Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Mark Driscoll and the Gospel of [escaping] white trash: part 7--put down people with more degrees than Fahrenheit ca. 2003-2007, invoke credentials in 2012-2013 in response to a "kerfuffle", an arc of double standards on credentials

In order to more fully flesh out some implications of Mark Driscoll as a man of white trash lineage who spent his public ministry simultaneously invoking the idioms of the redneck for their colloquial appeal while belittling rednecks/hillbillies/white trash as a group to distance himself from them, it might be useful to quote something from Rod Dreher's conversation with the author of Hillbilly Elegy:


Rod Dreher
I’m not a hillbilly, nor do I descend from hillbilly stock, strictly speaking. But I do come from poor rural white people in the South. I have spent most of my life and career living among professional class urbanite, most of them on the East Coast, and the barely-banked contempt they — the professional-class whites, I mean — have for poor white people is visceral, and obvious to me. Yet it is invisible to them. Why is that? And what does it have to do with our politics today?

I know exactly what you mean.  My grandma (Mamaw) recognized this instinctively.  She said that most people were probably prejudiced, but they had to be secretive about it.  “We”–meaning hillbillies–“are the only group of people you don’t have to be ashamed to look down upon.”  During my final year at Yale Law, I took a small class with a professor I really admired (and still do).  I was the only veteran in the class, and when this came up somehow in conversation, a young woman looked at me and said, “I can’t believe you were in the Marines.  You just seem so nice.  I thought that people in the military had to act a certain way.”  It was incredibly insulting, and it was my first real introduction to the idea that this institution that was so important among my neighbors was looked down upon in such a personal way. To this lady, to be in the military meant that you had to be some sort of barbarian.  I bit my tongue, but it’s one of those comments I’ll never forget. 

The “why” is really difficult, but I have a few thoughts.  The first is that humans appear to have some need to look down on someone; there’s just a basic tribalistic impulse in all of us.  And if you’re an elite white professional, working class whites are an easy target: you don’t have to feel guilty for being a racist or a xenophobe.  By looking down on the hillbilly, you can get that high of self-righteousness and superiority without violating any of the moral norms of your own tribe.  So your own prejudice is never revealed for what it is. [emphasis added]


On the other hand, as Hillbilly Elegy says so well, that reflexive reverse-snobbery of the hillbillies and those like them is a real thing too, and something that undermines their prospects in life. Is there any way for it to be overcome, other than getting out of the bubble, as you did?

I’m not sure we can overcome it entirely. Nearly everyone in my family who has achieved some financial success for themselves, from Mamaw to me, has been told that they’ve become “too big for their britches.” [emphasis added] I don’t think this value is all bad.  It forces us to stay grounded, reminds us that money and education are no substitute for common sense and humility.  But, it does create a lot of pressure not to make a better life for yourself, and let’s face it: when you grow up in a dying steel town with very few middle class job prospects, making a better life for yourself is often a binary proposition: if you don’t get a good job, you may be stuck on welfare for the rest of your life.

What Dreher and Vance were discussing is straightforward enough.  Now that Mark Driscoll has relocated into Arizona and has begun to put up old sermons we can revisit some of those older sermons and writings to consider whether or not there were times when Mark Driscoll had his own variation of saying someone had become too big for their britches. Before Mark Driscoll had amassed, to his own understanding, credentials enough to invoke as pre-emptive trump cards on public issues, he had a history of inveighing against those sorts of people who tried to do that.

It's not that hard to establish.



Part 1 of Ecclesiastes
Pastor Mark Driscoll | Ecclesiastes 1:1-18 | March 16, 2003

Some say, “But, did he try this? Did he try this? Did he try this?” He did. Verse 17 – “Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this too is a chasing after the wind.” What he says is this – “There’s two approaches to finding meaning in your life. One is high brow.” Some people go high brow. “I’ll get a suit.” “I’ll figure out what the salad fork is actually for.” “I won’t drive my car. I’ll pay a driver.” “I will go to the symphony and I will pretend that large, Italian women yelling at me is enjoyable.” [emphasis added]

“I will eat good food. I will drink good wine. I will sleep in a nice bed.” “And I will use big words that I don’t understand and I will live the high brow life.” And he said, “I did that. I went to college and got more degrees than Fahrenheit. I spent all kinds of money and hung out with very sophisticated people. And you know what? They’re all just lost and crooked and confused and frustrated like everybody else.” [emphasis added] So, he said, “You know what? I tried folly as well. I looked over, saw my redneck neighbors, thought, ‘Hey, they look happy’. Maybe they’re drunk and not that bright, but they look happy, so maybe they have an angle.” So, he says, “You know what? I tried that as well. I got rid of my suit, got all NASCAR t-shirts.”

“I got rid of my condo in Belltown and I got myself a brand new old trailer. I took all the furniture and put it outside in the yard. Don’t know why. All the neighbors did it, didn’t wanna stick out.”


Part 27 of 1st Corinthians
Pastor Mark Driscoll | 1 Corinthians 12:1-8; 11 | August 06, 2006

So the whole point of study is what? Love of Jesus. You can memorize the whole Bible. You can get more degrees than Fahrenheit but if you don’t love Jesus, you kinda miss the whole point. [emphasis added] The whole point of all study and knowledge is the love of Jesus through science and through medicine and through law and through philosophy and through history and through theology. What does this reveal about God? What does this tell me about Jesus?

That’s how you study.

Vintage Jesus, page 148
Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
Copyright (c) 2007 by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
ISBN 978-1-58134-975-7 (HC)

Following in Jefferson’s and Paine’s fatal footsteps, in 1985 the two hundred fellows (a.k.a. kindling) of the Jesus Seminar gathered to vote on the probability of the truthfulness of the words and deeds of Jesus as recorded in Scripture. By the time they were finished, they surmised that only 18 percent of what is recorded as Jesus’ words in the Gospels were actually said by Jesus. Only one statement from the Gospel of Mark got voted in. Even the most critical of scholars think that the trustworthiness of Scripture is a lot better than this. These guys were obviously educated beyond their intelligence. [emphasis added]

Now certainly a Christian can affirm that love for Christ and devotion to Christ's teaching and example and to regard Jesus as Lord and God is the thing that defines a Christian, if we aim to boil everything down.  That's not necessarily the point, which is to observe that it's fairly easy to establish that Mark Driscoll's polemics against people with doctrinal views or views of biblical texts he disagreed with was to say these people had more degrees than Fahrenheit and were educated beyond their intelligence.  These were people, in a phrase, too big for their britches.  When there was a possibility that "nerds" would contest an interpretation Mark Driscoll had for a biblical text based on the Greek Driscoll could be summarily dismissive of that whole approach.  Or at least that could be the approach until it was his turn to assert he was right, as when he proposed Song of Songs 2 had to refer to a woman performing oral sex on her husband regardless of having failed to make a compelling exegetical case for that interpretive approach in the last ... twenty years.



from A Blog Post for the Brits, published by Mark Driscoll January 12, 2012:


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.




I don’t pretend to be the world’s greatest writer. But I did start writing professionally as a journalist in high school, paid my way through high school and college writing articles and editing my college newspaper, got a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the top-notch Edward R. Murrow School of Communication, and have written blogs and articles for everyone from CNN to the Washington Post to Fox News.

It's frankly impossible to take seriously any claim from Mark Driscoll that what he wrote by way of op-ed editorializing for The Daily Evergreen as professional journalism of any kind.  Still, it's interesting to observe how during the 2012-2013 period Mark Driscoll was very ready to tell the world what his credentials and status were as a way to pre-emptively secure his case.



An Official Response to The Kerfuffle At Liberty University
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Apr 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.

The irony of this juxtaposition in just half a decade would hardly seem worth commenting on if Mark Driscoll had not lately positioned himself in Scottsdale with a new church plant.  It's easy to talk about how a person weathers storms while skimming over just how much of those storms could ... conceivably ... be explained as variations on pride going before a fall. 

A decade earlier Mark Driscoll would have scoffed at the idea, from the pulpit, that merely invoking credentials proved you had won the argument or even knew what you were talking about.  That's what made Mark Driscoll's eagerness to invoke his credentials and reputation to pre-emptively settle scores over an interview with Justin Brierley or the "kerfuffle" at Liberty University in 2012 such a drastic contrast between the rules for "me" and the rules for "thee". 

It's impossible to not notice the condescension with which Driscoll talked about having been distracted by this thing called Easter.  It didn't take long for Driscoll to invoke Washington State University's Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and remind people that he worked professionally as a journalist (without mentioning the apparently all op-ed side of that). 

Within ten years’ time the guy who was functionally saying scholars who disputed doctrines he considered essential were too big for their britches by having more degrees than Fahrenheit and being educated beyond their intelligence was riding pretty high.  By late 2013 a fateful on-air interview with Janet Mefferd started to change things. 

During the first quarter of 2012 Mark Driscoll avoided any public occasion to discuss the disciplinary case of Andrew Lamb or the publication of the Petry documents at Joyful Exiles.  But if the controversy was something like justifying his approach to Elephant Room 2 or riffing on the "kerfuffle" or even doing a pre-emptive character hit on Justin Brierley, Mark Driscoll was more than ready.  So long as the controversy in question swirled around his public persona he was ready to talk.  Once a controversy swirled around the substance and credibility of what he published things and how he handled things as the lately crowned legal president of Mars Hill things were very different.

One of the questions that never got asked along the way in the scandals that swirled around Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill from 2013 through 2014 is "why?"  Not just why Result Source was contracted or books weren't credited and cited in first editions but why someone in leadership at Mars Hill would have felt there was any need for any of that.  In some effort to work toward proposing a possible theory we can revisit years' worth of stuff Mark Driscoll shared for the record about his family background.