David Myers on Animosity Between Similar Groups

On Sunday, Politico published an enlightening article by Hope College psychology professor David Myers on the divide between Shia and Sunni Muslims. In the article Myers provides four points to help explain why people who share so many things in common are such enemies.
Myers also briefly illustrated his point with the historic Northern Ireland conflict between Protestants and Catholics. It occurred to me that on a lesser level, we see these conflicts arise all of time within Christianity. Charismatics and non-charismatics, Calvinists and Arminians, and so on share many points of agreement but war over the fewer differences. Myers article is well worth reading; his four basic points are:
1) No matter our similarities with others, our attention focuses on differences.
2) We naturally divide our worlds into “us” and “them,” ingroup and outgroup.
3) Discussion among those of like mind often produces “group polarization.”
4) Group solidarity soars when facing a common enemy.
Number three is a point which concerns me most about noticing differences. Such polarization can become especially hot if people fail to talk to those in the other camp. I see no problem with freedom of expression as long as we make sure everybody has it. We need to talk to each other rather than cloister and polarize further.  Myers expresses it this way:

Turning today’s closed fists into tomorrow’s open arms requires recognizing the relative modesty of our differences, finding our deeper commonalities, defining a larger “us,” communicating across group lines and discovering transcendent goals.

With All Votes Counted, Michael Peroutka Up By 38 Votes in MD County GOP Nomination Race

I called it too early last time, so I am not going to say the race for Anne Arundel County Council GOP nomination is over but according to the Baltimore Sun, all votes have been counted and Michael Peroutka has 38 more votes than runner-up Maureen Carr-York.
Peroutka, current member and former board member of the white separatist group League of the South, has already won a seat on the GOP central committee in legislative district 31.
If the results hold up, Peroutka will face Democrat Patrick Armstrong in the Fall election.
 

Uganda's Government Fools No One with Statement Regarding Anti-Gay Law

Today, Uganda’s government issued a statement which seems designed to change the Anti-Homosexuality Law into something it isn’t.
Here is the statement:

Statement by Uganda Govt on Anti Homosexuality Act by The New Vision


In case anyone has any doubt about how false this statement is, go read the Anti-Homosexuality Law.
Today’s statement says:

…it’s (the Anti-Homosexuality Law) enactment has been misinterpreted as a piece of legislation intended to punish and discriminate against people of a “homosexual orientation”, especially by our development partners.
The Government of the Republic of Uganda reaffirms that no activities of individuals, groups, companies, or organizations will be affected by the Act. The intention of the Act is to stop promotion and exhibition of homosexual practices.

According to the law, touching between homosexuals could result in life in prison. Touching. The law makes the statement by the government absurd. If my friends in Kampala are reading, please understand that no one believes this statement. Note what the law says:

2. The offence of homosexuality.
(1) A person commits the offence of homosexuality if—
(a) he penetrates the anus or mouth of another person of the same sex with his penis or any other sexual contraption;
(b) he or she uses any object or sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate sexual organ of a person of the same sex;
(c) he or she touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.
(2) A person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life.

None of the statement rings true. Even if Uganda’s government means to honor some of these promises, the government’s credibility is lost with the aspects of the statement that are clearly false.

Zach Bolen Says Citizens Will Go On; New Album Coming Soon

The fate of the most popular band at Mars Hill, Citizens, has been in some doubt since front man Zach Bolen resigned as an elder at Mars Hill.
A bit ago, Bolen tweeted an assurance that the band will continue:


…and that a new album is coming soon.


This is good news to those who like Citizens and hoped the band would stay together.
[youtube]http://youtu.be/wneFsoiu2oQ[/youtube]

University of Washington Public Radio Station to Air Segment on Mars Hill Church

UPDATE (7/7/14): You can listen to the segment here.
Tomorrow the University of Washington Public Radio program The Record will air a segment on Mars Hill Church. The broadcast is on 94.9 KUOW-FM Seattle from Noon-2pm pacific time.
According to the show webpage, the podcast will be available by 5pm on the site.  I was interviewed for the program as were some people who are a part of Mars Hill in exile (former members). I don’t know if they interviewed anyone currently involved at the church.
 

Anniversary of the Deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in 1826; Happy Independence Day!

In addition to being Independence Day, this is the day that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826.

On this day in 1826, former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who were once fellow Patriots and then adversaries, die on the same day within five hours of each other.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were friends who together served on the committee that constructed the Declaration of Independence, but later became political rivals during the 1800 election. Jefferson felt Adams had made serious blunders during his term and Jefferson ran against Adams in a bitter campaign. Two men stopped communicating and Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush wanted to encourage them to reconcile. Rush was on good terms with both Adams and Jefferson and set about to help them mend the distance. In his letter to Adams on October 17, 1809, Rush used the device of a dream to express his wish that Adams and Jefferson would again resume communications. This letter is part of a remarkable sequence of letters which can be read here. In this portion, Rush suggests his “dream” of a Jefferson-Adams reunion.

“What book is that in your hands?” said I to my son Richard a few nights ago in a dream. “It is the history of the United States,” said he. “Shall I read a page of it to you?” “No, no,” said I. “I believe in the truth of no history but in that which is contained in the Old and New Testaments.” “But, sir,” said my son, “this page relates to your friend Mr. Adams.” “Let me see it then,” said I. I read it with great pleasure and herewith send you a copy of it.
“1809. Among the most extraordinary events of this year was the renewal of the friendship and intercourse between Mr. John Adams and Mr. Jefferson, the two ex-Presidents of the United States. They met for the first time in the Congress of 1775. Their principles of liberty, their ardent attachment to their country, and their views of the importance and probable issue of the struggle with Great Britain in which they were engaged being exactly the same, they were strongly attracted to each other and became personal as well as political friends.  They met in England during the war while each of them held commissions of honor and trust at two of the first courts of Europe, and spent many happy hours together in reviewing the difficulties and success of their respective negotiations.  A difference of opinion upon the objects and issue of the French Revolution separated them during the years in which that great event interested and divided the American people. The predominance of the party which favored the French cause threw Mr. Adams out of the Chair of the United States in the year 1800 and placed Mr. Jefferson there in his stead. The former retired with resignation and dignity to his seat at Quincy, where he spent the evening of his life in literary and philosophical pursuits, surrounded by an amiable family and a few old and affectionate friends. The latter resigned the Chair of the United States in the year 1808, sick of the cares and disgusted with the intrigues of public life, and retired to his seat at Monticello, in Virginia, where he spent the remainder of his days in the cultivation of a large farm agreeably to the new system of husbandry. In the month of November 1809, Mr. Adams addressed a short letter to his friend Mr. Jefferson in which he congratulated him upon his escape to the shades of retirement and domestic happiness, and concluded it with assurances of his regard and good wishes for his welfare. This letter did great honor to Mr. Adams. It discovered a magnanimity known only to great minds. Mr. Jefferson replied to this letter and reciprocated expressions of regard and esteem. These letters were followed by a correspondence of several years in which they mutually reviewed the scenes of business in which they had been engaged, and candidly acknowledged to each other all the errors of opinion and conduct into which they had fallen during the time they filled the same station in the service of their country. Many precious aphorisms, the result of observation, experience, and profound reflection, it is said, are contained in these letters. It is to be hoped the world will be favored with a sight of them. These gentlemen sunk into the grave nearly at the same time, full of years and rich in the gratitude and praises of their country (for they outlived the heterogeneous parties that were opposed to them), and to their numerous merits and honors posterity has added that they were rival friends.
With affectionate regard to your fireside, in which all my family join, I am, dear sir, your sincere old friend,
BENJN: RUSH

It is not clear to me that Rush had an actual dream. He may have used the device of a dream to prod his friend into reconciliation with Jefferson. On more than one prior occasion, Rush communicated his views via writing about them as dreams. For instance,  Rush responded to a political question from Adams in a February 20, 1809 letter via a dream narrative.  Adams responded on March 4, 1809 praising Rush’s wit and asked for a dream about Jefferson:

Rush,—If I could dream as much wit as you, I think I should wish to go to sleep for the rest of my Life, retaining however one of Swifts Flappers to awake me once in 24 hours to dinner, for you know without a dinner one can neither dream nor sleep. Your Dreams descend from Jove, according to Homer.
Though I enjoy your sleeping wit and acknowledge your unequalled Ingenuity in your dreams, I can not agree to your Moral. I will not yet allow that the Cause of “Wisdom, Justice, order and stability in human Governments” is quite desperate. The old Maxim Nil desperandum de Republica is founded in eternal Truth and indispensable obligation.
Jefferson expired and Madison came to Life, last night at twelve o’clock. Will you be so good as to take a Nap, and dream for my Instruction and edification a Character of Jefferson and his Administration?

Another reason that I question whether it was an actual dream is because a draft of this letter demonstrates that Rush considered another literary device for his prophecy. A footnote in Lyman Butterfield’s  compilation of Rush’s letter reads:

In the passage that follows, BR [Benjamin Rush] made his principal plea to Adams to make an effort toward reconciliation with Jefferson. That pains were taken in composing the plea is shown by an autograph draft of the letter, dated 16 Oct. in Hist. Soc. Penna., Gratz Coll. In the draft BR originally wrote, and then crossed out, the following introduction to his dream history: “What would [you omitted] think of some future historian of the United States concluding one of his chapters with the following paragraph?” The greater verisimilitude of the revision adds much to the effectiveness of this remarkable letter. (Butterfield, L.H., The Letters of Benjamin Rush, Vol. II, 1793-1813, Princeton Univ. Press, 1951, p. 1023)

Apparently, Rush wanted to get this message to Adams and chose to use a device already requested by Adams, instead of an appeal to legacy via the reference to the history books.
In any case, real dream or not, Adams liked the proposition and replied to Rush on October 25, 1809, about the “dream” saying,

A Dream again! I wish you would dream all day and all Night, for one of your Dreams puts me in spirits for a Month. I have no other objection to your Dream, but that it is not History. It may be Prophecy. There has never been the smallest Interruption of the Personal Friendship between me and Mr. Jefferson that I know of. You should remember that Jefferson was but a Boy to me. I was at least ten years older than him in age and more than twenty years older than him in Politicks. I am bold to say I was his Preceptor in Politicks and taught him every Thing that has been good and solid in his whole Political Conduct. I served with him on many Committees in Congress in which we established some of the most important Regulations of the Army &c, &c, &c
Jefferson and Franklin were united with me in a Commission to the King of France and fifteen other Commissions to treat with all the Powers of Europe and Africa. I resided with him in France above a year in 1784 and 1785 and met him every day at my House in Auteuil at Franklins House at Passy or at his House in Paris. In short we lived together in the most perfect Friendship and Harmony.

Although in a less poetic manner, Rush also wrote Jefferson to suggest a resumption of friendship. Although it took awhile (1812), Adams and Jefferson did resume correspondence. As predicted by Rush, they carried on a vigorous correspondence until late in their lives regarding their personal and political lives. Then 50 years after July 4, 1776, Jefferson and Adams “sunk into the grave nearly at the same time, full of years and rich in the gratitude and praises of their country…”*
 
Much of this post was adapted from a prior post on John Adams and the Holy Ghost letter and published on this blog May 31, 2011.

A Tyndale House Divided

This morning, David Sessions, editor at Daily Beast, placed this note at the top of my article there.

Editor’s Note: After this story was published, Tyndale House issued a statement contradicting what they had previously told The Daily Beast. The publisher affirmed their relationship with Mark Driscoll and said they plan to reprint his book, A Call to Resurgence, as sales demand. For further updates on the story,click here.

On July 1, Tyndale House leaders issued a statement contradicting what their own senior public relations manager Todd Starowitz told me about reprinting A Call to Resurgence. Very shortly after the statement was issued, Mr. Starowitz replied to me via email and said I had quoted him accurately but that he had given me inaccurate information. After Mr. Starowitz confirmed this to me, I expected to see a correction from Tyndale House. However, as of this morning, I have seen no correction from Tyndale.
Let that sink in: Tyndale House’s public statement contradicts the public statement of their own senior public relations manager. I realize PR is not my field, but that doesn’t seem like state of the art practice.
There are other aspects to the situation which also cause me to wonder what is going on at Tyndale House. I know the Tuesday public statement from Tyndale House says they are all in with Driscoll and Resurgence and The Problem with Christianity but all I got from Tyndale about Resurgence last week was silence.
My interest in the fate of The Problem with Christianity started on May 30 when I tweeted Tyndale House about the publication date for the book. Their reply is below.


 
As far as I knew, that was the first public statement about the fate of the book. I followed up with the following questions:

@TyndaleHouse Is there a new scheduled date or is it on hold? And can you say what the delay is about?

So even at this stage, Tyndale House could have expressed support for Driscoll. They could have said then what they said on Tuesday, but instead, they didn’t answer.
Then on June 18, I wrote the following inquiries to Todd Starowitz, Tyndale’s senior public relations manager:
Mr. Starowitz:

On May 30, someone from you twitter account alerted me that Mark Driscoll’s next book The Problem with Christianity will not be published as planned in the Fall.
However, when I followed up to ask about a new date for publication, there was no answer. I am writing to ask if there is a current publication date for that book.
I have also heard that Tyndale is reevaluating their relationship with Rev. Driscoll and may not publish the book. Can you shed light on that story?

If Tyndale wanted to say something about their relationship with Driscoll, they could have done so in mid-June. Starowitz answered:

At this time we do not have a pub date for The Problem with Christianity.

I wrote back the same day and asked:

Do you still plan to publish Elsy (sic) Fitzpatrick’s, Good News for Weary Women? And then are there any other books slated for publication via the Resurgence imprint in the future?

Starowitz wrote back right away and said:

Elsy (sic) Fitzpatrick’s* book currently has a BBD of 8/1/14 and a release date of 9/14.
To my knowledge we do not have any additional Resurgence titles that have release dates scheduled at this time.

My follow up:

Todd: Thanks again for addressing my prior questions. Your answers made me think of a related follow up. Did Tyndale print a paperback version of A Call to Resurgence? And do you plan to reprint the hard cover version of ACTR?

Starowitz replied:

Warren, we did not print a paperback version. I don’t expect that we will reprint the hardcover.

I wrote back the next day (6/19) to see if I could discern the meaning of these remarkable statements coming from Tyndale:

Todd: Are you at liberty to say why there is no publication date for The Problem with Christianity? Is the delay due to a delay on Rev. Driscoll’s end or did Tyndale decide not to publish the book for some reason (and if so, can you say what that reason is?). Do you anticipate that Tyndale will ever publish the book?

He wrote back with a promise to get the information when Ron Beers returned the following week:

The questions I answered yesterday were easily garnered from our production schedules. Ron Beers, one of Tyndale’s publishers, will need to answer these questions and is out of the office and unreachable until early next week. I will provide you with a response when I am able to touch base with him next week.

The following week, I wrote a couple of times to ask for answers to those follow up questions. On one occasion, Starowitz said he would work on getting the answers. The last two times, I told Todd that an article would come out on Monday in the Daily Beast. For instance on June 28, I asked:

Todd – My deadline has been extended to tomorrow and so I thought I would try one more time to see if there is anything else you can say about the Resurgence-Tyndale relationship. Otherwise, I will just use what you already sent.

Why didn’t Tyndale tell me on June 28 what they angrily proclaimed on July 1? How hard would it have been for Tyndale to say last week what they said this week?
In my opinion, Tyndale owes Driscoll an apology for treating a publishing partner so cavalierly. I asked on multiple occasions about the nature of their relationship and Tyndale said nothing, even knowing that the information Starowitz gave me was coming out in a national publication. In addition to an apology to Driscoll, they need to retract their angry, self-righteous press release and accept responsibility for the incorrect information they provided.
I don’t know what is going on at Tyndale but right now, it appears to be a House divided.
Additional note: This is an interesting blog from Joel Connelly comparing Tyndale’s turnabout to World Vision’s reversal on gay marriage.
*The author’s name is actually Elyse Fitzpatrick.

What is the Best Season for The Problem with Christianity?

About Mark Driscoll’s The Problem with Christianity, Tyndale House said Tuesday:

Finally, while we did delay the publication date of Mark’s latest book, The Problem with Christianity, as we look for the best season in which to publish it, we have not altered our full intention to release it as a Tyndale title. This is a groundbreaking book that we believe will be greatly beneficial to the Church.

According to a March 2013 internal Mars Hill Church document provided to me, The Problem with Christianity was originally slated to be released in February 2014. Apparently, Valentine’s time is not the “best season.”
According to Driscoll, speaking in the November 1, 2013 Christian Post, the book was moved to the fall of 2014.

I will close out the conference with the findings from a massive research project we have undertaken about the most common objections to Christian faith by the unchurched and de-churched ages 18-44 that is the basis for my next book due out next fall that I am currently writing as the follow up to A Call To Resurgence. The tentative working title is My Problem With Christianity. This is the biggest research and writing project I’ve ever been a part of and the findings are surprising and enlightening while also discouraging.

Again, apparently the fall of 2014 is not the “best season.”
To the Christian Post, Driscoll mentions research that is to be the basis of the book. That research was conducted in the Spring of 2013. Given that the surveys were about trends among unchurched people, it seems like it would be good to get the research in front of people while it is still current. However, if this fall is not the “best season” then what season would be best? How much longer should Tyndale wait to bring out research done in the spring of 2013?
The book has been removed from Tyndale’s website after being up for weeks.
Maybe spring of 2015 will be the “best season,” two years after the research was conducted. If Tyndale waits much longer, it will be hard to make a case that the book is “groundbreaking.” Some research is timeless or at least has a longer shelf life, however; it is hard to make a case that trends among the unchurched fall into that category. On reflection, Tyndale’s reason for delaying the book doesn’t seem like much of a reason, certainly not a reason for waiting for another season to pass.
 

Now I Understand Why Charisma Magazine Blocked Me

Must be nice for Mars Hill to have a media outlet that will run their slant on things. Everyone else was willing to run Todd Starowitz’s email verifying that I only used his quotes. Not Charisma. In fact, when I wanted to comment on their website, I was blocked. Now I get it…

Mars Hill Church Admits Fault in Confusion on Mars Hill Global; Still No Report of Donation Amounts

In a change of course, Mars Hill Church leaders admitted they caused confusion, and have offered to direct Mars Hill Global donations to international missions. They still have not clearly provided a specific accounting of the funds but they have come closer. Here are the new questions and answers added which are significant admissions:

WHERE HAVE PAST GIFTS BEEN USED?

During fiscal years 2009-2014, over $10MM dollars has been given to Mars Hill Church by the Mars Hill global family. During that same time period $22.48MM has been spent on church planting in the US, India and Ethiopia. In 2009-11 over 80% of funds given by the Mars Hill global family went to Acts 29 church planting and funds were consistently spent in India for church planting in each of those years. In 2012- 2014 expenditures for church planting efforts in India and Ethiopia were increased with the preponderance of expenses related to church plants and replants in the U.S.

I GAVE AND THOUGHT THAT MY MARS HILL GLOBAL GIFT WAS SOLELY USED FOR CHURCH PLANTING OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES. WHAT DO I DO?

If you gave previously and were intending that your gifts would be used solely for international efforts, we sincerely apologize for the confusion caused by a lack of clarity on our part. If you still want your previous gift(s) to be directed to our international work, please email giving@marshill.com and we will make sure that your previous gift(s) will be used to support making disciples and planting churches specifically in Ethiopia, where we are currently supporting 40 evangelists, or in India, where we support 33 church planters. From July 2014, we have clearly communicated that donations to Mars Hill Global go to making disciples and planting churches in the United States, Ethiopia, India and wherever else around the globe Jesus calls us into his mission.

Let’s take the first question and answer. Mars Hill Global was first discussed in 2009 as a means of connecting with people who were not attending a Mars Hill Church. Eventually, it became a fund that supported Mars Hill church planting, Acts 29 Network of churches, and the Resurgence training center. However, in late 2011, that changed with the elevation of Sutton Turner as executive pastor. Gradually, the description of Mars Hill Global changed to make it into a way that Mars Hill Church could help international mission efforts. At times, the description was confusing in that Global sounded like both a source of donations (“the podcasters”) and a destination for assistance (Ethiopian evangelists and Indian church planters). By the FY 2013 annual report, the transition to Mars Hill Church’s way to “participate in the worldwide mission of Jesus” was complete. All accomplishments listed on this page were about Ethiopia and India with no mention of U.S. church planting, Resurgence, of Acts 29.

Now Mars Hill has come a step closer to admitting that they misled the congregation:

I GAVE AND THOUGHT THAT MY MARS HILL GLOBAL GIFT WAS SOLELY USED FOR CHURCH PLANTING OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES. WHAT DO I DO?

If you gave previously and were intending that your gifts would be used solely for international efforts, we sincerely apologize for the confusion caused by a lack of clarity on our part.

This statement vindicates my reporting on this subject and the petition on Change.org. Of course, people thought their gifts were going to efforts outside the United States. The church told the congregation that Global had changed and all of a sudden videos of Ethiopian evangelists were leading off nearly every service. We really don’t have to debate that anymore.

Regarding disbursements, the statement provides specifics where they weren’t requested and general statements where specifics were requested. After telling us how much was raised during the early years when Global didn’t mean what it meant between 2012-2014, then the statement becomes vague:

In 2012- 2014 expenditures for church planting efforts in India and Ethiopia were increased with the preponderance of expenses related to church plants and replants in the U.S.

Expenditures were increased over what? What does a preponderance of expenses mean? This is spin and an insult to the requests that members, former members, other donors and the public have made. However, one fact is established: the church spent most of the money given for international missions to domestic expansion.

That established fact aside, the church still should provide specific information. According to Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability guidelines, project reports need to provide more than is now included on the FAQ page:

The project report should include the amount of donated income, the costs related to administering the project, and the amounts that went directly to the project for which the solicitation was held. Any unusual items related to income or disbursements should be identified and explained. Though audited financial statements provide overall financial data for the reporting period, they are not intended to provide data on specific projects. So, in addition to financial reports, project accomplishments should be shared with the donor. This may include both short-term and long-range results of project gifts.

This FAQ statement doesn’t come close to satisfying the ECFA requirement. This failure to comply with ECFA guidelines again raise questions about Mars Hill Church’s accreditation.  How long will ECFA give Mars Hill Church to correct the situation? It seems clear now that the executive elders know the numbers but won’t disclose them. I hope this will be the next addition to the FAQ page.

The offer to direct gifts to international efforts probably comes at a bad time for Mars Hill as giving is down and staff are being dismissed. However, the offer is necessary in light of ECFA Guideline 7.2:

Giver intent. The organization is obligated to use a gift as directed by the giver or, alternatively, to choose not to accept the donation. Once the giver has indicated the intent for which the gift was given and the organization has accepted the gift, it is the organization’s responsibility to fulfill that intent, whether or not the gift fulfillment is required by law.

I know some donors who will probably take them up on this promise.

Even this promise, as nice as it sounds, raises concerns. Since Mars Hill still has not engaged in full disclosure regarding the disbursement of funds, then how will any donor know that the church will honor this new promise? Since changes have come as the result of public pressure, what is to assure donors that any future promises will be kept? Only financial transparency as requested by the Mars Hill Walk in the Light petition can begin to repair the erosion of trust.

For all posts on Mars Hill Global, click here.