Having mentioned earlier this weekend that Soden's description of the history of Mars Hill in general and Mark Driscoll in particular was refracted to its detriment by focusing and fixating entirely on Mark Driscoll, without so much as a serious mention of other figures in Mars Hill history, it seems worth mentioning that one of the other problems in Soden's account of Mars Hill within a chapter called "The Christian Right Strikes Back" is that it failed to mention the numerous instances in which Driscoll lambasted people whom scholars and historians would, in too casual a reading, consider co-beligerants with a Mark Driscoll in a culture war for socially conservative values.
Mark Driscoll's most infamous fusillade, "Pussified Nation" mentioned Promise Keepers and James Dobson within the first sentence as example of homoerotic failures as men, for those who actually read the whole thing. However, it's important to remind readers that Mark Driscoll went back and referred to this era of Mars Hill history as a touchstone in the formation of the collective character of the men. I've blogged extensively about aspects of "Dead Men" in the history of Mars Hill; about how the "Pussified Nation" phase constituted the beginning of a shift on Mark Driscoll's part into what I now call "markulinity", through which Driscoll implicitly and explicitly set himself up as the model of manhood to which Mars Hill men ought to aspire; how the William Wallace II persona could be seamlessly shifted out of by Mark Driscoll into his Pastor Mark voice without any observable shift in tone; and, in a topic I believe has been under-discussed, how we can draw upon Jacques Ellul's taxonomy of agitation and integration propaganda techniques as a way to understand Mark Driscoll as a nascent propagandist whose objectives were to incite and thereby discover which young men were eager to invest in the mission of social formation at Mars Hill and willing to join into the integrative rites of passage Driscoll had in mind. What makes this lacuna of scholarly discussion so ridiculous is that for anyone who read Confessions of a Reformission Rev when it came out a decade ago, Mark Driscoll was actually pretty clear in delineating the basic points about all of that.
But what may be easily overlooked is that, whether or not we now consider it an entirely accurate account, is that Mark Driscoll formulated his narrative of how the "Dead Men" phase was formed on two grounds. The first ground was that he began to notice what he called hyper-Calvinistic young guys who were fans of theonomy wanting to, as Driscoll implicitly frames the narrative, hijack the mission of Mars Hill Church. The second ground was that since Driscoll recounted that he couldn't possibly take them all on at once he formulated a rite/ritual process by which they could be ridiculed for not coming up with sufficiently carefully argued cases for their positions.
Confessions of a Reformission Rev
copyright (c) 2006 by Msark Driscoll
[bold emphases added]
Some of the fired-up young guys went too far and started acting like young bucks in rutting season, wanting to lock horns with me and the elders. Many went into extreme forms of Calvinism and wanted to debate things like theonomy and other dumb things that only white guys with high-speed Internet connections to bizzare websites could get into and were causing division. If you don't know what theonomy is, don't worry, because you aren't really missing anything. Basically, it is the belief that the church should rule the world, including the banking system, government and so on, and enforce Old Testament law like Israel did. The young rabid Calvinists who were pushing for this doctrine did not yet own homes, most did not even have wives, and some still lived with their mothers. I tried to set them straight by telling them to get dominion over their room before they took over the world, but like most fools, they were not deterred.
There were too many guys to fight individually, and I needed a way to fight them all at once. So in an effort to clean u pthe mess, I started a weekly men-only meeting, which I named "Dead Men" adn which ran for a few months. I paired guys up to debate an assigned theological issue, and other guys in the audience would chuck things at them and mock them if their study was not good or their argument was not cogent. At the end of the debate, we would vote, declare a winner, and give him a mock prize and crown him with a Viking helmet. The men liked the competition and got into studying and debating theology.
When the hyper-Calvinists realized we weren't going to baptize their babies or talk about stupid stuff that detracts from mission, many of them left, which was a good thing because they were getting to be deadweight. Over the years, I've just accepted that if I do not quickly open the back door when God is trying to run people out of our church, I am working against God by keeping sick people in my church so that they can infect others. Indeed, the church is a body, and one of the most important parts is the colon. Like the human body, any church body without a colon is destined for sickness that leads to death.
We also began "boot camps" for our young men, teaching them how to get a wife, have sex with that wife, get a job, budget money, buy a house, father a child, study the Bible, stop looking at porn, and brew decent beer. The buzz hit just as we opened the 7:00 p.m. Paradox service and the 10:00 a.m. service at the small church building, in addition to the 5:00 p.m. downtown service. I chose to preach on the most controversial practical life issues, such as dating, gender, work, kids, sex, money, and the like, in a long topical series from the book of Proverbs to continue fanning the fire that was burning in our church among the young men who had caught the vision to become patriarchs.
In other words, when I have proposed that what Mark Driscoll did with "Pussified Nation" and the subsequent "Dead Men" sessions and boot camps was a one-two punch of agitation and then integration propaganda to assimilate willing participants and to deliberately alienate people whom Driscoll considered "off mission", this is not me speculatively pulling ideas out of thin air because I happened to read Ellul. This is actually stuff Mark Driscoll pretty explicitly laid out for us in narrative form a decade ago that happens to be explicable in terms of the concepts regarding the nature and use of propagandistic techniques Ellul articulated half a century ago.
And if Mark Driscoll repudiated theonomistic/postmillennialist ideas in the most dismissive possible way it would be difficult to make a compelling or competent case that Mark Driscoll in particular, let alone Mars Hill in general, is explicable in terms of more conventional concerns from some scholars or members of the press about what they call the Christian Right. It's also impossible to take at face value any suggestion that Mark Driscoll could be understood in explicitly Christian reconstructionist terms because even if he explicitly said young men were interested in being patriarchs and even if he proposed what could be considered conservative or retrograde gender politics, Mark Driscoll's own views may be too idiosyncratic and personal to be explicable on the basis of other categories of thought like theonomy or Christian reconstructionism. Driscoll's own self-understanding had his views as being more moderate because while he was opposed to women being pastors he was not opposed to women serving as deacons.
For that matter, when Mark Driscoll recounted how he became resentful of Grace for neglecting him in his 2006 book it wasn't about the lack of sex he would recount in his 2012 book.
Instead, Confessions gave us the following:
During this season my wife, Grace, also started to experience a lot of serious medical problems. her job was very stressful, and between her long hours at the office and long hours at the church, her body started breaking down. I felt tremendously convicted that I had sinned against my wife and had violated the spirit of 1 Timothy 5:8, which says that if a man does not provide for his family he has denied his faith and has acted in a manner worse than an unbeliever. I repented to Grace for my sin of not making enough money and having her shoulder any of the financial burden for our family. We did not yet have elders installed in the church but did have an advisory council in place, and I asked them for a small monthly stipend to help us make ends meet, and I supplemented our income with outside support and an occasional speaking engagement.
Shortly thereafter, Grace gave birth to our first child, my sweetie-pie Ashley. Up to this point Grace had continuously poured endless hours into the church. She taught a women's Bible study, mentored many young women, oversaw hospitality on Sundays, coordinated meals for new moms recovering from birth, and organized all of the bridal and baby showers. Grace's dad had planted a church before she was born and has remained there for more than forty years. Her heart for ministry and willingness to serve was amazing. But as our church grew, I felt I was losing my wife because we were both putting so many hours into the church that we were not connecting as a couple like we should have. I found myself getting bitter against her because she would spend her time caring for our child and caring for our church but was somewhat negligent of me. [emphases added]
So by Mark Driscoll's account, there was a period before and after Ashley Driscoll's birth during which he resented his wife Grace and being bitter against her because she was so busy being a mother and operating in service and hospitality to people in the church she was neglecting him. If there was some ambiguity or vagueness about what kind of neglect this included back in 2006 all possible room for doubt got removed in the 2012 book Real Marriage, where Mark Driscoll explicitly said Grace was "not enough" for him sexually.
The other element that had to have been exasperating for Driscoll was that on top of all this, Grace Driscoll, with her background in public relations, was more the functional breadwinner of the Driscoll household than Mark himself was. Driscoll repented of not making as much money as his wife by negotiating for more income, although if Driscoll took his own interpretive approach to the pastoral epistles seriously he should have considered himself disqualified from ever serving in ministry. Had he actually lived consistently with his own stated convictions on those issues he would have resigned ministry at Mars Hill around 1999. Obviously that's not what his practical definition of repentance looked like. Not all of us who consider ourselves moderately conservative Protestants even think his take on that passage in 1 Timothy is a competent or responsible reading of the text.
The other detail about the 1999-2002 period of Mars Hill history to keep in mind is that during the season in which Mark Driscoll was working to integrate the willing and alienate the contentious with his fusillades against unmanly men, he was also renting out space in his home to a few single guys.
The tension between the ideal striven towards and the reality literally on the ground is something that scholars and historians may never catch up to if they stick with the kinds of boiled down pre-built narratives Soden brought to the history of Mars Hill when Soden got around to mentioning it.