Saturday, July 16, 2016

Throckmorton: Prior to Official Launch, Mark Driscoll’s The Trinity Church Is on the Hook for $2.5 Million in Building Debt--brief review of a historic building built in anticipation of a didn't-happen trend in urban expansion

We noted earlier how The Trinity Church went from renting to buy its location in Arizona.

as did Warren Throckmorton

Well, today Thorckmorton's been able to establish a bit more.

The building has something of a history as

The visionary behind the Glass & Garden Drive-In Church was the pastor Floyd Goulooze. 
Goulooze came to Scottsdale from Lakewood California in 1963 and bet on the city's growth eastward.  ...

The musicologist Leonard B. Meyer once wrote that the distinction between a crackpot and a genius is whether that person arrived at a solution to a situation someone actually wanted solved.
But Goulooze had made an ill-considered bet.  Directly east from here is the only direction the city didn't grow in.  The drive-in paradigm was a good novelty but built no long-term loyalty in the congregation. [emphasis added]  Fourteen hundred seats is a the largest capacity on this list and must seem empty even with a good turnout.   After opening on Palm Sunday in 1966, the church has survived anyway all these years, with sermons broadcast out over AM 800 but with the speaker poles now removed, and with this marvelous building intact, still aesthetically bold.  The congregation has recently struggled with a garden-variety hypocrite ex-pastor who siphoned off maybe $100K to pay his own bad bets, but it looks to recover.  We surely hope so.

So the church was an idea that anticipated a trend that didn't materialize.

And .. if reading through proposed ordinances connected to real estate is your idea of fun weekend reading ....

some haiku for the weekend

artists and soldiers
both build and serve empires and
some of them know this

the pen and the brush,
names for different swords that are
also used to kill

Perhaps you can choose
which empire it is you love
but you will serve one

Friday, July 15, 2016

a little musing from Romans 13:1-5, the power of the state is always the power of the sword, an idea that civil libertarians seem to agree with.

Romans 13:1-7
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. [emphasis added] Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.  Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Obviously in Revelation another author of scripture concluded that the Roman soldier was a sign of illegitimate power.  Paul's sketching out of the reason to yield to legitimate authority has sat uneasily with the critique of imperial power in the Apocalypse and Christians have had to live with this tension ever since.

Or ... perhaps we can float an idea, that the observation Paul shared can't be overstated.  Paul wrote that those who rule bear the sword.  That is a point so obvious its significance can be overlooked.  In the polemics in our election cycle it's not hard to find people who say that someone's a fascist or that someone's a socialist.  The dystopian literary trope of the police state is ever popular but it can seem as though there's something we can forget when we warn about the possibility of a police state.

Every state is, by definition, a police state. The power of the state is always the power of the sword.

The debates we have are ultimately about how nice we want the cops to be and when it is or isn't appropriate for cops to kill.  If those on the right historically have this nasty habit of downplaying the atrocities states have perpetrated because they don't want to deny that the state has what is sometimes called a monopoly on legitimate violence, those on the left can seem to forget that the power of the state is always the power of violence.  Perhaps we could say the innovation of the Enlightenment was not the rejection of the despot but the proposal that the despot be ... enlightened. 

There will never be a classless society.  Deuteronomy 15 mentions that there should be no poor if Israel obeyed ... but then we famously get "the poor you shall always have with you" in verse 11 where God commands Israel to always be willing to help the poor.   so Ellul was right to state flatly that without attempting to make things too mysterious there will never be a material solution to the plight of the working class.  He described propaganda as a psychological solution, an opiate that the state or private business can deploy to mollify the working class their conditions but that there was never going to be a collective ownership of the means of production.  All we will see is that the means of production are owned by private persons or by party functionaries, never by the collective as a whole.

There will always be a ruling class as long as there are humans and anyone who tells you otherwise is a worse liar than those who promote lies vocationally. The sword may take different forms, and we may feel that we're more equitable than people from millennia ago because the weapon can take the form of the control and use of information access in an information economy but that is still, in its way, the sue of the sword.

And we all know perfectly well that the role of the sword has been taken up by the gun and that our debates about who the cops kill and why needs to keep happening.  And we need to remind ourselves, as some are clearly doing, that we can never forget that the power to enforce the law invariably leads to the power to kill. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Aimee Byrd reviews Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife and comments on how complementarians in some sets " ... I was bothered by the reviews that don’t recommend Tucker’s book due to her egalitarian position."

... While I do not embrace egalitarianism, I believe there is much more mutuality in marriage than many complementarians teach. We are told to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ, women to their own husbands, as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22-23), and husbands are to give themselves up in love for their wives, just as Christ loved the Church (v. 25). The type of teaching that the above quotes represent diminishes women, whom the Lord says are to be cherished.
While Tucker has this dual aim to argue for egalitarianism in the home, church, and society while raising awareness for domestic abuse through her own story, she focuses most of the book on marriage. It is difficult to accomplish a task of storytelling and teaching theology at the same time. Not everything descriptive is prescriptive. And while there were areas in the book where I wanted to push back on Tucker’s teaching, I realized I am reading a book from a woman who has endured and escaped horrible abuse---a book peppered with quotes from leading complementarians who blame women for their abuse, reduce complementarity to male authority and female submission, send victims back into abusive homes for the sake of submission, teach a distorted view of masculinity and femininity, and reduce women to the role of elevating men. 
So here’s my question: why are complementarians so quick to call out an abuse victim’s egalitarianism and yet so absolutely silent about the troubling teaching she quotes from many leading complementarians? This is why Ruth Tucker wants nothing to do with your theology---you refuse to confront the damaging errors within it. And I’d say that is not worthy of the word complementarity.

Byrd has merely raised a point egalitarians or, really, just not-complementarians have raised in the past few years--it can seem that complementarians are so eager to repudiate egalitarian views that this becomes more important to some people than addressing basic problems such as that forensic study seems to demonstrate that the guy most likely to abuse his wife or girlfriend has a traditionalist view of manhood and masculinity and ends up in economic distress or simply ends up in a relationship where the disparity between his educational and vocational opportunities and family connects are eclipsed by hers.  Complementarians have been so eager to tell everyone to marry fast and marry young that the question of how established a would-be husband can be in his earning ability seems to literally be immaterial. 
 and on a related note ...  Jake Meador was writing recently about complementarianism and proposed:

The deepest practical problem facing many evangelicals who wish to apply biblical norms on gender issues to their home-life is economic rather than theological or philosophical. Many younger evangelicals are more-or-less comfortable with the basic ideas that ordination should be limited to men and that the differences between the sexes should be seen as complementary rather than non-existent. Where CBMW has gone wrong is in attempting to apply these truths in a broader way without attending to the economic questions that make applying those truths so difficult. [emphasis added]


A less courteous way to put it would be to say that complementarians seem to have no interest in whether or not some of their ideas have any practical economic implications in the real world for actual married people. That's Meador's point 3. I would venture to say that given the trajectory of income inequality and the unskilled labor market this is one of the worst obstacles for a real-world application of complementarianism in the rest of the 21st century. 

As I've written here before, if complementarians had restricted themselves to, say, making a case for why they don't have women in formal eldership and left it at that then people would still grumble but possibly just at the levels that Americans grumble about comparable moves taken by Catholicism and Orthodoxy.  But Protestants, particularly in the United States, seem to eschew appeals to tradition that can be avoided or even some that can't--and as Meador has discussed, American complementarians have attempted to get from a strictly biblical/exegetical approach a whole sequence of ideas they haven't proven they can get from just the biblical texts. 

Meador has summarized that in the attempt to salvage certain kinds of complementarian concepts some disastrous theological moves have been made.  Now if low church Baptist types make moves that mid-church High-Church people find disastrous that might not be a huge, huge surprise. 

In his decades old film Metropolitan Whit Stillman has one of his characters remark about how in American story-telling we generally only ever hear about upward mobility rather than downward mobility and it's stasis that seems to be what's going to be in store for each respective class.

The odds that you're going to "move up" if you haven't done so by the time you're about 20 may be remote.  Of course Americans live on the mythology that there's ultimately no such thing as class distinctions and that upward mobility is always possible, if not for others, then at least for me.  The ambition toward upward mobility and moving "upstream" is so essential to understanding formerly local Seattle megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll that you can't even start to understand his ambition without understanding the core drive to upward mobility that has animated his sense of mission even by his own account.  That was a motivator for him even before he regarded himself as having had a born-again experience.

But one of the core problems that complementarianism "could" grapple with is the question of how its teachings apply to the lowermost classes.  Hannah Anderson had an interesting comment about how much complementarian teaching on traditional domestic economy emerged from the southern tradition in the United States where such practical teaching might not be as separable from the tradition of the enslavement of blacks as might be recognized by complementarians in the 21st century. 

Making the nuclear family the goal is going to be part of the problem--if social mobility stops being possible and the highermost education levels keep yielding not only lower returns on investment but higher levels of burn out and mental duress, people may start to forego college not because they don't value formal education but because they may begin to feel that what American higher education has become can be something of a Ponzi scheme.  In this kind of economic future the gap between the haves and the have nots isn't going to shrink, and it seems as though the haves are the ones who continually find ways to explain how what they have attained is what should be the norm.  Considering the emphasis Christians have been trying to make on living in community part of that emphasis on community might be to shift away from the nuclear family to extended family (by blood or socialization)--this was something that was actually very prominent in the earliest years of Mars Hill but that might be another topic for another time.

For the various comments about capitalism over at the Mere Orthodoxy thread ... since eros itself seems to be the ultimate consumer good within contemporary capitalism it might be something to keep in mind for other discussions.  When an erotic pair bond is considered the apotheosis of all human relationships and complementarians take that assumption for granted, then it introduces the other conundrum of the erotic pair bond being the greatest possible human good on the one hand while being categorically beyond consideration amongst evangelicals for people with same sex attraction on the other. 

Contemporary complementarianism (and egalitarianism to a somewhat lesser degree) seem to have nothing particularly useful to say to the unmarried in general, though.  The need to say something to the unmarried is less pressing for egalitarians since an ethos of useful personal fulfillment interacting with others isn't as big a tension for them, and for that matter egalitarians could pretty much apply their precepts to those Christians who choose to be celibate; complementarians have tended to have a default over the last twenty years of saying that unless you're gay (which means celibacy is either required or straightening out is necessary) you're against "God's design" by not being paired off.  Meador's point that complementarians don't seem to have reckoned with economic realities could be put more forcefully.

Byrd's concern, to come back to that, is that complementarians seem so set on sticking to what they think their position is that the real world problems of abuse justified by complementarians gets ignored, is highlighting just one aspect of a larger concern that complementarianism seems to be an ideology that is self-justifying at the expense of considering real world consequences.  Ideologies, perhaps by definition, tend to be this way, but if complementarianism has been a reaction to feminism or the sexual revolution it might be a good idea to retrace steps.  Not everyone perceives feminism or the sexual revolution in the same ways.  Complementarians have seemed to work with the idea that the sexual revolution opened up the opportunity for everyone to have sex lives as debauched as those of titled land-owning European aristocrats but that might not be what the average egalitarian is thinking of.  That might be what complementarian men would assume they would want to do with those kinds of opportunities but it's not necessarily a foregone conclusion that egalitarians themselves would.  They might be vestigially old Methodist enough to not go that route, but I digress, and joke a little.

These sorts of teachings have not been without consequence, obviously.  As more people shared things that happened to them at Mars Hill I remember reading the story of a couple that wanted to eventually have children but were afraid they couldn't afford to raise them.  Within the social milieu of their Mars Hill campus they were exhorted by their friends in a small group to trust God and have those babies and trust God would provide.  The babies were had but then with job troubles came money troubles, the couple turned to their social group within the church for help and got rebuffed with the rejoinder that they needed to have better financial stewardship. 

This is obviously a strong-arm narrative and it's the kind complementarians seem eager to dismiss--one in which a married couple responds to peer pressure to "trust God" and have children and then discovers that when they conform to peer pressure but can't afford it they discover the double bind they've been put in, scolded for complying with the peer pressure to "trust God" and have kids against their own conscience regarding the economic challenges of childrearing.  Aimee Byrd was writing about the problems of complementarians not addressing that their ideas are used to defend actual physical abuse; in documenting and examining the history of Mars Hill it's possible to observe that pernicious outworkings of complementarian ideals within a peer group can work themselves out in other ways, too.

Commenter ali mentioned earlier this year it seems American egalitarians and complementarians are fixated on rules and their application above consideration of what would be wise and practical.  This pretty well summed up why I can't take complementarians and egalitarians in an American context seriously.  In our eagerness to not have loveless marriages of convenience it would seem that Americans, regardless of how egalitarian or complementarian they may say they are, have both been happy for the pendulum to swing all the way to the other side, where marriage tends to be discussed in purely ideological terms about the dignity of individual agency as a symbol of ideological conviction rather than because two people got married because they live on adjacent plots of land.

I've begun to think that there may be a core problem underlying both American egalitarianism and complementarianism that's missing from potential discussion because in the midst of debating about differences assumptions shared in common may be getting overlooked.  It might be the kind of thing that an unmarried person could notice more easily than a married person could precisely because it's difficult to know precisely how or why egalitarianism and complementarianism have any real-world benefit to the unmarried.  After all, how great is the practical difference between a "reproductive right" and a "reproductive obligation" to someone who's celibate, and perhaps not by choice?  It might be worth pointing out that when Jesus said "not everyone can accept this teaching, only those to whom it is given," then went on to describe three categories of eunuchs, only one of which voluntarily chose eunuch status.  To put it rather bluntly, the debates of complementarians and egalitarians in America can start to seem like debates being had by those who have the luxury of knowing they're already having the sex they basically want out of their lives and that they think others should be having.  Whether or not either ideological perspective as articulated in the United States corresponds to the real world as a whole can seem increasingly doubtful.

from The Atlantic: The Eclipse of White Christian America (mainline and evangelical alike)

For most of the country’s history, white Christian America—the cultural and political edifice built primarily by white Protestant Christians—set the tone for our national conversations and shaped American ideals. But today, many white Christian Americans feel profoundly anxious as their numbers and influence are waning. The two primary branches of their family tree, white mainline and white evangelical Protestants, offer competing narratives about their decline. White mainline Protestants blame evangelical Protestants for turning off the younger generation with their anti-gay rhetoric and tendency to conflate Christianity with conservative, nationalist politics. White evangelical Protestants, on the other hand, blame mainline Protestants for undermining Christianity because of their willingness to sell out traditional beliefs to accommodate contemporary culture. [emphasis added]

The key question is not why one white Protestant subgroup is faring worse than another, but why white Protestantism as a whole—arguably the most powerful cultural force in the history of the United States—has faded. The answer is, in part, a matter of powerful demographic changes.
Rod Dreher had a comment soon enough, and he's eloquent enough to let his words speak for themselves here:

The problem with this is assuming that “white Christian America,” as defined by demographic data, is the same thing as the Christian faith as held by all white people. It’s not. Me, I don’t care that the religious influence of white Christians is declining. I care that the influence of orthodox Christianity is declining. [emphasis original]

I know white Christians who profess views that I find antithetical to small-o orthodox Christianity, and Arabs, Asians, and African-Americans who hold to a faith I recognize as authentically Christian. I prefer to stand every single time with non-white Christians who stand for the Gospel than with Christians of my own race and cultural tribe who do not.

My own take is that the mainline represented what you could call the Social Gospel of the old Religious Left, while the evangelicals, at least since Reagan, came to be known as the Religious Right.  Both are so morally and intellectually bankrupt at this point it's hard to see either as tragic victims of the influence of the other.  They sold themselves out to power and empire-building in different ways but they both did it.  Both sides seem to have sold out to a pragmatic socio-political realpolitik that is just blue-state or red-state American civic religion. 

The decline of the influence of the WASP doesn't necessarily mean that religion is going away from the American public sphere.  Jacques Ellul's rather grim proposal was that politics itself would become the new religious commitment stand-in for people in industrial societies that avail themselves of the tools of propaganda. 

What may continue to happen is that the WASPs of the left and right may continue to imagine they get to define the discourse for the rest of global Christianity.  Episcopalians who are in the United States or Canada may conclude that they get to tell the entirety of the Anglican presence in Africa how things are going to go ... and ... the irony of this would be it would still be a kind of white colonialist superiority complex, that.  Now, sure, the Religious Right is only in the last generation or so hip to the irony of that ... but that might just be because it was convenient to notice.

Cranky white radicals and reactionaries have had their pet candidates this year, Sanders and Trump, but it remains to be seen whether angry whites on the left and right who think they should be making the case for who should have the executive office are going to be the deciding vote this year.

It's hard to take either seriously at the moment, but then I concede that I'm a fatalist and a pessimist about politics.  The right wants to revive the imagined glory days of American empire and the left wants to bankroll what's left of it into a more generous welfare state ... but the welfare programs of the past could work in part because of the wartime profit and production on the one hand, and on the other hand, as plenty of people have been able to point out, that social safety net, to the extent that it worked, seemed pretty racist in its outworkings.  So there's a sense in which WASPs on the left and right are both ultimately nostalgic for an empire whose golden era is past, whether the empire of the United States itself or their conception of their respective roles within it.

over at Vox Joshua Rivera has a riff called "I grew up thinking journalism was just for rich white people. I was mostly right."

Years ago I read some stuff by Scott Timberg, who writes about the arts for Salon, a publication I confess to frequently finding annoying.  Timberg has been on a mission to lament the decline of the creative class and has been concerned that if we're not careful the arts will become a leisure activity.

But the arts have ALWAYS been the activities of leisure.  Vocational artists are by definition those of a leisure class. 

Sure, artists and writers get paid less and less these days just like music sales aren't what they used to be but rather than consider the possibility that the arts as we've known them in the last century might be a gigantic bubble there are occasionally laments about how it would be nice if artists could catch a break.

Depending on where you live (i.e. what state you're in) some of them already DO get a break ...  and Wenatchee The Hatchet blogged on this a couple of months ago:
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. [emphasis added]
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.
Something similarly pragmatic and skeptical can be said about literature and that subset of literature that is generally known as journalism.  Take the unpaid internship ...

"Internships," the headline in the New York Times’s opinion section read, "Are Not a Privilege." The op-ed was by Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation, and it discussed what he called "America’s internship-industrial complex" — the way unpaid internships effectually lock out diverse, talented young workers who cannot possibly afford to work for free.

It got media types talking about journalism’s unpaid internship economy and why it’s insidious. I figured it’s a good opportunity to tell you a little bit about my experience with unpaid internships, because I am, improbably, a member of "the media," and I'm kind of tired about only ever seeing white colleagues sound off about this nonsense whenever a fellow person of color addresses it on a platform as big and white as the New York Times.


All of college was a culture shock for me, a surreal experience I never stopped feeling like I wasn’t supposed to have. But most bizarre to me was how necessary the school’s career development office stressed unpaid internships were, how chill we all were supposed to be with doing immense amounts of entry-level work for free.

They said a lot of things, but most of what I heard in my head was, Whoa, this shit really is for rich white people. I could not comprehend how I, had I not lived walking distance from a train station minutes away from New York City, would have ever pulled that off. Everywhere, kids were moving to other states to do unpaid gigs for this network or that publication. I was stuck where God planted my ass, and even then it barely worked out

In other words, to be able to do things vocationally in the arts you already have to come from a level of socio-economic privilege to not have to worry about what food you're going to eat for the rest of your life.  Not everyone recognizes this tawdry yet seemingly obvious point.  Some do, and some of those folks, like Whit Stillman, can make hilarious films about people of privilege not quite grasping just how much privilege they have until they're about to lose it. When one of his characters in Metropolitan grouses that we only ever see stories of upward social mobility in American popular culture it's on the nose, but it's on the nose for a reason. 

It may be that Americans who want to make a living in the arts may not grasp how much privilege is involved in making that living or, as noted earlier, the extent to which policy can subsidize that privilege in ways that aren't always extended to families and in ways that can, at times, seem to be a reflection in some regions of racism. 

If you can make a living as a writer or an artist or musician, cool.  But sometimes, no, most of the time, it seems to me that those who do vocationally work in the arts seem incapable of grasping the level of privilege involved in that vocation; to formulate it another way that's in keeping with the polemical edge the word "privilege" has gained in internet discourse in the last decade, artists who have the privilege of being able to work vocationally as artists may not always realize that what they do doesn't necessarily directly make the lives of other people better in obvious ways that today's artist or writer is in a sense like the priest or scholar of a millennium ago, a monk who has taken a vow of poverty could still live in a monastery that was paid for by the labors of others and feel like he's not that privileged at all. 

Sure, but that's the thing about so nebulous a term as privilege and the way people are talking about it now, the odds that you recognize the extent to which you've benefited from privileges you don't realize other people don't have can seem pretty high these days. It's part of why the term and its discourse can seem so esoteric and even vaguely useless. Social Justice Warriors at college campuses feel disenfranchised, some say, and that feeling is no doubt real for the person having it, but for those who can even go to grad school at all, for instance, the level of privilege and access needed to even get in can seem like another planet.  It's not necessarily where Rivera went in the aforementioned piece, but it's one of the paradoxes of privilege discourse, that it can seem everything is on a sliding scale.  Maybe "privilege" in today's academic discourse is kind of like "sorcery" from five centuries ago. 

Rod Dreher sounds off on the "hypocrisy" of the left about race narrative polemics, but let's propose that the problem isn't hypocrisy ...
In a statement condemning the Dallas attack, Black Lives Matter said it "was the result of the actions of a lone gunman. To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible. We continue our efforts to bring about a better world for all of us."

Read the whole thing. Hashimoto’s point about BLM’s hypocrisy is superb. It was happy to cast insane aspersions on all its enemies, with no evidence at all. I don’t believe it’s fair to blame BLM for the murders of Dallas police officers, but according to the (black) police chief of Dallas, the killer told police who cornered him that Black Lives Matter got him riled up about white cops. Again, that’s certainly not enough to blame BLM, but it’s more than the BLM loudmouths had when they blamed everyone to the right of Pol Pot for Orlando.


The older I get the more I think that garden variety hypocrisy is probably the human condition.  There may always be a gap between the ideals we would profess if you asked us what our most cherished beliefs are and what we actually do on a day to day basis.  Liberal or conservative hypocrisy in itself seems like nothing more to me than mortals being mortals--it's unfortunate at a variety of levels but probably ultimately not entirely avoidable.  I considered it hypocritical over the years when fans of Mark Driscoll claimed that the only thing Wenatchee The Hatchet ever did was rip on Mars Hill or Mark Driscoll--those are the kinds of statements that can only be made by partisans who have selective attention spans but we're all fallible mortals. 

On the other hand, double standards are a problem and one of the problems on the left and the right alike is the probably similarly unavoidable human temptation to say that "your" scapegoating of an entire category of people on ideological, ethnic or economic grounds is bad while "my" scapegoating is just stating the facts. 

The most tedious riffs on the internet are the ones that highlight hypocrisy and they're tedious because by and large anyone who looks hard enough for such hypocrisy is going to find it, and the sad thing is that it is probably not even "hypocrisy" that bugs people as much as it is the sense that whoever they're complaining about is perceived as having (and may really have!) a set of double standards--when double standards are in play then atheists can talk about how sexist Christians are while pulling the "no true Scotsman" card for the misogyny of high profile atheists.  It doesn't help a Christopher Hitchens to snipe that there aren't any truly funny women if one of his complaints had been that religions are oppressive to women.  But that's something I'd suggest is an unobserved moment of hypocrisy and not necessarily a double standard, or it might be a Brit problem.  ;)

Trusting you saw what I just did there.

Particularly as we're looking at an era in which the dominance of white Christians in the United States seems to be drawing to a close it seems dangerous for those WASPs on the left and right to act as if the legacy of pernicious racism is simply the possession of the "other" side.  That kind of dishonest propagandistic "history" is going to remain popular, however, because as white establishment types within the left and right see their demographic slip over the next half century it's going to become important to see who can "win" the contest to gain and retain allies in the non-white voting demographics. Republicans seem unconcerned with that kind of demographic cultivation on the one hand while Democrats seem to have smugly presumed they have the non-white voting blocs in hand if the polemics of the last decade have been any indication.  Neither of these may turn out to be prudent stay-the-course gambits. 

The unifying emotional state for all sides seems to be dread.  The cliché that may have some merit to it is that when people who are speaking for a cause speak from dread they will sincerely feel they're speaking from a place of vulnerable and yet come across to those who have a parallel sense of dread as speaking from a place of aggression.  But when it's "you" and not "them" you think you're speaking about self-defense. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Andy Stanley had a relatively minor gaffe earlier this year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 10, 2016

on the temptations of megachurch pastors not being quite like the ones you or I face, the temptations of common folk won't be just like those of people who call themselves "prophets", "priests" or "kings"

With Perry Noble's removal from pastoral office at Newspring over alcohol abuse reported this morning ...

and a clarifying printed statement ...

it seems inevitable that there will be those in the Christian blogosphere who will say that the temptations faced by a Perry Noble aren't so different from the ones you or I face on a daily basis. 

Well, sure, if each and every one of us presides as the key public figure who works as a motivational speaker within the context of a religious 501(c)3 that can handle millions of dollars of assets, yeah. 

This is not to diminish whatever struggles Noble may face in dealing with alcohol abuse, this is to point out that the very nature of Noble's day job is so atypical that we should remind ourselves that there's a difference between what a pastor in your local neighborhood does year in and year out and what Noble did.

Regular readers will likely already know what themes we've been considering here this year, namely that in light of Jacques Ellul's writings about propaganda and propagandists that megachurch pastors may generally be regarded as propagandists, people who are adept in the deployment of integrated/combined mass and social media with carefully delineated branding to get a single message out that can organize the life of a large social unit. 

So the distinction between a "normal" church and a megachurch can be described in terms of the pastor of a "normal" church doing things that would historically be explicable for the history of those in vocational ministry--not just sermon preparation but visiting the sick, pastoral visits and so forth on the one hand; on the other hand the activity of a megachurch pastor can entail the use of video or radio preaching or teaching that may or may not be integrated with the writing and promotion of books and, in the last thirty years, can also include what has come to be known as a multi-site model of organizational life--the megachurch or gigachurch can consist of a series of satellite campuses in which the central figure is still regarded as the "pastor".  In the case of the late Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll would preach a sermon that was filmed and the redistributed within the technological networking apparatus of Mars Hill so that people at the rest of the church would hear the sermon one week later. 

To try to put this in sacramental terms, if the pastor is mediated by a screen rather than preaching in front of the congregation then we're "probably" as often as not looking at the megachurch pastor who would fit into what Ellul called propaganda as a methodology and ethos.  In a strange ironic juxtaposition, when people argued with Mark Dever about a video-mediated sermon reaching people there was an argument that someone like a J. Vernon McGee had good sermons but sermons that may no longer be "used" to reach people.  But if a contemporary megachurch pastor preaches a sermon and it's rebroadcast a week later via DVD to a satellite campus is that "living"?

And that such questions could even be "theological" beyond merely being "logistical" should tell us that none of this is operating at a level where it would correspond to what "you" or "I" may deal with on a day to day basis as a possible avenue for temptation.

Yes, the potential to abuse alcohol or cigarettes is something any of us could struggle with but even among church-going Christians how likely are we to hear a pastor preach a sermon in which he or she discusses the risks of potential, say, caffeine addiction?  There may be some sermons that go down better in the listening experience with a little help from morning coffee, perhaps, but it's a relatively rare sermon in America that focuses on caffeine as something that can be addictive.  There was, actually, a youth pastor I remember from twenty years ago, telling a group of youth that he felt convicted by the Lord to scale back his caffeine intake because he was concerned about what looked to be withdrawal symptoms but that's one case out of a lifetime of churchgoing. 

Certainly we can pray that Noble gets effective treatment and is able to drink more responsibly or set the bottle aside.  It's also possible to mention the obvious, that the men who end up being pastors in megachurch contexts are not really dealing with day to day temptations of the same kind the rest of us nameless sorts who aren't public figures or celebrities may contend with. 

Whoever you are, you and I are most likely sorts where what we say and do does not "matter" in terms of shaping a society.  Now it's possible to have some local short-term influence but that's not the kind of "influence" Americans who see fit to opine on the value of influence often seem fit to dignify as truly being influential.  Mark Driscoll used to say in sermons about how it was important for people to go "upstream" and "influence culture". Most of us will not publish books and even if we do publish books most of us will not get an offer to use Result Source to secure a best-seller position for a title we have our names attached to.  There are temptations within the realm of megachurch pastor or celebrity Christian authors that are completely uncharacteristic of "normal" Christian life. 

Now none of us faces a temptation that someone else hasn't faced before, to be sure, but to borrow the idiom of "triperspectivalism", those who self-identify as pastors who are "prophets", "priests" or "kings" do not face temptations of quite the same kind we do. 

Even if we grant for the sake of a discussion that megachurch pastors who are "kings" or "prophets" do have the same kinds of temptations we have the sum of Christian testimony in the scriptures and from historical consideration would "seem" to suggest that important criteria about psychological susceptibility to temptation or impulse control needs to be observably worked out before someone is considered fit for ministry.  Obviously in view of history too many have been greenlit for ministries they were not necessarily cut out for. And different eras and regions have different ideas of what besetting vices are considered bad enough to preclude fitness for formal ministry.  Americans would, for a variety of reasons, consider a pastor who has a problem with alcohol abuse less fit for ministry than a pastor who could be shown to be a caffeine junkie by dint of prodigious coffee consumption.
So, yes, we can say pastors "may" be subject to the same kinds of temptations we are amongst the laity but that would not preclude a discussion of how fitness ministry "should" (based on scriptural instructions) be assessed on the basis of a pastoral candidate's history of being able to keep impulses in check.

... and yet ... as we saw here in the Puget Sound region, in order to be tempted to use Result Source you have to know what it is, what it is for, and what the incentive or disincentive to use it is.  To borrow the nomenclature from two paragraphs ago, there are still temptations that are most likely to come up for those who call themselves prophets, priests or kings. 


Noble has a small connection to Mars Hill history that may be a topic for consideration a little bit later but in order to write about a book blurb it's helpful to have the book at hand and not in a box.

Throckmorton reports announcement from Newspring Church of Perry Noble departure cf Greenville Online

Perry Noble is no longer acting pastor at Newspring Church over alcohol use issues.

One of the things that has been percolating here is to consider a recap of things that have transpired in the last four years amongst those who wrote endorsements for a certain book.  Unfortunate that today's news constitutes one such update.