Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Mark Driscoll and the Gospel of [escaping] white trash: part 2--the story of a redemptive patriarch, a man named Joe, courtesy of Mark Driscoll

In the following sermon from Genesis, preached in 2004, Mark Driscoll recounted how his family line was characterized by sin and death from one generation to the next until a patriarch arose who decided "enough" and moved on to build a new life.  In Mark Driscoll's telling of the Driscoll family line, starting about 55:30ish, this patriarch was his father:


Part 8 of Genesis
Pastor Mark Driscoll | Genesis 9 | November 21, 2004

My family – the reason I’m here today preaching and not working off my hangover is because of my dad. My dad’s name is Joe. I was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and my whole family is a bunch of drunks and thugs and criminals and people that are nothin’ to speak about. My dad got married to my mom. She got pregnant with me, and they decided that everything would stop with their kids. That’s how we got to Seattle. [emphasis added] They said, “You know what? We’re not raising our kids around the rest of the extended family that are filled with sin and violence and folly and drunkenness and shame and nonsense.” They literally moved out here with nothing. I was a baby. That’s how we got to Seattle. My dad for over 20 year hung sheetrock as a union drywaller. He would come home at night and lay on the floor ’cause his back hurt so bad. He did that ’til one day on the job, he literally broke his back and had to go through reconstructive surgery on it. He did that to feed five kids, of which I was the oldest, and my mom stayed home with us kids.

I grew up behind a strip club down by Sea-Tac Airport, and I was the only kid that I can remember (there may have been more) in my neighborhood that had a dad. My brothers and I all make good money, happily married, own homes, responsible, don’t abuse drugs, alcohol – doin’ good. My two sisters, nice ladies, one’s in college, one’s married – doin’ good. The only reason why our family looks so much different than everyone else with my same last name is because of my dad. Children grow up in the world that their father creates. [emphasis added] We’re not individuals. We’re not autonomous. We don’t show up on the earth with a blank slate. We’re part of a family history. And if you have a good dad, you’re born privileged. If you have a bad dad, you’re born in trouble.

My kids eat what I eat. They eat what I provide for them. They live in the home that I purchased. They drive around in the vehicle that I provide. They are raised by the woman that I married. The fact that she stays home is because it’s my responsibility to feed my family and to pay our bills. And I learned that from my dad. I learned that ‘cause everything stopped with my dad. My dad is different than the other men in our family. He’s a hardworking, faithful guy, who would swing a hammer, come home, play catch with his sons, have dinner, coach Little League, and told us, “You’re Driscoll boys. That means something. You do this, you don’t do that. The Driscoll boys are different.” I still tell my sons that. “You’re Driscoll boys. We’re different. We do things different.” And it started with my dad. [emphasis added] Noah’s that guy. Whole family of sin, chaos, violence, and with Noah, it stops because God gets a hold of him. And now, Noah has a bad day, and rather than loving his father, respecting his father, Ham dishonors that man who saved his life and makes light of him.

So it was, as recounted by Mark Driscoll that his father Joseph made a decision to create the world that Mark Driscoll lived in.  Until the patriarch Joseph aspired to something better, the Driscolls were just white trash.  Someone had to decide to escape all that sin and violence and that person, by Mark Driscoll’s account, was his father. Mark Driscoll’s public career can be interpreted as having been built on the foundation Joseph Driscoll laid for him to build upon. By dint of rhetorically collapsing the history of the O'Driscoll name into "from pirate to pastor is a lot of grace", Mark Driscoll has woven a tapestry of narrative in which he and his father have procured a kind of redemption for the name of Driscoll/O'Driscoll itself. 

It's not too surprising, really, that with such a narrative trope in mind Mark Driscoll would be particularly fond of Boaz, the kinsmen redeemer/husband in the book of Ruth.  For those familiar with his 2007 sermon series on Ruth it's not difficult to imagine how, given the ways he described his father as the sort of patriarch who ends generations of violence and sin in a family lineage (whether or not this actually occurred is not necessarily the point of the narrative), that Mark Driscoll would like to be thought of as a kind of Boaz. 

Which would make the palpable sense of surprise in the 2007 sermon in which Mark Driscoll recounted how he was Elimelech, beyond all doubt, palpable in the sermon even nine years later.  This was not the answer Mark Driscoll was fishing for. 

That axiomatic observation that children grow up in the world their fathers create seems pretty telling here, years later, as to what Mark Driscoll's approach to life was eventually shown to be.  We can propose putting it this way, if in Mark Driscoll's account Joe Driscoll was the patriarch who liberated the infant Mark Driscoll from growing up to be yet another Driscoll in North Dakota working off a hangover to eventually being that pastor of Mars Hill who was leading one of the fastest growing churches in America; then Mark Driscoll got to be the patriarch who became a real Christian (as opposed to a jack Catholic) and whose preaching and teaching changed tens of thousands of lives and was able to play a role in redeeming his whole family. 

The core story behind all this is, well, pretty simple, redeeming a family from a life of becoming run of the mill standard issue Irish working class white trash.  This narrative of a man emerging from a redneck legacy of sin and stupidity and death to choose salvation for his people isn’t just something Mark Driscoll has presented as the narrative of his own personal and family history; there’s a case that can be made that this giant narrative or personal myth can be regarded as the refractory prism through which Mark Driscoll ended up interpreting an entire book of the Bible.