Follow-up thoughts on Mark Driscoll, Plagiarism, and Power

I’ll start the blog post with a disclaimer, because heck, why not?

Disclaimer: I’m not for a second going to claim that I have anything new or profound to say about the little Mark Driscoll plagiarism brouhaha that’s been appearing (and disappearing) throughout the blogosphere over the past couple weeks. Much has been said, more clearly than I could, by many others. But recognizing that there are a handful of people who might read my post but won’t get to the other stories, and because I’m a little bit bored on a business trip and found a quote in a book I’m reading that I want to share, I’m writing anyway.

OK, so now that that’s over with…

If you’re unfamiliar with the Driscoll plagiarism fiasco and want to know more, I’d refer you to the excellent reporting by Jonathan Merritt for Religion News Service:

(There’s also been some good discussion on watchblogs like The Wartburg Watch and Spiritual Sounding Board.)

My short synopsis: I tried to write a short synopsis and it ended up being two paragraphs. I guess I can’t write a short synopsis, sorry. OK, I’ll try once more. Basically evangelical megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll was accused of plagiarism, including one case that seemed pretty obvious. After a week of eerie silence from Driscoll and his people, the radio host who had been pressing the case suddenly removed everything about it from her website and gave an on-air apology to Driscoll. Allegations were made by the radio host’s assistant producer that this was the result of an “evangelical celebrity machine”, but the radio host refuses to comment.

I ran across two things today that merit linking in to this story.

First is a blog post by the ornery pastor, author, and blogger Douglas Wilson. I’ll be honest: I thought it’d be a cold day in hell before I would agree wholeheartedly with a Wilson post. But today he published a ((quite) lengthy) bit on the topic that spoke clearly and fairly about all the key issues concerned: plagiarism, the use of ghost writers, the responsibility of having your name on the cover of the book, and the inevitable push to manufacture scandal whether one exists or not. Highly recommended reading.

As an aside: I don’t often embrace Wilson’s arguments or his style, but how can you not love a guy who starts a piece like this:

I don’t have much to say about the ruckus these last few weeks concerning the allegation of plagiarism by Mark Driscoll, an allegation that was made by Janet Mefferd, and then subsequently withdrawn by her. Not having much to say, I intend therefore to not say it.

and then goes on to write more than 4000 words?

The last thing I want to highlight in this post is a quote from Andy Crouch’s Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. I started into it on a flight this afternoon, and while I’m only 30% in, I can already recommend it. (At least for that 30% – here’s hoping the last 70% is equally awesome and I can recommend the whole thing by the end of the week.) Toward the end of Chapter 5, Crouch examines the old story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, and draws out how it relates to those in power. (This isn’t anything new, but said really well…)

Power, even up to the absolute power of an emperor, is invested in ordinary human beings… who underneath even the most exquisite trappings, or for that matter armed with the most fearsome technology, are naked mortals. The maintenance of power, then, comes not from any extraordinary quality in the powerful themselves, but from the consent and continual reaffirmation of those around them.

Sound familiar?