A den of thieves

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Always check the dictionary.

It was reported some weeks ago (on a Christian news blog), that Mars Hill megachurch had spent about $210,000 to place a book written by their head pastor, Matt Driscoll, on the New York Times Bestseller list. Several people had been suspicious when the book first made the list, since it shot onto the list the first week after it was available, and then completely dropped off the list never to return the very next week.

The church emphatically denied everything, calling the allegations ridiculous. Doing such a thing was antithetical to their mission.

The original accusation was soon corroborated when someone got hold of the contract (which outlined the procedure) from a particular marketing firm that does this on a regular basis for religious books. And more evidence began piling up, including allegations of crates of the book gathering dust in church storage rooms, and so forth.

And then, suddenly, the church admitted it:

While not uncommon or illegal, this unwise strategy is not one we had used before or since, and not one we will use again. The true cost of this endeavor was much less than what has been reported, and to be clear, all of the books purchased through this campaign have been given away or sold through normal channels. All monies from the sale of Pastor Mark’s books at Mars Hill bookstores have always gone to the church and Pastor Mark did not profit from the Real Marriage books sold either at the church or through the Result Source marketing campaign.

In other words, having insisting that they would never do such a dishonest and immoral thing, when they admit they did do it their excuses are that everyone else does it, it isn’t technically illegal, they are never going to do it again, the “true cost” isn’t as much as people say, and they gave the books away, so no harm. Oh, and the pastor didn’t profit from this unwise thing they did which they had swore up and down they had never done.

At a later point the statement commends the pastor for enduring these false accusations with grace. Except, of course, that they are totally not false.

This pastor has demonstrated, again and again, that he is one of the world’s biggest attention whores. So whether he actually made any money from it was never the point. The point was to be able to brag that he was a New York Times Bestseller writer… which (until now) had been plastered all over the church web pages, his personal web page, his twitter profile, on every single press release the church had issued since it happened, on posters for their various conferences and seminars, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Over the weekend a non-apology letter has surfaced, where he spends a lot of time explaining how the pressures of trying to fulfill the mission that god has repeatedly called him to do forced him to do things he’s not proud of. He never says what any of those things are, though he did say things like, “my angry prophet days are over” and “I must learn to be humble.”

It’s hard to take the humble comment, or the apology, seriously when every other sentence is some kind of bragging about his calling from god, what a humble man he is, how he doesn’t deserve all the talent that god has given him, and so on.

Besides the blatant contradiction between first claiming that they never paid to manipulate a bestseller listing, then admitting they did it, they’ve lied many times before. I wrote before about their press release that (while equating all gay people with people living with AIDS) lied about working with the Lifelong AIDS Alliance. They issued several clarifications that just compounded the lie as the Alliance denied any relationship. No one from the church even called the Alliance to get basic volunteering information until after about the third clarification statement.

Pastor Mark has made too many misogynist and anti-gay sermons over the years to list, though I am particularly fond of both his sermon that compared wives to waterboarding, as well as the times he explained that his wife has to ask his permission if she wants to get her hair cut. Besides the dozens of times he’s made fun of, mocked, and otherwise denigrated effeminate men, there’s also his famous assertion that masturbation is clearly an act of homosexual sin.

And let’s not forget that several Christian news sites and scholars have been slowly demonstrating that large proportions of all of the pastor’s books are plagiarized from other, more obscure, Christian authors.

Driscoll commands a megachurch, which is a bunch of large congregations that meet in several locations around the region. His congregation tends to be younger and more well educated than the typical evangelical crowd. I’ve never really understood the appeal, particularly since he is so transparently egotistic. I understand why he, and the other leaders keep doing what they’re doing. Jesus himself had something to say about people like them:

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said to them, ‘It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.'” — Matthew 21:12-13

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About fontfolly

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and nonfiction. I publish an anthropomorphic sci-fi/space opera literary fanzine. I attend and work on the staff for several anthropormorphics, anime, and science fiction conventions. I live in Seattle with my wonderful husband, still completely amazed that he puts up with me at all.

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