The world's biggest pot has called a couple of kettles black. Why can't he just name Ed Young Jr. already? And didn't Driscoll spend a quarter of a year preaching Song of Songs in 2008, having preached it for a couple of months earlier in 1999? Then there was that sermon from 2002 that has been pulled because it involved discussions of sexual techniques and positions. If Driscoll can say in 2011 preachers talk too much about sex is that because he and his wife have finished their book about marriage and because this fall we're going to get Driscoll's next platform for pontificiating about gender? Prior to Driscoll's extended glosses on Song of Songs I would never have imagined that Song of Songs chapters 7 and 2 were about wifely stripteases and oral sex.
I mean, what is it with this guy? I had an agnostic friend in my college days who felt sheepish laughing at mention of the word 69 around me and he knew I was a Christian. Then he felt sheepish about explaining why it was so funny in the context of a Monty Python song. That nonbeliever showed more discretion in talking about sex with a Christian than Driscoll did. I don't wish to get into Driscoll levels of detail but whatever helps Driscoll intended to be for all those already-married guys who want better sex lives, for bachelors, this bachelor anyway, there was a bunch of too much information that I can't quite forget. I will eventually because the human brain is not like a computer or a file case with unlimited space. Stuff gets lodged from the memory eventually.
I mean in break-out sessions for men in 2001-2002 he'd talk about which condoms had spermicides that were unhealthy and I went from being interested in themens' training sessions to wondering, "When am I going to get information I can use?" I don't want information about condoms or spermicides or what has apparently turned into the never-ending question from guys to Driscoll over the years about anal sex. Where before I had some chance of reading Song of Songs and seeing it as in some way referring to Christ post-Driscoll sermons Song of Songs is readable only as Hebrew erotica. In Driscoll's eager hands it became what in my crankiest moments I have referred to as Christian porn, months and months of discourses on wifely stripteases and holy blowjobs and various positions. Even one of my married friends confided to me that despite his being married he found the series to be useless.
When I heard Driscoll via video chuckle and talk about how pastors talk about sex too much from the pulpit I almost snorted in a mixture of disbelief and indignation. If Driscoll thinks pastors are using sex in gimmicky ways he's chief among sinners. It's not as though Peasant Princess, a quarter-year series in 2008, wasn't perfectly timed a year after Paul Petry and Bent Meyer were fired in a controversial set of decisions related to the Mars Hill by-laws. It's not as though Peasant Princess didn't come after the Doctrine series in 2008 where the pulpit was transformed into a platform for going through new membership materials so that all interested parties could become members on-line. Driscoll said at one point in a Gospel Coalition interview that 1,000 members bailed because of the increased doctrinal standards. What increased doctrinal standards? A harder line on complementarianism? Nope, still women deacons. But a lot of members left after Paul Petry and Bent Meyer were fired.
A lot of members also left when the elders finally conceded that the big second Ballard campus purchased circa 2005 couldn't be zoned for anything but industrial use. The rest of us ex-members began to do the math and realized that about 1.5 million of church member gifts was dumped into a boondoggle around the same time the pastors very reluctantly conceded that two counseling pastors were fired in the midst of a political battle over church polity. But I do not doubt that in Mark's mind he really believes (now) that 1,000 members left over that stuff. But not everyone even "left". Some people resigned their memberships only to discover they weren't going to be allowed to resign their memberships. Others just never renewed their memberships because renewing a "covenant" every two or three years just starts to feel weirdly skeezy. If the church membership covenant is likened to the covenant of marriage some of us church members who had to keep renewing the covenant over and over again to retain membership began to feel, dare I suggest this, like paying consorts.
So when in 2008 Peasant Princess came on with its quasi anime intro and the weird colors and the months of talking about sex, Driscoll could talk about how fast the church was growing. Huh, it's almost as though there were a science to it all. Maybe, just maybe, Driscoll set up Peasant Princess as a kind of sweeps week to draw in more fish to more than make up for the ones that left because they felt betrayed by a sense that Mars Hill displayed fiscal imcompetence in real estate investment and a lack of transparency in the blunt resolution of political fights? So when Driscoll tells Todd Rhoades that some of the preachers talking about sex get crazy with this pastor talking with his wife on a bed on a stadium it's just ...
God, I don't get it. What is it with these preachers who can sell themselves like Barnum & Bailey and then get on the high horse about other pastors using sex as a topic from the pulpit in gimmicky ways? If any preacher could be cited as a suspect in blatantly using months of sex-talk as a sweeps week style quest for ratings and buts in the seats to recoup a loss of church membership ... you would think Driscoll could be considered at least a nominee. It surprises even me (and I was at Mars Hill from late 1999 to just before Peasant Princess in 2008) that Mark can act as though OTHER pastors talk too much about sex. If he had just coupled this with an admission of "And I am chief of sinners in using sex-talk as a gimmick to attract people" then, okay, I could take him more seriously again.
And, honestly, I kinda want to be able to take him more seriously again. Watching the institution that is Mars Hill grow is bittersweet for me because in my twenties I thought it was something I could be part of my whole life and watch grow into a church unlike anything I'd come across. Ah ... the naivety and foolishness of youth!
It's an unhappy confession to admit that even I was astonished by what Driscoll said to Todd Rhoades. I guess here I tangentially mention that Zizek claims we should not attempt to take refuge in cynicism. We should be willing to be outraged and upset and consider that something is wrong. Okay, you Marxist weirdo, I'll grant you that just this once.
In some ways seeing stuff like that video with Todd Rhoades God has providentially done me a favor. I have been cautious and skeptical about the idea that a generation can really change the world and make a big impact on things. I like to think this caution is scripturally informed and grounded but when I consider the anger and regret of how sold out I was to Mars Hill as a movement I see in it a humbling process that is useful for my spiritual health. There are all sorts of things wrong with my spiritual life and yet I can be grateful that I have been disabused of a quality I often disliked in the Baby Boomers, a naive hubris that "my" generation was going to fix things. I was able, so I thought, to see this hubris in other people, even other people in my generation, but I was not able to see how it was part and parcel of my own heart, too.
And, frankly, I believe that it is a hubris that is central to the heart of anyone and everyone who not only calls Mars Hill home but chooses to see it first and foremost now as a movement and not an institution. The folks who see it as an institution and a nascent denomination? (surely those must exist). You know what? I'm probably okay with those people. If a person could be pragmatic enough to admit to someone that there's such a thing as a pastoral sweeps week move to pull in new members, I might be able to respect that person a little more.
Rather than just rant against Mars Hill as so many bloggers have done, or rave on its behalf as so many others have done, I keep coming back to Mars Hill despite my desires to set it all aside and move on with my life because, well, let's face it, I don't have a life. I haven't had a job in 23 months. I have no money, I don't even particularly have my health in as much as I have to have a cataract removed and things stink on the job search side of things. I look for job leads and try to network. So I kinda have few places to escape to and the things I could use to escape are ... well, not good choices in most cases. I compose music and I read blogs and wonder if I'm really making proper use of my time. I battle depression and the gnawing sensation that I'm not only useless and disposable but that even the things I love most and seem to be est at are useless things that no one should be making a profession or vocation of. In other words, to borrow Driscoll parlance, I have never felt like the things I wanted to do with my life constituted a "real job" or could.
So I am in a place where I'm close enough and far enough about things Martian that I am continually forced to confront something called ambivalence. There are so very many blogs seething with the purity of for or against that sometimes I wonder if God has in some cruel yet providential way gotten me stuck in this ambivalent point to blog ambivalently for reasons I can't even begin to fathom. I could get angry about something stupid Driscoll has said (yet again) and then be grateful that Mars Hill members have helped me in my time of need. I could get exasperated at the gender roles stuff and the weird vibe of self-righteousness I get from newer members, and then be grateful for a chance to help some long-time Mars Hill friends paint their house and get to know their children a little. I can spend time with former pastors and friends who were shunned by the bureaucracy and church culture as "in sin" and yet I still love spending time with the friends I have made at Mars Hill who are still there.
If I could give any advice, as a man who spent nine years there and still has connections there, never make Mars Hill more than a small part of your life, even if you're in leadership there. My big mistake was pouring my whole self into that place. That was a big mistake. If you pour your whole self into anything that's your idol and despite what bloggers may say, churches can be idols. No self-respecting Protestant can deny the reality of this. If a Protestant blogger can say with a straight face that the Roman church is the whore of Babylon or an apostate church then that Protestant blogger has to concede that ANY church can take the role of an idol, especially the church that really, say, teaches the doctrines of grace, or has it together.
So there's a sense in which Driscoll, when he makes self-serving dissembling dumbass jokes about how OTHER pastors use sex as a gimmick it's a humbling reminder that the Lord, whatever He has in store for me, has kept me both near and far with Mars Hill. The ambivalence is often aggravating and humbling, and humiliating. But as the old school Mars Hill people used to always say, we were about exploring tension.