Without hype or spectacle

Christianity Today is the flagship publication of a relatively sane subset of North American White Evangelicalism. It has been doing an excellent podcast series, hosted by Mike Cosper, titled The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, which could as well be titled The Rise and Fall of Celebrity Pastor Mark Driscoll. Driscoll was (maybe "is"; he’s trying to start over in Scottsdale) a sort of Evangelical version of Jordan Peterson, before Peterson was prominent, admonishing Seattle’s young men to grow up. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that analogy struck me as apt and broadly applicable to Driscoll’s masculine, sometimes even misogynist, version of (what he called) Christianity.

Toward the end of Episode 8, Demon Hunting, after much reporting on "grotesque abuses of power and manipulation" and a particular type of sensationalism within Mars Hill Church, the podcast (at 1:01:40) features a recording from an Orthodox monastery* in Sitka, Alaska, where a not-very-good little choir is slowly singing the Lord’s Prayer (the "Our Father"), part of a rhythm of life designed to "eliminate hype and spectacle." Mr. Cosper commends the vision of the monastery and its rhythmic "long, slow obedience" as a welcome contrast to "the hype, entertainment, and expressions of power that drive so much of Evangelical life."

As an Orthodox exvangelical, I couldn’t agree more. (I think that’s the first time I called myself exvangelical, and I wouldn’t have done it without the adjective before it.)

But be aware that the Orthodox rhythm of life (not just Orthodox monastic rhythm, though it’s fullest there) is not designed to eliminate antecedent hype and spectacle. Evangelicalism is not the norm, let alone remotely faithful to the early Church. It’s a novelty, barely 200 years old, adding hype and spectacle as it eliminated most sacraments and gutted the two that remained.

But there are two more important caveats for anyone tired of deviance and attracted to Cosper’s description of Orthodoxy :

  1. The "obedience" part means that you can’t design your own personal quasi-monasticism, tweaking it when the mood strikes. You need to be obedient to the rhythm of a Christian community.
  2. Precisely because it’s driven by hype, entertainment, and expressions of power, Evangelicalism can’t be the community for long, slow, sober and sane obedience. Evangelicals who get the message need to decamp to the Orthodox Church, which will cultivate, shape — and gradually heal — them.

[* Cosper does not acknowledge that the monastery is Orthodox; for all he says, this could be some kind <alt-evangelical> emergent thing. But it’s not: it’s Orthodox.]


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

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