Sunday, May 27, 2018
incubating thoughts on Jessica Johnson's book, a musing on the (Dan) Savage age of Mark Driscoll in Seattle
And for Christian readers or would-be readers the case is starker in the sense that the odds that any Christian publications will even read Johnson's book seem remote.
But I think the book is worth reading and absolutely worth writing about.
I do feel that there are things in the book that could have been expanded upon, rather, there were things that weren't in the book that I think could be the basis for future research or discussion. Chief among these is an observation I've made about how Mark's controversy in saying what he said in the wake of the Ted Haggard scandal was quickly transformed by progressive and liberal media into a claim that Mark said stuff about Gayle Haggard letting herself go. What's most astonishing about that super-myth on the internet was that Mark never said in seriousness or in jest that Gayle Haggard ever let herself go.
Dan Savage made that joke. The joke was imputed as seriousness to Mark Driscoll and it became one of the most pernicious online myths I've seen have any connection to the history of Mars Hill. Mark Driscoll may be a misogynist but the irony is that one of the ore prevalent myths about Mark as misogynist came from words that were not published by him but by Dan Savage. Dan Savage has a littlebit of history of slamming the looks of women in relationship to other people that we'll have to revisit at some point. It's taken years of considering Seatle history to start realizing that Mark Driscoll and Dan Savage are methodologically almost like conjoined twins. These are two guys who are vehemently ex-Catholic who did not lie in urban centers as they'd define them (Savage once said Spokane was a good place to be from, FAR from, while Driscoll highlighted that he was born in North Dakota but his dad wisely moved the whole Driscoll brood as far away from the drunken Driscoll clan there as possible when Mark Driscoll was very young).. They are even two ex-Catholic firebrands who defined their public personas over the last twenty years by a vitriolic and earthy style. Dan Savage and Mark Driscoll can both be seen as ex-Catholic guys who get off on telling other people how and how often they should get off. Savage has a blue state variation, perhaps, and Driscoll a red state variation, but their methodology is not necessarily all that different.
Could 1996 to 2016 could be broadly described as the Dan Savage/Mark Driscoll era of Seattle?
Even on the issue of how much the higher up person makes relative to the toiling trench troops there have been some criticisms that Savage made honorariums while Stranger staff toiled with lower paying work.
Clement is the fourth “name” writer to leave the newspaper/bog in recent months. A fifth departure, on the news side, is believed imminent.
The Stranger has experienced staff unrest of late, much of it due to perceived senior management interference in coverage of the $15-an-hour minimum wage. The news-heavy Slog website gives The Stranger clout and drives attention. But print advertisers pay the bills.
Talented writers move on. Holden has felt a heavy dose of “I can make it in that town” vibes toward New York for a long time.
At the same time, however, The Stranger is notorious for paying low wages to highly talented writers . . . even as editorial director Savage rings up the honoraria on the college lecture circuit.
Wow, that really does sound like Mars Hill! Immensely talented and energetic people creating quality work for low pay while their top dog boss swims in money ... you know it seems that Mark Driscoll and Dan Savage had more in common as leaders, perhaps, than either of these guys would ever want to admit.
A preliminary concern about Johnson's use of jargon is that she uses the term "neoliberal" frequently enough that if you don't already have some idea what that means it will be baffling. It's taken me years to arrive at some kind of practical definition of what "neoliberal" and "neoliberalism" means and if I had to try to describe what that is it would be reliant upon an observation that there's a push for an entrepreneurial over a programmatic approach to things. As the composer and blogger John Halle has put it, there's a mistake in thinking that neoliberalism is only a kind of neoconservative or Reaganite ideology, there are Clintonian variations on the theme. To put it another way, if Mark Driscoll's empire was emblematic of neoliberal tendencies something similar could be said about Dan Savage, that they might be construed as two sides of the same coin if neoliberalism is the coinage for describing what their respective brands are.
Saturday, May 26, 2018
it's looking like harvesting the blood of the horseshoe crab doesn't "have" to happen based on some innovations that have taken place in the last several years. An update on the topic for those who remember "The Blood Harvest" from the same publication years ago.
Over at Slate there's a feature about how black men get sexually harassed in the workplace and most notably in the medical profession.
There is no doubt that the #MeToo movement has introduced major cultural change. It’s not that this marks the first time women have publicly tried to draw attention to mistreatment from powerful, high-profile men. But it may well be the first time in modern memory when women’s accusations have had swift, concrete consequences for the men in question, rather than the women themselves being summarily dismissed, disbelieved, or disregarded. It is long overdue for women to receive the benefit of the doubt and for institutions to stop defending and protecting those who create unsafe work environments. But while women are finally being believed, sexual harassment and violence isn’t gender-specific. A 2017 poll conducted by PBS News Hour, NPR, and Marist reported that 22 percent of American workers reported being sexually harassed or abused at work, with 35 percent of women and 9 percent of men alleging harassment. Women’s stories are finally being taken seriously. But what happens when men get harassed? And what about when those men are also marginalized themselves, like black men or other men of color?
One of the ironies of Sherman Alexie's situation is that about a year ago he was commenting about how he came from "warrior culture" backgrounds that were hyper macho, a "fundamentalist Christian" one and an Indian one. That he could be in some sense extricated from either or both of these yet still have his moment of being challenged about the way he treated women suggests that celebrity and power can inspire people to abuse and misuse their celebrity and influence regardless of what their formally professed views may be, or have been.
Tidal has been accused of gaming its numbers, specifically, it seems, of data connected to Beyoncé and Kanye West.
Should you want to read a bit more about early microtonalist composer Ivan Wyschnegradsky's Manual of Quarter-Tone Harmony go over here for an introduction.
which, if you want to go get it for yourself is ...
I have gained an appreciation for microtonal composition from composers like Wyschnegradsky and (even more) Ben Johnston. I doubt I'll get into microtonal composition myself because I'm a guitarist and I work within the constraints of equally tempered fret instruments. That said, it's interesting to share stuff about the microtonal direction in music because I do think it's an element we should be aware of as musicians. Kyle Gann has written that an awareness of microtonal possibilities as at least being theoretically possible goes back even beyond Franz Lizst to his teacher Anton Reicha, the Bohemian composer whose woodwind quintets alone merit sustained study. I like quite a bit of Reicha myself and feel that if we want an alternative path from the often stultifying effects of post-Beethoven German idealism that Reicha's path could be taken as a possibility. Of course I've had a lot of fondness from composers from central and eastern Europe and if there's a vibe I get reading Adorno it's that he could be virulently anti-Slavic in his musical judgments. But that's something to save for some other time.
Over at Slate there's a feature on how the C-section went from absolute last resort to, arguably, the most overused medical procedure in American childbirth.
Over at The New Republic ... a not too surprising take on what's regarded as the quasi-fascist tendencies of, of course, Jordan Peterson.
A fairly straightforward guilt-by-association poisoning the well approach, I suppose. Stravinsky was openly sympathetic to Mussolini before the outbreak of World War 2 and then he had a sort of gruff concession that by comparison Truman was the better option, if memory serves.
That men were trying to use comparative theology to replace natural theology is something even a conservative of a Francis Schaeffer could have pointed out. In the demise of feudal Christendom attempts to come up with some socially unifying alternative or replacement has been an intellectual and social aim for, well, probably centuries. That Peterson can be thought of as some kind of Tyler Durdenish figure has been broached via Rod Dreher's blog.
As a friend of mine who read Fight Club put it, a lot of people misunderstand that Durden wasn't heroic and was a sign that the main character was losing his mind and becoming a crazed violent person.
The Atlantic: the world still spins around male genius, defenses of genius and cruelty in artists, revisiting my dissent from an article at Mbird
Although, as I think about it, it's dubious to insist that this is somehow an American pathology. It's not the way American culture approaches power in its many forms. Did not Jesus say in the Gospels that the men of the world lord it over one another? There have been people who have observed this capacity in human nature over millennia. That "our" genius can be excused for being terrible has been around for a while. All of that in mind, it is possible that since the Romantic era the trope of the Byronic genius or the genius as conceived in the wake of German idealism may need a specific, targeted dismantling.
Here, once again, is the male genius centered while the female genius is relegated to the margins. Karr is there, as a slight character, in Max’s biography of Wallace; she’s there, too, as a kind of human predicate, in interviews about him, in assessments of his literary contributions, in effusions about his genius. And often, too—the world can be so myopic that it can fail to see the genius sitting right in front of it—she is directly asked about him: what he was like. What it was like. How it was to have had, for a brief time, the privilege to spin around such an axis. “Sometimes people go on and on about David Foster Wallace,” Karr noted last year. “As though my contribution to literature is that I fucked him a couple times in the early ’90s … Everybody in America owes me a dollar who read Infinite Jest.” ...
But it's not clear to me that scapegoating white males as the locus of the cult of genius is entirely the way to go. Who christened Beyoncé "Queen Bea"? Does she deserve that royalty? When Michael Jackson billed himself as the King of Pop was he?
The thing is, in contrast to Andrew Durkin, I don't think anyone with a mind to think of these things can say that if we just reject or deny the idea of greatness that accomplishes anything. In the wake of the election of Trump what we can see in progressive writing and progressive writers is that every last one of them believes greatness is real. Why? Because whether or not they believe in greatness as good they surely believe in greatness as evil. If you can believe that the current President is a great evil for our society and the world you're granting the concept of greatness even if you would say you don't believe in greatness in the arts. Jesus did not attempt to dislodge the human mania for greatness, he taught in a way that challenged people to come up with a dramatically different definition of what greatness was and who "qualified" for that measure of greatness. The greatest among you will be the servant of all. So in Christian ethical terms the counter-definition of greatness has been around for a while even if a lot of self-described Christians want a more traditional definition of the greatness where you "own" your adversaries in symbolic or physical battle.
I do believe there's such a thing as greatness and I even believe there are men and women who are possessed of genius. I think Jane Austen was one of the greatest comedic geniuses of English language literature. I think Rumiko Takahashi is a comedic genius with manga. I regard Joan Didion as one of the great geniuses of the New Journalism. I've heard some brilliant chamber music for double bass and guitar by Annette Kruisbrink that I believe should be the foundation of the doublebass and guitar chamber repertoire for generations to come. There are women geniuses out there in the arts and sciences and we should celebrate their work.
None of that requires some equivocating bromides about how if we don't want monsters in the arts we'll have no art left.
I just can't buy this line of argument because if there's any attempt to compare the arts to athletics nobody would suggest that what Larry Nassar did to girls was just part of the genius of amazing athletic performance. I know that some people reject the Tolstoy conviction that great artists should also actually be moral people. Yes, we're all vaguely aware that brilliant people can be damaged or even dangerous. That doesn't mean we can't insist that there are some men and women who, however brilliant they may genuinely be, do not receive an exemption from humand ecency simply on account of that brilliance. Is there no room for advising people that it is better to be a middling artist but a decent human being over against aspiring to be a "genius"?
Besides which genius can be thought of as a social verdict. A thing Leonard Meyer wrote decades ago was that the difference between a genius and a crackpot came down to whether the person solved a problem that a large chunk of people in society wanted solved. If you solve a problem that only concerns you then you're a crackpot. If you solve a problem that a culture or subculture wants solved that gives you a shot at consideration for "genius" as a social verdict about the nature of your work. But there was something else Meyer proposed, which was that innovation by itself was never as important as replication of methods and solutions. If you come up with a "solution" to a challenge and nobody can replicate its elements or results then you're still, at a functional level, the crackpot. Haydn became a genius in historical and social verdict because he made music that solved expressive and formal problems perceived in his era and did so in a way that inspired disciples to replicate and expand upon his approach, most famously Mozart and Beethoven and substantially less famously Wenzel Matiegka, who very, very obviously adapted Haydn's materials into his own guitar compositions.
We're not going to get rid of the idea of genius or the insistence that "our" heroes need a clemency we don't want to grant to "their" heroes, who are often as not our villains.
I wrote a haiku years ago that feels about as grimly apt now as it did then.
Heroes are monsters
whose use for a cause outweighs
their well-known vices
It seems this is able to happen across any and all spectrums. Would that we could appreciate remarkable art without assuming the artists get a pass from being decent humans because rock stars get to do what rock stars do. Whether it's rock stars or rock star pastors or rock star politicians or rock star authors; whether it's a Mark Driscoll or a Sherman Alexie or all sorts of other people, we don't have to say that if you get rid of the ethically dubious to downright terrible human beings there would be no art left. That's not even what the polemic requires, it's really begging the question of whether there will be any great art left if we excise the monsters from an artistic canon. Absolutely no one on earth could seriously claim there won't be any art left if there's no, say, Caravaggio in art history. No, the real argument is that if we get rid of the monstrous men and women who mad great art then all we're going to be left with is the artistic or literary equivalents of Family Circus or Garfield in comics without a Bloom County or a Doonsbury or even a Peanuts. If we get rid of the Beatles catalog if it turned out John Lennon could be a physically and verbally abusive drunk then we're stuck with the Monkees is where the real "teeth" of the argument goes, to which I would say, well, you know the Monkees weren't all that bad ... . Not my favorite but ... .
My objection to the argument that says if we get rid of art by bad people we won't have art left is that it's the kind of argument that ultimately seems to be made in bad faith, because, well, the aforementioned Family Circus. People are afraid that without these terrible men and women who have flashes of brilliant insight we're going to be stuck with anodyne bromides and axioms. Well, maybe, but why do we have to use anodyne bromides and axioms in arguing for a retention of art made by terrible people along the way?
Warren Throckmorton has new post-Patheos blog, recounts situation, asks what expectations Patheos had that he didn't meet that inspired them to cut his blog
Since Throckmorton's blog was the only blog I even bothered to read I noticed his output slowed.
In the discussion and debate about Throckmorton's being dropped there's been an observation that the style and content didn't change but ... what about frequency? Patheos seems like a lame clickbait-driven ad machine. What if Throckmorton just didn't crank out enough material fast enough and often enough to monetize things to the satisfaction of the host? Not that there's been any clear or straightforward explanation for why Throckmorton got dropped. I've written about how stories getting spiked come from advertisers, publishers and sponsors of publishers more than hostile sources or editors already, but I was only indirectly considering the possibility that there might be rules by which Throckmorton might not have been getting ENOUGH traffic to keep in the club.
The assumptions from Throckmorton's supporters (and I am sympathetic myself) has been that some kind of top down edict was motivated by a dislike of "what" Throckmorton has published. That's possible, too, but it may not be the only variable to consider.
Throckmorton has shared that it was said by someone connected to Patheos that the expectations had been made clear to him months ago but he's not sure what the expectations were. One possible way for people at Patheos to believe they were crystal clear could have to do with contract stuff, about which we know pretty much nothing at this point.
There's a commenter at Throckmorton's new blog going by BD who has proposed that a 2017 contract stipulated changes in expectation of blogging frequency.
This is about the January 2017 contract changes written at Gods and Radicals, by a lawyer who was on the Patheos Pagan channel. (A third of the Pagan channel bloggers left Patheos when BN Media introduced the new contract)
“The new contract also requires writers to post with a certain frequency, two to three times a week. While I don’t care that I will be earning less, it does irk me to have my income cut and then be told I have to write more in order to earn it. Jason has assured us this provision of the contract will not be enforced, but in my experience as a lawyer, the only reason to include a provision in a contract which you say you don’t intend to enforce is so you can later spring it on the person. It’s a classic way for employers to fire someone for a discriminatory reason, for example: They decide to suddenly start (selectively) enforcing a contract provision which was not previously enforced so they can claim to have a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the termination.”
Under my original contract I make $50 a month. Twice in the 4 years I have been writing here, I made $100 because of especially high page views. (Incidentally, neither of those posts was anything to be proud of.) Fifty dollars is not much, but I know it is a lot more than most writers at Patheos Pagan make. I have it on good authority that only three of us at Patheos Pagan make that much. Under the new contract, I would make a little less, but since I’m not reliant on the income from Patheos, I really don’t care about that.
Others Patheos Pagan writers would make a little more, which I am glad for. But while five or ten dollars a month is more than nothing, it is still a pittance. Jason has repeatedly told me that Patheos is suffering financially, the implication being that we should be happy with what we get. Of course, we haven’t seen their books, so we don’t know how much revenue Patheos receives from ads and other sources, or where it is going. Needless to say, it is common for miserly employers to claim poverty when employees demand a living wage. (I do find it interesting, though, that Patheos can afford to fly its editors out to visit their corporate headquarters and to other events, but they say they can’t afford to pay their writers more than third-world wages.)
The new contract also requires writers to post with a certain frequency, two to three times a week. While I don’t care that I will be earning less, it does irk me to have my income cut and then be told I have to write more in order to earn it. Jason has assured us this provision of the contract will not be enforced, but in my experience as a lawyer, the only reason to include a provision in a contract which you say you don’t intend to enforce is so you can later spring it on the person. It’s a classic way for employers to fire someone for a discriminatory reason, for example: They decide to suddenly start (selectively) enforcing a contract provision which was not previously enforced so they can claim to have a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the termination.
But the real problem with the new contract is the increased editorial control. The new contract reserves the right to edit any of our posts, and even to change the format of the post or to use the content to create a quiz (?). We are explicitly prohibited from using profanity (with some minor exceptions) and the “tone” (a very subjective term) is expected to resemble that of other online media with which Patheos compares itself, like Slate or Huffington Post. The contract also prohibits advertising or self-promotion. We are also barred from posting a “farewell” post without approval, and even approved farewell posts will be deleted after 7 days. (What is that about?) And Patheos can delete any post it deems, in its sole discretion, to be “offensive”—another subjective term.
So making what is admittedly a speculative guess, is it possible Throckmorton was just not prolific enough to comply with the newer expectations and got cut out for that and possibly other reasons? If the explanation is that there was no one post that catalyzed the decision that doesn't mean that the problem might not have been that for the controversies generated writing about people with connections to associate or parent companies that some other reason could be invoked that, strictly speaking, had nothing to do with the past criticisms but that could be enforced in a way that ensured some kind of disciplinary activity could be taken up that was "also" for some other end. Just a guess that attempts to account for the patently conspiratorial theorizing doen on Throckmorton's behalf on the one hand and the flat explanations that it wasn't about any one post on the part of Patheos on the other.
Again, just a guess for a weekend drawing on some comments from BD and an awareness that when Patheos changed ownership pagans bailed from the platform and explained at some length why.
Over the years I have had posts that have the title "answers to questions you didn't ask". I thought I had one about whether or not I would monetize this blog and the answer to that question is "no" because I believe what I write should be available freely to anyone who pays for their internet connection. I did not believe that this blog should make a cent and that people should be able to read about the history of Mars Hill as documented during its peak and fall free of charge. The lack of monetized interest and writing the blog as a public service and as a journalistic/historical experiment in chronicling the Mars Hill saga has, as best I understand it, a Fair Use safeguard in it. Once you monetize stuff someone can try to make a claim of copyright infringement, which, if memory serves, Mars Hill tried to do with Throckmorton a few years ago in complaining to Patheos. But monetizing can go the other way, once you're monetizing then if you don't rake in the money the suits want they don't see why they should keep you around. It hasn't been considered up until recently but it's an element BD's comments at Thorckmorton's new blog has introduced and so it seems worth noting. If those stipulations were in an agreement that could, as a speculation mentioned earlier in this post, go some way to explaining why Throckmorton's at a loss for why he got cut and why anyone at Patheos might have the impression that the new expectations were conveyed months ago.
If folks want to consider this all as a long-form speculation then this could be a consideration that for a given "text" there can be a "subtext" that is observed that doesn't necessarily articulate the "pretext" that was the catalyst for the "text". Without all of these elements a "literary analysis" will tend to be incomplete. What may be happening, to go by what's been written about and around Throckmorton's removal from Patheos is that Throckmorton's fans are writing about the "subtext", Throckmorton's trying to understand the "text" and Patheos has at least someone saying the expectations were made clear a while back which gets at what can be thought of as "pretext". But that the decision/event/"text" is opaque seems to be all that is clear at the moment.
Yale has a Thomas Commuck Indian Melodies Initiative project, Commuck being a Brothertown Indian who published a Christian hymnal considered the first musical work published by a Native American in the US
Add to this the circumstance of having been born, not only in obscurity, but being descended from that unfortunate and proscribed people, the Indians, with whose name a considerable portion of the enlightened American people are unwilling to associate even the shadow of anything like talent, virtue, or genius, and as being wholly incapable of any improvement, either moral, mental, or physical, and the wonder will cease to be a wonder.
In view of all these disadvantages, it is not without great diffidence that he attempts to appear at the bar of public opinion, not knowing but Judge Prejudice may preside, and condemn his work to the deep and silent shades of everlasting oblivion, without even a hearing. Should this be its fate with the generality of the public, still he thinks he has a claim upon a certain portion of the Christian public, he means his brethren of the Methodist Episcopal Church : for if there be any meaning in that clause of our excellent Discipline which recommends the " employing of members in preference to others ; helping each other in business, &c," the author feels that he has a claim upon them, and he humbly trusts, judging from Christian feelings, that that claim will not be wholly disregarded. ...
from Thomas Commuck, Preface to Indian Melodies, 1845
melodies by Thomas Commuck, harmonized by Thomas Hastings
Earlier this year Paul Grant-Costa wrote:
One of the items that will be appearing in the Indian Papers Collection is a copy of Thomas Commuck’s Indian Melodies that Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library owns. Published in 1845, the work is possibly the earliest musical publication by a Native American composer.
Commuck was a Narragansett from Charlestown, Rhode Island, who joined the Brothertown community in New York and then removed with his Eastern Pequot wife to Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he became the tribe’s postmaster, justice of the peace, and historian. In 1844, the Wisconsin Whig Party had nominated him as their candidate for the Territory’s House of Representatives.
With a very happy hat tip to guitarist Daniel Corr I learned about this just a day or so ago.
The Brothertown Indian Nation was formed from the Christian members of seven eastern coastal nations. During the Great Awakening, many Native people affiliated with Christianity, among them Mohegan, Pequot, Narragansett, Montauk, Tunxis, and Niantic Indians. After the American Revolution, a conglomeration of Christian Indians from these tribes who were struggling to survive in southern New England moved to Oneida land in what is now upstate New York, eventually taking on the name of the community founded — Eeyawquittoowauconnuck, which means “a town of brothers” or “brothertown.”
These Christian Indians shared a traditional practice of communal hymn singing, specifically shape note singing. Shape note — a common mode of sacred music singing in early America — is named for its distinctive musical notation: The heads of musical notes are in shapes, such as diamonds, rectangles, ovals, and triangles, to help singers keep track of their place on the scale. In the 19th century musical reformers deemed shape note singing “primitive” and advocated for a more “scientific” European aesthetic in sacred singing. It appears that shape note singing fell out of practice with the Brothertown Indians not long after, by the late 1800s. However, this style of singing continued in the South and Appalachia, and was “discovered” and revived in the 1950s and 1970s. Today, it is still practiced in shape note singing communities around the United States and the world.
Commuck was a Narragansett Indian from Charlestown, Rhode Island, who joined the Brothertown community in New York. In the early 1800s, he and the New York group of Brothertown Indians migrated under duress to what is now Wisconsin, taking their own version of the shape note singing style with them. Commuck became the first postmaster of Brothertown and served as a justice of the peace for the Tribe. When his “Indian Melodies” came out in 1845, it was published in both standard and shape notes. In his preface to the tunebook, Commuck acknowledges that he hoped to make “a little money” from its publication to provide for “the subsistence of his household.”
All of the tunes in the “Indian Melodies” were written by Commuck. Many of the hymns are named for Brothertown parent tribes, such as “Narragansett” or “Mohegan,” and some are named for famous Native Americans. Not long before he died in 1855, Commuck spoke of his fear of Native extinction: “Here we have taken our last stand, as it were, and are resolved to meet manfully, that overwhelming tide of fate, which seems destined, in a few short years, to sweep the Red Man from the face of existence.” For the members of the Brothertown Indian Nation who are getting reacquainted with the singing of Commuck’s music, it is especially poignant that the Tribe did not vanish as their ancestor feared, says first-year Divinity School student Seth Wenger.
The participants have hopes that their collaboration will lead to future communal gatherings for shape-note singing of Commuck’s music, repatriating the music in the east among the Indian communities from where it originated, and bringing it out west to a larger audience of Brothertown. The group will host a similar singing event this summer in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 28. Wenger has applied for funding to continue to record and videotape the shape note singing of Commuck’s music as part of his public humanities project. [emphasis added]
Acknowledging that there is a “deep division” within the Brothertown Indian Nation between citizens who identify as Christian and those who now pursue “more traditional lifeways,” Baldwin says that a revival of the shape note singing tradition and interest in Commuck’s musical contribution “has the potential to heal some of the divisions citizens feel.”
There are American Indians who regard the entire Christian legacy as terrible and as the white man's religion that was used to subjugate and conquer. There are American Indians who are Christians and regard Christ as risen and Lord, and that's my lineage on one side of my family background. So for me, as I've read about some of the history of the Pacific Northwest tribes I can't read Christianity as a white man's enslaving religion because I know that the PNW tribes basically all practiced slavery and this without any recourse to a "white man's religion" or even a more general appeal to Abrahamic religion in general. As popular as it is for some to imagine that the Bible condoned slavery (and it permitted it) as if it were terrible for that, slavery still exists aplenty but has been commuted to other labels such as debt--a good deal of slavery was an economic practice. The ownership of humans based on a skin color ideology may be uniquely pernicious within European-American legacy but it's a matter of practices and application. One of my friends is of Chinese descent and he discovered in his visits to the mainland that ... well ... any sufficiently monolithic culture can tend to be virulently racist without realizing it.
If there's a concern about new left or sjw narratives for me at this point it's that ejecting a master narrative doesn't mean we won't get a new one in its place. I don't think it's fair or honest to say that all white people do is steal other people's cultures because they have no ideas of their own any more than it's fair or honest to say that they alone constitute "civilization".
It's not surprising to read there's "deep division" within the Brothertown Indian Nation between those who identify as Christian and those who are pursuing "more traditional lifeways". I frankly doubt that a revival of the shape note singing tradition or an interest in Commuck's musical contribution has the potential to heal some of the divisions if there are people who consider Christianity to be the oppressor's religion. That's a master narrative no less pernicious than the one it understandably opposes. Not all the traditional lifeways have things we should necessarily go back to. The Pacific Northwest tribes don't need to bring back slavery to observe traditional ways, for instance.
We also live in a moment where, as a reader of blue state, left or progressive writing alongside conservative writing there's a danger on both sides for whites to scapegoat each other for what is ultimately a shared legacy of virulent and vindictive racism. Conservatives hammer away at how eugenics was a darling of progressives a century ago. Sure, it was. But pinning the blame for the racism of whites on a red or blue demographic is just that, pinning the blame. It isn't as though a blue state Star Trek style missionary program to make the world like a progressive Anglo-American vision isn't a form of cultural imperialism. I didn't think about that so much when I was younger because I loved watching Star Trek as a kid but here, fifty years after the show began to air, the Federation was a stand in for a kind of United States that saw itself as kindly and enlightened but still had all the power of phasers and torpedoes to wage war if it didn't get its way.
Even if I have doubts that reviving Commuck's music or, perhaps more accurately, giving his music a chance to be heard at all for the first time, will ultimately not ameliorate the deep divisions it is still fun to report of this development. I hope there are some kind of recordings down the road to make it easier for people to hear the music. Better, perhaps, would be that those who are musically literate can bring Commuck's melodies to congregations. Indian Melodies was published in 1845, after all, and so is public domain.
There's also some biographical detail at the Princeton blog
and for those who may be curious to see the 1845 publication it is available at IMSLP.org
and also at archive.org
Commuck's self-written forward is in an indirect literary style that is common for a mid-19th century forward. All the same, it was touching to read. I've been reading through the score in the last day or so and since it's in the shape-note idiom you know you can't just look at the treble line in a conventional SATB hymnal for the foundational melody, which is generally nestled in the tenor part in an SATB score or in the "alto" in an SAT. That the Thomas Hasting harmonizations are SATB indicates a more "modern" approach to shape-note as best I can recall, since earlier shape-note compilations have three-voiced textures. The thing about those three-voiced textures is that in shape-note singing anyone from any vocal range could take up whichever of the three lines they want and this creates a ton of voice-crossing that would be "bad" in the Palestrina idiom, but it sounds robust and vigorous to have so much voice-crossing because it creates a kind of double-choir within the choir effect or a kind of quasi-heterophonic vibe that you're more likely to hear in central and eastern European choral/vocal idioms than in a more Anglo or Latin derived idiom.
I've been reading through the hymnal in the last day and to be direct about it, even if a good number of the melodies can seem a bit clunky there are some gems in the hymn melodies in this compilation that I probably won't be able to resist making the basis for a new guitar sonata.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Jessica Johnson's monograph with Duke University Press, Biblical Porn, is published as of a week ago, and Throckmorton's Patheos site is down a week later ... strange week
Biblical Porn: Affect, Labor, and Pastor Mark Driscoll's Evangelical Empire
Author(s): Jessica Johnson Published: May 2018 Pages: 248
Sales/Territorial Rights: World
Cloth: $94.95 - In Stock
Paperback: $24.95 - In Stock
This was officially published and released last week, if memory serves. May 17, 2018. We'll get to reviewing it when that's practical (i.e. gotta read it cover to cover first).
Johnson will be at the Elliott Bay Book Company tomorrow to discuss the book, 7pm.
Which makes it too bad that folks at Patheos decided to pull the plug on Warren Throckmorton's blog at Patheos and 410 it out of existence the week after Johnson's book has been published, in which there are a number of bibliographic references to Throckmorton's work in the footnotes.
Now that Throckmorton has gotten a 410 removal those citations will have to be translated into some other web link.
This wouldn't even be the only case in which Johnson's book makes reference to content online that no longer exists. Repentant Pastor has been down for a while now, for instance.
Still, it does seem kind of weird that the week after an academic monograph analyzing the former Mars Hill goes up that Throckmorton's blog goes up in smoke at Patheos. Not that there's necessarily anything to this other than sheer coincidence. Websites go down, after all. But Throckmorton hasn't gotten a clear explanation as to why his Patheos account got pulled beyond a brief statement that his blog no longer fit the strategic objectives of Patheos, whatever those are.
Still, seeing as this blog keeps tabs on stuff associated with the history of Mars Hill it's worth noting that Throckmorton's Patheos blog is down the week after Biblical Porn got released. However, pertinent to the previous post, there's little reason to believe someone with so small a church as Driscoll has no has any pull within the Patheos scene. His blog is still doing fine.
As noted earlier, if Throckmorton's blog has been spiked it's going to be on the publisher/owner side of things or on the advertiser/sponsor side of things. It's not necessarily a given that it must be one or the other and since no explanation beyond what Throckmorton has posted has been forthcoming it's opaque.
Still, as dubious coincidences go, it does seem weird that Johnson's monograph has been published and gotten some promotion and Patheos pulled the plug on Throckmorton's blog the week after the official release of the book. Someone can explain what the strategic goals are that Throckmorton's blogging didn't fit into, and given the inspirational aims of Beliefnet it may just be that investigative journalistic blogging is not a high priority for an inspirational and advertising platform. As these things go that even makes sense ... if that's the actual reason, but since we don't have an actual explanation that's at that level of detail we can't know for sure, we can only attempt to make educated guesses.
Already in the first week of the book's release it can serve as a case study of how volatile internet publishing can be, when a few formerly accessible websites just go down for the count after being quoted in a book.
Warren Throckmorton's blog has been 410'd from Patheos--a musing on how hostile sources and editors don't spike stories as fast as publishers and advertisers do
So when Warren Throckmorton's blog vanished in the last 24 hours from Patheos that was impossible not to notice. Throckmorton has a new blog up with a short explanation, as far as one can be provided at the moment.
I hope to have more to say about it soon but for now, I can report that I am blogging here now at wthrockmorton.com. Patheos leadership informed me yesterday that my blog no longer fit their “strategic objectives.” Since I don’t know what those are, I can’t say how I didn’t fit them.
In any case, thanks to friend J.D. Smith, the blog was quickly migrated with the content to this ad free site. The downside is that I have been unable as yet to find out from Patheos how to get my comments moved along with the posts.
What a strange turn of events. Patheos was at the center of the Mars Hill Church and Gospel for Asia stories and now they host Mark Driscoll and K.P. Yohannan. All of the those Patheos links about Mars Hill and GFA are now erased. The content is here and archived elsewhere but admittedly, it will be harder to find.
A temptation former Mars Hill people probably can't resist is to suppose that Mark Driscoll, having a new book coming along later this year, knows people who pull strings. That seems improbable. A guy with a church that has, informally reported so far at places like Throckmorton's blog and online boards, got a church that has maxed out in the 300 to 400 range doesn't necessarily have the clout to pull the plug. Someone else with GFA connections, maybe ... but even in that case it seems that this is thinking to low on the proverbial totem pole.
Now BeliefNet (which acquired Patheos) or BN Media Associates, that's another matter. Perhaps weirdly, anti-virus and web protection software raises up red flags that says the BN Media Associates website is very high risk and are you sure you want to go there? So we won't link to their website at the moment.
Let me put it this way, when I was a journalism student my journalism professor gave a lecture on censorship and story spiking and said that what she had found in her time as a journalist was that the fastest ways stories got spiked was never from hostile sources. You could have a genuinely hostile and uncooperative source and if you were studious and scrupulous you could frequently find what you needed to know even if one high-powered but recalcitrant source would never talk to you. If there's anything that, say, Wenatchee The Hatchet has established as a blog it's that it's possible to write possibly a million words about Mark Driscoll's former church without so much as having a single phone conversation with the guy of any note in a twenty year period? Why? Because the guy's stuff has swamped the internet, that's why, ,for one. For another, so many sources WERE willing to talk and whatever my modest abilities as a blogger I did earn a journalism degree and did spend about a decade in non-profit development support. So where a lot of people might see annual reports and be tempted to say "all lies" there was fascinating information for the kind of person who got used to audit compliance protocols in a large and healthy non-profit.
But I digress ...
No, my professor explained, hostile sources are rarely, if ever, what spikes a news story. Even editorial censorship isn't usually what kills a story. An editor may strongly dislike where a story is going but may run it even after hostile editing.
What historically HAD led to stories being spiked, my professor said, was furious advertisers or top-down pressure from the publisher. When ad revenue is on the line or advertising groups whose money pays for ad space want a story spiked that's when stories can get spiked, spiked hard, and without so much as a trace that they could have been stories showing up in the publications in question.
It's trite, but follow the money, but the caveat here would be that you're not necessarily following the money that goes to someone who is some local church pastor. You might want to go higher up and consider who owns a platform that might decide that someone is not good enough for the advertising revenue or who runs stories that the advertisers or sponsors might be unhappy about. There is virtually no way the post-resignation Mark Driscoll has that kind of money floating around that a Patheos blogger's blog can be taken away. Whoever made that call has to be way, way higher up the food chain than Mark Driscoll is apt to be right now. He's gearing up for the release of his next book but The Trinity Church is still small potatoes compared to what Mars Hill was a few years ago even in its year of precipitous decline.
Having never really cared for Patheos at one level I'm glad Throckmorton's not blogging at the platform, even if it seems dubious why he should suddenly be kicked off of Patheos recently. Still, it's something to keep in mind in the age of the blog. People high up enough with administrative decision-making power can end everything with a few key strokes. It's something to keep in mind. A few axiomatic warnings from Ben Bagdikian are coming to mind but I won't bore you with those.
Sunday, May 20, 2018
a Larry Osborne conversation with Mark Driscoll from 2016: Part One: Mark Driscoll recounting his Fall 2004 meeting with Larry Osborne at a Leadership Network event
One of the things that jumps out early on in Jessica Johnson's book Biblical Porn (which we'll try to review some time in the next few weeks) is a relatively passing reference to the Leadership Network. While Mars hill had its start with the blessing and sending of Hutcherson's Antioch Bible Church it was, more or less beyond doubt, Leadership Network that played a role in making Mark Driscoll one of the rock star pastors of Generation X. Johnson's book does not really spend any time discussing Leadership Network because of the academic focus of the book. That said, the book played a helpful role in jotting my memory about how pervasively the name of Larry Osborne comes up in the annals of Mars Hill, most often (as best I can recall) from the pen of Mark Driscoll himself.
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
a Larry Osborne conversation with Mark Driscoll from 2016: Part Two: The plan announced in 2006 for growth runs aground on city zoning, Driscoll and associates regroup by way of a controversial re-org that leads to terminations in 2007
Some of you will then push back, and say "But I've seen spiritual authority abused." and I would say, "So have I." And what we do is not abandon authority, we appeal to higher authority. If a man is being a bad husband and father he's NOT the highest authority. You can call the cops. You can bring him in for church discipline. We'll pull up some other authority. We'll pull up another authority, of Scripture, and we'll bring God into the equation.
You either enjoy confrontation or you enjoy sin. You get to pick one or the other. If people sin and there's not confrontation then you better enjoy sin because that's what's going to happen.
"Then I confronted them and I cursed them"
He's just cussing guys out.
"and beat some of them." I'll read that again, "and beat SOME of them."
I'm not saying it's okay to beat people up, but I understand.
Here’s what I’ve learned. You cast vision for your mission; and if people don’t sign up, you move on. You move on. There are people that are gonna to die in the wilderness and there are people that are gonna take the hill. That’s just how it is.
Too many guys waste too much time trying to move stiff-necked, stubborn, obstinate people. (pause) I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus (laughs) and by God’s grace it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done.
You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options; but the bus ain’t gonna stop. [emphasis added] And I’m just a—I’m just a guy who is like, “Look, we love ya, but, this is what we’re doing.”
There’s a few kinda people. There’s people who get in the way of the bus. They gotta get run over. There are people who wanna take turns driving the bus. They gotta get thrown off (laughs). ‘Cuz they wanna go somewhere else. There are people who will be on the bus, leaders and helpers and servants, they’re awesome.
There’s also just, sometimes, nice people who sit on the bus and shut up. (pause) They’re not helping or hurting. Just let ‘em ride along. Y’know what I’m saying? But, don’t look at the nice people that 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 very 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 court. I’ll tell you guys what, too. You don’t do this just for your church planting or replanting. I’m doin’ it right now. I’m doin’ 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. I mean (pause) you—this will be the defining issue as to whether or not you succeed or fail. I've read enough of the New Testament to know that occasionally Paul put someone in the woodchipper, y'know? [emphasis added]