Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Evolution of Markulinity: seeds of implosion, the Alpha Male only weakness

It can be perilously easy to forget that, as popular as Driscoll was with evangelicals, he had plenty of criticism.  Driscoll was one to steadily present himself as always the sensible centrist.  Anyone to his theological “left” was a godless liberal and anyone who was to the “right” of him was a fundamentalist legalist type.  So long as nobody dug into the issue of whether he was competently exegeting biblical texts or coherently defending his position these rhetorical plays could work very well.

But even among conservative American Christians there were serious doubts about the validity and viability of Driscoll’s approach to manhood. Heath Lambert’s review of Real Marriage expressed direct worry that the Driscoll book would simply introduce Christians to pornography. John MacArthur made a case that Mark Driscoll’s interpretive approach to Song of Songs essentially is pornographic back in 2008.

There was yet another critique, however, and the critique held that Mark Driscoll’s Testosterone Gospel was one that elevated Mark Driscoll by way of belittling everyone else.  A blogger who goes by Dalrock published “The only real man in the room.”  Dalrock wrote “For the strongest-man-in-the-room model to work, the pastor has to always sustain this position.” While much of the rest of the post does not indicate familiarity on Dalrock’s part with the actual cultural history or dynamics of Mars Hill it’s a good observation that Driscoll’s rhetoric and image-molding presented him as “the only real man in the room”. That men would say after a Driscoll sermon “Mark really kicked my ass today” suggests as much.

The mystique of Driscoll as Alpha Male began to collapse with the publication of Real Marriage. We were given a narrative in which it turned out Driscoll wasn’t happy all the time circa 2000-2005 like he told us he was; nope, he was bitter and resentful toward Grace because she didn’t give him as much sex as he needed to fight off his mood swings and depression, it turned out. Then there was that plagiarism controversy which raised other questions about the accuracy of the public narrative.  That the first print edition of the 2012 book did not give Dan Allender so much as one mention was problem enough since Grace Driscoll’s public deacon profile had listed Allender as a favorite author twelve years prior.  The alpha male element of Mark Driscoll’s image began to crumble. Driscoll was probably not shifting to the gentler father figure image only to find that old grudges were resurfacing; it seems more likely that as Team Driscoll discovered that the old battles had not been so definitively won after all, image revision could potentially lessen the sting.  It’s hardly likely that anyone within Mars Hill in 2012 expected Paul Petry to publish Joyful Exiles, is it?

For those who heard the “how dare you!?” sermon, consider the difference between the Driscollian taxonomy of “jerks” and “cowards”.  The “jerks” needed to repent while the “cowards” were worthless.  It was in sermons like that that the strictly alpha aspect of Driscoll’s appeal to men became easiest to see but it was sitting in plain sight for anyone who could do the math on what “shoot your dogs” could potentially include. 

 By 2012, thanks largely to the narrative, and the then undisclosed behind-the-scenes promotional dealing to market, of the book Real Marriage, Driscoll had opened himself up to skepticism about the plausibility and sincerity of his decade-long prior narrative. Even before there was any controversy associated with possible copyright infringement or Result Source deals, those of us who had heard Driscoll preach from 2000 through 2008 found the story of the real Driscoll marriage problematic.  If the Driscoll marriage had always been as rocky as was claimed in the 2012 book how and why was Mark Driscoll ever considered competent for ministry?  For many of us from the early years what we were drawn to was the community overall and to the dynamic of co-founding pastors Mark, Mike and Lief--they could be likened to Kirk, Spock and McCoy and you didn't have an Enterprise without them. 
Driscoll's saturation of social and broadcast media had reached a point in 2012 through 2013 where documenting the number of times he changed his story was no longer a particularly difficult task. Owing to the catastrophic turnover in staff Mars Hill began to have circa 2011, apparently broadly coinciding with the arrival of Sutton Turner, Driscoll was reportedly aided by leaders who amplified or transmitted rather than ameliorated or offset his leadership flaws.
And by later 2013 it became awkwardly clear that when a journalist with evidence and a comparable capacity for blunt questions pinned him down on why he was so lax in giving credit where it was due in his books, the alpha male, only real man in the room façade withered.



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