Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mark Driscoll, William Wallace II, and Pussified Nation part 267



Rachel Held Evans has sounded off on her conviction that Mark Driscoll is a bully. So has Scott Bailey at Scotteriology. So have a number of people. Those who would defend Driscoll have taken pains to say that he and Mars Hill have done more for abused women than bloggers. They can't actually prove this and if it were provable it is not germane to the nature of the complaints about Driscoll's way with public screeds.

That Driscoll invited people to share stories about anatomically male but effeminate worship leaders should not be seen as acceptable to his fans but it should not be seen as scandalous to his critics. The reason I say this should not be construed as scandalous to his critics has nothing to do with the recency of the Facebook post (apparently now deleted) and a great deal to do with my having seen "Pussified Nation" some ten years ago on the completely unmoderated Mars Hill Midrash php discussion forums. I don't have the capacity for sustained outrage at Driscoll making fun of men he considers pussies because he's been doing this for a decade. What, exactly, is supposed to be new about this?

Sure, I may be one of a very few people on earth who actually remember anything about "Pussified Nation" but God providentially permitted Al Gore to invent the internet so that Mark can go to bed each night knowing that there are still people out there who saw that. If all you ever read about William Wallace II was what Mark wrote in Reformission Rev you might as well have never heard about it at all. As Mark told it he wasn't posting as William Wallace II because he seemed to be a fight-hungry butt-monkey. Nah, he was just rightly challenging all the pussies who refused to man up to go man up. It just stopped being fun when someone escalated the febrile rhetoric into challenging Driscoll to a fight at around 2 in the morning. This, too, Mark spun as someone else's problem. Was he not joking?

Ah, but that was more than a decade ago so things change. What has changed since then? Well, Mark is now past 40 is at least one new thing in the scope of history. He can't plead being young and inexperienced after some fifteen years of being a preacher. His fans can't plead this case for him either. His fans also cannot plea the case that if you just knew Driscoll's heart you'd see that he's only making fun of people who deserve it because they don't believe the real Gospel. Making fun of effeminate church musicians makes that a hard sell because while I imagine there are professional musicians in church settings who aren't Christians they are frequently not leading worship as such or playing liturgical roles. So in many cases the church musicians Driscoll is inviting people to share stories about regarding said musicians' ponce-like ways are brothers in Christ.

Now making fun of apostates and people who claim Christianity but empty of its power are easy marks and I feel no regret in belittling someone like Bishop Spong who, as Fearsome Tycoon put it, ingeniously figured out how to deny every core teaching of the Anglican church while still contriving an excuse to still get paid by it.

Driscoll is the guy who joked that he didn't know how single people made it through the day. He also said during a mens' retreat that if he didn't get any sex for a period of longer than three days he got "wiggy". Whatever that means. A guy who can expound in multiple sermons how Song of Songs refers not to an allegory of Christ's love for the church but wifely stripteases and holy blow jobs is the kind of man who, for whatever reason, might find it challenging to go without for a few days. Aw, I feel super bad for him as a single man who is 37 and has never even had a girlfriend, let alone fornicate with one as Driscoll did with his. I'm afraid I haven't been manly enough for that.

Of course I have legions of character problems so my sarcasm is not intended to suggest that I think I would be a good boyfriend or husband. I just wrote moments ago about how one of the core problems we have as Christians is that we find it easy to condemn evil in others thinking this means we have no evil in ourselves. Some of the vitriol I've seen levelled at Driscoll proves this point. People who rip on Driscoll as a misogynistic homophobe who are waiting for a scandal to erupt in which Driscoll has hired some rent boy or gets caught doing meth with a male prostitute are falling into the same trap where they think Driscoll has happily pitched his tent. These bloggers are eager to denounce the evil they see in Driscoll but do not see it in themselves, most of them.

Case in point, irony level 10 is Scotteriology. Now I enjoy reading Scotteriology but as far as guys who belittle people they disagree with as mental failures for failing to deal with "reality" go Scotteriology and Driscoll are arguably on equal terms. Doesn't mean I dislike either guy. I like reading Scott's entries on intertestamental literature and stuff like that. I found his take down of Driscoll's patently dishonest use of Targum Neofiti helpful. I'm just saying that while Scott's got his moral outrage going about a guy like Driscoll making fun of effeminate men Scott's got plenty to answer for in making fun of plenty of people, too. Both men will rationalize their ridicule of others on the basis of saying "I'm making fun of these idiots because they don't want to acknowledge the truth." Scott, in his own way, is simply the other side of the Driscoll coin. Don't get me wrong, Scott, I still love reading your blog!

Trouble is that a good deal of the people who don't like Driscoll mocking people aren't afraid to mock. They may mask this in amused condescension but the heart is not so very different. In fact I'd say it's pretty much the same as what they see in Driscoll, they just couch it in more righteous sounding terms so they can be indignant about it.

As a never married guy who has never actually been on anything I'd even call a date and am also a sometime church musician I don't know if I'd be "effeminate" but I had plenty of occasions where guys in gym class (joks) assumed I was gay. I got told any number of times that I must be in a gay relationship with my brother because my brother and I hung out together. If you'd moved as much as our family moved you might tend to stick close to family, too, but in high school land that's a way to get labeled queer. I'll cheerfully concede I went and saw House of Flying Daggers because I think Ziyi Zhang is hot ... but by the metrics of high school jocks I was considered pretty gay.

Couldn't help but post the twitter remark. Doesn't caring the slightest bit about fashion make you just the teensiest bit effeminate?

A strange irony afoot in talking about church musicians who aren't manly enough is the whole history of Mars Hill music. The most popular band at Mars Hill for several years was fronted by a man who Driscoll described as looking and sounding like a 12 year old boy. I can speak as someone who repeatedly tried pointing out that if a church has a bunch of musicians who are performing music that only makes sense for the "twelve year old boy" that the church is having a bunch of liturgically useless music foisted on it and then being blamed by the pastors for a lack of participation. A lot of Mars Hill music was stuff written by emo/indie rockers that revelled in a kind of performance art that practically forbade congregational participation. I tolerated a whole bunch of songs written by bands that like Radiohead and U2 and other bands fronted by whiny emo metrosexuals. Driscoll once said his favorite band was the Smiths and ... Morrisey? He's not exactly the most masculine singer now, is he? A good deal of the problem with worship leaders who are chickified dudes is that they have spent decades collectively trying to make worship music more relevant, missional, and contemporary. Screw that. Messiaen's organ work Mass for Pentecost is more masculine than that. :)

Now say what you will about the chickified hippy sorts but at least some of them manage to create music that people can actually sing along with. And in the grand scheme of masculinity (if there is such a thing) how does a guy with a 12-year old boy's voice qualify as less of a failure than the "chickified" dude? Just because you've met his wife and kids?

Now if forty is by Mark's account too old to plead youthful ignorance or indiscretion maybe forty is also too old to be recycling locker room put-downs about guys who seem queer. Didn't Mark used to pay some visits to a church member who has been very plainspoken about his struggles with same-sex attraction? Not sure if Mark hangs with that guy or visits him anymore. I hear Mark pulled down the Facebook post and if so, well maybe Pussified Nation may eventually stop being part of the comedian's routine. That would be the preferable trajectory.

What I fear is more likely is that it has been pulled for more editing and workshopping amongst fellow comedians and will come back later. What I worry may happen is that Mark will just make a few stray remarks and say "people blog" and then his fan base will be animated to defend what they would consider juvenile coming from anyone else and scandalous being directed toward one of their favorite preachers. I've already seen a few years of anti-Driscolls hoping he gets caught molesting a kid. This is just as bad as anything they hope Driscoll will be guilty of.

As I was just writing earlier tonight one does not remove one's share of evil by condemning evil in others. Should we agree that Driscoll is capable of great evil (and I don't think anyone in their right mind, Christian or otherwise, should dispute that this is at least true of Driscoll as it would be of any public figure) we should also agree that like in response to like is not going to make things better. If I wanted to I could have compiled more evidence for Driscoll's pastoral stupidity than most. I have restricted myself to things Driscoll himself has put in the public sphere because public stuff merits public response.

If "Pussified Nation" had not at one point been available for anyone on-line to read I wouldn't consider it a landmark in Driscoll's public screeds on gender and males. I've met people who considered what he said and how he acted in that thread to be heroic and prophetic. Well, they did consider him those things at one point for that but I wonder how many of those people who no longer agree with either the "what" that he said therein or how. I never agreed very much with either the "what" and found the "how" relentlessly self-incriminating. I was not dissuaded by the "If you knew who was saying this stuff you'd agree with it." I was not so incensed I felt like leaving, as some did, when the real identity of William Wallace II finally got revealed, but it left me with the unforgettable impression that there are people who are very happy to condemn in others what they are sure does not reside in themselves.

But, and I keep saying this, some of the most embittered ex Mars folks I have met are the folks who went along with that mentality and rationalized it in pretty much any instance until it came home to roost. Then they did yet another 180 and chose to condemn not only what they saw done to themselves but the whole thing without copping to the reality of their roles. In a way the people who can get most worked up about the injustice of it all are those who, when the chips are down and things are in their favor, are most willing themselves to throw the first stone. We should be cautious in our criticism of those who we believe display a lack of principle that we do not betray those principles we hold as most valuable.

That process of self-betrayal in the name of promoting one's principles is very frequently what I see happening when people decide they have to go try to smack some cyber-sense into Driscoll. They all too often fail to confront weaknesses in his ideas in a persuasive way. They also tend to respond to dopey jokes rather than getting into core theological weaknesses. On his better days Scotteriology has approached engaging Driscoll's pastoral weaknesses by directly talking about his failure to handle a particular text or Targum. But jumping on the bandwagon of Evans' post is not necessarily an effective way to do it, especially since Scotteriology himself is so frequently apt to employ the methodology of Driscoll in his own blogging. Now others don't but I'm not necessarily blogging about them. And, just to repeat myself, Scott, still love reading your blog. I trust you know that.

Anyway, if Driscoll wants to keep seeing himself as Dr. Perry Cox to the collectively metrosexual John Dorian of all "effeminate" Christian musicians I obviously can't stop him. I can't speak on behalf of church musicians amateur and professional who might come under scrutiny of the most nominal and rudimentary sort. I can't speak for whomever people posted stories about for Driscoll to use in a sermon where he makes sport, yet again, of chickified dudes who have product in their hair, listen to Mariah Carey, and drive yellow Cabreolets. I can try, and have tried, but there's a decent chance after fifteen years that the leopard can't change his spots. To expect a change of heart in him now is to expect something as improbable as someone rising from the dead.

1 comment:

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Here's part 268, which never got tagged.