So episodes 9 and 10 of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill have dropped. Episode 9 seemed simultaneously diffuse and focused, maybe too focused, on coach Bob Knight as a parallel to Mark Driscoll. That Rose Madrid Sweatman and Paul Chapman were on record about the didn't-happen protest was ... sort of interesting but it reminded me of what a non-starter that attempt was and how, within Mars Hill, the thing was regarded as less than nothing even in terms of public relations.
Episode 10 is memorable for two things. First, Cosper seems to still be on a theme of "nobody thought it was gonna get this big". Driscoll did. His joke about recruiting men for "world domination" was the sort of joke that revealed the seriousness of his sense of self-seriousness. I've written extensively about the dubious claim that Driscoll never dreamed Mars Hill would get so big. Cosper referencing how Driscoll began to say behind the scenes he wanted to get Mars Hill to 50,000 people suggests that my comments that people who say they never expected Mars Hill to get so big are talking for themselves rather than Mark (made offline and sometimes here) still stand. Maybe the people who helped Mark Driscoll become the propagandist he became didn't realize at the time what they were helping him become but i find the idea that Driscoll himself was not able to conceive of himself as aspiring to be the next Billy Graham meets Charles Spurgeon meets Rick Warren is impossible to take seriously. Driscoll always sought celebrity and was even fairly plainspoken about it once we factor out the "aw shucks" stuff.
Which gets me to Nathan Burke's comments in episode 10 about Driscoll proudly shouting and screaming and working the crowd rather than being humbled by 15,000 Mars Hill attenders being in Quest Field. Burke seemed to get that the more Mark Driscoll got what he envisioned the more off the rails from his initial vision of Christian community he got, assuming generously that that was always a sincere goal. I think we should consider that it was and consider that the media systems that made Driscoll into the star he became transformed him. Someone like Frank Schaeffer should be a reminder to evangelicals in particular and Christians in general that the cost of celebrity systems for character formation can sometimes seem high. Anyone who could use the death of Nelson Mandela as an opportunity to shill a novel the way Frank Schaeffer did suggests to me that progressive Christians have their own wagon-circling brand promoting celebrities with wagon-circling fans. Burke got to see, through a moment of not seeing, where Driscoll's heart had turned.
And that gets me to Burke's account of getting infections in both eyes during a trip and hearing from Driscoll that Driscoll wanted to know if Burke was infectious and apparently ... that was it. Burke's story about being left behind in his blindness and having to be led around by hand by a visiting pastor in the U.K. to get medical help stuck with me. I had to stop listening to the podcast for a bit after hearing that. Driscoll could potentially plead extenuating circumstances but Jesus spoke of what good shepherds do and don't do. Jesus told a parable of how the shepherd sought out a lost sheep. Driscoll's willingness, perhaps even eagerness, to leave Burke behind does not speak particularly well to his character. I had refused to renew my membership back in 2008 and was concerned that behind the scenes Mark was advocating what seemed to be a vision of spiritual warfare that sounded too much like the crazed rantings of Rebecca Brown M.D. Burke got to find out for himself, apparently, that Mark Driscoll would share bromides like "sleep with your boots on" and yet when the proverbial chips were down he would leave people behind. Burke didn't get to hear Mark's lines about the pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus until 2012 like many of the rest of us.
For the moment that's about the extent of my thoughts on the two recent episodes. It's hard to say that I'm past feeling ambivalent about the CT series. I'm less concerned about voices being left out, because tens of thousands of people is too many for every voice to be heard. I'm more baffled by who Cosper has included, sometimes including people who have had no connection to Mars Hill beyond talking about Driscoll Cosper seems to be swimming on which sources are reliable or not and that's partly understandable. Some of the dead ends are literal dead ends as people who played formative roles in the early Mars Hill have died, like Ken Hutcherson and David Nicholas. Spanish River Church nad Antioch Bible Church may not be game to speak to anyone about what happened, which would be too bad but for all that I suppose this series being the first account of Mars Hill that hasn't been controlled by Driscoll and that has been produced by a mainstream evangelical media institution is a theoretical start. But the institutions that make stars aren't good at interrogating the ways they may corrupt their stars or hoist them up on pedestals, whether the stars chosen are Mark Driscoll, the late Rachel Held Evans, Eugene Peterson, Tony Jones or whoever else gets a spotlight. If the spotlight itself corrupts the media figures whose literal bread and butter depend upon that star making nexus of systems are not likely to interrogate things too deeply. Given how long Weinstein allegedly had no censure for his actions; given how long Lance Armstrong reportedly did his cheating and bullying; or Larry Nassar was Nassar ... it's not a shock that Christian institutions are aa eager to defend the prosperity of their respective brands as non-Christian counterparts in the mainstream celebrity generating industries.