This week marks the one-year anniversary of "Unreal Sales for Driscoll's Real Marriage", which broke the news that Mars Hill Church paid "at least $210,000 in 2011 and 2012 to ensure that Real Marriage, a book written by Mark Driscoll, the church’s founding pastor, and his wife Grace, made the New York Times best-seller list." That article was arguably the beginning of the end for Driscoll's church.
Mars Hill celebrated the anniversary by selling its flagship Ballard building to Quest Church for $9 million. Mars Hill had purchased the building in 2003 for $4.8 million.
If you want to commemorate the anniversary in your own way—or are suffering from low blood pressure—you can spend a little time listening to yesterday's interview with Justin Dean, one of the lead PR guys at Mars Hill.
A few years ago, Dean used to answer e-mails from The Stranger, even if we were asking inflammatory questions—but last spring and summer, when things started to really unravel, he went silent.
Around the same time, former Mars Hill members wrote me to report that Dean had been trying to join Facebook discussion groups for ex-Mars Hill members and current members who were thinking about leaving.
"It caused a bit of an uproar," one ex-member wrote, "as he could not convince the members that he was doing anything other than gathering info to use against us. He's the PR guy, he's in charge of the spin that has continually tried to publicly invalidate people's experiences."
When I asked why he thought Dean had stopped answering questions, the ex-member wrote that a friend who worked at the church had recently said that the go-to Bible verse during controversies at Mars Hill was Proverbs 26:20: "For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases."
A veil of silence doesn't sound like the best approach to massive controversy—but what do I know?
In the interview, Dean blames Mars Hill's downfall on rumors and lies: "I've seen the enemy and the enemy is pretty ugly... It's naive to think we're not in a war." (I guess I might count as one of "the enemy." He also says that "telling the truth just by itself is a pretty naive and weak PR strategy.")
Around the 40-minute mark, interviewer Justin Blaney asks if the demise of Mars Hill was "because of the way it was approached from a PR perspective, or was it the things that happened that caused the derailment?"
Dean threads that needle by blaming it on the devil: "There's a lot of evil people out there who were just attacking us, who weren't even part of our church... There was definitely evil at work, there was God at work. Who knows?"
Meanwhile, even the New Republic is admitting that "macho Christianity" suffers from internal "pathologies" that have doomed it to failure.