Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Evolution of Markulinity: The Dude Gospel, the original seed or later addition? Revisiting early Driscoll in media shows generational conflict rather than masculine reform as a driver

 If you were to have visited Mars Hill some time between 1998 and 2000 and asked for a doctrinal statement what you might have actually gotten was a photocopy of an article that appeared in Mother Jones magazine.

We won’t quote the entirety of Lori Leibovich's 1998 article for Mother Jones, but we’ll provide a link.  Read it at your leisure and consider what is and isn’t prominent in that profile on emerging evangelical churches.  It was in this article Driscoll was quoted as saying he wasn’t a pansy-ass therapist.

If anything Driscoll comes across as motivated not so much to "reach the young men" as someone who has, in Leibovich's reading, shrewdly leveraged inter-generational conflict as a rallying point around a mostly younger/young-ish nascent church movement. 


"For financial reasons or whatever, the parents of Gen Xers put their lives ahead of their children's," says Lief Moi, 35, a leader at Mars Hill and the co-host, with Driscoll, of "Street Talk," a nationally syndicated Christian radio show. By playing the "dysfunctional family" card, Moi, Driscoll, and others implicitly coax young people to turn to church as a place where they can experience the family and fellowship they missed out on as a kid. The church then becomes appealing to college students for the same reasons that fraternities and sororities are: instant community.


By setting themselves up against their elders, postmoderns are ingeniously adding an anti-establishment spirit to their movement. "I really preach; it's not just three points to a better self-esteem," Driscoll says. "Megachurches have perfect services with perfect lighting. We're a friggin' mess." Driscoll delivers his sermons largely off-the- cuff, and refuses to follow a point-by-point outline like most pastors at megachurches do. "I'm very confrontational," he says, "not some pansy-ass therapist."


From nine to midnight each Saturday night, Driscoll sits with Moi in a studio high above downtown Seattle, where the two host "Street Talk," which is broadcast to 16 stations around the country. The show is the brainchild of Moi, who has hosted it for six years.

Tonight's topic is "The American Dream and Postmodernity: Is There Hope for the Future?" and for the first 15 minutes Moi and Driscoll toss out questions and debate them: Can one be a Christian and be an upwardly mobile capitalist? How can young people reconcile Christian tenets such as service, charity, and community with American ideals such as individualism?

What we don't find in this coverage is an indication that Mark was chiefly concerned to reach the young men.  It looks more like he was eager to promote as all-encompassing a sense of religious community as possible.  He's described as aspiring to synthesize a Catholic appreciation for the arts with conservative Protestant beliefs and a mainline Protestant sense of cultural tolerance.  That doesn't exactly sound like the Testosterone Gospel.  Further excerpts from radio time with Driscoll and Moi suggests that intergenerational tension was the thread. 

"Some of us haven't given ourselves over to the American Dream yet," Driscoll says into the microphone. "How do we make sure we don't become victims of what harmed us— parents who weren't around because they were too busy making money so we could go on vacations and look like a family?" The phones are dead.

During a commercial break, Driscoll throws up his hands in mock surrender. Moi says, "When we do a show that is philosophical, either they sit back and listen, or it goes over their head. But when we do a controversial or reactionary topic—like paganism or Satanism—we hear from everyone."

Now Leibovich and Wenatchee The Hatchet are not the only ones who have noted that there seemed to be a generational bias within Driscoll's (ugh, it may be unavoidable on a Christian blog, but here we go) worldview. Courtesy of C. Stirling Bartholomew:


When I first met Driscoll he was clerking in a bookstore in Greenwood (North Seattle). I had heard about him. He makes a lot of noise. I knew his father-in-law very well when I was in my teens and 20s but I was long gone when Mark became a regular visitor in that household. When Driscoll came back from college and started doing "street talk" on the radio I would tune in now and then and listen. I noted right away that Driscoll was a generation bigot. He hated 'hippies' with a passion. I suppose this has something to do with growing up blue collar in Seattle which is a northern clone of San Francisco. The war between the hard hats and the flower generation was still in progress when Driscoll was born into the world of hard hats. In the end the hard hats lost the war. The flower children and the neo-pagans took over the culture and nowhere is that more evident than in Seattle. So Driscoll hates what he calls 'hippies' because his people lost the war and now he would like to put the culture back where it was in 1955 and it just isn't going to happen.

Driscoll seems to have adopted the notion that the hard hat world view is somehow connected with Jesus. This is so silly it hardly deserves refutation. Jesus didn't join a union, watch football, drink bud, have a dragon tattooed on his biceps, wasn't a carpenter, didn't have a job, took his disciples away from their jobs ... and generally caused a social disruption where ever he went. Jesus was the antithesis of Mark Driscoll's model of "true manhood".

As has been noted over the years, Driscoll has been set against what he terms a hippie, Richard Simmons conception of Jesus.

The mainstream church, Driscoll has written, has transformed Jesus into “a Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ,” a “neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture that . . . would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell.”

Driscoll has also said that Jesus was born in a dumpy rural hick town and that his dad was a guy named Joe who swung a hammer.  It takes little effort to consider that this is a Jesus who has been refracted through Mark Driscoll’s self-understanding.  Driscoll, obviously, has a father named Joe (see God’s Work, Our Witness and elsewhere).  Joe was a union dry-waller who swung a hammer for a living. Driscoll has described his family living in a rough neighborhood behind a strip club. Even if all these analogies could have kernels of truth in any of them the pervasiveness of the blue-collar Jesus has caught attention from people across the board where Mark Driscoll’s public ministry goes. Driscoll would continue to emphasize the blue collar, not-hippie Jesus and his de facto blue collar, “tell it like it is” persona for years before he’d begin to invoke credentials. 

Take all of these observations on Driscoll’s blue collar Jesus, and it's not that difficult to understand how and why Mark Driscoll not only did not make a concerted effort to be under spiritual guidance from earlier generations but why he might have viewed the preceding generations of believers with suspicion.  Even the men he recruited to help him plant Mars Hill, though notably older than he was, could be construed in broad demographic terms as being outliers within the post-war generation. 

What came to be more swiftly recognized as Mark Driscoll's gospel for dudes didn't seem to get refined and take shape until the start of the millennium. When the seed of the Testosterone Gospel burst forth it was not a pretty thing, by anyone’s account. 

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