Category Archives: culture

For those who left Mars Hill Church, and for those who stayed, and for Mark Driscoll


The song isn’t part of the brand-new album, but the lyrics say everything about where the human race is right now and especially about the controversial culture within the Mars Hill Church organization as led by Mark Driscoll.

That’s because “ordinary love” is a great goal, and when people strive to become more meaningful than ordinary love, they somehow become worse as humans beings.

Ordinary love needs to be the baseline, the ground, the default, the aspiration. Don’t tell me you have something more until you’ve proven you understand this.

Appearance or Rationality?


Colin Foote Burch:

For my part, whatever I’ve been guilty of, and whatever I’ve been perceived as being guilty of, I think this guy offers some salient, current points.

Originally posted on While We're Paused!:

Yesterday I posted the following comment as my status on Facebook:

“After several years of getting drawn in to various debates on Facebook, I have come to a conclusion. About 95% of the people commenting care nothing whatsoever about evidence or chains of reasoning or the search for truth. They are concerned only with what statements will make them appear cool, intelligent, or with it to whatever group they are trying to impress.”

Not a person I was describing.

Not a person I was describing.

The response–an unusually high number of “likes” and not a few comments–suggested I had hit a nerve.  All of those commenting basically agreed with me.  Either I was in the group they were trying to impress, or I had just attracted all the rational exceptions to the rule.  (Either generalization would probably be dangerous!)

The bottom line is that, while there are many exceptions, the level of rational discourse of which…

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Flash fiction on Friday (why not?)


Originally posted on Liturgical Credo:

I want to share a piece of flash fiction that recently won “Challenge 80” at The Iron Writer, an online writing community centered around friendly competition.

The criteria for “challenges” include a flash-fiction writing prompt of 4 elements, exactly 500 words without the title, and 5 days to complete the work. Four writers compete.

The 4 elements for “Challenge 80″ were: Furby, Peel Trident (car), a lost emperor, and Dr. Pepper.

Here’s my flash fiction for the challenge:

Booze Cream

By Colin Burch

Monkey always had these gifts coming in from the endorsements, so sometimes our parties were based upon whatever we could do with a garage full of whatever product.

At the end of last summer, Monkey had an entire slot of his four-car garage full of Dr. Pepper in 12-packs.

I was responsible for figuring out what to do with the Dr. Pepper. A website…

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That’s entertainment


Floyd Mayweather Jr. defends Ray Rice.

Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade says, “I think the message is, take the stairs.”

His “Fox & Friends” partner Steve Doocy says, “The message is when you’re in an elevator, there’s a camera.”

The people we watch on screens are reminding us: If we watch it on a screen, it’s just entertainment.

How Purity Culture Kept Me Silent About My Sexual Abuse as a Child: Dinah’s Story


Colin Foote Burch:

Another Bible-based disaster.

Originally posted on Homeschoolers Anonymous:

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 11.04.46 AM

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Dinah” is a pseudonym.

Trigger warning: discussion of child sexual abuse.

I’m going to be honest—growing up in the Christian homeschooling world is hard.

People in the community that I grew up in were picture perfect families, with all their perfect children all in a perfect row, making perfect grades, milling their own wheat and making their own bread.  They were highly esteemed Christians who (of course) have a home church and serve their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. These people sound like they’d be lovely to be around, however, that was not the vibe I got at all. There is a heavy feeling that comes with being around those families—judgment:

You don’t mill your own wheat? Shame on you! Don’t you know store bought bread has chemicals? You don’t pastor your own church? Shame on you! Don’t you know…

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Finally! Dutiful NYT lapdog gives Obama a chance to explain his golfing needs


Colin Foote Burch:

Golfing during beheadings — finally, a defense.

Originally posted on Twitchy:

When you’re looking for insightful content, only the best “real journalist” will do.

Jason Horowitz, who fearlessly investigated teenage Mitt Romney’s high school antics, is out with another game-changing piece:

We give Obama a hard time for his infuriating golfing-while-the-world-burns habit, but maybe we just don’t understand his needs, you know?

From the Times:

“Every president needs a space where he can be quiet and let loose and feel normal,” Mr. Obama said in a telephone interview on Saturday. “And when I’m with [White House travel director Marvin Nicholson], we can talk the same way we…

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You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate (Flannery O’Connor)


Colin Foote Burch:

Stories are and ought to be our defense against the dehumanizing power of abstract ideas. Crooked leaders tend to hide their misdeeds behind the nobility of their abstractions.

Originally posted on Biblioklept:

When you can state the theme of a story, when you can separate it from the story itself, then you can be sure the story is not a very good one. The meaning of a story has to be embodied in it, has to be made concrete in it. A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story. The meaning of fiction is not abstract meaning but experienced meaning, and the purpose of making statements about the meaning of a story is only to help you experience that meaning more fully.

From Flannery O’Connor’s essay “Writing Short Stories.” Collected in

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Image

‘Public response to an idea’


Quotation from Christianity and Western Thought Volume 1 by Colin Brown, with crowd meme

Mark Driscoll past rebukes Mark Driscoll future, gives grounds for his own dismissal from Mars Hill Church ministry


On March 27, 2011, Pastor Mark Driscoll preached a sermon at the Mars Hill Church Ballard campus in Seattle.

I had searched “Mark Driscoll” and the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 17, after thinking about Jesus’ warning in the first two verses: And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. It’s also worth noting the slightly different wording in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 18, verse 6, which adds a shade of meaning, essentially implying that “little ones” are any believers in Jesus.

The following excerpt of the sermon, which on its own merits is quite good, is striking in light of the recent formal complaint filed by 21 former pastors in Driscoll’s organization.

Number Two, how are you leading others into temptation? This may even be, in light of the context, of controversy and conflict, you compelling them toward raging, anger, escalation. You could do this through gossip, through antagonizing, through goading them on, leading them toward temptation. Now, they are responsible for their sin, but you are responsible for your participation in the temptation…. Sin should not come through you. Don’t be an agent of the devil, leading others toward temptation to sin.

Compare some of what Driscoll said there with the list of offenses in the formal charges. I mean, if Driscoll-past isn’t rebuking Driscoll-future, then maybe I can’t understand plain old American English.

For broader context, watch a 7-minute video excerpt of the sermon here:

Dealing With Your Sin Luke 17:1-10 from jway242003 on GodTube.

Also see:
“When your pastor is worse than ‘worldly’ — what’s Mars Hill Church to do?”
“Is the Mars Hill Church board lying for Pastor Mark Driscoll? Or just using weasel words”
“Pastor Mark Driscoll teaches you how to slander!”

The Rev. Stephen Kidd on The Episcopal Church


Gratitude for Greg Garrett, who yesterday posted the following quotation on his Facebook page, a quotation that captures the essence of why I started this blog about 7 years ago:

“The Episcopal Church welcomed me when others wouldn’t have me, and honored my questions when others simply sought to dismiss them. Its sacramental life spoke to parts of my soul that the fundamentalism of my childhood couldn’t touch; worship felt ancient, holy, and real in ways I didn’t expect. 15 years later I am still amazed at the depth and breadth of our tradition, and I appreciate all the more our peculiar vantage point at the intersection of the Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox corners of our Christian family. The Episcopal Church isn’t perfect, far from it, but for me, it is home. — The Rev. Stephen Kidd, from an upcoming book by Church Publishing Incorporated


 

‘He was brainwashed’ — a Somali-American man’s account of his nephew’s recruitment by al-Shabaab


This evening, NBC Nightly News aired a report on Islamic extremists recruiting in Minneapolis.

“For years, Minneapolis has been a target for terrorist recruiters seeking angry, disillusioned young men,” reporter Ron Allen said.

Tens of thousands of Somalis live in a Minneapolis neighborhood called Little Mogadishu where recruitment of young men into Islamic extremist groups is “an all too familiar story,” Allen said.

Allen interviewed a Somali man about his nephew’s recruitment (the report included the names but did not show them on the screen, so I cannot spell them).

Allen: “You lost your nephew.”

Somali man: “Yeah.”

Allen: “What happened?”

Somali man: “He was brainwashed.”

The nephew, Allen said, was “lured” back to Somalia in 2008, when the kid was only 17 years old.

The nephew died a year later while fighting for al-Shabaab, the same group behind last year’s attack on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

Robbinsdale, Minnesota, a town in the Minneapolis area, was also home to Douglas MacArthur McCain, who reportedly died last week while fighting for Islamic State.

The word “brainwash” has been used more frequently as Western males have started fighting for Islamic extremist groups.

Some have become radicalized before traveling to areas controlled by Islamic extremists, while others might have been tricked into entering extremist groups.

In at least one case, a young man (from Belgium) traveled to the Middle East because he was led to believe he would be helping a charitable organization, but the organization was actually an extremist group.

Like many stories, the story of Zia Adbul Haq of Queensland, Australia, suggests religious brainwashing is most successful in times of crisis.

The 33-year-old had told those closest to him that he’d travelled to the [Syrian] region to find a wife after the breakdown of his marriage…
Friends told an Australian news organization that Zia “fell off the rails and under the spell of the extremists,” and  “Zia has been brainwashed.”

Life’s difficulties also seemed to be making restless, unemployed young men in Minneapolis easy targets for jihadist brainwashing, as Allen of NBC News suggested.
Even when Somalis enter the U.S. for legitimate reasons, some of them, somehow, become radicalized. As Michelle Moons of Breitbart.com reports,
NCTC [National Counterterrorism Center] reports have noted the high level of terrorist activity in Somalia, as terrorist group al-Shabaab has intermittently controlled various key regions of Somalia. A Center for Disease Control and Prevention document cites Office of Refugee Resettlement statistics that list Minnesota, California, Georgia, and Washington, D.C. as locations where the majority of Somalis have settled in the U.S. Thousands have come to the U.S. as refugees under the banner of fleeing war and persecution in their home country. Current population estimates of Somali-born individuals living in the U.S. range from 35,760 to 150,000.

Trouble with radicalized Somalis has been building for years. Here’s a snapshot:

Oct. 31, 2011: “Suicide bomber in Somali attack was reportedly from Minneapolis

Aug. 5, 2010: “14 U.S. citizens charged with trying to join Somali terror group

July 20, 2009: “Minneapolis struggles with Somali gangs

Bullying is a Form of Torture


Colin Foote Burch:

Watch out for the Christian-minister type of bully like Mark Driscoll.

Originally posted on Psychopath Resistance:

suicide

Bullies leavetheir victims with long-lasting or permanent mental damage or drive them to despair and suicide. Keepingwell within the confines of the law, they can be mercilesskillers who are never held accountable. What can we do to stop them?


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Here’s why narcissistic pastors can get away with careers in ministry


For context, let’s start with a Gallup poll from last December and some academic analysis, as reported by The Christian Post:

The majority of Americans no longer rate pastors and religious leaders’ honesty and ethical standards highly. A Gallup poll released earlier this week reveals that for the first time since the question was introduced in 1977, trust in clergy has dropped below 50 percent.

Gallup attributed the decline of trust in religious leaders on scandals.

“If views of a certain profession have changed, it usually has been a function of scandal surrounding it. The Catholic priest abuse stories from the early 2000s helped lead to a sharp drop in Americans’ ratings of clergy, a decline from which the profession has yet to fully recover,” Art Swift, Gallup’s managing editor wrote.

John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College, said that the Evangelical world has seen its own scandals in the past few years which likely have also contributed to this cynicism.

“Within evangelism, part of the problem is all kinds of moral lapses among pastors. I think this Mark Driscoll plagiarism thing…the [Vision Forum] president who had an extra-marital affair. All of this kind of bad behavior by pastors causes people to mistrust these kinds of spiritual leaders,” Fea told The Christian Post.

Fea also noted that since the Great Awakening’s George Whitfield, Evangelicals have been driven by “powerful, almost celebrity-like leaders.” [emphasis added]

Consider Professor Fea’s phrase: “powerful, almost celebrity-like leaders.”

I’ve been researching alleged contemporary prophets — surely “celebrity-like” if there ever have been celebrities — and the accuracy of their prophecies. For clarity, I’m not evaluating the idea or concept or practice or Bible-based believablility of prophecy. I’m looking at specific individuals who say  specific things.

An early assessment, without naming names: “false prophets” is too grand of a term for these people. “Free-associating news junkies” might be more like it. Or maybe “narcissists with the ability to riff on a given theme” could sum up their natural giftings.

I’m not sure how the word “narcissists” will strike you. Essentially, narcissism is an unhealthy pre-occupation with self at the expense of everything and everyone else around. (Pastor Mark Driscoll is an easy example, but he’s just one tree in a big forest. I’ve spent a lot of time shouting about him because I would like others to avoid the bad experiences some people have had in Driscoll’s church.)

While you might think narcissism would work out as a license for one to do whatever he pleases, that’s not necessarily the case.

A narcissist could applaud himself for his upstanding morality. Self-affirming vanity and pride could grow from the way a community or a social group acknowledges the narcissist’s piety, purity, and holiness.

Many narcissists occupy pulpits because narcissism is not the kind of moral failing congregations will identify.

Alarms ring when a minister is caught in or suspected of adultery, pedophilia, embezzelment, or substance abuse.

But attitudes of moral superiority and religious confidence can be considered signs of God’s calling.

Congregations might believe a pastoral narcissist shows strong, uncompromising leadership skills; he never bullies. 

Who knows — maybe, because the Christian message can be offensive and controversial, the expectation of offense and controversy in the message blurs with an expectation of offense and controversy in the behavior.

For example, much has been made of Driscoll’s ability to attract young men to the church. Much also has been made of Driscoll’s ability to grow churches in a “secular” part of the U.S.

His defenders will not make much of the Gallup poll to which Driscoll has added yet more examples. Defenders of C.J. Mahaney will not make much of the poll either.

It’s the wicked nation, they’ll say, not that they know many people outside of their silly cliques.

But I would imagine, if there are any real Christians, if God is really there at all, plenty of quiet, wise, non-blogging, non-celebrity, non-self-congratulating-church-planting believers, both laypersons and pastors alike, can see what’s at stake, and maybe see problems before they blow up into catastrophe — and then contribute to the kind of delegitimization one really must insist upon in such circumstances.

Is the Mars Hill Church board lying for Pastor Mark Driscoll? Or just using weasel words?


Contrast this excerpt from the New York Times (which deals with formal charges against Pastor Mark Driscoll, filed by 21 former pastors in the Mars Hill Church organization) 

In a written statement, Anthony Ianniciello, Mars Hill’s executive pastor of media and communications, said, “We take any complaint or allegation against Pastor Mark and Mars Hill very seriously, and everything is and will be examined by several governing bodies.”

He also pointed to a statement the church’s board issued last week, saying, “The attitudes and behaviors attributed to Mark in the charges are not a part and have not been a part of Mark’s life for some time now.” [emphasis added]

 — With the following excerpt of the formal complaint filed by those 21 pastors formerly in Pastor Mark Driscoll’s organization –

Mark Driscoll excerpt from formal charges

So, what have we learned?

We’ve learned that the church’s board thinks Pastor Mark Driscoll’s subhuman behavior has been submerged “for some time now.”

Meanwhile, the small above portion of the formal charges extends from far in the past through May of this year.

So, one side says Mark is a bullying jerk today, and the other side seems to be saying Mark hasn’t been a bullying jerk for a while, “for some time now.”

What does “for some time now” mean, and why did these allegedly godly men float such an ambiguous phrase?

Does it mean the board is lying on Driscoll’s behalf?

Does it mean the board members are trying to mislead anyone who would care to read their statement?

Are they using the phrase “for some time now” to give themselves an “out”?

For example, “We weren’t lying. We didn’t specify a particular length of time, so we’re cool.”

What is it that they say about the bad apple spoiling the bunch? Has Driscoll turned his entire board into replicas of himself?

Just remember — weasels use weasel words.

And weasels are more successful in politics and business than, say, those lame “let-your-yes-be-yes-and-your-no-be-no” types.

Whatever the reason behind such a vapid phrase, the church board should now be as discredited as Driscoll himself. The entire Mars Hill Church experiment deserves no greater regard than the sleaziest TV preacher’s donation hotline.

After all, Driscoll has plagiarized and bullied with the intent of maintaining a reputation as a godly man.

No sane person would stand by him. Even Tim Keller, quoted in the New York Times article, has been hit in the back of the head by discernment — after the fact, of course, as discernment never happens when anyone needs to avoid danger.

But what special powers of identifying danger after the disaster. Wow. That’s somethin’.

Kind of like Sovereign Grace Ministries, Inc., which allegedly had no discernment about pedophiles operating in their midst for years and years. I’m sure the Holy Spirit was awake and all, just not inside all those Specially Anointed Godly Men With Spiritual Authority Over Your Life.

I know, I know, I’m missing the real takeaway points here:

  • Might makes right
  • Will to power

Got it.

If only Driscoll were in elected office. Then he would face jail time. But since it’s Christianity, someone eventually will give him a pulpit again, along with more mechanisms to screw people.

It’s easier to forgive than to discern the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Oh praise the Lord and pass the bottle. I could be referring to Pepto Bismol, so you can’t say I meant alcohol — see, I can even learn from Mars Hill Church’s board.

Pastor Mark Driscoll

Plagiarist. Bully. It’s all about the Anti-Jesus.

Mars Hill Church staffers get six bully-free weeks; God has no comment


Today, Pastor Mark Driscoll announced he will be taking a six-week break from leadership at Mars Hill Church.

Thus, staffers, pastors, and elders have been provided, temporarily, with a bully-free environment.

But, as Driscoll has noted before, he is the brand, so who knows if the church, or God, can survive without him.

Heaven’s press officer, noting the Almighty’s long-standing bias toward Western Christianity, said The Lord will not be commenting on Driscoll today because this is his (relatively new) day of rest.

The press officer added that ever since America invented armed drones, God delegates the smiting of brown people during His nap times and vacations.

Pastor Mark Driscoll teaches you how to slander!


In this free document made available through the generous support of Warren Throckmorton, you’ll learn all of Pastor Mark Driscoll’s techniques on how to slander!

Pastor Mark Driscoll

Pastor Mark Driscoll

Below, you’ll find just a few quick tips and highlights from a manuscript compiled by 21 former pastors who didn’t want these nuggets of wisdom cast aside.

This collection is sure to become another Mark Driscoll New York Times Bestseller.

In these Driscoll originals, you’ll learn how to…

promote yourself

“You think you’re the Resurgence. But, you’re not the brand. I’m the brand!”

Stick to your convictions

“I don’t give a shit what you think.”

exercise strong leadership

“…his fat ass is not the image we want for our church.”

Take real action

“I’ll tear his church down brick by brick.”

And there’s more! Download the Formal Charges document today — and start learning Driscoll’s ruthless, self-promoting, anti-ecumenical, corporate approach to faith.

Remember — you must increase, and everyone else must decrease!

Justifiable skepticism: What did C.J. Mahaney really know, and when did he really know it?


As the Associated Baptist Press reported last week,

A former youth worker convicted of sexually abusing boys in the 1980s at a Sovereign Grace Ministries church in Maryland was sentenced Aug. 14 to 40 years in prison.

Nathaniel Morales, 56, was found guilty in May of abusing three boys from 1983 to 1991 while working in youth ministries and leading Bible studies at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md.

The article ended with this note, which refers to Sovereign Grace Ministries founder C.J. Mahaney:

Leaders of Covenant Life initially said they had no knowledge of any abuse until many years after it occurred when an adult who had been victimized as a child came forward. During the Morales trial, however, Grant Layman, Mahaney’s brother-in-law and a former pastor at the church, testified that he knew of allegations against Morales 20 years ago but did not call police. [emphasis added]

That highlighted segment is exactly what casts suspicion on C.J. Mahaney. As Billy Graham’s grandson Tullian Tchividjian said back in May,

“Give me a break. These people, they’re family. Of course he knew,” Tchividjian told The Christian Post. “C. J. was, for many years, the micro-managing head of the organization and nothing happened under the umbrella of Sovereign Grace that he wasn’t made aware of, so for anyone to say, ‘Well he didn’t know,’ that’s totally naive.”

A separate civil lawsuit against Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Inc. (SGM), and affiliated ministers and churches, was filed last year.

The civil lawsuit named Mahaney and nine others individuals as defendants. (Morales was not named as a defendant in the civil suit.)

The primary accusation against Mahaney and the defendants is that they covered up sexual abuse and failed to alert police.

However, additional ministers are part of the plaintiffs’ stories of sexual abuse as detailed in the lawsuit.

Unfortunately, as the Washington Post reported back in June,

The claims [in the civil suit] have been dismissed largely because of statute of limitations reasons, but the lawyers have appealed and want to bring the claims back into play.

The details of the suit are graphic and disturbing. I could only read the first 18 pages of the 46-page suit before I had to stop. The particulars are disturbing and degrading.

The alleged perpetrators were involved in ministry. It’s the stuff of horror movies: How could such demonic animals touch a Bible or tolerate worship music?

I guess a crucifix is no match for a vampire.Lord_Vampire

Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) and its affiliates have been accused of more than sexual abuse, but accusations of spiritual abuse are less likely to wind up in court or receive coverage in the mainstream media.

But the chronicles of spiritual abuse have been documented and discussed on the website SGMSurvivors.com, which has archives going back to November 2007.

The founders of the website say they did not have an especially bad experience in their SGM-affiliated church, but they began to realize “SGM saw itself as set apart from the rest of the Christian world.”

SGM has been called a “cult” in at least two reports by WJLA, an ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C. (see here and here).

SGM-let_the_right_one_in02

A frame from the horror film ‘Let The Right One In.’

 

For Resurgence and Mars Hill Church, ‘unity’ is the new ‘touch not my anointed’


Here’s a screen grab of a Resurgence email I received Tuesday:

An email from Mars Hill Church and Resurgence (screengrab)

From an August 19, 2014 email sent from Resurgence, a ministry of Mars Hill Church.

Good, healthy unity and community are great practical analogies for Trinitarian theology. Love one another, someone famous said.

But like anything else that proceeds from the mouth of Pastor Mark Driscoll these days, one must consider the context of what is being said, and, unfortunately, suspect something other than God is motivating the message.

That’s because Driscoll has been caught in numerous instances of plagiarism, and 40-plus elders and many congregants have left the Mars Hill churches during the past three years, and former Driscoll associates like Ron Wheeler and Mike Anderson have revealed shocking information about working with the pastor.

So I find Driscoll’s appeal for “unity” to be little more than the manipulation of a biblical text for the purposes of keeping more people from leaving his church.

In several books detailing abuses of power and cult-style leadership within churches, authors have pointed out a biblical passage that has been manipulated by pastors and ministers:

“Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.”

The passage, found in the Old Testament books of First Chronicles and the Psalms, has been used by pastors and self-anointed prophets to maintain an unassailable control over their congregations and rebuff any critique.

Among the dozens of books analyzing that type of manipulation, I would most strongly suggest Twisted Scriptures by Mary Chrnalogar, By Hook or By Crook: How Cults Lure Christians by Harold Bussell, and Churches that Abuse by Ronald Enroth.

Now the questions for long-suffering members of Mars Hill churches are clear: Unity at what price? Dwelling together at what price?