Thursday, October 02, 2014

Mark Driscoll and the conundrum of markulinity
William Wallace IIMember
posted 01-06-2001 09:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for William Wallace II   Click Here to Email William Wallace II     Edit/Delete Message

I love to fight. It's good to fight. Fighting is what we used to do before we all became pussified. Fighting is a lost art form. Fighting is cheaper than medication and more effective than counseling. Fighting always wins over compromise. Fighting is what passionate people do instead of killing. So log on, fight away. And if you are reading this and talking to yourself log on you coward and get in the ring.
It would be difficult to fully discuss something like "Pussified Nation" in particular or William Wallace II in general without understanding them in terms of the history of Mars Hill and of Mark Driscoll, but as a combined history rather than in the atomized way bloggers and journalists have so far discussed most of the above.  Too little attention has been given to the substance of what was published and still less attention has been paid to the time and place in which the pen name was taken up.

Mark Driscoll has spent the better part of his career inveighing against irresponsible young men who decline to grow up.  He preaches against "boys who can shave" or "adultescents".  These are men who may exist less in real life as much as in the rhetorical imagination of Mark Driscoll.  Then again, there's been a neo-Calvinist decade of hand-wringing over men putting off "maturity" and by "maturity" it would generally be construed as adult males getting jobs, taking wives, and making babies.  The paradoxical scenario is that in spite of progressives fretting about a Mark Driscoll's views on women or gays (we'll get to the latter group later on) Driscoll was particularly stern toward men but single men.

Which is why it's necessary to point out that in the history of Mark Driscoll's real estate he had a less than stellar credit history and that, for as many spare rooms as he could in his house at the dawn of the century, single guys and in some cases young married couples paid enough in rent to cover some of the Driscoll mortgage.  That was discussed in a bit more detail over here. It's a bit tough for Mark Driscoll to have ranted against irresponsible single guys not manning up and taking wives and buying real estate if his own credit history at the time of William Wallace II was just poor enough he had to lease-to-own and could later joke he could only afford to rent a port-a-pottie.  Ah, so that makes complaining about single guys sorta okay, but the main thing was there needed to be a few of them in the spare rooms paying just enough rent to cover some of the Driscoll mortgage.  It is here that hints of a pattern emerge. 

But the pattern is not necessarily that Driscoll has shown he's fallen sway to the temptation to game systems to get things he wants at various points in his life, true though that seems to have been.  No, this pattern is less direct and more subtle.  While Driscoll has in the past lamented he didn't have anyone to help him carry the burden of pastoring Mars Hill this was observably not the case. It simply wasn't the case there was no team, as Driscoll at one point deigned to say.

It's worth pointing out (again) that during the period in which Driscoll would take up his pen name that:

Confessions of a Reformission RevMark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4

[this season begins in early 1999]

page 120A friend in the church kindly allowed me to move into a large home he owned on a lease-to-own deal because I was too broke to qualify for anything but an outhouse. The seventy-year-old house had over three thousand square feet, seven bedrooms on three floors, and needed a ton of work because it had been neglected for many years as a rental home for college students. Grace and I and our daughter Ashley, three male renters who helped cover the mortgage, my study, and the church office all moved into the home. [emphasis added] This put me on the job, literally, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, as the boundary between home and church was erased.

We ran the church out of my house for nearly two years, including leadership meetings and Bible studies for various groups on almost every night of the week. It was not uncommon to have over seventy people a week in our home. Grace got sucked right back into the church mess. She was a great host to our guests. But I started growing bitter toward her because I was again feeling neglected.

I began working seven days a week, trying to save the church from imminent death. I had decided to go for broke and accepted that I would either save the church and provide for my family or probably die of a heart attack. I lived on caffeine and adrenaline for the better part of two years, ate terribly ,and put on nearly forty pounds. 
The lease-to-own option might not seem that unusual but it's worth pointing out that this was a pre-2008 bubble scenario.  Ambitious young guys at Mars Hill were known to get real estate that a group would live in and pay rent on that the owning guy might one day hope to be the with-wife house.  If we bear in mind that during this early 00's period a lot of people were getting home loans who would not have qualified in earlier epochs it may just be worth pointing out that guys like Mark Driscoll benefited from some lending practices and leasing arrangements that a young guy might not have today.  While Driscoll and other neo-Calvinist types fretted about what is a continuing trend toward later first marriage and a postponement of "adulthood", this has tended to get thrown back on the lack of ambition of the young men without any factoring in of changes in the labor market.  In the Puget Sound area in particular Driscoll's song and dance will have to account for the wage changes coming along and that teen unemployment is at a high. Telling young guys to man up when they can't take advantage of the lending and leasing practices you had fifteen years ago and don't have the same job market you joined (Heraclitus and the river, anyone?) it makes it tougher to sell the righteous indignation about young guys who won't man up.

But there's not just that, there's this other thing, which is that in some sense the history of Mars Hill includes the history of Mark Driscoll going to convince other people to give him the money for him to cast and realize his vision or dream, in some cases rather literally. Driscoll said he went to David Nicholas to get money for Brad Currah to have a salary.  Driscoll has also mentioned a few times he got a stipend from Antioch Bible Church in the earlier years. 

The larger pattern that seems worth pointing out here is that Driscoll has shared from the pulpit what being a man means.
Part 5 of Proverbs
Pastor Mark Driscoll | October 28, 2001


So, I’m loaded. I have money, money, money, money. So, I buy a car, and I start saving for college, doing my stuff. And with my dad – I thank God for my dad. My dad’s like, “You’re a guy. You work. You pay your way. Good. It’s good for you.” And you know what? He’s right. He was totally right.

But let's step back a moment.  That lease to own thing was because Driscoll didn't have the credit to just buy the house, right?  And in the later 1990s it was Lief Moi who actually bought and renovated what came to be known as the Paradox.  It wasn't Driscoll's credit history that was sturdy enough to accomplish that feat, it was Moi's.  While Driscoll eventually got credited as the founder of the Paradox.

At one point Zondervan described Driscoll thusly:
Mark Driscoll is one of the 50 most influential pastors in America, and the founder of Mars Hill Church in Seattle (, the Paradox Theater, and the Acts 29 Network which has planted scores of churches. Mark is the author of The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out. He speaks extensively around the country, has lectured at a number of seminaries, and has had wide media exposure ranging from NPR’s All Things Considered to the 700 Club, and from Leadership journal to Mother Jones magazine. He’s a staff religion writer for the Seattle Times. Along with his wife and children, Mark lives in Seattle.
So for whatever reason Driscoll let Zondervan describe him as the founder of the Paradox Theater alongside founding Mars Hill Church.  Thing is, he co-founded this stuff and it wasn't his money.  That may seem pedantic but in light of the "you pay your way" ethic of masculinity espoused within the Driscoll family it's not really a mundane detail to note the times in which Mark Driscoll persuaded other people to pay the way for dreams he had. 

The gap between what Mark Driscoll on his own financial steam was capable of doing in buying or leasing real estate and what he actually did is worth noting because it is not, ultimately, a pedantic point. If Driscoll extolled an ideal of masculinity on-line and from the pulpit then it matters a great deal if he ever lived up to it himself.  After all, did not the apostle Paul write about the importance of how having preached to others it was important to not disqualify one's own self? 

Now a church start-up, it makes sense you would ask for support which is why this post elects to address just matters of the personal as recounted by Driscoll over the years, whether his own situation or things he personally did to realize goals.

A guy who extolls "you pay your way" ends up in a pickle if he needs single guys to cover even some of his mortgage while he's donning the pen name William Wallace II.  If Driscoll had really seen through his idea that being out-earned by his wife meant he'd denied the faith and become worse than an unbeliever he should have resigned from pastoral ministry as soon as he had that epiphany.  He didn't.  His "repentance" took the form of finding ways to get paid a salary and that kind of stuff involves appeals and negotiation.  In other words, it could look suspiciously like Mark Driscoll's repenting of his self-described failure to "pay your own way" involved petitioning other people to pay him. 

The gap between the ideal Driscoll extolled for a man's financial stability and the reality of his own life could be rather stark. If Driscoll had not spent so much of his career defining himself by rebuking and challenging the failures of men these failures would not have the meaning the cumulatively have.  You're not a hypocrite if you admit some flexibility about how certain things get done.  A complementarian like Jared Wilson isn't a hypocrite for having been a stay-at-home dad for a few years because he didn't make a specific application of the concept a make-or-break rhetorical or practical point the way the Driscolls have.

And then there's Driscoll on sex.

Listen to this sermon from the 2001-2002 period, from Proverbs, called "Lovemaking", if you dare.

Keep in mind that according to the narrative presented in Real Marriage (ten years later) ...

Real Marriage
 Mark and Grace Driscoll
 Copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
 Thomas Nelson
 ISBN 978-1-4002-0383-3
 ISBN 978-1-4041-8352-0 (IE)
page 9-10

To be honest, fornicating was fun. I liked fornicating. To stop fornicating was not fun. But eventually Grace and I stopped fornicating, got engaged, and were married between our junior and senior years of college.

I assumed that once we were married we would simply pick up where we left off sexually and make up for last time. After all, we were committed Christians with a relationship done God's way.
But God's way was a total bummer. My previously free and fun girlfriend was suddenly my frigid and fearful wife. She did not undress in front of me, required the lights to be off on the rare occasions we were intimated, checked out during sex, and experience da lot of physical discomfort because she was tense.

page 121
... When we married, I (Mark) tended toward sex as god. I was a newer Christian who had accumulated most of his knowledge about sex from culture, locker-room talk, and sinning sexually with a few young women. Conversely, Grace was raised in a home that was religiously conservative when it came to sex, had sinned sexually, and had been sinned against sexually. She considered sex gross. For her I was too much sexually. For me she was too little sexually. We made very little progress for many years until we had spent considerable time talking through our sexual history and beliefs, working together through many hours in the Bible and Christian books to arrive at a unified view of sex as gift.  Once we came to the same place in our thinking about sex, we began to work as allies instead of enemies. Our marriage has never been the same since, and our sex gets better all the time.

When we got married, I (Grace) didn't understand the physical and emotional aspects of sex for men. It seemed with his high sex drive that was all Mark wanted from me and that he didn't appreciate anything else I did. His drive seemed to get stronger the less we had sex, and I wondered if it was an idol to him or if that was normal for me. I later realized it was partially a real physical need, not an obsession, since he wasn't masturbating  or getting relief some other way, which I am thank for. I read somewhere that if you have sex more, it actually decreases the necessity for frequent sex over time for most men. I tried that but it didn't seem to change anything for Mark.
And there was reportedly nobody to talk to, in spite of a list of name-dropped guys who might have been suitable possibilities.

Again, the contrast between what a person would infer from Driscoll's sermons circa 2001-2002 where he'd talk about men loving ear-nibbling or women's breasts becoming firmer during arousal might suggest he was speaking from some kind of first-hand experience.  It is here that the gap between the private reality and the public persona also matters, because if Driscoll spent the first ten years of Mars Hill preaching as though the sex was great when it wasn't how did that not mislead an entire congregation?

In other words, if in light of Real Marriage and Confessions of a Reformission Rev we learn that Driscoll didn't have the money to pay his own way without help from single guy renters and was bitter about the lack of sex he was having in his marriage during the William Wallace II years then what, exactly, was going on?

It looks like this was a man who talked a lot of talk that wasn't showing up in his actual life and the problem is not necessarily that he had a functional but not very fun marriage.   Lots of people have that situation.  The problem is that his pulpit persona suggested a thoroughly different story about how much fun sex was for him by implication.  The situation with single guys renting space was less about "Mark Driscoll can't afford to live in the house he bought" but "living in community".  Driscoll kept counseling young marrieds and single people about sex in spite of this being a problem by making him resent his own frigid wife even more.  All of this matters because if it turns out that Mark Driscoll made it as far as he did by convincing other people to help him cover the expenses of his home and was privately seething about a lack of nookie while implying a different story from the pulpit the problem is that Mark Driscoll's vision of masculinity seems like it didn't and couldn't happen in the real world.  The retroactive doubt cast upon the previous decade and a half of Mark Driscoll's stories about Mars Hill  that Real Marriage introduced would be difficult to overstate for those who were at Mars Hill from 1996-2006.

The crisis of the leadership culture within Mars Hill is not just about Global turning into Go or a failure to account for where all that money went.  To the extent that the defenders of Mars Hill are making a point of defending Mark Driscoll there are other basic questions about the guiding narrative that have yet to be asked.  If it turns out by Mark Driscoll's own account he had single guys renting space in his house that he couldn't afford outside a lease-to-own deal because his credit was bad; if he was secretly resenting his frigid wife while graphically preaching about the wonders of sex; and if he was petitioning outside money to pay the way for him to have a salary and relying on a co-founding elder to have the funds to buy and renovate The Paradox this all suggests a man who not only didn't live up to the ideal he espoused from the pulpit regarding sex but also regarding money.  Rather than paying his own way he was finding people who could help him pay his way.  Where are those people now?  Are they still at Mars Hill? 

It's not just that the full scope of the plagiarism scandal has not been acknowledged by Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill, it's that it must be considered as just part of a larger story and a larger question.  It seems as though Driscoll took some shortcuts to get things he wanted both before he was a Christian when he was looking for work and after he was a Christian in citation and sales generation.   It turns out the sex wasn't all that hot during the years when Driscoll preached sermons so salacious they were starting to get pulled within a week or so of being preached.  And while Driscoll admonished guys to man up and get real jobs he was working to get a salary while not exactly doing what most people would consider a real-world job, being a pastor and a church planter.

The question that needs to be asked is whether Driscoll has ever really lived up to the vision of masculinity he has urged everyone to shoot for.  A healthy definition of masculinity is not the same as markulinity, which may be impossible. 

Let's consider that book that officially sparked the plagiarism controversy in 2013.

January 23, 2013
Mark Driscoll on Instagram

Sitting down to write my next book, due in 8 weeks. Once I collect my notes and thoughts the books kinda just work themselves out, much like sermons. The title is a working title only at this point.
That can't even qualify as an annoying humblebrag, it's just a brag.  And, sure, maybe with a bit of help from some Barna and Pew stats; some ghostwriters; recycling things here and there; Docent Group research assistance; and a few less than thoroughly cited appropriations of the ideas of others, yeah, those kinds of books kinda would just work themselves out, wouldn't they? 

It turns out we know quite a bit more about how those books "kinda just work themselves out" now.  That's the problem.  It's another area where the gap between how Driscoll comes across and has presented himself as an author and how the books may have actually come together suggests an unsettling gap.

A healthy Christian understanding of masculinity is something that will be an impossibility to a secular reader, but for Christians at this stage there may be a nearly catholic agreement that markulinity won't be that healthy ideal.  If not even Mark Driscoll himself seems to have ever actually pulled off  the ideal masculinity he's extolled from the pulpit why should young men and old men have any reason to measure themselves and find themselves wanting by Mark Driscoll's rants? 
After all those years of sermons in which he said certain kinds of guys were just a joke who has been the punchline lately? 

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