let’s be clear here: Those who write books, speak at conferences, or write essays are not all bullshitters. Many (if not most!) are offering advice that takes its audience into consideration. This is not bullshit. This is good.

What I’m referring to are those that believe being “industry famous” in the creative world is success in of itself. Especially those that start out with that goal in mind. This is where the Complex can poison talent. Being industry famous should be the result of some contribution to the world that the industry respects and wishes to learn from. Or insights unique and useful that it genuinely makes people’s lives better.

What Blanda wrote about conferences for "creative" ... not so sure it applies to Christian conferences these days.  I haven't had the willpower to dig into the conference side of things but it has become abundantly clear that whatever Acts 29 leadership had to say about Mark Driscoll in 2014 there's no stopping the conference train for Driscoll. 

If someone cares more about what their industry peers think of them than the problems they are solving, they’re a bullshitter. If the idea of being “known” is barometer of their success above user (or reader) success stories, they’re a bullshitter. They are the internet’s equivalent of a reality TV star, taking advantage of the attention economy by catering to our worst instincts in lieu of substance

This unintentionally piggy-backs on the earlier post that quoted from Michael Spencer's question as to whether American evangelicalism could truly decouple itself from the parasitic presence of the prosperity gospel.  Prosperity teaching may be like a deeply dug in tick in American Christian thinking, regardless of what other differences may exist among its participants. 

But as it applies to the Christian pastors' conference scene ...

if you care more about being able to keep showing up for the conferences than about whether or not your sins that have been confronted about not only theoretically bar you from the conference scene but that might be sins for which you'd say (about someone else, obviously) "that person isn't fit to be a pastor" then you could be ...


chris e said...

but like 'Wargames' the only way to win here is not to play.

Cal P said...

Blanda sounds like one of those overconfident, way too intense, millenial guys who aggressively mouths off about success and effort. It doesn't surprise me he quotes TR. I get his major point, and generally agree with it. But isn't it ironic he critiques while critiquing criticism? Maybe he's not so far from what he, himself, is talking about.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

For my time he didn't quote the part from TR that I thought was most pertinent to the point he was trying to make, which is that it is bad when a society celebrates a false measure of success.

But, obviously, I found elements of the critique resonant with some concerns I and other folks I know have begun to have about the Christian conference circuit, which could be the BS industrial complex but Christiam (TM). :)

But the Christian variation would be the irony of neo-Calvinist bloggers pissing about bloggers. :D