“…I fashion myself as the self-appointed leader of a heterosexual male backlash in our overly chickified city filled with guys drinking herbal tea and rocking out to Mariah Carey in their lemon yellow Volkswagen Cabriolets…” ~ Mark Driscoll
As I read this book, I couldn’t help but think that Driscoll is–or at least was, in the early years of his ministry–terribly insecure in his manhood. His preoccupation with “manliness” doesn’t just border on obsession; it has set up a throne in the central district. He appears desperate to be seen as a man’s man in spite of his health and occupation:
“I had grown facial hair, started cussing again…and briefly considered taking up smoking but had asthma, which kept me from achieving my full cool potential” (loc 718).
“During this time, I was suffering from vertigo. I had taught at a conference on a cruise ship, and something got messed up in my inner ear. I spent the year feeling incredibly dizzy because of a strange syndrome that usually happens only to middle-aged menopausal women after a cruise. It was not the manly diagnosis I was hoping for, such as being dizzy because I had too much testosterone in my body” (loc 1929).
“Sadly, the weakest men are often drawn to ministry simply because it is an indoor job that does not require heavy lifting” (loc 775).
That last quote nearly caused me to hurl my Kindle across the room. Driscoll spends more than a little ink putting down other ministers of the gospel, calling into question their passion, faithfulness and manhood. By that point, I had had my fill of it…and I was only in Chapter 1.
A while back, I wrote a blog post in which I mentioned that modern American masculinity is “reinforced and policed by a heavy dose of homophobia.” Driscoll proves the point. He is one of the most homophobic pastors I have ever read, and that’s saying something. It is obvious that gay people and even straight men who don’t fit his narrow version of masculinity disgust him.
“Scrambling for ideas, I agreed to cancel a Sunday service and let some of our long-haired public-radio types take us outside to do a large joint art project they had proposed. They gave each of us a large chunk of paper on which to paint something that symbolized our personality, which they would then string together as a large mural highlighting the different personalities in our church. As a truck-driving jock who watches a lot of Ultimate Fighting, I can honestly say it was the gayest thing I have ever been a part of. I feared ending up with a church of chickified arty dudes drinking herbal tea and standing around talking about their feelings, as illustrated by their finger painting” (loc 1012).
Driscoll’s hyper-masculinity is at the center of his theology. He complains that postmodern churches have created a “vegetable-munching hippie Christ” who “loves people no matter what their lives are like” (loc 598). Driscoll’s Christ, by contrast, has a tattoo “with fire blazing in his eyes and a sword launching from his mouth, with which to make war on the unrepentant.” In Driscoll’s view, teaching men to be Christ-like means teaching them to be masculine. To Driscoll, the main source of sin and depravity in the world is men who drink tea instead of beer and wear pumps instead of boots. His obsession with masculinity even causes him to twist scripture:
“Too often this last point is overlooked, but when Paul said that a pastor must fight like a soldier, train like an athlete, and work hard like a farmer, he had in mind the manliest of men leading the church (2 Tim. 2:1-7)” (loc 774).
First of all, it’s more than a bit presumptuous for Driscoll to claim that he knows exactly what Paul had in mind when he penned that paragraph 2,000 years ago. And second, that’s not what Paul said.
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. ~ 2 Timothy 2:3-6
So the correct wording is that a pastor (Timothy, specifically) would suffer like a soldier and compete like an athlete. One who suffers like a soldier is one that does his duty as commanded, even when it is difficult or painful. One who competes like an athlete is one who follows the rules of the game and demonstrates good sportsmanship. This show of character on behalf of the gospel is certainly not–nor should it be–limited to men only. There are female ministers and missionaries living as good examples to others and suffering for the sake of the gospel around the world. Driscoll’s obsession with masculinity causes him to mishandle scripture–and create a “gospel” for men only.
So, just how obsessed is he?
Well, in the book, he says he fired a faithful, talented worship leader simply because he couldn’t coordinate worship services at three locations and hired Tim, a youth worship leader in Missouri, who “had never played in a band, written a song, or played an electric guitar. Additionally, he did not know how to sing, and it sounded like he had been hit by a car when he tried to hit high notes” (loc 2082).
With a city literally oozing with professional musical talent, why on earth would Driscoll handpick a talent-less hack from 2,000 miles away to lead worship for a 3,000+ member megachurch?
“But I really liked Tim because he is one of the few manly men whom I have ever seen leading worship. I am not supposed to say this, but most of the worship dudes I have heard are not very dudely. They seem to be very in touch with their feelings and exceedingly chickified from playing too much acoustic guitar and singing prom songs to Jesus while channeling Michael Bolton and flipping their hair. Tim was a guy who brewed his own beer, smoked a pipe, rock climbed, mountain biked, river rafted, carried a knife on his belt, and talked about what he thought more than he felt” (loc 2087).
The thing is, Driscoll started his church in Seattle, one of the biggest art and music centers in the United States. Seattle also has a significant LGBTQ community. Driscoll says he wanted to reach and minister to the whole city, but he cannot even stomach an artistic, alternative-looking person holding a visible position in his church. He cannot muster the most basic respect and empathy for sexual minorities. If I had been a gay person living in Seattle, I would never have attended Driscoll’s church…at least, not after he opened his mouth. Driscoll’s “gospel” isn’t rooted in the redemption of Christ, but in the masculinity of Christ…and those aren’t the same things.