Saturday, May 21, 2016

Tim Challies publishes "A call for plodding bloggers", Josi Denise writes a fusilade about the influencer marketing idiom known as the mommy blog
May 20, 2016

I believe that blogs have been a blessing to the church in the twenty-first century.

That's a pretty emphatic opening. I think I can basically agree.

... Over my years of reading and writing blogs, I have seen thousands of blogs and bloggers come and go. There are many reasons people have stopped writing: Some have had life’s responsibilities overwhelm the time they would otherwise dedicate to writing, some have had to refocus on family or local church, some grew weary of critics and criticism, some have simply run out of things to say. But I think the most common reason people have given up is that they grew tired of the plodding. Over time they grew discouraged by the distance between the effort and the reward, between the investment and the result.

I'd say it's the other way around. The most common reasons people stop blogging is they think of other things they'd rather do and then they go do those things.  Not everyone sits back and thinks, "You know what?  I realized my idea of a fun evening/day is writing at least 6,000 words whether or not I think anyone else on earth actually cares about topic X."  Do I know whether or not anyone cared to go through a moderately detailed analysis of the first movement of Wenzel Matiegka's Grand Sonata I?  Do I care?  No, so I blogged about it.  I don't even know how many other English language bloggers have even started discussing the music of Ferdinand Rebay and that's one of my other to-get-to topics.  Suffice to say that while Challies wants to give some kind of shout out to Christian bloggers I can't help but wonder if he's thinking specifically about a certain kind of "Christian" blogging that doesn't involve looking into the mechanics of sonata form in solo guitar literature over the centuries to see patterns of thematic interest.  But that "is" something I plan to get back to blogging about later this year, I hope. 

Regular readers who have been following this blog (and it seems impossible to think many of you would have started ten years ago reading this thing) may remember that this didn't start out with plans to be any kind of "watchblog".  That's a point I bring up because of something Challies mentioned


Today I want to put out a call for plodding bloggers. I’m taking my cue from Scott Slayton who recently put out a similar call to plodding church planters. In that article he pointed out that many church planters delude themselves into thinking that they will move to a new town, start a new church, and see immediate, overwhelming results. But in reality, most move to that new town, start the new church, and see only very ordinary results. Unless they are plodders they will be tempted to give up.

And in much the same way, many bloggers set out with grandiose dreams of writing a few articles and witnessing an explosion of readers, of receiving mountains of grateful feedback, maybe even of seeing publishers waving book contracts. But the reality is far different. They publish a few articles, see little response, and find themselves tempted to give up. Or perhaps, even worse, they publish an article, see it explode in popularity, and then never again come close to matching that one. And soon the daily blogging becomes weekly blogging becomes occasional blogging becomes abandoned blogging.

Grandiose dreams and "blog" seem impossible to connect.  How can a blogger accomplish anything grandiose at all?  If anything blogging has a creaky reputation because a good deal of it amounts to word-of-mouth bottom-level advertising. 

All of them?  Is it "wrong" to stop blogging when you don't feel like blogging?  Is blogging some kind of divine vocation you can't or shouldn't give up?  Don't get me wrong, I've pretty obviously slogged a long slog as a blogger discussing some things a whole bunch of people would have really rather I never blogged about.  I don't have to guess too much to suppose that some people never wanted that memo in which Mark Driscoll's pay was discussed and a 650k rate was proposed.  And yet about 12,000 views suggests that a number of people wanted to know what the number was.

Sutton Turner memo recommended raise for Driscoll for FY2013 to 650k salary, retain 200k housing allowance for CY2013


I believe we are living in a golden age of writing, where any Christian with a heart for the Lord and the Lord’s people can have a voice of edification and encouragement. This is a tremendous blessing! We have thousands and tens of thousands of Christians eagerly using this new medium to tell others about what Jesus has done in them and for them. We are all the grateful beneficiaries.

So my message for my fellow bloggers is this: Plod on! Be content to be a plodding blogger and trust that God is glorifying himself and blessing his people through your faithfulness.

Well, perhaps blogging can do a lot of positive things but every once in a while Wenatchee The Hatchet has a kind of ... buzzkill moment.  Maybe blogging isn't all that awesome even if it's one of those things I do regularly, sort of.  What is blogging, anyway?  Is it a form of citizen journalism?  It can be and certainly that's what I've tried to do here and did here between about 2010 to 2015 during the peak and precipitous decline of what was once called Mars Hill. 

But what do blogs too often seem to be in the end?  Blogs seem to be a ... let's just call them a literary form native to the internet in which the two modes are either promotional or anti-promotional content.  I guess when I stop to think about it I realize I started blogging around the time I concluded that grad school studies in music history were never going to be an option for me and I realized that since so much of what I wanted to write about was public domain or accessible to suggest to others on the internet I could just write what I wanted to write about regardless of affiliation or lack thereof with an academic institution.  The only way to find out who else was into the music of Atanas Ourkouzounov, Ferdinand Rebay or Wenzel Matiegka was to just start blogging about them here and there. 

Oh, yes, and there was this church I used to go to called Mars Hill and after I was disappointed by reading a Confessions of a Reformission Rev ten years ago (a book that seemed less like a real history of Mars Hill than Mark Driscoll bragging book-length on how he pulled it off) I got this idea that maybe it'd be fun to eventually get around to writing a history of Mars Hill that wasn't just promotional copy.  So in a way that's just saying that blogs seem to fit into promotional copy or anti-promotional copy.  You're either selling something or you're second guessing a sales pitch at a blog.  Or that's how it seems lately.

Seems like a week earlier another blogger had a more explicitly discouraging message about blogging. The message reminds me of how over the last ten years the one thing I have been dead set against doing is monetizing the blog.  What I've seen celebrity Christians resort to time and again has been the claim that bloggers just go for clicks and higher traffic and want ad revenue.  Why would that be?  Well ...  (language alert for those who need that)


Let me preface with a few important things. I am was a mommy blogger. I have three kids, and I’m popping out another one this fall. I have a background in marketing and had “real jobs” in the “real world” working with PR teams on the daily. I started this blog in 2013, thinking I could combine my writing talents with professional experience and rock this new industry of influencer marketing (before it was called that). [emphasis added] And I did, I guess.

The American Mama reached tens of thousands of readers monthly, and under that name I worked with hundreds of big name brands on sponsored campaigns. I am a member of virtually every ‘blog network’ and agency that “connects brands with bloggers”. I’ve attended all their conferences and been invited on free trips to swim with dolphins and sip bougie cocktails in exchange for instagram snaps. I even founded and briefly promoted my own company, American Mama Media, working as the middle man between the hundreds of pitches I was receiving each week and the tribe of bloggers I’d collected information and stats from.

I hosted dozens of giveaways sponsored by brands wanting me to promote their products. I gained hundreds and then thousands of email subscribers, and social media followers, by requiring a follow in exchange for a giveaway entry. I used social media management services to connect with similar bloggers on twitter and instagram, and then unfollow those who didn’t return the follow. I paid a virtual assistant to post my links in round ups all over the internet, for back links and extra traffic. I joined blog directory sites, where asking readers for clicks sends you to the top of the list, and some PR intern googling “mom blogs” then finds you when they want someone to review their product. I sent out my media kit with embellished stats and highlights about my ‘targeted audience of mothers who make purchasing decisions for their household’ and negotiated my rates for free products and paid reviews. ...

"influencer marketing"?  That's ... fascinating. This could unlock a heretofore mysterious element of why someone like Mark Driscoll could have spent so many years damning bloggers as people without credibility by way of his own blog. Driscoll even took to his blog to have a blog post for the Brits a few years ago in which he set up a pre-emptive hit on the character and doctrine of a journalist who pissed him off.  But the phrase "influencer marketing" helps to explain how some famous pastors who loathe bloggers nonetheless blog away.  If Mark Driscoll understood that blogging has become an essential part of "influencer marketing" this would explain why he and Grace Driscoll keep the blog going in spite of Driscoll's years of ripping on bloggers.  Whatever "influencer marketing" is by way of the blog Mark Driscoll apparently feels he cannot afford to lose that.

So ... the punch line from Josi Denise:

Your mommy blog fucking sucks. [emphasis original]


//nobody is reading your shit [ditto]

I mean no one. Even the people you think are reading your shit? They aren’t really reading it. The other mommy bloggers sure as hell aren’t reading it. They are scanning it for keywords that they can use in the comments. “So cute! Yum! I have to try this!” They’ve been told, like you, that in order to grow your brand, you must read and comment on other similar-sized and similar-themed blogs. [emphasis added] The people clicking on it from Pinterest aren’t reading it. They are looking for your recipe, or helpful tip promised in the clickbait, or before and after photo, then they might re-pin the image, then they are done. The people sharing it on Facebook? They aren’t reading it either. They just want to say whatever it is your headline says, but can’t find the words themselves. Your family? Nope. They are checking to make sure they don’t have double chins in the photos you post of them, and zoning in on paragraphs where their names are mentioned.

Why? Because your shit is boring. Nobody cares about your shampoo you bought at Walmart and how you’re so thankful the company decided to work with you. Nobody cares about anything you are saying because you aren’t telling an engaging story. You are not giving your readers anything they haven’t already heard. You are not being helpful, and you are not being interesting. If you are constantly writing about your pregnancy, your baby’s milestones, your religious devotion, your marriage bliss, or your love of wine and coffee…. are you saying anything new? Anything at all? Tell me something I haven’t heard before, that someone hasn’t said before. From a different perspective, or making a new point at the end at least if I have to suffer through a cliche story about your faceless, nameless kid.

Growing the brand?  If blogs are ultimately regarded as marketing platforms and not as potential alternative outlets for journalism that isn't covered by the institutional press then, yeah, I could find blogs terribly lame.  And it seems as if this makes sense of guys like Driscoll who have blogged about bloggers as if other bloggers were lame while ... still blogging.  Remember that Baptist blogger from 2012?  Eh, whatever, let Mark Driscoll share that story about how "we even rented the city of Ephesus for a day."  Now that was impressive, but in the worst way possible.  If you could afford to rent the city of Ephesus for a day for rad video footage in 2012 sermon stuff but you were gutting your staff on the premise that you couldn't afford to keep them ... well ... put it that way and it's hardly any wonder if people inside Mars Hill began to leak rivers of content to the likes of Warren Throckmorton or Wenatchee The Hatchet.  When the disconnect between the marketed persona and the internal reality gets too traumatic people can begin to revolt. 

What are your goals? At all the conferences I’ve attended and in all the Facebook groups, I hear women with the same answers. “To gain traffic. To grow my blog.” But why? What are you going to do with that traffic? What’s the point of any of it?

Growth in itself can't be taken as a good that is intrinsic. Cancer cells grow and you don't want them.
Traffic isn't a prima facie good.  It can sometimes indicate genuine interest.  I don't doubt it if 12,000 people really wanted to know what Mark Driscoll's financial compensation was for being pastor at Mars Hill. It's easily the single most viewed blog post in the history of Wenatchee The Hatchet.  That gets to what Josi Denise wrote about whether or not you're giving readers information they wanted to know that they didn't know before.  Apparently a whole lot of people wanted to know hwo much money Driscoll was getting paid to yell at people for at least an hour about how they sucked and needed to be better people for Jesus' fame.

The stuff about conferences devoted to transforming blogs into ... something ... those sound creepy.  This conference thing ... we may have to deal with the conference thing at some point because it seems that whether it's mommy blogs or Christian book promotions conferences are this thing.  I know there's these academic/scholarly conferences and guitar societies have conferences sometimes and everyone should have a chance to sell their wares.  But ... bloggers having conferences?  Photos?  This has not been a very image heavy blog flashing with pictures that have witty captions.  Those are generally pretty lame and only amusing to the blogger.  If the idea of a blog is to write then even if a picture "is" worth a thousand words you should be fluent enough a writer to get those thousand words to do the trick. 

Some of what Jose Denise has written reminds me why I've never regretted writing in a way that willfully and deliberately punishes lazy readers.  For a while I used to get questions from commenters, commenters who I could at times fairly suspect I knew from real life, as to what my "mission" was.  There is no mission, at least not in the sense that a Mars Hill loyalist could have understood mission.  This isn't a missional blog.  By extension, those for whom things could only be understood in terms of loyalty to or against Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill, there may not be a clear reason why I'm still writing about what happened a couple of years after Mars Hill announced it was dissolving.  Because second-guessing yourself as to how you ended up in what some would call one of the higher profile cults of personality in evangelicalism of the last twenty years SHOULD Be an occasion for the kind of self-reflection in which the lessons you learn don't make you look better for it. 

It's why I can't take anyone seriously who has written anything about "lessons learned" from Mars Hill or Mark Driscoll that ends up being promotional copy for something an author wants to sell.  If someone writes about how he or she is startled and dismayed by the years of loyalty in which there were red flags that got ignored .. I take those people seriously.  So to risk naming names, I took it seriously when Jeff Bettger and James Harleman shared what they shared on record about the doubts they had because these were guys who were willing to second-guess themselves rather than just point accusatory fingers at all of "them" for being stupid sheeple.  Do I agree with them on everything?  No.  I'm not really an anarchist and I'm not that into Nicholas Cage movies. And at the risk of formulating this in a personal way I prefer to avoid, these were guys who didn't stop considering me a friend even after I left Mars Hill and they knew perfectly well who was blogging at Wenatchee The Hatchet.

See what's been interesting about Denise's comments about the mommy blog and reactions to what she wrote is that she's noticed that the scathing rebukes she got were saying that it was nasty to say that anyone who did mommy blogging had other things to do.  The reason that's interesting is because when I've gotten scathing remarks from people over the years (generally they seem to be comments from people who like Mark Driscoll) the comment has been basically "Get a life!" So that colloquial axiom that those who blog must only be blogging because they don't actually have some other life is just part of what you'll run into if you blog.  But the common sentiment seems to be the same--don't blog.  If the Josi Denise rebuke to mommy bloggers is that they could be spending more time actually being moms in the time they were blogging in the oft-na├»ve quest to supplement income the historic Mark Driscoll attacks on bloggers is that they're middle-aged losers with no jobs blogging from mom's basement.  That's not a subtle distinction there, because Denise' case is against the mommy blog with respect to the moral and social obligations or capital of motherhood while the Driscoll case against the bloggers is a case that seemed to hinge almost completely on the presumption of a lack of legitimate credibility or social status for bloggers. 

The question of what, if any, legitimacy and credibility blogs and bloggers have and what that may be seesm pretty open ended.  A few years ago Michael Spencer and Frank Turk had a debate about Mark Driscoll and along the way discussed whether blogs were effective or pertinent tools for discussing public figures in formal ministry.  A few years have passed and it remains to be seen whether Frank Turk would say a blog has a platform for calling Mark Driscoll to account if he has some reservations (if any) about a blog like, say The Wartburg Watch discussing C. J. Mahaney.

The credibility of blogs among conservative evangelical males is starting to seem like it converges in some kind of Venn diagram with questions about the extent to which women can be taken seriously as bloggers if blogging were construed as some supplement to institutional journalistic coverage or what has sometimes been called an "online discernment ministry". 

These are things I've been thinking about a lot because it seems that guys like Mark Driscoll may be symptomatic of men in ministry regardless of doctrinal or political affiliation on the matter of women who blog about hot topics.  Whether it's a Mark Driscoll or a Tony Jones it can seem that one of the sticky issues is whether or not they want women blogging about them. 

Now as a moderately conservative type Presbyterian who isn't really much of a complementarian or an egalitarian because I think the institutional corruptions of American Christendom make the aspirational debate somewhat moot ... I'd say that women who blog should be taken seriously and that a survey of scripture and of historic cases for the prophethood of believers proposed by the magisterial Reformers makes a case for the legitimacy of what we now call watchblogging. 

But if blogging is known in the mommy blogging scene as "influencer marketing" then the credibility of blogging itself can be in question if it is perceived as essentially a form of door to door marketing for brands by those brand makers whose new approach to door to door is no longer a literal door to door thing but a blog to blog peer influencing network. 

So to bring things back to Challies' encouragement to plodding bloggers.  I'd take it as an encouragement if I had a clearer sense of what he thinks the purpose of blogging is.  If it's as a supplement to or a temporary replacement for the failures of the mainstream or independent Christian press to adequately document and address significant issues in Christian media and institutions by using blogging as a form of citizen journalism then, yay.  I totally agree!  Admittedly I basically embrace what would be called the social responsibility theory of the press.

But if blogging is mainly an avenue for promoting books that can be promoted by other more traditional marketing approaches then ... no ... don't keep plodding along with the blog.  This goes double if you're a Christian blogger with any kind of Reformed heritage.  When I've done the watchblog side of things it was inspired by Deuteronomy 5:1, more or less. But watchblogging is a sometime thing.  One of Denise' complaints about mommy bloggers is that once they commit to promoting X or Y or Z brands they become imprisoned by the felt necessity of continuing on that path.  Yoda might warn that once you start down the dark path, forever will it effect your destiny.  Yup ... and in the sense that the brands you decide to back become the thing you get known for this suggests a lot about the Reformed blogosphere as a potential mirror image of the mommy blogs. 

It explains so much if blogging as done by celebrity Christians is basically the same as blogging done by mommy bloggers, the promotion of brands and the formation of mediated personae.  And it would make sense of the strange ethos in Christian celebrity blogging where guys think that bloggers are totally stupid and lame and lacking in credibility as they use their own blogs to promote books they like or to tease of forthcoming product.

POSTSCRIPT 05-22-2016  3.00pm ish

it's a long postscript, I admit
What you can see at the bottom of a Challies blog post can be this:

I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Aileen and a father to three young children. I worship and serve as a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, and am a co-founder of Cruciform Press

also available to read at the following:

Affiliate Notice is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Certainly it's one of the opportunities we have in the United States to start or co-found a publishing press.  That we can do so is fantastic.  it's just that I'll admit to being ambivalent about the pursuit of blogging in a way that is monetized. I regard blogging as an informal supplement to scholarship or journalism which has the advantage of not being tethered to a revenue stream.  My journalism professor once warned in a lecture on where censorship actually comes from in the real world that neither hostile sources nor hostile editors are the real threat to spiking a story, it's going to come from the threats of sponsors and advertisers.  In an age in which one of the Farrow kids can say that the Hollywood press doesn't press certain issues because they don't want to lose access to coverage of what a filmmaker does this could have a corresponding application in the Christian media world. 

It's not that I don't believe you can or should promote the stuff you like and believe in. I've shamelessly plugged for the music of Ferdinand Rebay, Nikita Koshkin, and Atanas Ourkouzounov here.  I've gushed about Leonard B. Meyer and Martin Shields, too. When Nikita Koshkin's preludes and fugues for solo guitar get published I plan to snap those up as soon as I can.

So Christian bloggers have every right to blog about stuff they love and stuff they care about.  I guess I'm saying that I think the Josi Denise condemnation of the mommy blog as a category has informed my concerns a bit lately--if your blog is in some sense "just" a marketing platform to promote stuff you like has it shifted from being a voice to an ad?  There are some blogs I've read over the years where I feel like I'm reading someone work through their thoughts and feelings and there are some blogs I read where I feel like I'm reading advertising copy for books I may or may not want to buy.  Both kinds of blogs have their uses and I appreciate that a blog can work in both ways.  Jim West manages to do both in ways I find interesting, for instance.

I guess my concern is that when I do still visit neo-Calvinist webpages (and the few times I have bothered to visit Rachel Held Evans' page) I get this sense that this is a cyberspace variant of the little book sale table at the church foyer after the church service.  It's hard to articulate precisely why I don't get that sense with every Christian blog or blogger that does podcasts or vodcasts.  I guess I'd have to say I'm working out my thoughts and feelings about this a bit but if I had to find a way to articulate the concern it's that some blogs and bloggers I feel have transformed into the "how" of their sales pitch more than the "what" of what they're selling.  The old McLuhan bromide about how the medium is the message seems too trite and the neo-Calvinist bromide of what you win them with is what you win them to seems too old hat because the two bromides separately don't seem to quite get at what concerns me. The closest I've seen anyone articulate the kind of concerns I'm having was Alastair Roberts' piece "The Ad Man's Gospel" about how if the sixteenth century theologian was basically a lawyer today's theologian is an advertising representative.  As popular as it is to look askance on the things that the "lawyer" theologians did centuries ago that seemed mean and unsavory to our 21st century sensibilities I don't see the 21st century marketing representative theologians of our era being better in the end.  Neither the lawyer nor the marketing representative necessarily has to truly believe in what he or she is selling to be able to sell it is I guess how I'd articulate the concern. 

Neal Gabler's Atlantic piece about financial struggles for the writer, and different people react to the white male privilege part while not questioning the viability of anyone "making a living" as a writer from jump

Noah Berlatsky has written about the Neal Gabler piece for the Atlantic that was trying to make a case for the hollowing out of the middle class that transformed into an occasion for sniping from a writer or two about his extravagant level of privilege to write about having a place in the Hamptons.  Berlatsky has written about how the dream of living as a writer seems to be slipping away.  He's able to get by because his wife works fulltime.  And while he ... :
 could sneer at Gabler for trying to pursue meaningful accomplishments rather than taping his nose to the grindstone and churning out anonymous dreck. But I'd like to be paid for meaningful accomplishments too. That's one of the dreams of democracy: the hope that somehow you can spend hours in fulfilling pursuits, and in return you’ll be granted, if not an extravagant living, then at least a comfortable one.
The fact that fame and fortune for writers no longer go together as they once did is part and parcel of meritocracy's death throes. Meritocracy has always been mostly a myth, but in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, as inequality dropped, it seemed more solid than ever before. Talent really could be rewarded, it seemed; a writer with smarts and talent could get those book advances, and pay the mortgage too.
Now it's one or the other—and soon enough it may well be neither. Opportunities for writing scutwork are drying up too; who needs people to write boring encyclopedia articles, for example, when you can get the crowd to do them for Wikipedia instead? I envy Gabler his accolades. He may envy my relative financial security. But soon enough we may both envy our past selves, as writing becomes solely an avocation for those who can afford it, rather than a way to make a middle-class living, or any kind of living at all.
It's hard to shake the sense that everything that the sentence "Meritocracy has always been mostly a myth ... " has been written by someone who knows better.  I spent about a decade in the non-profit sector and when the question was posed to me by a friend about doing this arts thing as a non-profit work my response was to say it seems you have to work out whether you're going to participate in the arts as a consumer/attender or as a producer/performer because in the lower rungs of non-profit you just don't get paid enough to swing both.  On the other hand, depending on who you work for, your medical benefits/coverage might be better than in the private sector ... .
The decline of Mark Driscoll here in Seattle might be a sideways case in point--unless you have access to the resources to secure the game in your favor you could pursue a life of writing or you could have sex that leads to babies but the odds don't seem especially high that you can pursue both the sex (and its consequential offspring) and writing without having some advantages.
Which gets us back to that part where Berlatsky's wife works fulltime.  In her review of Scott Timberg's Culture Crash Debra Cash was obliged to point out something that's been fairly obvious about the history of the arts--it's not just some point about how modern consumer capitalism makes it increasingly implausible to "make a living as an artist", it's that virtually no one in the history of the world has actually "made a living" just by being an artist, not even in the mid-20th century United States. 
“If we’re not careful, culture work will become a luxury, like a vacation home,” Timberg writes. It’s a good line, and one that anyone who values a diverse cultural ecology would want to affirm. What he doesn’t want to admit is that, absent direct patronage, professional culture workers have often depended on outside sources of income. For some it was the second job (in the post-war period, that job was primarily teaching, a job indirectly subsidized by the government in the form of the G.I. Bill fostering a new population of students). For others, it was something unrelated (meet pediatrician William Carlos Williams). For many (more than we have usually acknowledged and certainly more than today’s BFA and MFA students are aware) it was a trust fund, family member, or a spouse of means. That cushion made it possible for a talented person work on a novel or a painting until the work could earn respect, if not a proportionate wage for the work the artist put into it. Maybe the market would respond, and maybe it wouldn’t, but at least the creative person had a chance to find out.

That’s one of the reasons that pop culture exhortations to follow one’s bliss are so maddening. They imply a kind of privilege at the very heart of the class structures Americans are eager to say don’t exist. The fraying of the middle class is not just something that has happened to creatives. It’s just that Timberg never thought that what had happened to unionized manufacturing workers could happen to the educated type of knowledge workers who worked at the LA Times.

Cash's point bears repeating, plenty of writers and artists who were famous half a century ago had teaching jobs and teaching work was functionally working for the government with the art being the side project that sometimes made money. The extent to which arts education declines to address how often the reality was that famous writers and musicians and artists lived off of someone else's fortune and good will is the extent to which there's a failure in arts education.  Fernando Sor had a bureaucratic military position as he began his path to becoming one of the most celebrated composers who played the guitar; Haydn's contract had him in the military class handling aristocratic party music; and while Marxists might have found this shocking and offensive it turns out a pile of avant garde music in western Europe in the wake of the end of World War 2 was funded by the Central Intelligence Agency.

It might be better to tell writers that they don't have a right to get paid if people don't want to pay them and that they should never expect to "make a living" being a writer.  But writers don't seem eager to go that path.  It's more appealing, perhaps to debate Gabler's privilege or to lament that writers are finding it harder to make a living these days than to consider the possibility that in music and letters the post-World War 2 economic boom was a non-replicable bubble. 

For as many articles as I've come across lamenting the sorry state of adjunct faculty and the morass of student debt issues ... I only rarely come across proposals that the educational industry itself might have a part in this.  Well, there's Jim West, who has stated that colleges shouldn't even offer doctoral

The adjunct crisis exists because too many departments have too many PhD students. The only cure is for departments to offer PhD’s for the number of jobs there actually are.

Creating 500 PhD holders when there are only 30 positions suitable for those PhD’s is not only immoral, it is driven purely by economic considerations on the part of the University.

Berlatsky is enough of a Jane Austen fan he can surely appreciate that the draconian rules of a prestige racket could be the way to explain the entire educational/literary culture of the contemporary United States, as well as academics.  Decades ago I went to a probably terribly overpriced private Christian school and while I was there I talked to folks who went there rather than the University of Washington and a couple of them explained to me their reasoning--that they wanted to go to a college where when professor W is listed as teaching the class Professor W is actually teaching the class, not handing off all the scut work of lecturing and grading papers to the teaching assistants while Professor W is busy securing tenure by writing a passel of articles. 

Warn students up front they are not likely to land paying work in their field of study and they can prepare accordingly.  The best advice I got while I was working on the music minor part of my education was to be told I'd never make a living as a musician but that if I could secure work that let me keep making music (maybe even in work tangentially connected to the art) and be able to spend time with friends and family that would be success enough.  I took that advice to heart.  That was a music teacher at a college who didn't lie to me about the odds of "making a living" in music. 

If we get a "return" of folk culture for music that will be the return of people making music at a financial loss.  When folk musicians made folk music did they make a living at it?  We'll never know for sure but to the extent that folk musicians weren't vocational musicians they made music after they were done with everything else in the business of not-dying. 

Some of us believe that culture work HAS ALWAYS BEEN A LUXURY, the kind of thing people can get to work on because they live in a stable geo-political region that is colloquially known as a nation state or an empire. Did you not die because of a famine or a flood or a war or drought?  Great.  Write or sing a song or make a poem to celebrate.  That a life in the study of the arts was necessarily available only through a stable body politic even comes up in the correspondence of one of our Founding Fathers, John Adams:
 I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Painting and Poetry Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.

Adams seemed to be of a mind that the opportunity to make a life of dedicated study of the arts would be a third-generation thing from the foundational work he'd done circa 1780.  If there were no stable socio-economic infrastructure then the study of, let alone the creation of, a culture of arts, was not going to be practical.

Now should we question whether the kind of stable empire in which the arts were pursued as study, leisure and vocation in the United States as really a just one?  Yes, because the Founding Fathers made that their issue with respect to the English empire.  So it's absolutely proper to question whether the stable empire in the United States in which the arts were pursued was altogether just or whether it was rife with evil.  But it's possible to say that and to observe that anyone who says that there can be a life of the arts without empire is missing the boat of human history as a whole. Humans have been imperialists for millennia and the most dangerous thing we can do is pretend that's not what we've done for millennia.  The story of the tower of Babel testifies in just one of a million ways that we humans have noticed we like to make names for ourselves.  You can make as much art as you want but no one has promised you "a living" for it.  Historically the kind of way you'd make a living just writing books that other people have to read has been in the realms of academia and religion and those two spheres were pretty much the same for a long stretch of human history. 

While writers like Berlatsky and Timberg can have good reasons for fretting that the golden days of mid-20th century vocational writing seem to be gone, for those of us who were never in on that era and who look at the broader expanse of human artistic activity ... it seems like the post-World War 2 economic/cultural bubble was a boon for a particular type of white guy that has been an ahistoric blip in the coarse of human history.  If white progressive guys are feeling like they have less opportunity to "make a living" just being a writer we should step back and ask not why those days can't come back but whether or not their ability ot make that living was symptomatic of the racial divide some of those white progressive writers seem to be aware of now but without connecting dots as to their literary legacy being a beneficiary of said inequality. 

What if the perceived "meritocracy" was simply a sign of how the game was rigged?  The game is always rigged and the distinctions across empires aren't about whether the game is rigged but who the game is rigged to favor.

Kanye West is being sued over "New Slaves" by Hungarian composer Gabor Presser
by Sheldon Pearce
Associate Staff Writer

Kanye West is being sued over the Yeezus single "New Slaves." Hungarian composer Gabor Presser is claiming that he is owed money for a sample that was used at the end of the track, TMZ reports. Presser says that Kanye reached out for permission to use the sample and that he agreed, but only on the condition that a formal deal would be arranged. According to documents obtained by TMZ, Kanye sent Presser a $10,000 advance, but the check was never cashed. Now, Presser is asking for at least $2.5 million.

Not being exactly a big fan or not-fan of West it's not a topic for blogging here to wish ill or bad for the guy.  But since a Hungarian composer's come up it's interesting to me--I think it's possible to demonstrate how American popular music can be demonstrated to carry on and modify musical idioms that have developed in European contexts half a century or more before.  This doesn't make the American stuff not American, far from it, reviving, revitalizing and tinkering with riffs is what's made the American music American.   You can take some fun riffs from Spanish guitar music from the 19th century, play with them a bit, and get yourself to ragtime a la the 1890-1920 period.  It can also be done with Bohemian music for the guitar. 

Even J. S. Bach took what he liked from French, German, Italian, English and Polish music and synthesized that into what we hear in his work.  The thing is that back in Bach's era patronage worked more by paying you for services rendered and not mechanical licensing. 

For instance, one of the more memorable case studies that comes to mind is Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti, whose music was famously used in Stanley Kubrick's 2011.

Ligeti told us that when his music was first being performed in European new-music festivals, he had to hitchhike to the concerts. "I didn't have the money to buy a girl a cup of coffee." Then one day somebody told him, "Did you know there's a movie with your music in it?" Ligeti didn't know. Kubrick had simply ripped off his things for 2001. Ligeti duly sued Kubrick and in the end, he told us, received the grand sum of $3,000. "But do you like the movie?" somebody asked. "Yah, I really like it," Ligeti said. And of course, 2001 did for him what Sgt. Pepper's did for Stockhausen—helped make him famous beyond the esoteric circles of the European new-music scene. By the '90s, the two were the dominant figures of their generation, but by then Stockhausen was mostly out of sight, sunk in his mystical cycle of operas called Licht, or "light."

As the story reportedly went, Kubrick had fill-in music for the soundtrack, disliked the music the commissioned composer came up with, and settled on using the fill-in music as the actual soundtrack, but that's hearsay from memory so I can't be sure that's how it really worked out.  However it played out ...  Ligeti thought it was cool and all, that his music ended up in 2001, except for the part where Kubrick didn't pay him, at least not at first.

This is stuff that can be kept in mind looking back on the 2013 controversy that swirled around Mark Driscoll on the subject of plagiarism and copyright infringement.  Some of Driscoll's defenders (if those are still out there) might propose that nobody decided to litigate but copyright litigation is hugely expensive and a case can take as long as a decade to get resolved.  Had the Christian publishing industry actually in any fashion gotten itself embroiled in litigation over intellectual property who knows if there'd even be a Christian publishing industry as we know it by the end of it.  The Result Source controversy sort of came and went and the mere idea that mainstream Christian publishing could have somehow not addressed the level of plagiarism and sales list rigging that's been going on in the industry is a bit sad to consider. 

To the extent that people like Kanye West or Led Zeppelin can end up in headlines on the issue of alleged copyright infringement can be a reminder that there are some Christians who actually think copyright itself is the problem rather than the changes made to copyright and licensing law by gigantic corporations like Disney. 

What some Christians have been trying to assert in the midst (and wake) of Driscoll's plagiarism controversy is that intellectual property (aka copyright) is bad because it asserts ownership of ideas.  Well ... that's a pretty big assertion and one that doesn't account for the kind of copyright/trademark that is all over a tentpole film like Batman vs Superman and every superhero, that thing known as "work for hire".  Frank Miller doesn't own the copyright for The Dark Knight Returns but his name is on it.  If we stop insisting on the inaccurate assertion that copyright asserts ownership of an idea and can be regarded as a testimony about labor with attendant concerns about how that labor may be appropriated, then we can come across cases where an artistic work may have a copyright but that is regarded as public domain.  Like ... Woody Guthrie.
But also important was our other discovery: "This Land Is Your Land" has been in the public domain since 1973.

Fact #1: Guthrie wrote the song in 1940. At that time, the term of copyright was 28 years, renewable once for an additional 28 years. Under the relevant law, the copyright term for a song begins when the song is published as sheet music (just performing it is not enough to trigger the clock).

Fact #2: A search of Copyright Office records shows that the copyright wasn't registered until 1956, and Ludlow filed for a renewal in 1984.

Fact #3: Thanks to tips provided by musicologists who heard about this story, we discovered that Guthrie published and sold the sheet music for "This Land Is Your Land" in a pamphlet in 1945. An original copy of this mimeograph was located for us by generous volunteers who visited the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. For those who are not able to visit the Woody Guthrie Manuscript Collection at the American Folklife Archives, we've posted a copy of the document.

This means that the copyright in the song expired in 1973, 28 years after Guthrie published the sheet music. Ludlow's attempted renewal in 1984 was 11 years tardy, which means the classic Guthrie song is in the public domain. (I'll note that Ludlow apparently disputes this, although I've not heard any credible explanation from them.)

Ever since the "Blurred Lines" verdict I've been reading different reactions to that ruling.  There are plenty of people who consider the ruling a disaster for musicians and songwriters ... but is it?  I mean, I write for the classical guitar and I love to rework the riffs and themes of composers who have been dead for centuries.  When everything is a remix but there's virtually no such thing as a popular cultural idiom in the last century that can be construed as truly public domain what do you do?  One option is to go back to the stuff that's indisputably public domain and work forward from that. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Phoenix Preacher's Kevin H on the Penn State legacy of looking the other way, Louis Menand at The New Yorker on how the entire sports industry may just be a bubble, maybe we're a civilization that overlooks abuse to save bubbles

The Penn State child sex abuse scandal came back into the headlines in the past couple of weeks. 
New information has gained public awareness and it was reported that one of the claims that Penn State settled with a victim dates abuse all the way back to 1971.  This was forty years before longtime defensive coordinator and convicted child sexual abuser Jerry Sandusky was arrested.  Another report claimed that one of the victims informed legendary head coach Joe Paterno of abuse in 1976.  Other reports claimed that a couple different assistant coaches were aware of Sandusky’s abuse in the 1980’s.
With the new exposure of these allegations, Penn State has taken to denying and deflecting.  It is pretty much the same tactic they took the first time around before the plethora of evidence became so great that they had practically no choice but to be humbled.  Evidence that showed that the university and its leaders had not properly handled what they knew about Sandusky.
So it's not just Catholic priests or Protestant megachurch pastors, it can be campus athletics coaches or movie directors or fashion photographers or comedians or athletes.  I mean, let's think of particular cases of controversy and it seems that across a great swath of human activity in the contemporary English-speaking world there are people in power (very often dudes) who use and abuse people and they get protected because of a concern for the sanctity of the brand. 
Outwardly, the Washington, D.C.–based FitzGibbon Media appeared committed to feminist ideals: In addition to clients like Amnesty International and WikiLeaks, it represented NARAL Pro-Choice America and the women’s rights organization UltraViolet. But despite the ostensibly progressive environment, the alleged victims evidently didn’t feel as though they could speak out, and until recently, by all accounts, they didn’t speak to each other. Assuming the multiple and still-proliferating charges are true, it begs the question: How did FitzGibbon get away with it for so long?
The piece was titled "The Nice Guy Fallacy" but I've written before that it's probably more accurately described as "the peeps on MY team wouldn't do that" fallacy, or just plain old No True Scotsman ... .  The idea that politically progressive men can be misogynistic rapey asshats is just not acceptable for some people to consider, kind of like for religious conservatives they don't like to imagine some of their more popular men could be misogynistic rapey asshats. That people on the left and right can even imagine that nobody on their team would be able to do that stuff because ... politics ... suggests how far gone we are in tsunamis of self-selected propaganda and groupthink.  An abuser can have any perspective on life and the universe. 
Not being a sports fan I was, admittedly, curious to read a long feature by Louis Menand at the New Yorker on the question of whether the whole sports entertainment industry as we know it is some kind of bubble:
...Two things especially concern him. One is what might be called the Michael Jordan effect. As Futterman is not the first person to note, the model for contemporary sports marketing was set in Hollywood in the nineteen-fifties, and the key figure was Lew Wasserman, who ran the talent agency M.C.A. What Wasserman and the studios figured out was that stars sell a picture. If you promote the actors, rather than the story, you will sell more tickets.

This meant paying the stars a lot more, and sometimes giving them a piece of the action—“points”—as Wasserman did, starting in 1950, with his client Jimmy Stewart. The result is what we might call, if the analogy were not a little grotesque, entertainment-industry income inequality. Stars make astronomically more than the rest of the talent. For “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Harrison Ford is reported to have been paid between twenty and thirty million dollars; Daisy Ridley, one of the leads, got between one and three hundred thousand.

Futterman’s other concern is more alarming, at least to the oligarchs of professional sports. He thinks that the industry has expanded beyond the scale of its actual audience. “One of the great illusions of the sports industry is mass fascination,” he says. It’s true that hundreds of millions of people watch special events like the World Cup and the Olympics, but the day-to-day audience for sports is tiny. [emphasis added] In the United States, it amounts to about four per cent of households. Fewer than three per cent on average watch their local N.B.A. games; fewer than two per cent watch their home-town N.H.L. teams.

The exception proves the rule. The one major sport that continues to attract viewers and high Nielsen ratings is football, and that, Futterman argues, is because it is the only sport that broadcasts all of its games on network television. Its income is an accurate reflection of the size of its audience. [emphasis added] All the other leagues and teams have deals with cable companies, like ESPN. Some, like the Yankees, own a stake in their own cable companies.

Cable works by bundling: your monthly cable bill is split up among the channels your carrier provides, whether you watch those channels or not. Futterman says this means that about twenty per cent of the average cable bill goes to sports channels, which pay the teams or the leagues for the right to show their games. Which means that sports are currently enjoying a very large subsidy from a public that doesn’t watch them. Cable looks to be on the way to disaggregation, and, when that happens, sports will be worth what the actual audience is willing to pay for them. We may be looking at a bubble. [emphases added]

The irony, if that is the right word, is that sports is essentially aestheticized labor. It is the spectacle of men and women exerting all their mental and physical powers to produce . . . nothing. Kant defined art as “purposiveness without purpose.” I think (gulp) Kant was wrong about art—artists have purposes, and people who watch, listen to, or read works of art try to grasp what those purposes are. But he would have been right about sports. [WtH: although surely we could suggest that athletics and sports could be considered a form of art for the human body ... somewhat analogous to, say, fashion?]

Sports, Maxim Gorky wrote, makes people “even more stupid than they are.” Fran Lebowitz, not always known for agreeing with Soviet writers, agreed. “What is truly chilling is that there are a lot of smart people interested in sports,” she said. “That just gives you no hope at all for the human race.” Still, leaving aside all the trash talk and chest thumping (maybe you can’t), there is something beautiful and touching about watching fellow-members of what is fundamentally a klutzy, badly engineered, and underpowered species perform difficult physical acts. A squirrel watching a gymnastics routine would just laugh. On the other hand, squirrels can’t endorse pizza. We’re way ahead of them in that department.

Why mention all this stuff about the possibility that sports may be a bubble?  Well, what if the abuses we're discovering across the elft and right and center in American society suggests that it's all a bubble?  What if we're papering over injustices in our own backyards because it's easier to condemn the other team, however we define other team?  But what if the reputation we're trying to protect turns out to be a bubble, the result not so much of real long-term impact but the cumulative effect of the echo chamber that is our self-reinforcing intra-group hype?  What if we have communiteis that have looked the other way from generations of abuse to preserve a collective self-image?  Have we been seeing a bunch of people looking the other way or really just not seeing things because we're seeking to preserve the self-perceived legitimacy and integrity of something that's ... just a bubble?

Atlantic--The Artist Loft: affordable housing (for white people) looks at the possibility of racial inequality in subsidized housing for arts that may skew really white
The report calls these buildings POSH developments, Politically Opportune Subsidized Housing. They’re priced in such a way that families with children or those who are extremely poor could not afford them. To be considered affordable for those whose income is 60 percent of the area median income, rents can be 30 percent of the set income level. But often, the rents for these buildings are at the very upper end of the spectrum. For a one-person household in Minneapolis, the maximum allowable rent is $910. A-Mill studios rent for $898. Most tax-credit developers don’t set the rents that high because their projects are in lower-income neighborhoods and because they are targeting lower-income tenants. But developers of POSH properties do. The buildings also require application fees and reservation fees (to keep a unit off the market while the application is processed), additional costs that would make units out of reach for low-income families, the authors say.  
In 2007, the IRS tried to crack down on subsidized housing that gave preference to artists. They said that doling out credits for such properties potentially violated the tax code because such housing was not “for use by the general public.” Soon after, lobbyists succeeded in inserting an item into 2008’s Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) that exempted artists’ housing from the tax rules requiring projects using tax credits be used by the general public. Since then, according to Orfield and Stancil, subsidized artists’ housing has grown rapidly in Minneapolis and other areas.
The artist properties share a few characteristics. They’re usually conversions of historic buildings (which can more easily win developers tax credits). They have restrictions on the professions of the tenants (usually artists). They’re located in hip neighborhoods where the market rent is among the highest in the city. And they are often built with loans from the city to promote the public good, by making a place for artists to live.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with promoting the public good and building more affordable apartments in trendy and expensive neighborhoods. POSH properties can help high-income neighborhoods become more economically diverse. And the not-in-my-backyard objections that often come with affordable housing are less likely to be present for POSH properties, because neighbors rarely object to artists’ buildings that look like luxury condos and hold mostly white tenants. POSH properties help lower-income white people and artists who want to live in cities but otherwise would be pushed further out into suburbs.

I didn't know there was even such a thing as low-income subsidized housing for artists.  I can't help but think back to reading Paul Hindemith's rants about American arts education and how one of its great delusions was telling kids that any one of them could be the next Heifetz or Horowitz or Rubinstein; the delusional notion that the only way to have a life of music would be to get paid for doing it professionally as if since the dawn of humanity no musicians ever did what they did as amateurs for the sheer joy of it and making music with other people.  What Hindemith was damning, in a way, was American exceptionalism as it took shape in the notion that says "because I like the arts and love making art that alone should be sufficient for me to get paid a living wage or better for doing it." Forget about art for the sake of art here, why would a state have housing subsidies for artists specifically? 

When I look back on my musical education I don't recall any mention of how people got paid.  There wasn't much discussion of the history of patronage systems so you wouldn't know that the famous guitarist composer Fernando Sor had a military job early in his life.  You wouldn't know that Wenzel Matiegka was a clerk/reader at a law office.  You wouldn't hear about Haydn being contracted as part of the military class, and for that matter you wouldn't hear artsy types progressive or conservative talking about the linkage between military culture and arts culture, which is maybe just another reason to consider Miyazaki's The Wind Rises such a remarkable film for binding them together and suggesting that all art, no matter how idealistic, has always in some sense been the servant of an empire.  Now it could be easy for progressives with a Marxist bent to get furious over the belated news that a lot of avant garde arts were secretly funded by the CIA during the Cold War period.  Duh, just as those who curried favor with the Stalinist powers in the USSR got to not die.  But we live in the sort of era in which what "we" do is art and what "they" do isn't, it might just be propaganda ... as if we don't make that ourselves.  It may be what we need is a folk music revival and by folk music I don't mean strumming acoustic guitars but a socio-economic definition of folk music, the kind of music you make at a loss because you want to make something that sounds cool.  So in that sense the idea that artists should get subsidies for housing seems ... kind of obscene to me for some reason. 

Ruth Graham's"How liberal Christians can turn the Democrats into the Party of God" seems to forget that an evangelicalism that was progressive a century ago may have had it's day

Over at Mere Orthodoxy Jake Meador has proposed that there's a key shortcoming to Ruth Graham's piece:
But Graham’s piece, helpful though it is as a chronicling of the change, fails for reasons strikingly similar to the likely reason for the religious right’s failure—a lazy collapsing of right-wing political ideas and theological orthodoxy under the category “conservative” and an equally sloppy collapsing of left-wing political ideas and theological heterodoxy (at best) under the category of “liberal.” (Aside from a brief mention of the black church, generally politically liberal and theologically conservative, Graham collapses political and theological conservatism and liberalism down into a single thing throughout the piece.)

What I didn't see too much of is a point that D. G. Hart wrote a little book about, From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism, in which he argued two basic points: 1) evangelicalism and conservatism were only united for a short while during the Reagan coalition in which Reagan almost magically got traditional conservatives, libertarians and anti-communists to agree on a shared agenda that collapsed once the Cold War was officially over, after which religious conservatives began to discover their social agendas did not align with traditional political conservatives, let alone neo-cons and 2) that evangelicalism, taken for the span of its history, has been more steadily aligned with progressive causes.

Not all conservative evangelicals like the Hart book, since he fisks not only the likes of David Barton but also Francis Schaeffer in a chapter aptly christened "the search for a usable past", describing how in the absence of any truly compelling historical case that the Founding Fathers were conservative evangelical Protestants in anything like a late 20th century form, conservative Christian activists had to come up with a master narrative in which these kinds of people existed. 

It can be easy for those who don't already know this to never know, but Hart's book was a useful reminder that William Jennings Bryan, for instance, was at the forefront of the progressive movement even as he eventually became famous for the Scopes trial.  The pop mythology of Bryan being against evolution was easier for some to remember than his opposition to eugenics and his belief that wealthy elites were harming the goodwill of regular working class people. For those who grew up in Oregon it's not TOO HARD to remember Senator John Hatfield if you're old enough, who despite being Republican had some progressive causes. 

Election cycle propaganda for the right and the left has seen fit to paper over the history of evangelical interest in progressive causes that ranged from the 1920s to 1970s and arguably culminated in the election of Jimmy Carter, the evangelical president. Sure, thanks to contemporary political fights he might not be so labeled but one of the problems with Graham's piece and in some ways Meador's rebuttal is that both sides have found it waaaay too convenient to conflate doctrinal conservatism with political conservatism and vice versa. when a more honest and thorough history of religion in the United States could show us that the theologically conservative have been politicaly progressive while theologically liberal types could play more reactionary political roles in American history.

the dog whistling politics on the left and right has reached what feels like a saturation point.  It's not difficult to see folks on the right invoke Sanger's history of supporting birth control and eugenics to play that up as racist while over at places like Jacobin a master narrative of neo-cons as Jewish guys who would have otherwise supported civil rights for blacks if they weren't afraid they'd lose their disproportionate influence in academia to affirmative action quotas. While progressives and conservatives have made plenty of hay formulating propagandistic narratives aimed at persuading non-whites that each side is bad it ... might not be an altogether bad idea to view white progressives and reactionaries as equally bad at this point.  Who's to say that Sanders and Trump aren't BOTH populist agitators whose primary appeal is to angry whites on the left and right respectively.

In our current era when abortion is celebrated as a right on the left and wars on terror are celebrated on the right it seems what Americans left and right fundamentally have in common is a belief that for the individual or for the nation the liberty to use pre-emptive lethal force to take a life that would inhibit financial upward mobility for an individual and a society should ultimately not be limited. It seems that a consistent perspective would be that what is acceptable at the individual level is also acceptable at the national level (i.e. pro-choice and pro-war to preserve consumer options across the board, or, by contrast, being against abortion and pre-emptive use of lethal force to take down those whose existence or actions would impede our consumer options) but it seems that the left and right in the United States are mainly committed to selective contradictions.

It could certainly seem as though there's plenty of trouble for all sides.  The revelations of John Howard Yoder's sexual harassment of women has been something the Mennonites have been coming to terms with in the last few years.  Driscoll had his downfall, and Tony Jones' reputation should be in at least some doubt for his divorce of his prior wife.  I've already written plenty in the past about my complete inability to take Rachel Held Evans seriously.  It's too bad Ruth Graham has opted to take Evans seriously.  Back in 2012 it was handy to blog about how Mark Driscoll was a bully and to stand up to him but that was identity politics as usual.  Evans played no role in the 2013 plagiarism controversy that erupted because of Mark Driscoll's interview with Janet Mefferd. 

I'll say what regular readers already know about me, I'm not even remotely progressive in politics or religion, but I'm persuaded that it's far more important that progressives and conservatives consider whether their own team  members are living in accordance with stated principles than to fixate too much on the hypocrisy and evil of the other side.  We're the United States of America.  We have the military power to wipe out all life on the planet if we want; we have the informational technology to cause a lot of damage; we have an empire unlike anything the world has ever seen; so the idea that the United States will stop being Babylon a la the book of Revelation just because the red state or blue state voters manage to realize their dream of single party rule at a practical level doesn't change any of that.  The drift of the left and right on the internet has suggested to me that what internet activists for both sides want is functionally ultimately a totalitarian system in which ideological purity for the left and right causes becomes paramount.  But having said that I think that what we need to be on the lookout is not necessarily "their" impulses to tyranny but "our" impulses to tyranny. 

Long, long ago before the cult of personality transformed it into the Mark Driscoll Show, what I appreciated about Mars Hill was that evangelicals with politically progressive and conservative convictions could share Christian community.  Obviously that didn't last very long because nobody really wrote about it having ever happened.  I could hang out with people at Mars Hill who are huge fans of Doug Wilson and then the next week trade messages online with someone who's totally into the Christian anarchist writings of Jacques Ellul.  To the extent that progressives and conservatives have worried about the centralization of media ownership and federal power they actually have a common worry ... but thanks to the era of the internet the problem of what Ellul thought the near impossibility of easily creating horizontal/sociological propaganda has been solved by stuff like Twitter and Facebook.  In the previous century such totalizing propaganda for partisan views was stuff that had to be formulated and distributed from the top down.  Now people can feel the Bern and want to make America great again at a grass roots level.  Let's not worry so much about the Big Brother that we forget that we are Big Brother now.  When people can get fired from jobs over stuff they put on Twitter what top-down part of Big Brother does that?  Somebody had to read social media reactions at some point to get the idea to fire. 

So, yeah, I agree with Jake Meador about Graham's piece being a little disappointing, though my disappointment is that it seems that the left and right of today are so busy rewriting history so that everything fits the current arguments there's relatively little room for a more honest history.  If DG Hart's rebuke of the Religious Right was that it went out in search of a usable past to fit the political goals of their present, the attempts to re-found or revive a Religious Left seem likely to flounder because after a century of progressive Christianity allied itself to power in the first half of the 20th century someo f the trouble was that the civil rights movement and feminism brought to light that the problem with allying with power is that power doesn't want change to happen to  quickly.  Had the people running the Religious Right learned those lessons from more careful observation of the mainlines they "might" have learned to do things differently.  But it's not a given that those who don't know the past are doomed to repeat.  Maybe we can know the past intimately and are doomed to repeat it precisely because we tell ourselves that WE are going to be the exceptions.  Not everyone's going to like Hart's suggestion that we make peace with the permanence of the United States as a formally secular state but he might have a point, a point that neither the Religious Right nor the Religious Left will be very interested in taking to heart. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

part 2 of Mark Driscoll discussing whether anorexia is a sin--"This is where Satan, demons are lying to you ... " might contradict Driscoll's stance that Satan would go after Billy Graham, not a rank and file Christian

We discussed earlier this week the odd matter of Mark Driscoll fielding the question of whether or not anorexia is a sin, in which he didn't exactly directly answer the question but also managed to frame discussion of the question in terms of his 2008 spiritual warfare content.  He also, somehow, managed to transform the question and story of someone into an occasion to talk about himself. 

But we'll set that off to the side so that we can get to this:
In Driscoll’s way of thinking, anorexia could be almost anything, including idolatry or the work of demons. Speaking of demons at 8:40 into the clip, Driscoll says:
This is where Satan, demons are lying to you, tempting you. The Bible says that Satan is the accuser of the children of God. He accuses them day and night in Revelation 12:10 there are accusations. If you start realizing this oppression, you can get out of it by acknowledging what God has to say. Oppression, an accusation, is often in the second person, you are unlovable, you need to punish yourself, you don’t appear attractive, whatever the oppression is, it’s telling you something that’s just not true. And so, what you need to understand is that’s demonic, that God doesn’t speak to you that way and if you’re hearing in the second person, maybe someone is talking to you, a spiritual being is lying to you, I’ll get to that in just a moment, and the way out is deliverance, you have victory in Christ, Colossians 2 says He has disarmed and defeated the powers and principalities of evil, triumphing over them through his victorious forgiveness of sinners on the cross.
Since Driscoll hasn't renounced or repudiated anything he's taught from the 2008 spiritual warfare session and has been repeating it, it seems useful to point out that Driscoll tells someone "This is where Satan, demons are lying to you ... ."  Driscoll has made it clear in the past, in other contexts, that while there might be demonic opposition in some cases it's exceedingly remote Satan himself would be involved with any ordinary rank and file Christian.


... For example, Satan is not omnipresent. He's not everywhere like God is. Somebody might say, "Oh, Satan's getting me."  Ah, Satan may be bugging Billy Graham, but if he's gonna pick one person it's probably not gonna be you or me, right? He's got more important people to attack. Now you and I could have demonic opposition, to be sure, but Satan and demons are not omnipresent. They're not everywhere.

So unless the person who contacted Driscoll were someone at "Billy Graham" level Mark Driscoll's own prior instruction regarding spiritual warfare indicates that Satan wouldn't be involved. 

That said, by Mark Driscoll's own account a Christian can be demonized, though not precisely demonically possessed.  Driscoll also emphatically said that Satan can work on Christians and adduced from Acts 5 that Satan filled the hearts of Christians. This you'll have to hear/read for yourself:

Second thing, what about Christians? Can Christians be demon possessed?  Not in terms of ownership, no. You belong to God, right? You belong to God. Some would say, therefore, Satan doesn't work on Christians. Well, sure he does. He attacked Jesus. --say, "Yeah, well, he [Satan] can't internally influence them."  Well, yeah, he can. Jesus looks at Peter and says, "Get behind me--" what?  Satan. In Acts 5 there's a couple called Ananias and Sapphira. They were members of the church, believers, they were bringing their tithe after selling some land, and they withheld part of their alleged pledged tithe, and Peter looks at them and says "Why has Satan so filled your heart? You've not lied to men but to God the Holy Spirit." Why has Satan so filled your heart? Right at the center and core of who you are.  Satan work's from THERE.  [emphases added]
The same language again in Ephesians, "Don't be drunk with wine, be FILLED with the Holy Spirit." Why are you FILLED in your heart with Satan? Christians can't be owned, possessed in terms of demons but they can be externally oppressed and (this will be my most controversial statement) internally influenced. Not possessed, not controlled.  [emphasis added]

I'll use a very simple analogy, very controversial. There are huge books written warring over this. Some would argue, "Well, Satan can't have any access to a believer because God and Satan don't occupy the same space." I said, "Well they did in the days of Job when Satan was allowed to go into the presence of God." In me I have the flesh and my new nature. I have my depravity and the Holy Spirit. The world, God and Satan are at work there. Now God is greater, to be sure, and the only way I believe a believer is really opened up to the demonic is through sin and folly and lies and they open up themselves up. Are they possessed?  NO. Are they internally influenced? Possibly. Possibly, for some.

In the same way, okay, I'll give you an analogy.  I own my house.  It's my house. No one has any right to live there but let's say I just invite over some total losers (drug addicts, alcoholics, freeloaders, whatever) and I let `em eat my food, hang out, sleep on the couch, crash in the bedroom, I just let `em live there. I don't kick `em out, I don't do anything. Do they own the house? Do they possess the house? No.  Do they have access to it?  Well, yeah, I opened the door, I let `em in. Are they gonna create havoc in my house?  Yeah, they're gonna ruin everything. So what do I need to do?  I need to kick `em out because they have no right to be there and then I need to lock the door and not invite `em in ever again.

I'm saying in that simple analogy that's kinda how Satan and demons work. If you open up your life, and this is not, not, you know, you had a bad day and said a bad word, this is a Christian who all of a sudden you're into the demonic; you're sick and you want to be healed so you go to some healer and now you're involved in demons; there's sin in your life that you've never really dealt with, that kind of stuff. You're doing drugs, you're opening yourself up to an altered state of conscioucesness (the Bible says to be self-controlled and alert and resist the devil and not you're not doing that cuz you're into drugs and alcohol and bizarre spirituality). You can open the door, bad guys move in, they don't OWN the house, you can kick `em out, lock the door. That's my description of internal influence. It's in very extreme cases and this isn't very often but it's possible.

So, even though it would seem that one has to be an unusually high status Christian leader in the United States, for instance, to merit the attention of Satan himself, Driscoll's taxonomy of demonization asserts that a Christian can most certainly be demonized, although how that comes to pass doesn't get explained here.  The actual explanation for how a Christian could possibly be demonized is hours long on Driscoll's part.  It involves a lot of stuff about the "ordinary demonic" transcribed here.

Had Driscoll stopped to consider whether he was consistently applying his own content in recycling it in response to a question he should have hesitated to tell someone Satan is telling them anything because to go by Driscoll's past instructions on spiritual warfare, Satan's not going to be going after you or me or some random anonymous Christian, Satan's going to be going after someone like Billy Graham. 

Then again ...

I think one of the great myths that has come about (it's a demonic lie) is that myself, the executive elders, the senior leaders we don't care about people. I was the only one who did ANY counseling until we had 800 people. We still do tons of shepherding, counseling, spiritual warfare, conflict. But we try to do so in a way that is humble, that isn't "and here is who I served and here are the demons we cast out and here's the list of people that I've healed." That's demonic. The truth is I love the people as much--actually, more than anyone in this church. [emphases added] And the senior leaders, the campus pastors, the departmental leaders, the executive elders love the people in this church as much or more than anyone else in this church. And one of my great concerns is not just, "Can you hold hands and help sheep?" but "can you also flip the staff over and defend against a wolf?"  You HAVE to have that discernment, that courage, and that ability to tell someone: "You are in sin. That is false doctrine.  You are not qualified to be a leader. If you do not repent you are not welcome here. And I will speak truthfully to those who want to follow you because my job is for the well-being of the sheep."
That was back in 2008 a few months after Meyer and Petry got fired and run through a kangaroo court.  Back in 2014 Driscoll was under some kind of investigation that "may" have been completed and while he said on the road in 2015 he, like, totally agreed with the decision of the Board, all of a sudden he said God told him "a trap had been set" and, lo, he did quitteth Mars Hill.  Greater love hath no pastor than this, that he bailed on Mars Hill in Seattle out of love for the sheep to go plant a church in Phoenix. But back in 2008 anyone who expressed doubts about how deeply or sincerely Mark Driscoll loved the people of Mars Hill, whoever those were, they believed a demonic lie.

So, on the whole, while Driscoll's grab bag approach "could" propose that someone with anorexia "could" be demonized if the right kinds of sins were committed by them and/or against them, it doesn't fit in his history of teaching to propose consistently that Satan himself has anything to do with the individual believer who isn't Billy Graham level important in the American or global church scene.

Which is why it might have been better if he'd left that stuff unsaid in the transcript Throckmorton provided. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Driscoll vodcast "Is Anorexia a sin?", how to delicately formulate a set of doctrines that don't quite blame the person while only framing issues in categories of blame?

Why Mark Driscoll decided to publicly field the question "Is anorexia a sin" is a mystery; almost as mysterious as why he decided to provide some kind of response to the question accompanied by the sound of sludgy over-driven guitar riffs. There's a point at which a question could be serious enough to get an answer not accompanied by a rock soundtrack. Call it a musician's bias, but these days too many films have too much music that distracts from other content, and no, that's not just about films like Batman vs Superman where Wonder Woman gets this loud, boisterous 7/8 vamp while she ... checks her email.

No, if you are willing to watch the clip ...

This ... is a remarkable parade of recycled content given to someone whom we can only assume asked the question sincerely.

Once again Driscoll trots out to men "your standard of beauty is your wife", as if eating disorders were only something straight people dealt with?  If a gay guy knows someone who has an eating disorder what's the point of saying "your standard of beauty is your wife" to that guy? While there could be a lot to be said about how standards of beauty are associated with sexual desirability and social capital the two are not necessarily the same. 

It's one thing for Driscoll to state abstractly in response to a question from someone who has shared dealing with an eating disorder that a guy's standard of beauty is to be his wife, and it's another to remember that in the charges and concerns raised by former Mars Hill elders ...
October 2011—Mark said in a meeting that he did not want a certain staff elder (who was not slim) to take on a certain prominent leadership role because “his fat ass is not the image we want for our church.”

It's also impossible to forget that Mark Driscoll wrote the following:

Real Marriage: the truth about sex, friendship and life together
Mark and Grace Driscoll
Thomas Nelson
copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
ISBN 978-1-4041-8352-0

page 11Our marriage was functional but not much fun. As we approached the launch of the church, Grace was pregnant with our first child and suffering from painful stress-related issues caused by her public relations job, which culminated in me apologizing for not bearing the entire financial burden for our family. ...
In this season we shifted into ministry-and-family mode, neglecting our intimacy and falling ot work through our issues. This became apparent to me when my pregnant wife came home from a hair appointment with her previously long hair (that I loved) chopped off and replaced with a short, mommish haircut. She asked what I thought, and could tell from the look on my face. She had put a mom's need for convenience before being a wife. She wept.

So when it comes to Mark Driscoll attempting to offer counsel to a woman by saying a guy should have a standard of beauty that is his wife ... well, the way Mark Driscoll might have put things a few years back is to say he's the chief of hypocrites. This has clearly been a guy willing to articulate a standard of beauty that he likes that his wife was able to deviate from.

Most infamously, Mark Driscoll wrote the following, which has been preserved here at Wenatchee The Hatchet because it got scrubbed.

Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors' wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband's sin, but she may not be helping him either.
How could a wife ever opt for "lets herself go" if she is, by definition, her husband's standard of beauty?  Driscoll used to say that if you're wife is skinny you're into skinny and if you're wife is not-skinny you're into not-skinny.  But that's the pulpit persona, not necessarily the actual guy in normal life.

So while Driscoll talks about how guys who have any "objective standard of beauty other than your wife" put a burden on wives and daughters ... well, it's not clear at all that Driscoll himself has been all that consistent about living this out himself by his own accounts. Maybe ten years ago he was still holding to some "objective standard" by which he could talk, then, about pastors' wives who "really let themselves go"?

And that's just discussing points made by Driscoll in the first four minutes.

No doubt fatherly affection and encouragement toward daughters and sons is precious, but that kinda gets us back to the concern of former Mars Hill elders about Mark Driscoll allegedly referring to some pastor at Ballard as being a fat ass. Driscoll's camping out on "the father heart of God" and has talked about wanting to be a father figure to young men and to be a pastor to pastors.  But it remains to be seen whether he's come to terms with the extent to which former staff have described his propensity to use language of the sort that we would expect him to not use on his own children or wife that he has, by a few accounts, felt very free to use on staff and members and people he considered adversaries.  Whether he likes it or not this, too, is part of his legacy.

at about 6:00 Driscoll talks about how he and Grace had a rough season and how they were sat down by some godly people who asked them questions.  There's not much about what that season was aor when it was or what the troubles were.

So there are nine pairs of concepts Driscoll discusses.  One of the ones Warren Throckmorton recently took note of is
This is where Satan, demons are lying to you, tempting you. The Bible says that Satan is the accuser of the children of God. He accuses them day and night in Revelation 12:10 there are accusations. If you start realizing this oppression, you can get out of it by acknowledging what God has to say. Oppression, an accusation, is often in the second person, you are unlovable, you need to punish yourself, you don’t appear attractive, whatever the oppression is, it’s telling you something that’s just not true. And so, what you need to understand is that’s demonic, that God doesn’t speak to you that way and if you’re hearing in the second person, maybe someone is talking to you, a spiritual being is lying to you, I’ll get to that in just a moment, and the way out is deliverance, you have victory in Christ, Colossians 2 says He has disarmed and defeated the powers and principalities of evil, triumphing over them through his victorious forgiveness of sinners on the cross.

PS – I find some of what Driscoll said about acceptance of body image to be incompatible with what he and his wife wrote in Real Marriage about cosmetic surgery. Read Tim Chailles reaction to the Driscoll’s approval of cosmetic surgery.

A couple things ... Driscoll hits that "Second person is from the devil" about accusation. If God never spoke to His people in an accusatory second person diatribe ... would there by any prophetic literature in the Bible?  So while Driscoll's advice might seem like a helpfully pious bromide he can't even get it square with an entire genre of biblical literature that is notoriously defined by accusatory oracles from the Almighty over sins that the prophets considered worthy of condemnation.  There's possibly a conviction/condemnation distinction Driscoll could make but the key counterpoint here is that even if Driscoll tries to broadbrush any internal "self talk" that is second-person accusatory as Satanic it's not clear on what basis, if any, he can make this claim.

For those who don't follow the link to Tim Challies' reservations about the Driscollian endorsement of cosmetic surgery ... let's just say it will suffice to say that this is another question about how sincerely Mark and/or Grace Driscoll believe their spiel about how "your wife is your standard of beauty".  Neither Driscoll seems to mean by that to say that if a person's wife doesn't shave her legs or armpits or washes her hair for a few days and maybe gains a little weight that she's still the "standard of beauty" if a little cosmetic csurgery here and there might be okay.

And while it's good to raise questions about standards of beauty it became abundantly clear in Real Marriage that was not necessarily hwere a really bad fracture point was in the Driscoll marriage.  A big fracture point was sex and specifically how often it wasn't happening to Mark Driscoll's satisfaction.  In the "Can We ______?" chapter Chailes pointed out that there was a grid in which one of the questions was "is it enslaving?"  Well, nobody seemed all that interested in asking a basic question--Mark Driscoll made it clear that he realized the cure for his mood swings and depression was more frequent sex with his wife.

The segment from about 6 to 7:15 is where Driscoll talks about how if there's an idolatry problem you need to stop worshipping the idol and start worshipping God.

That ... sounds kinda like Redemption Group doctrine.  I've discussed at greater length here than I care to repeat why it's a pretty big problem to formulate struggles only in terms of idolatry.  I don't plan to get into all that again here.  But it seems necessary to say that bringing up idolatry in connection to anorexia seems worse than useless.  Even if we set aside the aforementioned doubts about how consistently Mark Driscoll's lived out his "your wife is your standard of beauty" stuff, to suggest that idolatry for a particular body type or the approval of a father or boyfriend (not mother or peer group?) could be an idolatry that needs to be repented of can introduce a double bind in which wanting to please someone else gets defined as idolatry.  It "could" be ... but that still puts the issue in terms of what the person struggling with anorexia or bulimia has idolatrously embraced, even after Driscoll had made a point of talking about unrealistic worldly standards for beauty.

In the recent video Driscoll mentiones the possibility of generational sin.  The last time I can recall that generational sin in a family line was a major point of discussion was ...

that link just above is for a transcript, for those who are game to watch the video more directly ...
Spiritual Warfare
February 5, 2008
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Christus Victor (Part 3)

I then ask them to confess sins and cancel ground and command leaving one at a time. `s all before we start, "How did you open the door?" proverbially speaking?  "Well, it was I committed adultery then after that I started having nightmares."

"Well, guess what?  Probably a connection there, huh?  Probably opened the door with adultery. Have you ever really repented of that to Jesus and asked him to forgive you?"

"Not really."

"Well let's do that right now. Let's stop right now and have you repent of that sin, ask Jesus to forgive you. He died.  Receive forgiveness."

Let's get--cuz, see, Satan and demons, with a believer, in addition to external torment and such, most of what they have is what we've given them by opening the door through sin.

"Well then, confess it is a sin.  Let's kick `em out, lock the door but you gotta straighten this out with Jesus. You gotta repent."

So a good chunk of time is just spent on repentence of particular sin. It's all it is. Getting rid of those handholds and footholds.
I then ask them a series of questions. This is where we start, number ten. I'll usually check with ancestral sin. I'm looking at their past.

Now if they come from ten generations of third degree Masons I'm startin' there. If they're grandma was into witchcraft and their mama was into witchcraft and they have some demonic issues it shouldn't be shocking to think that this has been an issue in their family for a while.

I know one family where incest was just part of the family. They actually had very intricate rules to control incest. The grandfathers and uncles could molest little girls but daddies couldn't and you could only do that once they hit the age of ten. You couldn't molest any child before that. I get these complicated rules that have been passed down for generations for the sexual abuse of the children. You're like, this, your struggle here, your temptations, your issues, they have generational lineage.

There are whole family lines that are just demonically inspired. You ever wonder why, in the Old Testament, God will occasionally tell his people, "When you go to war against that nation kill ALL of them. Don't let one of them live." People say, "Oh, oh that's terrible." Not if that whole line is demonized. Not if that whole line of people exists for the express purpose of fighting God and killing his people. The issue is either you get rid of them or they get rid of you. Satan is inspiring them to destroy you and you gotta get rid of them. Satan DOES work through family lines. There are family lines like the Herods who, just from one generation to the next, they're trying to kill Jesus and his people. Some of the family fights in Genesis, they continue all the way to this day. Not saying every person in the family line is demonized, but it seems like Satan likes to work through family lines, ancestral sin.

To begin then, I'll find the area of deepest root, for the deepest root. If it's ancestral I start there and I have `em pray after me. Much of our time is spent praying. I have `em pray something like this: Lord Jesus, if there are any spirits who have anything to do with me (body, soul or spirit) because of ancestral sin or whatever the sin is (sexual sin, adultery, drugs, whatever it is) I ask that you forgive this sin and cancel any ground that may have been held against me.

And I have them repeat after me: If there are any demons working in me in the area of (whatever it is--sex, drugs, alcohol, you know, night terrors, clairvoyance, visions, pedophilia, whatever it is, witchcraft, whatever) we bind all of you together, along with all your work and effects and command you to come forward.
So the way the demon trial seems to have been set up ancestral sin can be something your ancestors are guilty of that you are, in some sense, also guilty of.  Bringing this up in connection to an eating disorder could be construed as a possible counseling double bind.  The person struggling with an eating disorder could be described as a victim of ancestral sin yet guilty of perpetuating that sin in the present.  If the answer Mark Driscoll was aiming to provide to "is anorexia a sin" was supposed to be "no" fails don't get more epic than this.  If the answer was supposed to be "yes" why did he lack the courage to be consistent with conviction and say so? 

about 10:20 into the recent video Driscoll talks about how believing lies can have you in bondage.  So it's impossible not to think about how this, too, resembles teaching content he had on the subject of spiritual warfare from 2008.
February 5, 2008
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Part 2: The Devil

I had one woman, wonderful gal, sweet gal, she was convinced of the lie that her husband was committing adultery on her. So every time he'd go to work she would literally have a panic attack and would go into the closet and shut the door and be there for hours having a literal, full-blown nervous breakdown panic attack. Her husband's a great guy. Loves Jesus, loves her. It [the idea that the husband was cheating on his wife] was a total lie but something in her believed that lie and I think, for her, that struck at the core of her sense of security and identity and Satan got her to believe that lie and it absolutely undid her.  She went to counseling; she was diagnosed bipolar, paranoid schizophrenic, multiple personality disorder (I believe that such things are true but sometimes they're a junk drawer for other diagnoses for people that are experiencing real spiritual problems); they put her on all kinds of medication, she still had panic attacks, still freaking out, still in the closet; and I just told her, I said, "Sweetheart, it's a lie." It's a lie.
Her husband's sitting right there, I said, "Okay, God's honest truth, have you ever committed adultery on your wife?"
"When you leave the house are you going to commit adultery?"
"No, I'm going to work."
"Have you ever touched another woman, are you looking at porn, are you doing anything."
He's like, "I'm not doing anything. I go to work and I come home. That's what I'm doing. I love her.  You know, I'm delighted to be with her. She's the best."

I looked at her, I said, "Okay, here's what faith looks like for you--believe the truth. Don't believe the lie. If you believe the lie, you're going to ruin everything. If you believe the truth, you'll be okay. And you know what?  By God's grace she repented of her feeding the lie. She needed to see that believing a lie was a sin. It was a sin to be repented of. Here's the truth, here's the lie, I chose the lie. That's a sin, I need to repent.  I need to believe the truth. I need to have faith to live in light of the truth, like Jesus said, then I'll be free in the truth.

[She] went off her medication, no more panic attacks, no diagnoses, she's fine. This has been some years, they've got a loving marriage, they're doing great, they love Jesus. They're wonderful people.  But she fed the lie.  Don't feed the lies. And they're everywhere and part of your art in counseling is asking enough questions to figure out what the lies are that people believe.
Not that we're ever likely to find out who this person is, though. What's remarkable about this account is that Driscoll presents someone as responsible for being in demonic bondage for believing lies told to them.  This has been an aspect of Driscoll's counseling approach that has gone without remark for so long it seems necessary to keep bringing it back into the light, not least because this just came up again this week from Mark Driscoll himself.  You need to stop believing in lies so you're not in bondage.  That's from the 2008 spiritual warfare lecture marathon.

I've meant to scale back blogging about Driscoll this year but that he's willing to field a question from someone sharing struggles with eating disorders and to talk about whether or not anorexia is a sin ... it suggests that Mark Driscoll is willing to wade into providing counsel via vodcast. I've got doubts as a matter of personal convictions and experience how valuable counseling via mediated content can actually be.  It seems an actually responsible pastor would save the majority of assistance to someone struggling with an eating disorder to someone qualified to help that person through those difficulties, whether a psychologist or a dietician qualified to help people with eating disorders.  Not some guy who bailed on restorative discipline from his own church back in 2014 and is putting down roots in the Phoenix area whose posse scrubbed the internet of spiritual warfare content from 2008 that he is now so very obviously recycling in providing a vodcast answer to the question "is anorexia a sin?"

But it's not as though a pastor has nothing possible to do.  For those of us with more of a Reformed background Richard Sibbes' The Bruised Reed can be helpful in meditating on the love of Christ that sustains us even as we struggle and fail with besetting sins by reminding us that it was for these very sins Christ died, but also to remind us that as we struggle with the infirmities of the flesh Christ bore these infirmities for our sake.  There are ways to discuss how Christ in His life and death chose to bear with us the sufferings that we face in life in a way that doesn't have to bottom line everything in the category of sin, because "sin" as Christians so often discuss it tends to focus entirely on sins we think people knowingly do with intent when in our daily lives we may fail in all kinds of ways that are unobserved and inadvertent by us.  It is possible for pastors and just regular Christians to share what encouragements we have received without presuming to tell someone struggling with something we don't understand that there's something they could repent of, some lies they need to stop believing, and so on.  How do we know they didn't hear those lies from us, for instance? 

It is this kind of question Mark Driscoll seems never to have confronted--when he has scolded men for having unrealistic expectations about sex and beauty it's never clear that he's thought that carefully about himself.  Let's take the Driscollian grid and consider where the question is "is it enslaving?"  And let's remember Mark Driscoll wrote:

Real Marriage
Mark and Grace Driscoll
Copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
Thomas Nelson
ISBN 978-1-4002-0383-3
ISBN 978-1-4041-8352-0 (IE)

page 164

As with many things in marriage, communication is key. When I cam to the conclusion that the cure for a lot of my moodiness was having more frequent sex with my wife, I simply told her. Yes, it's that simple. For years, when I would endure depression, I tried to talk to Grace about it. Her natural inclination was to want to have long talks about our feelings toward each other, and I know that connecting with her like this is important. But sometimes I was jsut too frustrated and ended up blowing up and hurting her feelings. The truth was I wanted to have more frequent sex with my life, and we needed to discuss how that could happen. 
To make matters worse, seemingly every book I read by Christians on sex and marriage sounded unfair. Nearly every one said the husband had to work very hard to understand his wife, to relate to her, and when he did that to her satisfaction then, maybe, she would have sex with him as a sort of reward. After many years I finally told Grace that I needed more sex. I asked if we could have sex more days of the week and try a variety of positions. She'd be the one to decide exactly how we would be together. Grace said that helped her think about our intimacy throughout the course of the day, which helped prepare her mind and body. To our mutual delight, we discovered that both of us felt closer more loved and understood, and were more patient with each other if we were together regularly in some way. And whether my depression was testosterone-induced or not, I just generally felt happier.
For a wife, sex comes out of a healthy relationship, whereas, for a husband, it leads to one.  [emphases added]

But, as has been so directly and bluntly asked here before, if Mark Driscoll's self-diagnosed cure for his depression and mood swings was increasing sex (i.e. number of orgasms) and if elsewhere in Real Marriage Driscoll likened the endorphine rush of an orgasm to a hit of heroin ... how often did he need sex to stabilize his mood?  More to the point, if a single person (male or female) opted to masturbate to orgasm as frequently as Mark Driscoll felt he had to have sex with Grace to stabilize his mood swings and depression ... would Mark Driscoll consider that number of orgasms self-administered by a single person to be enslaving?

There's something else about Mark Driscoll's teaching and counseling history that seems necessary to mention, something he mentioned in Confessions of a Reformission Rev slightly more than a decade ago.


Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
copyright 2006 by Mark Driscoll
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4
page 151

To make these transitions, I needed to hand much of my work load to my elders and deacons so that I could continue to concentrate on the future of expansion of our church.  In some ways I longed for this day because it meant the weight of the church would be off my shoulders and shared with many leaders. In other ways I lamented not being able to invest in every young couple, experience the joy of officiating at so many weddings, or know everything that was going on in the church.

I asked our newest and oldest elder, Bent, to take over the counseling load that I had been carrying. [emphasis added] He was the first person to join our church who had gray hair, and he and Filipino wife, Joanne, were like rock stars with groupies since all the young people wanted to hang out with these grandparents that loved Jesus. My problem was I loved our people so much that if I got deeply involved in the pain of too many people's lives, it emotionally killed me, and I needed to do less counseling.

Bent Meyer started tackling counseling somewhere around 2002-2003 if memory serves.  What this could mean is that ... it's possible hat Mark Driscoll had scaled back his counseling load as far back as 2002 or 2003 and that he's been out of the game awhile when it comes to pastoral counseling on a person to person basis. It's difficult to see why anyone should put much stock in this guy's counseling acumen if he backed away from pastoral counseling and handed that work over to former Mars Hill pastor Bent Meyer.  One of the ironies of Grace Driscoll's complaints about ministries for abuse victims circa 2006 at Mars Hill was that she was complaining about the ministries run by men whom Mark Driscoll personally and directly, by his account, put in charge of things.

So in responding to the question "is anorexia a sin" Driscoll's answer is evasive but steeped in categories that tend to shift toward "yes". It would seem that here we are in 2016 and Mark Driscoll still can't quite think through the infirmities of the human condition in a category that doesn't involve blame.

If Mark Driscoll's really thinking of making the stuff in that video some kind of curriculum it'd be best if he didn't bother because ...

There's four hours' worth of stuff on spiritual warfare available to download for free at already.  If he's going to recycle content he was teaching 8 years ago the least we can do is point that out and show you where you can get the old stuff so that if he recycles it again you won't feel any need to part with any money for stuff you can get for free.