Friday, December 22, 2017

fielding a question about the perpetual virginity of Mary, Mark Driscoll describes "My experience with the Catholic Church has always been positive" though he says he was not a Christian, revisiting some accounts of Driscoll's shift from nominal Catholic to Protestant

The holiday season being what it is, questions about the perpetual virginity of Mary are inevitable.  Mark Driscoll recently fielded this question at his blog.
Both my father’s and mother’s sides of the family have historically been Catholic. I was born in a Catholic Hospital and baptized in a Catholic Church as a baby. I also attended a Catholic school where I served as an altar boy assisting the priest with mass. My grandmother was a devout woman who joined an order of lay nuns after my grandfather passed away.
My experience with the Catholic Church has always been positive. I was not a Christian devoted to Jesus while attending mass growing up, but that was my own responsibility and not the fault of any person or organization. I simply did not have much interest in learning more about any faith. [emphasis added]

At whatever age Mark Driscoll was a server his post-Protestant conversion account has been consistent that he didn't have a real religious faith.  This more recent statement that his experience with the Catholic Church has been/was always positive is a little puzzling.  Because while it can be established Driscoll said he was an altar boy it can also be established that he did have a couple of reservations about becoming what he considered a Christian and about the nature of formalized Christian service over the years.

For instance, in one of his Mars Hill era sermons, Driscoll said that if you had asked him if he was
a Christian prior to his conversion to Protestantism he would have said he was a Christian.  Here's a sermon from 2002 in which Driscoll explained what he meant.

Part 4 of Galatians
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Galatians 3:1-14
June 02, 2002

And my misunderstanding was this: I thought that as long as you believed in God and you were a good person, then God would love you and you would go to Heaven. That’s what I thought. And if you would have asked me, you know, when I was up until the age of 18 or 19, “Are you a Christian?” I would’ve said, “Yes, and a Christian is someone who believes in God and is a good person.” And that’s what I thought. Until a drunken frat guy shattered my world with one decent question, and God uses anything. He used a drunken frat guy, who was like a seventh year sophomore to absolutely upset my theological worldview.

I did not drink because I made a list of rules to declare myself self-righteous. So, I said, “Why, I’m gonna be a good person.” I made this little list of things that I thought a good person should be. I won’t lie. I won’t steal. I won’t cheat. I won’t drink. I won’t smoke. I won’t, you know, beat anyone up who doesn’t deserve it. I won’t – I had this list of things that I would do and not do, and I would declare myself “good.” That is the essence of works and self-righteousness. That was basically my worldview. “I make my rules, and I live up to them. I’m a great guy.”
So, I had these rules, and one of my rules was I won’t drink because then God will look down and say, “Well, I’m going to pick Mark for my team because he’s such a great guy.” After all, I was.

So, what happened was I was at a frat party in college, which is not the typical place that God shows up in powerful, illuminating, theological acumen. But this drunken frat guy came up, and he said, “Here. Drink a beer.” And I said, “No, I don’t drink.” He said, “Why?” I said, “I’m a good person.” (Laughter)
And he said, “Well, why do you want to be a good person?” I said, “Because I believe in God, and I’m a good person.” He said, “Well, Jesus drank,” which is about the only part of the Bible he really knew. That and, “Thou shalt not judge.” He put those two verses together, and he’d come up with alcoholism. But anyway. (Laughter)
I said, “No, I’m a good person.” He said, “So, how do you know you’re gonna go to Heaven?” I said, “I know I’m gonna go to Heaven because I’m a good person.” And he asked this question that shattered my world. He was basically mocking me, trying to get me to drink. And he said, “Well, how good do you have to be to go to Heaven?” I thought, “I don’t know. That’s a good question. I don’t know.” And he said, “Do you have to be good all the time? And if you’re not good some days, does that cancel your bad days, and who makes the rules, and how do you know what’s good and bad?” He was just sort of in a drunken stupor rambling, but it was a really good question, I felt, particularly considering his condition. [emphasis added]
I said, “I don’t know,” and I started thinking about that. How good do I have to be? How moral do I have to be, and who determines the morality? Do my good days cancel my bad days, and did my sins cancel my obedience? And I started getting really muddy about where I was at. Up until this point I thought, “I’m a good guy. I’m a great guy.” And then I realized, “Well, maybe I’m not good enough.”
And so, what I decided was, “I’ll read the Bible to get all the rules, and then I’ll do them to make sure that I’m a good guy.” Okay. Now my wife, she was my girlfriend at the time. Moral of the story is if a woman gives you a Bible, give her a ring. She gave me this Bible as a graduation present from high school, and I started reading the Bible.
So, by Driscoll's account, he thought of himself as being a Christian but he changed his mind about the legitimacy of his Christian faith during his time in college.  

While there's certainly room to imagine that servers (aka altar boys from an earlier era's nomenclature) had no training whatever in their respective roles in liturgy, Driscoll has confirmed multiple times he was an altar boy.  Whatever his lack of legitimate Christian faith in his understanding was no obstacle from participating in Catholic liturgy in some capacity.
September 30, 2013
An arty, jock, altar boy

I was raised Catholic and served for a few years as an altar boy while attending Catholic grade school.  I've got an artistic bent. I like architecture, interior design, music, visual arts, etc. Growing up I was an odd mix: a jock who played a lot of sports, a fighter who got in more than a few brawls, and an artist who liked to sketch, draw, and experiment in various mediums. I appreciated the artistry of the Catholic Church. Stained glass, paintings, colors, icons, statues, candles--it was all quite beautiful.

Some Catholics are born-again, Jesus-loving Christians. I was not one of them.  I was a spiritual religious guy until Jesus saved me at the age of 19.  ...

But despite a generally positive account that he was raised Catholic and an altar boy there was at least one respect in which Driscoll did not have an altogether positive impression of church life and Christians.

… The last thing I ever thought I would be was a pastor, because growing up Catholic, the pastor is a guy who lives at the church, is flat broke, is committed to never having sex, and walks around in a dress. So pretty much, that was a last career choice of all possible career choices. [emphasis added]
Joe: When he got into high school, he was always into student body president, journalist on a newspaper, redid the high school— somehow or another, he got involved in that. He was always into something.

Yeah, I was a nice—at least I thought—nice, moral Catholic guy. I had a pretty bad temper, did well in school and sports, was dating Grace as a high school student, sleeping with her. She was a pastor’s daughter. So definitely, life was put together wrong.
Part 5 of Proverbs
Pastor Mark Driscoll | October 28, 2001
You know why schools, Christian schools, Christian churches, Christian ministries are primarily female? Because the church is feminine, and masculine men don’t feel comfortable there. It’s true. The church has adopted, I would say, inordinately the bride metaphor from scripture. Women are very comfortable from that. Men don’t understand that. It’s very hard for a man to think of himself as a bride, wearing a white gown and walking down the aisle. If he’s very comfortable with that, he has significant issues. He has much to work through. And so, there are different metaphors in scripture that men and women will gravitate toward in regards to their relationship with God. For me, this is – this is a very important issue. I was raised in south Seattle, in the ghetto, behind the Déjà vu, next to the airport. Okay? If you’ve been there, you can repent and don’t go there anymore. [emphasis added] But, for the rest of you, if you don’t know where it’s at, that’s fine. It’s – it’s an interesting neighborhood. Gang-banging, drive-by’s, drugs, prostitution, the green river killer was there, the whole thing. One of the local elementary schools would have to go out on Monday and take the used condoms and the syringes off the playground before the kids came. And so, I was the oldest of five kids. And I grew-up in a blue-collar, hard-working, union family. My dad’s name is Joe, and he hangs drywall. Okay?

My dad’s a guy. My brothers are guys. I’m a guy. We love each other. Things are good. I come from a decent home. And one my biggest fears in high school was becoming a Christian, because I thought immediately I would have to become very feminine. ‘Cause all the guys I knew who were Christians were just very – very soft, very tender, very sort of weak guys. And I thought, “That’s just not gonna work.” So, I wouldn’t go to youth group. They tried to drag me to – I was in a Catholic church and our priest was gay, and I didn’t get this guy at all. He would wear silk shirts and silk pants, and he would wear low – basically, like, bathroom slippers all the time. [emphasis added] And he would tan all year. So, he had a nice bronze glow.

And I didn’t relate to this guy at all, not in the least. I don’t – I don’t – silk? Just – I don’t get that. And so, he – he was this very, very feminine guy. And they tried to – I tried to go to church with my family and I didn’t get it. So, they tried to take me into this youth thing, and it just didn’t work. So, I just left. I said, “That’s it. I’m gone. There’s no men here.” [emphasis added]  ‘Cause it was all older ladies, women and children. You couldn’t find a guy anywhere near it, and that’s not unusual. When I came to Christ in college, reading the Bible, and realized the gospel, and I went looking for a church; and a few of the first churches I went to were just completely uncomfortable. It was like walking into Victoria’s Secret. The décor, at first, it’s like fuchsia and baby blue, and there’s pink, and it’s just like, “What in the world has happened here?” And then the songs are very emotive, and it’s like love songs to Jesus, like we’re on a prom together or something. And I didn’t get that at all, ‘cause that made me feel real odd. And then – and then the guy preaches, and he’s crying and all this stuff, and trying to appeal to my emotions. And I was just like, “This didn’t work.” So, I kept looking for a church. So, I found a church where the guy got up and he said, “This week I was out bow-hunting.” He used that as an illustration. So, I became a member of that church. True story. I didn’t have any theological convictions, but if a guy killed things then I – he could be my pastor. [emphasis added]
That reads weirdly directly as a statement that he had a preconception about what kind of man could be a pastor and a spiritual role model for him.  That might invite some questions such as--if as recently stated Mark Driscoll's experience of Catholicism was uniformly positive what was there to worry about finding a guy who could shoot his own game being a pastor to Mark Driscoll?

Altar boy service in childhood withstanding, it seems as though the breach with that positive Catholic upbringing happened at some point near adolescence.
starting at 54:45

Proverbs 29:21, “If a man pampers his servant from youth, he will bring grief in the end.” These guys are pampered; totally pampered. Okay? And again, this is not a boasting on me. This is a – this is actually a tribute to my dad. I was eleven years old. I was going out for the little league all-star team, and I needed a new glove. My dad said, “Good. Go make some money.” I said, “Hey, dad, I’m eleven.” He said, “Well, you’re taller than the lawn-mower. I’m sure you’ll figure something out.” True. So, I get the lawn-mower, and I go and I mow lawns to get my glove. And I come back and my dad says, “You owe me gas money. You used my gas.” It’s the nicest thing my dad ever did. Up until that point, I didn’t know gas cost money. Now, I do. Now, I appreciate gas.It comes to the point where I’m 15 and I wanna get a car. I said, “Dad, I need a car.” He says, “Good. Go get some money.” I said, “Okay, fine.” So, I falsified my birth certificate, I lie about my age, and I get a job at a 7-11 selling lotto tickets and liquor and cigarettes to people that are twice my age. I was not a Christian, so – I shouldn’t have done it anyways, but I wasn’t a Christian. And so, I’m 15, working at a 7-11 selling stuff. And I make a decent living, and I buy my first car, a 1956 Chevy that I should’ve never sold. That’s a whole other sermon. And – and so I’m 15, driving myself to work without a license, because I gotta go make money to pay for my car. [emphasis added] Okay? And again, I was not a Christian. Okay? So, I’m not saying, “Thus sayeth the Lord.”

And I realize that, since I was young and I was strong, I could make more money. And so I started dinking around trying to figure out where to make more money. And I find out that guys in unions make a lot of money. And – at least compared to me working at the 7-11. And I got tired of getting robbed and held-up, too. ‘Cause if you run a 7-11 behind a Déjà vu, somebody’s gonna put a gun at your head. And after a couple of those, you realize, “For minimum wage, I’m not taking a cap. You know? I’m not gonna get shot for, like, a pack of cigarettes. I’m not gonna do that.” So, I lied about my age. I falsified my birth certificate again, and told them I was 18. Got a job working long-shoring down on the docks in Seattle. And I would go throw 100-pound sacks of peas, and unload trucks, and work hard. And they paid me tremendous money. [emphasis added] At the time, it was like $10.00-something an hour. This was, like, in 1986 or ’87 or something. And I’d work 40 hours a week, and over-time was double-time. And none of the guys would wanna work over-time. Usually it was on Friday, ‘cause they had to get containers out, and those guys all wanted to go to the topless club.

And so, I would work all the over-time at $20.00 an hour as a 16 year old kid. This is in the mid-‘80s. Right? 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. Thank God for my dad. My brother and my other brother and myself, we’re all doing great, making good money, doing fine. My brothers are all in management leadership running companies or businesses. It’s great. You pamper a guy from his youth, and he just – he gets this course of action. All of the sudden he feels like if his hands are dirty, or his muscles are sore, or if he put-in a long day, or thought something was tough, that’s unusual; that’s abnormal. And so, he avoids it.

So with some variance depending on subject context, Driscoll either was or was not someone who considered himself a real Christian prior to his conversion to some form of Protestantism.  In one setting the catalyst might be a drunk frat boy asking him a question that rocked his world; reading the Bible his girlfriend and future wife gave him; or it might be that he said he was trying to prove a Bible-thumper wrong and became a convert.

But what Driscoll describes as a conversion experience may or may not necessarily indicate anything about a Christian faith as such.  Not everyone subscribes to what would be known as an American evangelical concept of conversion or conversionism.  That's not to cast doubt on Driscoll's narratives on the basis of the observation that not all practicing Christians consider an American altar call crisis type conversion to be the only way to "know" a person is a Christian.  This is more a proposal that over the course of twenty years the question of whether or not Driscoll's pre-Protestant activities as a Catholic should really be considered "not Christian" may be something its okay to express some doubt about.  In Catholic and Protestant polemics never the twain shall meet but in a setting where so many atheists and secularists and non-Christians can read about the lives of celebrity Christians there's a point at which all of those readers would ask whether or not Catholicism and Protestantism are distinctions that only matter to those insiders who label themselves. 

So, as you can see from the sermon transcripts, it's a bit ambiguous whether or not Driscoll was or wasn't a Christian depending on the context of what rhetorical point he's making in a given context and in what relationship the legitimacy of his at least nominally Catholic upbringing had to the ethics of whatever he was or wasn't doing in the narrative he shared in a sermon in the context in which the sermon was given. 

Now people who convert from one team to another tend to feel and write and think as though they have become altogether new people.  Anti-communists who were once communists labor to put as much distance between their old self and the new self.  A Catholic convert from Protestantism can be inclined to cast off as many vestiges of the old life as possible.  Similar things can happen for folks who embrace Eastern Orthodoxy and seek to divest themselves of any traces of things that seem Protestant.  Driscoll, within the context of an American evangelical way of public discourse, could have plenty of legitimate reasons to believe he was not, by the metrics of American Protestantism, ever really a Christian during his Catholic days.  But after twenty years he's shared enough about his history as a Catholic altar boy that it's possible the boundary between his nominal Catholic self and his Protestant conversion self may be much fuzzier than anyone, including Mark Driscoll, could ever ultimately sort through. 

For the self-described altar boy to go from being an altar boy to not wanting to be called a Christian despite vaguely thinking of himself as a Christian the change that happened may just have been that Mark Driscoll hit puberty and it was as an adolescent he began to harden his teen male views about how men who served in Christian ministry were not just vaguely gay and unmanly men.  But then how Driscoll observed and concluded that the priest at his church was gay would be an entire story unto itself, one that to date Driscoll has not seemed to have shared in much detail for the record. 

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