Nobody cares about the Mars Hill protest. #TPCIU

Nobody cares about the Mars Hill protest. #TPCIU July 31, 2014

Since writing my last post, I have learned that there is a planned protest by former members of Mars Hill who will be holding up signs that say, ‘Question Mark,’ at the Mars Hill Bellevue location this Sunday. Bellevue is a suburb of Seattle across the water of Lake Washington. It’s also where all the techies in town go to work at Microsoft and Amazon.

I make no apologies for not knowing this sooner. For one thing, it is breaking news for the local KOMO 4 channel. Sometimes I am mistaken for an investigative journalist. It might be because some of the juicier things that I write about, but for some reason, sometimes my readers think that it’s my job to break the news. That’s too bad, because I am an academic social scientist, and I study publics, which means that I don’t break the news — I study the broken news. Warren Throckmorton, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, and Jonathan Merritt break all the juicy news. I write about what they, and others, have written.

There’s an advantage to not being a newsbreaker. Instead of having the constraint of getting things out quickly so that I can say, ‘You heard it here first!’ I get to read all the breaking news and ask: who cares?

That’s precisely the question I want to ask today: who cares about this planned protest?

For hasty buzzword-type readers, don’t worry. I am going to make a case that people should really care about Mark Driscoll and this planned protest. But we mustn’t be hasty, we must be patient, and we must not jump to the conclusion after reading the first bit of this article that when the author says that the protesters have failed to articulate their public importance, that the author thus concludes that the protest is unimportant. Hasty readers, read carefully.

At one level, there are far more important things to care about. There is, for example, a humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border and the question of where thousands of refugee kids are going to go, especially when American nativists don’t want them around. There is also a humanitarian crisis at the Gaza Strip, where Israel has responded to Hamas’s attempts to bomb them with bombs and shellings that have killed a great many Palestinians, child civilians very much included. There is yet another humanitarian crisis over at the Russian-Ukraine border, the latest of which has been the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. There is still another set of humanitarian crises involving Korean Americans held by governments in a sort of state of exception: Kenneth Bae in North Korea and Matt and Grace Huang in Qatar. There are humanitarian crises even within the borders of the United States of America: health care, gun control, deportations. There is a humanitarian crisis in Italy with the murders perpetrated by the ‘Ndrangheta, so much so that Pope Francis has excommunicated the members of the mob. There is a political crisis in Hong Kong and Taiwan vis-a-vis the People’s Republic of China over the rollback of democratic speech in Hong Kong and the pushing through of economic integration policies in Taiwan. And to add weight to all of this, the real public good in which evangelicals both in and out of America have been participating — alongside their Anglican and Catholic brothers and sisters — is activism against human trafficking, which, as both Pope Francis and Justin Cantuar have noted, is insidious because it’s the worst possible form of the private consensus to manifest itself in the modern world.

And what are some former members of Mars Hill going to do this Sunday? They are going to hold up signs in front of Mars Hill Bellevue that say, ‘Question Mark.’ As Komo 4 News reports, it’s being articulated as ‘less of a protest and more of a public appeal.’ It is, as they might say, of public interest.

Why is this public appeal supposed to be of public interest? As former Mars Hill program director Rob Smith told Komo 4 news, ‘When you’ve got no accountability and you’ve got a tyrant, ultimately you destroy yourself’ and describes Driscoll’s misogyny as ‘abhorrent — it’s abhorrent in any Christian environment’ because ‘what we’ve seen there is the seeds of everything we see now; you know, we see him continually objectifying women.’ ‘Mars Hill needs to give its membership the ability to hold its pastors accountable,’ Smith concludes.

Komo 4’s article goes further: ‘You need to hear our case,’ Smith is quoted saying. ‘He (Driscoll) has been in an ivory tower and hears what those closest are telling. He hears what he wants to hear and that’s what they tell him.’ He adds: ”We are Christian, loving people who don’t normally demonstrate…We want to have a quiet, strong message for Mark Driscoll, that people he has harmed over the years are not unknown to him as he has claimed,’ suggesting that because the former members of Mars Hill have been repeatedly silenced, they are now taking their case public.

Warren Throckmorton has even more details. The protest is organized by a Facebook group called the ‘We Are Not Anonymous Protest’ that is being crowdfunded by GoFundMe to ‘purchase placards, moving billboards and other expenses’ that will say more than ‘Question Mark,’ but also ‘Repeal the Bylaws and End the Abuse’ and ‘Global Protest Continues,’ referencing the new bylaws adopted in 2007 and 2011 that consolidated Driscoll’s power at Mars Hill and that resulted in a series of resignations, firings, verbal abuse, legal gymnastics, and sundry at the church. As an added slap, the group promises that if more money is raised than is needed, they will donate the surplus to Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, two former pastors who were fired in 2007 for not agreeing wholeheartedly to the bylaws.

In other words, Rob Smith and the ‘We Are Not Anonymous Protest’ says that their public appeal is of public interest because the private attempts to consolidate Mark Driscoll’s personal power over Mars Hill has resulted in verbal and legal abuse, as well as a protected culture of misogyny at the church that remains uncontested because this private institution shuts out dissenters who don’t toe the line. Mark Driscoll is a tyrant. He has no accountability. He has consolidated his power and sealed himself in. Dissenting members don’t get to say anything. Boohoo. End of story. Dear public, please care. It’s also in USA Today.
That’s nice.

The question still stands, though: who cares? I mean, how is this the most important thing to be circulating at this geopolitical moment? If the GoFundMe page reads, ‘Global Protest Continues,’ how is this ‘global’ and how is it connected with the global conversation happening in our public sphere? How is this not simply private wrongs being taken to the public sphere as a means of going nuclear, so to speak? The truth is that the ‘We Are Not Anonymous Protest’ has not articulated why it is that they feel like Mark Driscoll’s actions are the most pressing issues of our day. The result is that apart from a small niche of evangelicals who have been following Mars Hill’s rise and now seeming downfall, nobody cares.

Let me put it another way:

Nobody cares because the ‘We Are Not Anonymous Protest’ does not seem able to articulate itself as having anything more than a private dispute with Mark Driscoll. To say Driscoll needs to hear our voice is not a public appeal; it is a private appeal to Driscoll on which the public is allowed to eavesdrop. To say Driscoll’s old rants are misogynistic and is a key to reading him now is not a public appeal; it is a private accusation about Driscoll to which members of the public can simply say, ‘Well, good thing I haven’t listened to him, so whatever.’ To call on the church to repeal the bylaws, end the abuse, and show some respect for its ex-pastors is not a public appeal; it is a private address directed only at Mars Hill and not to the public.

In short, the way things currently stand, the planned Mars Hill protest is nothing more than a private spectacle that might entertain the public eye, and nothing more. By making the focus Mark Driscoll, the protesters have not addressed the public. The public sphere in turn is consumed by issues that are really important, like immigration policy, refugee children, deportations, gun control, the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Ukraine-Russia border, democratic movements in Greater China, Korean Americans held against their will in North Korea and Qatar, human trafficking, etc.

Before we explore why perhaps we should care in spite of all the evidence pointing to the contrary, perhaps we should ask: why can’t the Mars Hill protesters articulate themselves to the public?

The answer lies in the question: because they were former members of Mars Hill. As a friend of mine put it, ‘It seems like they’re trying to signal to the members within.’ That means that nobody cares.

That is, nobody except for me. That’s because I study publics.

For me, the Mars Hill protesters have a very interesting sense of what the public sphere is for: the public sphere is the space in which you go nuclear when private negotiations go sour. Remember Rob Smith: ‘We are Christian, loving people who don’t normally demonstrate.’ That is, to be Christian and to be loving is to avoid the public sphere. This is because demonstrations in the public sphere are considered neither loving nor Christian.

Oddly enough, on this note, Rob Smith remains in complete agreement with Mark Driscoll. Recall, for example, that while Driscoll was handling his plagiarism issues with Tyndale House. At that time, Tyndale House and Mark Driscoll put out a statement that said that Driscoll had handled this crisis in a ‘biblical manner’ because he sought to do it in private conversations and kept the public out of the story, thus, as I wrote at the time, conflating ‘the biblical, the personal, and the private.’ On this current crisis, Driscoll and the Mars Hill leadership are also seeking to avoid the public sphere, preferring instead to seek private reconciliation through a third-party mediator with their critics, although, as Driscoll alleges, that’s becoming impossible because of the anonymity of some of their critics. It’s that last bit that has made the ‘We Are Not Anonymous Protest’ go nuclear: if Driscoll is resorting to distorting their tactics by accusing them of hiding behind the cloak of anonymity, then the private negotiations have in fact failed.

EXCURSUS: ISN’T YOUR #TPCIU ANALYSIS SECULAR, UN-CHRISTIAN, AND THUS IRRELEVANT? [Skip ahead past -END OF EXCURSUS- if you can’t deal with debates in systematic theology and biblical studies.]
At this point, of course, it could be said that without quoting the Bible, I am seeing this all in a secular light and because of that, I’m not worth reading. To that, I’ll say that I am very familiar with the biblical quotation that is often used to justify this view of the public sphere: Matthew 18.15-17. Because I have little desire (yet) to open the can of worms on the politics of biblical translation (as Andrea Smith shows in Native Americans and the Christian Right, it’s pretty political stuff), I will quote from Mars Hill’s preferred translation, the English Standard Version (ESV), even though my preference for my academic work is the New Revised Standard Version:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matt. 18:15-17 ESV)

You can probably see why Mars Hill would like this translation: ἀδελφός is simply translated ‘brother,’ which incidentally means that it would be hard to know what to do if your sister sins against you (a point that is clarified in the gender-neutral NRSV: ‘a member of the church’). Kidding aside, though, you can also probably see why Mars Hill and its protesters’ conception of the public sphere works the way it does. Here, Jesus putatively prescribes how to go nuclear when there is sin in the church — ‘sin’ broadly defined as any deviance in spirit, soul, and body from the original divine plan of creation. As New Calvinist theologian and ESV Translation Oversight Committee member Wayne Grudem puts it:

Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18:15-20 tells us that if a situation involving personal sin against someone else cannot be resolved in a private or small group meeting, then the matter must be brought to the church…In this case the matter has progressed from a private and informal situation to a public and much more formal process of discipline by the whole church. (Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine 46.D.1.2, p. 896)

If that wasn’t clear, Grudem then presents a theological case for the private consensus, arguing in a section (46.D.1.3.a) that ‘Knowledge of the Sin Should Be Kept to the Smallest Group Possible‘:

This seems to be the purpose in Matthew 18:15-17 behind the gradual progression from a private meeting, to a meeting with two or three others, to telling the entire church. The fewer people who know about some sin, the better, because repentance is easier, fewer people are led astray, and less harm to the reputation of the person, the reputation of the church, and the reputation of Christ. (Grudem, p. 897).

In the next section (46.D.1.3.b), Grudem further elaborates ‘that we cannot stop simply with a private conversation if that has not brought satisfactory results,’ further escalating the church disciplinary measures to its further possibility: ‘…the church would be assembled to hear the facts of the case and to come to a decision,’ which can include ‘excommunication’ (p. 898). The magisterium has spoken! Or, in Mark Driscoll’s words,

…to be honest with you we’re just not free to speak about those matters because the terms of the relational reconciliation process include us signing a covenant and that includes confidentiality because we want to create a safe place where people can come in and work out any relational differences and difficulties and so we don’t want to gossip, especially with media and social media, we don’t want to subject anyone to any unnecessary fear or an unsafe environment, and so we, we intend to abide by, by those rules and we think they’re godly and good and they really just quite frankly come pretty much straight out of the Bible and so we, we want to honor God above all in this process and so we, we won’t say a lot except, and it’s not for any reason other than we’re trying to love well and submit to the process that we believe is a good one and a Godly one.

Or, in Rob Smith’s words: We are Christian, loving people who don’t normally demonstrate.’ A demonstration, protest, public appeal, or whatever you want to call it is simply an extension of Grudem’s ‘the church would be assembled to hear the facts of the case and to come to a decision.’ Under Driscoll’s leadership, it can be alleged that the church has not been allowed to assemble to hear the facts of the case. The placards, moving billboards, and sundry will thus attract attention, which will allow former church members to publicly air their private grievances — to make known ‘the facts of the case’ — so that the church can be assembled to hear the facts of the case and to come to a decision.

In other words, there is no public sphere here, and on that point, both Mark Driscoll and Rob Smith are in total agreement. Neither Driscoll nor his protestors see the need to actually address the public sphere as a public because, in their reading of biblical church government and discipline, the public to be addressed is the church as a private institution. As far as the private church is concerned, Jesus himself seems to be saying that the public sphere is not to be addressed, but utilized as a tactic of ever-widening appeals to force a ‘sinful’ member of the church toward changing his (or her or xyr) ways. 

I am a geographer — not a biblical exegete, not a theologian, and certainly not an evangelical blogger — so I will not attempt to contest this reading of Matthew 18.15-17 via exegetical means. But it is curious to me that Grudem’s reasoning that keeping the knowledge of the sin private until things explode out of control is crucial to make repentance ‘easier’ and to protect ‘the reputation of the person, the reputation of the church, and the reputation of Christ’ is nowhere to actually be found in Jesus’ words. It is also interesting to observe Grudem’s footnote to this reasoning: ‘One exception was the secret sin of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11. In this situation the Holy Spirit (vv. 3, 8) was so powerfully present that he brought an intrusion of final judgment, when the secrets of all hearts will be disclosed, into the church age, “and great fear came upon the whole church”‘ (p. 897, n. 16). In other words, Grudem’s God is so sovereign that he breaks his own prescriptions about the private consensus, falling out of line with Grudem’s magisterial reasoning about protecting reputations and facilitating repentance. Finally, in Right Texts, Wrong Meanings, New Testament scholar Sam Tsang points out that this sort of prescriptive reading of Matthew 18:15-17 takes this passage out of the context of Matthew 17-19. For Tsang, this entire passage details Jesus’ preferential option for the ‘little ones,’ his simple followers who might be offended and oppressed by some who claim to be leaders of the people of God. In this light, Matthew 18.15-17 is about the agency of the oppressed, the radical notion that even the lowly followers of Jesus can challenge their leaders when they have been offended. Applying this on his blog to challenging Rick Warren’s orientalizing offense toward Chinese Americans in 2013 and the resulting Asian American open letter to the evangelical church, Tsang argues that the private reasoning that so many evangelicals read into Matthew 18 simply does not apply when the offense against the little ones is already public. In that case, there is no sense in retreating to the private sphere; the offense is already publicly known, and the public demands a public resolution. What starts public stays public.

I’ve spoken at length about Matthew 18 and the convergence between Mark Driscoll’s and Rob Smith’s (non)conceptions of the public sphere simply to establish that they have a particular theological interpretation of the public sphere that is openly contested among Christian practitioners. To call an analysis such as mine ‘secular’ or ‘non-Christian’ in an effort to pre-emptively discredit my views would be problematic, to say the least.

What it seems to me is that in this season it’s not a group of people — it’s groups of people — and it’s, it’s a real spectrum from some who are Christians, some who are non-Christians, some who have attended Mars Hill Church, some who have never attended Mars Hill Church, some who really want good for our church, and other who frankly don’t seem to want much good for our church.

-END OF EXCURSUS-

To return to the point: nobody cares about the Mars Hill protest because, frankly, nobody has been addressed. Both Mark Driscoll and his protestors situate themselves squarely within the private consensus. The only people who really care about the Mars Hill protest are Mars Hill and its ex-members because those are the only people who are addressed. That this has in turn been picked up by the evangelical blogosphere and Komo 4 News is merely because of the sensationalism. This, in turn, is why Driscoll is able to say:

Driscoll is right. What’s at stake is the ‘good of our church,’ that is, the private institution’s private interests are up for contest. The people who are leading the charge are on one end of the spectrum. They’ve picked up some people who are in it for the spectacle. In no way is the public actually addressed as a public. Aside from traffic concerns in Bellevue on August 3 and disgust at Driscoll’s online misogyny, nobody cares.

This leads to my final point: it’s too bad that nobody cares because this Mars Hill protest is of serious public interest. That the protesters have failed to articulate what that public interest is does not lessen the public interest of the protest.

Here’s why the public should care about the Mars Hill protest:

1. Mars Hill Church is not only a private megachurch with multiple locations in Seattle, but its materials are in global circulation. Yes, its weekly attendance across fifteen sites in five states exceeds 15,000 people. But even more important is that the circulation of Mars Hill’s teaching and activities, except for its private communications with its 5,500+ members, is not contained within those 15,000 people. They have a blog, there are books being published (this is why there was a plagiarism scandal and a fuss over the New York Times’s Bestsellers list), there are sermons been downloaded and watched, there are other churches that seek to copy the Mars Hill model, etc. It’s been reported that Mars Hill’s materials have, for example, unique traction in Australia. It’s also been complained about by Asian American pastors that younger Christians they seek to shepherd find themselves enamored by the rigid theology of Mars Hill — and my key source for this, historian and pastor Timothy Tseng, is not in Seattle, but in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Mars Hill does not yet have a location.


2. The global circulation of Mars Hill materials is part of a public evangelical effort to reinforce a politics based on the private consensus. Put another way, one of Mark Driscoll’s core teachings — which he learned from New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s Tim Keller’s reading of St. Augustine’s City of God — is that the church should be in the business of creating a ‘city within a city.’ A polis within a polis is a politics. This is not a case for taking away Mars Hill’s charity status; after all, I’m very sure that Mars Hill does not openly endorse political candidates. On the same token, ‘politics’ is not limited to voting. It’s about creating a culture, a set of practices. As Darren Dochuk shows in From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism, Southern California formed the basis for the conservative resurgence in California that led to the passage of all kinds of grassroots conservative legislation in the state (reversing school desegregation efforts, limiting property tax to 1% of property values) as well as the emergence of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan as leading Republican politicians. This happened because of a migration of evangelicals from the American South to Southern California, which was also accompanied by an effort to spread evangelicalism as a culture throughout Southern California. So too, if Mars Hill is creating a ‘city within a city,’ it’s creating a politics. As you’ll see in Driscoll’s bullet-point agenda at the end of The Radical Reformission to his teachings on sex and family in Real Marriage, this politics centers on rehabilitating men as heads of households with submissive wives and obedient children. This has been frequently been described as misogynistic. It has seldom been described as privatizing. It is likely both, but more of the latter. In other words, this teaching creates a culture in which an emphasis on the structure of the private family is seen as the sum totality of life. That’s political, because that culture in turn informs how people in those family structures participate — or do not participate — in public life. And if the circulation of teaching about this political culture exceeds the membership and attendance at Mars Hill, but has global reach, then this is a global attempt at reinforcing the private consensus.

3. The private consensus that Mars Hill promotes as a public good is deeply related to the pressing geopolitical issues that the public sphere is discussing. Whether it’s Gaza or the U.S.-Mexico border, Hong Kong or Ukraine, there’s a sense in which the central political question is – how do we achieve a solution behind closed doors that will result in the least amount of damage to everyone’s private interests? While the public sphere calls for an end to war, violence, trafficking, and border abuses, all of these calls fall on deaf ears because there are business interests to be protected, private agendas to be advanced, and resources to be secured. In addition, there’s also a sense in which all of this stuff is outside of the private sphere — it’s distant, which means that real people with real schedules and real families don’t have the time of day to be a debating public. That’s precisely the sense that the private consensus has created. What matters most in the private consensus is, well, one’s own private sphere. And yet, the fact that one’s own private sphere trumps all other concerns is itself a public issue because the private consensus draws an arbitrary boundary between the plight of others suffering under the pressing geopolitical issues of our time and my own private concerns, which in turn allows for those perpetrating the violence to get away with things or to use ideologies to rewrite history because nobody knows what the record actually is. In this way, promoting a private consensus as a public good is deeply related to the pressing geopolitical issues because one can trace the politics of privacy to the emergence of private interests taking over the public sphere.

Moreover, if the protesters are really going to talk about misogyny, then they had better connect it to the public sphere’s conversation about misogyny. Recall Driscoll’s arguments for patriarchy. If we’re going for blast-from-the-past Driscoll, then allow me to quote directly and at length from The Radical Reformission, from a section titled ‘Men in our kingdom culture’:

In Seattle, the young men are, generally, pathetic. They are unlikely to go to church, get married, have children, or do much of anything that smacks of being responsible. But they are known to be highly skilled at smoking pot, masturbating, playing air guitar, freeloading, and having sex with their insignificant others. However, the emerging-church massage-parlor antics of labyrinth-walking by candlelight will do little more than increase the pool of extras for television’s Will and Grace. If there is any hope for a kingdom culture to be built in Seattle, getting the young men to undergo a complete cranial-rectal extraction is priority number one.

While the rest of the organizations in the city are busy trying to clean up the messes made by these young men, including unwed mothers, fatherless children, and crime, we focus our efforts on converting them and training them in what it means to be a godly man. So far our training on everything from how to study the Bible, get a job, invest money, buy a home, court a woman, brew beer, have good sex, and be a pastor-dad to their children has been very successful for hundreds of young men. We now have unmarried men buying homes in faith that one day God will give them a wife, and we have childless college men starting college funds in faith that one day God will give them a wife and children. We have a long way to go, but the building of our kingdom culture begins with building the men who will build that culture by building churches, families, and businesses. Therefore, in our kingdom culture b, we take seriously Paul’s words that men are the glory of God. (p. 184-5).

That’s a political statement, if there ever was one. First, Driscoll argues that both the state and the non-profit organizations that fill in the welfare gap left by neoliberal rollbacks are useless, and that his church has been very successful in doing what these organizations funded by our taxpayer dollars and generous donations have not been doing. The strategy is to convert men and then make them into responsible citizens, with an emphasis on owning property. It’s a settler politics, then, where the object of faith is that a sovereign God will provide a family to fill that property.

The question, then, is not merely misogyny — yes, these men are going to be heads of their households and have already made decisions for the families they do not already have — but what this politics actually is: it’s a politics that puts the private interests of property ownership first. Now take that back to the geopolitical issues of our day. Recall that I said that one of the main problems in our geopolitics is that the protection of private business and property ownership interests trump a critical public sphere’s call for peace and an end to violence. The question is not merely whether these men are misogynists. The first question is: what kind of participants in the public sphere does this politics create?

After asking the question, the next question is: what would these men have to say about women in the public sphere? Again, the focus cannot merely be on the church — how women are treated as Mars Hill, how Mars Hill men treat their women, what Mark Driscoll has to say about women. This must be connected back to statements about women in the public sphere. There is plenty of public material from which to draw: statements about ‘legitimate rape’ in the 2012 election, the rape culture promoted at Steubenville and in Nova Scotia, Elliot Rodger’s shooting spree in Santa Barbara because of his ‘men’s rights’ had been offended, the complexity around Hope Solo’s domestic violence incident(s), the celebrity culture around sex tapes, Mitt Romney’s ‘binders of women,’ etc. Again, at the heart of much of this is the private interests of property ownership: recall, for example, that much of the controversy, say, at Steubenville was that the future careers of the young men who perpetrated the rapes would be ruined, that is, those young men’s future property ownership prospects trumped the reality that they had violated women’s bodies. If indeed Mark Driscoll’s material has such a wide circulation, then his statements about women are intensely publicly interesting in light of all of the above (and more) of what I’ve listed.

4. The public should be debating whether Mark Driscoll has the religious freedom to promote his version of the private consensus. Remember, all of what Driscoll has to say about women, sexuality, gender roles, household structures, and the privacy of the church invokes biblical sanction, which means that for Mars Hill, these are theological issues. This is deeply related to another central issue of our time: the question of religious freedom. As I argued before, this Mars Hill case may well become its own religious freedom case alongside the Hobby Lobby case, the various other Obamacare cases, and the prayer case in upstate New York. This is because whether one likes it or not, the fact that Driscoll is invoking biblical sanction for his patriarchal views means that he has a right to such articulation due to the free exercise clause. The question for the public to deliberate over is whether such views are in fact covered by the First Amendment alongside its discussion of Hobby Lobby, Obamacare, and the prayer case. In fact, the fact that the protest is taking place in Bellevue of all places is rife with significance: in the 1960s, it was fundamentalist pastors in Bellevue who sued the University of Washington for its alleged bias toward liberal theology and thus violating the Establishment Clause. Bellevue is a particularly significant place for questions of religious freedom, and it would be great if both Mars Hill and its protesters could recognize that.

In other words, there is plenty of reason to care about the Mars Hill protest. The unfortunate problem is that neither the church nor its protesters seem to be able to articulate these reasons, and that’s because they themselves are stuck within the framework of the private consensus. The fortunate thing is that the world is bigger than them, and if the deliberating public is as intelligent as I like to think it is, the public sphere will eventually have no trouble figuring out that the private consensus is a public issue for debate.

And when they do, then everybody will care about the Mars Hill protest.

#TPCIU

POSTSCRIPT: I am very thankful for a careful reader who informed me that Mark and Grace Driscoll were graduates of Washington State University, not the University of Washington. This has been corrected.

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