Saturday, October 07, 2017

a rebuttal to a Ta-nehisi Coates piece about Trump as the first white president

If we wanted to look back to racists presidents we could easily look back a century ago to Woodrow Wilson but in the current political climate presenting  Trump as a racist has currency.  If he is a racist he can't be the first racist president who's been white, since, again, Woodrow Wilson.  But Coates was willing to write of Obama that "he was my president", despite Obama, by Coates' account, saying he hadn't seen any compelling evidence that reparations actually worked.  If government funding in reparation for past wrongs led to economic revitalization in and of itself would the state of Native American tribes on reservations be a potential proof for Coates' advocacy that reparations can and should be done? 

But at another level, if the establishment is as racist as Coates has sometimes indicated it seems to be then wouldn't reparations be interpretable as ultimately being some kind of blood money?  It could be a damned if you do and damned if you don't situation for a polemicist working with Coates' argument whether or not Coates himself might reach such a conclusion.

But despite not liking Trump at all, the bromide that Trump's administration represents fascism even though Obama's administration didn't seem like it was a fascist regime with the same basic set of executive powers seems hard to buy.  It's not that we might not be living in a giant surveillance state, mind you, it's that blue and left partisans have a history of only granting the reality of this when there are too many red partisans in seats of power.  It's why even though I think the libertarian approach to the human condition is ultimately idiotic they at least have some points when some of them say that maybe the central government has too much power regardless of who happens to be wielding it.

In the last month The Atlantic ran a rebuttal from an author who saw fit to question the nature of Coates' public polemic regarding Trump and white supremacist ideologies.


Yet none of these points actually demonstrate that the dominating force behind the success of Trump’s campaign was white supremacy. The answer to Coates’s rhetorical question of whether Barack Obama could have gotten into office after a record of sexual assault is obviously no. But Coates does not contemplate the possibility that what made people willing to excuse Trump’s boorish behavior was not his whiteness, but his status as a celebrity entertainer in which his vulgarity was a widely accepted aspect of his persona. So when Coates asks whether we can “imagine a black felon running in a primary against an incumbent white president doing so well,” the proper parallel would be imagining a well-known entertainer whose social capital has accrued in the past few decades of television and digital media. Kanye 2020 anyone? [WtH  or would R. Kelly be a better example?]

But the broader issue with the essay is that in the world that Coates has constructed for his reader, it is impossible for the source of the problem to be anything but whiteness, [emphasis added] “that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them.” Maybe the majority of Trump’s white supporters wanted to repeal the former president’s legislation because of actual policy disagreements; or, maybe they, like others, harbored deep dislike for Hillary Clinton. After all, Clinton lost critical states like Michigan and, as Omri Ben-Shahar wrote in Forbes, Clinton did so less because Trump gained new voters in these states than because registered Democrats did not show up on Election Day, possibly due to voter-ID laws and other factors. “Wisconsin tells the same numbers story,” he wrote. “Trump got no new votes. He received exactly the same number of votes in America’s dairyland as Romney did in 2012 … But Clinton again could not spark many Obama voters to turn out for her: she tallied 230,000 votes less than Obama did in 2012. This is how a 200,000-vote margin for Obama in the Badger State became a 30,000-vote defeat for Clinton.
The distribution of minority votes tells a similar story. National Public Radio’s Domenico Montanaro points out that although Latinos made up a greater share of the electorate than in previous elections, “a significant share … went third party.” Indeed, that 6 percent may have made a significant difference. In North Carolina, black voters made up 20 percent of the electorate in 2016, a 3 percent decline from their share in 2012. Charles Ellison of the Philadelphia Tribune notes that between 2012 and 2016 there was “an alarming 11.4 percent reduction in Black votes.”

At the very least, this demonstrates that decreased democratic turnout had as much if not more of an impact in the election than Trump’s ability to rally supporters. Of course, none of this is to absolve Trump supporters for making unwise voting decisions, but if Coates wants to prove that white supremacy was the dominating force fueling the rise of Trump, he must demonstrate that all other possible motives are implausible—which he doesn’t. [emphasis added]


Coates writes that since among working-class Americans, 61 percent of whites—but only 24 percent of Hispanics and 11 percent of blacks—supported Trump, only “whiteness” can be the culprit. But why did any percentage of working class blacks and Hispanics vote for Trump? Do they also secretly harbor white-supremacist viewpoints? Did they too inherit the all-powerful white heirloom? Or is it possible that all of these groups were motivated by a variety of factors, not least among them a visceral and uncompromising dislike of Hillary Clinton? [emphasis added]

Beware the deceptive allure of binary choices that masquerade as arguments. Coates’s failure to imagine complexity in human motives yields the assumption that such complexity cannot possibly exist.

Coates is at his best when he confronts the shortcomings of his progressives peers like Mark Lilla and George Packer who do not consider the possibility of intricate motives fueling voting blocs. Packer “offers no opinion polls to weigh white workers’ views on ‘elites,’ much less their views on racism,” Coates writes, critiquing his reductionist impulse to say Trump’s rise is only or mostly due to economic grievance. But Coates himself is equally reductive in concluding that it is due to white supremacy.

His essay contributes to a politically toxic environment in which challenging the orthodoxies of the left and the right becomes heresy. Echo chambers are fortified. An us vs. them mentality becomes the only possible explanation for what’s going on.

White supremacism was basically how and why the Pacific Northwest got settled, a historical fact that people in Portland, for instance, can never afford to forget.  It's also something people should not ignore in Seattle.  No matter how blue-state the electoral tendencies up here the legacy of racism and white supremacist utopianism hasn't gone away.  But Coates' polemics are not necessarily going to help improve things if he distills the rise of Trump down to just white supremacism.  Sure, it no doubt played a role but the left and liberals have begun to be easier to distinguish since Trump got elected and while people at Slate are aghast still that Trump one folks at The Baffler have come up with ways to explain the rise of Trump that don't involve just invocations of racism and white supremacist ideologies.

In the wake of OscarsSoWhite it's not really clear that the entertainment industry doesn't favor whites disproportionately.  If Trump hadn't been made into a reality television show star would he have had as much of a platform from which to make a bid to be the President of the United States?  There's a sense in which Hollywood being aghast that Trump became president could represent a case study in being upset that a man they helped keep a C-list at best star in the spotlight long enough for him to seize it.  White supremacist ideologies may have played a part in Trump's rise, but should the media industries scapegoat white racism at the expense of examining how and why they let him stay a reality television star long enough to go for political office? 

two haiku composed during a laconic Friday

There’s much wisdom in
The proverb,  “Don’t do, just be”
But be a doer
Be true to yourself
But know that identities
Can be too tailored        

Monday, October 02, 2017

Mark Driscoll announces his blogging presence at Patheos, some assurance that he's not afraid to tackle tough issues about sex and conflict and friendship in marriage; with a retrospective on what he claimed he looked forward to for his future before his conversion
" ... We are not afraid of the tough issues like sex, forgiveness, conflict and friendship in marriage. "

Whether or not Mark and Grace Driscoll are afraid to tackle tough issues like forgiveness, conflict and friendship in vocational ministry might be an altogether different question.  But if these topics are confined completely to what Seattleites may increasingly call cisgender heteronormative legally bonded pairing known as marriage, sure, the sky's the limit.  :)

In a way it's a bit surreal that this blog of Driscoll's only got brought to the attention of Wenatchee the Hatchet a few days after the death of Hugh Hefner.  There's a potentially sad element to that in as much as the influence of Hefner was arguably so pervasive that even a guy like Mark Driscoll could transform the Song of Songs into a shtick for how, guys, your wife should be your only Playboy bunny.  That Driscoll said that the cure for a lot of problems was more sex is easily established. 

Even within the book Death By Love it's striking what a different pastoral tone Driscoll struck when the addressee of the chapter-letter was one of his children and not someone like "Thomas" who Driscoll described meeting in the course of pastoral activity.  Take this chapter that's addressed to one of the Driscoll sons (you'll know which one already if you own the book):

 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.

Now earlier in the book Death By Love, in a chapter addressed to a Thomas, Driscoll wrote a different account, of the sort of life he looked forward to in and after college prior to having any kind of conversion experience.  :

page 67

What scares me most is that I am so very much like you. We both grew up poor. We both grew up as highly competitive jocks. We both grew up smarter and tougher than most of the people we knew. We both saw our first porn magazine at an early age. We both had sex with our first girlfriend in our teens. We both had violent tempers that intimidated other people. We both graduated with honors as good students and respected leaders. We both went to college intent on fighting, partying, and having a lot of sex with hot girls. [emphasis added]

Yet unlike you, Jesus grabbed me by the neck and redeemed me from the life I was pursuing. I thought I would get married some day, have a few kids, make a lot of money running some company, commit adultery and look at porn on the side (but seek to manage it so that it did not affect my family), lose my temper now and then to cuss out my wife and kids, and still attend church occasionally, because I considered myself a good spiritual person.  [emphasis added]

Since Jesus redeemed me from the life I was headed for, things could not be more different. To be honest, I am actually quite surprised that I have been faithful to my wife since I met her in 1988. I'm equally surprised that I have not been in a fight since Jesus redeemed me. [emphasis added]

So .... it might be worth nothing that, as noted earlier at this blog, Driscoll once wrote that he had finished most of Death by Love in 2006, the year before the firings of 2007 during which time Driscoll said that sometimes you have to put people through the woodchipper.

It was reportedly during 2006 that the Driscolls were starting to work out some challenging issues in their marriage, one of which included Driscoll's account as follows:

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 came 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.

elsewhere, in a 2007 presentation given to men at Mars Hill, Driscoll said the following:

The Biblical Man
And most guys are just simply frustrated, that I have talked to, because they're not getting enough sex. I'll give you one story. Won't name his name, but I remember meeting with a--this is a lot of my marriage counseling. I don't think I'm a great marriage counselor but I do think I have one key insight that I'll share with you. Oftentimes I meet with couples and here's what I hear--the wife says, "I don't feel like we're connected. I don't feel like we're close. I feel like he's a little irritable." And then I ask, "How often are you having sex?"  And she's, "What does that have to do with anything?" [slight chuckle] That effects everything.  You know. Frequency is important. ...

"You guys have sex every day and then come see me again in a month and if there's still communication problems, he seems depressed, he's lethargic, THEN we'll talk because there's OBVIOUSLY a problem. But we're gonna start with what SEEMS to be the most obvious solution." 

I'm telling ya, ninety-nine percent of the time they come back a month later she's like, "He's just totally a different guy. [emphasis added] ...

Perhaps we'd be remiss to not recall the Edinburgh, Scotland sermon from 2007

Mark Driscoll | Sex: A Study of the Good Bits of Song of Solomon
Edinburgh, Scotland on November 18,2007

about 23:05

Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest,‖ she says, ―is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade and his fruit is sweet to my taste.‖ What is she talking about? Oral sex on her husband. That as he stands, she likes to be beneath him and his taste is sweet. It is a euphemism for oral sex, in your Bible. The Jews wouldn‘t even let men read this until they were married or thirty. Now you know why. You‘ve got Jewish boys under the blankets at night with a candle. [Laughter from audience.] Men, I am glad to report to you that oral sex is biblical. Amen? [Minimal response from audience.] No, you can do better than that. [Laughter from audience] The wife performing oral sex on the husband is biblical. God‘s men said, Amen. Ladies, your husbands appreciate oral sex. They do. So, serve them, love them well. It‘s biblical. Right here. We have a verse. The fruit of her husband is sweet to her taste and she delights to be beneath

I'll tell you a story if you don't tell anyone else of a man who started attending our church because of oral sex. Right? So many women go to church. In your country it's sixty or seventy percent. "My husband won't come to church. He doesn't have any interest in the things of God. He doesn't understand why church would apply to him." We had a woman like that in our church. She became a Christian. Her husband was not a Christian. He hated the church, wanted nothing to do with the church. She kept browbeating him about Jesus. "You need to get saved. You're gonna burn in hell."
He had no interest in that. 

And so, finally, I was teaching a class on sex and she said, "Oh, so oral sex on a husband is what a wife is supposed to do?" I said, "Yes." She said, "My husband's always wanted that but I've refused him." I went to 1 Peter 3. I said, "The Bible says that if your husband is not a Christian that you are to win him over with deeds of kindness." I said, "So go home and tell your husband that you were in a Bible study today and that God has convicted you of sin.  And repent and go perform oral sex on your husband and tell him that Jesus, Jesus Christ commands you to do so." [emphasis added] The next week the man showed up at church. He came up to me, he said, "You know, this is a really good church." That handing out tracts on the street thing, there's a better way to see revival, I assure you of that
--you say, "Won't that make me dirty?" No, it'll make you a good wife, and ladies, let me assure you of this, if you think you're being dirty he's pretty happy. [emphasis added]

So on the matter of sex and friendship and conflict in marriage Mark Driscoll is, certainly, by know a known quantity, even if we restrict ourselves just to things said or taught in the 2007-2008 period of Mark Driscoll's ministerial career. 

So there's not much suspense about what kinds of intense, practical teaching Mark and Grace Driscoll will bring to bear on marriage and sex and friendship.  That's been a known thing since 2012.  What's more remarkable, given what Mark Driscoll published in 2008 in Death By Love, was that he ever thought it would be a good idea to say for the record to Christianity Today in 2012, that he and Grace were both virgins when they met:
Interview by Katelyn Beaty and Marlena Graves/ January 5, 2012
Is there tension in teaching sexual purity before marriage while encouraging frequent and wonderful sex within marriage?

M: No, and for us, we sinned, quite frankly. We were virgins when we met and were sleeping together as high-school boyfriend and girlfriend. Then Grace came back to Christ, and I came to Christ in college, so we had to stop sinning sexually. I'd say if we both could go back and rewrite history and change one thing, that would probably be the thing we would change. [emphasis added] But we did repent and met with our pastor. And then we did get married, between our junior and senior years of college

and that despite the fact that in the 2012 book Real Marriage ...

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 7

Neither Grace nor I was a virgin when we met, and before long we were dating and sleeping together, which continued even after she went off to college while I was finishing high school.
So Driscoll had testified at least twice in print for the public record he wasn't a virgin when he met Grace and had even provided a litany of what his pre-Christian self looked forward to for his life. Why Driscoll decided to change his account of things for one interview with Christianity Today about whether or not he and Grace were virgins when they met each other is a question we may never get an answer for but it's the kind of question that may ultimately prove more salient in assessing the public ministry of Mark Driscoll moving forward than the usual questions about sex and marriage and masculinity he's preferring to stick to when Q&A opportunities come up.
In closing, it looks like everything he'd blogged at his platform previously got imported.  Not literally everything, perhaps, since the interview he did with Sheila Walsh has a non-functional part.

and it looks like Warren Throckmorton has noticed the migration of a lot of Driscoll content to Patheos, too.