Friday, October 26, 2018

statement from James MacDonald regarding the defamation suit-1 Cor 6 wasn't referring to churches but to individual believers so a church can file a defamation suit

One of the things mentioned in the statement is that HBC stopped having "elders for life" with a brief statement that such an approach to the elder board was found to be dysfunctional.

Since James MacDonald was at one point on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability that governance had an arrangement in which participation on the board was to last until resignation or removal but without an actual clear term limit.  Another way to frame this is as a question, did the BoAA and/or executive elders at Mars Hill functionally have lifetime terms?  Clearly members of the BoAA could voluntarily resign and a couple of resignations were headlines in themselves in the news cycle chronicling the final years of Mars Hill.  Yet if based on Mars Hill bylaws the executive elders were drawn from a subset of the BoAA in general, which seems to have been contingent on what version of the Mars Hill bylaws and governing documents were in effect ...

had Macdonald and Harvest Bible Church leadership concluded that elders-for-life terms was dysfunctional did that practical wisdom play any role in advising Mars Hill on the BoAA?

That Macdonald was part of the Mars Hill BoAA was known.


Dr. Tripp joins the current Board members: Michael Van Skaik, Dr. James MacDonald, Dr. Larry Osborne, Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas, and Sutton Turner. This Board of Advisors and Accountability was voted upon and installed by an overwhelmingly supportive vote from the entire eldership, with every single elder who voted doing so in approval.

Yet Mars Hill announced its dissolution in 2014 and here we are in 2018 and there is still a Harvest Bible Chapel to take up a defamation suit against a group of people alleged to have set up a website.

One of the things MacDonald's statement mentions seems to have been The Elephant Room conversations, one of which was a conversation held with T. D. Jakes in which, as best I can recall, Jakes was declared to be trinitarian.  At the time it did not seem Jakes had really been all that clear as to being a trinitarian who repudiated modalism on one hand, nor on the other did it seem any of his word faith teaching got addressed.  Enough questions lingered as to the orthodoxy symbolized by the shaking of hands that there were debates and posts on the topic, none of which will be quoted here.  If you're not already familiar with all that material we'll just note it for historical purposes.  It's possible Jakes has cast off both modalism and word faith teaching but that's another topic.  It's germane to the history of Mars Hill in as much as MacDonald took on a role on the Board of Advisors and Accountability.  Between the Elephant Room meeting with Jakes and crashing the Strange Fire conference with Mark Driscoll a person could ask to what extent MacDonald helped to keep Mark Driscoll accountable to reconsider public actions and statements that might open him up to questions regarding doctrine or conduct. Being with Driscoll as he crashed the Strange Fire conference to promote his book A Call to Resurgence didn't seem all that prudent.  Wasn't that the book the discussion of which sparked a plagiarism controversy after Janet Mefferd interviewed Driscoll in 2013?  Not that I've got much affection for John Macarthur myself ...

I knew that MacDonald was going to have to address 1 Corinthians 6.

Since one of the most salient questions for those familiar with biblical literature is 1 Corinthians 6 on the issue of Christians taking other Christians to court, it's understandable that the recent statement eventually gets to the question as to how and why a church as a corporate entity can file a defamation suit when it might be expected that 1 Corinthians 6:4-6 could be invoked as a reason to not file a suit.

I always believed that 1 Corinthians 6:4-6 was an all-inclusive prohibition about Christians being in court together. But the text actually says “brother… against brother” — where allowing ourselves to be wronged solves the personal offense. Certainly, when the authority of the church is recognized by both parties, they must seek a resolution that is entirely handled inside the church. Yet if the matter is not personal but institutional, God’s ordained authority in the civil court system (Romans 13:1) can be accessed to rule on and potentially limit or eliminate illegal behavior. 

Again (I know this is new for some): When professing believers refuse, over and over, to act like believers — refuse even to meet after many appeals over many years — we can, and I believe must, turn our attention to the matter of protecting our church family and seeking the protection God has established as His provision.
now for those familiar with the history of the former Mars Hill Church and its aftermath there was a civil RICO suit that was dismissed without prejudice within the last few years.  The civil RICO was dismissed without prejudice back in 2016.

Now perhaps pastors and exegetes could weigh in on the matter of whether there is ... for want of a better way to put this, a corporate exemption in which churches are not under Paul's rebuke in the passage of 1 Corinthians 6:4-6.  While Paul could certainly be read as rebuking individuals who were, by implication, taking each other to court in the public sphere, could not the rebuke also be considered applicable to the church in Corinth as a body of believers?

there's a bod text header in the statement that indicates other ministries may follow suit, but can this be taken to mean other churches will choose to file defamation suits and if so against ... whom?

We have carefully reviewed the Scriptures related to the purpose of human government and the church. We have contacted many influential pastors and biblical scholars, and received near unanimous confirmation of our thinking. Now it’s time to step up and say “enough is enough,” employing less traditional but entirely biblical provisions from God.

I was not previously aware of a corporate exemption clause for 501(c)3 corporations registered as churches in interpreting and applying 1 Corinthians 6.

That could be a pioneering hermeneutical approach to 1 Corinthians I haven't heard of until just this week but I'm not a pastor so maybe there's something in the wealth of secondary literature commenting on the Pauline epistles I haven't had a chance to read yet that elucidates that interpretive approach.

Who are the influential pastors and biblical scholars who, in general, with no reference to Harvest Bible Chapel at all, counsel that it is consistent with the Bible for a church to file a defamation suit against individuals?  Given the frequency with which commenters on the internet can seem to invoke 1 Cor 6:4-6 as a "clobber" verse against any kind of church being embroiled in legal situations (if, perhaps, more commonly in some contexts to warn that individuals should not bring suits against people in leadership roles at churches) it's worth asking how and why a church as a literally corporate entity might be different enough from the locus of Paul's instructions to the church in Corinth as to not fall under the rebuke of 1 Corinthians 6.

Now it's not that a church can't file a defamation suit seeing as it's very obvious a church and/or its officers can file a defamation suit.  It's just that James MacDonald was on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability and officers of Mars Hill ended up named as defendants in a dismissed civil RICO suit a couple of years back.  So in terms of questions relevant to men who served on the MH BoAA the question is no longer whether or not men who are on such boards can be involved in litigation.  If it's possible to be a plaintiff it's also possible to be a defendant and to go by statements by a one time MH BoAA member, there's reason to argue that invoking 1 Corinthians 6 to say that Christians shouldn't take legal action against other Christians can't be construed as categorical.  A church as a corporate entity can do so against individual Christians ... which would seem, in turn, to invite the consideration that individual Christians who believe officers of a church have been involved in wrongdoing could also resort to litigation, wouldn't it?

or would it?

It would seem like there would be a lot people wouldn't want to have to deal with just at the level of discovery, wouldn't there?

Now having done what some people call watchdog blogging I can appreciate some skepticism about what MacDonald described as hobby blogging.  A lot of people who blog about churches and church systems probably don't know what they're talking about.  Most hobby bloggers do not have journalism degrees, for instance. Most hobby bloggers have never thought about the relevance of theories of the press to what they are doing and why they do it.

I have written at moderate length about how one of the tensions pastors will have with bloggers probably stems from the likelihood that  a pastor who blogs is probably going to look askance on a hobby blogger in the way MacDonald comes across as doing because ... let me try to be careful about this because I realize it will be easy to misread the jargon--Christian celebrities who work in the Christian media industries as pastors or writers can sometimes seem to be advocating what is best described as an authoritarian theory of the press.  That shouldn't be thought of as authoritarian in pejorative terms, it means that there are people who believe that those with the training, resources and institutional vetting to use mass media should be the ones who use mass media and that other people without such training should have more limited (if any) access to the use of mass media.

By contrast, it would seem many bloggers who choose to write about churches are more sympathetic to the libertarian theory of the press.  A somewhat extreme way to describe this approach is to say it claims that you should be able to run with and print anything and everything because the truth will be vindicated and the most likely way for truth to be vindicated is to have no limits on the press excepting whatever modes of media use society considers too immoral to permit.

So when I've written in the past about how pastors and church media directors may default to an authoritarian theory of the press while bloggers may default to a libertarian theory of the press [section III in the link], the argument I was presenting was not so much to say either of those theories of the press are bad but that pastors and bloggers respectively should be mindful of these contrasting theories of the press as guiding their respective approaches to mass and social media use in the age of blogging.

But since James MacDonald described how he once had a top 10 Christian blog this question about theories of the press becomes germane because MacDonald doesn't have an explanation for why his blog was a top 10 Christian blog and that was good while hobby bloggers who focus on church histories are savage.  What's the difference between James MacDonald as a blogger and the somewhat abstract "hobby bloggers"?  It's probably not the "hobby" part.  MacDonald is not a professional blogger (there do seem to be professional bloggers) so that far it would seem that he is himself more likely to be described as a hobby blogger, unless he monetized his blog.  If MacDonald had a monetized blog even that would not make him a professional blogger since by profession he's a pastor, correct?  So at what point would the difference between MacDonald as a pastor and those he describes as "hobby bloggers" emerge?  If I must hazard an educated guess, that distinction has to do with institutional vetting and authority.

The difficulty that emerges from the general situation of this recent case is that institutional vetting in and of itself may not lend authority or credibility to the act of blogging by itself if there are those who have doubts about the legitimacy of the authority or credibility of the statements of a blogger, even if the blogger has some form of institutional vetting or a stamp of approval.  In the later years of what was once Mars Hill there were rumors to the effect that members and even some staff were consulting Warren Throckmorton's blog about what was going on inside Mars Hill, almost as though the information culture within Mars Hill was divided or silo-riven enough that people across campuses might not be able to find out what was going on across Mars Hill through The City because of ... perhaps the most delicate way to describe the situation was design features that meant people were not allowed to access things on The City apart from their campus affiliation at most levels.

So that's a lengthy way to describe what I hope is a relatively simple concept, that American Christian pastors and media figures may see their own blogging as a legitimate act even if it is a hobby because they blog as people vetted by institutions.  The institutional vetting is, for want of a better way to put this, an aura that sacralizes the blogging of the pastor blogger even if the blogging is no less a hobbyist activity than it would be for any other hobby blogger who is not an ordained minister.

So inasmuch as many pastors advocate an authoritarian view of the press as users of mass media in the United States whether they may formally recognize themselves doing this or not, whereas many hobby bloggers who take up what is colloquially known as watchblogging may explicitly or implicitly embrace the libertarian theory of the press, there are other theories of the press that can inform mass and social media use.  One of my concerns as a blogger has been that the act of blogging tends to get delimited in public debate and polemic to one of these two theories of the press in practical terms. Being more an advocate of what's been called the social responsibility theory of the press I differ with both theories.

Here I feel an obligation to digress on to a question of what defenses there may be against charges of defamation.  In an ideal world the absolute truth of what is reported is thought to be a defense.  It can also be said that if you have no malice in publication that is also a defense.  Well .... check the laws applicable in your state.  Do not assume that simply because what you report is true to the best of your knowledge and that you bear no ill will you're in the clear.  People may believe you bear all the ill will in the world.  This I was made acutely aware of over the years as I blogged about Mars Hill. I got some vitriolic comments not only from those who defended the Mars Hill leadership in the 2011-2013 period, I also got vitriol from people who were against Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill.

But let's get to the point about the "who" in who, what, when, where and why in journalism.  If you're writing about a limited public figure or a public figure or a private citizen the standards can be different as to what constitutes defensible speech.  If someone broaches topic X in mass media or social media for the public record you could address that person on topic X.  If you broach topic Y that the person has never broached and the person is a public figure you "may" be in the clear but if the person is a limited public figure then if the person has broached topic X in mass media but not Y then you may get yourself in trouble discussing topic Y.

If all that I've written in the previous paragraph seems pointlessly abstract that's the stuff that makes the difference between blogging about things in a way that serves the public and provides historical and journalistic information that the public can benefit from and ... or ... getting to be a defendant in a suit.  This seems abstract but it's not so abstract when complaints get filed.  It will be wise to get an understanding of what kind of person or institution you're writing about.  In the final year of Mars Hill one of the things Mark Driscoll shared in a video the following:
...They have that same freedom, and so, and so others are free to, to say things as well. And being a bit of a public figure I don't have the same, try to get this right, protection sometimes as a private citizen, because I've made myself a public figure. So that's just sort of a blessing and the complexity of the great opportunity that God has given me as a Bible teacher and a pastor, especially in an age of technology, which I praise God for. 

To translate that statement a bit, Driscoll said that because of the kind of public figure he had made himself he could not avail himself of the protections a private citizen could make use of owing to the nature of his public figure status.  That is, in its way, the clearest indicator that a private citizen could have had access to more protections than a public figure could, does, or would have with respect to things reported in the press or published in mass and social media.  But none of this should be construed to mean that there's no limit to what can be said about a public figure because the traditional understanding of a public figure tends to be about those in office as distinct from a limited public figure.  

In informal terms the reason it can be held that all bets are off on what you say about a full public figure or how you say things is because when the public figure is part of the government of the United States, for instance, freedom of speech entails giving people the freedom to say things that address what is at stake in civil society and government.  This gets back to what I was trying to describe earlier about how a person who is a public figure who has sounded off on topic X but not on topic Y has not become so full a public figure that the rest of the alphabet can be brought up, just those letters in the alphabet the limited public figure has made a point of addressing.  To see an example of how this can get defined in terms of Washington state you could go over here for a for instance.

There has been at least one watchdog bloggers who has, in a context, claimed that Wenatchee The Hatchet could or would get some legal action because, perhaps, the watchdog blogger had been subjected to a legal process.  Because standards vary from state to state I've tried to be careful to not discuss issues at the blog about Mars Hill that were not publicly addressed from the pulpit or mass media or in teaching events where hundreds and even thousands of people could consult the materials.  So if Mark Driscoll claimed Mars Hill's finances were transparent in 2008 from the pulpit that became a basis from which to keep asking how transparent the finances really were.  

Now I must admit I am not convinced that MacDonald and those people he consulted who believe there is some kind of corporate exemption clause that precludes churches from Paul's rebuke regarding litigation in 1 Corinthians 6 have made a case, let alone a compelling case.  But ... if theologians and pastors want to make a for and against case about if, how or why a church can file a defamation suit ... well ... that would seem like what blogs are for.  


We believe governmental authorities, whether criminal or civil, are His protection when those who oppose us are actually breaking the law (Romans 13:1-2).  In consultation with highly regarded Christian leaders and students of Scripture, we received unqualified support for this difficult decision.

Excerpt from ESV Study Bible notes on 1 Corinthians 6:1-8: Although some have argued that Paul is prohibiting Christians from ever going to court against another Christian, Paul seems in these verses only to be addressing disputes related to property or money (cf. v7 “why not rather be defrauded?”) — rather than criminal cases, which fall under the jurisdiction of the state. It is doubtful, therefore, that Paul’s intention is that this specific example should be applied to every situation, since not every situation today matches the circumstances of this specific case in Corinth, where the two parties are in the same local church, and where the dispute is specifically related to property or money. Whatever the circumstances, it is clear from Scripture that disputes between believers need to be handled with the utmost care in a wise and godly manner before the watching world, wherever possible under the disciplinary authority of the church, and with the counsel of spiritually mature Christians who have no stake in the matter and can give objective, biblical advice.

When recent efforts at private appeal again failed, we made the difficult decision to seek the legal protection afforded us by Scripture. We are fulfilling our responsibility to protect our church family from defamation and other illegalities by appealing to the authorities God has established for this purpose.

By entrusting “the punishment of wrong doers” to the authorities God has established (1 Peter 2:14; Romans 13:2) and the protection of the sheep to the Elders God has raised up to lead us at Harvest Bible Chapel (1 Peter 5:1-2), our church family can confidently stay focused on the unceasing priority of love for one another and our mission of making disciples for God’s glory. Click here for an article Pastor James has written on the subject.


the option of legal protection seems more afford by Cook county ... can't say that I'm thrilled by a conflation of biblical texts given for the instruction of Christians and the Church into legal options available to United States citizens.  There's wonderful things about both but ... at the risk of invoking the jargony term "sphere separation" ... overlap doesn't have to indicate equivalence.

a piece at Wired on alternative histories of Silicon Valley in which "disruption" is reinterpreted as "extraction"

The article proposes that with a number of books providing histories of Silicon Valley that what has been sold as a history of disruptive innovation can be thought of more as exploitive extraction.  Companies in Silicon Valley presented as pioneering innovators in the tech industry can be seen (by some of the authors discussed in the article) as tail end hangers on who exploited private sector applications of technological and networking innovations initially developed as part of military-industrial establishment investments spearheaded by the United States government.

Which sounds somewhat like a thesis that, if I recall correctly, was proposed by Joan Didion more generally about the delusional mythology California has had as a whole as being about innovation and self-invented industry development that was generally a set of industries developed at the behest of the federal government and federal funding for infrastructural projects or wartime development in which California was a key beneficiary.

In his trilogy of books on post-Adornian aesthethic theory David P Roberts noted, in a way that seems quotidian since the 1990s, that the United States looked to be positioned to have what he called a contest between what he called Chicago ideology and California ideology in terms of technological and social advancement.  These could be construed in more recent terms as what American academics and some journalists seem to have called neoconservativism or neoliberalism.

Having lived and worked through the 1990s like most other people I've known in my life I don't remember what was called the dot com boom as being all that inspiring or exciting.  It seems to have been a boon for entrepreneurs of a specific stripe, people willing to speculatively jump on opportunities that seemed to be ripe within a subset of the industry, tech ... but I got a journalism degree, a degree that was already largely moot even twenty years ago.  So while people who had somehow timed their degrees and their questing to the development of the bubble the 1990s were no doubt a fine time, a Fukuyamaian "end of history" but for me it was years of temp job to temp job and no benefits (which I didn't seem to need at the time as it was so, who cared?).   Some of my peer group have looked fondly back on the Clinton years as years when there were more jobs.  Plenty of those jobs were pinch hit unstable jobs in a dot com bubble that burst in the later 1990s.  That the press didn't get around to christening the bursting of the dot com bubble quite as much as a thing until W was inaugurated doesn't mean the bubble hadn't burst by the dawn of the millenium.  .

So I don't have a ton of nostalgia for the 1990s as such in job market terms.  I guess I can admit to having nostalgia for the 1990s in terms of animation as a global art form.  Pixar films were fantastic, the DCAU was in high gear, Disney films may have been sorta lame but Ducktales was decent, anime was saturating the West Coast, South Park was emerging and The Powerpuff Girls arrived ... so, yeah, for animation the 1990s were great.  Capping off the end of the last century with The Iron Giant, Toy Story 2, South Park and Princess Mononoke was quite a way to wrap up 1999!  But I sure don't miss the endless temp jobs with no benefits or an American foreign policy that included what seemed to be the pointless bombing of the former Yugoslavia and a variety of military misadventures that would seem bad at the time but have paled compared to anything that's transpired in this subsequent century.

If it turns out that the Silicon Valley economic engine has been parasitically dependent on government projects that would not, I confess, shock me at all. 

a report that 1 in 3 pupils in secondary schools don't know who Shakespear is in UK report

It seems there's a double bind in trying to move beyond artistic canons within education as a vocation.  On the one hand, if you move beyond canons what do you teach and how do you teach?  Do you teach methods?  You certainly can ... but methods derived from what?  Now bear in mind I'm not an academic, I'm not a teacher and am grateful to not be a teacher but also grateful that there are a lot of people who do want to teach, who love teaching, and have to think about stuff like this.

What I have admitted to finding dubious is a claim that we can move beyond canons.  That's not going to happen because that's not how human love works on the one hand and it's not how Western education has worked for thousands of years on the other.  People love stuff enough that they wish to share that love and that stuff with new generations.  I find it hard to see how a pedagogy that eschews canons can be any kind of pedagogy at all, an oxymoron more vivid than military intelligence (I've never been in the military but I've known some very smart people who have served in the services). 

So if we ever were to move past canons then if 3 out of 3 students have no ideas who Shakespeare is even within the United Kingdom, so what?  Who cares?  Why would Shakespeare be in any way important at all?  A good number of his plays were based on previously existing stories, right?  There shouldn't need to be a sarcasm warning with this being a blog post and all but just in case, sarcasm.

But there may and likely will come a time when no one has a reason to care about Shakespeare because Shakespeare won't matter.  If there is a world in which "the West" isn't leading the world in terms of global economy, use of military force, cultural diffusion and so on then Shakespeare won't matter at all.  The tale of the battle of the three armies might matter a great deal, though I can't say if I'm remembering the informal rendering of that title correctly but it's the story my brother told me inspired John Woo's film Red Cliff.   An American literature in which nobody knows or cares who Hemingway is would be fine by me.  Same for Mark Twain.  Same for Whitman.  The idea that American literature has to be understood chiefly in terms of the literary output of men and women from the South and Northeast is a pedagogical paradigm.  It's not that this literature has no value.  I can appreciate Melville and ... some Hawthorne and Dickinson is alright though I like Cummings and Stevens and Eliot more. 

Another way in which a canon-less pedagogy may create trouble is not just because there will, in fact, always be a canon, but by way of how canons are apt to be formed.  While I have a general sense that American educators are worried about the influence of neoliberalism it can seem as though one of the bulwarks against a wholly neoliberal paradigm of canon formation would be education.  To give a ridiculous but not entirely implausible example, if you want kids to have a notion of grand sweeping narratives presenting the nature of individuality and the social element of the human condition if you don't throw in some Shakespeare and some other literary canon authors (I dunno, Austen, Edith Wharton, George Eliot, etc) then in a cinematic age the big narratives may be tentpoles like Star Wars or Star Trek or Michael Bay's' Transformers franchise.  If tehre are no canons then why should people sniff at the narrative qualiteis of Michael Bay's Transformers movies or Zack Snyder's action films?  That seems to be what academics regard as the scourge of neoliberalism, that Bayformers can be one of the biggest and most successful franchises out there while a film like mother! gets ignored by the mainstream movie-going public. 

I admit it's cynical but if the role of the university where the liberal arts are concerned is decoupled from canons then there seems to be no reason to waste money on the liberal arts in grad school or even at the level of a bachelor's degree.  A post-canon arts world could be a level playing field and that might even be good.  It might be a good thing that Top Gun can be considered as salient or more than King Lear, since readings of the ways in which colonial imagination inform both narratives could have as much fun with one as the other.  Sure, King Lear might be better at all sorts of levels and be more influential (just on the basis of Ran, for instance) but better based on what criteria/?

I've written this a few times before so it hardly seems to need much repeating--i think it can be good if education has a multiplicity of canons founded on styles and forms.  I keep doing this but Baroque era pedagogy in music seems to suggest that it's possible to have two prevailing styles and a panoply of styles within the two meta-styles of first and second practice.  The trouble with contemporary American educational debates and paradigms is that it looks like there are turf wars and pissing contests about preserving X canon or promoting Y canon within which claims to dropping canons seem ... not exactly insincere but unaware of the implications a post-canon higher educational system could have.

Perhaps to highlight what I think is baffling about it, I could put it this way, if the entire United States Department of Education were dismantled by a Betsy DeVos then would it matter for higher education if there are no canons to be taught?  Not so sure it would matter.  It's not that I actually think that, it's that it is one possible reductio ad absurdum that helps me explain why I think higher education, for as long as it exists, is going to depend on canons more or less by its nature.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

coverage on the Harvest Bible Chapel defamation suit in The Christian Post

Harvest Bible Chapel notes in the lawsuit that since the church's founding in 1988, it grew into an organization that included more than 100 churches by 2014. The organization also developed schools and broadcasting facilities that led to the accumulation of assets worth more than $100 million and some 400 employees.
The complaint alleges that Ryan Mahoney was a Harvest Christian Academy teacher until 2010 when the church didn't renew his contract for allegedly negating MacDonald's sermons in his classroom, and offering a cynical view of the church and its culture.
Mahoney allegedly met Scott Bryant at the church, who also became "equally divisive after being declined a teaching opportunity that he repeatedly pursued." Both men allegedly stopped attending the church at the same time, and "began publishing negative and defamatory information about Harvest" on Bryant's personal website called Blood Stained Ink, which would eventually become The Elephant's Debt, which was launched in October 2012.
The website alleged that the church was $70 million in debt in 2010 "and barely survived a bankruptcy in 2006," information which the lawsuit disputes. It also alleged that MacDonald has problems with gambling, is financially unstable, and leads the church with an authoritarian style – all disputed by the church.
Might have already linked to this but there's been a statement from HBC recently.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

a juxtaposition of two posts by Frank Schaeffer, one on Obama and one on Mark Driscoll

Ten years later, here in the Trump administration, Frank Schaeffer's words seem to be idiotic hackwork ... but then he recounted in Crazy for God how his father began to be more politically activist.  There was a time, back when he was writing Crazy for God, that Frank Schaeffer seemed willing to implicate himself in catalyzing his father into being a more demagogic right-wing activist than he might otherwise have been. Unfortunately the story of Frank Schaeffer as a writer in my experience is probably best summed up in a book he wrote about American evangelicals called Addicted to Mediocrity.

But it's possible that a guy who could use the death of Nelson Mandela as an occasion upon which to shill a novel can share things in a bracingly simple way.  Take this post ... in which Schaeffer sort of joked that were it not for guys like Mark Driscoll people might not be inspired to read blogs by the likes of Frank Schaeffer in reaction.

if that's a reason for Mark Driscoll to keep writing and keep going then it would seem clear from that sort of argument Frank Schaeffer is every bit as much part of the problem of craven and opportunistic Christian publishing at the popular level that a Mark Driscoll (or a Rachel Held Evans) seem to be.  It's not that I couldn't possibly think of Christians with conservative and progressive concerns to take seriously, it's that they are by and large not going to be shilling books via Thomas Nelson, for instance. 

Well Frank Schaeffer needn't worry, it would appear with the release of Spirit-Filled Jesus Mark Driscoll has signaled his intent to stay in play.

The Guardian--Scarlett Johansson has reportedly vetoed funding from Saudi crown prince bin Salman for her next film

Scarlett Johansson reportedly vetoed funding from the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, for her next film.
The actor is set to play the Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario in a biopic directed by Ridley Scott, but when she found out the initial set of funders included Bin Salman, she rejected his involvement.
“Scarlett Johansson said absolutely not,” Addario said in an interview with Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. “She said: ‘This guy is perpetuating the war in Yemen. He has women in prison.’”
She also added: “This was before the killing of Khashoggi, when he became one of the main people who wanted to fund the movie.”

Why this would be a headline now when it could theoretically have been a headline from someone else in Hollywood earlier ... is more the question I have at the moment.  Saudi investment in the arts, fine or otherwise, has been a known thing for years, hasn't it?  

Johansson's involvement in last year's wildly ill-advised American remake of Ghost in the Shell is something I've been meaning to write about for, well, more than  year but life happens and the news peg is surely gone but her being cast as the Major was actually probably the least ill-advised aspect of the American remake.

Hyperallergic piece on a proposed extension/expansion of the Bank Secrecy Act to encompass art fraud/money laundering concerns
Virtually none of the panelists during either session of the symposium were in favor of the BSA extension into the arts. The moderate voices of the second panel decried the regulation as needlessly penalizing small businesses for simply entering the market. They pointed to the reality that even small galleries within malls or beach towns would be subject to the BSA regulations if they grossed more than $50,000. Currently lacking the infrastructure necessary to comply with these government regulations, the majority of art dealers would need to implement new policies and potentially hire specialized staff to handle the paperwork — or face steep fines that might climb into the millions.

Still, the championing of small business needs does not accurately represent the effect of the BSA on adjacent regulated industries like jewelry and numismatics. Although sellers of precious metals, stones, and jewels have seen their overhead spike since the BSA extended their sectors in 2005, the industries are still profitable. According to McKinsey, expected global sales of €148 billion (~$171.6 billion) are expected to grow at a healthy annual clip of 5 to 6 percent in the jewelry industry, totaling €250 billion (~$290 billion) by 2020. Where this leaves small businesses, though, is unclear.


not every day you ever expect to see the Bank Secrecy Act connected to arts funding and the arts world but ... so it has.  Actually ... given the ramp up of coverage of questions about Saudi investments in the fine arts scenes this is, in a way, not a surprising trend in arts journalism at all.  

Monday, October 22, 2018

at Religion News, a piece by Mary DeMuth on plagiarism and Christian publishing

Alan Jacobs links to a piece that asks why ancient fiction doesn't talk about feelings with an academic variation on "the stupid, it hurts!"

October 18, 2018  /  ayjay

Why doesn’t ancient fiction talk about feelings? “I’d often wondered,” says Julie Sedivy, “when reading older texts: Weren’t people back then interested in what characters thought and felt?” Let me put this as politely as I can: What the hell are you talking about?

If you read the Iliad you’d know how Achilles felt when Agamemnon took his “prize,” or how he felt when his beloved friend Patroclus was killed. If you read the Odyssey you’d know how Odysseus felt when his men were being eaten by Polyphemus, and how he felt when he fell, at last, into the arms of his beloved wife Penelope. If you read the Oresteia you’d know how Orestes felt when faced with the task of killing his mother. If you read Antigone you’d know how the title character felt when told she could not bury her brother. If you read the Aeneid you’d know how Aeneas felt when he saw his fellow Trojans painted on the walls of a palace in Carthage — sunt lacrimae rerum, there are tears for things, possibly the most famous line in ancient literature — and how Dido felt when she learned that Aeneas would leave her. If you read Beowulf you’d know how Beowulf felt when, after slaying a dragon, he lay dying, abandoned by all but one companion. If you read the Divine Comedy you’d know how Dante the pilgrim felt about everything, from getting lost in a selva oscura to disappointing his guide Vergil to meeting his old friend Casella the musician to being reunited with Beatrice.

I’m old as dirt and have seen people take many ridiculous positions in my time, but none more ridiculous than this. 

There's a position almost as ridiculous as that, Theodore Adorno's position that there was no compelling or plausible evidence to say that jazz was in any way based on "real" African American music!  It's not going to beat the "ancient authors didn't discuss anything about feelings" for being absurd ... but it's one of the great howlers of musicology over the last century.  This is not to say that Adorno wasn't a fantastic critic with keen insights into the Western art music traditions ... but he was flamboyantly and shamefully wrong about jazz.  

some pieces at The Atlantic on Elizabeth Warren ... one proposing she's lost her way, another proposing that she and Bernie Sanders may foretell future directions for the DNC

The piece by Caitlin Flanagan ... unsurprisingly suggests ... you can see it in the hyperlink ...

Flanagan notes the double bind in the taunting. 

Edward-Isaac Dovere proposes that neither Warren nor Sanders look to be backing off attempts at spearheading the future of the DNC progressive wing
More importantly to the strategists sizing each other up: Part of Warren’s strength was always seen as the competence of her staff and advisers. After such a big blunder, now they’re not so sure. At least, people working for several other likely candidates said, Warren’s team should have reached out ahead of time to the Cherokee Nation to head off the statement it put out criticizing her for claiming vindication from the blood test.

Then there are the supporters she just turned off.

“Her comments around the rollout of the Native American stuff were not helpful to her cause,” said Jonathan Westin, the executive director of New York Communities for Change, and one of the people who was involved with the Draft Warren effort ahead of the 2016 campaign. “As a person of color who works with people of color, it felt like it was an almost diminishing the role of race in our politics. It really went against the grain with a lot of people. It trivialized race as a factor in so many ways.”

Westin added that he was perplexed by Warren trying to hang her heritage on a test that showed she had at most 3 percent native blood: “She’s clearly a white woman,” he said.

Meanwhile, Westin said, “Bernie has risen a lot since 2016. He’s now a household name in a way that he wasn’t. His message resonates with our folks.”

Part of the Warren thinking is that, if both run, she could position herself as the alternative to Sanders, saying she’s the one who has clear progressive credentials but who could win. There’s some openness to that, even in odd places, like Third Way, the centrist Democratic think tank that initially after 2016 seemed to be on a single-minded mission to stop her from being the nominee.

There are ... some perspectives from folks I know with Democratic leanings that Sanders is dirty, something to do with the Russians ... although at this point ... Russian conspiracy theorizing seems to want some resolution ... because if we're to take seriously that Russia has some collusion with the Trump campaign if Sanders is alleged to have had some backing from Russian sources why wouldn't Russian operations back EVERYONE?  If that's what it takes to discredit candidates and political machines then it would make sense, "if" Russia is set on making the United States look bad, to have fingers in every pie across the entire spectrum.  Given the balkanization and paranoia that seem to be afoot in American politicals and polemics at this point actually doing anything significant might be superfluous ... 

Still ... the idea that Sanders is tainted might need to be fleshed out.  Just because I've had doubts that his policies are as feasible as his most ardent supporters believe doesn't mean I have to assume he's dirty because ... well, Clinton advocates think Sanders is dirty ... .  

Harvest Bible Chapel files defamation suit against individuals accused of funding and operating The Elephant's Debt

Well ... in light of that, it would seem The Elephant's Debt either should not be taken to be a viable source of information until the defamation suit has a resolution or, more pointedly, statements or information available at The Elephant's Debt is now considered not reliable for the purposes of this blog until further notice, and retroactively has to be regarded as of uncertain or even dubious provenance and accuracy. 

Since this blog has, at times, taken up the topic of the peak and decline of Mars Hill there are things about James Macdonald in connection to that history that have been documented here on the basis of Mars Hill side sources.  Those, as best as can be ascertained, are still factually reliable, if at times demonstrably subject to redaction, revision or retraction.  Since this blog is not, has not, and isn't intended to be a dedicated "watchblog" or "watchdog blog" This is as much as seems should be noted about the suit and the aforementioned website/blog in light of recent events.