Monday, November 28, 2016

HT Warren Throckmorton--Driscoll claims to have had a Malthusian past that he's repudiated, although it was ten years ago he bluntly articulated his "shoot your dogs" approach to practical ministry and eight years ago he said whole family lines could be demonically inspired

Throckmorton has a clip of Driscoll preaching recently with a tale of how he was once a Malthusian and was for abortion and contraception and how he was wrong.  We've already discussed at some length the slippery aspects of Driscoll's ways with narrative.  There are six not-always-subtly different narratives as to how and why and when he made the decision to resign from Mars Hill, for instanceWe've also explored how, depending on the rhetorical/polemical context Driscoll at times saw fit to tell the story of his conversion to Christianity without any recourse to mention (even once) of Grace Martin. In the tagged series of posts "Mark Driscoll and the power of the sob story"we took a survey of Driscoll's stories of woe from the 2007-2014 period and noted that as controversy swirled around him his appeals for sympathy shifted from "here's how rough I had it" to "here's how rough my wife and kids have had it".  All that review is to say that it's very, very difficult to simply accept a narrative asserted by Mark Driscoll at face value even when the core facts of the narrative can, actually, be basically agreed upon.

Now if one were to attempt even a guess as to what on earth could inspire an ambitious young sort like Mark Driscoll that some people simply didn't deserve to reproduce his urban redneck background might have been what inspired this observational approach.  That got discussed at some length in the series "Mark Driscoll and the Gospel of [escaping] white trash" earlier this year. Driscoll's description of his working class Irish-Catholic family travelled in just enough jokes about rednecks and living in the ghetto that the only plausible explanation for any former Malthusian convictions he may claim to have had in his teens and early twenties would have to at least partly consider those alleged views in light of his self-described urban redneck milieu.

So even if Mark Driscoll sincerely held to what he thinks of as Malthusian ideals this doesn't mean he's necessarily fleshed out WHY he embraced those views.  After all, a Malthusian view, albeit defined pejoratively, tends to worry about the unworthy reproducing than the more-than-worthy reproducing.   That he viewed himself as one of the superior sorts is easily considered even if he DIDN'T say he viewed himself as a superior being.  The sort of guy who backs out of a restorative disciplinary process at the church he co-founded because he claims God gave him permission to is someone who is arguably STILL living and speaking as though he's a genuinely superior being not bound to live by the rules he'd admonished just about everyone else in the history of Mars Hill to live by.

Which reminds me ... ten years ago Driscoll articulated a practical philosophy about ministry that included the axiom "shoot your dogs".

Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Mark Driscoll
From pages 34-35

Question 9
Do you have the courage to shoot your dogs?

Dogs are idiotic ideas, stinky styles, stupid systems, failed facilities, terrible technologies, loser leaders, and pathetic people. Most churches know who and what their dogs are but simply lack the courage to pull the trigger and shoot their dogs. Therefore it is vital to name with brutal candor the people, programs, structures, and ministry philosophies that are dogs needing to be shot. Be sure to make it count and shoot them only once so that they don't come back and bite you. [endnote 35 here]

Page 202
35. I took the concept of shooting our dogs from a conversation I had with a friend named Jon Phelps, who is the president of DC-3 Entertainment and the founder of Full Sail College. 
Jon Phelps is co-credited with Mark Driscoll for Reverse-Engineering Your Life
So whether or not Driscoll actually rejected Malthusian thinking for humanity itself it's not entirely clear he didn't embrace a kind of practical quasi-Malthusian approach to ministry.

POSTSCRIPT 11-28-2016 0800p

One of the simpler problems with Driscoll's account of Malthusian eugenics is the implicit presumption in his account that people weren't concerned with overpopulation and that people weren't necessarily advocating measures to prevent overpopulation.  This was one of many concerns held by Catholic political leaders and theologians in the medieval period, for instance.  Given how Jack a Jack Catholic Mark Driscoll has often said he was it's no surprise if he once again proved his ignorance.

So ... let's take a gander over to this old book.

A History of Political Thought: The Middle Ages
Walter Ullman
Penguin Books
first published 1965
ISBN-10: 0140207783
ISBN-13: 978-0140207781

The continuator of his commentaries on the Politics, his [Thomas Aquinas'] pupil at Paris and later Bishop of Claremont, Peter of Auvergne, struck up quite radical naturalist chords, particularly in connexion with social and economic questions and problems connected with marriage. For instance, he held that, since the State had to be self-sufficient, it was imperative to limit the number of citizens, otherwise poverty would follow. Hence he advocated limitations in the size of families. Aristotle's suggestion of abortion was not endorsed, but in order to avoid over-population he suggested restrictions of procreation between the ages of 37 and 55 with men and 18 to 37 with women, because then fewer children would be born. Beyond these age groups there should not be sexual intercourse with a view to procreation, but simply for the sake of health or some other valid reason.

So advised restrictions on how often to have children so as to forestall over-population that could lead to systemic poverty was something people were concerned about back in the medieval period.  Driscoll's implication about population control and eugenics could be mistaken as saying these were relatively recent concerns.  They aren't and they weren't.  Whether or not you have particular issues with Planned Parenthood the case that poor people should refrain from birthing children faster than they can produce enough food to feed them or home enough to shelter them goes back as far (and obviously farther back then) the middle ages.

In all of Driscoll's spiel on Malthusian eugenics did he mention that Thomas Robert Malthus was a cleric?  The topic of whether or not Malthus' views have been misunderstood or misrepresented would be fascinating for someone else to field.  For the sake of this blog post it's merely sufficient to highlight that when Driscoll tries to unfurl what he seems to take to be wisdom about Malthusian eugenics he highlights yet more gaps in his knowledge about how far back concerns about over-population go and misses the boat on the extent to which the origination of Malthus' ideas could be construed as being founded on an evolutionary or materialistic paradigm.


One of the other reasons to doubt whether or not Mark Driscoll really put what he calls his Malthusian eugenics ideas behind him comes from the 2008 spiritual warfare session he gave to leadership at Mars Hill.
Spiritual Warfare
February 5, 2008
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Christus Victor (Part 3)

I then ask them to confess sins and cancel ground and command leaving one at a time. `s all before we start, "How did you open the door?" proverbially speaking?  "Well, it was I committed adultery then after that I started having nightmares."

"Well, guess what?  Probably a connection there, huh?  Probably opened the door with adultery. Have you ever really repented of that to Jesus and asked him to forgive you?"

"Not really."

"Well let's do that right now. Let's stop right now and have you repent of that sin, ask Jesus to forgive you. He died.  Receive forgiveness."

Let's get--cuz, see, Satan and demons, with a believer, in addition to external torment and such, most of what they have is what we've given them by opening the door through sin.

"Well then, confess it is a sin.  Let's kick `em out, lock the door but you gotta straighten this out with Jesus. You gotta repent."

So a good chunk of time is just spent on repentence of particular sin. It's all it is. Getting rid of those handholds and footholds.
I then ask them a series of questions. This is where we start, number ten. I'll usually check with ancestral sin. I'm looking at their past.

Now if they come from ten generations of third degree Masons I'm startin' there. If they're grandma was into witchcraft and their mama was into witchcraft and they have some demonic issues it shouldn't be shocking to think that this has been an issue in their family for a while. [emphasis added]

I know one family where incest was just part of the family. They actually had very intricate rules to control incest. The grandfathers and uncles could molest little girls but daddies couldn't and you could only do that once they hit the age of ten. You couldn't molest any child before that. I get these complicated rules that have been passed down for generations for the sexual abuse of the children. You're like, this, your struggle here, your temptations, your issues, they have generational lineage.

There are whole family lines that are just demonically inspired. You ever wonder why, in the Old Testament, God will occasionally tell his people, "When you go to war against that nation kill ALL of them. Don't let one of them live." People say, "Oh, oh that's terrible." Not if that whole line is demonized. Not if that whole line of people exists for the express purpose of fighting God and killing his people. The issue is either you get rid of them or they get rid of you. Satan is inspiring them to destroy you and you gotta get rid of them. Satan DOES work through family lines. There are family lines like the Herods who, just from one generation to the next, they're trying to kill Jesus and his people. Some of the family fights in Genesis, they continue all the way to this day. Not saying every person in the family line is demonized, but it seems like Satan likes to work through family lines, ancestral sin. [emphasis added[

So ... if Mark Driscoll asserted in 2008 that there were whole family lines that were demonically originated and inspired and that in the Old Testament it was not wrong for God to command Israel to massacre entire nations, would there have been any consideration of whether this would still be an approach in the present?  In other words, how could a Mark Driscoll who could make these assertions still have a moral basis from which to argue against what he describes as Malthusian eugenics.  If entire family lines could be described as demonically inspired what's the remedy?  This hardly seems like a great set of assertions for a guy like Mark Driscoll to make about whole family lines being demonically inspired if his long-term goal is to repudiate whatever he regards as Malthusian eugenics.


Even assuming that the writings of an English cleric from centuries ago could somehow be conflated with what Driscoll describes as ideological evolutionary thought ... let's never forget that in 2007 Mark Driscoll still had his comment about the pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus.
October 1, 2007

... Too many guys spend too much time trying to move stiff-necked obstinate people. I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus and by God's grace it'll be a mountain by the time we're done. You either get on the bus or get run over by the bus (those are the options) but the bus ain't gonna stop. I'm just a, I'm just a guy who is like, "Look, we love ya but this is what we're doin'."

There's a few kind of people. There's people who get in the way of the bus.  They gotta get run over. There are people who want to take turns driving the bus. They gotta get thrown off cuz they want to go somewhere else. There are people who will be on the bus (leaders and helpers and servants, they're awesome).  There's also sometimes nice people who just sit on the bus and shut up. They're not helping or hurting. Just let `em ride along. You know what I'm saying? But don't look at the nice people who are just gonna sit on the bus and shut their mouth and think, "I need you to lead the mission." They're never going to. At the most you'll give `em a job to do and they'll serve somewhere and help out in a minimal way. If someone can sit in a place that  hasn't been on mission for a really long time they are by definition not a leader and so they're never going to lead. You need to gather a whole new core. [emphasis added]

I'll tell you what, you don't just do this for church planting or replanting, you know what? I'm doing it right now. I'm doing it right now. We just took certain guys and rearranged the seats on the bus. Yesterday we fired two elders for the first time in the history of Mars Hill last night. They're off the bus, under the bus. They were off mission so now they're unemployed. This will be the defining issue as to whether or not you succeed or fail.

If those were the words of a guy who repudiated the Malthusian eugenics views he claims he had earlier either Malthusian thought doesn't seem to mean what Driscoll has lately claimed it means ... or a person could repudiate the allegedly Malthusian views he claimed to have earlier and STILL say with an apparently clear conscience that you could either get on the bus or get run over by the bus but the bus ain't gonna stop.

Of course there isn't a Mars Hill bus NOW, is there?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Ben Johnston String Quartet #4

Having mentioned Ben Johnston's string quartets a few days ago, it seemed like a good idea to link to a performance of one the more accessible quartets in the cycle.

As in, Jeff, if you still read this blog from time to time go check out Johnston's string quartets, they're amazing!

Johnston's String Quartet No. 4 is a set of variations on "Amazing Grace". Johnston's one of the American composers who has been exploring microtonality and just intonation.  I mean to write more about this realm of music later but for now I'll say that I sometimes wish Roger Scruton's posse would give it a rest ripping on Schoenberg and John Cage because if I never hear Wagner for the rest of my life I won't miss him and because there have been critiques of the 12-tone chromatic scale used in equal temperament as not being more than one relatively recent option for pitch organization.  What if Schoenberg was right to guess that the 12-tone chromatic scale in equal temperament was played out in the tonal idiom?  That doesn't mean that there are no alternatives to that chromatic equally tempered scale, which wasn't even necessarily an option for the early and middle Baroque eras, let alone earlier.

But enough of that.  We can talk about the frequency with which today's avant garde as a rejuvenation or rediscovery of ideas that are recognized as old and perhaps unfairly abandoned options later.

"check your privilege" as a vindictive variation of "count your blessings" (warning, links to wildly syrupy songs from the 1970s and 1980s show up)

To a Calvinist with a sense of meticulous sovereignty at the level espoused by John Piper, there was, in hindsight, no way I could have escaped having heard music by Evelyn Tornquist Karlsson known by the simpler sobriquet Evie.

So, as a Pentecostal kid growing up in western Oregon through the 1970s and 1980s it was impossible, perhaps, to have not heard Evie singing how we should be thankful for the good things that we got, because the good things that we got are, for many, just a dream ...

Can't really unhear the song having heard it once, which may simultaneously be a testament to the ear worm aspects of the song and to the fact that I didn't exactly want to remember this song decades later.

Actually ... from about the same era there's also that old song "What About Me?"

To go by these pop songs the spectrum of extremes between grateful counting of blessings and the earnest clamor to get my share can be expressed through ... well ... really cheesy ballads.

It is, perhaps, this second song from the 1980s that may encapsulate an element that isn't even latent about the phrase "check your privilege".  Can't you see I wanna live but you just take more than you give?

College students have discovered that being at college brings with it a lot of privilege and not necessarily the "count your blessings" kind.  The axiom "check your privilege" can seem to be a vindictive, assessing variant of "count your blessings", articulated by those who would say, "You better count your blessings that you have that others don't have because if you won't do it I certainly will."

There is a sound concern in the axiom "check your privilege", but the capacity to check the privilege of someone else is not an assurance you have checked your own.  To invoke Adolf Schlatter's axiom from his commentary on Romans, our own share is not removed by condemning the evil in others.  So checking your privilege does not remove my privilege any more than you checking my privilege would remove one iota of yours.

These two cheesy pop songs may serve as a reminder that these social/emotional poles have always been with us.  I hate both these songs because, for me, the two songs seem to reek of a shared sense of entitlement.  It might just be a personal hang-up, your mileage may vary.  The way the former song has been rolled out in church contexts it could be construed as, pardon the language, "quit bitching about stuff and be grateful for what you have." At the other end of the spectrum, the other song seems determined to trot out a series of sob stories about other people that culminates in "so now I want what I think I deserve from life and it's YOUR FAULT I don't have it."  The song clearly was intended to be a plea for social justice at one level but at another level it reads like the subtext or text of any given plot of any given Adam Sandler film, of whom it's been written he plays characters who believe that the mere presence of desire in the protagonist ought to be taken as prima facie evidence said desires should be granted.

And that could describe the vibe I sense not just in the college students who are discovering what this "privilege" thing is a rhetorical weapon as well as those alt right guys who believe that somehow the cards are against them, too.  There's a zinger Gerald gets in a recent South Park episode where he tells another internet troll that "you're not a political internet warrior, you're just some guy who can't get laid."

While I sometimes try to be sympathetic to both groups as having grievances that are based on real inequalities it can be hard to shake off the sense that if you have the time, money, technology and leisure to vent on the internet there may be a silver lining that's being missed.  That literacy is, in the grand sweep of human history, something of a privilege. Or there may be something else.  One of the paradoxes of our era is that there are writers who can discuss the prevalence of rape culture while simultaneously affirming the necessity of defending reproductive rights as a euphemism for not carrying a fetus to term. 

Because if we're looking at both genders and not just whatever "reproductive rights" are euphemistically supposed to be for women, there are obviously guys who think they have a right to sex and they act accordingly ... which has had me wondering whether or not a more honest appraisal of reproduction is that any act of human reproductive routines is a negotiated privilege, and some guys had better own up to the possibility that any previously negotiated privileges could be revoked or that they may never successfully negotiate said privilege.  Years ago I heard a fellow intone that Proverbs says that he who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.  Well that proverb never articulated a "promise" that a guy will get a wife, it's more like counsel to be grateful for the wife you have when you meet her.  It's count your blessings there, not "I've had enough now I want my share." 

Even though I've read some stuff on some manosphere blogs about custody battles and divorce laws it sometimes seems like dudes on the manosphere may be guys who have significantly overestimated what some people call sexual market value.  Rather than concede that they are simply not as desirable to others as they regard themselves to be, it's easier to imagine that there's a war on men or a war on boys or some kind of war rather than concede that maybe we live in a world where if there's a sexual marketplace your market value is somewhere in the zone of zero. 

Why shouldn't it be possible for men, not least because men exist who are willing to say such things about women.  The men who have been willing to say those sorts of things about women almost invariably resent having the same things said about them.  I can recall a guy sitting at a fire with a bunch of other guys who were talking about the challenges of relating to their wives in their respective marriages.  The guy at the fire, single, blurted out that he was amazed at all the complaining guys were doing about how tough married life was.  "At least you guys get to have sex!" he said with indignation.  An older married man said, "No you don't, if none of the other areas of the relationship are working that doesn't happen."  

Soren Kierkegaard once mused that the single men bitterly resents not having a wife and then the married man bitterly resents the loss of his freedom and time.  I.e. humans may be disposed to ingratitude even after they have gotten the thing they were sure they wanted. And the flip side of this is that those who are the beneficiaries of privilege often invent ways to convince themselves and others that it was not the proverbial luck of the draw. No, it was all the greatness of the effort and the worthiness of the accomplished.   Sometimes it seems as though the sum of American high and low culture could be expressed in an axiom--we loathe and resent those relationships that we have coveted as the relationships most able to give our selves meaning.

It would be nice if there were a midpoint between the Evie song and that song recorded by the band Moving Pictures.  I mean these two songs are brutally open campaigns to extort water from your tear ducts.  You'd be better off reading Ivan Karamazov's parable about the Grand Inquisitor!  Perhaps we're really more sophisticated now than all that, we don't have songs that trumpet these sentiments 1980s style.  We are able to get more directly to the point with some help from Twitter.  Still ...

So here I am, wishing I'd never heard either of these songs even once in my lifetime but in a way it's a reminder that for people who find it frustrating that kids these days say stuff like "check your privilege", it's not like things have changed THAT much.  At least the kids these days aren't writing songs of the aforementioned sort I've been trying to forget pretty much all my life but can't forget.

If you haven't heard either of the songs and were prudent enough to not click on the links, check your privilege and don't give it up by listening to either of those two songs. Hold on to that privilege and don't let it go. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

on rewatching Star Trek Beyond--the conflict between Kirk and Krall is about "who is my neighbor" as addressed in The Good Samaritan and the dillema of Trek as a pro-secularist franchise parasitically dependent on Judeo-Christian ethical traditions

We're three movies into the rebooted Star Trek franchise and what has nagged at me since the reboot is the question of what, exactly, the Federation does.  What does it do?  What does it stand for?  Unity?  I was watching the film last night with some friends and one of them pointed out that the quest to seek out new life and new civilizations sounds cool but ... to what end is it done? 

Considering that three movies in a row the villains have it out for the Federation or those people who are held to embody the vices of the Federation, it would seem pretty important to establish what the Federation does. 

The Federation and Starfleet seem to be a fairly simple stand-in for the United States.  This is an unavoidable consideration when we consider that Roddenberry made Star Trek half a century ago in the United States.   It's been easy for some film critics (looking at you Richard Brody) to have a cavalier and condescending approach to the worn out franchise.  But the franchise embodies the most optimistic and egalitarian blue state sort of mentality that would seem right at home in what old lefties regard as the hopelessly middlebrow New Yorker

Watching the film again I was struck that Krall (the human warrior Balthasar Edison, played by Idris Elba) believes that the Federation made humanity weak.  But it's more blunt and personal than that,  Edison had spent his whole life defending the human race from Romulans and other planets bent on crushing humanity and then the wars ended and the peace that came resulted in the Federation.  Edison becomes Krall and vows revenge on the Federation for abandoning him and his crew.  For Krall the Federation is emblematic of a haughty, self-satisfied conflict averse empire in which the humans who risked their lives to save humanity were cast off in favor of sharing meals with the races that were previously set on destroying the human race.

Captain Kirk, our hero, argues that the war was won and Edison needed to change.  But there's a core problem in the conflict that Captain Kirk has with Edison/Krall that never gets addressed.  In fact the conflict is taken for granted.  The assumption is that Kirk is right and Krall is wrong but we're never given a reason why this is so.  Well, we're given a reason, Kirk tells Krall he'd rather die saving lives than live with taking them but he ... does kinda let Krall die.  Captain Kirk hasn't exactly had problems killing to save lives over the last fifty years or, if he's had reservations he has been pragmatic enough to recognize that sometimes saving billions of lives might entail killing millions (see Operation: Annihilate, for instance, from the original series). 

But let's step back and think about something that the film critics at The New Yorker didn't seem all that interested in even thinking about--Krall and Kirk are both men who are fighting for the benefit of the human race as they understand what is beneficial to humanity as a whole.  So the conflict is not about humanity, the conflict is about something else.  The question is the one that was posed to Jesus by an expert in the law, the question about eternal life.  Jesus replied that you love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  The law expert, seeking to justify himself, asked "and who is my neighbor?"  Jesus proceeded to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Jesus' parable in Luke 10 warns that if you ask "who is my neighbor?" in a way that forecloses someone as having that relationship then you will not inherit eternal life.

In other words, Krall rejects the Samaritan and Kirk seeks to help the Samaritan, if we articulate their positions in terms that are explicable in light of the teaching of Jesus on love of neighbor.  Krall has concluded only humans are truly his neighbor; Kirk is committed to the precept that you love your neighbor as yourself and you DISCOVER who your neighbor is through the quest of seeking to be neighbors to as many as you can.  If it seems that Star Trek is permeated with a kind of liberal piety, well, that's not a big shock.  What's surprising is that liberals can sneer at the piety in the schlocky series with its genre trappings without realizing they would generally affirm the ethical precepts. 

But there's another way in which the conflict between Krall and Kirk is explicable in terms of Jesus' parables.  Krall is the older brother who rejects the return of the younger brother.  He can't respect a father who decides to welcome the one who rejected the father.  This is a loose analogy, of course, but the disposition toward the neighbor is a theme that can be drawn from this parable, too. 

And that gets to a problem in the Star Trek narrative universe, and not just the problem that it can have an unexamined endorsement of what could be globally regarded as American cultural imperialism (although Simon Pegg could, as a co-author of the script, actually get that this is a thing to be concerned about, being British).  The problem is that the ethical ideals of the secular/progressive Star Trek franchise, when push comes to shove, gives us a Captain Kirk who articulates an ethical view that, however admirable we may find it to be, is parasitically dependent on the Christian ethical tradition that is preserved in the parables of Jesus.

American artists and writers about the arts consider a variety of ideas about the arts and the role of the artist in the wake of Trump's victory

aka links for the weekends

Ia 1971 article in ARTnews, Linda Nochlin, a feminist art historian, asked a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad question: “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” Her question has been ringing in our collective ears ever since. And it’s ringing especially loudly this year.
Here is Nochlin’s killer line: “The fact, dear sisters, is that there are no women equivalents for Michelangelo or Rembrandt, Delacroix or CĂ©zanne, Picasso or Matisse, or even, in very recent times, for de Kooning or Warhol.” She went on to explain why:
The fault, dear brothers, lies not in our stars, our hormones, our menstrual cycles or our empty internal spaces, but in our institutions and our education … everything that happens to us from the moment we enter this world of meaningful symbols, signs and signals.
Our very idea of greatness, of genius, she argued, is bound up with manliness.

The article proceeds from there, assuming that the nature of the question "why have there been no great women artists?" is bad.  It can certainly be taken as a bad question but there are many ways in which it could be shown to be a bad question.

If gender is a social construct the reason there may be no great women artists is that the social construction of gender could be construed as inimical to the possibility of making art to begin with, , let alone great art, whatever greatness may be.

But ... what if the problem is in the definition of "art"?  What if art for the sake of art is the problem?  What if the reason there have been no great women artists is that within the social confines of femininity in Western cultures female creativity had to be directed toward some actual, real world practical end?  At the risk of pointing out the obvious, raising children who survive into adulthood could be an artistic and creative discipline of the sort that never gets recognized as an art because "art" in Western contexts presupposes that a human life can't be a work of art.

That's just one possibility to consider and many women today don't want to get into the realm of the art of raising children anymore than someone who is interested in ceramics doesn't want to get into colored pencil drawings or painting with acrylic.  Now obviously the analogy breaks down at all sorts of levels and seems odious but it may be worth articulating for precisely its odious side--there are women who find the prospect of raising children altogether loathesome.  There are women who want very much to raise children.  They ideally may be able to embrace either pursuit in contemporary society.

But then there's this matter of what "great" is and greatness in pedagogical contexts tends to be tied up with questions of canonicity and academic requirements.  And, of course, art.

The question of what is at the core of art for the sake of art has been examined countless times already.  Ted Gioia's riff has been that he wants to promote not so much art for art's sake but art for people's sake and this seems to get at a long-running complaint the music historian Richard Taruskin has had about the ideological claim that art should be for the sake of art, that the Matthew Arnold inspired "art religion" does nothing to safeguard that art concerns itself with the lives of others.  The humanities do not humanize and the surest proof to us that they do not is the fact that, if the humanities DID humanize, how was it that the societies whose cultural legacies became the Western canon afflicted more atrocities on the world in the 20th century than we can begin to fathom?

Now supposing we stick to the idea that greatness is still a workable concept, Diane Ragsdale asked over at her Artsjournal blog, "What is our `great work' in light of this election?"

You can pretend that the idea of greatness is impossible or that it doesn't exist or that you don't believe in greatness.  You can be an idiot about that.  The slogan that insists upon making America great again seems to have resonated with some people.

or maybe saying that America already is great resonated with people and that's why it looks as though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote ...

in spite of voter suppression, maybe?

although ... the Electoral College vote decided the election.  So now there's some talk (again) of abolishing the Electoral College, the irony of which seems hard to miss when people objected to statements from Trump to the effect that he'd recognize the legitimacy of process if he won.  This principle can be inverted without losing its potency, it's possible to regard a democratic republican electoral process as only being legitimate if it got you the result you wanted and regarding it as inherently corrupt under all other circumstances.  It would seem that on sides red and blue we've got some people who only consider democratic processes to be truly, legitimately democratic if the results are wanted. 

So, back to the question of the "great work" for artists in the era of Trump.
From where I stand, those working in nonprofit professional cultural organizations across the US—we in the so-called Creative Class—are, without a doubt, among those who did not understand our country, its culture, or its values. If we are shocked and outraged by the election results this only seems to prove the point. And this lack of understanding is disappointing given that art can be—arguably, should be—the way we share with one another what it means to be human (a powerful and democratizing notion.

There's some thoughts about arts funding and arts organizations and serving the public.  The question of whether or not the Western concept of art in its contemporary form is really a democratizing thing seems given.  But is it?  Is it actually a given that the arts are intrinsically democratizing? 

At the risk of asking a potentially obvious question ... do people who aren't already interested in the arts read blog aggregators like ArtsJournal?  Arts administration blogging isn't something I read all that regularly, but the headline caught my eye.  And it's gotten me thinking about some observations Leonard B. Meyer made about the Romantic era and what he called the ideology of elite egalitarians.

ISBN 0-226-52152-4

page 346
... egalitarianism does not require that art be understood, appreciated, and loved by every person, but only that listening competence does not depend on privileged learning (whether formal or informal) of traditions, references, and the like.

page 347
The irony is, of course, that instead of leading to compositions readily understood and appreciated by the concert-going public, egalitarianism gave rise to music that became the private province of small academic coteries. And this untoward outcome raises an important, even fundamental, question about humankind: Is it in our nature to be wholly natural--that is, without cultivated concepts and conventions?
page 349
... human communication is for the most part dependent on learning. In this sense, all competence leads to exclusiveness and, for any particular in-group, to elitism.

What liberals and progressives within the arts seem to struggle to understand is a concept that an old conservative elitist like Roger Scruton doesn't struggle to understand, the essential notion that the "vocational artist" is necessarily someone in some kind of leisure class.  The level of education and resources a person has to have to appreciate the arts, let alone participate in or contribute to those arts, is full of what some folks these days would call "privilege".

But we seem to live in an era in which writers and poets and musicians and artists who aspire to make their wages from those activities embrace all kinds of ideologies and philosophies whose end game seems to be exonerating artists, writers, poets, musicians, film directors and actors from even being able to be part of a ruling caste or an elite.   Whoever Elena Ferrante really is ... let's consider some assertions made on her behalf about the power of writers:
The only real limits to what a writer writes should be determined by his or her own imaginative capacity; and it is the reader who will ultimately judge how successful that act of imagination has been. A writer’s imagination can be powerful, hurtful, and sometimes, so dangerous to society that the works are ultimately proscribed. But this is treacherous ground; except in extreme circumstances, the suppression of imaginative literature represents a fundamental threat to freedom of thought. When writers work, they imagine; and, by affirming freedom of the imagination, a writer asserts, on behalf of every reader, the right to imagine a life beyond the confines of everyday experience. It is an escape, it is an experience, and it can be transcendent. Good writing, even when it disturbs us, is a potent reminder of what it means to be a human being.

Assuming the work is PUBLISHED, maybe the readers get to ultimately judge how successful the act of imagination has been.  What if there's something besides suppression of imaginative literature, such as a propensity to distribute and promote a range of imaginative literature that some would consider confined to those who already have the privilege of being within the demographics most likely to be favored.  To be a bit blunt about it, the people most likely to know what the concept of white privilege is have the privilege of access to educational resources that can instruct them what the concept of privilege is.  The paradox of having the privilege to talk about privilege as though it were a thing you didn't already possess as the process through which to talk about it could be a book.  Very probably someone has already written that book.

So ... of Ferrante ... her work has been described as a bid on behalf of women writers to make literary art on par with the literary art that is regarded as canonical in Western culture that has been traditionally written by (or credited to) men. 

Okay ...

and then there's concern about who has representation in the film industry. 

Are we possibly seeing a lot of discussion about an idea that asserts that if the ruling castes have a level of sexual and ethnic or skin-color diversity that goes beyond old white male that ... this really means that the new ruling castes will be more ... benevolent?

Why would anyone believe this?

Can't people on the British left remind people that voting for Hillary Clinton so as to have a woman in the Oval Office has an unstated assumption built into "first woman president"?  It's not like Margaret Thatcher, the Irony Lady, was regarded with love and adoration by the British left.  If "all" that were really at stake is women being able to raise an articulate and insistent voice then the lately deceased Phyllis Schlafly should have been celebrated by feminists the world over for showing what powerful influence a woman in the political sphere can have.

American feminists may believe ideas such as that "White women Sold Out the Sisterhood By Voting For Trump"

at least the sort of writer who contributes to Slate's Double XX can believe that white women sold out the sisterhood.

But does that sisterhood exist apart from the minds of those women who can make livings as writers in places like New York?  Does that sisterhood exist as more than a journalistic construction, a reification into a social unit of those authors who may get published in and read stuff at Slate or Salon?  That Trump won the Electoral College vote has not stopped people from spending the last couple of weeks scapegoating electoral demographics they've spent the last decade demonizing as not even real Americans.

So we can have an artist, in the wake of Trump's victory writing something like this:
I lay awake, alternately weeping, hyperventilating, and checking my phone, needing human contact out in this altered, strange world. I texted my friend Daniel in Louisville: Can you believe this? He answered, I don’t know what to tell my kids. Daniel, I messaged him, how do I do this tomorrow? How do I play this concert now? I lay in bed and thought of my kids downstairs, of their tomorrow and the day after that, how scared they were, how they’d seen the grownups crying tonight. At 3 a.m. I whispered to my husband: “I can’t make this trip.” I texted Daniel, Are you awake? He wasn’t. He didn’t answer. When my alarm went off, I got up, and I stumbled downstairs and kissed my sleeping kids. I brushed my teeth and grabbed my suitcase, and drove to the airport.

Because this is what I do. I’m a performer, and there are rules. The show must go on. There’s no people like show people. Our job is to smile when we are low, to make you smile, forget your troubles, to entertain you. Daniel was waiting for me, and a concert audience, and five hundred kids in the Louisville schools, and I’m a trouper and I don’t let people down. So I got up and I went to work.

Within a day of Obama becoming president-elect a relative sent me a spam declaring Christians were going to be sent to concentration camps.  Later I'd get spam declaring that Obama was going to abolish the dollar and replace it with the amero.  I've gotten dire warnings from friends over the years Bush 2 was going to suspend the Constitution, declare martial law, and declare himself dictator for life.  Dave Chappelle deciding to send up white progressive panic seemed like a tonic.  It could be all too easy in the Pacific Northwest to forget that Oregon was chartered as a white supremacist utopia in which slavery was not legal but neither were blacks permitted citizenship. That weird double bind is something progressives in the Pacific Northwest can't afford to forget.  It's not as though we didn't have a racist progressive in the form of Woodrow Wilson a century ago.

If there is a moment of reckoning artists and journalists could have now, besides the alarming failure of the Fourth Estate as a whole to anticipate what has transpired, it's that artists as a group need to consider that they are, in fact, a ruling caste.  It's easy to look down on uneducated people who work in trades and haven't read Nabakov or Pauline Kael.  But stop and think about this a moment and it could be revealed to be a potential loathing of the underclass.  The Old Left has cranked out a pretty articulate condemnation of the aristocratic entitlement of the castes that have backed Hillary Clinton.  It's no love for Trump to propose that after a generation of civic minded liberal celebrities backing leaders like Clinton and endorsing them that the electoral results may reveal the possibility that if we were to have some kind of class conflict that those backing Clinton may have a chance to discover they're the ruling classes.

It doesn't matter if the members of those who are ruling class level in terms of money and cultural influence have reputations as gadflies.

when you're in SESAC rather than ASCAP or BMI you're part of a slightly more exclusive club.

With a few books out about the art of criticism and the "art of the voice" it's easy to notice that critics have lamented their decline of cultural influence and wonder about the stability of the art of criticism.

It seems to be a lament on both the left and the right.  There have been laments about the decline of Western civilization since pretty much the dawn of Western civilization.  It's as though self-pitying emo Goth white boy writers have been a thing going back to the actual Gothic era! That's not just  sarcasm, my brother was telling me that in his reading about job markets in the medieval European scene there were humanities students venting spleen about how they'd study for seven years in the arts and languages only to find that key positions in university roles or government posts were being given to lawyers and accountants.  So artists and poets and bards have been pissed off about the bean counters and legal experts getting more prestigious jobs for literally a thousand years. 

Something I've been mulling over this year and last is that it seems as though in the left and right, the old blue and red, there have been currents of thought in which the "other", the adversary, is generally cast as a ruling caste that you aren't part of.  For blue state lefties the adversarial ruling class is the financial sector and the Republican party, for instance.  For red state sorts the enemy is often the academy and regulatory offices.  The possibility that YOU are part of a ruling caste and that your caste is also part of the problem seems to be against the possibility of being thought for these groups. 

In the last few years I've found myself advising friends to NOT go to college unless the work they want to do can't be done without the precondition of the credentialing schools provide.  I'm not against education in principle ... but in PRACTICE I've grown skeptical about what I now regard as a prestige racket.  The idea that the red state voters are ignorant is merely one part of a larger matrix of assumptions.  Other assumptions can hold that if you just go to the right school you'll land the right job and be able to work.  Maybe ... but radical critics of American academia have floated privilege as a concept that explains how people can even get into those sorts of schools to begin with.  Do standardized entrance exams really test for intellect and thoughtfulness ... or do they perhaps test for socio-economic class? 

One of the problems I've had with the left, in spite of enjoying reading a lot of writers who are left, is that they have this idea that dog whistles are only for right wingers.  Criticism of mainstream academia as beholden to a series of caste-guided entrance criteria is worth hearing out.  It might be lefty angst but the right has its angst, too.  If blue state types fret about the Koch brothers and The Family these days the right is still pissed that Soros exists and that tenured radicals get to decide if you graduate from college before you can get that business degree. 

And amidst all this I have found myself wondering what the person on the street has to gain from, say, absorbing the string quartets of Iannis Xenakis.  Or, to go with a more recent example, how about the string quartets of Ben Johnston?  What do the string quartets of Ben Johnston do for coal miners in Michigan?

Don't get me wrong, the string quartets are marvels.  Of the ten I'm way into all of them except 1, 2, 3 and 6, which are still interesting.  But their existence as the pinnacle of esoteric and demanding chamber music should not give anyone the impression that people with no more than a high school education in even Wisconsin will have heard of Ben Johnston.  The quartets really are remarkable, beautiful works, though. 

The idea that an artist or writer or musician can embrace hugely esoteric creative processes to create works that can be appreciated by the uneducated listener is something I could write about some other time.  I'm totally for the idea but that's distinct from this weekend's meditative ramble, the problem I'm seeing of artists and "creative" aghast that Trump won without considering along the way that if we were to cast this as a narrative of class warfare in old style Marxist terms that the people who wanted Clinton to win are on the side of the oppressive ruling classes.  That's not an endorsement of Trump, who is pretty obviously from the same set of strata, it's an observation that we've had a left and a right, a blue and a red, that has doubled down on internalizing modes of sociological propagandas to exempt themselves from being in one of those ruling castes.

Or as Chris Rock joked recently somewhere, white people were gonna have a busy few days moping and being on Facebook.

My concern in the last few years has not been about what the role of the artist is supposed to be, let alone in an era of Trump.  This blog has obviously spent the previous five or six years meticulously documenting the history of a movement that used to be known as Mars Hill Church.  Were there times when I wanted to cast off all that stuff and write more contrapuntal music for guitar?  Most of the time.  Were there moments where I thought it'd be nice if I felt I could take a break from documenting things to get back into arts criticism stuff or keeping up with the arts scene?  Sure.  I do still missing being able to participate in the arts scene the way I could before the 2008 crash happened.  But I felt a kind of journalistic obligation, despite not being an official journalist, to document the life and times of what was once Mars Hill.  When the Fourth Estate seemed to persistently fail to account for what was going on with Mars Hill, somebody had to step in and do that work. So from here in Seattle the failure of the Fourth Estate to have anticipated what went down with Trump is not surprising given how much the Fourth Estate failed to keep up with the far less significant situation (nationally speaking) of what used to be Mars Hill here in the Pacific Northwest.

It's all too easy for artists to whip out pious bromides about their art such as "I'm an artist, not a priest".  But today's artists in Western cultures ARE priests.  When entertainers endorse political candidates and tell you who they believe you should vote for they're no different in principle from a Pat Robertson telling you who God thinks you should vote for.  That Robertson has insisted he's saying as a Christian why the Christian religion dictates you vote for a Republican doesn't mean that when a celebrity tells you why she or he is backing Clinton that's not another kind of religion.  The arts and artists, with more than a little help from the literary tradition of criticism, have sacralized themselves into having the role in our time that was delegated or arrogated to priests and prophets and sages.  To lament the religious elites of the past held all the power and access to influence is not something today's entertainers and producers should be too quick to embrace.  After all, let's just take the Bible, the Bible was written and edited and assembled by the literate and artistic elites of the culture and era that produced it and canonized it.  It isn't altogether impossible for an elite to be right about something.  But the red and blue have spent a lot of time lambasting the elites that the red and blue feel they aren't part of or have access to.  The blue entertainers may resent the extent to which money for art has to be gained from red state backing, perhaps.  Red state types eel that a majority of the super-rich are true blue. 

If there's a problem with the culture of victimhood and the rhetorical and moral gridlock of identity politics it's that everyone can appropriate this.  Artists who can pay their bills by doing things such as playing the piano or making movies don't think they're part of a ruling caste to just the point at which they believe it's justifiable to look down on stupid redneck racist voters who can have been the only sorts of people who voted for Trump.

Sure, Jamelle Boui can write that there's no such thing as a good Trump voter.

but what if you know a black guy in Seattle who, nevertheless, voted for Trump?  The world is full of diversity and as startling as this might seem, I visited with a friend a while back, a black man who said he voted for Trump.  That seems ... to put it mildly, counterintuitive.  But as he explained where he was coming from and as he articulated that the difference between a DNC who backed Clinton compared to a DNC that would have backed Sanders, a way to try to summarize things for readers is to mention that the Old Left critique of the New Left keeps recurring, that some people who preferred Trump to Clinton may distrust the Clinton legacy on banks, big finance, and the incarceration of black men as a systemic policy.  For people who regard the financial sector as a genuinely predatory caste within American socio-economic life Clinton was not going to come across as a protagonist. 

So in Bouie's estimation would a black man in Seattle who voted for Trump be a racist?  Or would the operable term be false consciousness?  that seems like the more Marxist way to describe such a thing.

Amidst all this the idea that artists need to take leave and consider what the artist can do in the age of Trump seems to be missing a larger point, if we're going to take seriously the bromides about how the uneducated rust belt workers backed Trump then solipsistic navel-gazing on the part of the creative class won't help the working class, will it?  Have liberals forgotten the commitment to the group euphemistically identifiable as the "unskilled labor market"?  If the case for Clinton was that a woman should have the power Margaret Thatcher provides a counterexample.  I doubt today's blue state voters would want Thatcher and there was certainly no love lost at the passing of Schlafly on the part of the left, was there?  So be more honest, the sisterhood is not really about giving women of every possible religious and political conviction more voice to articulate what they believe the world should be like, it's a left agenda that wants more power for the sake of left goals.  It's okay to just state that's what you want if that's what you want.  Disguising this political ambition behind rhetoricl of a sisterhood whose partisans will decide the women who voted for Trump betrayed the sisterhood suggests that the membership is more exclusive.

If arts funding in America (never on par with comparable funding in other Western states) continues to decline then the vocational artists may not be the future if they are even an accurate presentation of the present.  A number of key innovations in the arts in what we now call the early Baroque era were taken up by amateurs and dilletantes.  The people who make livings as musicians and poets make livings within academic norms.  I've wondered whether in the last two centuries we've had teachers and theorists admonishing us arts students to break the rules without sharing that their job as teachers is to say what the rules are;  or worse, 19th century German idealists seemed to simultaneously present artists as needing to break free of rules while articulating a rigid textbook formula on what the rules of form were that can't be grounded in the theory or practice of the 18th century models they insisted they were handing down.  There's actually no reason you can't apply the 18th century procedural approaches of sonata or fugue to blues riffs.  I wanted to be in academics twenty years ago but the older I get and the more I see how academics have approach things and how the academic cultures seem to work the more grateful I am that I didn't get to be part of it.  It's less a matter of the love of learning as a skepticism about the institutional politics. 

The last thing artists should be doing in the age of Trump is justifying their existence as though Trump would in any way be effected by that.  You don't have to go all Cornelius Cardew exactly but Cardew's complaint may be a salient point for artists in the age of Trump to consider, you've either been serving the ruling class or the working class and if you loathe the working class that might be a tell as to where your real class loyalties are.  Being against Trump hardly means you're a friend of the working class. 

If there's something this recent election has highlighted between the Old Left and the New Left since the victory was called, it's that Clinton's base may not have recognized in itself an alignment that committed to social progressivism at the expense of economic progressivism.  Marriage equality in an era in which marriages get more expensive and a celebrity marriage can involve as much money as a person in the lower classes can make in a single year won't seem like progress to the people who can't afford to get married.  Richard Taruskin, in his sprawling Oxford History of Western Music, declared flatly that the Victorian era was one in which the aristocracy was expected to start embracing the sexual mores of the middle class.  That might be completely wrong but it may be a useful counterpoint to the present, perhaps the sexual revolution has insisted that everyone should be able to have the sexual liberties of Old World aristocrats.  And that's surely fine and dandy for the people who can afford to live that way.  Authors at Slate can celebrate the way celebrities have destigmatized what used to be known as illegitimate births.

Aristocrats have long been able to afford to ignore conventional expectations as to who they had sex with and what they did or did not do to raise any resulting babies.  Clinton's supporters can certainly complain about the racism or sexism or xenophobia of Trump voters and they're going to do that anyway, but the value of the Old Left reaction to the recent election has been to highlight all the ways in which the New Left has failed to recognize that it sold out the working class and has congratulated itself on its liberality from the comfort of being part of the ruling castes.  The Fourth Estate's failure to have considered a Trump victory should have us reassessing our information culture.

In a Facebook era of political activity, in a Twitter era of activism, we seem to have gotten ourselves into self-reinforcing feedback loops left and right.

Facebook and Twitter are fantastic platforms for what Ellul called sociological propaganda. If artists take to Twitter or Facebook to reinforce themselves in the rightness of their role in democratic society there's  a risk, the risk that they will double down on the legitimacy of their station without doing what Cornelius Cardew tried to do in asking himself which class he was really serving.  When he concluded his music was serving the ruling classes rather than the working classes he changed course.  But then he literally was a radical type.  What American musicians and artists are more likely to do is to find a way to embrace an ideological or aesthetic stance that exempts them from identifying themselves as a member of a privileged caste.  Why admit you're so full of privilege that you fart it with every step you take by being able to go to a school like Oberlin or Cornish or Yale or Eastman or Bard?  it's easier to take a dollop of critical theory and imagine that because you've read enough Adorno and Benjamin you are not, in fact, part of a privileged caste.  You can even imagine that because you're going to be on the hook for years of student debt that the bank that gave you the loan is the ruling caste.  Sure, they are, too ... but they gave YOU the money. 

I'm all for participating in the arts and making music and writing.  I love writing.  My idea of a fun evening is writing five or six thousand words or refining middle entry possibilities for a guitar fugue.  I'm incubating an analytic series on racapitulatory patterns in early 19th century guitar sonatas.  But I've got a mundane day job.  I am not a vocational artist.  I'm inclined to agree a bit with Charles Ives about the possibility that the "vocational" artist is not necessarily a better or more honest artist than the dedicated amateur.  Of course I'd be tempted to that view.  :)  that's me. 

In an era in which critics lament the fall of criticism it's hard to feel bad for an A. O. Scott.  it's hard to feel bad for artists whose conception of the arts is a self-justifying adventure in a kind of secular art religion in which they are the priests who stand to benefit from embracing ideologies that sacralize and mystify the arts because they make enough money from it to pay their bills or raise their children through that.  They get to be the priests of our era.

Since I'm blogging as a Christian (albeit an often not so good one) it is no shock if I mention that in the Bible we see the priests criticizing the conduct of kings.  That's what they are supposed to do from to time.  Artists can complain about what soldiers do but poets who complain about what soldiers do can forget that soldiers may fight so as to be immortalized in the verses they hope poets will write of them.  Empires get like that, and the ruling castes of empires have this weird and recalcitrant habit of considering their ideals the ideals of all enlightened and civilized sorts.  Priests should criticize kings but there are times when the priests need to be subjected to criticism.

There hasn't been a whole lot said or written by entertainers in the last couple of weeks to persuade me that American artists are able to have a critical look at themselves and the level of prestige and privilege from which the cultural priests of our age presumed a Clinton victory too soon.

I suppose exceptions to this concern can be made for Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock, though.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

republishing a haiku

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

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Americans, Babylon the Great, and an American history of regarding of the President as an antichrist based on loyalties red and blue rather than on the possibility that we're just Babylon the Great for this era

Over the last twenty some years I would read or see dread-filled missives about how this time around the president was going to suspend the Constitution, establish martial law, and declare the executive office a dictatorship for life.  This began near the end of the Clinton administration, in which some evangelical/conservative Protestants here in the United States believed, somehow, that Bill Clinton was going to abolish the Constitution in favor of making himself a lifelong dictator.

When Bush 2 was president I read articles crop up here in the Seattle area about how Bush 2 could be legitimately described as some kind of antichrist by pastors with progressive sympathies here in the Puget Sound area. 

Then when George W. Bush was nearing the end of his second term I began to hear from a liberal friend or two that HE was going to suspend the Constitution, establish martial law, and declare the executive office a dictatorship for life and suspend all elections.

Within a day of Obama being elected president I got messages forwarded my way declaring that Christians were going to be sent to concentration camps and that Obama was some kind of Islamic sleeper agent sent to destroy the United States.

What these readings have in common is that they regard the President as a kind of terrifying antichrist role ... based on red state and blue state paranoia ... but explicitly avoiding the more general observation that perhaps Babylon the Great is a role that is played by the United States more generally, regardless of whether the government is what we'd call red or blue.  The red state and blue state advocates scrupulously avoid the possibility that the nature of an Antichrist role is played by the President in the very nature of the job description of being the executive of a principality and power regardless of the personal convictions or character of the person who holds the office.  That possibility seems precluded in the partisanship of blue and red state civic religion.

What if this election has highlighted a different possibility for Christians to consider, that if we consider the role of Babylon the Great as described on the world stage in the apocalyptic idiom, that the United States has fulfilled that role in our era regardless of whether blue and red state partisans got the executive they wanted?  To put the matter a bit crudely, perhaps this year the Antichrist is simply a function of whoever happens to get the job being President of the United States, not a function of whether or not the wrong person based on your political or religious convictions happened to win the electoral vote.   

In other words, if the President of the United States can be considered an antichrist only because you didn't want Trump to get the job what would you say about the role of the President of the United States if Clinton won?  Would SHE have been an antichrist or would she be exempted from such a role?  Let's turn the proposition around, if Hillary Clinton would have been an Antichrist had SHE won would the problem merely be that Hillary Clinton became the Antichrist by becoming president elect of the United States ... or would the problem be in the nature of the level of power the executive branch is able to exercise, that the problem is really that the Presidency, the executive branch as a whole, has accumulated so much power it can play what could be regarded as a role not unlike the Beast or Babylon the Great.

Or, as the author Conor Fridersdorf has been putting it, maybe we need to tyrant-proof the executive office regardless of who actually gets the role of the President of the United States.

Let's consider an idea moving forward, that if you wanted to know who the Antichrist of our time may be just ask yourself who you voted for to be President of the United States.  That's your answer.  It's nothing personal, it's just the nature of the job description at this point, maybe. To argue that this or that person would be the greatest candidate to be president could simply be to make a case that so-and-so is the best possible person to fulfill the role of representing the interests of Babylon the Great; the best candidate to be Antichrist for our time.

Advocates for red state and blue state ideals have spilled much ink and printed many words about how the red state voters don't represent the real Jesus, the real heart of the Christian faith.  They don't, and neither do blue state voters.  The red state and blue state civic religions that define the Christian faith and the teachings of Christ chiefly through the social and political agendas of American political and cultural ideals may simply not realize they are endorsing different modes of an imperial cult; they may sincerely believe that just because the food coloring renders the sugary beverage red or blue that they are not still ultimately drinking the same kool-aid.

Over the last twenty years I've slowly and steadily arrived at the view that rather than only deciding the President has an antichrist role depending on whether the concerns are red or blue that we consider the possibility that the entire civic religious tradition of the United States, in both its red and bleu forms, is an imperialist cult.  The tragedy is that the blue and red state partisans only recognize it in each other and not in themselves.

When Jesus taught the parable of the Good Samaritan it was an expert in the law who asked Jesus what must be done to inherit eternal life. Jesus provided an answer and the expert, to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. The man, wanting to justify himself, asked "who is my neighbor?" Jesus told the parable and the crux of the parable was to present to the man that the one who acted in the most loving, neighborly way was the Samaritan.  "The one who showed kindness" was the legal expert's answer, revealing that he didn't even wish to recognize the Samaritan as a Samaritan.  THAT can't be my neighbor, the man's reply reveals to us.

We're seeing legal experts behave in the same way this week.  The red and blue state partisans have amply demonstrated that they are the legal experts to whom Jesus' parable about the Good Samaritan.  Who is that you despise most, who you believe is symbolically as well as personally responsible for all that is wrong with the nation?  THAT is your neighbor.  Love that person.  Jesus' parable about the Samaritan is a reminder that if you are interested in defining who is and isn't your neighbor you have betrayed the teachings of Christ.  So, the application is obvious here, your neighbor is whomever you least want to recognize as your neighbor.  For a red state voter it's a blue state voter, and for a blue state voter it's a red state voter. 

Now I happen to agree with Conor Friedersdorf about the need to tyrant-proof the executive branch regardless of who gets it.

What seems to have largely happened in the last twenty years is that the red and blue partisans ONLY worried about the dangers of executive tyranny when the OTHER team had the office.  That's been a problem and it will continue to be a problem unless something changes. To go by the way people have been behaving on the internet this last week that not only won't change it will be exacerbated.

If you only consider the United States to have a civic religious cult that stands in opposition to the teachings of Christ and Christian doctrine and ethical teaching because the person you don't want in the Oval Office got elected then you ... might need to repent of embracing either the red or blue state version of the civic religion.  You might need to confront the possibility that you've been drinking the proverbial Kool-aid and thought you weren't because, hey, you're drinking the BLUE kool-aid and not the RED Kool-aid.  The same goes for the red state voter who presumes to not drink the kool-aid by dint of being a real, honest American.  Being a real, honest American is no guarantee you haven't embraced an imperial cult that is ultimately Antichrist, whether your voting record is red or blue.  How can you know?  Well ... if your default position is to define Christ based on the vision of American you want rather than assess America in terms of the teaching of Christ and the biblical testimony that's your answer; there are a whole lot of red and blue partisans who have become so good at engineering a Bible that exists in their minds to justify their cultic loyalties they may simply be blinded to the reality that they are not followers of Jesus, they are advocates of red state and blue state gospels.  Well, in that case they're both antichrists, they just may not know it yet.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

looking back on The Stranger's "The Urban Archipelago" from 11-2004 in light of the ... recent news about Trump.
November 11, 2004
The Urban Archipelago
It's the Cities, Stupid
by The Editors of The Stranger

It's time to state something that we've felt for a long time but have been too polite to say out loud: Liberals, progressives, and Democrats do not live in a country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. We live on a chain of islands. We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America. We live on islands of sanity, liberalism, and compassion--New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and on and on. [emphasis added]  And we live on islands in red states too--a fact obscured by that state-by-state map. Denver and Boulder are our islands in Colorado; Austin is our island in Texas; Las Vegas is our island in Nevada; Miami and Fort Lauderdale are our islands in Florida. Citizens of the Urban Archipelago reject heartland "values" like xenophobia, sexism, racism, and homophobia, as well as the more intolerant strains of Christianity that have taken root in this country. And we are the real Americans. They--rural, red-state voters, the denizens of the exurbs--are not real Americans. They are rubes, fools, and hate-mongers. [emphasis added] Red Virginia prohibits any contract between same-sex couples. Compassionate? Texas allows the death penalty to be applied to teenaged criminals and has historically executed the mentally retarded. (When the Supreme Court ruled executions of the mentally retarded unconstitutional in 2002, Texas officials, including Governor Rick Perry, responded by claiming that the state had no mentally retarded inmates on death row--a claim the state was able to make because it does not test inmates for mental retardation.) Dumb? The Sierra Club has reported that Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Tennessee squander over half of their federal transportation money on building new roads rather than public transit.
For Democrats, it's the cities, stupid--not the rural areas, not the prickly, hateful "heartland," but the sane, sensible cities--including the cities trapped in the heartland. Pandering to rural voters is a waste of time. Again, look at the second map. Look at the urban blue spots in red states like Iowa, Colorado, and New Mexico--there's almost as much blue in those states as there is in Washington, Oregon, and California. And the challenge for the Democrats is not just to organize in the blue areas but to grow them. And to do that, Democrats need to pursue policies that encourage urban growth (mass transit, affordable housing, city services), and Democrats need to openly and aggressively champion urban values. By focusing on the cities the Dems can create a tribal identity to combat the white, Christian, rural, and suburban identity that the Republicans have cornered. And it's sitting right there, on every electoral map, staring them in the face: The cities.
In cities all over America, distressed liberals are talking about fleeing to Canada or, better yet, seceding from the Union. We can't literally secede and, let's admit it, we don't really want to live in Canada. It's too cold up there and in our heart-of-hearts we hate hockey. We can secede emotionally, however, by turning our backs on the heartland. We can focus on our issues, our urban issues, and promote our shared urban values. We can create a new identity politics, one that transcends class, race, sexual orientation, and religion, one that unites people living in cities with each other and with other urbanites in other cities. The Republicans have the federal government--for now. But we've got Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York City (Bloomberg is a Republican in name only), and every college town in the country. We're everywhere any sane person wants to be. Let them have the shitholes, the Oklahomas, Wyomings, and Alabamas. We'll take Manhattan
To red-state voters, to the rural voters, residents of small, dying towns, and soulless sprawling exburbs, we say this: Fuck off. Your issues are no longer our issues. [emphasis added] We're going to battle our bleeding-heart instincts and ignore pangs of misplaced empathy. We will no longer concern ourselves with a health care crisis that disproportionately impacts rural areas. Instead we will work toward winning health care one blue state at a time.

That was back in November 2004.  Pretty strongly stated and the contempt is so obvious it hardly needs much commentary.  But something seems so obvious that in the wake of a frankly disappointing and unhappy election ... that it still needs to be said ...

This year, so long after the editors of The Stranger went with their "fuck you" approach to rural voters, residents of small and dying towns for at least a decade; and after the recent electoral college turn out seems to have given a shockingly large victory to Trump rather than Clinton, the staff of The Stranger had this to say in the somewhat imitable Stranger style.
November 10, 2016
We're Fucked
Fuck Fuck Fucking Fuck. So Fucked.
by Stranger Election Control Board

By the time the networks started all-but-calling the election for Donald J. Trump, the Showbox was nearly empty. The crowd watched, stunned, as the United States committed bigot-assisted suicide. The few people who remained struggled to reconcile liberal and progressive victories in Washington State—Democratic governor and US senator reelected, massive transit package approved, minimum wage hiked—with the catastrophic results of the national election.


Well ... didn't the editors of The Stranger emphatically tell the rural red-state voters to fuck off back in 2004?  They did say "Your issues are no longer our issues", right?  Did the editors and writers of The Stranger just forget that the not-the-real-America red states existed?  What could the stupid bigoted redneck electorate possibly do?  A victory for Clinton was all but certain and she did, technically, seem to win the popular vote. 

Trying to be nice here, perhaps the urban contempt on the part of The Stranger editors was just so much easier before the 2008 financial crash. It's looking like we've had a weird "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment but not just for one famous newspaper, and it seems the Fourth Estate isn't just eating crow but may be forced to dine on a whole murder of crows.

Given the vitriolic and contemptuous way in which The Stranger staff addressed the rural red-state electorate twelve years ago how surprised should they have been at what just happened?  Did the Electoral College get abolished between 2005 and now?  Did The Stranger writers and editors somehow seriously imagine that their contempt would not be a small variable at play in this contentious and pathetic election cycle?  Did it never occur to them that the red state electorate might observe the blue state urban contempt and return the favor? 

Relying on that Urban Archipelago might have worked out better if progressives had taken more seriously an attempt to abolish or reform the Electoral College between 2004 and 2016 before it was possible for another Republican candidate to win an election on the basis of the Electoral College rather than a popular vote ... but that didn't happen.

It's possible to feel a great deal of sympathy on behalf of people who are dreading what may come with a Trump presidency ... just not for the folks at The Stranger.

Leonard Cohen dead at 82

for my time Cohen was a more compelling poet (actual poet) than Bob Dylan (even though I enjoyed Bob's songs more, more often than not).

Please, nobody cover that one song.  You know the one not to cover.  Sing "Famous Blue Rain Coat" or sing "Suzanne" ... but not that one that's been done too many times as it is by people who weren't Cohen himself.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Jacque Ellul's Propaganda, looks to be over at

Now, obviously for longtime readers, we've discussed Jacques Ellul's book Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes here at Wenatchee The Hatchet a lot this year. 

Translated from the French by Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner
Vintage Books Edition, February 1973
Copyright (c) 1965 by Alfred A Knopf Inc.
ISBN 0-394-71874-7

You may wish to forgive the mid-century conceptual limitations of language with the "Men's" part, as applicable.  The book is repetitive and dry in a few spots but ... given that this is an election year it may be worth it to trawl through the book.

As the history of what was once Mars Hill goes, and the history of Mark Driscoll's quest to become a public figure, Ellul's writing on propaganda and propagandists is commendable because the propagandist is not just the politician and the political/media class seeking to sway you to support a set of causes that have already been decided upon by the political and financial classes that run things; a propagandist can also be said to be what today's megachurch pastor functionally is.

So if you're a former member of Mars Hill and haven't read this book by Ellul already, it's ... strongly recommended by Wenatchee The Hatchet.


It also featured a few observations about the populist agitator in the American political tradition who has no coherent set of implementable policies as such but knows how to appeal to anxieties about the loss of a way of life, not that that necessarily has anything to do with what's been transpiring on November 8 ... .

some links for the weekend on pop stars and the ones journalists opt to like or dislike and why Phil Collins and Taylor Swift can manage to not both embody the abundance of white privilege

Kathleen Massara, over at The New Republic, discusses a memoir from Phil Collins and it occasions a moment to discuss how Phil Collins was the apotheosis of unexamined white male privilege for his time.

Now ... it's possible the same case could be made about Bruce Springstein or Don Henley or Jackson Browne or ... even Bob Dylan, really. John Lennon could even be presented as an exhibit in casual sexism as manifest in his song lyrics, even if the easiest example from old white pop stars might be Mick Jagger.

But ... why Phil Collins? 

Singer songwriters making songs about break ups seems as old as the hills and whether we're talking about Phil Collins or Taylor Swift wouldn't seem to make a huge difference except that, apparently, it makes all the difference in the world that today's pop stars writing confessional songs about break ups that don't necessarily tell us a lot of genuinely personal information so that we can transpose ourselves on to the implied narrative in a gnomic text are women rather then men and that the wealthy entertainers aren't identifiable as members of what some writers call the patriarchy.  Even if Swift, as Scott Timberg has complained at his blog or at Salon ...

is functionally a fifth generation member of a family of plutocrat bankers she gets to be exempted from being considered part of the American ruling class on other grounds.  For Timberg the problem with Swift isn't her songs it's that the marketing presented her as just another wide-eyed girl surveying the world around her when her whole career was, so far as Timberg was concerned, predicated on mind-bendingly large amounts of white upper-crust privilege.

If Taylor Swift can be regarded as a kind of empowered woman singer songwriter it might have to be because the politics of gender are permitted to trump the politics of money and class.  Not everyone on the left thinks that it is worth it to lionize a Taylor Swift or a BeyoncĂ© as emblems of girl power when they make so much more money than the average woman and embody the newest variations of unattainable and impractical ideals of traditional feminine beauty but that's perhaps another topic for another time. 

In light of the Ferrante news cycle it's also possible that someone else with more devotion to the cause could explore how men and women writing about feeling trapped and betrayed by the social attachments we're told are what define us as most truly human get read.  There have been times when it seems that straight white writers male and female sounding off on the dread conformity and soul-sucking power of the ordinary responsibilities of family life paint a portrait of marriage so stultifying a person could wonder why anyone on earth would want that.  Is progress in cinema going to be measured by the gay cinematic equivalent of Kramer vs Kramer?

Sure, Phil Collins has been divorced a few times but so has Roger Waters.  Then again Roger Waters may have had the sense to not write a memoir. 

Collins can come in for a socio-economic assessment of the extra-musical meaning of the music by way of its fan base, though. Massara puts it this way:

Collins’s was the music of overwhelming success for the generation of the overwhelmingly successful, before the 1987 financial crash swept it all away. His music reflected the precarity and responsibilities of the everyman during this time, although his songs are rarely political.

Which "could" be said about Taylor Swift if we wanted to say it, since overwhelming success would seem to be accurate about her career up until at least recently. 

It's possible that Phil Collins' public career was one in which he was, to use a ridiculous line, a character who was not necessarily playing a character.  Some of the long-standing pop stars of the last half century had characters.  When you listen to a Bob Dylan song or a Johnny Cash song these singers have characters and the songs fit into the character the men are playing.  So it was in character for the persona of Johnny Cash to do a Trent Reznor cover, one that's more memorable than the original.  It's in character for Bob Dylan songs to have a break-up number with a woman upon whom he pours more contempt than even Phil Collins might but that's within the parameters of the character.

Bob Dylan may get flak for not being considered a suitable recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature and there's a whole range of discussions that could be had about that.  It isn't out of character for the character of Bob Dylan to simultaneously receive a plaudit and to be dismissive of its social value.

in other news ... Rolling Stone got sued for libel on the basis of their 2014 "A Rape on Campus" story.

The journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely was found responsible for libel with actual malice.

Having done this blog for ten years and having done a  bit of what some call watchblogging it would be hard to overstate the importance of constantly checking and vetting sources. 

Friday, November 04, 2016

on the tenth anniversary of the time when Mark Driscoll didn't talk about Gayle Haggard letting herself go and how desperately progressives have, since then, pretended he said so

Ten years ago Ted Haggard had a scandal, about which Mark Driscoll had nearly nothing to say.  In fact Driscoll only mentioned the scandal just barely long enough to launch into a soap box stump speech about one of his pet topics of the time, sex.    At no point in the entire thing did Driscoll ever come close to indicating that a certain Haggard "let herself go".

Evangelical Leader Quits Amid Allegations of Gay Sex and Drug Use

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 7, 2006 - Update
In the interest of not perpetuating unnecessary negative information, we have elected to remove two videos previously linked here. 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.

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.
  • 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.

But that this has been easily established doesn't matter.  It didn't matter when Dan Savage made a joke that some progressives apparently took to mean that, somehow, Mark Driscoll really said something or other about Gayle Haggard letting herself go. One Lindy West, who has for the last roughly ten years been in a position to know Driscoll didn't actually say Gayle Haggard let herself go, nevertheless ... wrote in 2013 that:

The Time Mark Driscoll Said that Ted Haggard Had Meth-Sex with a Male Prostitute Because His Ugly Wife Probably Didn't Blow Him Enough
Via The Stranger:
"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."

Except that, no, Driscoll didn't.  Using a scandal involving the Haggards as a pretext to pontificate about sex and how an unspecified but presumably large number of other pastors' wives having "let themselves go" did so in Mark Driscoll's estimation is super creepy ... but at no point did he talk about Gayle Haggard in this way.  But what do observable facts matter to Lindy West when a point could be made about somebody she dislikes?  Progressives managed to go through much of the last ten years, when they felt like addressing the topic of Driscoll, laboring under the illusion that Mark Driscoll said Gayle Haggard "let herself go" or, as Lindy West decided to say further "his ugly wife probably didn't blow him enough". 

That sort of lazy, reflexive and obstinately misinformed polemic was part of what cemented a Driscollian brand in the Puget Sound.  Without the publication that was managed by another formerly nominal Catholic self-selected public figure who insisted on controversy and on telling other people how to think and live their lives (i.e. Dan Savage), Mark Driscoll couldn't have been quite the local celebrity he was.  Polemicists like Mark Driscoll and Dan Savage circa 2006 can be considered conjoined twins, each grandstanding moralizing media figure needs the other; a not entirely dissimilar point of comparison would be the dependent parasitic relationship Frank Schaeffer's celebrity will always have to his father. 

At the time Driscoll made his Haggard post I was bewildered by what on earth could possess him to talk about wives letting themselves go as if it mattered on whit.  Wasn't this the guy who kept telling single guys "Your WIFE is your standard of beauty."  Okay ... so if that's true then whatever changes happen in her life "my" standard of beauty would get adjusted.  Got it.  So whence this idea that a wife could "let herself go"?  It's not like Driscoll himself didn't plump up at various stages in his ministerial career. 

We're not in a position where we can talk about Mark Driscoll's ministry in the Seattle area in the past tense because of Dan Savage's joke that Lindy West and others took to be actual reportage. 

For some reason not too many people zeroed in on the weirdest part, where Mark Driscoll wrote "Most pastors I know ... ."  Assuming this wasn't simple exaggeration for the sake of rhetorical effect (though that's most probable), Driscoll's ramble invites us to take for granted that most pastors he knew circa 2006 he proceeded, at some point, to interrogate on the level of satisfaction and/or frequency with which they engaged in sexual intercourse.  This was the same Mark Driscoll who would later, in 2008, lament that certain demonic busy-body women had to know everything about what everybody was doing in church settings.

Mark Driscoll would eventually explicate the weirdness in Real Marriage, a little, by explaining how many young women expressed frustration to him about being sexually ravenous when they felt they needed to wait for marriage while Driscoll would resentfully go home to his "fearful and frigid wife".  We've discussed that at length here, obviously.  The point of mentioning that again is not to make the Driscolls (who, we can be relatively certain don't read this blog if ever they did before) feel awkward.  The point is to highlight (again) that what Mark Driscoll actually said was weird enough without progressives retroactively imagining he said or did something they will never be able to prove based on any evidence at all.

The reason this matters is not necessarily "just" because it's the tenth anniversary of Mark Driscoll having opted to sound off ill-advisedly about Haggard.

Remember that Rolling Stone story from a while back?  The one about an alleged rape at a university campus?

Not that this blog is really all "that" widely read but if there "are" progressives reading, bear this in mind, contempt for Driscoll was so essential to the development and presentation of his persona that the worst possible thing was to run on the assumption that he ever actually said anything about Gayle Haggard.  When that sort of stuff happens it becomes what Jacques Ellul described as "counterpropaganda", where what you meant to be propaganda (all propaganda, Ellul noted, tends to actually be obsessed with being as factually, technically accurate as it can be) boomerangs and makes "you" look stupid rather than the intended subject.

That was kind of what happened with how progressives handled Driscoll's ill-advised sound-off on things Haggard.  Even if people could entertain reasonable doubts as to what extent Mark Driscoll was a defender of women (which ones, for instance, and under what circumstances?) running on unverified assumptions were apt to harden the resolve of Mark Driscoll's advocates to say that he was misrepresented and/or misquoted as though he said something he never said.

In this, one of the more notorious "he said what?" cases, the progressives were demonstrably, ostentatiously wrong. 

Nobody should wonder that much why this year's election cycle is the travesty of mutual contempt that it has been (though it's hard to imagine why anyone should be surprised at this point). 

Years ago Christopher Hitchens made a remark to the effect that he didn't expect religious zealots to stop being religious zealots but he held it as a fault in the religious moderates that they did so little to address the negative actions of the zealots.  That's stuck with me.  It seems like more than just a fair point.  I began to slowly resolve that if it were in my power and ability to be a religious moderate who did something to address the problems of a zealous control freak that I would try to actually do something, whatever was legally and journalistically possible to do ... if the occasion came up.

So there was that ...

It may be there's not too much more to write about in the history of all this stuff (may it be so!).  Or perhaps other people can tackle those things but today being an anniversary ... and that anniversary coming after what would have been the 20th anniversary of Mars Hill if there still were a Mars Hill ... it seemed a night to consider the failures of the press and public both left and right.  We can't learn from our past mistakes if we never concede even the possibility that we made any.