"Punk Rock Calvinists Who Hate the Modern Worship Movement": Ritual, Power, and White Masculinity in Mars Hill Church's Worship Music
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University of Washington Abstract "Punk Rock Calvinists Who Hate the Modern Worship Movement": Ritual, Power, and White Masculinity in Mars Hill Church's Worship Music Maren Haynes Chair of the Supervisory Committee: Dr. Christina Sunardi Music This dissertation presents a critical case study of Mars Hill Church from its founding in 1998 through its closure in 2014 through the lens of the church's music ministry. Led by charismatic and controversial pastor Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church began as a small Bible study and grew into a fifteen-site megachurch across five states, largely drawing young adults between ages 18 and 35. Facing a cascade of scandals and accusations in 2014, Driscoll resigned as lead pastor and the church soon closed and dispersed. Tracing this bounded history through interviews with former members and musicians, archival print and web-based materials, published texts and books, and various participant-observation experiences at Mars Hill campuses before and during the collapse, I explore the multifaceted role of musicians as agents in perpetuating the church's youth culture orientation, precipitating church growth, centering and inculcating certain theologies, and patterning embodied worship experiences. I begin with an exploration of the history of Christian missions, detailing how 20th century European and American missionaries began to decouple Western cultural norms and practices from Christian orthodoxy, focusing instead on infusing Christian messages into indigenous cultural practices. This "missional" framework animated the rise of Christian rock 'n' roll and the Christian Contemporary Music industry. Mars Hill leaders adopted missional discourses to center the genres of punk and post-punk, perceived as authentic local practices in the Seattle context. I thus explore the cultural constructions of punk rock and the adaptations to punk's founding ideologies, politics, aesthetics, and practices that grunge and indie rock musicians and audiences forged to expand aesthetic bounds, form new audiences, and adapt to economic changes. Further, I detail how the church's musical performances of worship songs, Protestant hymns, and new music in the genres of punk, grunge, and indie rock served multiple roles, allowing the church to accrue subcultural capital in the Seattle music scene while simultaneously differentiating Mars Hill as a masculine religious movement within American evangelicalism. Yet Mars Hill Church underwent phases of massive organizational change in the course of its existence, with an effect on polity, theology, and musical style. To account for these intersecting changes, I draw my theoretical framework from the field of ritual studies at the boundary of performance theory, particularly following Catherine Bell who views ritual as a vantage point from which to analyze the production of power and meaning through habituated action. Bell explores how actions, interactions, and speech endow objects, texts, certain personnel or modes of relationship, and so on with meaning(s) that are variously shared, rendering collective ontologies and theologies that pattern political outcomes. While ritual theory affords an encompassing lens of the processes relevant to the production of power, critical theories of gender, race, and class inform my study as intersectional axes of analysis, particularly detailing Driscoll's strident privileging of men and hypermasculinity. As a central node of organizational change, I examine Driscoll and Mars Hill Church's adoption into New Calvinism, a paradenominational movement spanning the Southern Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church in America, and various non-denominational adherents. I argue that New Calvinist discourses and theologies lent Driscoll a totalizing operational framework of authority and submission that infused the church's polity, theology, and music ministry, leading to the broad disempowerment of elders, laity and artists. This dissertation thus offers ritual studies as a productive theoretical frame for ethnomusicological research, while furthering academic inquiry into the ways that streams of American Evangelicalism and punk, grunge, and indie rock subcultures variously inform the broad scale production of power and authority in American culture.
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