Wednesday, September 01, 2021

a new little episode in The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill on the origin myth of Mars Hill and how it changed in significant ways the farther along Mars Hill went; Justin Dean says he won't talk with Cosper

I confess to ambivalence about the Christianity Today podcast.  As I noted previously, it is impossible to reconcile Scott Thomas' claims in 2021 with literally anything he wrote by email or written statement to Mars Hill members in 2007.  When Tim Smith claimed that if a man in pastoral ministry at Mars Hill had a wife who worked outside the home that would be considered grounds for church discipline it was impossible not to think of pastors who were ostentatious counter-examples, men whose wives worked outside the home and who never seemed to come up for church discipline.  To put the point starkly, Cosper's advantage of being an outsider to the Mars Hill scene lets him contextualize Mars Hill within the larger scene of North American evangelicalism but at the potential price of not being able to quickly pick up which sources are more reliable or, more bluntly, credible than others.

Having said that, the reason I think it's a net positive that Christianity Today is doing anything at all is because, Justin Dean's laments noted and with standing, he might want to take stock of some other , academic, writings that have mentioned Driscoll over the years that I've read and complained about here.

Dale E. Soden's Outsiders in a Promised Land collapsed 20 years of Mars Hill history into the chapter "The Christian Right Strikes Back", if academic treatments of the history of Mars Hill stay at this level academic discourse the future is going to be restricted to the celebrity rather than the community

So if Cosper decides it's time to question the origin myths associated with Mark Driscoll's ministry and the founding of Mars Hill someone like Justin Dean might consider that egalitarian/progressive/liberal but Cosper's work is more carefully researched than Dale E Soden's.

Longtime readers of Wenatchee The Hatchet have likely read already some of what Cosper has discussed here in such posts as ... 
... but the new episode is well worth listening to because Cosper talks about how Driscoll mentioned being spurred to consider Christianity and regard himself as called to ministry through a friend with an in-the-closet gay Christian friend; Cosper noted in the earliest accounts of his Christian conversion Driscoll didn't mention Grace Martin at all and in the earliest accounts of how and why Mark Driscoll felt called to ministry and church planting divine directives also don't appear.  That seems of a piece with Mark Driscoll saying he sought wise counsel in 2014 before deciding to resign from Mars Hill and then only in 2015 publicly saying he heard from God and, for good measure, beginning to tell stories about how The Trinity Church was  started because of his kids and not his own ambitions to continue in public ministry.  

Thanks to commenter chris e for highlighting the new little episode of the CT series just arrived.  

Justin Dean's response on Twitter has been to clarify he won't be talking with Mike Cosper

I'm not really interested in doing podcasts myself so I'm not going to blame Justin Dean for believing that a podcast by its nature is not a very efficient medium or genre through which to discuss Mars Hill and its history.  Let the record show that Justin Dean and Wenatchee The Hatchet do sometimes actually agree.  I have made a point of sticking to writing things here.  

I've written at some length about Justin Dean's book PR Matters ... 

Those who have not read it won't know that Dean described Mark Driscoll telling him he was an ideal fit for the work he was being given.  Dean joined Mars Hill Church around 2010, a point at which the origin stories of the founding of Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll's story of his conversion and calling were completely consolidated.  Dean can be understandably committed to the origin myths that were completely solidified previously. For those of us who attended from 1999 through about 2009, however, the seams in the accounts had bit by bit begun to show so Dean might benefit from slogging through the podcasts.  He may be tempted to think that because egalitarians and feminists are given so much time and space that harms the credibility of the Cosper project.  But something that Driscoll claimed to Carey Nieuwhof was that Mars Hill fell apart due to internal leadership battles over LGBTQ issues, a claim so patently untrue it took about fifty pages of extensive writing cross referencing Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas and Mark Driscoll's comments to show that Mark's claim in 2020 about the demise of Mars Hill doesn't hold water.  I'm not doubting the honesty, integrity or credibility of Justin Dean himself, mind you, but that of his former boss.

PART TWO: 9-2-2021 6:53PM

One of the things people might mistakenly think from Cosper's recent podcast is that the fact that Mark Driscoll's story changed might be a "tell" that he has lied a lot.  Now there are cases where Driscoll told lies and the deception could be backed up; and Driscoll has never explained why he'd call a post "We Even Lie About Our Lying" that presupposes literally everyone lies.  Brutal honesty is a phrase in the English language for reasons.

Something that I have dealt with in the past is how Driscoll does share different stories about how he became a Christian and how he got an audible call to marry Grace, teach the Bible, train young men and plant churches.  The thing to keep in mind is that Driscoll has been a preacher, maybe a self-ordained and self-anointed preacher in a lot of ways but he's still a preacher.  I would suggest that in any and every given story he has told or written about his conversion or calling keep in mind the literary and homiletic context.  Mark is never not selling an idea in what he says.  So he didn't mention reading the Bible his wife Grace gave him in The Daily Evergreen op ed he wrote.  

Think about the audience and author. A young man with anxieties and ambitions about manhood and marriage who wanted to present an apologetic for why he became a Christian would not lead with "because I read the Bible my girlfriend gave me" even if he wasn't in a sexual relationship with said girlfriend. Why?  For the obvious reason that such an apologetic would be dismissed by non-Christian readers (and Christian readers for that matter in many a case). But within a church and  church cultures saying you became a believer because you read the Bible given to you by the woman who became your wife is acceptable because of tropes about the redeeming love of a good woman and other tropes. 

This would be the Captain Obvious moment in which I point out that spinning  stories to suit target audiences to whom you're making an overt and obvious homiletic or apologetic point is not necessarily the same as constantly changing your story in a way that is "I'm lying".  It "could" be but it isn't necessarily the case.  Even if you wanted to put it in the sharpest and harshest way possible, Mark Driscoll has not so much demonstrably changed his overall story so as to lie as much as he has presented, emphasized and spun different elements of a generally steady pair of stories about his conversion and sense-of-calling experience depending on what audience he is pandering to.  

That last part is the most significant part to keep in mind assessing Driscoll's stories and it is the part that Cosper omits altogether in the recent podcast.  He gets to if he decided it's not germane to the question of Driscoll's changing accounts and the nuances of those accounts.  But then Wenatchee The Hatchet has done that over the years and it doesn't strike me as exactly a "gotcha" moment.  Some of the people who would be most in a position to confirm or deny details to any degree are dead or have never spoken on record that I know of about Mark Driscoll. We'll obviously be unlikely to get an account from Hutch and as yet nobody has contacted Doug Busby that I know of.  There's no indications either Gunn or Moi have been or are necessarily willing to talk to Cosper but that has not been discussed to the best of my knowledge in any on record statement.

What I've been seeing is that partisans are willing to use the podcast as a springboard to talk about the kinds of issues they would tend to talk about independent of any knowledge of Mars Hill Church. So far the level of discussion about the podcast has not been inspiring.  If Cosper wants to raise questions about how reliable Driscoll's accounts are that's a legitimate question but questions about how reliable all of his sources may be and what their connection to Mars Hill even is get opened up or are up for consideration at some point.  What Joshua Harris has to do with Mars Hill history is beyond me, for instance and I've been in the orbit of Mars Hill and related people and topics for twenty years.  

Monday, August 30, 2021

Emerson String Quartet to disband in 2023

There's nothing like the recent announcement that the Emerson String Quartet will disband in 2023 to get this blogger out of planned dormancy, at least to note the following news.


Lebrecht being Lebrecht he threw in a covid-19 reference that seems to insinuate that it has something to do with the ensemble disbanding but even without a covid-19 situation 40 years is a spectacular run for a string quartet and this is a string quartet that has done landmark recordings of Shostakovich and Bartok over the years (and I got to hear them perform one of Joan Tower's string quartets when they came and played at the University of Washington).

Shostakovich Quartet No. 8 

and, of course, their unforgettable take on the final movement of Bartok's Third String Quartet

Lebrecht has floated the question of which U.S. quartet will step in as though it were mysterious.  The string quartet is such a venerable medium there doesn't need to be a new "it" quartet.  I heard some great performances by the Pacifica Quartet in the last fifteen years (and they even played a Hindemith quartet, which wins them points in my book for being willing to play his stuff when a lot of ensembles don't).  The Takacs Quartet is still around.  I'm rusty on my string quartets in the last ten years having focused so intently on guitar music, solo or chamber, but Lebrecht needn't worry in reality or in posture about whether or not there's going to be some high quality string quartet in the United States.  One of the Emersons said at a concert that every quartet in the last few centuries has been small fry compared to the quartet that was formed by Haydn, Mozart, Ditters and Vanhal.  Uh, yeah, that's kind of hard to dispute in terms of collected compositional skill.  Whether or not they all played with "chops of death" has, apparently, been less certain a thing but maybe someone can fill in comments about accounts of the HMDV quartet.

Anyway, I was glad to hear the Emersons play a lot of fantastic music here in Seattle over the course of twenty years and I still dig their recordings.