Saturday, June 02, 2018

a review of Jessica Johnson's Biblical Porn is finally taking shape

Since this is Wenatchee The Hatchet it's not going to be short and in light of how much material has so often been purged in connection to the history of Mars Hill or to things Mark Driscoll has said the review will be front-loaded with a dauntingly large variety of material that's available for public consideration.  While Johnson's ethnographic study on what was once Mars Hill covers a two year period and has some follow-up research during the volatile final years, the history of Mark Driscoll's eagerness to address topics like sexuality, gender and sexuality in media presentation spans decades.  It's taken time to find the most relevant and arguably most representative moments in Mark Driscoll's career addressing these topics in public through media over a twenty year period starting in 1992 and culminating in the 2012 book Real Marriage.

Along the way I have come to a somewhat depressing thought that as information access explodes cultural memory for said information evaporates.  When people ask, all too often rhetorically, how it's possible that in a city like Seattle that a Mark Driscoll could have had so much success the answer is that, frankly, people in Seattle are not ultimately smarter or wiser than other people.  To put it another way, what Ellul wrote half a century ago was that the truly uneducated aren't literate enough to be swayed by propaganda.  Whatever was being proposed by an Ong-style "post-literature society" there's a real sense in which we aren't post-literate.  The word may have been humbled by the preference for the image but words still travel quickly.  If you saturate all media channels quickly enough what would be memorable in some other way is easily forgotten.  Mark said so many things about women and gays and sex and marriage that his story about how this one time he prayed God would kill a guy and supposedly that happened was forgotten by "everybody".  Even I had forgotten about it until I was reminded of it by Jessica Johnson's book and then, suddenly, I remembered it clearly and vividly enough to go trawl up the audio from the "Judah and Tamar" sermon; find the timestamp for the anecdote, and blog about the material so that it can be kept around for consideration.  When a guy tells a story like that and then later demonizes dissent it helps to explain why people inside Mh felt they could not speak up too much.  If Mark's casting his lot with charismatics then having someone who blogs about his doings come from an ex-charismatic/Pentecostal background might be handy.

So the review is finally likely to  go up in the next few days but it will be  a slog.  Can't sugar coat that.  I think the book is necessary reading for anyone who used to go to Mars Hill who can handle PhD level prose.  It's an academic monograph, be warned.

But Johnson wrote something that I think will be and has been lost in reviews of her work.  There is a propensity to put all the blame on mark himself and to miss what Johnson means by "affect".  Understanding what she means by "affect" is crucial because it unlocks the core of something about Mars Hill--we can't just keep scapegoating "him" without analyzing what "we" invested of ourselves and what 'we" got out of the participation.  Scapegoating a guy like Mark will lead us down a path to making the same kinds of mistakes but for different teams.  To be rather blunt about this point, if people think they have stopped drinking the Mars HIll kool aid and go all in for a Clinton or a Sanders or a Trump then they haven't stopped drinking the kool aid (not that I"m saying you can't vote for those people).  Breaking free of Mars Hill's toxic legacy is not just about uncovering the "what" of what was taught but understanding the potency of the "how" of its branding, virality and media saturation methods.  Its' hard to think of a church that had a more potent combination of sociological and horizontal propaganda.

Something Justin Dean said in a podcast interview was that he was proud that Mars Hill was able to use data mining to observe things about church member and media user behavior patterns, I think .. . if memory serves me.  That a church leader could say that's something to be proud of suggests to me that Mars Hill needs a great deal more academic study rather than being ignored as it has been here in Seattle and in Christian media.  People seem busy pretending that whatever happened was an aberration and not emblematic of the age.  Mars Hill might be a potent case study of the megachurch in the age of what some writers have called "surveillance capitalism" but all the key players who developed the architecture and infrastructure for that kind of system have been set on "moving on".  I hoe they don't all "move on". 

The Book of Judges is a ghastly yet paradoxically beautiful book for preserving some of the grisliest atrocities in the history of Judaism, not unlike how Jewish prophetic literature is a bit different from divinatory oracles in other settings from the ancient near east for having very harsh dissident literature that condemns the evils of ruling elites rather than just pandering to them.  I don't think I have to elaborate too much that I've drawn some inspiration from the biblical prophetic books as ancient dissident literature even if it is often a subliminal or subterranean influence that you wouldn't spot unless you were also steeped in stuff such as how Ezekiel repurposes literature venerating a pagan god to show how Yahweh will crush that god with the god's own weaponry.  Which ... well ... gets me thinking about how Mars Hill lived by the social media sword and in some crucial ways died of it. 

Back when Mars Hill was at its peak I had friends ask what it could hurt to meet with the leaders about stuff.  My response then, and now, is to invoke Judges 9.  Jotham didn't need to meet with the Shechemites, did he?  There was a place to say that the Shechemites and Abimelech could go down in ignominy for their cruelty.  So, ,yeah, if you can appreciate that there are stories of wicked leaders and abusive societies chronicled in Judges as a warning to "don't be like these people!" there's a lot of beauty hidden in the gore.  I think we do need a chronicle of the cumulative and collective failings of people of faith and especially of their atrocities.  If these things were recorded in the Bible for Jewish and Christians to consider as part of their respective heritages why on earth should we act as if in the light of more recent abuses that we should just "move on" and claim there's no edification in examining more closely what terrible things have been done to people in the name of ostensibly good causes? 

I feel like I'm half way through the review that should go up.  This may take a few more days of thinking and considering the material. 

The Atlantic has "the birth of the new american meritocracy", which is another way of saying a new variation on an old observation about the upper fifth of America's castes

Will McDavid over at Mbird leads Another Week Ends with a read from The Atlantic about how even the "nones" in America have a statistical segment that believes there is a (G/g)od.

Crafting a religion is a self-defeating enterprise. For something to produce good feeling, it must be true (or at least be perceived as true); for something to be true (or perceived as such), it must be received rather than constructed (or perceived as non-constructed). Even Pygmalion, who fell in love with the statute he sculpted, needed Aphrodite’s intervention to bring it to life. That which he constructed couldn’t really come to life without a gift from outside himself.

So the study’s finding that American nones are ‘more’ religious–presumably because more of them are absolutely certain of God’s existence–bears qualification. Faith is a matter not only of the fact of God’s existence (God’s existence being one of the most philosophical, least personal, things about God), but also of what God is like. “Do you believe in total-immersion baptism?”, the old joke goes, with then reply, “Believe in it? I’ve seen it done!”. Existence of something is interesting, but it’s one’s attitude toward and relation to that thing which matter.


The "solution" that can be easily employed is in defining what the nature of truth is and the extent to which it has to be true.  It doesn't have to be true for you if it can be true for me.  Perhaps people can take a further step and simply employ the axiom that if it feels good it is good and if it feels true therefore it is true. 

The Pew research may have measured "none" in connection to affiliation with entities that can file 990s. To put this in a more tangential way, one of my friends who used to work for Mars Hill got her job cut in the 2014 meltdown and said she didn't feel she could ever work for a non-profit again.  She wasn't saying non-profits shouldn't exist or that non-profits as a whole were terrible but that she would personally never feel like she could work for a non-profit again.  The Pew research suggests a potentially comparable range of experiences, that there are people who believe a god exists and may, ,in fact, even believe in the risen Jesus, who nonetheless have been so put off by the conduct of some 501(c) variation of church they refuse to identify with such a formal institution. 

Tagged on at the end almost as an afterthought there's the article about the new meritocracy at The Atlantic.

... Our glory peaked on the day my parents came home with a new Volkswagen camper bus. As I got older, the holiday pomp of patriotic luncheons and bridge-playing rituals came to seem faintly ridiculous and even offensive, like an endless birthday party for people whose chief accomplishment in life was just showing up. I belonged to a new generation that believed in getting ahead through merit, and we defined merit in a straightforward way: test scores, grades, competitive résumé-stuffing, supremacy in board games and pickup basketball, and, of course, working for our keep. For me that meant taking on chores for the neighbors, punching the clock at a local fast-food restaurant, and collecting scholarships to get through college and graduate school. I came into many advantages by birth, but money was not among them.

I’ve joined a new aristocracy now, even if we still call ourselves meritocratic winners. If you are a typical reader of The Atlantic, you may well be a member too. (And if you’re not a member, my hope is that you will find the story of this new class even more interesting—if also more alarming.) To be sure, there is a lot to admire about my new group, which I’ll call—for reasons you’ll soon see—the 9.9 percent. We’ve dropped the old dress codes, put our faith in facts, and are (somewhat) more varied in skin tone and ethnicity. People like me, who have waning memories of life in an earlier ruling caste, are the exception, not the rule

Over the last seven years I have sometimes wondered whether or not some Mbird readers who express skepticism about superhero movies are expressing skepticism about an unabashedly lowbrow idiom from a middlebrow or highbrow social position.  Yes, superhero films are often cheesy and predictable but the cheese is, so to speak, on top of the pizza.  The pizza "toppings" are things you may never discover if you don't take a bite.  In middlebrow as distinct from lowbrow the pizza has all the toppings on top like we'd expect a "normal" pizza to have, so all the meat is stuff that can be picked off a slice of pepperoni or a piece of Italian sausage at a time while the cheese itself, which is no less foundational to the core of the pizza by resting on the structural crust, is still as plentiful as ever.  But in terms of criticism as an art and social signal the toppings are all in a place where the fundamental cheese doesn't have to be addressed if you don't want to. 

What this allows for is for someone to make the quaint and obvious observation that Captain America suits up to fight crime while Wonder Woman strips down to fight evil.  Ah, yes, so cogent but the kind of bromide anyone could make who isn't committed to digging in a bit deeper; that Black Panther can be presented as a conflict between African and African American thought about the global history of black experience is right there on the surface and Charles Mudede can see it and note that it's one of many things that makes Black Panther fun.  But Wonder Woman and Captain America both run with the idea that the team that is supposedly the "good guys" is the seedbed of evil--in Wonder Woman Diana discovers Ares is not in Germany but comfortably ensconced within the English aristocracy and has secretly been orchestrating an "armistice" that will pave the way for even more war, as World War I ends in a way that makes World War II certain; Steve Rogers discovers in The Winter Soldier that SHIELD did not defeat Hydra but was assimilated into and taken over by it. 

What superhero movies have by way of surface cheese is still cheesy as ever but the meat under the toppings is that superhero movies are the American idiom in which those who benefit from the meritocratic strata of superheroes are examined in terms of what social and moral obligations they are expected to have by way of that aristocratic birth or benefit.  As I've been saying over the years, a Batman (whether in Batman: the animates series or in Nolan's Batman) is a way for Americans or people interested in American culture to consider what the one percent "should" be like--if there's always going to be a one percent what do we expect of that ideal one percent.  A play at meritocracy is a play at denying the benefits of birth, perhaps?   Richard Reeves' Dream Hoarders makes a similar case to the Atlantic piece on the meritocratic castes only he doesn't put his finger on the upper 9.9 percent but on the entire upper 20%.   All the rhetoric of the "99 percent" can be deployed by those who are in the range of 20 to 2 percent as if these people had solidarity with the 100 to 21 percentile participants in society.   People who can afford to attend Oberlin or Reed or Cornish or Seattle U or the University of Washington can speak and write as if they can identify the privilege in others with comparable educations as if they had solidarity with high school drop outs in socioeconomic terms. 

Every piece of the pie picked up by the 0.1 percent, in relative terms, had to come from the people below. But not everyone in the 99.9 percent gave up a slice. Only those in the bottom 90 percent did. At their peak, in the mid-1980s, people in this group held 35 percent of the nation’s wealth. Three decades later that had fallen 12 points—exactly as much as the wealth of the 0.1 percent rose.
In between the top 0.1 percent and the bottom 90 percent is a group that has been doing just fine. It has held on to its share of a growing pie decade after decade. And as a group, it owns substantially more wealth than do the other two combined. In the tale of three classes (see Figure 1), it is represented by the gold line floating high and steady while the other two duke it out. You’ll find the new aristocracy there. We are the 9.9 percent.

So what kind of characters are we, the 9.9 percent? We are mostly not like those flamboyant political manipulators from the 0.1 percent. We’re a well-behaved, flannel-suited crowd of lawyers, doctors, dentists, mid-level investment bankers, M.B.A.s with opaque job titles, and assorted other professionals—the kind of people you might invite to dinner. In fact, we’re so self-effacing, we deny our own existence. We keep insisting that we’re “middle class.”

As of 2016, it took $1.2 million in net worth to make it into the 9.9 percent; $2.4 million to reach the group’s median; and $10 million to get into the top 0.9 percent. (And if you’re not there yet, relax: Our club is open to people who are on the right track and have the right attitude.) “We are the 99 percent” sounds righteous, but it’s a slogan, not an analysis. The families at our end of the spectrum wouldn’t know what to do with a pitchfork.


So it takes $2.4 million in net worth to reach the group median of the 9.9 percent?  If that's true then if this estimate has any weight then Mark Driscoll's firmly at the median of the net worth it takes to be in the 9.9 percent.  And perhaps as an exemplar of ("an", by no means "the") 9.9 Mark Driscoll's career depended on a lot of breaks given to him by other people along the way to his being a celebrity Christian. 
There's another article that comes to mind from The Atlantic, actually, and it's about how a recent study suggests the old "marshmallow test" not only doesn't necessarily replicate but was taken to measure something it didn't measure.  Kids waiting to get two treats instead of one if they just wait X minutes isn't necessarily a demonstration of "willpower" but of socioeconomic enculturation, i.e. rich kids grow up in contexts where they know they will be rewarded for patience and understand this concept.  The mighty Monarch can wait for his trust fund to kick out of escrow and then he can go on to a self-appointed career of supervillainy as a trust fund baby, for those who watch The Venture Bros.  But for those who don't, here's the pertinent other article from The Atlantic.

The marshmallow test is one of the most famous pieces of social-science research: Put a marshmallow in front of a child, tell her that she can have a second one if she can go 15 minutes without eating the first one, and then leave the room. Whether she’s patient enough to double her payout is supposedly indicative of a willpower that will pay dividends down the line, at school and eventually at work. Passing the test is, to many, a promising signal of future success.

But a new study, published last week, has cast the whole concept into doubt. The researchers—NYU’s Tyler Watts and UC Irvine’s Greg Duncan and Hoanan Quan—restaged the classic marshmallow test, which was developed by the Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel in the 1960s. Mischel and his colleagues administered the test and then tracked how children went on to fare later in life. They described the results in a 1990 study, which suggested that delayed gratification had huge benefits, including on such measures as standardized test scores.
Watts and his colleagues were skeptical of that finding. The original results were based on studies that included fewer than 90 children—all enrolled in a preschool on Stanford’s campus. In restaging the experiment, Watts and his colleagues thus adjusted the experimental design in important ways: The researchers used a sample that was much larger—more than 900 children—and also more representative of the general population in terms of race, ethnicity, and parents’ education. The researchers also, when analyzing their test’s results, controlled for certain factors—such as the income of a child’s household—that might explain children’s ability to delay gratification and their long-term success.

Ultimately, the new study finds limited support for the idea that being able to delay gratification leads to better outcomes. Instead, it suggests that the capacity to hold out for a second marshmallow is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background—and, in turn, that that background, not the ability to delay gratification, is what’s behind kids’ long-term success.

The marshmallow test isn’t the only experimental study that has recently failed to hold up under closer scrutiny. Some scholars and journalists have gone so far to suggest that psychology is in the midst of a “replication crisis.” In the case of this new study, specifically, the failure to confirm old assumptions pointed to an important truth: that circumstances matter more in shaping children’s lives than Mischel and his colleagues seemed to appreciate.

This new paper found that among kids whose mothers had a college degree, those who waited for a second marshmallow did no better in the long run—in terms of standardized test scores and mothers’ reports of their children’s behavior—than those who dug right in. Similarly, among kids whose mothers did not have college degrees, those who waited did no better than those who gave in to temptation, once other factors like household income and the child’s home environment at age 3 (evaluated according to a standard research measure that notes, for instance, the number of books that researchers observed in the home and how responsive mothers were to their children in the researchers’ presence) were taken into account. For those kids, self-control alone couldn’t overcome economic and social disadvantages.

The failed replication of the marshmallow test does more than just debunk the earlier notion; it suggests other possible explanations for why poorer kids would be less motivated to wait for that second marshmallow. For them, daily life holds fewer guarantees: There might be food in the pantry today, but there might not be tomorrow, so there is a risk that comes with waiting. And even if their parents promise to buy more of a certain food, sometimes that promise gets broken out of financial necessity.

So it's possible after all these years what that test measured was socio-economic class and its enculturated benefits, not "willpower". 

one of my favorite parts of the meritocracy article is where it translates the "part time nanny" of now into the "governess" of the 19th century Victorian novel idiom.

New forms of life necessarily give rise to new and distinct forms of consciousness. If you doubt this, you clearly haven’t been reading the “personal and household services” ads on At the time of this writing, the section for my town of Brookline, Massachusetts, featured one placed by a “busy professional couple” seeking a “Part Time Nanny.” The nanny (or manny—the ad scrupulously avoids committing to gender) is to be “bright, loving, and energetic”; “friendly, intelligent, and professional”; and “a very good communicator, both written and verbal.” She (on balance of probability) will “assist with the care and development” of two children and will be “responsible for all aspects of the children’s needs,” including bathing, dressing, feeding, and taking the young things to and from school and activities. That’s why a “college degree in early childhood education” is “a plus.”

In short, Nanny is to have every attribute one would want in a terrific, professional, college-educated parent. Except, of course, the part about being an actual professional, college-educated parent. There is no chance that Nanny will trade places with our busy 5G couple. She “must know the proper etiquette in a professionally run household” and be prepared to “accommodate changing circumstances.” She is required to have “5+ years experience as a Nanny,” which makes it unlikely that she’ll have had time to get the law degree that would put her on the other side of the bargain. All of Nanny’s skills, education, experience, and professionalism will land her a job that is “Part Time.”

The ad is written in flawless, 21st-century business-speak, but what it is really seeking is a governess—that exquisitely contradictory figure in Victorian literature who is both indistinguishable in all outward respects from the upper class and yet emphatically not a member of it. Nanny’s best bet for moving up in the world is probably to follow the example of Jane Eyre and run off with the lord (or lady) of the manor.

If you look beyond the characters in this unwritten novel about Nanny and her 5G masters, you’ll see a familiar shape looming on the horizon. The Gatsby Curve has managed to reproduce itself in social, physiological, and cultural capital. Put more accurately: There is only one curve, but it operates through a multiplicity of forms of wealth.

It's a really long-form piece for The Atlantic but when the author gets to this sarcasm soaked-paragraph it's ... :

You see, when educated people with excellent credentials band together to advance their collective interest, it’s all part of serving the public good by ensuring a high quality of service, establishing fair working conditions, and giving merit its due. That’s why we do it through “associations,” and with the assistance of fellow professionals wearing white shoes. When working-class people do it—through unions—it’s a violation of the sacred principles of the free market. It’s thuggish and anti-modern. Imagine if workers hired consultants and “compensation committees,” consisting of their peers at other companies, to recommend how much they should be paid. The result would be—well, we know what it would be, because that’s what CEOs do.


gotten me thinking about a previously alluded to possible member of the 9.9 percent, the celebrity Christian sort who may really believe he actually worked his way to that position so that his kids can have a great future.  In a way that plagiarism controversy could be distilled to a controversy about all sorts of writers whose work someone forgot to thank along the way to his success the first time around who got footnotes and acknowledgments in second editions.  Perhaps membership in the 9.9 percent is being able to afford that "do over" without having one's credibility or reputation completely decimated by such a set of controversies.

There are always going to be good old boy networks and what will happen when glass ceilings get broken is that the good old boy networks can turn into good people networks and that will, in some sense, be more fair in one respect but probably not in others. 

What an ideological turn like intersectionality may be best at, I'm afraid, is disguising privilege in such a way that those most committed to intersectionality and identity politics may completely fail to grasp that its socio-economic end is perhaps simply masking one's own privilege first from one's own self and from anyone else with whom a person of such privilege might be arguing.  Or as I've put it in other posts, there seems to be a generation of Americans who go to college and think that because they can quote Walter Benjamin they're not part of a ruling caste or participants in what the Frankfurt school authors sometimes called the culture industry.  If the right-leaning "red state" variation of this is meritocracy (inevitably noted along the way in the Atlantic article) the left-leaning blue state variation of hiding privilege from yourself may reside in intersectionality but, I suggest this weekend, the rhetorical gambit, the magic spell, can end up being much the same. 


It seems to me that the appeal of a guy like Jordan Peterson might be explicable in terms of a 9.9 percent concern about the danger of downward social mobility.  As the character Charlie in Whit Stillman's film Metropolitan put the question, why do Americans always love stories of social mobility where the trajectory is always up?  Why don't we see American stories of downward mobility?  While conservatives have a penchant for Stillman (see how easily his name springs up at The Imaginative Conservative, for instance), Whit Stillman gets that not all forms of socialist thought are automatically Marxist or Leninist.  One of the funniest lines in Metropolitan is, "You're a Fourierist!?"  Brook Farm may have failed but at least Charlie knew who Fourier was in his conversation with Tom.  When hanging out with conservative friends and family one of my regular frustrations is their propensity to collapse anything and everything to the left of them as Marxist, much like I find it exasperating that when I hang out with liberal or progressive friends that they regard anything to the right of them as fascist. 

And so for fans of Jordan Peterson any credulous moment of doubt that he can meaningfully appeal to men who aren't in some way in the 9.9 percent may get blasted as being unconcerned about the crisis of masculinity in our contemporary society.  My friends who work in construction or as electricians don't seem to know or care who Peterson is and there's nothing he seems to have on offer that matters to them.  They have their wives and children and they can debate whether or not it's worth it to see the next Star Wars installment without it necessarily being about whether we need to jettison the cliché of the strong female character with appeals to stereotypes about what women can plausibly do in action genres in which people who believe in the Force can perform superhuman feats.  I found The Last Jedi exasperating for a lot of reasons but Rey being a Mary Sue was not one of them because a Mary Sue or Marty Stue is the new normal.  Seeming to effortlessly master everything as if by benefit of birth or being the chosen one might just be a new variant of pop cultural tropes imbued with a generation's worth of cultural accretion from, just to be polemical about this, the 9.9 percent.  What better way to demonstrate in popular culture how the chosen few are basically born into their greatness by dint of parentage than via fantasy genres like Star Wars or the superhero genre? 

What made Roberts' handwringing essay so ridiculous was that by the time Rogue One got released a bit more than half a year later the kinds of bad dialogue that was littered in the trailer didn't even show up in the film.  Turned out Erso's character arc involved a form of reconnecting with her father and carrying on his quiet form of dissent as a designer by capturing the plans to the Death Star so as to give the Rebellion a chance to destroy the Death Star in a plot that made sense in relational terms and solved the most glaring plot hole in the original Star Wars, which was why on earth anyone would design a planet-destroying space station weapons system in which a single well-placed shot could cause a chain reaction that would destroy the entire platform.  Plus Donnie Yen was in it, which, honestly, was what tipped the scale for me. 

But even there, what did we see?  The child of someone great goes on to greatness.  Even in our pulpiest genre films who you're born to makes all the difference in the world.  Even in complete, abject misfires like the Amazing Spider-man with Garfield there were needless subplots about Peter trying to find out the truth about his parents.   We didn't get what we got in the comics, Parker learning that his parents were traitors and spies who worked for the Red Skull before discovering later they were secret agents who died after discovering what the Red Skull planned to do and warning people.   Instead we got yet another tedious Norman Osborne back story in which family is destiny. 

Here's the thing, though, what if people from the 9.9 percent are so aghast at wasting time on the pulp stories and what they can tell us that they aren't looking at how the upper tiers of American culture-making are dropping the reality of the entrenched meritocratic aristocracy of superheroes and world-changers in every pulpy piece of popular culture for the masses and the lowbrow while explicitly and emphatically denying that in preferences for middlebrow and highbrow? 

Friday, June 01, 2018

via ArtsJournal, classical music critic who I'd never heard of before until literally today lays criticism aside "it was fun while it lasted" considering the "classical" music scene as a realm of bloggers and scholars in search of connection

So Colin Eatock has announced he's drawing back from classical music criticism.

I only heard of Eatock literally today as he announced he was setting criticism aside.  That may be an indicator of how peripheral classical music criticism and writing has become.

The observation that the First, Second and Third worlds of classical music map out in a way that's not the same as the usual first, second and third world has to be borne in mind.  Canada and New Zealand are "third world" in Eatock's taxonomy by having basically no composers as part of the Western classical music canon. 

It's possible to be born in classical music's First World and still be completely unknown.  I doubt any guitarists are going to rush to perform or record the French composer Aubert Lemeland's Duo Variations for viola and guitar, op. 77, even though it's a beautiful piece because it's scored in D flat major, which is basically kryptonite to too many guitarists.  Not that I can just "tell" a viola and guitar duo that they should record Ferdinand Rebay's Sonata for Viola and Guitar and Aubert Lemeland's Duo Variations as a backbone for an album of music (maybe throwing in Adler's Into the Radiant Boundaries of Light) ... but there's some gorgeous and inventive music for viola and guitar out there. 

Eatock raised a point that I've seen made by Kyle Gann, too, that popular music is, in fact, the new hegemonic music.
It’s perhaps difficult for someone immersed in the culture of classical music to see the oldness of the standard repertoire as problematic. Yet almost nothing composed in the last fifty years has been integrated into the standard repertoire. As such, the classical canon today is a kind of museum of musical values from bygone eras. And while this museum culture may appeal to those who are historically inclined, for people today who have little interest in the past (a considerable chunk of the population), it’s a problem. Musical values have changed substantially in the last century.

I’m not here to rant about popular music, or denounce rock and roll as the Devil’s music. On the contrary, I grew up with plenty of popular music in my life, and I still enjoy it. But what concerns me is the hegemony of pop music, which has, I think, had a profound effect on the way people listen to classical music – indeed, on their ability to listen to it. People who have heard nothing but popular music all their lives (again, a considerable chunk of the population) will, of necessity, develop certain assumptions about what music is “supposed to” sound like. Someone who only knows a repertoire of three-minute Top 40 songs in verse-chorus form may find a lengthy, textless orchestral work daunting and interminable. Someone weaned on percussive rock or rap music at high volumes may hear a string quartet as feeble and wimpy. And someone who admires the “natural” voices of Bob Dylan or Tom Waits may experience Plácido Domingo as artificial and overwrought.


There are those who say that what’s needed is more music education programs, with a classical emphasis, in our schools. I’m certainly not opposed to this, but I fear that such efforts often create an academic aura around classical music that serves to further separate it from the “real world.” (This is the sorry fate that has befallen the art of poetry.) The goal should be to bring classical music back into the everyday lives of everyday people.

Musicians, educators, concert presenters, and all others involved in the promotion of classical music need to take a hard look at the cultural messages that may be undermining their efforts. It’s worth remembering that the division of musical cultures into “high” and “low” – separating the classical from the popular – was largely an invention of the classical music world itself. This kind of thinking has a long history, but it was only in the twentieth century that it coalesced into a rigid ideology of exclusion.

It’s time for classical music to finally get over the idea that it’s not merely different from, but opposed to, other musics: that classical music and no other kind is “timeless,” “universal”, and “great.” This, in and of itself, will not solve the problem of getting people to appreciate (or even sit through) a Wagner opera. But it would, at least, bring classical music back into touch with the values of the contemporary world. If classical music today finds itself isolated on the wrong side of a cultural Berlin Wall, it’s a wall that it built itself. We need to demolish that wall, if we are to convince the world at large that classical music should and does have a place in the contemporary world.

What's interesting about this proposal is that a lot of its practical application seems to hinge around dismantling the ideological legacy of German idealism, which has started to seem like a theme running across all of arts criticism in the contemporary Anglo-American scene.  Michael Lind has a piece that's more direct and explicit about the exasperating long-term legacy of the German Romantics and German idealism on the way we think of the arts, art innovation, genre and craft.  David P Roberts has no less than three books that grapple in different ways with what he considered to be Adorno's weakness of being emotionally and ideologically trapped within "the long 19th century" and this despite Adorno's advocacy of 12-tone composition and Beckett--Adorno still felt like a Romantic against the depredations of modernity and his dismissal of Stravinsky's "masks" as inauthentic revealed the ultimately Romantic disposition swirling behind the off-putting academic jargon and anti-capitalist writing.  Stravinsky's problem was that he embraced a relentless rhythmic dance musc that abjured "interiority" and the subjective listening experience in which listening happens in linear time and this as distinct from experiencing music as a kind of space. But that whole era of listening as a cognitive paradigm is, arguably, shifting. 

The ascent of rock or pop isn't the only variable to consider, though. Another shift that probably bodes ill for classical music as conceived within the ream of German idealism and its legacy, and those who advocate for the musical canons formed within the wake of those legacies, is that the 20th century is less the century of the symphony than the century of the song.  The art of a fusion of text and music, often with wildly ironic and disorienting juxtapositions has been with us for a century.  We have ourselves an era inw hich a Baroque doctrine of the affections has been jettisoned in favor of music that can be so at odds with the text that you can get, to pick a non-random example, a calm string quartet accompaniment via synthesizers for Stevie Wonder's "Village Ghetto Land".  The contrast between the ostensibly aristocratic and white style of the string quartet in the background while Wonder sings about urban squalor is pretty obvious to just about anyone with even a modicum of musical literacy.  This doesn't mean Wonder's necessarily "arguing" across the board that classical music has no populist elements.  This is still the same Stevie Wonder who sang Schubert's "Ave Marie", after all.

But in a way that gets to one of the larger points that have been made within and about the classical music scene.  We have someone like Stevie Wonder performing Schubert and ... where's the turn-around or the mutuality of the hat tip? 

Eatock in his signing off from classical music criticism put it this way:
I believe that our culture (and by “our culture” I’m talking about North America, and perhaps also Europe, to some extent) has undergone a fundamental shift. Expertise is no longer much valued in the cultural sphere; rather, it seems that the currently prevailing belief is that any one person’s opinion is as good as any other’s. Furthermore, if critical judgements are acknowledged at all, they are the judgements of the masses, expressed in economic terms: what is best is what sells the most.

There are some determined “elitists” who steadfastly oppose this trend. I wish them well, but I’ve come to the conclusion that to stand against this sea-change is to defy the incoming tide, as King Canute once tried to do. And even Canute knew when his feet were wet.

As a profession, classical music criticism emerged in the early 19th century and remained an esteemed aspect of musical culture to the end of the 20th century.  It had a good run. But to cling to the idea, in the year 2018, that music criticism remains somehow relevant, and to soldier on with it, is to behave like a child clinging to a much-loved but hopelessly broken toy who refuses to throw it away.


The "long 19th century" has been over for quite some time and the art of music has evolved in ways and into idioms and genres for which the 19th century's Western symphonic canon and chamber music scene may or may not play as prominent a role. 

But that hardly means that classical music is dying.  For one thing, choral music hasn't exactly gone away and vocal music saturates the airwaves by way of song.  For another, admitting a bias here as a guitarist, the guitar literature has exploded with a variety and vitality that would be worth scholarly examination of the musicology mainstream could be bothered to recognize it in ... maybe any way at all.  Kyle Gann went so far as to suggest "make way for the guitar era" a few years ago ... but we've been in the guitar era for about a century.

This is a subject I've been mulling over for years because it does seem like there's plenty to write about but it does not mean that mainstream music journalism is writing about the stuff that is out there to be written about.  To pick my non-random example of late, contrapuntal cycles for solo guitar are out there to be written about and for the most part nobody is writing about them so ... I've taken on that project.  In that sense my impression about the journalistic scene to do with classical music is not so different from the impression I had about the journalist scene on the subject of what is now the former church Mars Hill, that there were platoons of journalists and writers who "could" have written in a more informed way than they were setting their minds and pens to on the subject(s) at hand but that they didn't want to and that, more often than not, because they'd already made up their minds for or against rather than digging a bit. 

So if I see that there isn't anything out there in music journalism or classical music criticism discussing ways in which guitarist composers handle sonata forms and fugue what do I do?  I write about that stuff myself.

The crisis of the institutional press with respect to arts criticism is that without institutional focus there is, in a sense, no "culture" out there to be discussed and that may be a crisis not of culture itself but of the nature of institutional press coverage or monetization issues.  Koshkin's 24 preludes and fugues for solo guitar have been in print for more than a year but I haven't seen any long-form analysis of his work ... besides mine.  I've seen some shorter reviews and that's something, but considering that this is a cycle that is published by a guitarist I would have thought there would be more coverage about that. 

So in all sorts of ways it's tough to know for sure if it matters that mainstream classical music criticism withers on the vine.  it's also tough to know whether or not bloggers who write about the local new music scene aren't simply doing for free what journalists would have been expected to do in the past.  Is the monetization of the coverage by an institution really the most salient thing to be said about arts journalism?  Possibly ... in the sense that a ne Slonimsky Leixcon of Musical Invective would only have teeth based on the contrast between an institutional condemnation by a vituperative music critic on the one hand and the assured historic emergence of canonic repertoire as a contrast on the other; nobody would make a new version of Slonimsky's Lexicon of Musical Invective based strictly on Youtube comments putting down music and musical performances. 

Richard Taruskin, of course, has been beating the drum that the gap between the academic canon and the repertoire canon has become far too large in the last century and that people listen to rock and pop and other forms of music because it speaks more directly and pertinently to their actual lives and this is not necessarily even the fault of classical composers across the board.  Shostakovich managed to become part of the canon, after all, as has Stravinsky and Prokofiev. 

I might contest the Second World taxonomy on the issue of a lack of A-list composers.  Sweelinck is a fine composer but not a fine composer on the basis of German idealism.  The idea that the UK is in the "second world" on classical music has a lot to do with German idealism and put-downs about the English being a nation of shopkeepers but there's no reason for me to not regard William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, John Dowland and Henry Purcell as superb composers.  But, again, they don't necessarily rate in terms of the 19th century ideals of autonomous music, symphonic music, instrumental grandeur and notions of interiority and all that.  Drop the expectations of German idealism and the freight of the New German notions spanning Hoffman through Wagner through Schoenberg and beyond and Byrd and Tallis can be considered unparalleled masters within their respective idiom. 

Over the last twenty or so years I might have been able to get the impression that old approaches to composition like sonata or fugue are "obsolete" in light of 20th century innovations.  But I never took at face value those kinds of assertions.  There's also no reason that a sonata form or a fugue is inimical to vernacular or popular music.  There's every reason to imagine that you could take the principles of invertible counterpoint and write a fugue for pedal steel guitar or slide guitar.  It's just a matter of going out and doing it and seeing what works and what doesn't.  There's every reason to believe ragtime and sonata form can be synthesized at the level of the syntactic scripts and the nuts and bolts of the style.  But so long as musicologists fixate on delineating the boundaries of genres and enforcing racial and racist purity narratives about this music being "white" and that music being "black" or vice versa or about this music being inauthentic and that music being authentic based on what are all too often patently bigoted extra-musical narratives then musicologists are going to be adversarial to what seem like the most overdue and interesting possibilities of musical exploration.  That there are genres with identifiable traits and "boundary markers" is no reason to assume these boundaries are impermeable and a good deal of music criticism and music journalism traffics in the assumption that the boundaries are impermeable and the checklists non-negotiable.  Maybe the checklists are non-negotiable but the boundaries are permeable. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

index of posts discussing the background of Mark Driscoll's connection to Larry Osborne

In the last day or so I noticed that despite the tag at least half of the posts in a recent analytical series of posts on the relationship between Mark Driscoll and Larry Osborne don't come up.  If you were to follow the tag you might only see five or even as few as four posts.  So ... as an attempt to remedy that internet hiccup, here's an index of posts and topics of said posts.

part 1 Mark Driscoll recounting his Fall 2004 meeting with Larry Osborne at a Leadership Network event
part 2 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
part 3 Driscoll teaching that “I see things” in a post-2007 context in which he presented dissent or distrust of executive elders as a demonic lie
part 4 By 2012 Mark Driscoll began to share irreconcilable accounts of his personal history
part 5 A quick overview of 2012-2014 comments about and by the BoAA

part 6 Mark Driscoll’s resignation—the BoAA expresses surprise, and among the BoAA members was Larry Osborne

part 7 in the 2015-2017 post-resignation era new stories emerge about how and why Mark Driscoll resigned

part 8 Larry Osborne interviews Mark Driscoll in 2016 about his resignation and his account that 30 some former leaders weren’t willing to reconcile with him

part 9 some analysis and some questions.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Dan Savage age of Mark Driscoll's Seattle: revisiting how both men responded to the 2006 Ted Haggard scandal that led to an internet myth

Reading Jessica Johnson's book Biblical Porn has brought back a lot of memories.  I plan to write about the book in some fashion, possibly in a long-form chapter-by-chapter analysis or possibly in a more general way.  Still trying to figure that out.  But I've gotten through the first chapter or two and underlined a few things I want to get to and along the way I was reading about that notorious moment in Mars Hill history in which Mark Driscoll decided to sound off on the Ted Haggard scandal.  This would turn into an internet myth that I have felt obliged to debunk several times and I'm reflecting once more on how that myth came about and as I consider it I find that the myth is one of those internet memes that "everybody" reproduced by way of distribution but that could not have existed without the insistently snarky screeds of exactly two men, Mark Driscoll but also, just as necessarily, Dan Savage.

As the years go by since Mark Driscoll's resignation on the one hand and of new editorial leadership at The Stranger on the other, it's begun to seem as though Mark Driscoll and Dan Savage had a possibly two-decade run in which their respective personas were in some sense entwined, almost as though the two men were media figures in the 2000-2010 period who could be thought of as conjoined twins. The most signal point at which their respective personas and methods of media use were inseparable was one of the most notorious internet myths that circulated about Mark Driscoll, the claim that Driscoll said that Gayle Haggard "let herself go" and that that was why Ted Haggard was discovered to have met with a male prostitute. 

Having rebutted this myth multiple times I do not take up the topic here again merely to debunk that old myth but to make a point about how it got started and whose snide remarks catalyzed the emergence of the myth.  Summarily, Dan Savage made a joke about what he presumed Mark Driscoll would have said that was credited to Mark Driscoll as if he'd said it but which, in fact, Dan Savage sarcastically said as if on behalf of Mark Driscoll; but I will propose, from another sidelong remark from Dan Savage about someone else who had a connection to Mars Hill written in 2009, that what has been imputed to Mark Driscoll was arguably not Mark Driscoll's own propensity for verbal abuse but Dan Savage's own capacity for casual verbal cruelty. 

Let's consult the primary sources, the men themselves.

The news has been abuzz with controversy surrounding the allegations that Ted Haggard had a three-year homosexual relationship with a male prostitute that included drug use. Haggard is pastor of a 14,000-member church in Colorado, president of the National Association of Evangelicals that has some 30 million members, friend of men like George Bush, and outspoken opponent of homosexuality and gay marriage.

The news broke in a television interview with the homosexual prostitute.


November 21, 2006 - Update
 Here is an updated link with footage regarding the allegations and Haggard original denial of them. This link, mostly leaves his family out of it.
 For more information from the Haggard's please see the links here.


A follow-up article by the Associated Press said that Haggard purchased methamphetamines from the gay prostitute but claims he never used them. He also admitted to getting a massage from the gay prostitute but denies any sexual activity between the two.

December 13, 2006 - Update
 The A.P. story does not appear to be available any longer.


Of course the media is having a field day with the scandal, particularly since Haggard's home state of Colorado is on the brink of a highly charged political vote regarding homosexual rights. It will likely take weeks to untangle the truth in all of this very devastating news. In the meantime, let us pray that his wife and five children will be loved and supported through this incredibly difficult time. The horror they must be experiencing is likely unbearable.

As every pastor knows, we are always at risk from the sin in us and the sinful temptations around us. Pastoring in one of America's least churched cities to a large number of single, young people has been an eye-opening experience for me. I started the church ten years ago when I was twenty-five years of age. Thankfully, I was married to a beautiful woman. I met my lovely wife Grace when we were seventeen, married her at twenty-one, and by God's grace have been faithful to her in every way since the day we met. I have, however, seen some very overt opportunities for sin. On one occasion I actually had a young woman put a note into my shirt pocket while I was serving communion with my wife, asking me to have dinner, a massage, and sex with her. On another occasion a young woman emailed me a photo of herself topless and wanted to know if I liked her body. Thankfully, that email was intercepted by an assistant and never got to me.

My suspicion is that as our culture becomes more sexually rebellious, things will only get worse. Therefore, as a means of encouragement, I would like to share some practical suggestions for fellow Christian leaders, especially young men:

 •The only way to stay away from sin is to stay close to Jesus. Colossians says that we are prone to making a lot of rules but that if we don't deal with the issues in our heart, we are fooling ourselves; holiness cannot be obtained by the sheer force of white-knuckled will power. More than anyone, a Christian leader needs time with Jesus in repentance, for their own soul and not just to make them a better leader or teacher. Death comes to every Christian leader who goes to Jesus and Scripture for purely functional and not relational purposes.

Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors' wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband's sin, but she may not be helping him either. [emphasis added]

•Every pastor needs a pastor. Too often the pastor is seen as a sort of little God and his wife as some glorified First Lady. Every pastor needs a pastor with whom he can regularly have accountability and the confession of sin. Every pastor's wife also needs a godly woman chosen for her maturity and trustworthiness.

•No church should tolerate sexual sin among its leaders. Christians cannot be guilty of playing plank-speck with non-Christians on matters of pornography and homosexuality and be guilty of going soft on sin in their own leadership. As Paul says, nothing can be done out of partiality or favoritism.

Pastors should have their office at the church and their study at home. There is no reason a pastor should be sitting alone at the church at odd hours (e.g., early morning and late evening) to study when anyone can drop in for any reason and have access to him. Instead, a pastor should come into the office for scheduled meetings and work from home on tasks such as emails, planning, studying, sermon preparation, etc. I spend the vast majority of my time working from home. Some years ago when I did not, I found that lonely people, some of them hurting single moms wanting a strong man to speak into their life, would show up to hang out and catch time with me. It was shortly thereafter that I brought my books home and purchased a laptop and cell phone so that I was not tied to the church office.

•Pastors have the right to protect their own home. This means that if someone keeps dropping by unannounced and is unwelcome, or a flirtatious woman shows up to a Bible study at the pastor's home, the pastor and his family have the right to request that they never return. The pastor's home simply cannot be viewed as yet another piece of church property that is accessible to anyone who desires it. Rather, the pastor's home must be a safe place for the pastor and his family without the wrong people rudely calling and dropping by.

•Churches should consider returning to heterosexual male assistants who are like Timothy and Titus to serve alongside pastors. Too often the pastor's assistant is a woman who, if not sexually involved, becomes too emotionally involved with the pastor as a sort of emotional and practical second wife. I have been blessed with a trustworthy heterosexual male assistant who can travel with me, meet with me, etc., without the fear of any temptations or even false allegations since we have beautiful wives and eight children between us.

•Pastors need to protect their email and have it screened for accountability. For me, this means that no email but an email from one of our pastors comes directly to me. This also means that I leave my email account open at home and my wife regularly checks it to get schedule information, etc., because I have nothing to hide. I also do not have a secondary email account from which to build a secret identity.

•Pastors need to carefully protect their cell phone number. If that private number gets out, too many of the wrong people have access to the pastor. Not only should the cell phone number of a pastor be given out to only a few people, he should also consider eliminating his voicemail and simply have calls forwarded to his assistant. In this way people will not become too informal with the pastor and if the pastor knows someone is trouble (e.g., a flirtatious woman), he can see that on his caller ID and simply refuse to answer the call or have to deal with a voicemail.

•Pastors must speak freely and frankly with their wives about their temptations. Without this there really can be no walking in the light and sin always grows in darkness.

•Pastors must not travel alone; the anonymity and fatigue of the road is too great a temptation for many men. A pastor should take his wife, an older child, an assistant, or fellow leader with him. If this cannot be afforded then travel should not be undertaken.

•Any pastor who is drifting toward serious sexual sin should have the courage, love for God, devotion to his family, and respect for his church to simply fall on his sword and resign before he goes down in flames. He must get the professional help he needs without fear of losing his position as a pastor. It is much better to be an honest Christian than a wicked pastor.

•Lastly, the big issue is a love and fear of God. Only a man really knows his heart and whether or not he loves and fears God above all else. Without this a man will fail to live for God's glory, and it is only a matter of time.

In conclusion, I say none of this as moralism. Indeed, this is a deeply rooted gospel issue. How can we proclaim that our God is a faithful Trinitarian community if we are not faithful to our marriage covenant and family? How can we say that the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us if we have no holiness in our life? How can we proclaim that we are new creations in Christ if we continually return to lap up the vomit of our old way of life? How can we preach that sin is to be repented of if we fail to model that ongoing repentance? How can we say that God is our highest treasure and greatest joy when we trade Him for sin that defiles our hands and defames His name?
I do not know the guilt or innocence of Haggard. But I do know that this is a sobering reminder to take heed of, lest we fall.

Emphasis added for what Driscoll actually wrote so that it can be read in context with what Dan Savage wrote in reaction.

Posted by Dan Savage on November 3 at 18:38 PM

His lazy, fat bitch of a wife, of course. [emphasis added]

Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go [emphasis origina]; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. [emphasis original] A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.

I’m sure Ted Haggard is saying something along these lines to his wife right now: “Oh, honey… I wouldn’t have been having those meth-fueled ass-banging sessions with that gay hooker if you hadn’t have let yourself go like that!” [emphasis added]

These words of wisdom were authored by Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church, and posted today on his blog. It’s a lengthy post written in reaction to the Haggard scandal. “The pastor’s wife is a fat-ass slob” is at the top of Driscoll’s reasons why an otherwise upright Christian pastor might indulge in sinful sexual pursuits.

Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church—watch for a franchise opening in your neighborhood soon!—is modeled on mega-church’s like Haggard’s Colorado Springs mega-church. Here’s hoping Driscoll’s fall is modeled on Haggard’s as well.

It is frankly not that difficult to see how the way Savage worded his snarky reply what he wrote was cognitively and emotionally collapsed together in the minds of readers of his work in such a way as to impute to Mark Driscoll what Dan Savage wrote. Sarcasm alerts would seem superfluous with an author like Savage but the pervasiveness of the internet myth that Driscoll said what I've highlighted in red suggests that people wanted to believe Mark Driscoll said some version of what Dan Savage sarcastically quipped Ted Haggard must have said as imagined in terms of a polemic imputed to Driscoll in Savage's own polemic.  It's simultaneously clear-cut but slippery.  Driscoll for his part, in an interview with Justin Brierley insisted "I never talked about the Haggards", which was true--Driscoll did something weirder and more troubling, he simply used the scandal of Ted Haggard and the stress that scandal put on the Haggards as a family to soapbox about all the kinds of stuff he'd been soapboxing about since, well, "Pussified Nation" as William Wallace II.  2006 was an emphatically weird year in Mark Driscoll's blogging at Resurgence, whether it was opining on Jenna Jameson being unable to reconcile her porn star career with her Roman Catholic beliefs, or slamming the model, Adriana Lima as some hypocritical idiot Catholic, or rhetorically asking "if" while implying strong that Oprah was a cult leader. In a way the Ted Haggard sound-off was a culmination of a trend in 2006 Driscoll blogging in which he'd shown himself familiar enough with Catholic porn stars and supermodels to lambast them for their stupidity and hypocrisy and then ... there's the "most pastors wives ... ."

Savage didn't bother to stop and ask what I did stop and ask myself, "Wait, what does Mark mean by `most pastors wives ... '?"  So he's explicitly and directly asking most pastors he's known about their sex lives to the point where he just knows most of them are unsatisfied?  Why does he care?  Real Marriage would eventually explain what, in 2006, seemed completely opaque to me at the time.

Mark Driscoll's blogging in 2006 was weird enough I began to have second thoughts about whether it was going in a direction I would stick along with.  Something seemed off.  But the way Dan Savage seized the spotlight to sarcastically opine at Driscoll's expense made it seem like Dan Savage was at least as bad as Mark Driscoll.  Mark Driscoll did not roll out phrases like "His lazy, fat bitch of a wife, of course." That was all Dan Savage, and in the birth of the internet myth about Mark Driscoll the vitriolic smugness of the two men had a baby that is still alive and toddling about the internet in progressive writers' work.

Savage didn't get what he hoped for. Driscoll's fall was modeled on something else altogether than what brought about the demise of Ted Haggard but there's no need to rehearse the litany of catalysts for that fall. 

But we got to learn something, Seattle, about Dan Savage and Mark Driscoll through the Ted Haggard scandal.  We got to learn that Mark Driscoll would traffic in condescending and misogynistic bromides to the bros about men, women, marriage and sexuality.  What Dan Savage would do is specifically name people in the midst of his Slog posts. 

It's been fascinating how an internet myth took off that Mark Driscoll actually said Gayle Haggard let herself go.  Driscoll never said it and yet it was imputed to him by progressive authors and journalists.  Driscoll never said Gayle Haggard let herself go, but who did?  Dan Savage, as a joke, making the kind of joke that he's tended to make.  Lo and behold ... thanks to echo chamber effects even an author like Lindy West, who surely could have known that it was her boss at The Stranger who actually wrote was imputed to Mark Driscoll, all the same, wrote as if Driscoll said about Gayle Haggard what was, technically, said by Dan Savage in a sarcastic rant against Driscoll.

If that seems like some kind of just deserts for Driscoll there's another Dan Savage moment worth revisiting.  This is a man who demonstrated that he was willing to make casually dismissive remarks about a woman's appearance even when the woman in question had been abandoned by her husband.  This is a very not-random example of what Savage was willing to write in 2009 about another famous moment in the history of Mars Hill.    On the topic of former Mars Hill member Nicholas Francisco, Dan Savage got the idea to write the following at the Slog:

by Dan SavageNov 9, 2009 at 2:12 pm

A SeaTac man whose sudden disappearance last year sparked a law-enforcement search and widespread Internet speculation, is "alive and well" and living in another state under a new name, according to the King County Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office wouldn't reveal which state Nicholas Francisco had moved to, but said he had legally changed his name to avoid being tracked down.

Francisco, whose wife was expecting their third child, was last seen leaving his job at a Queen Anne advertising agency for home on Feb. 13, 2008. His car, a red 1992 Toyota Paseo, was found abandoned a few days later in Federal Way.... His wife, Christine Francisco, initially claimed that her religiously devout husband would never have abandoned the family.

Just got off the phone with Sgt. John Urquhart of the King County Sheriff’s Department.... “Since he did nothing illegal and this case is basically closed, we won’t reveal where he was found,” Urquhart said to The B-Town Blog. “But let me tell you—there was something incredibly unique about this guy that made bloggers go crazy. In all my years, I have never seen such a reaction. I’m glad this case is closed.”

And yes, the King County Sheriff’s Department has indeed closed their investigation, so we may never know where he lives and why he left so suddenly.

They won't reveal where he was found? Not even to his ex-wife so she can go after him for child-support payments?

If I recall correctly Francisco and his not-in-his-league-looks-wise wife were involved with the 'phobes at Mars Hill. [emphasis added] To me this case—this closet case—looked like a guy who couldn't deal with his sexuality married young and had a couple of kid to prove to himself and others that he was straight. A lot of conflicted fags do this. They marry and have kids not just to shoot down any speculation that they might be gay but to close off any possibility of ever coming out. They figure they can solve the problem of their sexuality by essentially trapping themselves in heterosexuality. But at some point someone like Francisco, if this is what went down, decides he can't spend the rest of his life living this lie, living without true intimacy and real pleasure. Building a life with someone you're actually attracted to and capable of loving is difficult enough; faking that shit with someone you're not attracted to and incapable of loving deeply is impossible. [emphasis added]

And the real victims, of course, are always the kids. And this is how the religious right wants all gay men to live: stay closeted and go find some woman you can tolerate and stay hard in long enough to impregnate every once in a while. It never ends well. 

Even readers of The Stranger felt a need to ask Dan Savage why he wrote that Christine Francisco was "not-in-his-leagues-looks-wise" compared to Nicholas Francisco.  Well, since Dan Savage did write that, and since he was the one who rolled out what he rolled out in response to Mark Driscoll's commentary on the Haggard scandal, a person can say that it seems like some of the misogynistic vitriolic about fat and unattractive women that has been imputed Mark Driscoll really came from Dan Savage. 

Over the years my own belief has been that the kinds of rants that Driscoll and Savage have cultivated are two sides of the same coin.  These are the kinds of internet-era demagogues whose branding thrives on how agitated they can get their support base about a topic.  The above rants from Mark Driscoll and Dan Savage are presented in sequence to propose that in the history of Seattle the vitriol of Mark Driscoll and Dan Savage for red and blue state polemics are entwined.  These men, I believe, needed each other's vituperation and recalcitrant ranting to define each other's respective personas both for themselves but even more for their respective fan clubs.  As vitriolic as "Pussified Nation" was what made it terrible for many was the "what" of what was said, which was praiseworthy to those who agreed with that "what".  There were people who objected to the "how", besides having disagreements about the "what.  But, this is the thing I'm trying to outline in historical terms, can we really say that in the grand sweep of Seattle history that Mark Driscoll was any "more" of a self-aggrandizing media demagogue than Dan Savage was at The Stranger?

It's not that Mark Driscoll can't credibly be regarded as a misogynist over against the insistence of Grace Driscoll to Brian Houston that Mark isn't; it's that within the history of Seattle some of Mark Driscoll's perceived misogynistic rants about women who let themselves go or don't look hot enough have arguably come not from Mark Driscoll himself (who, by most reports might say things privately but never publicly) in public media but through his ostensible self-appointed nemesis at The Stranger, Dan Savage.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Dan Savage and Mark Driscoll could be compared even on the matter of how they had media empires in which they, as leaders, received honorarium and fame while talented and industrious writers at the trench level of the "ground war" were paid significantly less.


Clement is the fourth “name” writer to leave the newspaper/bog in recent months.  A fifth departure, on the news side, is believed imminent.

The Stranger has experienced staff unrest of late,  much of it due to perceived senior management interference in coverage of the $15-an-hour minimum wage.  The news-heavy Slog website gives The Stranger clout and drives attention.  But print advertisers pay the bills.

Talented writers move on.  Holden has felt a heavy dose of  “I can make it in that town” vibes toward New York for a long time.

At the same time, however, The Stranger is notorious for paying low wages to highly talented writers . . . even as editorial director Savage rings up the honoraria on the college lecture circuit. [emphasis added]
which sounds ... just like what I'd hear about Mars Hill.  I had friends at Mars Hill who might eke by or get let go or fired or whatever it was called when Mars Hill cut staff, and Driscoll would be on the lecture circuit or debating on television or preparing new books and so on.  All in all, the more years go by and the more time I have to think about it, the more it seems that Dan Savage and Mark Driscoll have some astonishing similarities.  There's a saying that what you most resent in others is often what is most characteristic of yourself.  Maybe Dan Savage couldn't abide Driscoll because Driscoll is what Savage could have been in some alternate existence where he was straight, a theist, and had gone into some kind of Christian ministry thing?  Not that any of that was ever going to happen, but it's a thought experiment to consider. 

When I was at Mars Hill years ago I recall there was a Midrash discussion about why what the pastors taught at Mars Hill was so necessary.  One man posted on Midrash that Seattle needed what Pastor Mark and the elders were sharing because the alternative was this, and in the post on Midrash the man linked to a column from Savage Love.  I read it and began to think, "Well, besides the obvious differences on religion, aren't Mark and Dan Savage similar in a lot of ways?" I began to wonder whether or not in a lot of ways with Mark's teaching about sex an presenting himself as an expert on sex and relationships that Mark was just the Evangelical (TM) Dan Savage.  That was a thought I considered back in 2006 and it began to kind of gnaw at me.  I am grateful Mark Driscoll demonstrated the double standards he lives by in the way that he resigned, but I can also be grateful that the Dan Savage side of things can at some point also be over, too. 

I find that I can't look at the history of the Emerald City and really separate these two vitriolic grand-standing moralizing jerks.  Both men are ex-Catholics. Driscoll was born in North Dakota and was moved by his parents as far from there as possible into the Seattle region.  Dan Savage, if memory serves, has said that Spokane is a good place to be from, very far from.  Neither is Catholic though both show signs of being indebted to that cultural legacy (Driscoll's view of marriage is substantially more sacramental than some low-church Protestants would necessarily agree with, for instance). Both men are media figures of a particular kind for the internet era, guys who made careers getting off on telling people how to get off.  Both have become notorious for the vitriolic things they have been willing to say to and about their respective ideological adversaries. 

Looking back on the last twenty years I can't help but think that it was the Dan Savage age of Mark Driscoll in Seattle and that we have to look at what both men and their respective fan clubs can tell us about the Puget Sound area ... and it seems what they had to say about us was that we're a pretty nasty bundle of people whether we realize it or not.