Saturday, May 26, 2018

links for the weekend

Well ... Alexa does what Alexa does ... which can include recording a conversation between husband and wife and then sending it along to some contact of theirs


it's looking like harvesting the blood of the horseshoe crab doesn't "have" to happen based on some innovations that have taken place in the last several years.  An update on the topic for those who remember "The Blood Harvest" from the same publication years ago.

Over at Slate there's a feature about how black men get sexually harassed in the workplace and most notably in the medical profession.

There is no doubt that the #MeToo movement has introduced major cultural change. It’s not that this marks the first time women have publicly tried to draw attention to mistreatment from powerful, high-profile men. But it may well be the first time in modern memory when women’s accusations have had swift, concrete consequences for the men in question, rather than the women themselves being summarily dismissed, disbelieved, or disregarded. It is long overdue for women to receive the benefit of the doubt and for institutions to stop defending and protecting those who create unsafe work environments. But while women are finally being believed, sexual harassment and violence isn’t gender-specific. A 2017 poll conducted by PBS News Hour, NPR, and Marist reported that 22 percent of American workers reported being sexually harassed or abused at work, with 35 percent of women and 9 percent of men alleging harassment. Women’s stories are finally being taken seriously. But what happens when men get harassed? And what about when those men are also marginalized themselves, like black men or other men of color?


One of the ironies of Sherman Alexie's situation is that about a year ago he was commenting about how he came from "warrior culture" backgrounds that were hyper macho, a "fundamentalist Christian" one and an Indian one.   That he could be in some sense extricated from either or both of these yet still have his moment of being challenged about the way he treated women suggests that celebrity and power can inspire people to abuse and misuse their celebrity and influence regardless of what their formally professed views may be, or have been.

Tidal has been accused of gaming its numbers, specifically, it seems, of data connected to Beyoncé and Kanye West.


Should you want to read a bit more about early microtonalist composer Ivan Wyschnegradsky's  Manual of Quarter-Tone Harmony  go over here for an introduction.

which, if you want to go get it for yourself is ...

I have gained an appreciation for microtonal composition from composers like Wyschnegradsky and (even more) Ben Johnston.  I doubt I'll get into microtonal composition myself because I'm a guitarist and I work within the constraints of equally tempered fret instruments.  That said, it's interesting to share stuff about the microtonal direction in music because I do think it's an element we should be aware of as musicians.  Kyle Gann has written that an awareness of microtonal possibilities as at least being theoretically possible goes back even beyond Franz Lizst to his teacher Anton Reicha, the Bohemian composer whose woodwind quintets alone merit sustained study.  I like quite a bit of Reicha myself and feel that if we want an alternative path from the often stultifying effects of post-Beethoven German idealism that Reicha's path could be taken as a possibility.  Of course I've had a lot of fondness from composers from central and eastern Europe and if there's a vibe I get reading Adorno it's that he could be virulently anti-Slavic in his musical judgments.  But that's something to save for some other time. 

Over at Slate there's a feature on how the C-section went from absolute last resort to, arguably, the most overused medical procedure in American childbirth.

Over at The New Republic ... a not too surprising take on what's regarded as the quasi-fascist tendencies of, of course, Jordan Peterson.

Peterson’s footnotes are almost as vintage as his wardrobe. The field of experts he likes to cite are all scholars who enjoyed their greatest vogue in the middle decades of the twentieth century: Aside from Jung, Peterson draws heavily on the work of literary scholar Joesph Campbell, literary theorist Northrop Frye, and religious historian Mircea Eliade, who form the bedrock of Peterson’s mythological analysis.
Jung, Campbell, and Eliade believed that mythology contained the core truths of human culture, and shared an affinity for reactionary politics. They flirted to some degree with far-right politics in the 1930s. Eliade had the most extensive ties, being a supporter of the Iron Guard in his native Romania. Campbell was an anti-Semite and Jung was sympathetic to the fascist dictatorships of Francisco Franco and Benito Mussolini. After the age of fascism ended, the three men became more conventional conservatives. [emphasis added]
It was no accident that these leading mythologists were men of the political right. They were trying to use comparative mythology to replace natural theology (which had been undermined by the rise of science). Showing that there was a common set of myths underlying all human cultures was a way of shoring up the claims of tradition, which were under siege by political challenges from the left and by social changes fostered by modernity.

A fairly straightforward guilt-by-association poisoning the well approach, I suppose.  Stravinsky was openly sympathetic to Mussolini before the outbreak of World War 2 and then he had a sort of gruff concession that by comparison Truman was the better option, if memory serves. 

That men were trying to use comparative theology to replace natural theology is something even a conservative of a Francis Schaeffer could have pointed out.  In the demise of feudal Christendom attempts to come up with some socially unifying alternative or replacement has been an intellectual and social aim for, well, probably centuries.  That Peterson can be thought of as some kind of Tyler Durdenish figure has been broached via Rod Dreher's blog.

As a friend of mine who read Fight Club put it, a lot of people misunderstand that Durden wasn't heroic and was a sign that the main character was losing his mind and becoming a crazed violent person.

and ...

The Atlantic: the world still spins around male genius, defenses of genius and cruelty in artists, revisiting my dissent from an article at Mbird

On Monday evening, The New Yorker published yet more proof that the #MeToo moment continues apace: a report containing the testimony of four women accusing the New York attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, of a range of physical and emotional abuses. The story, under the powerhouse co-byline of Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow, was striking—and nauseating—for several reasons, among them allegations of hitting, of threatening, of racism. One of the other reasons, though, was this line: “After the former girlfriend ended the relationship, she told several friends about the abuse. A number of them advised her to keep the story to herself, arguing that Schneiderman was too valuable a politician for the Democrats to lose.” [emphases added]
It’s a common sentiment in politics—the centrifugal forces of “the greater good”—and it is, of course, absurd. Schneiderman, as a matter of policy, may have been a professed ally of women and, indeed, of the aims of #MeToo; that changes nothing about the accountability he bears for his alleged behavior, or about the right of the women to seek a small measure of justice through the telling of their stories. But the absurdity itself was revealing: about the moral compromises so many people are willing to make in the name of broader political progress; about the ways women, in particular, are asked—still, despite it all—to be accommodating and compliant and convenient; about the fickle avenues of our empathies.
Schneiderman, shortly after the New Yorker piece was published—the news cycle is a flat circle—resigned. The notion that the women’s stories about his behavior were somehow a nuisance, though—the notion that things would be so much simpler, macrocosmically, had they kept their experiences to themselves—remains with us. I know that because, shortly before The New Yorker published its story about Eric Schneiderman, the poet and memoirist and essayist Mary Karr published her own story on Twitter. This one was about David Foster Wallace. It was about the writer stalking her and abusing her and, in general, refusing to take no for an answer. As Karr elaborated, in one tweet that reads, in the #MeToo context, as its own form of starkly tragic poetry: “tried to buy a gun. kicked me. climbed up the side of my house at night. followed my son age 5 home from school. had to change my number twice, and he still got it. months and months it went on.” [emphasis added]
The added tragedy of all this—kicked, climbed, son, gun, months—is the fact that Karr was not, specifically, making allegations. As Jezebel’s Whitney Kimball pointed out, “The fact that [Wallace] abused [Karr] is not a revelation; this has been documented and adopted by the literary world as one of Wallace’s character traits.” D.T. Max’s 2012 biography of Wallace, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, documented those abuses: Wallace, Max alleges, once pushed Karr from a vehicle. During another fight, he threw a coffee table at her. Karr, in her tweets, was merely repeating the story she has told many times before. A story that has been treated—stop me if this sounds familiar—largely as a complication to another story. In this case, the story of the romantically unruly genius of one David Foster Wallace.
And, so, within the space of a few days, the stories of government officials and prodigious writers tangled together, reminders of the pathological ways American culture approaches power in its many forms. For Schneiderman, it’s political power: the alleged entitlements of one man who claims to serve the higher purpose of the public good. For Karr and Wallace, though, it’s an even more complicated proposition: our insistent fealty to—our implicit faith in—the notion of genius itself. Karr’s #MeToo stories were not so much an open secret as an open revelation. They were not hiding in plain sight; they were, worse, strategically ignored. They were the collateral damage of a culture that prefers convenient idols.
“Talent is its own expectation,” Wallace wrote in Infinite Jest, and he was, of course, correct: There’s a canny tautology to all of this. Genius, a means to godliness and its best evidence, cannot be argued with. Genius cannot be reasoned with. Genius is the answer and the question. It will be heard. It will be respected. Even when it kicks and stalks and climbs up the side of the house at night. [emphasis added]

Although, as I think about it, it's dubious to insist that this is somehow an American pathology.  It's not the way American culture approaches power in its many forms.  Did not Jesus say in the Gospels that the men of the world lord it over one another?  There have been people who have observed this capacity in human nature over millennia.  That "our" genius can be excused for being terrible has been around for a while.  All of that in mind, it is possible that since the Romantic era the trope of the Byronic genius or the genius as conceived in the wake of German idealism may need a specific, targeted dismantling. 
Here is the etymology the Oxford English Dictionary provides for the word genius, imported to English straight from the Latin: “male spirit of a family, existing in the head of the family and subsequently in the divine or spiritual part of each individual, personification of a person’s natural appetites, spirit or personality of an emperor regarded as an object of worship, spirit of a place, spirit of a corporation, (in literature) talent, inspiration, person endowed with talent, also demon or spiritual being in general.”

There’s more, but there’s already so much: genius, by definition a male condition. Genius, a male condition that inflects its maleness on the individual soul. Genius, an object of worship. Genius, perhaps slightly demonic. The derivation isn’t surprising on its own (no one would mistake a typical Roman for a feminist). What is striking, though, is that, millennia later, the biases of the language remain with us, tugging at the edges. Genius itself, the way we typically conceive of it, remains infused with the male gaze, or perhaps more aptly, the male haze: It is gendered by implication. It is a designation reserved, almost exclusively, for men. Guess who the first season of that new show Genius is about? (I’ll give you a hint: The first name of the genius in question is Albert.) And the second? Pablo.

These dynamics are unavoidably at play when Mary Karr, the famous and celebrated writer, reminds the world of Wallace’s behavior toward her—reminds the world, indeed, that it needed the reminding in the first place. The horror stories had simply been subsumed into the broader story—the “greater good,” as it were—of Wallace’s personal genius: as evidence of his uncontainable passion, of the singular depth of his wanting. He wore his trademark bandana, he once said, not only to keep perspiration at bay, but also because “I’m just kind of worried my head’s gonna explode”; there is a certain romance to the admission. And Wallace has often, indeed, particularly in the popular press, been treated as a rom-comic hero: besotted, helpless, desperate. (Wallace once suggested that the writing of Infinite Jest was a grand gesture meant to impress Karr: “a means to her end (as it were),” he wrote in the margin of a book, seeming to have intended the sexual pun.) There Wallace was, then, thrusting the boombox. There he was, dropping the cards. There he was, refusing to take no for an answer.

One time, Karr recalled, Wallace arrived at a pool party she was attending with her family with bandages on his left shoulder. She thought perhaps he had been cutting himself; it turned out that the wounds being hidden had come from a tattoo Wallace had gotten: her name, and a heart.

“Wallace did not hear subtle variations in no,” Max notes in an excerpt of Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story; “he knew only one way to seduce: overwhelm. He would show up at Karr’s family home to shovel her driveway after a snowfall, or come unannounced to her recovery meetings. Karr called the head of the halfway house and asked her to let Wallace know his attentions were not welcome. Wallace besieged her with notes anyway.”
In another section of the book: “A month later, in May 1992, Wallace packed up what little he had and drove to Syracuse,” Max writes. “He had rented a first-floor apartment in a house around the corner from Karr and a few blocks from the main campus. It was in a typical graduate-student neighborhood, full of warping clapboard houses and semi-kempt lawns and right across from the food co-op. But being near the woman he loved made all the difference.”

Here, once again, is the male genius centered while the female genius is relegated to the margins. Karr is there, as a slight character, in Max’s biography of Wallace; she’s there, too, as a kind of human predicate, in interviews about him, in assessments of his literary contributions, in effusions about his genius. And often, too—the world can be so myopic that it can fail to see the genius sitting right in front of it—she is directly asked about him: what he was like. What it was like. How it was to have had, for a brief time, the privilege to spin around such an axis. “Sometimes people go on and on about David Foster Wallace,” Karr noted last year. “As though my contribution to literature is that I fucked him a couple times in the early ’90s … Everybody in America owes me a dollar who read Infinite Jest.” ...
I have managed to go the last twenty years without reading two sentences by David Foster Wallace.  I don't see that my literary, philosophical or cultural life has in any way suffered for it.  I also don't much care for the beatniks, who were the rage among my literary college acquaintances some twenty-five years ago.  What makes the veneration of genius seem so galling is that one person's literary idol is someone whose work means absolutely nothing to other people or may even be emblematic of bad trends in literature.  For as many young guys who revered Hunter S Thompson or Tom Wolfe there were a majority of them who adopted the posture rather than the writerly craft.  Beethoven can be thought of as having ruined the range of possibilities for German music in his wake with help from essayists like Hoffmann or Wagner. 

But it's not clear to me that scapegoating white males as the locus of the cult of genius is entirely the way to go.  Who christened BeyoncĂ© "Queen Bea"? Does she deserve that royalty?  When Michael Jackson billed himself as the King of Pop was he? 

The thing is, in contrast to Andrew Durkin, I don't think anyone with a mind to think of these things can say that if we just reject or deny the idea of greatness that accomplishes anything.  In the wake of the election of Trump what we can see in progressive writing and progressive writers is that every last one of them believes greatness is real.  Why?  Because whether or not they believe in greatness as good they surely believe in greatness as evil.  If you can believe that the current President is a great evil for our society and the world you're granting the concept of greatness even if you would say you don't believe in greatness in the arts.  Jesus did not attempt to dislodge the human mania for greatness, he taught in a way that challenged people to come up with a dramatically different definition of what greatness was and who "qualified" for that measure of greatness.  The greatest among you will be the servant of all.  So in Christian ethical terms the counter-definition of greatness has been around for a while even if a lot of self-described Christians want a more traditional definition of the greatness where you "own" your adversaries in symbolic or physical battle.

I do believe there's such a thing as greatness and I even believe there are men and women who are possessed of genius.  I think Jane Austen was one of the greatest comedic geniuses of English language literature.  I think Rumiko Takahashi is a comedic genius with manga.  I regard Joan Didion as one of the great geniuses of the New Journalism.  I've heard some brilliant chamber music for double bass and guitar by Annette Kruisbrink that I believe should be the foundation of the doublebass and guitar chamber repertoire for generations to come.  There are women geniuses out there in the arts and sciences and we should celebrate their work. 

None of that requires some equivocating bromides about how if we don't want monsters in the arts we'll have no art left.

I just can't buy this line of argument because if there's any attempt to compare the arts to athletics nobody would suggest that what Larry Nassar did to girls was just part of the genius of amazing athletic performance.  I know that some people reject the Tolstoy conviction that great artists should also actually be moral people.  Yes, we're all vaguely aware that brilliant people can be damaged or even dangerous.  That doesn't mean we can't insist that there are some men and women who, however brilliant they may genuinely be, do not receive an exemption from humand ecency simply on account of that brilliance.  Is there no room for advising people that it is better to be a middling artist but a decent human being over against aspiring to be a "genius"? 

Besides which genius can be thought of as a social verdict.  A thing Leonard Meyer wrote decades ago was that  the difference between a genius and a crackpot came down to whether the person solved a problem that  a large chunk of people in society wanted solved.  If you solve a problem that only concerns you then you're a crackpot.  If you solve a problem that a culture or subculture wants solved that gives you a shot at consideration for "genius" as a social verdict about the nature of your work.  But there was something else Meyer proposed, which was that innovation by itself was never as important as replication of methods and solutions.  If you come up with a "solution" to a challenge and nobody can replicate its elements or results then you're still, at a functional level, the crackpot.  Haydn became a genius in historical and social verdict because he made music that solved expressive and formal problems perceived in his era and did so in a way that inspired disciples to replicate and expand upon his approach, most famously Mozart and Beethoven and substantially less famously Wenzel Matiegka, who very, very obviously adapted Haydn's materials into his own guitar compositions.

We're not going to get rid of the idea of genius or the insistence that "our" heroes need a clemency we don't want to grant to "their" heroes, who are often as not our villains. 

I wrote a haiku years ago that feels about as grimly apt now as it did then.

Heroes are monsters
whose use for a cause outweighs
their well-known vices

It seems this is able to happen across any and all spectrums.  Would that we could appreciate remarkable art without assuming the artists get a pass from being decent humans because rock stars get to do what rock stars do.  Whether it's rock stars or rock star pastors or rock star politicians or rock star authors; whether it's a Mark Driscoll or a Sherman Alexie or all sorts of other people, we don't have to say that if you get rid of the ethically dubious to downright terrible human beings there would be no art left.  That's not even what the polemic requires, it's really begging the question of whether there will be any great art left if we excise the monsters from an artistic canon.  Absolutely no one on earth could seriously claim there won't be any art left if there's no, say, Caravaggio in art history.  No, the real argument is that if we get rid of the monstrous men and women who mad great art then all we're going to be left with is the artistic or literary equivalents of Family Circus or Garfield in comics without a Bloom County or a Doonsbury or even a Peanuts. If we get rid of the Beatles catalog if it turned out John Lennon could be a physically and verbally abusive drunk then we're stuck with the Monkees is where the real "teeth" of the argument goes, to which I would say, well, you know the Monkees weren't all that bad ... .  Not my favorite but ... .

My objection to the argument that says if we get rid of art by bad people we won't have art left is that it's the kind of argument that ultimately seems to be made in bad faith, because, well, the aforementioned Family Circus.  People are afraid that without these terrible men and women who have flashes of brilliant insight we're going to be stuck with anodyne bromides and axioms.  Well, maybe, but why do we have to use anodyne bromides and axioms in arguing for a retention of art made by terrible people along the way? 

Warren Throckmorton has new post-Patheos blog, recounts situation, asks what expectations Patheos had that he didn't meet that inspired them to cut his blog

Since Throckmorton's blog was the only blog I even bothered to read I noticed his output slowed. 

In the discussion and debate about Throckmorton's being dropped there's been an observation that the style and content didn't change but ... what about frequency?   Patheos seems like a lame clickbait-driven ad machine.  What if Throckmorton just didn't crank out enough material fast enough and often enough to monetize things to the satisfaction of the host?  Not that there's been any clear or straightforward explanation for why Throckmorton got dropped.  I've written about how stories getting spiked come from advertisers, publishers and sponsors of publishers more than hostile sources or editors already, but I was only indirectly considering the possibility that there might be rules by which Throckmorton might not have been getting ENOUGH traffic to keep in the club. 

The assumptions from Throckmorton's supporters (and I am sympathetic myself) has been that some kind of top down edict was motivated by a dislike of "what" Throckmorton has published.  That's possible, too, but it may not be the only variable to consider. 

Throckmorton has shared that it was said by someone connected to Patheos that the expectations had been made clear to him months ago but he's not sure what the expectations were.  One possible way for people at Patheos to believe they were crystal clear could have to do with contract stuff, about which we know pretty much nothing at this point. 

There's a commenter at Throckmorton's new blog going by BD who has proposed that a 2017 contract stipulated changes in expectation of blogging frequency.

This is about the January 2017 contract changes written at Gods and Radicals, by a lawyer who was on the Patheos Pagan channel. (A third of the Pagan channel bloggers left Patheos when BN Media introduced the new contract)

“The new contract also requires writers to post with a certain frequency, two to three times a week. While I don’t care that I will be earning less, it does irk me to have my income cut and then be told I have to write more in order to earn it. Jason has assured us this provision of the contract will not be enforced, but in my experience as a lawyer, the only reason to include a provision in a contract which you say you don’t intend to enforce is so you can later spring it on the person. It’s a classic way for employers to fire someone for a discriminatory reason, for example: They decide to suddenly start (selectively) enforcing a contract provision which was not previously enforced so they can claim to have a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the termination.”


Under my original contract I make $50 a month. Twice in the 4 years I have been writing here, I made $100 because of especially high page views. (Incidentally, neither of those posts was anything to be proud of.) Fifty dollars is not much, but I know it is a lot more than most writers at Patheos Pagan make. I have it on good authority that only three of us at Patheos Pagan make that much. Under the new contract, I would make a little less, but since I’m not reliant on the income from Patheos, I really don’t care about that.

Others Patheos Pagan writers would make a little more, which I am glad for. But while five or ten dollars a month is more than nothing, it is still a pittance. Jason has repeatedly told me that Patheos is suffering financially, the implication being that we should be happy with what we get. Of course, we haven’t seen their books, so we don’t know how much revenue Patheos receives from ads and other sources, or where it is going. Needless to say, it is common for miserly employers to claim poverty when employees demand a living wage. (I do find it interesting, though, that Patheos can afford to fly its editors out to visit their corporate headquarters and to other events, but they say they can’t afford to pay their writers more than third-world wages.)

The new contract also requires writers to post with a certain frequency, two to three times a week. While I don’t care that I will be earning less, it does irk me to have my income cut and then be told I have to write more in order to earn it. Jason has assured us this provision of the contract will not be enforced, but in my experience as a lawyer, the only reason to include a provision in a contract which you say you don’t intend to enforce is so you can later spring it on the person. It’s a classic way for employers to fire someone for a discriminatory reason, for example: They decide to suddenly start (selectively) enforcing a contract provision which was not previously enforced so they can claim to have a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the termination.

But the real problem with the new contract is the increased editorial control. The new contract reserves the right to edit any of our posts, and even to change the format of the post or to use the content to create a quiz (?). We are explicitly prohibited from using profanity (with some minor exceptions) and the “tone” (a very subjective term) is expected to resemble that of other online media with which Patheos compares itself, like Slate or Huffington Post. The contract also prohibits advertising or self-promotion. We are also barred from posting a “farewell” post without approval, and even approved farewell posts will be deleted after 7 days. (What is that about?) And Patheos can delete any post it deems, in its sole discretion, to be “offensive”another subjective term.


So making what is admittedly a speculative guess, is it possible Throckmorton was just not prolific enough to comply with the newer expectations and got cut out for that and possibly other reasons?  If the explanation is that there was no one post that catalyzed the decision that doesn't mean that the problem might not have been that for the controversies generated writing about people with connections to associate or parent companies that some other reason could be invoked that, strictly speaking, had nothing to do with the past criticisms but that could be enforced in a way that ensured some kind of disciplinary activity could be taken up that was "also" for some other end.  Just a guess that attempts to account for the patently conspiratorial theorizing doen on Throckmorton's behalf on the one hand and the flat explanations that it wasn't about any one post on the part of Patheos on the other. 

Again, just a guess for a weekend drawing on some comments from BD and an awareness that when Patheos changed ownership pagans bailed from the platform and explained at some length why. 

Over the years I have had posts that have the title "answers to questions you didn't ask".  I thought I had one about whether or not I would monetize this blog and the answer to that question is "no" because I believe what I write should be available freely to anyone who pays for their internet connection.  I did not believe that this blog should make a cent and that people should be able to read about the history of Mars Hill as documented during its peak and fall free of charge.  The lack of monetized interest and writing the blog as a public service and as a journalistic/historical experiment in chronicling the Mars Hill saga has, as best I understand it, a Fair Use safeguard in it.  Once you monetize stuff someone can try to make a claim of copyright infringement, which, if memory serves, Mars Hill tried to do with Throckmorton a few years ago in complaining to Patheos.  But monetizing can go the other way, once you're monetizing then if you don't rake in the money the suits want they don't see why they should keep you around.  It hasn't been considered up until recently but it's an element BD's comments at Thorckmorton's new blog has introduced and so it seems worth noting.  If those stipulations were in an agreement that could, as a speculation mentioned earlier in this post, go some way to explaining why Throckmorton's at a loss for why he got cut and why anyone at Patheos might have the impression that the new expectations were conveyed months ago.

Thematically, this kind of thing could be of a piece with the European Union requirements that websites are crystal clear about cookies and data tracking for user information that folks in the United States have to comply with.  Google's revised privacy policy took effect yesterday, for instance. 

So if you're reading this blog or this blog post from the European Union you should have gotten a display saying this site uses cookies and that by reading the blog you agree to the use of cookies and so on.  That's for privacy policy issues but policies can stipulate that writer X creates Y number of posts in order to stay on Z format or platform. 

If folks want to consider this all as a long-form speculation then this could be a consideration that for a given "text" there can be a "subtext" that is observed that doesn't necessarily articulate the "pretext" that was the catalyst for the "text".  Without all of these elements a "literary analysis" will tend to be incomplete.  What may be happening, to go by what's been written about and around Throckmorton's removal from Patheos is that Throckmorton's fans are writing about the "subtext", Throckmorton's trying to understand the "text" and Patheos has at least someone saying the expectations were made clear a while back which gets at what can be thought of as "pretext".  But that the decision/event/"text" is opaque seems to be all that is clear at the moment.

Yale has a Thomas Commuck Indian Melodies Initiative project, Commuck being a Brothertown Indian who published a Christian hymnal considered the first musical work published by a Native American in the US

The author of the following original tunes wished to get some person better educated than himself to write a preface or introduction to his little work ; but on reflection it occurred to him that he could tell the pubic all about it as well as any one else ; so he concluded to make the attempt. He is, however, fully aware of the difficulties attendant upon an attempt to appear successfully as an author before a scrutinizing and discerning public, especially when unaided by the influence of wealth, or a long list of influential friends ; and whatever may be the fate of this production, he feels that he must stem the current of public opinion alone.

Add to this the circumstance of having been born, not only in obscurity, but being descended from that unfortunate and proscribed people, the Indians, with whose name a considerable portion of the enlightened American people are unwilling to associate even the shadow of anything like talent, virtue, or genius, and as being wholly incapable of any improvement, either moral, mental, or physical, and the wonder will cease to be a wonder.

In view of all these disadvantages, it is not without great diffidence that he attempts to appear at the bar of public opinion, not knowing but Judge Prejudice may preside, and condemn his work to the deep and silent shades of everlasting oblivion, without even a hearing. Should this be its fate with the generality of the public, still he thinks he has a claim upon a certain portion of the Christian public, he means his brethren of the Methodist Episcopal Church : for if there be any meaning in that clause of our excellent Discipline which recommends the " employing of members in preference to others ; helping each other in business, &c," the author feels that he has a claim upon them, and he humbly trusts, judging from Christian feelings, that that claim will not be wholly disregarded.  ...

[paragraphing added]

from Thomas Commuck, Preface to Indian Melodies, 1845
melodies by Thomas Commuck, harmonized by Thomas Hastings

Earlier this year Paul Grant-Costa wrote:

One of the items that will be appearing in the Indian Papers Collection is a copy of Thomas Commuck’s Indian Melodies that Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library owns.  Published in 1845, the work is possibly the earliest musical publication by a Native American composer.

Commuck was a Narragansett from Charlestown, Rhode Island, who joined the Brothertown community in New York and then removed with his Eastern Pequot wife to Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he became the tribe’s postmaster, justice of the peace, and historian.  In 1844, the Wisconsin Whig Party had nominated him as their candidate for the Territory’s House of Representatives.


With a very happy hat tip to guitarist Daniel Corr I learned about this just a day or so ago.


The Brothertown Indian Nation was formed from the Christian members of seven eastern coastal nations. During the Great Awakening, many Native people affiliated with Christianity, among them Mohegan, Pequot, Narragansett, Montauk, Tunxis, and Niantic Indians. After the American Revolution, a conglomeration of Christian Indians from these tribes who were struggling to survive in southern New England moved to Oneida land in what is now upstate New York, eventually taking on the name of the community founded — Eeyawquittoowauconnuck, which means “a town of brothers” or “brothertown.”

These Christian Indians shared a traditional practice of communal hymn singing, specifically shape note singing. Shape note — a common mode of sacred music singing in early America — is named for its distinctive musical notation: The heads of musical notes are in shapes, such as diamonds, rectangles, ovals, and triangles, to help singers keep track of their place on the scale. In the 19th century musical reformers deemed shape note singing “primitive” and advocated for a more “scientific” European aesthetic in sacred singing. It appears that shape note singing fell out of practice with the Brothertown Indians not long after, by the late 1800s. However, this style of singing continued in the South and Appalachia, and was “discovered” and revived in the 1950s and 1970s. Today, it is still practiced in shape note singing communities around the United States and the world.

Commuck was a Narragansett Indian from Charlestown, Rhode Island, who joined the Brothertown community in New York. In the early 1800s, he and the New York group of Brothertown Indians migrated under duress to what is now Wisconsin, taking their own version of the shape note singing style with them. Commuck became the first postmaster of Brothertown and served as a justice of the peace for the Tribe. When his “Indian Melodies” came out in 1845, it was published in both standard and shape notes. In his preface to the tunebook, Commuck acknowledges that he hoped to make “a little money” from its publication to provide for “the subsistence of his household.”

All of the tunes in the “Indian Melodies” were written by Commuck. Many of the hymns are named for Brothertown parent tribes, such as “Narragansett” or “Mohegan,” and some are named for famous Native Americans. Not long before he died in 1855, Commuck spoke of his fear of Native extinction: “Here we have taken our last stand, as it were, and are resolved to meet manfully, that overwhelming tide of fate, which seems destined, in a few short years, to sweep the Red Man from the face of existence.” For the members of the Brothertown Indian Nation who are getting reacquainted with the singing of Commuck’s music, it is especially poignant that the Tribe did not vanish as their ancestor feared, says first-year Divinity School student Seth Wenger.

The participants have hopes that their collaboration will lead to future communal gatherings for shape-note singing of Commuck’s music, repatriating the music in the east among the Indian communities from where it originated, and bringing it out west to a larger audience of Brothertown. The group will host a similar singing event this summer in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 28. Wenger has applied for funding to continue to record and videotape the shape note singing of Commuck’s music as part of his public humanities project. [emphasis added]

Acknowledging that there is a “deep division” within the Brothertown Indian Nation between citizens who identify as Christian and those who now pursue “more traditional lifeways,” Baldwin says that a revival of the shape note singing tradition and interest in Commuck’s musical contribution “has the potential to heal some of the divisions citizens feel.”

There are American Indians who regard the entire Christian legacy as terrible and as the white man's religion that was used to subjugate and conquer.  There are American Indians who are Christians and regard Christ as risen and Lord, and that's my lineage on one side of my family background.  So for me, as I've read about some of the history of the Pacific Northwest tribes I can't read Christianity as a white man's enslaving religion because I know that the PNW tribes basically all practiced slavery and this without any recourse to a "white man's religion" or even a more general appeal to Abrahamic religion in general.  As popular as it is for some to imagine that the Bible condoned slavery (and it permitted it) as if it were terrible for that, slavery still exists aplenty but has been commuted to other labels such as debt--a good deal of slavery was an economic practice.  The ownership of humans based on a skin color ideology may be uniquely pernicious within European-American legacy but it's a matter of practices and application.  One of my friends is of Chinese descent and he discovered in his visits to the mainland that ... well ... any sufficiently monolithic culture can tend to be virulently racist without realizing it. 

If there's a concern about new left or sjw narratives for me at this point it's that ejecting a master narrative doesn't mean we won't get a new one in its place.  I don't think it's fair or honest to say that all white people do is steal other people's cultures because they have no ideas of their own any more than it's fair or honest to say that they alone constitute "civilization". 

It's not surprising to read there's "deep division" within the Brothertown Indian Nation between those who identify as Christian and those who are pursuing "more traditional lifeways".  I frankly doubt that a revival of the shape note singing tradition or an interest in Commuck's musical contribution has the potential to heal some of the divisions if there are people who consider Christianity to be the oppressor's religion.  That's a master narrative no less pernicious than the one it understandably opposes.  Not all the traditional lifeways have things we should necessarily go back to.  The Pacific Northwest tribes don't need to bring back slavery to observe traditional ways, for instance. 

We also live in a moment where, as a reader of blue state, left or progressive writing alongside conservative writing there's a danger on both sides for whites to scapegoat each other for what is ultimately a shared legacy of virulent and vindictive racism.  Conservatives hammer away at how eugenics was a darling of progressives a century ago.  Sure, it was.  But pinning the blame for the racism of whites on a red or blue demographic is just that, pinning the blame.  It isn't as though a blue state Star Trek style missionary program to make the world like a progressive Anglo-American vision isn't a form of cultural imperialism.  I didn't think about that so much when I was younger because I loved watching Star Trek as a kid but here, fifty years after the show began to air, the Federation was a stand in for a kind of United States that saw itself as kindly and enlightened but still had all the power of phasers and torpedoes to wage war if it didn't get its way. 

Even if I have doubts that reviving Commuck's music or, perhaps more accurately, giving his music a chance to be heard at all for the first time, will ultimately not ameliorate the deep divisions it is still fun to report of this development.  I hope there are some kind of recordings down the road to make it easier for people to hear the music.  Better, perhaps, would be that those who are musically literate can bring Commuck's melodies to congregations.  Indian Melodies was published in 1845, after all, and so is public domain.

There's also some biographical detail at the Princeton blog

and for those who may be curious to see the 1845 publication it is available at

and also at

Commuck's self-written forward is in an indirect literary style that is common for a mid-19th century forward.  All the same, it was touching to read.  I've been reading through the score in the last day or so and since it's in the shape-note idiom you know you can't just look at the treble line in a conventional SATB hymnal for the foundational melody, which is generally nestled in the tenor part in an SATB score or in the "alto" in an SAT.  That the Thomas Hasting harmonizations are SATB indicates a more "modern" approach to shape-note as best I can recall, since earlier shape-note compilations have three-voiced textures.  The thing about those three-voiced textures is that in shape-note singing anyone from any vocal range could take up whichever of the three lines they want and this creates a ton of voice-crossing that would be "bad" in the Palestrina idiom, but it sounds robust and vigorous to have so much voice-crossing because it creates a kind of double-choir within the choir effect or a kind of quasi-heterophonic vibe that you're more likely to hear in central and eastern European choral/vocal idioms than in a more Anglo or Latin derived idiom. 

I've been reading through the hymnal in the last day and to be direct about it, even if a good number of the melodies can seem a bit clunky there are some gems in the hymn melodies in this compilation that I probably won't be able to resist making the basis for a new guitar sonata. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Jessica Johnson's monograph with Duke University Press, Biblical Porn, is published as of a week ago, and Throckmorton's Patheos site is down a week later ... strange week

Biblical Porn: Affect, Labor, and Pastor Mark Driscoll's Evangelical Empire
Author(s): Jessica Johnson Published:  May 2018 Pages: 248
Sales/Territorial Rights: World  
Cloth: $94.95 - In Stock
Paperback: $24.95 - In Stock
This was officially published and released last week, if memory serves.  May 17, 2018.  We'll get to reviewing it when that's practical (i.e. gotta read it cover to cover first).

Johnson will be at the Elliott Bay Book Company tomorrow to discuss the book, 7pm.

Which makes it too bad that folks at Patheos decided to pull the plug on Warren Throckmorton's blog at Patheos and 410 it out of existence the week after Johnson's book has been published, in which there are a number of bibliographic references to Throckmorton's work in the footnotes.

Now that Throckmorton has gotten a 410 removal those citations will have to be translated into some other web link.

This wouldn't even be the only case in which Johnson's book makes reference to content online that no longer exists.  Repentant Pastor has been down for a while now, for instance. 

Still, it does seem kind of weird that the week after an academic monograph analyzing the former Mars Hill goes up that Throckmorton's blog goes up in smoke at Patheos.  Not that there's necessarily anything to this other than sheer coincidence.  Websites go down, after all.  But Throckmorton hasn't gotten a clear explanation as to why his Patheos account got pulled beyond a brief statement that his blog no longer fit the strategic objectives of Patheos, whatever those are. 

Still, seeing as this blog keeps tabs on stuff associated with the history of Mars Hill it's worth noting that Throckmorton's Patheos blog is down the week after Biblical Porn got released.  However, pertinent to the previous post, there's little reason to believe someone with so small a church as Driscoll has no has any pull within the Patheos scene.  His blog is still doing fine. 

As noted earlier, if Throckmorton's blog has been spiked it's going to be on the publisher/owner side of things or on the advertiser/sponsor side of things.  It's not necessarily a given that it must be one or the other and since no explanation beyond what Throckmorton has posted has been forthcoming it's opaque.

Still, as dubious coincidences go, it does seem weird that Johnson's monograph has been published and gotten some promotion and Patheos pulled the plug on Throckmorton's blog the week after the official release of the book.  Someone can explain what the strategic goals are that Throckmorton's blogging didn't fit into, and given the inspirational aims of Beliefnet it may just be that investigative journalistic blogging is not a high priority for an inspirational and advertising platform.  As these things go that even makes sense ... if that's the actual reason, but since we don't have an actual explanation that's at that level of detail we can't know for sure, we can only attempt to make educated guesses.

Already in the first week of the book's release it can serve as a case study of how volatile internet publishing can be, when a few formerly accessible websites just go down for the count after being quoted in a book. 

Warren Throckmorton's blog has been 410'd from Patheos--a musing on how hostile sources and editors don't spike stories as fast as publishers and advertisers do

One of the things that happens when you blog and when you do what's colloquially known as watchblogging, is you keep track of when things appear and, more crucially, when things disappear.

So when Warren Throckmorton's blog vanished in the last 24 hours from Patheos that was impossible not to notice.  Throckmorton has a new blog up with a short explanation, as far as one can be provided at the moment.

I hope to have more to say about it soon but for now, I can report that I am blogging here now at  Patheos leadership informed me yesterday that my blog no longer fit their “strategic objectives.” Since I don’t know what those are, I can’t say how I didn’t fit them.
In any case, thanks to friend J.D. Smith, the blog was quickly migrated with the content to this ad free site. The downside is that I have been unable as yet to find out from Patheos how to get my comments moved along with the posts.

What a strange turn of events. Patheos was at the center of the Mars Hill Church and Gospel for Asia stories and now they host Mark Driscoll and K.P. Yohannan. All of the those Patheos links about Mars Hill and GFA are now erased. The content is here and archived elsewhere but admittedly, it will be harder to find.

A temptation former Mars Hill people probably can't resist is to suppose that Mark Driscoll, having a new book coming along later this year, knows people who pull strings.  That seems improbable.  A guy with a church that has, informally reported so far at places like Throckmorton's blog and online boards, got a church that has maxed out in the 300 to 400 range doesn't necessarily have the clout to pull the plug.  Someone else with GFA connections, maybe ... but even in that case it seems that this is thinking to low on the proverbial totem pole. 

Now BeliefNet  (which acquired Patheos) or BN Media Associates, that's another matter.  Perhaps weirdly, anti-virus and web protection software raises up red flags that says the BN Media Associates website is very high risk and are you sure you want to go there?  So we won't link to their website at the moment.

Let me put it this way, when I was a journalism student my journalism professor gave a lecture on censorship and story spiking and said that what she had found in her time as a journalist was that the fastest ways stories got spiked was never from hostile sources.  You could have a genuinely hostile and uncooperative source and if you were studious and scrupulous you could frequently find what you needed to know even if one high-powered but recalcitrant source would never talk to you.  If there's anything that, say, Wenatchee The Hatchet has established as a blog it's that it's possible to write possibly a million words about Mark Driscoll's former church without so much as having a single phone conversation with the guy of any note in a twenty year period?  Why?  Because the guy's stuff has swamped the internet, that's why, ,for one.  For another, so many sources WERE willing to talk and whatever my modest abilities as a blogger I did earn a journalism degree and did spend about a decade in non-profit development support.  So where a lot of people might see annual reports and be tempted to say "all lies" there was fascinating information for the kind of person who got used to audit compliance protocols in a large and healthy non-profit. 

But I digress ...

No, my professor explained, hostile sources are rarely, if ever, what spikes a news story.  Even editorial censorship isn't usually what kills a story.  An editor may strongly dislike where a story is going but may run it even after hostile editing.

What historically HAD led to stories being spiked, my professor said, was furious advertisers or top-down pressure from the publisher.  When ad revenue is on the line or advertising groups whose money pays for ad space want a story spiked that's when stories can get spiked, spiked hard, and without so much as a trace that they could have been stories showing up in the publications in question.

It's trite, but follow the money, but the caveat here would be that you're not necessarily following the money that goes to someone who is some local church pastor.  You might want to go higher up and consider who owns a platform that might decide that someone is not good enough for the advertising revenue or who runs stories that the advertisers or sponsors might be unhappy about.  There is virtually no way the post-resignation Mark Driscoll has that kind of money floating around that a Patheos blogger's blog can be taken away.  Whoever made that call has to be way, way higher up the food chain than Mark Driscoll is apt to be right now.  He's gearing up for the release of his next book but The Trinity Church is still small potatoes compared to what Mars Hill was a few years ago even in its year of precipitous decline. 

Having never really cared for Patheos at one level I'm glad Throckmorton's not blogging at the platform, even if it seems dubious why he should suddenly be kicked off of Patheos recently.  Still, it's something to keep in mind in the age of the blog.  People high up enough with administrative decision-making power can end everything with a few key strokes.  It's something to keep in mind.  A few axiomatic warnings from Ben Bagdikian are coming to mind but I won't bore you with those. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

a Larry Osborne conversation with Mark Driscoll from 2016: Part One: Mark Driscoll recounting his Fall 2004 meeting with Larry Osborne at a Leadership Network event

One of the things that jumps out early on in Jessica Johnson's book Biblical Porn (which we'll try to review some time in the next few weeks) is a relatively passing reference to the Leadership Network.  While Mars hill had its start with the blessing and sending of Hutcherson's Antioch Bible Church it was, more or less beyond doubt, Leadership Network that played a role in making Mark Driscoll one of the rock star pastors of Generation X.  Johnson's book does not really spend any time discussing Leadership Network because of the academic focus of the book.  That said, the book played a helpful role in jotting my memory about how pervasively the name of Larry Osborne comes up in the annals of Mars Hill, most often (as best I can recall) from the pen of Mark Driscoll himself.  

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

From chapter 7: Jesus, we’re loading our squirt guns to charge Hell again (4,000-10,000 people)
Pages 164-165

In the fall of 2004, Leadership Network brought together a handful of large-church pastors for a meeting in New York. It was an honor to be among such successful and diverse pastors as Wayne Cordero (Foursquare), Tim Keller (Presbyterian), Michael Slaughter (Methodist), Walt Kallestad (Lutheran), and Matt Hannan and Bob Roberts (Baptist). Each of them had timely insights that helped clarify the plans I was making to grow our church to ten thousand people. During one of the breaks, I grabbed lunch with Larry Osborne, who pastors North Coast, a church of six thousand people in San Diego, California. Our church had quickly blown through the three-thousand mark, and we were expecting to crest at just under four thousand people a week by the fast-approaching spring of 2005.

I was in the middle of putting together a comprehensive strategic plan for the future of our church, with plans to grow to over ten thousand people. Our two morning and two evening Sunday services were all filling up, and we needed to decide what our next steps would be. We searched diligently but once again could not find a facility with three thousand seats or more to rent in the city. And we were unwilling to relocate the church out of the city, where land was cheaper and more options were available. 

As I sat with Larry, I immediately launched into a barrage of questions about growing the church, hoping to maximize our time together. Larry had impressively grown his church from a small congregation to a church of six thousand people while maintaining sound doctrine and incorporating an effective small group ministry.

Larry proceeded to ignore all of my questions and instead started asking me questions seemingly unrelated to growing the church. He asked me how many children I had, their ages, the condition of my marriage, and if being a good husband and father was more important to me than growing a large church. 

I was stunned. Over the years, I had met with many successful pastors to learn from them. Not one of them had ever asked anything about my personal life and my family or even if I was morally fit to be a pastor. The only people who ever asked those types of questions were my elders, because they love me and my family.

The first four pages of chapter 7 are, in fact, a summary of Driscoll’s conversation with Larry Osborne in the fall of 2004.   It builds up to a conclusion that is on page 167

… Simply, he [Osborne] was instructing me on the chief principles of creating a mature missional church.

So I tried to begin with the end in mind. I sought to plan for the church for as far down the road as I could see.  I could envision a church of more than ten thousand people and began working with Jamie to reverse-engineer a plan to become that church. We drafted a strategic plan that was over a hundred pages long, between plans and supporting documents and articles. We then presented our strategic plan to the elders and deacons, who helped us make some changes that greatly improved the plan. The deacons and elders also devised strategic plans so that their areas of ministry could grow with the church. If all the plans were put together, the total master plan would be hundreds of pages long.

Our strategic plan, which is sketched out in this chapter, won’t be fully implemented until after this book is published. By that time, we will know if we had a good plan or if we messed everything up and reduced the church to a small group of people meeting in a phone booth and grumbling about the strategic plan. I am hesitant to end the book with these details because I have no guarantee that they will work.  But it’s where we are at, going into another season of great risk.

It would turn out that the large building Jamie Munson scouted out and that the Mars Hill elders purchased was not zoned for the uses that Mark Driscoll’s grand vision had envisioned.  The alternative to the boondoggle that was outlined confidently as the plan for future growth for Mars Hill was to embrace an older model that had been implemented in the history of Mars Hill, the multisite model.  The key difference moving forward as that the new multisite model would have pastors as administrative heads of a network of churches whose preaching content would predominantly be Mark Driscoll’s preaching; gone were the days when Mike Gunn preached in the south, Mark Driscoll preached in Ballard, and Lief Moi preached in the University District.  The new paradigm of multisite was, famously, filming Mark and broadcasting him across the campuses and times.  Of all the things outlined in the master plan in Confessions that was what managed to get worked out.

What’s worth noting is that as far back as Driscoll’s 2006 book he had emphasized how a meeting with Larry Osborne in 2004 through a Leadership Network event informed his ideas of what needed to be done to strategically grow Mars Hill to the size he wanted.  He insisted in print that he did not care whether he pastored a large or a small church but this insistence seems to have been belied by the recurrent reference to head counts of attenders in the subheadings of every single chapter of Confessions. If he really didn’t care about the numbers in any event why organize an entire book into chapters with subheadings that included numbers of attenders?  But what was, in any case, made clear by Mark Driscoll himself was that it was a 2004 conversation with Osborne he credits with stunning him into a realization that the way Mars Hill was organized would need to change.  The closing chapter of Confessions of a Reformission Rev was presented as a summary of what strategic plans were going to be implemented. Driscoll’s 2006 book was published in April and the next two years would bear out that the gap between what was confidently announced about the future plans for Mars Hill and what actually happened in Driscoll’s efforts to reorganize the governance of the church would throw up some discrepancies.

a Larry Osborne conversation with Mark Driscoll from 2016: Part Two: The plan announced in 2006 for growth runs aground on city zoning, Driscoll and associates regroup by way of a controversial re-org that leads to terminations in 2007

One of the first things that could be shown to have gone well afield of plan was the second Ballard facility acquired in 2005.  It turned out that the building that would become the Mars Hill corporate headquarters could not be used for the second campus aims announced in Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev.  That meant the elders embraced an alternative to two Ballard campuses, what came to be known as the multi-site model and the expanded use of “videology”, video-taped sermons that were rebroadcast with or across campuses. 

Because Driscoll summarized the fateful conversation with Osborne there’s no way to be sure whether Mark Driscoll’s subsequent master plan announced in his 2006 book, or the alternative plan of rapidly expanding multisite, were necessarily informed by what Osborne actually advised.  Although Driscoll would continue to credit Osborne with an advisory role in the reorganization of Mars Hill governance it may be impossible to establish how “hands on” or “hands off” that advisory role was.  However, thanks to the website Joyful Exiles and some materials in the way of Mark Driscoll sermons we can highlight that the alternative plan of multisite expansion and governance changes turned out to be more controversial and volatile then, possibly, anyone anticipated.

There were only hints and asides as to just how volatile the situation may have been. By 2007, during the Nehemiah sermon series and what would prove to be the controversial 2006-2007 period of internal reorganization Driscoll rounded off the Nehemiah series with intra-sermon asides like the following:

Some of you will then push back, and say "But I've seen spiritual authority abused." and I would say, "So have I."  And what we do is not abandon authority, we appeal to higher authority. If a man is being a bad husband and father he's NOT the highest authority. You can call the cops. You can bring him in for church discipline. We'll pull up some other authority. We'll pull up another authority, of Scripture, and we'll bring God into the equation. 

If a leader in the church, or an elder or a pastor, is not acting in accordance with Scripture, then we appeal to Scripture and they get disciplined as well. No one, myself included, is above spiritual authority. We all need to be submissive and humble. And Nehemiah's frustration is with a bunch of men who will not respect Scripture, they will not respect God, they won't respect Nehemiah (their leader), they won't respect Ezra (their pastor), and he's very angry about that because he sees the devastation of the wives and to the children.

You either enjoy confrontation or you enjoy sin. You get to pick one or the other. If people sin and there's not confrontation then you better enjoy sin because that's what's going to happen. 

"Then I confronted them and I cursed them"

He's just cussing guys out. 

"and beat some of them." I'll read that again, "and beat SOME of them."

Now he's an older guy and he's beating up members of his church. What do we do with that? I'll tell you what I'd LIKE to do with that. I'd like to follow in his example. There's a few guys here that, if I wasn't gonna end up on CNN, that I would go Old Testament on `em even in leadership of this church.


Here's Nehemiah's deal. Now Romans 13 says we need to obey the government so you can't just walk around beating people up, tragically. 

It DOES simplify things. There's no, like, attorneys and blogging. It's like, "I punched you in the mouth. Shut up."  That's clean. It's simple.

Now in this Nehemiah gets so angry that he can't make these guys stop that he physically assaults them. ...

I'm not saying it's okay to beat people up, but I understand.

Notoriously, in an October 1, 2007 preaching cadre teaching event for Acts 29 associated leaders, Mark Driscoll said the following:
Here’s what I’ve learned. You cast vision for your mission; and if people don’t sign up, you move on.  You move on. There are people that are gonna to die in the wilderness and there are people that are gonna take the hill. That’s just how it is. 

Too many guys waste too much time trying to move stiff-necked, stubborn, obstinate people. (pause) I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus (laughs) and by God’s grace it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done.

You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options; but the bus ain’t gonna stop.  [emphasis added] And I’m just a—I’m just a guy who is like, “Look, we love ya, but, this is what we’re doing.” 

There’s a few kinda people. There’s people who get in the way of the bus. They gotta get run over. There are people who wanna take turns driving the bus. They gotta get thrown off (laughs). ‘Cuz they wanna go somewhere else. There are people who will be on the bus, leaders and helpers and servants, they’re awesome.

There’s also just, sometimes, nice people who sit on the bus and shut up. (pause) They’re not helping or hurting. Just let ‘em ride along. Y’know what I’m saying?  But, don’t look at the nice people that are just gonna sit on the bus and shut their mouth and think, “I need you to lead the mission.”

They’re never going to.  At the very most you’ll give ’em a job to do and they’ll serve somewhere and help out in a minimal way. If someone can sit in a place that hasn’t been on mission for a really long time they are by definition not a leader.  And, so they’re never going to lead.

You need to gather a whole new court. I’ll tell you guys what, too. You don’t do this just for your church planting or replanting. I’m doin’ it right now. I’m doin’ it right now. We just took certain guys and rearranged the seats on the bus.

Yesterday we fired two elders for the first time in the history of Mars Hill last night. They’re off the bus, under the bus. They were off mission so now they’re unemployed. I mean (pause) you—this will be the defining issue as to whether or not you succeed or fail. I've read enough of the New Testament to know that occasionally Paul put someone in the woodchipper, y'know? [emphasis added]

For those who want the audio file source that would be the October 1, 2007 Preaching Cadre and the timestamp in the original file would be about 2:22:23 but since the audio may never have been released the audio at Joyful Exiles has to suffice for now.

What Driscoll shared from the pulpit as an aside and what Driscoll shared with associated leaders in a preaching cadre was not necessarily the same as what he formally told members of Mars Hill had been going on.  In a letter from Mark Driscoll to Mars Hill Church dated November 8, 2007 he wrote of the reorganization and the reasoning for its necessity:

One of the problems was that Mars Hill had essentially outgrown the wisdom of our team and needed outside counsel. The church had grown so fast that some of our elders and other leaders were simply falling behind and having trouble keeping up, which was understandable. To make matters worse, there was a growing disrespect among some elders who were jockeying for and abusing power. The illusion of unity our eldership had maintained over the years was kept in part by my tolerating some men who demanded more power, pay, control, and voice than their performance, character, or giftedness merited. While this was a very short list of men, as elders they had enough power to make life truly painful.
At the same time I began receiving other lucrative job offers that would allow me to study, preach, and write without all of the administrative duties and burdens for which I am not sufficiently gifted to be responsible for. For the first time in my life, the thought of leaving Mars Hill sounded very relieving. Since I had given ten years of my life to the church and love the people desperately, it was obvious to me that something was deeply wrong that such offers would even be intriguing.

So, I began pursuing counsel from godly men outside the church that I respected. I spoke with Tim Keller about the difficulties of an urban church, John Piper about how to sustain longevity in the ministry, C. J. Mahaney about bitterness that had grown in me against some elders of Mars Hill and my need to grow in humility, D. A. Carson about how to best study so as to become an even better Bible teacher and writer, Gerry Breshears about how to best train other men for ministry to share the load, Pastor Larry Osborne about how to best architect a multi-campus church, and Pastors Craig Groeschel and Ed Young Jr. about how to lead a church of thousands and possibly tens of thousands. On top of that, I pursued counsel from a Christian doctor regarding my health and what needed to change in my diet, exercise, and schedule. In short, I sought wise outside counsel regarding if I should stay at Mars Hill and make changes in my life and our church, or simply move on to another church and start over.

The consensus was that Mars Hill was poorly architected to be a multi-campus, multi-elder, multithousand
person church. My administrative gifts had simply reached their capacity and the church needed to be re-organized so that campuses could be led by elder teams to ensure that our people were best cared for, our doctrine best taught, and our mission best led. This meant that I needed to give up a great deal of power and trust other elders, deacons, and members to care for the church with the same passionate affection that I have for our people.

To begin this process I had to go first and divest myself of a great deal of power. In the history of
the church I have held the three positions of greatest authority. …

To put it plainly more than just a few members of Mars Hill Church did not believe that Mark Driscoll had managed to do more than formally divest himself of a great deal of power.  Even the question of whether or not Mars Hill was poorly architected to be a multi-campus, multi-elder, multi-thousand person church was never really explained, it was simply asserted that there was a consensus and the implication had to be taken as given as to who constituted the members of the asserted consensus.  Had the elders not sought out a piece of real estate that was not even zoned for the publicly stated uses the problems tacitly assumed to have existed in the architecture of Mars Hill wouldn’t even have existed. 

But since there were real problems with achieving the goals for growth stated in Driscoll’s 2006 book, not least of which had to do with real estate zoning codes, a “plan B” had to be implemented. Along the way to articulating what the projected future governance would be for Mars Hill, Driscoll told Mars Hill members via letter that it was from Larry Osborne he learned how best to architect a multi-campus church.  Within the context of the leadership culture of Mars Hill Driscoll would have firmer, sterner things to say.