Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Mark Driscoll and the Gospel of [escaping] white trash: Part 8—on Tim Smith, on manly and unmanly musicians, and a not-so-latent redneck aesthetic

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

Excerpts from page 146-148


I first met Tim [Smith] while teaching at a conference in New Mexico for Leadership Network. He had been raised in a Baptist home in Portland and was working as a youth worship leader at a Lutheran church in Missouri. Tim and his wife, Beth, moved to Seattle simply hoping that Tim would become a guitar player in one of our worship teams. Tim and his wife lived with Grace and me for a few months until they got settled, and I saw in Tim some very strong leadership qualities that had not been cultivated. So I spent a lot of time investing in Tim, as I was with Jamie. Tim had never played in a band, written a song, or played an electric guitar. Additionally, he did not know how to sing, and it sounded like he'd been hit by a car when he tried to hit high notes.

But I really liked Tim because he is one of the few manly men whom I have ever seen leading worship. I am not supposed to say this, but most of the worship dudes I have heard are not very dudely. They seem to be very in touch with their feelings and exceedingly chickified from playing too much acoustic guitar and singing prom songs to Jesus while channeling Michael Bolton and flipping their hair. Tim was a guy who brewed his own beer, smoked a pipe, rock-climbed, mountain biked, river rafted, carried a knife on his belt, and talked about what he thought more than what he felt.

We clicked because I drive a 1978 Chevy truck that gets single digits to the gallon and has a bacon air freshener and no functioning speedometer and because I fashion myself as the self-appointed leader of a heterosexual male backlash in our overly chickified city filled with guys drinking herbal tea and rocking out to Mariah Carey in their lemon yellow Volkswagen Cabriolets while wearing fuschsia sweater-vests that are perfectly matched with their open-toed shoes. Anyways, Tim learned quickly, took vocal lessons, and soon assumed leadership over the entire worship department. Like Jamie, he started by firing most everyone and starting over from scratch.

There is more that could be written about Mark Driscoll and Tim Smith but this extended excerpt will suffice.  Driscoll repeatedly articulated that his sense of the average music leader in American church contexts was effeminate and that in seeking a man who would be an alternative to that kind of musical culture, Mark Driscoll was willing to put up with a guy who couldn’t really play the guitar, couldn’t sing, and had never really written a song.  What Tim Smith had, by Mark Driscoll’s account, was leadership potential and he passed Mark Driscoll’s man test. The rest was simply, at the risk of making a long narrative too simple, simply pouring enough time and money into making Smith the kind of worship leader Mark Driscoll wanted and shaping the raw material.

No, for that matter, would Mark Driscoll’s crusade against unmanly musicians in churches stop with having selected and promoted Tim Smith.


This week the Christian blogosphere worked itself into a frenzy over a Facebook status posted by Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. The status, which was later removed, read, "So, what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you've ever personally witnessed?"

Driscoll was willing to stoke the fires of controversy about gender and masculinity in 2011. When the online reaction had stormed up, Driscoll presented his reasoning and it had to do with a conversation he had with a blue-collar type:

The Issue Under a Lot of Issues
Mark Driscoll

Gender. Is it a socially constructed reality or a God-given identity?
That’s a significant question, and how you answer it has massive implications. The question of gender underlies many current cultural conflicts and theological controversies that go beyond even the long standing debates about whether or not a woman can be a pastor and whether or not a man is to function as the head of his home.

I had a recent conversation with a stereotypical, blue-collar guy who drives his truck with his tools, lunchbox, and hard hat to his job site every day. He said he wasn’t a Christian, but he was open and wanted to learn what the Bible said. In that conversation, he told me he’d visited a church but that the guy doing the music made him feel uncomfortable because he was effeminate (he used another more colorful word, but that one will suffice in its place). He asked some questions about the Bible, and whether the Bible said anything about the kind of guy who should do the music. I explained the main guy doing the music in the Bible was David, who was a warrior king who started killing people as a boy and who was also a songwriter and musician.

I then put a flippant comment on Facebook, and a raging debate on gender and related issues ensued. As a man under authority, my executive elders sat me down and said I need to do better by hitting real issues with real content in a real context. And, they’re right. Praise God I have elders who keep me accountable and that I am under authority.

So, we are working on a new website where I can speak to these real issues in a fuller context. Lord willing, sometime in September, after my trip to Europe with my family and a lot of other people, and then some recovery time, we will launch a new website.

In the past, I’ve not had a regular place to work out personal commentary on social issues, and so I’ve erred in sometimes doing so in places like Facebook, Twitter, and the media, where you can have a good fight but don’t have the room to make a good case.

Never mind that Mark Driscoll had made himself notorious for commenting on social issues from the pulpit, at The Resurgence (most infamously when he had comments in the wake of Ted Haggard’s scandal), or on guest appearances on film or writing an op-ed column for a Seattle newspaper.  Driscoll was declaring that he had not previously had a platform for working out his ideas on social issues.

Functionally, the controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll’s comments about unmanly musicians became a promotional gambit on behalf of Pastor Mark TV. What made the move so cynical is that Mark Driscoll had explained his views on church music and church musicians half a decade earlier in writing about Tim Smith as Mars Hill’s worship leader.

After all, this gets us back to:



Part 5 of Proverbs

Pastor Mark Driscoll | October 28, 2001

… 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.
Whether Driscoll recognizes this or not, he’s kept coming back to this idea that whatever a Christian musician can or must be, if he’s a man he can’t be confused for an urban gay man. This view creeps into Driscoll’s polemics in spite of the fact that within the confines of Mars Hill’s Midrash he remarked that it was stupid for evangelicals to want to ban gay marriage when Christians divorced at a higher than average rate compared to non-believers and that his gay neighbors were great neighbors.  Both in terms of Mark Driscoll’s concerns about stereotypically “effeminate” male musicians and in how people reacted to Mark Driscoll’s publicity stunts it’s become apparent that leveraging stereotypes related to the ethos of the redneck as a relatable or unrelatable ethos played a substantial role in the 2011 controversy Mark Driscoll sought out as a preliminary to promoting Pastor Mark TV.  Leveraging stereotypes from and about the redneck ethos has been crucial to Mark Driscoll’s public persona.  But as for the person, it seems he has been determined that his children not have to be directly familiar with a redneck white trash life beyond maybe being able to joke about it a bit.  The clearest example of Mark Driscoll taking steps to ensure his offspring had not-redneck cultural life is a story we’ll turn to presently.