Saturday, August 13, 2016

Mark Driscoll and the influence of porn: postlude--a 1-30-1992 polemic from Mark Driscoll at the Daily Evergreen argues against the legitimacy of porn in a way that suggests more than passing familiarity with the genre

Earlier this year this blog had a series of posts examining Mark Driscoll's public career and his comments on porn as well as a consideration of porn as a cultural influence informing Driscoll's approach.  When Real Marriage was published in 2012 Heath Lambert expressed concern that in allegedly trying to argue against the influence of pornography Driscoll was more likely to introduce people to it who previously might not have been introduced to it.

We've looked at how, within the 2012 Driscoll book, Mark Driscoll recounted that he concluded the cure for his depression and mood swings was more sex from/with his wife and how he made a case for how/why that needed to happen.

So it's been remarkable that Mark Driscoll has presented himself as a guy who has a standing from which to inform guys how to shake free of porn the way he did in May 2016.  This is the guy who said in a sermon that "virginity should be a season and not a goal"; who described how in his experience in pastoral counseling 99 percent of the time marriage problems got solved by the guy getting more sex; who managed to mention "clear heels" (aka "the stripper uniform") in about a dozen sermons just between 2004 and 2008; who, by his own account, asked a distraught male attender of the early Mars Hill who confessed to watching a porno, "Was it a good porno?"; or his notorious Scotland sermon story about advising a woman to give her husband oral sex; or the interpretive gloss on Song of Songs proclaiming that the woman needs a snack break because they've been making love for SOOO long her blood sugar is low; for that guy to sound off on the negative influence of porn in 2016 invites further questions as to where he's coming from on these things.
May 2, 2016
I grew up, down the street, from a couple of strip clubs next to an airport. Prostitution. Green River Killer. Ted Bundy. Highly dangerous, volatile, sexualized climate. I grew up in an area that was just rife with pornography and thankfully it was before the advent of the internet [emphasis added], and for guys who now have access to every conceivable disgusting, debased, deplorable thing on their phone privately that communication is absolutely deadly.  And so for every man, especially for young men, this is the war of a generation. 

And so this guy asks me this question. He said, "I write this to you feeling totally defeated." Buddy, you're not alone. There's a whole generation of young men, in particular, and I'm addressing this to all men but especially to young men in light of this young man's question.  They feel totally defeated. They feel ashamed, embarrassed. [emphasis added] Their pastor doesn't talk about porn or it's just to talk about sickos and they feel disgusting, and they feel disqualified and they feel defeated. ...

So I'm honored to answer this question.  I've answered it for hundreds and thousands of guys in conferences and classes over the years and I'm glad to answer it again. It says, "I struggle with a daily addiction to pornography."  Let me just say this, that sin leads to death, that the appetites of the flesh are never satisfied and fulfilled. So if you start feeding sinful appetites it's not like you can manage them; their goal is to destroy you. 
We've already had reason to be skeptical about this guy being a spokesman for telling guys how to not be ruled by their members before.  But having noted Driscoll's writing for The Daily Evergreen earlier this week, his polemic for why adult entertainment isn't a legitimate category of entertainment might be a capstone.

He wrote an op-ed published on January 30, 1992 that might prove in graphic detail that secularist axiom that the sorts of people most involved in censorship can be most familiar with the sorts of things they act to censor.  Driscoll opened briskly with an assertion that porn is not necessarily protected by the First Amendment.

But when Driscoll mentions when someone rents Bimbo Bowlers from Buffalo the matter is a matter of public concern because the film is rented or sold.  Okay ... since it was 1992 there wasn't this thing called IMDB.  Fortunately for readers there's no screen caps or anything like that, but there's some modicum of documentation that the movie title Mark Driscoll insisted on mentioning by name was not a movie title invented out of thin air for purely rhetorical effect.

Driscoll didn't mention whether or not he had seen the film in his 1992 op-ed.  He did, however, in his 2008 book Death By Love mention that he also "occasionally looked at pornography":

 Copyright (c) 2008 by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
 Published by Crossway Books
 PDF ISBN: 978-1-4335-0423-5
 ISBN-10: 1433501295
 ISBN-13: 9781433501296

page 166
... For example, before I met Jesus I was guilty of sexual sin. I was sexually active prior to marriage and also occasionally looked at pornography. But because Jesus died for those sins and saved me from them, I have been able to put those sins to death. [emphasis added] As a result, you were brought into a family where your mom and I truly love one another and have been faithful to one another in every way.  We know that apart from Jesus , dying for our sin, sin would have killed our marriage. You would have been either raised by a single mother or trapped in a home of sin and bitterness, marked by unrest and hostility between your mother and me, if it were not for Jesus' death on the cross.

Bimbo Bowlers from Buffalo seems like a really specific movie title to mention some guy renting if this is a polemical point made by a guy who ... occasionally looked at pornography, doesn't it? Maybe it was just a memorable title he happened to hear about from some other dude.  But the comment about the ... nope ... it's so nasty that it's not quite worth mentioning.  Let's just say Heath Lambert couldn't possibly imagine how right he was to express worry that some Christians would learn about some nasty stuff only because Mark Driscoll insisted on mentioning them.  Damn, dude, if anyone at Antioch knew Driscoll wrote this 1992 op-ed they might have never let him be a pastor, though.

Driscoll's tone of moral outrage about how oral and anal sex gets filmed will seem all the more astonishing in his 1992 op-ed if we bear in mind that one of the controversies among evangelicals about the content of the 2012 book Real Marriage is how Mark and Grace Driscoll made cases for the legitimacy of oral and anal sex as on-the-table-if-they-both-want-it.  Over the course of twenty years Mark Driscoll's public statements about sex from his student journalist days to his megachurch rock star pastor days suggest that, if anything, while he retained his opposition to pornography in itself, he became more permissive about what husbands and wives could, in theory, do together in the marriage bed.  The Mark Driscoll who in 1992 openly advocated for upheaval and a crusade against pornography would turn into the Mark Driscoll who, as William Wallace II wrote something in the "Using Your Penis" thread of the old Midrash we've quoted before:

William Wallace II
 Member   posted 01-18-2001 11:13 AM             
 Christian pornography. Christian phone sex. Christian cyber-sex. Christian lap dances.
 Someone recently asked me about these issues. And, they are quite valid.

 The problem with many unfaithful unmanly unmen is that they have heads filled with desires and dreams, but they marry a Christian women raised on a steady diet of gnosticism (so she hates her body) psychology (so she thinks too much before she climbs into bed) and guilt ridden don't have sex because it's a dirty nasty thing that God hates and makes you a slut youth group propaganda from hell/Family Books.

 So the poor guy is like a starving man who is told he can only eat once ever couple weeks and his restaurant only has one crummy unspiced bland item on the menu and he either eats it or starves to death.

 Bummer for that guy.
So what changed that, some nine years after he wrote an op-ed at The Daily Evergreen denouncing pornography while somehow also managing to name-drop a film you can look up now on IDMB, Mark Driscoll as William Wallace II was ready to extol the potential or even actual legitimacy of what he was willing to describe as Christian pornography, if only as an abstraction?

Well, to go by the narrative in Real Marriage, Mark Driscoll was super-duper bitter about not getting enough action with/from his wife.

By 2012 Mark Driscoll was presenting himself as the kind of guy who was willing to have the "real" conversations about sex and marriage the other people weren't willing to have.  And yet didn't the recently deceased co-author of Left Behind books Tim LaHaye publish The Act of Marriage with his wife Beverly the year that Mark Driscoll was ... six years old (aka 1976)?  The level of buying your own hype that is needed to speak as if no one before you was writing about sex in religious life seems pretty epic.  Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the evangelical publishing scene could point out that the only person who seemed to believe beyond all doubt yet another book on Christian marriage was neded and that his book in particular needed to be written might just have been Mark Driscoll.  And so the book was written, and so the book was promoted via Result Source deal, and made integral to church life within the church known as Mars Hill, and defended as the "real" deal about marriage, and presenting what was the real story about the Driscoll marriage that had not been shared, apparently, over the previous ten years.

All this invites another question, if you read the tone of moral outrage in Mark Driscoll's 1992 op-ed against the legitimacy of what's known as adult entertainment and compare that to his defense of his writing in 2012 it does invite a question as to whether Mark Driscoll had capitulated to the mentality he thought he was arguing against back when he was a college student at Washington State University, ranting against the influence and pervasiveness of porn on the pages of The Daily Evergreen.  As far back as Mark Driscoll's writings as William Wallace II in his "Using Your Penis" thread, it could be argued that Mark Driscoll embodied not the bold stand against the pornification of culture his 1992 self objected to and perhaps not-so-secretly showed a cognitive debt to, but that by his William Wallace II days of early 2001 and his 2012 days of stardom he was more rather than less capitulated to that mentality in what he was willing to teach as "just teaching what's in the Bible".


These op-ed pieces for The Daily Evergreen provide some additional context to things Mark Driscoll's said about his journalistic career over the years.  Take this:

I’ve taken on editorial duties at Resurgence, at least for a season. This means I’m reviewing nearly every blog article before we post it and giving content feedback in an effort to help our writers get their message out even further.


I don’t pretend to be the world’s greatest writer. But I did start writing professionally as a journalist in high school, paid my way through high school and college writing articles and editing my college newspaper [emphases added], got a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the top-notch Edward R. Murrow School of Communication, and have written blogs and articles for everyone from CNN to the Washington Post to Fox News.
The op-ed pieces Driscoll wrote for The Daily Evergreen give us at least some insight into what he wrote that he thought passed for professional journalism.  If anyone who's affiliated with Wazoo wants to dig up and verify what financial compensation a student journalist in 1992 could expect to get writing for The Daily Evergreen comments are open but automatically go into moderation.

Then there's Driscoll's response to "the kerfuffle":

The trouble started with a Southern Baptist blogger . . . yes, you should have seen that one coming. Now, to be fair, the blogger quoted an anonymous “source.” And, we all know that almost everything bloggers say is true. But, when they have something as solid as an anonymous “source,” then you can rest assured that when Jesus talked about the truth over and over in John, this is precisely what he was referring to. I have a degree from Washington State’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and worked professionally as a journalist, and I can assure you that The Kerfuffle is a very serious matter to be taken with the utmost sobriety and propriety. In fact, one anonymous “source” I spoke to said that Watergate pales in comparison.

Of course it turned out that while Mark Driscoll was attending the college he wrote an op-ed where he explained that he ended up there because none of his financial aid applied toward schools outside Washington state.  So, to invoke the verbiage Driscoll so regularly said to guys about what woman to marry, he went with the one in front of him. 

If Driscoll's idea of having worked as professional journalist is based on the kinds of op-ed pieces he wrote for The Daily Evergreen his idea of what passes for professional journalism is even more skimpy than the outfits he says Christian women shouldn't be wearing in public.

For the folks who read all of Pussified Nation, that was actually probably the toned-down version of Mark Driscoll in polemical mode.

How many of you would think that a couple that doesn't have enough sex is experiencing demonic spiritual warfare? It's true. How many Christian marriages divorce?  Well, statistically, more than those who are not Christian. When non-Christians can work it out a rate that is more successful than Christians that would indicate to me that Satan has really found a way to climb into bed between a husband and a wife and, in one way or another, cause devastation.

When I'm meeting with a couple and one of them, maybe it's the husband, says, "Well, my wife's not being very nice to me so I'm gonna deny her sex and until she's nice to me I'm gonna withhold it."  That's demonic. ...

To be sure, there are sex addicts in marriage who are unreasonable in their expectations of their spouse but what I'm talking about is the common situation where one person in the marriage wants to be intimate more often than the other and they're rejected, they become bitter,  Satan comes in and feeds that bitterness, baits the hook of their flesh with the temptation of the world, and all of a sudden Satan puts in front of them images and people and opportunities to lead them astray and to destroy everything.


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. [emphasis added] 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.

Between these two points, the insistence that not-enough-sex-within-marriage was the first category of what Mark Driscoll called the ordinary demonic on the one hand, and the claim that the cure for his mood swings and depression was more frequent sex with his wife on the other, it seems fair and reasonable to ask whether or not the kind of man who sincerely believes that the cure for his self-attested mood imbalances is more sex may have formed a dependency on sexual intercourse as a mood stabilizer in a way that should cast doubt on his fitness for ministry.  After all, as we explored at length, during the same season that Driscoll was convincing his wife he needed more sex to cure his mood swings and depression, former Mars Hill pastor Bill Clem was talking to single guys about how even in married life a man has to forego sex if, say, his wife is slowly succumbing to cancer and to recognize there are ways husbands can love and serve their wives whether they get the sex they want or not.

There was someone who left a comment raising the point of whether or not someone could be considered a sex addict.  While it can seem a pretty fair point to raise, it's also a delicate one to discuss from the perspective of someone unable to make a formal/clinical diagnosis.  But that it was raised made it seem like another postscript was in order. 

Ghostbusters reboot projected to run at a loss in the month after its release, the problem of counting the money before you've earned it in the era of presumed franchises

Perhaps we should open with a proposal, you can play out a fight between two individuals dozens of times but you can only tell a joke once; like Heraclitus' river, perhaps, that joke can never have the same humorous impact when you try to wade through it again.  Whereas the action genre thrives on the minute variations that come with repetition, comedy that is based on long-form narrative may not, not unless you come up with, so to speak, new jokes.  Jackie Chan may have had the same formulaic bundle of plots across each movie but the jokes, that is to say the legendary stunts, those would be joyously different each time. 

Which gets us to the situation of the recent Ghostbusters film.  How do you pull off retelling a joke that was told decades ago?  Can you franchise it in advance for the silver screen?  So far the answer is looking like "no".

Immediately upon the opening of Ghostbusters in mid-July, top Sony executives boldly declared a sequel to Paul Feig's all-female reboot of Ivan Reitman's 1984 classic was a given. "While nothing has been officially announced yet, there's no doubt in my mind it will happen," said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution at Sony.

That was the studio's last public mention of a sequel. As of Aug. 7, Ghostbusters had earned just under $180 million at the global box office, including $117 million domestic. The film still hasn't opened in a few markets, including France, Japan and Mexico, but box-office experts say it will have trouble getting to $225 million despite a hefty net production budget of $144 million plus a big marketing spend. The studio has said break-even would be $300 million.

Nearly a month after its release, “Ghostbusters,” has brought in just $180 million worldwide. And with a total take projected to end up at something like $240 million, the reimagining of the 1984 favorite will not come close to making back its large production and marketing budgets. Sources familiar with the film’s finances say that it’s likely to end up losing about $75 million, with Sony’s financial hit coming closer to about $50 million, because of its co-financing arrangement with Village Roadshow.

So for those who took the release of the film to praise the film for being a decent reboot over against the hate-o-rade of the man-o-sphere trolls ... well, it remains to be seen if the film breaks even.  In an era in which film critics have complained about peak reboot and franchises they don't want to have to cover (i.e. superheroes), it's as if the one unique thing the Ghostbusters franchise seemed to have going for it was the girlpower thing.  Except that as franchises go there's a problem with counting the money before you get it, especially when the production is expensive.

Here's the bad news: This movie cost $144 million after tax incentives and rebates. It had a P&A (promotional and advertising) spend rumored to be over $100 million. That puts the total amount Sony sunk into this movie in the $250 million range, which is ... a lot for a comedy. Like: a lot. Box Office Mojo is predicting a total domestic run in the $135–$145 million range, which would barely be enough to earn back its production budget. And unlike similar openers from last year, like Mad Max: Fury Road and Hotel Transylvania 2, Sony can't rely on overseas audiences to significantly boost that number.

In hindsight, it seems absurd: Why would Sony spend superhero money on a comedy? Feig's track record is impressive, but it's impressive because he tends to make sensibly budgeted movies that deliver a significant return on investment: Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy cost $32.5 million, $43 million, and $65 million, respectably.

The answer resides in the Sony leak. Hundreds of emails leaked in early 2015 were related to the reboot of Ghostbusters. But the most interesting of them all — more interesting than their attempts to hire Christopher Lord and Phil Miller to do Ghostbusters 3; more interesting than the efforts to balance power between Ivan Reitman and Paul Feig; more interesting than the dozens of actors, writers, and directors who tried to get themselves attached to Ghostbusters — is one Amy Pascal, then co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, sent to Michael De Luca, then Sony's president of production, that frames everything in a much more understandable, if not entirely defensible, light: They were hoping Ghostbusters would be the basis of a Marvel-like universe for Sony.

The orginal film did not have to live up to advance expectations of being a cinematic franchise.  Now perhaps someone at Jezebel already has a thinkpiece about how, once again, women have to live up to an unrealistic expectation men never have to deal with and that the financial frustrations of the new Ghostbusters franchise embody this patriarchal norm.

But are we absolutely sure that the Ghostbusters would-be franchise has to bear the weight of the expectations of girl power?  Or was the selling point the all female-led cast as a quartet of women who aren't named Milla or Kate?  Have film critics praised the girl power motif in the Resident Evil franchise or the Underworld franchise or have the tropes of waif-fu weighed against those cinematic juggernauts?  I'm not saying the Underworld movies are, like, great movies--I went out to see Love & Friendship because I was hoping Beckinsale would shift gears and leave vampires alone for a bit and go back to stuff like Jane Austen because she's great at that type of thing.  Beckinsale's going to be in a fifth Underworld film in 2017 and Jovovich's going to be in the supposedly finale chapter of the Resident Evil franchise in 2017, too.  That's five and six movies respectively spanning more than a decade.  Are they good movies?  Eh ... but then we could ask what we mean by a good movie with respect to what under other circumstances could be called a studio's cynical reboot of a decades old franchise. 

If Ghostbusters got a reboot with an all-male cast would press reception have been as adulatory or would the cynicism about peak reboot characteristic of other responses to other franchises have been the same? The possibility of the franchise continuing in the form of animated shows might be the best thing for the franchise.  It's possible for a film franchise with some terrible lows to spawn a surprisingly solid animated series, the Bay-formers franchise is still pretty lame but the Transformers Prime series is, if you've ever been into the Transformers, one of the greatest iterations of the show in terms of cartoons.  It's worth it just for Steve Blum's Starscream, even if they didn't manage to snag Peter Cullen (as usual) for Optimus Prime and bring back the inimitable Frank Welker to reprise his role as Megatron.  But then cartoons directly targeted to kids are off the table for people--which might be a whole separate category of thought.  In the midst of all the complaints from mainstream critics about superheroes and franchises I can't remember seeing anyone complain that the live action DC cinematic universe has none of the charms that you can find in Bruce Timm and Paul Dini's fifteen year run spanning Batman: the animated series through Justice League Unlimited.

And let's suppose for the moment that Ghostbusters does fine and that live-action sequel does get greenlit.  There's nowhere to go but up for raising the stakes.  The stakes can't be less than the whole city and maybe whether or not the team will keep working together and eventually all space-time as we know it has to be at stake.  As we've been seeing in the superhero genre when everything is at stake we know that, in the end, nothing is at stake. The Dark Knight became a highwater mark for the superhero film not just because the Joker presented a personal challenge to Batman but also because in a genre where the hero traditionally gets to have his cake and eat it, too, Batman failed to save either Rachel Dawes or Harvey Dent, we know by now that if Harvey Dent had just died that Batman's failure would have been less than it was after Dent decided to embrace the label of Two-Face and go on a personal vendetta against not just the criminals of Gotham but also the police. To see the more conventional big screen version you can go back and watch Batman Forever for how the genre more conventionally plays out, or Raimi's first Spiderman film.  If the studio really wanted Ghostbusters to be the basis for a reboot with endless franchise potential the problem of having the stakes be city-wide from jump hasn't done them any favors.

The case that some of these franchises work better as TV can be made on the premise that in a television series you have time to slowly raise the stakes as larger but less easily seen threats can take shape.  For instance, whereas Batman may be forced to always deal with the level of Gotham city in a film in a TV show it could be at the level of the impact one corrupt corporate shark will have on a neighborhood.  The fact that films tend to raise the stakes to all or nothing has been one of the problems in the superhero franchise that Ghostbusters would fall prey to even if we got another film.  In a television format there could be any number of freak-of-the-week cases with a through-line of some larger threat, but who says that larger threat has to be a ghost?  It could be the problem of funding and fiscal viability, a kind of jokey meta-commentary on the challenges of keeping a decades old franchise in operation. 

But it seems as though movie reviewers who are eager to have something besides superheroes and the studio execs have foisted expectations on a film that the genera populace has not agreed to bestow upon it.  Even if you could make a case that the Ghostbusters reboot has to be better at every level than The Suicide Squad (and if you want a little goofy chart about the gap between audience and critic reception of supehero films ... ) you can lead the movie-going horse to water but you can't make them drink.

Perhaps there's a middle ground to stake out, like Richard Brody's comment that on the one hand "this" cast and director that wasn't making "this" uninspired and tepid remake could have made a much better movie if a studio weren't pre-committed to franchise the daylights in advance out of the thing.

But then what if we're thinking about this all wrong.  Superhero stories are, in the end, always about fights and there are dozens of variables involved in any given fight, right?  Let's turn this around, every comedic film is in some sense a vastly expanded joke.  To franchise Ghostbusters, or any comparable comedy, you either have to assume there's more than one central joke guiding the narrative possibilities of these characters ... or to put it another way, you have to accept the premise that the same joke can be just as funny told in ever-so-slightly varied ways without changing the fundamental nature of the joke.

How did that play out the first time around for Ghostbusters?  It doesn't seem like the second film was quite as funny or fun.  By contrast, how many Die Hard movies have we gotten? Or consider that Kate and Milla may only in 2017 theoretically put their respective action franchises to rest (if that?).  It's not that women can't headline action movies. Kate and Milla have handily proven over the last ten years they can do it.  But it's arguably easier to create that franchise magic if you're not banking on it and insisting on it in advance and, perhaps most crucially of all, spending as if that franchise success is already a foregone conclusion. 

remembering Robert Blocker's comments about the musical canon and the reactions of Ethan Iverson and Alex Ross, any reactions from them about the recently announced Yale jazz initiative?

First let's revisit the angry reaction to Robert Blocker's somewhat ill-advised remarks about jazz as a music not part of the Western canon.  Since Iverson's done a full-scale renovation of his blog in the last year or so we have to go find the newer version of the post.
Alex Ross' commentary is still where it was before

for Lewanski's commentaries ...

The thing I am not sure progressive artists recognize is that if you say that all art is ultimately political you have to concede that all art is ultimately propaganda for one empire or another.  You can, maybe, decide what empire you want to make propaganda for or in consideration of, but you no longer have the option of saying that the vocational artist can be anyone other than the builder of and the servant of some kind of empire.  Some vocational musicians have built empires, like Prince or David Bowie, but the history of the arts as a vocation is more or less the history of artists serving empires.  That's why, arguably, the double bind of being recognized but not respected by the institutional powers within an empire is really preferable for jazz to formal institutional canonization.

Now I agree with Iverson and Ross that what Blocker said and how he said it was objectionable, though I don't share Iverson's fondness for the music for Babbitt overall and I suspect that for jazz fans and jazz performers the double bind of jazz not really being respectable in schools while being a significant influence in the history of music is probably what we really prefer--the old canards about how once jazz is taught in schools it's somehow not really legitimate exemplifies this paradoxically coveted double bind, which, if true, should have us asking whether or not dropping jazz at Yale would be doing jazz a favor but that's some set of thoughts for some other time.

Meanwhile, this year it's turned out that jazz can continue at Yale after all.

Blocker himself, no less, announced things just a couple of weeks ago.

If what jazz musicians are striving for is recognition within the academy and yet all the great jazz musicians were, as Iverson claims, gangsters, then it seems that what some of the jazz advocates want is the eternal double bind of being able to advocate for respect within the academy while never actually getting it because if you get music you love taught as part of the Western canon then it's given the imprimatur of the Establishment and then, well, you have to go looking for some other music that's no longer purely acceptable to the powers that be, don't you?  Or do you have to do that?

What I didn't see anyone pointing out at the time is that the Western canon itself is a polyglot of musical forms, idioms and vernaculars that has only become a "thing" conceptually presented as a canon by dint of formal education itself.  Back in the Baroque era you had the gradual end of the ars perfect/Renaissance stylistic unity replaced with a mishmash of Italian, German, French and other local styles.  You had the first and second practice and you had church music, court music, chamber music, dance music.  As Taruskin put it in his Oxford history series, back in the Baroque era you could have a panoply of different musical styles and forms that all had a socially understood and acceptable purpose so you could learn them all, if you wanted, and it was fine.  We don't have that kind of social understanding about what musical idioms are acceptable and in which contexts.  For Christians who go to traditional church services the worship wars have borne out the axiomatic nature of the observation Taruskin made, if in a very narrow field of musical activity.

While jazz advocates would seem to like jazz to be included as part of the Western canon, it's not always clear how much they "mean it" sometimes when some of their crew trot out reification and ideology and political musings at an abstract level.  It's almost as if what is ideal is to be forever barred from the table but being able to see it.

It's not as though the tradition of figured bass and jazz charts have to be construed as conceptually different.  We get a bill of goods from some music education regimes about how classical music is all about the fully notated score when even the most cursory overview of Baroque history will show that wasn't the case.  You will look in vain for an intricately mapped out score for Schutz' little sacred concert pieces.  Best know what to do with figured bass when you see those little songs. 

Sometimes I feel like a lot of the baggage we're trying to divest ourselves of has 19th century nationalist roots and that we still have work to do there.  When you go back and learn how much room there was for improvisation in 18th century music it can seem as though, to borrow a willfully inflammatory remark made by one John Cage, Beethoven was wrong.  Or we could say that the Beethoven that 19th century academics invented as the inspiration for what they wanted to do (assuming that was the "real" Beethoven) was put to uses we can now set aside.  I like Beethoven just fine but I prefer Haydn at every level.  Haydn had a military-caste contract and was compensated for services rendered, not for writing music for the ages.

That gets me back to the observation that one of the shortcomings from the arts education I remember getting in college is that we talked about the arts just fine but not necessarily about the contexts in which those arts got made, or to put it another way, you reach the discovery that the vocational artist has always been the servant of empire by reading about arts history in the ways that academics don't necessarily talk about.  It might be more fun for scholars to debate whose work belongs in the academic canon than to concede that there's an educational industrial complex that, in the end, may be even more pernicious than the military industrial complex.  At least all the soldiers who enlist know that the job description is to defend the empire and at some point have to ruin people's lives by ending them.  Academics in higher education particularly seem ensconced in an empire predicated on debt that has convinced itself that it's anti-imperial. 

So ... jazz at Yale gets to continue.  Are the folks who, last year, were upset that Blocker said some stuff about jazz and the Western canon happy?  Any thoughts/reflections on the announcement? Or has this recent announcement managed to not be news for them?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mark Driscoll's art of narrative omissions, looking at a 1992 op-ed for the Daily Evergreen in which Driscoll recounts his conversion to Christianity in a way that completely omits his girlfriend
October 19, 1992
page 4 of The daily Evergreen, Opinions section
The makings of a lunatic
On the Mark, by Mark Driscoll.

You'll have to go follow the link and read it for yourself.

Driscoll described how he was not raised a fundamentalist in a fundamentalist Christian home. He wasn't always this nuts, his jocular account had it. He had views that were different from his parents. 
He went on to explain them.  His claim was that he did not own or a read a Bible until his first year in college.

He wrote that in high school he considered a woman's right to choose abortion to be a supreme value. He respected organized religion, he said, but felt church had no business meddling in public or private matters.  He prayed at meals, went to church, believed there was a god, but also considered other religions to be legitimate and claims he hated Bible-thumpers. He didn't approve of homosexual acts but had gay friends and concluded that sexuality should be a personal matter and that premarital sex was okay in monogamous contexts.

Now for those who already know how Driscoll's talked about himself over the last twenty years none of that is particularly surprising. No, what was surprising was his conversion narrative.
Driscoll wrote that he funded his own way through college and came to WSU because his scholarships were only good for in-state schools.  What out of Washington schools he considered he didn't mention, just that he felt at liberty to tell everyone at Wazoo that he went with the one in front of him, so to speak. 

Driscoll, by his account, ended up in a residence hall with a rabid Bible thumper with whom he'd disagree.  One day, Driscoll wrote, he got fed up with the man and said he was a Christian and hoped that would lead the man to stop trying to convert him.  Driscoll said to note quote the Bible because the Bible had issues.  The man, in the account, dared Driscoll to prove it.  Driscoll then describes how he met the bet by reading the New Testament to shut the guy up.  He was sure he'd prove the guy wrong. Of course, Driscoll concluded that HE was wrong.  Driscoll described how he researched the Bible and began to conclude the Bible was true, after all and that maybe he'd never known God like he previously thought. 

Now for those who followed the link and read Driscoll's op-ed piece, one of the things to note is that Driscoll weighed everything on "fundamentalist".  He didn't say he wasn't raised in a religious family or that he wasn't raised in a Christian family, he emphasized he wasn't raised a fundamentalist.  He also didn't say he was a jack Catholic. 

After all, by his own accounts he was an altar boy for a while when attending a Catholic elementary school.
September 30, 2013
An arty, jock, altar boy

I was raised Catholic and served for a few years as an altar boy while attending Catholic grade school.  I've got an artistic bent. I like architecture, interior design, music, visual arts, etc. Growing up I was an odd mix: a jock who played a lot of sports, a fighter who got in more than a few brawls, and an artist who liked to sketch, draw, and experiment in various mediums. I appreciated the artistry of the Catholic Church. Stained glass, paintings, colors, icons, statues, candles--it was all quite beautiful.

Some Catholics are born-again, Jesus-loving Christians. I was not one of them.  I was a spiritual religious guy until Jesus saved me at the age of 19.  ...

Aren't there some stipulations that altar servers have received their first communion and have a grasp of the foundations of the rites of Mass?  Isn't there some requirement that in order to be considered for service an altar server would be a regular recipient of eucharist?

Something like ...

Driscoll's accounts of how he was spiritual but not religious might apply at some gestalt level to the sum of his life lived up until the time he considered himself a Protestant Christian convert ... but the altar boy stuff makes it hard to presume that he was some kind of American panentheistic Pelagian type.  Irish Catholicism has not historically overlapped with Seattle SeaTac chill ... or has it?

So there's that.  But the most glaring omission in Mark Driscoll's story is Grace.  He didn't read or own a Bible, he noted in 1992, until his first year in college.  He was given a Bible by Grace, as he's shared for years.  But in this Daily Evergreen editorial the story is he read the Bible to prove to some guy in a residence hall it was not true.  Okay, it's just interesting that for as central as Grace has been to Mark Driscoll's decades of stories of how he became a Christian it's interesting that in one of the earliest accounts he gave for his own conversion history he managed to never mention her once. 

And as apologetics polemics go, it would make sense for Mark Driscoll to have skipped over that he may have been a nominal Catholic minus his altar boys years; or to skip over getting a Bible from his girlfriend who was a pastor's daughter; or to skip over getting a divine commission to marry Grace, teach the Bible, reach young men, and go plant churches.  Had Driscoll opened with all of that in early 1992 he might have tipped his hand.  It seems odd, for as many years as Mark Driscoll's talked about loving Grace, that he couldn't even muster up the drive in an op-ed piece in 1992 to mention his lady love giving him the Bible he read, but op ed pieces have their own logic and method.

This year Driscoll's shared how it was a storm that led the Driscoll family to the Phoenix area.
During his sermon Sunday in Scottsdale, Driscoll told the audience at one point, "Our family is here because of a storm.  A storm in our own life and in the middle of it, we prayed and God gave of his word to my wife and myself... We surrendered to the Lord in the midst of our storm so that God could do work in us and move us to this place for his mission."
There have been six available accounts of how and why Mark Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill.

We laid them out in order at the post linked above.  One of the earliest accounts was from one Robert Morris who said he advised Driscoll to take a break and heal up.  That was in later 2014 just a few days after Mark Driscoll's resignation was news.  It wasn't until 2015 that the "God told me I was released" was shared, on the road.  While Mark Driscoll mentioned his bona fides in media and his wife Grace's background in public relations over the years, this was not part of the tour stories in 2015 as a variable to consider in the "God released us from ministry" narrative.

A few notable aspects of the six stories are the frequency with which the kids are trotted out for sympathy, particularly about the youngest boy being afraid that a news helicopter was "bad guys" who would hurt the family. That the same kid was either the oldest or youngest boy within a single continuous narrative might just be one of those mistakes speakers make in an inspired moment.

There was so much stuff to unpack from just the Thrive conference performance there's a series of tagged posts dealing with that.

It was at the Thrive conference that Driscoll shared that he heard God audibly release him from ministry.

This talk about how God audibly released Mark and Grace Driscoll from ministry on the 2015 conference scene is remarkable if you stop a moment to consider that this was not something that Mark Driscoll considered important enough to mention having happened in his actual resignation letter.
 October 14, 2014
Michael Van Skaik
Chairman, Board of Advisors and Accountability
Mars Hill Church
Dear Michael:
That is why, after seeking the face and will of God, and seeking godly counsel from men and women across the country, we have concluded it would be best for the health of our family, and for the Mars Hill family, that we step aside from further ministry at the church we helped launch in 1996. I will gladly work with you in the coming days on any details related to our separation.

And this despite the fact that, based on what timeline can be understood from Mark Driscoll's interview with Brian Houston ...

that allegedly God told Mark Driscoll he was released from ministry the night before Driscoll wrote his resignation letter.  So if you're the founder and president of a company do you neglect to mention that you, as a pastor, got this late-breaking word from God in contradiction to the restoration plan you said you agreed to that was provided by the Mars Hill board, why neglect to mention this?  Was it beause Driscoll preached that same year to not just trust guys who say "God told me" as if it were carte blance?  Or can we even be 100% certain that this story occurred?  The story was shared, t be sure, but nobody is in a position to falsify or prove what two people trained in public speaking and public relations have had to say on camera.

Given that Mark Driscoll shared how there were no kids at the start of Mars Hill in his Malachi sermon series, despite having shared that he liked that co-founding pastors Mike Gunn and Lief Moi were good dads, it's difficult to take Mark Driscoll's narratives at face value.  It's not so much that there generally provably wrong statements, it's that Mark Driscoll has a history of sharing narratives that turn out to have gigantic gaps, gaps that can, over time, begin to seem strategic. 


There were other things Driscoll wrote in his days as a  .... he says he was a journalist, but provocateur might be more accurate, that could have been referenced.  His polemic against the adult entertainment industry was ... wow, it made the worst excesses of Pussified Nation seem dignified.

But it might be a needed supplemental post in the series tagged Mark Driscoll and the influence of porn. 

a short survey of headlines that mentioned The Trinity Church formal launch

Purchasing the church building was no easy feat, since the Maricopa County Assessor's Office revealed that the church's evaluated cash value for fiscal year 2017 is a whopping $21,265,300. But Driscoll said The Trinity Church family received a lot of "generous donations" not only from church members, "but also from friends of The Trinity Church that just want to help support this new Church plant."

The article didn't mention that TTC didn't necessarily get the building at the list price.

The purchase price looks like it was closer to one tenth of the appraised value.

Driscoll's shared a tale of how a storm brought his family to the Phoenix area, a story woven into the recently started series of sermons he's doing on Jonah.  Jonah was a sermon series the campus pastors of Mars Hill did back in 2008.  One campus pastor did a good job going through that book and that was around the time I left, not wishing to deal with yet another recycling of Driscoll's spiel for Song of Songs (and for other reasons).

What Mark Driscoll may not feel inspired to share is that to the extent that a "storm" hit his family it was a storm that was in most respects a self-inflicted storm.

The plagiarism controversy that erupted near the end of 2013 couldn't have happened if Mark Driscoll's books had adequately cited references in their first print editions.  Had Mars Hill not engaged Result Source for Mark Driscoll's 2012 book there could be no controversy regarding its propriety to have harmed the reputation of Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill.  Had there been no kangaroo courts and no summary terminations of pastors who were handpicked by none other than Mark Driscoll himself to take on tasks he'd previously had a hand in (i.e appointing Bent Meyer to head counseling and Paul Petry to have another older man in eldership who had some experience drafting by-laws), Mark Driscoll wouldn't have felt any need in 2014-2015 to ruefully concede that a years' old conflict had suddenly become public.

So, by and large, coverage on the recently launched The Trinity Church has not focused quite so much on just how self-inflicted the "storm" Mark Driscoll has gone through has been, now obviously not literally everything fits the "self-inflicted damage" category, but a pretty large proportion of the troubles Team Driscoll has faced since 2013 leading up to Mark Driscoll's completely voluntary resignation that, as reported by Warren Throckmorton and the BoAA itself, was unexpected.  But not everyone who has a byline presented that resignation as actually voluntary.  There was a leave Driscoll took, but the old joke he had years ago was that he'd best drop a topic "before I have to fire myself".  When you make jokes like that from the pulpit it takes some kind of evidence to indicate otherwise, to indicate that the BoAA in any way actually prevented Driscoll from preaching.  One person's statement, though potentially compelling, is insufficient.

The other thing is that we have to bear in mind that Mark Driscoll's omissions in stories about his life can vary dramatically from one public/polemical context to another.  That's worth noting in a bit more detail in another post.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

link, Atlantic: pastors endorsing a presidential candidate (even though to formally do so "should" cost 501(c)3 status for a church).
It's not as though American pastors haven't had a history across the red and blue divides of endorsing candidates, but technically doing that is something the IRS "could" revoke 501(c)3 status for even if some pastors choose to endorse political candidates as pastors rather than individuals.

Monday, August 08, 2016

revisiting the Erma Gauthier (aka Driscoll sibling) account reported by Throckmorton about how the Mars Hill Board had barred Driscoll from preaching (though he wanted to preach) prior to his resignation

This has been examined before, but it's worth examining again the day after Mark Driscoll re:launched his career as a pastor in the Phoenix area--
For their part, the Board of Advisors and Accountability said Driscoll had not disqualified himself but was at times arrogant and domineering. About his resignation, they concluded:
Finally, Mark Driscoll was not asked to resign; indeed, we were surprised to receive his resignation letter. 
There may be more to this story.
After the letters from Driscoll and the BoAA, Driscoll’s sister Melanie Thompson commented on her public Facebook page (under the name Erma Gauthier). Her narrative adds a new wrinkle. According to Thompson, “they” (I presume the BoAA) would not let Driscoll preach. Yesterday, she posted Driscoll’s resignation letter and followed it with comments about the BoAA (image of the thread).
Erma Gauthier They would not let him preach

Erma Gauthier Yeah. I think they really did a number on him. Not biblical or keeping with The Word or process.
Reading between the lines, it sounds like Driscoll’s sister is suggesting that the BoAA was not going to allow Driscoll to preach. She could have been referring to the Board of Elders report, but the simplest explanation is a decision by the BoAA. More about the BoE later. In any case, Thompson is not impressed with the work of those who decided what to do about Driscoll. To reinforce her opinion, she points out that the church has the Ballard campus for sale which to her implies that the leadership would keep Driscoll from preaching again.

The Erma Gauthier narrative so flatly contradicts the Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill Board narrative at a few key points the stories seem to end up in a Driscoll vs Driscoll account.  Mark Driscoll repeatedly said the Board came up with a restoration plan that he agreed to right up t the point where he says he got an oracle.  The Gauthier account had it that the Board was barring Mark Driscoll from preaching though he wanted to, so either Mark Driscoll was fudging when he said on the road he was on board with that board ordered restoration plan or the Gauthier account is completely wrong.  The contradiction evaporates, however, if we propose the Gauthier interpretation is just fundamentally wrong.  The events recounted--that the BOAA proposed Driscoll take a break from preaching and enter a restoration process pending a return to the pulpit, fits easily with Mark Driscoll's different accounts, it would just be the Erma Guathier account that adds the incredible element that contradicts every version of Driscoll's resignation that Driscoll shared between 2014 up until recently.

Back in August 2014 when Driscoll said "we're not entirely sure who they are" it turns out they apparently knew exactly who they were dealing with, thanks to Sutton Turner's clarifying posts from 2015 and more recently.  But then, it's worth stressing that so far as can be determined, Sutton Turner was never documented saying that he wasn't sure who he was dealing with the way Mark Driscoll broached the topic of possible legal actions taken in connection to the church leadership of Mars Hill. 

One of Gauthier's possibly rhetorical questions documented by Throckmorton would be easy to answer, even if the BoAA was going to let Mark Driscoll come back, by the time Mark Driscoll resigned the fiscal situation at Mars Hill was getting precarious.  Too many people were already bailing out of the bus and because Mars Hill had too much real estate as operating expenses to survive the kind of bleeding out of members it was facing, the job of the BoAA was to liquidate assets in the event of a problem, not least being the resignation of the president of the company.  It would take an uncompromising Mark Driscoll loyalist of the purist sort to not get how easy the decision would be for the BoAA to start selling off real estate that could actually be sold.  As we observed over the last year and a half since the dissolution of Mars Hill began, not all the real estate even could be sold off, some of it was given back to the applicable lender.

None of this quite settles clearly the conundrum of why, if Mark Driscoll kept repeatedly saying in 2015 that he was totally on board with the restoration plan the MH BoAA had proposed, he bailed on this very restoration plan just a few days (based on his cumulative narratives) after he said he agreed to it.

Since in the 2013-2014 period Mark Driscoll shifted his account of Mars Hill from talking about how Mike and Lief were good dads (circa 2002-2006) to the Malachi declaration that they had no kids' ministry at Mars Hill at the start because there were no kids, it's become difficult to be able to take any Driscoll account at face value about some fairly basic facts about the history of Mars Hill and the Driscollian connection to it.  For a man who spent the better part of 20 years telling young guys to live for a legacy, the new church launch in Phoenix seems to find Mark Driscoll ever so slightly sheepish about the fuller accounting of his legacy in the Puget Sound area.

As I've written before, had Mark Driscoll withdrawn from ministry for five years and been a rank and filing member at some church where nobody knew where he was or, if possible, who he was, and if after being submitted to the kind of spiritual leadership he'd spent decades telling others to submit to in his own living example THEN if they gave a green light "maybe" he could consider a return to ministry.

The trouble is from start to finish that hasn't been how Driscoll handled things.  He got advice from one Robert Morris, by Morris' account, to step away for a while. After having preached against people taking at face value a "God told me" stunt, Driscoll pulled that stunt himself and the surmise from his supporters is that we're supposed to accept this.  When Jesus condemned the Pharisees and the experts in the law He said that we should do what they say we should do because they sit in Moses' seat but to not follow their example, because they lay burdens upon others they don't lift a finger to move themselves.  When Mark Driscoll had an opportunity to live out by his own example the kind of submission to leadership he admonished people from the pulpit to live by for decades, what did he do?  That's the problem, Driscoll has demonstrated by his life that he won't submit to the standards by which he expects others to live.  Until he gets beyond that the legitimacy of his whole approach to ministry will be tainted by the documentable history of how he chose to not live by the standards he enjoined others to live by in submitting to spiritual leadership.

Finding a bunch of new sugar daddies from another faction of American Christianity is not the same thing as submitting to the elders you said you were submitted to.  But in the end his jokes told us more than the official declarations from the Board, the punchline used to be that he needed to move on before he had to fire ... himself.  And by now it seems pretty hard to argue that the day when Mark Driscoll will ever fire himself is ever likely to come.

two years ago today Acts 29 removed Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll from its roster, citing a precedent of Driscoll displaying disqualifying behavior

But since Acts 29 took the removal notice down ...

Driscoll and Mars Hill Church
It is with deep sorrow that the Acts 29 Network announces its decision to remove Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from membership in the network. Mark and the Elders of Mars Hill have been informed of the decision, along with the reasons for removal. It is our conviction that the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network. [emphasis added] In taking this action, our prayer is that it will encourage the leadership of Mars Hill to respond in a distinctive and godly manner so that the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored.
The Board of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network

Matt Chandler
Darrin Patrick
Steve Timmis
Eric Mason
John Bryson
Bruce Wesley
Leonce Crump

Then here we are two years later and Darrin Patrick himself was removed from Acts 29 and eldership at The Journey.

and today the board is ...

Board of Directors

Matt Chandler     President
Steve Timmis      Executive Director  
Brian Howard      Board Chair
Doug Logan        Board Vice Chair
Bruce Wesley      Board Secretary
Brian Walck        Board Treasurer
Dwayne Bond     Board
Gareth Paul         Board
Ryan Kwon         Board

There's a bit of turnover in that board in the last two years.  Most notable is the absence of Eric Mason, who is still scheduled to be a keynote speaker alongside Mark Driscoll at the 2017 Stronger Man conference.

You would think that if Mason was on the Acts 29 Network board that decided Mark Driscoll had disqualified himself from ministry that speaking at a conference where the guy is a guest "might" be a problem, but apparently it isn't.

And it has become apparent that Acts 29 scrubbed out any statements from 2 years ago as to their removal of Mars Hill from A29 or their talk about Mark Driscoll having disqualified himself from ministry. 

Does anyone at the Acts 29 board have any clarifying comments about what they think of Mark Driscoll continuing in ministry?  After all, earlier this year an Acts 29 affiliated church hosted Mark Driscoll as a guest speaker.

Note that in the Acts 29 statement the board said that most of the accusations that had been made against Mark Driscoll had been confirmed by none other than Mark Driscoll himself, and that the gravity of those accusations meant that, well, it was time for Acts 29 Network to divest itself of any formal association between itself and either Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill. 


Some regular readers may recall ... that when we looked back at the history of Acts 29 there was an announcement of a launch.
David and I are now partnering to launch a mentoring organization for young church planters called the Acts 29 Network. We began with 11 churches in the U.S., some overseas, and we're getting several requests weekly from young pastors wanting to join. David and I invest in them theologically, financially, and personally.

By the time the following book hit print, and we should keep in mind sometimes books take a year or more to get written, edited, and hit the presses for distribution, there was at least one written account of the origin of Acts 29 in which Mark Driscoll didn't seem to get any observable mention at all.


Tom Telford
copyright 2001 by Tom Telford
Published by Baker Books

ISBN 0-8010-6381-7

from page 69

Acts 29 Network. With things moving well with the network of church-planting pastors, Pastor Nicholas felt led of God to start a new network of churches that wasn't directly part of the denomination. He decided to call it the Acts 29 network and wrote up guidelines: the planted churches should be theologically Reformed, have a heart for church planting, and prmoise that when they become self-supporting, theyw ill pay back the amount that was given to them to initially begin, and put 10 percent of their income into new church plants.

As he shared the idea with the church and others, almost right away, ten established churches responded enthusiastically and committed to the Acts 29 Network, agreeing to sponsor church plants. A Network agreement was drawn up to show the relationship between Spanish River Church and the church plant. The agreement requires reports for financial and leadership accountability.

The history of Acts 29 has not exactly been written for the record beyond promotional copy, so it remains to be seen whether, at length, it can be established that Mark Driscoll's involvement in co-founding Acts 29 Network went beyond putting his name on it.

Meanwhile there's a mystery as to why Acts 29 walked back its statement from two years ago regarding Mark Driscoll.  If by the account of the Board the accusations against Mark Driscoll had been confirmed by Driscoll himself as being based on legitimate observation, then it would seem the declarations of the Acts 29 leadership should still stand.

The Trinity Church relaunches to what seems to be an expressly press-free Sunday, reviewing the contrast between media-savvy press friendly Driscoll circa 2012 and now

Driscoll left Seattle after multiple allegations of wrongdoing, including that he bullied people within the church. A lawsuit followed with accusations of misuse of funds. Driscoll has called those false and malicious allegations without any merit.

He spoke about the last two years Sunday and mentioned his family.
"Our family is here because of a storm … a storm in our own life and in the middle of it, we prayed and God gave of his word to my wife and myself... at two separate times,” Driscoll said. “We surrendered to the Lord in the midst of our storm so that God could do work in us and move us to this place for mission.”

King 5 has noted that they were asked to stay outside the property by the staff and congregation. 
While Driscoll has had a history of refusing to do interviews it's been a while since he announced the occasion for which that newer approach to interviews in his career of public ministry has been in place.

A Blog Post for the Brits

by: Pastor Mark Driscoll on Jan 12, 2012 in Current Events
There is reportedly an article coming out in a British Christian publication that features an interview with me. As is often the case, to stoke the fires of controversy, thereby increasing readership, which generates advertising revenue, a few quotes of mine have been taken completely out of context and sent into the Twittersphere. So, I thought I would put a bit of water on the fire by providing context.


 I have a degree in communications from one of the top programs in the United States. So does my wife, Grace. We are used to reporters with agendas and selective editing of long interviews. Running into reporters with agendas and being selectively edited so that you are presented as someone that is perhaps not entirely accurate is the risk one takes when trying to get their message out through the media. ....

A lot changed since 2012.  The plagiarism scandal happened and if you are in the Seattle area and want to get a sense of what that was about there are half a dozen copies of Real Marriage that may well be first edition copies where you can, if you want, read through the whole thing to find out if Dan Allender's name was mentioned even once in that first edition.

There were half a dozen narratives presented by Driscoll since his resignation as to the why and wherefore of his resignation.  Those are discussed at some length over here:

Considering how in 2010 Driscoll gave six reasons why he wasn't going anywhere today's theme is half dozens.

Someone else shared tales of choppers and homes, one Jimmy Witcher.

Which home?  The one that someone who sounded like Mark Driscoll told Russ Bowen was a wrong address?  Well ... it managed to be Driscoll's house again when it was time to share a sympathetic story about how a windstorm damaged the house and had he been in the house at the time he could have died.

There might be reasons Driscoll would prefer to avoid talking to the press from Seattle given how many yarns he's spun in the last few years that could benefit (or not) from corroboration.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

some thoughts about Psalms 51 and 55 about a king who did and didn't recognize the depth of his own sin

At church this summer we're going through the psalms, as has been our custom for years.  Recently the sermons have been on psalms 51 and 55 and it has been interesting to consider these psalms in light of the Samuel narrative. 

One of the reasons I've struggled to appreciate the Psalms over the last twenty some years has been that, as former Mars Hill pastor Tim Smith used to put it, David often comes across as a whiny emo boy.  Smith really did say that but there's an element of viability to that point, even if Smith never exactly made the point.

King David's psalms could often come across as self-aggrandizing pity parties.  There's a few reasons early Christian interpreters may have felt inspired to read the Psalms as prophetic anticipations of the coming of Jesus Christ because if you took some of those sermons and read them only in terms of David's life the sheer number of times David acts as if he's above reproach in the Psalms in contrast to how he actually behaved as recounted in 1 & 2 Samuel can make it seem like David went through life with a spectacular reality distortion field. 

For instance, take Psalm 51 where David wrote that it was against God alone he sinned.  So he didn't kill Uriah the Hittite?  Sure, ultimately all sin becomes sin against God as well as neighbor but on its face this declaration is a puzzling one and even a Charles Spurgeon had no trouble saying so.  One of the things we have to bear in mind is that David was possessed of an, at times, apocalyptic imagination--he could perceive things in a way that could be out of proportion to their mundane sense of time, place and action.  In a period where he recognized his guilt he couldn't overstate that sense of guilt, of feeling that he was culpable of sin from the moment he was born. 

But then you can read Psalm 3 and Psalm 55 and get the sense that David felt he was innocent of wrong-doing.

For Psalm 55 it's relatively common to propose the Psalm was likely written as a reflection of David's dismay that Athihophel joined Absalom's rebellion.  With that in mind we need to go back and get a clearer sense of the background to Absalom's uprising.

The uprising itself is something foretold in Nathan's rebuke of David.  But we need some background.
Deuteronomy 2:19
19 When you come to the Ammonites, do not harass them or provoke them to war, for I will not give you possession of any land belonging to the Ammonites. I have given it as a possession to the descendants of Lot.”
2 Samuel 11:1-5
1  In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.
2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.” ...

2 Samuel 12:7-12
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” [emphasis added]
26 Meanwhile Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and captured the royal citadel. 27 Joab then sent messengers to David, saying, “I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply. 28 Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me.”
29 So David mustered the entire army and went to Rabbah, and attacked and captured it. 30 David took the crown from their king’s[d] head, and it was placed on his own head. It weighed a talent[e] of gold, and it was set with precious stones. David took a great quantity of plunder from the city 31 and brought out the people who were there, consigning them to labor with saws and with iron picks and axes, and he made them work at brickmaking.[f] David did this to all the Ammonite towns. Then he and his entire army returned to Jerusalem.
The Ammonite king has a footnote that discusses Milcom aka Molek.  If it seems weird that David was willing to have himself crowned with a crown associated with Milcom aka Molek after the fighting was done, it likely should.  We've seen from Deuteronomy 2 that one of the warnings in the Torah was against waging a war of aggression against the Ammonites with a promise that the Lord would not give their lands to Israel.  There are those who would propose that David's military campaign in 2 Samuel 11 was understandable but to take that approach doesn't mitigate Deuteronomy 2 or its prohibitions.  David was arguably already undertaking an aggressive war against the Ammonites in contradiction to the Torah before he took Uriah the Hittite's wife and arranged for Uriah's murder. 

In doing all these things David was actively abusing royal privilege and power in ways that weren't done by his predecessor King Saul.  If King Saul's recurrent sin was failing to execute royal responsibilities while grasping at royal privilege and taking credit for the victories of others; David's defining trajectory of sin seems to have been choosing to undertake a war for personal prestige and honor over against the welfare of Israel as a whole.  He had taken up arms as a matter of personal legacy and that this was the case is conveyed to us by the resumed war narrative at the end of 2 Samuel 12.  Joab's message sent to David threatening that Joab would name the city after himself if he had to do all the conquering as David's delegate has its force because that's what it took to inspire David to leave the palace and take up arms himself.  Throughout the Uriah/Bathsheba incident Joab was fighting in the trenches for a war David commanded without having ever taken the field of battle. 

The turmoil within the house of David had to do with Amnon raping his sister Tamar and David being angry and doing nothing; Tamar's rape would be avenged by Absalom, who murdered Amnon went into exile.  David did nothing there, too, and as sins of omission in failing to adjudicate crimes within the royal family compounded Absalom built a case that David's failure to adjudicate within his own household was also reflected in the lack of regional judges to adjudicate cases. 

As has been noted in passing, a common interpretation of Psalm 55 is that it is David's venting of frustration at having been betrayed by Ahithophel:
20 Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give us your advice. What should we do?”
21 Ahithophel answered, “Sleep with your father’s concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself obnoxious to your father, and the hands of everyone with you will be more resolute.” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he slept with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.
23 Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice.
We can see in the narrative that Ahithophel joined Absalom's rebellion and was the one who counseled Absalom to have sex with his father's concubines as a political move.

Some of the rabbis have proposed that Ahithophel was the grandfather of Bathsheba and joined Absalom's faction to avenge the murder of Uriah and the sins David committed in taking Bath-sheba.  Not all the rabbis agree on this matter, though, because it would seem difficult to buy the idea that Ahithophel would just turn on the royal family.  On the other hand ... David conquered Jerusalem, so it's not entirely fixed that this wasn't a family that had its place within the city prior to David's rise to kingship.  In other words, there's some debate even about the points of debate.  But what may be pertinent for today's discussion is to propose that Ahithophel's heel-turn against David can be construed as psychologically plausible in spite of his previous loyalty to the king.  If you look at all the grisly cases in which David just let nasty things get done without punishing them, and if you look at how Absalom positioned himself to address precisely the judicial lapses and favoritism that increasingly came to characterize David's later reign, the betrayal that seems wildly offensive to the monarch can be seen as actually making a lot of sense. 

After all, didn't the prophet Nathan warn that from David's own household strife would come and that a man would go into his wives in broad daylight?  Now, sure, for our contemporary idiom concubines wouldn't seem to be wives--let's just float an idea here, we don't know for sure if Ahithophel didn't know about Nathan's rebuke and prophecy.

You won't see any sign in Psalm 55, assuming for the sake of discussion that it really was a psalm reflecting upon Ahithophel's defection, that David's own sins abusing royal authority and using people laid the foundation for the rebellion against him.  David seems fixated on the clean innocence of his person.  One of the puzzles of Christian interpretation of the psalms is that for as often as we talk about grace and its unmerited favor when we look at David's psalms he very often seems to believe he does merit divine favor even in contexts where his moral rectitude is moot not because he's observably without fault but because his vices overwhelm what virtues he had.  Yet God shows David favor time and again, as we see from the narrative literature.   If there is an area where there is a "pious bias" it can show up in interpreting the psalms where we can be inclined to take David's word for it over against things that the narrative literature spells out for us in astonishingly unflattering detail. 

And this is the David who is described in Acts 2:30 as a prophet.  So it would seem that a prophet can be a warlord who has multiple wives and concubines and kills loyal followers, puts down a series of insurrections, shows favoritism in his dealing with family when he's not neglecting them altogether, and then ends his career with a disastrous plague-spreading census. 

What David set in motion ordering a war against an Ammonite city led to the affair with Bathsheba, the murder of Uriah the Hittite (and it's worth hammering away at the fact that this wasn't a direct murder, it was an invocation of royal authority and correspondence to make a bureaucratic/tactical decision that would ensure the death, which makes the whole thing more craven and cowardly).  But the biblical narrative, so to speak, lets us "read the mail" between David and Joab about the frontlines.  And after all this, the defection of Ahithophel still hit David like a shock--if Ahithophel turned against David to join Absalom after so many years it would be a shock, naturally, and yet the narrative we get in 2 Samuels shows, arguably, a painfully inevitable disaster that was grounded in the precedent of David's own rule. 

Something Jacob L Wright wrote in David, King of Israel and Caleb in Biblical Memory that has stuck with me since I read it a few years ago is that David put down quite a few insurrections and that along the way this demonstrated that under David's reign the professional standing army loyal foremost to the monarch proved significantly stronger than the civilian militia that could be mustered by tribal chieftains.

So with an observation like that in mind it might be worth pointing out that what we know as the united monarchy was, during David's time, possibly kept together by dint of military power wielded by a group of men who were mercenaries with David while he was on the run from King Saul--the bitter debtors and cast-offs of society who didn't fit into the Israelite/Judean culture of their day when Saul was on the throne but who cast their lot with David. The irony of Absalom fomenting a direct rebellion against his father who had himself gained a loyal following among the disaffected outliers of Saul's kingdom almost doesn't need to be mentioned.  The difference between the two men was that David waited until Saul fell by his own vices, more or less (though Joel Baden, for instance, might have us believe that David had the Saulide dynasty massacred by Phillistines) whereas Absalom wanted to gain the kingship by a direct bid. 

So, yes, David loved the Lord and was God's anointed king, and yet he was also in many ways a pretty bad guy and had many a moment where if you read the Psalms and compare that to what his life actually looked like he can proclaim his innocence in a way that can make him come off like a preening self-pitying narcissist local warlord who regarded himself as the apple of God's eye.  Yet the narrative literature of the Bible presents us with a David who was, to put it mildly, possessed of profound character flaws--if there's been a determined whitewash campaign it's we who have brought it to the narratives over against what's in the narratives themselves.  One of Jacob Wright's terse observations was that the scholastic bromides about how the Old Testament narrative literature somehow whitewashed David's reputation to make him look better than he was could only have survived as long as it did because of the inertia of academic fads, not on the basis of any honest observation of just how terrible the narrative literature of the Hebrew Bible actually makes David look.

Now a believer could observe that the Davidic dynasty survived because of the unmerited favor of God because if you actually look at how even the best of them behaved they were all pretty bad in the end.  It's actually little wonder how swiftly and thoroughly Christian interpretation of the Psalms saw Christ foretold in the psalms because it was so easy to observe how David failed to be righteous and perpetrated bloodshed to see that however these things were fulfilled it would be most fully fulfilled in Christ. 

David didn't lose his calling from God but God made a point of telling David that the kinds of sins by which he'd abused royal power and ruined the lives of people by focusing not on the legacy of the welfare of Israel but his own personal legacy of prestige that the sword and chaos would never depart from his house. 

Sometimes David seemed to remember that and sometimes he seemed to think primarily about how bad it felt that so many people betrayed him while not always granting that these disasters were foretold by the Lord.