Saturday, February 08, 2014

Mark Driscoll's cinematic discernment--Jake Sully is an antichrist, Jack Bauer is a Christ-type

In a tossed off line from his sermon "Jesus and Demons"
February 14, 2010

... Now Jesus is having one of those Jack Bauer days. All right, he’s preached, cast out a demon, healed a woman. ...

And if you don’t believe me, go see Avatar, the most demonic, satanic film I’ve ever seen. That any Christian could watch that without seeing the overt demonism is beyond me. I logged on to and the review was reflective of Christianity today, very disappointing. See, in that movie, it is a completely false ideology, it’s a sermon preached. It’s the most popular movie ever made, and it tells you that the creation mandate, the cultural mandate is bad, that we shouldn’t, we shouldn’t develop culture, that’s a bad thing. Primitive is good and advanced is bad and that we’re not sinners, we’re just disconnected from the divine life force, just classic, classic, classic paganism, that human beings are to connect, literally, with trees and animals and beasts and birds and that there’s this spiritual connection that we’re all a part of, that we’re all a part of the divine. It presents a false mediator with a witch. It presents false worship of created things rather than Creator God in absolute antithesis to Romans 1:25, which gives that as the essence of paganism. It has a false incarnation where a man comes in to be among a people group and to assume their identity. It’s a false Jesus. We have a false resurrection. We have a false savior. We have a false heaven. The whole thing is new age, satanic, demonic paganism, and people are just stunned by the visuals. Well, the visuals are amazing because Satan wants you to emotionally connect with a lie.
What stories and characters people connect to can be striking and informative.  The most well-known emotional connection Driscoll had to a film was Braveheart.

Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4

PAGE 129
At this time, our church also started an unmoderated discussion board on our websit, called Midrash, and it was being inundated withpostings by emerging-church-type feminists and liberals.  I went onto the site and posted as William Wallace II, after the great Scottish man portrayed in the movie Braveheart, and attacked those who were posting. It got insane, and thousands of posts were being made each day until it was discovered that it was me raging like a madman under the guise of a movie character. One guy got so mad that he actually showed up at my house to fight me one night around 3:00 am.

Unfortunately, turns out even Mel Gibson himself eventually said his depiction of William Wallace was bogus, that the man was a berserker monster and then this, too, got corrected by some Scots as the other swing of the pendulum in mythologizing Wallace.

But let's grant that people identify with characters.  Let's ask what may have inspired Mark Driscoll to conclude Avatar was demonic?  People are emotionally connecting to a lie?  That depends on what is meant by "lie".  Atheists would say the entirety of Christianity is a lie and that can't be how Driscoll means "connecting to a lie".  Since Driscoll found in himself a great affinity for Mel Gibson's portrayal of William Wallace and Gibson himself went on to say it was a falsehood in 2009 that may not be quite what "a lie" is in Driscoll's parlance.   The lie, as we'll see, probably isn't even that a narrative bears some cosmetic resemblance to a gospel narrative. 

We live in an era in which Campbell's monomyth is taken for granted by many. The hero with a thousand faces and all that.  We all know works of fiction when we see them.  People know what is going on when they go to watch a sci-fi/fantasy film or read a novel or read poetry.  We don't assume that when we read a poem we're getting nuts and bolts practical insights into the daily operations of a relationship, we don't read a poem with the idea that it will explicitly instruct us how to ... well, never mind, Mark Driscoll clearly does handle poetry at that sort of level where it must impart both propositionally true statements and also endorse particular acts in practical settings.  Never mind.

But what's simplest to observe about Mark Driscoll's denunciation of James Cameron's film is that the denunciation is based on Jake Sully having to be a false savior in a false heaven that promotes new age, satanic, demonic paganism.  It's not the lie of the fiction itself but the ideals he considers the fiction to promote to be false.  He finds it more pernicious, it seems, that the Cameron film leverages a savior narrative for what he considers to be the wrong ideals.

But if the cinema on the large or small screen is something Driscoll already likes or considers to be promoting ideas or ideals he already endorses he sings an obviously different tune.  The tip-off in the sermon where Driscoll denounced Avatar is in that little phrase about Jesus having that "Jack Bauer day.".  So a central character is a false savior if Driscoll decides the film is promoting ideas he disagrees with.  What if he's discussing a show he already enjoys?

With the fifth and arguably best season of the hit television show 24 now concluded, Jack Bauer can take a much needed shower, get something to eat, and power up his cell phone battery which magically lasts forever. At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I would like to offer the suggestion that perhaps 24 is incredibly popular because Jack Bauer is a lot like Jesus, as the following correlations indicate:
  • Jack and Jesus are both dudes who worked in construction.
  • Jack and Jesus have disciples and Jack’s disciples have names like Chloe, Michelle, Bill, and Tony.
  • Jack and Jesus do not lie and can be trusted to accomplish whatever they promise.
  • Jack and Jesus both oppose evil and seek to bring forth a glorious shalom world, free of tyranny and evildoers.
  • Jack and Jesus were both betrayed by a close friend who ended up dying as a result of his sin.
  • Jack and Jesus are both saviors willing to lay down their life for those they love.
  • Jack and Jesus were both resurrected from death; Jack was essentially put to death to fool the Chinese government and then resuscitated.
24 is easily the best show on television despite the many reasons it conceivably should not be. First, the show is long, lasting an hour a week. Second, the show is complicated and unless you rent the DVDs and begin in season one and work your way up through season five, the storyline really makes no sense. Third, it is just the type of kill-the-bad-guys, do-whatever-it-takes-to-defeat-evil, macho, alpha-male, action-hero kind of show that our less than manly culture would see as too violent, too intense, and too dudely.

But the show works for the same reasons it could have failed. And it is also a great case for expository Bible teaching. While that may sound like a leap, think about it. Expository Bible teaching requires going through a book of the Bible to tell its story over the course of many, many weeks so that characters, setting, theme and such are established just like 24. Expository Bible teaching requires a masculine dude named Jesus to be presented each week as the hero/savior who is willing to risk His own life to defeat evil and rescue those He loves. And expository Bible teaching should be long—say an hour—and take the time to show the horrors and complications of life on the earth under the curse with wildly unpredictable storylines that God inspired to be told.

Driscoll blogged about Jack Bauer as Christ type in June 2006 and then revisited the motif later:

Curiously, some people on the more left-leaning side of our dysfunctional Christian family are backing away from the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. Those in the more established liberal churches along with their emergent offspring are routinely decrying the concept that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin (death) in our place on the cross. They say it is too gory, too scary, too bloody, too masculine, and too violent. Furthermore, they say that in our tender little world of kindness such teachings won’t help further the kingdom of meek and mild Jesus.

Furthermore, the sixth season of the greatest television show in the history of the world (just ahead of Dog the Bounty Hunter and Ultimate Fighting) is back in January. That show? 24, of course. The trailer for the upcoming season has been released.

In it you will see that, like I described in an earlier blog, the show is a hit because Jack Bauer is a "type-ish" of Jesus. The trailer repeatedly says that Jack "must be sacrificed" to save the multitudes who will supposedly be given life through his substitionary death. Does this sound like anyone you know? A young, healthy, innocent guy dies for a whole bunch of people and willingly lays down his life as a sacrifice for them?

How in the world can we drop the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement when the big movies and the big television shows are under God’s sovereign hand serving as reformed theological illustrations? Next thing you know Bauer will start reading the Puritans to help solidify his courage to lay down his life for many and grow a little beard in tribute to Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
For both of you reading this from some backwoods fundamentalist church who have not watched 24, there is still time for you to repent. The first seasons are on DVD and you have time to catch up by the season premiere in January. But, be warned, you will be up all night like a crack addict wanting another fix and the odds are good that your entire Christmas break will be spent in your jammies staring at your television to finish up before season six commences.

So Jake Sully's an antichrist while Jack Bauer is a Christ-type and the popularity of 24 is proof to Mark Driscoll that penal substitutionary atonement should be more popular with liberal and mainline Protestants.  If Driscoll's second-favorite show was Dog The Bounty Hunter that might be a tip-off that the level of narrative analysis and nuance he's willing to bring to something might have an exceptionally low bar.  :) 

Or perhaps, even more to the point, we might be seeing in Mark Driscoll someone who's perfectly content to run with a merely cosmetic narrative resemblance between the life of Jesus and a character on a show he likes as sufficient reason for a Christ typology and pontificating about pet doctrines.  If he doesn't connect to the story and the characters in some crucial way or sees that cosmetic resemblance between character A and Jesus being used to promote ideas he already dislikes that may or may not have any actual connection to paganism, it's satanic.

So the narrative resemblance of a Jack Sully or a Jack Bauer to a Christ type leads Driscoll to denounce one and endorse the other depending on what that cosmetically similar narrative to Jesus points toward.  One can't help but wonder what Mark Driscoll might have to say about the South Park episode "Margaritaville". 

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