Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Mark Driscoll and the Gospel of [escaping] white trash: Part 1--11-13-2010 Update from Pastor Mark O'Driscoll on the family lineage of former Irish kings turned pirates




Update from Pastor Mark O'Driscoll
By: Pastor Mark Driscoll
on Nov 13, 2010

Dear Mars Hill, It’s late here in Belfast, Northern Ireland (we are eight hours ahead of Seattle), and before I went to bed I felt compelled to write a quick update. On Sunday I left with my dad, Joe, to visit Ireland—a place we’ve both always wanted to go. We started out in County Cork in southern Ireland. We traced our family heritage as far back as we could go. The records were destroyed amidst civil unrest in the early 1900s, though, so anything before 1800 is tough to get. But I still learned a ton. 

The O’Driscolls ruled for three hundred years with around ten castles in southern Ireland, near the city of Baltimore, which we visited. I actually got to see one of the remaining castles, which was a moving experience. After three hundred years of rule, a new king whom we fought against overtook our land and made us peasants. [emphasis added]

Apparently we were also sea pirates who were fond of seizing ships filled with wine. We also liked to take castles from the Norse and have a lot of children while drinking stolen wine. In 1845–1890, a massive famine hit Ireland. The nation had been 8 million people until 1.25 million died, and 1.5 million fled the country. I went to the ship dock where my great-great grandfather, James, at the age of forty-eight, sailed from Ireland with his sixteen-year-old son. His wife died, probably of typhoid or starvation. The walk to the ship took weeks for James, and the sailing took months and many died on the "coffin ships." They landed at Ellis Island, where the Irish were not welcome. So, likely after dropping the "O" from "O’Driscoll," he moved to Ontario, where he married a nineteen-year-old at the age of fifty-one and had seven kids while dairy farming. She hated that life, so they moved to the U.S. and settled in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He homesteaded his land and built his own home at the age of seventy-one. My dad was born on that farm. I was born there also. 

My dad moved to Seattle when I was about a year old so he could get work in construction [emphasis added]—something he continued until he broke his back over twenty years later, feeding me and my four siblings while my mom stayed home to tend to us. As many of you know, I met Jesus at the age of nineteen after having been a non-Christian Catholic. Some Catholics are Jesus-loving Christians; I was just not one of them. My dad also met Jesus. Last summer I had the honor of baptizing him in the Jordan River along with my son and his grandson, Calvin Martin Driscoll. He and my mom, Debra, are with us at Mars Hill, which is a great blessing.

My whole family has been saved and is walking with Jesus. It’s pretty surreal to see what God has done in my life, and tracing my ancestors’ journey was been a bit emotionally overwhelming since God’s grace is so obvious in my life. From pirate to pastor is a lot of grace. [emphasis added] From County Cork we headed up to Dublin. There we saw the Book of Kells exhibit, learned a lot about the political "troubles," visited a prison and a few large churches, and had a ton of fun—including a pint and some stew at the Guinness Storehouse. We also visited Cashel Rock, which was a magnificent ancient church and monastery built in the lush rolling hills of Ireland and is where Saint Patrick baptized the king of Munster. 

Tonight we are in Belfast of Northern Ireland. Tomorrow I am preaching to a few thousand men at The Mandate conference in downtown Belfast. Your prayers would be appreciated. That God would take the great-great grandson of an Irish peasant who was starving to death from a long line of drunkards and wife beaters to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to a few thousand fellow Irishmen is very emotional for me and an overwhelming grace of God in my life. [emphasis added] On Sunday I will not be at Mars Hill. Instead, I will be preaching at Bloomfield Presbyterian Church in Belfast. Monday and Tuesday I will be training Christian leaders and yelling at young men like I do the guys at Mars Hill. Then we will return home by God’s grace and I’ll be preaching my final sermon of the year at Mars Hill before taking some time off to write a book and enjoy my high school sweetheart and our five blessings.

So, if you think of us, pray that the gospel goes forth by God’s grace. This is one of the most religious cities in the world. It is filled with ancient churches and nearly everyone says they are a Christian—half claiming Catholic and half claiming Protestant commitment. The nation is torn between the north, which is British, and the south, which is independent. There is a great need for real revival—true, deep, heartfelt, passionate, uncompromising mission to see people meet Jesus and not just be moral and religious. Lastly, I want to thank the elders for granting me the kindness of taking this pilgrimage with my dad. The gospel of Jesus Christ is making more sense and bringing me to tears more often than any other time in my life.

The month after Driscoll wrote the above he took to Twitter to announce that he and Grace had started up a book, that the two finalist publishers were in town, and then joked that the title was unsettled.  “Your Best Wife Now” was a jokey suggestion.

There are a number of things that could be said about this account, one of them being that not everyone would necessarily take Mark Driscoll's account of Irish history in general or even necessarily of the O'Driscoll clan in particular completely at face value. 

But the simplest and most direct thing that may need to be said about the Driscoll family history as recounted by Mark O’Driscoll is that they’re white trash.  Full stop.  They may have been reigning as kings as far back as a millennium ago but those kings got deposed and the Driscoll line turned into peasant farmer stock that made its way to the United States where there’s no more blunt nor less delicate way to describe the Driscoll family line in Mark Driscoll’s narrative than to say they’re a long history of white trash.

For a guy who has kept saying he’s a nobody trying to tell everybody about somebody, what benefit could there be in regaling Mars Hill and the entire internet-reading English-speaking world with tales of the clan of O'Driscoll as kings who were made peasants who became pirates whose genetic stock led to Mark Driscoll, who has said God called him to marry Grace Martin, teach the Bible, train young men, and plant churches?  The answer given by Driscoll himself was “from pirate to pastor is a lot of grace”, an explanation that depends upon Mark Driscoll somehow being party to the piracy of his Driscollian forebears a century or two before he was even born.

There's an axiom in film criticism you may have come across before that says a film isn't just “what it's about” but “how it's about it”.  The tension between Mark Driscoll's old saw about being a nobody was for years in tension with the dynastic narrative running through his sense of individual and family identity.  If you take seriously that you're really a nobody trying to tell everybody about somebody, then your family name is of no concern--who you know about that you wish to speak to everyone counts for everything.  He must become greater and greater and I must become less and less, for instance.

"From pirate to pastor is a lot of grace" is a meaningless statement if applied to the entire history of the O'Driscoll clan.  On the other hand, it may reveal something crucial about Mark Driscoll's sense of identity that he can imagine that the manifestation of "a lot of grace" can be read into how the history of the O'Driscoll clan has led, thus far, to Mark O'Driscoll. It is a name Mark Driscoll can present for himself as the embodiment of that "lot of grace".  Driscoll has described himself as more a prophet than a politician but the undercurrent that through Mark Driscoll the O'Driscoll clan has a new leader of kingly/prophetic stature seems implied even in places where it isn't explicit--in other words, Mark Driscoll's individual story of divine commission can be construed a "redemption" not just for Mark Driscoll but for his whole family in general and even for, and Driscoll really seemed set on going here, the Driscoll/O'Driscoll name as a whole. 

After all, if at one point the O’Driscoll’s had ten castles as a sign of their rule, Mars Hill would go on to have at least a half dozen campuses. Under Driscoll’s founding, vision and leadership, the implication can be, the O’Driscoll legacy involved an empire with more global reach than the clan could have possibly had when they were more officially kings.

But this account is, you could say, the developed presentable photographic image.  Mark Driscoll himself is the finished image of “grace” and redemption not only for himself but for the family name of Driscoll.  But by his own account this story of patriarchal redemption didn’t start with him.  It started with a guy named Joe.

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.

Mark Driscoll and the Gospel of [escaping] white trash: Part 3--presenting the entirety of Genesis as a hillbilly redneck saga, a selection of sermon quotes

Enclosed for your consideration is a parade of quotes from Mark Driscoll's sermons shortly before and during the Genesis sermon series. Highlighted for your consideration are a variety of ways in which Mark Driscoll presented Genesis as a hillbilly redneck soap opera with, of course, the most salient passages highlighted in red.  Sometimes coloristic puns are just necessary for underling the point.


Part 10 of Epistles of John

Pastor Mark Driscoll | 1 John 4:17-5:5 | September 12, 2004

... Finishing up 1 John this summer, and then, October 3rd we’re gonna kick off Genesis. I’m so excited. It’s like a hillbilly redneck soap opera, the whole book. It’s just everybody’s drunk and marrying their sister and pimping out their wife. It’s crazy. So it will be great, and we’ll start that in October, and in the next couple weeks, you will get 190-page commentary on the book I wrote for you, and so just get you all geared up and ready to go.


Part 5 of Genesis
Pastor Mark Driscoll | Genesis 4:1-26 | October 31, 2004

“Cain lay with his wife,” – where’d she come from? A lot of people are like, Cain, Abel, and then there’s a gal. Well, we know she wasn’t created directly by God, otherwise she wouldn’t have had a sin nature, and she’d be here to tell us what happened. This was probably his sister or a close relative – hillbilly redneck, little chunk of Kentucky right there in the Promised Land.


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


As we’re dealing with Noah today, it’s one of the most peculiar stories in the Bible. The great patriarch gets drunk and naked in a tent. You think I’m kidding – it’s in the book. We’ll get there. And it’s cool when we go through books, ‘cause we talk about things we otherwise wouldn’t (like naked drunk rednecks). Like I wouldn’t do a series on that. But I could ‘cause they’re in the book. So as we go through the book, you’re gonna meet your first parents, and maybe this will make your family look pretty good and encourage ya. ...

So, these are his three sons. My daddy had three sons. I’m the oldest of three sons. There was also two daughters. Read the story. Here’s what happens. "Noah" – this is just a weird text – “Noah, a man of the soil,” – he’s a farmer, good job – “proceeded to plant the vineyard.” Then he gets drunk and passes out naked in his tent like a hillbilly redneck on vacation.  ...

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. 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. 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. 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.


Part 14 of Genesis
Pastor Mark Driscoll | Genesis 16 | January 09, 2005


wore my NASCAR jacket just to commemorate this week. Father Abraham gets a girlfriend, and the hillbilly redneck saga that is Genesis takes a nefarious turn, and so, I thought we would do hillbilly redneck Sunday. So, I wore my boots, and we’re gonna do cornbread and gravy for communion. I’m just kiddin’. I thought of that, though, ‘cause I was teaching in Missouri this week, and it’s all fireworks and cornbread and gravy and rednecks, and it was pretty cool. So, I wore my “Dale Earnhardt, Jr.” jacket as well. This was given to me by one of the community groups in the church in mockery ‘cause I’m always hittin’ on rednecks and – not hittin’ on ‘em – I’ve had a long day. I’m hopped up on chicken wings and Red Bull and it’s late, and we’re missing the season premiere of “24.” So – but I love you, and we’ll talk about Jesus in a little bit, but first I gotta tell ya about my coat.


Part 16 of Genesis
Pastor Mark Driscoll | Genesis 18 | January 23, 2005


Abraham says, “Hypothetically – and here he gets into like reverse auctioneering. “Fifty, fifty, fifty do I hear, forty, forty, forty, do I have forty, forty-five, thirty, thirty, thirty, ten, ten, ten, ten, ten sold.” No road tar. (Laughter) yeah, it just – he kinda goes backwards, reverse. He’s, he starts at fifty and whittling down like; “If I could find 27 rednecks there that have a Bible, would you smoke the town?” (Laughter) You know he is trying to figure out sort where the bottom line is for who does and does not qualify as a righteous person.

“What are there are fifty righteous people in the city, will you sweep it away? Not spare the place for the sake of fifty righteous people. So we got a whole town. There’s fifty righteous good believin’ people there, would you save it? Far be from you to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you. Will not the judge of the earth do what is right? You’re not going to smoke everybody right? There’s got to be fifty good guys there?” ...


Part 23 of Genesis
Pastor Mark Driscoll | Genesis 24 | March 13, 2005

... Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban,” – Laban, we don’t know if he’s a believer or not. He’s an opportunist. He’s always looking to make a buck. He’s a crooked guy. He’s gonna be real prominent in the rest of Genesis.

His name literally means white. He’s a white guy with a white tank top who drives a white El Camino. (Laughter) He’s that guy. He’s the white guy. He’s the crazy, hillbilly, redneck in the story with a tank top who changes his own oil and shows up on Cops a lot. That’s Laban. (Laughter) This is a fun day for me. “As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms,” – opportunist, sees money – “and he had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, he went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring. ‘Come, you who are blessed by the LORD,’ he said.” “Mr. Bling, come to my house.” “‘Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.’ So the man went to the house, and the camels were unloaded. Straw and fodder were brought for the camels, and water for him and his men to wash their feet. The food was set before him, but he said, ‘I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.’”


Part 34 of Genesis
Pastor Mark Driscoll | Genesis 35 | June 05, 2005

... If you are new, we’re just gonna jump right into the Book of Genesis. We’re in the 35th chapter. We’re going right through the Book. The hillbilly redneck saga continues this week with Jacob. So, you can find that in your Bible, Genesis 35. Look at the whole chapter this week. And just jump right in and get to work. So, I’ll pray, and we’ll get busy.


As we jump in, we’re gonna do some final work this week on Jacob. This week the life of Jacob sort of tidies up the loose ends, and the next week, the scene shifts to the next generation. For those of you that aren’t up to speed, it’s three generations we’ve been looking at. Abraham, God saved him, made him a man, toughened him up, made him a believer. And then he had a son named Isaac, who God made into a man, toughened up, made him a believer. And then Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau.

The problem is that Esau was a man. He was a man’s man – tough guy, crazy, red-headed, Ford F150, shotgun,  Copenhagen dip dude. But he didn’t love God. And then he had a brother named Jacob, who was a total momma’s boy, not very tough, not a guy who was all that impressive, didn’t like conflict, didn’t like work, didn’t like responsibility, major late bloomer, did whatever his momma told him to do.

That is, believe it or not, merely a little bit of a tour de force of Mark Driscoll quotes describing the whole book of Genesis as a hillbilly redneck soap opera. 

There was a strong negative reaction from the John Macarthur wing of American Christianity.  We'll get to that general reaction and have an observation or two about it but, for this post, it has been sufficient to let Mark Driscoll's words speak for themselves as to just how thoroughly he interpreted Genesis in white trash terms.  Macarthur's crew took issue with the fact that this was done at all without necessarily plumbing very far, in the midst of their outrage, as to possible reasons why.  But in order to get to that observation it will help to first observe what their reaction was. 

Mark Driscoll and the Gospel of [escaping] white trash: Part 4--the John Macarthur wing took umbrage at Mark Driscoll presenting Genesis as a white trash soap opera, fixating on “what” at the expense of “why”

Not everyone warmed up to Mark Driscoll's penchant for explicating biblical narratives in the most hillbilly way possible.



Mark Driscoll is one of the best-known representatives of that kind of thinking. He is a very effective communicator—a bright, witty, clever, funny, insightful, crude, profane, deliberately shocking, in-your-face kind of guy. His soteriology is exactly right, but that only makes his infatuation with the vulgar aspects of contemporary society more disturbing.

Driscoll ministers in Seattle, birthplace of "grunge" music and heart of the ever-changing subculture associated with that movement. Driscoll's unique style and idiom might aptly be labeled "post-grunge." His language—even in his sermons—is deliberately crude. He is so well known for using profane language that in Blue Like Jazz (p. 133), Donald Miller (popular author and icon of the "Emerging Church" movement, who speaks of Driscoll with the utmost admiration) nicknamed him "Mark the Cussing Pastor."

I don't know what Driscoll's language is like in private conversation, but I listened to several of his sermons. To be fair, he didn't use the sort of four-letter expletives most people think of as cuss words—nothing that might get bleeped on broadcast television these days. Still, it would certainly be accurate to describe both his vocabulary and his subject matter at times as tasteless, indecent, crude, and utterly inappropriate for a minister of Christ. In every message I listened to, at least once he veered into territory that ought to be clearly marked off limits for the pulpit.

Some of the things Driscoll talks freely and frequently about involve words and subject matter I would prefer not even to mention in public, so I am not going to quote or describe the objectionable parts. Besides, the issue has already been discussed and dissected at several blogs. Earlier this year, Tim Challies cited one typical example of Driscoll's vulgar flippancy from Confessions of a Reformission Rev. The sermons I listened to also included several from Driscoll's "Vintage Jesus" series, including the one Phil Johnson critiqued in October.

The point I want to make is not about Driscoll's language per se, but about the underlying philosophy that assumes following society down the Romans 1 path is a valid way to "engage the culture." It's possible to be overexposed to our culture's dark side. I don't think anyone can survive full immersion in today's entertainments and remain spiritually healthy.


I’ve had it with Mark Driscoll and his mouth. Now it’s personal!


You probably can get the basic idea here.  The incident that MacArthur referenced about Driscoll's vulgar flippancy, just going from memory here, is probably the "was it a good porno?" incident, quoted at length over here, as part of a series of tagged posts on Mark Driscoll and the influence of porn.

Since by 2006 Mark Driscoll had wrapped up the Genesis sermon series and had, the whole length of it, presented it as a redneck hillbilly soap opera, what Mark Driscoll and his defenders could say in reply to the Macarthur wing was that Mark Driscoll's contextualization of the book of Genesis in redneck terms was a way to show how messed up all the figures in the Genesis narrative were and how this demonstrated they were in need of the mercy of God.  It's not that this would be persuasive to a Macarthurite, really, but that is a defense that was made. You can actually propose that the polemic inherent in the story of Lot and his daughters leading to the birth of Moab (“child of incest”) is that Jewish canonical propaganda regarding the Moabites was that they were a bunch of drunken inbred yokels because that’s what the origin story for that whole group was in the book of Genesis. So in that sense Mark Driscoll’s racy approach to the biblical text could be seen not only as not particularly blasphemous but highlighting more directly than usual the polemical thrust of certain narratives in Genesis.

Now that we're a decade away from that sort of thing, though, we can propose other angles to consider.  In their fury at what they considered Mark Driscoll's blasphemous remarks about the biblical texts or things they considered uncouth it could be easy for the Macarthur wing to overlook some things.  The first is that when Mark Driscoll talked about the kind of skepticism people in Mary and Joseph's day would have faced about the plausibility of a virgin birth narrative, to say nothing of the evangelists writing the Gospels, Mark Driscoll may have formulated how this skepticism would have come across in the bluntest and most colloquial contemporary terms but the charge implicit in "Is this not Mary's son?" was preserved in one of the canonical gospels. 

Galileans were not, as a rule, regarded as hugely upscale and educated so someone like Mark Driscoll (or one of his defenders) could make a case that if it seemed shocking and inappropriate to describe Jesus as some uncharacteristically wise teacher with an uneducated backwoods redneck bastard background this might not be "just" something Mark Driscoll said for pure shock effect (although Driscoll doubtless had that partly in mind); this could be because Driscoll was making a case for how and why Jesus' popularity and the substance of his teaching offended the religious leaders of the time. 

Part of Driscoll's appeal was that in his bluntness he presented himself as willing to tackle openly issues that other pastors weren't even willing to discuss at all, or that's how the rhetorical framing went.  The Macarthur wing became a useful formal foil of the "too conservative" branch of Christianity that gave Mark Driscoll an opportunity to fashion his brand.  He was not a Macarthur type of conservative Christian and thereby not as fundamentalist in formal presentation, nor was he on the other hand a mainline/emergent/liberal sort.  The Macarthur branch of American Protestantism was what Mark Driscoll needed in order to rhetorically position himself as anything resembling a centrist. 

One of the things that was not memorably high on the list of concerns from the Macarthur wing was an altogether different concern about the ways in which Mark Driscoll repeatedly presented the biblical narratives in redneck hillbilly saga terms.  Even if we could propose there's a basis from which to say it isn't necessarily blasphemous to translate a historical idiom of biblical narrative into redneck terms, it's interesting to consider that it was offensive to a Macarthur side of American Protestantism to explicate the biblical narratives as if all the biblical figures were understandable as white trash types. 

In other words, I'm going to propose the Macarthur wing was so busy being offended that Mark Driscoll explicated the biblical narratives in white trash terms they didn't seem to stop to ask why Mark Driscoll would have chosen to do so.  The answer isn't all that difficult to propose in light of the details Mark Driscoll shared about his own life, he basically had an urban white trash upbringing and even grew up in a possibly nominal Catholic Irish milieu.  He interpreted and contextualized the biblical narrative in white trash terms because it was the world he understood. 

Had the Macarthur wing wanted to try for something a little more salient than mere moral outrage they could have proposed something more in line with the Pirate Christian Radio/Fighting for the Faith critique of a preacher like Mark Driscoll. The problem with Mark Driscoll interpreting Genesis as a hillbilly redneck soap opera isn’t necessarily the redneck part in itself.  Even if we were to set aside altogether the question of whether that might not seem to be a sufficiently reverential approach to interpreting biblical narrative, we could propose it has the weakness of coming across as a wildly self-aggrandizing form of narcigesis, reading your whole life story and aspirations and anxieties on to a biblical text whether there could ever be a basis for it. 

And once we open up that as a possible variable in interpretation we could test that hypothesis and ask, if there seems to be a basis for it, why it might be so.

Mark Driscoll and the Gospel of [escaping] white trash: Part 5, tales of redneck carnival play and life in the ghetto, by Mark Driscoll.



Part 9 of The Peasant Princess

Pastor Mark Driscoll | Song of Songs 8:1-7 | November 23, 2008


Grace put her — left her purse in the car, and I had my key, and my money. We were going out for our time around Seattle, walking around, little adventure. Grace looks at me, she says, “Oh, I need to get my money out of my purse.” I said – non-Christian, 17 year-old guy – “Money? I pay. It’s my job to pay. We’re going on a date. I asked you out. I pay.” I know some of you go Dutch. Don’t go Dutch. Men pay. That’s the rule. So, she said,

“No, no, no, no, I need to pay for my dinner. I need to pay for whatever we do. I need to pay for my half.” And I’m like, “There’s no way you’re gonna pay for half.” I mean, I really was smitten with her, and I was really interested in her, and my thought was, if this actually goes somewhere, we’re not starting Dutch. We’re starting me loving you.

So she came to me and tried to fight me. Now, she’s petite, but she’s quick. Okay? She’s a – she tried to grab my key — my car key. I just had my car key. She tried to grab my car - I’m like, “No, you cannot,”- So we’re sort of wrestling, play wrestling. I mean, it wasn’t like she was dirty boxing, had me in the clinch and dropped a knee and a moi tai, you know? So — but she’s trying to get my key, and it fell out, down the drain, six feet down through a manhole cover, into the public sewer system. That’s where we started. At that point, you’re like, “It only can get better.” You know, like – and she started laughing, and I started laughing, which was a good sign, because actually this was kind of funny. And I was like, “We gotta get that key. that’s my only key.” I had one key to my car; brilliant, 17 year-old strategist that I was.

So then it’s six feet down, can barely see it. So we went walking around, and at one restaurant we found a long piece of string and in another, we found a magnet. Next thing I know, we are doing like some goofy, redneck, carnival game, trying to get my key out of the bottom of like a six-foot drop, and you know what? [emphasis added] I think it was made out of aluminum, because I finally got the magnet on it. Felt like I was a real man, like I was accomplishing something, and you know what? It didn’t stick because it wasn’t metal. It was like some aluminum thing, so it wouldn’t pick up my key. My key’s gone. Next thing I know, I gotta get a crowbar. I gotta take the manhole cover off the public sewer system – and there’s nothing more romantic than this – jump down six feet. Get the key. There wasn’t water or feces or homeless guys. It was just a hole. Got my key; got out.



Part 12 of The Gospel of John

Pastor Mark Driscoll | John 6:1-14 | January 21, 2001



Somebody buys a building. Somebody scrapes the paint off the wall. Somebody takes the trash out. Somebody helps sand the seats. And then all of a sudden people come here and connect and they hear about God. And the church gets planted and a couple hundred people are coming to services there and you’re like, “Yeah, it’s just fishes and loaves.” That’s all it really is. It’s just God’s kindness taking our contributions, time, energy, food, counsel, affection, prayer – whatever it is – just taking the bit that we have to give him and then doing something beautiful with it.

I’ll tell ya a couple more stories. Grace and I, when we first started the church, we were living in a little rented home in Wallingford and we were starting our family. And Grace was working, and she was making good money, and she wanted to – we wanted to pull her out of work so that we could start our family. And our deal was, “Well we have to buy a house now, because if we just try to qualify for a house off of my income, we’re gonna end up with a honey bucket in Puyallup. That’s about all we’re gonna prequalify for. And so we have to use your income to help us prequalify for a house.” So we prequalified, and we looked and looked and looked, and most of the houses that we looked at – I mean if you’ve ever tried to buy a house, this is the most frightening thing in the world, because you walk into a house and you’re sure – you’re like, “Okay, is the whole house supposed to be at an angle? Is this” –


“No, it’s charm.”

“No, it’s crooked. This is crooked. It’s not charm. That’s crooked.”

“Well the plumbing doesn’t work.”

“Oh, it gives it that Old World feel.”

“No, it doesn’t flush, and that’s – I want the New World feel. I want to flush.”


We start looking for a house and we found one house that was nice and felt like would take care of our family, but it was north. It was quite a bit north up the I-5 corridor. And so I was really pressing for it. “Well let’s buy it. Let’s get this done. Let’s get you out of work.” And my wife, with all of her faith, says, “No, we had a conviction that we should live in the city near the church so we could be accessible to the people and open our home. And that’s the deal, so we can’t do that.”

I was like, “Yeah, you’re right. You’re right.” So I said, “Well I guess we’re just gonna rent for the rest of our lives and just be jacked with a bad rent and a little place.” I’m Puddleglum out of Narnia. “Oh, it’s just gonna stink I guess.” And my wife says, “No, no. The Lord will take care of it.” My wife always says that, and usually I’m thinking, “Yeah, sure he will.” O’ye of no faith. And so my wife says, “No, God will take care of us. I know God will take care of us. God always takes care of us.”

Well she was raised in a pastor’s home and I was raised in the ghetto. In my neighborhood, you took care of yourself. In her neighborhood, God took care of you. [emphasis added] So she’s got a lot of faith and I’m trying to figure out how I can steal enough money to get a down payment on a home. Well we’re living in our house just doing our ministry, and all of a sudden get a call from a friend in the church. And he says, “I’ve got a big house. Do you want to live there?”

“Well yeah, totally.” And it’s right in the city right at the intersection, and he shows me the house. I’m like, “This is incredible. This is – I can’t believe this house. This is more than we prayed for, but it does everything that we wanted.” We wanted a place where people could live with us who we can train for ministry; where we could put our kids to bed upstairs and entertain on the main floor; have lots of Bible studies; home office. Just our family could be in ministry together and working together and serving together, and the kids could participate in the work of the gospel with us. And we had all these dreams that we were hoping that God would take care of, and he did. So we moved into the house. And through basically the situation that was negotiated, we were able to get into that house and build equity and ultimately buy it here in the recent past.




Part 21 of The Gospel of John

Pastor Mark Driscoll | John 12:1-12 | April 29, 2001


This is a problem. Paul tells us in Romans 1:18 that certain men who are wicked suppress the truth. If I can give you a word picture that always comes to me with that word, it is – if you’ve ever been a kid that went swimming in a lake or in a pool and you bring with you a beach ball, or if you grew up in the ghetto like me, you bring your basketball so you have something to swim with so you don’t drown. [emphasis added] And as a kid, it’s always an attempt that you have to try and suppress the ball and keep it under the water line, and what happens? It comes up and hits you in the mouth is what it does. That’s not the point of the story; it’s just a painful memory that I have from childhood. But you try and suppress that, you try and hold that down, but what happens is it always fights you and comes back up.





Part 5 of Proverbs

Pastor Mark Driscoll | October 28, 2001


You know why schools, Christian schools, Christian churches, Christian ministries are primarily female? Because the church is feminine, and masculine men don’t feel comfortable there. It’s true. The church has adopted, I would say, inordinately the bride metaphor from scripture. Women are very comfortable from that. Men don’t understand that. It’s very hard for a man to think of himself as a bride, wearing a white gown and walking down the aisle. If he’s very comfortable with that, he has significant issues. He has much to work through. And so, there are different metaphors in scripture that men and women will gravitate toward in regards to their relationship with God. For me, this is – this is a very important issue. I was raised in south Seattle, in the ghetto, behind the Déjà vu, next to the airport. Okay? If you’ve been there, you can repent and don’t go there anymore. [emphasis added] But, for the rest of you, if you don’t know where it’s at, that’s fine. It’s – it’s an interesting neighborhood. Gang-banging, drive-by’s, drugs, prostitution, the green river killer was there, the whole thing. One of the local elementary schools would have to go out on Monday and take the used condoms and the syringes off the playground before the kids came. And so, I was the oldest of five kids. And I grew-up in a blue-collar, hard-working, union family. My dad’s name is Joe, and he hangs drywall. Okay?


We – we didn’t watch Will and Grace and think it was funny. We didn’t – we were – we were a very masculine home. Okay? And I had two sisters and two brothers. My brothers’ names are: Mike and Matt. So, it’s Mike, and Mark, and Matt, and Melanie, and Michelle. That’s our family. I don’t know how that happened, but apparently we got stuck right in the middle of the alphabet. And in my neighborhood, my dad hung drywall every day to provide for the family. If you’ve ever hung drywall, it’s work; it’s significant work. To the point where, a few years ago, my dad broke his back hanging drywall and had to give-up drywall, because he literally severed his back. And my dad, when I was little, I remember him telling me, “This is a rough neighborhood. You look out for your brothers. You look out for your sisters. If I’m gone, you take care of the family.” And you had to in my neighborhood. There was kids who were thugs, who were mean. They carried guns. They shot-out one of the cars in front of our house in a drive-by. All kinds of stuff. You have knives and guns pulled on you all the time. So, if you’re gonna be a big brother in that neighborhood, you have got to be tough. And so, I kinda turned into a bit of a street brawler, and kinda the protector of my brothers and my sisters. And this is the way I think the world works. [emphasis added]


My dad’s a guy. My brothers are guys. I’m a guy. We love each other. Things are good. I come from a decent home. And one my biggest fears in high school was becoming a Christian, because 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. And he would tan all year. So, he had a nice bronze glow.


And I didn’t relate to this guy at all, not in the least. I don’t – I don’t – silk? Just – I don’t get that. And so, he – he was this very, very feminine guy. And they tried to – I tried to go to church with my family and I didn’t get it. So, they tried to take me into this youth thing, and it just didn’t work. So, I just left. I said, “That’s it. I’m gone. There’s no men here.” ‘Cause it was all older ladies, women and children. You couldn’t find a guy anywhere near it, and that’s not unusual. When I came to Christ in college, reading the Bible, and realized the gospel, and I went looking for a church; and a few of the first churches I went to were just completely uncomfortable. It was like walking into Victoria’s Secret. The décor, at first, it’s like fuchsia and baby blue, and there’s pink, and it’s just like, “What in the world has happened here?” And then the songs are very emotive, and it’s like love songs to Jesus, like we’re on a prom together or something. And I didn’t get that at all, ‘cause that made me feel real odd. And then – and then the guy preaches, and he’s crying and all this stuff, and trying to appeal to my emotions. And I was just like, “This didn’t work.” So, I kept looking for a church. So, I found a church where the guy got up and he said, “This week I was out bow-hunting.” He used that as an illustration. So, I became a member of that church. True story. I didn’t have any theological convictions, but if a guy killed things then I – he could be my pastor.


And then we moved back to Seattle, my wife and I did, after we got married in college. And we were looking for a church. Couldn’t find a church. Finally ended-up at a good Bible-teaching church with a guy, Hutch, over at Antioch that, you know, he’s a line-backer and played football; and he carries a gun; and he has dogs; and he lives in the woods and he kills things. So, I was like, “This will work.” So, we went there. And I never consciously put this all together until fairly recently; that the average church has primarily older people, small children, and women. [emphasis added]


And you only find, generally, three kinds of men in the average Protestant, Christian church. Catholic, it’s actually the same. One is, guys who are being drug there against their will by their wives. They don’t wanna be there, but their wives just want them there so bad that they have to put a noose around him and drag his carcass to the church. And usually, the only reason she can get him to go is because she wants the children to go, and the children won’t go unless dad goes; especially the boys won’t go. ‘Cause if dad doesn’t go, then the boys won’t go ‘cause they don’t think it’s manly to go to church.

To reinforce this lengthy account with another from 2011


… The last thing I ever thought I would be was a pastor, because growing up Catholic, the pastor is a guy who lives at the church, is flat broke, is committed to never having sex, and walks around in a dress. So pretty much, that was a last career choice of all possible career choices. [emphasis added]

Joe: When he got into high school, he was always into student body president, journalist on a newspaper, redid the high school— somehow or another, he got involved in that. He was always into something.

Yeah, I was a nice—at least I thought—nice, moral Catholic guy. I had a pretty bad temper, did well in school and sports, was dating Grace as a high school student, sleeping with her. She was a pastor’s daughter. So definitely, life was put together wrong.

Exactly when Mark Driscoll picked up a set of criteria for assessing who was and wasn’t gay based on sartorial choices, the model for what constituted manhood to Mark Driscoll and his siblings was probably never in doubt:



Part 15 of Proverbs

Pastor Mark Driscoll | January 27, 2002


To me, when I grew up, man, there were a few rules that my dad laid down. I actually grew up in a good home. My dad was the head of the home. The food chain was clear. And the rules were work hard, never lie, and do not cause your mother grief. You break, one of those rules, run for your life. We were never allowed to speak ill toward my mom or about my mom. And if you lied or you didn’t work hard, you were in over your head. And I am so glad. My – we had five kids in a ghetto poor neighborhood. My mom was a good mom, and my dad held us to a good standard of obedience. [emphases added] I love my parents. We get along very, very well. And my brothers and I all graduated. All of us kids college bound. All did well. All happily married. All making decent money. All doing okay. Young. Why? Because, early on, my dad was like, “You do not curse me. You do not curse your mother. In fact, your duty is to bless her and that’ll build character in you. You speak well of mom. You speak well to mom.”



Part 6 of Ecclesiastes

Pastor Mark Driscoll | Ecclesiastes 4:4-16 | April 27, 2003


The last one is just plain old safety. Verse 12. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” What he’s saying is this. “If any of you wanna fight me, bring somebody with you.” That’s what he’s saying. Why? “because I fight dirty, but if there’s two of you, your odds go up.” That’s exactly what he’s saying. “I grew up in the hood. I grew up in the ghetto.” [emphasis added] This is genius, really. This is the way it works.



Part 8 of Ecclesiastes

Pastor Mark Driscoll | Ecclesiastes 5:8-20 | May 18, 2003


...  Jesus was poor and righteous. Homeless. Poor. Some of you, you are not gonna get a promotion at work and you’ll get a demotion or you’ll get laid off because you’re righteous. I have a cousin who has a sickly child that has been struggling with a brain tumor for many, many years. He’s eight years old and he’s in the process of dying. They’ve just been told that he is going to die. He’s not going to live. So, my cousin, who loves the

Lord, took two weeks off of work and flew his family, including a nurse and his eight year old son, down to Disneyland because that’s his son’s dying wish is to go to Disneyland. Now, his company said, “You don’t have enough vacation time. If you take it, we will fire you.” If he gets fired and he’s poor, he’s still righteous. His poverty is because of his righteousness, that he took his dying son to Disneyland. And because of that, he could lose his job. There is such a thing as a righteous poverty. There is also such a thing as an unrighteous poverty. Lazy deadbeats who blow their money on stupid things. I grew up in the ghetto. I grew up in the hood. I tell you this all the time. I grew up behind a strip club next to the airport. Lovely neighborhood. Just – it’s like Precious Moments without any of the good stuff. [emphasis added] Ummm.


And I grew up in a neighborhood where lots of people were poor, but they were poor because they were lazy and because they made stupid choices. [emphasis added] You could give people in my neighborhood a million dollars and you know what they’d have? New cars. Bling, bling, all this jewelry. They would blow it on lottery tickets. They would go to Vegas. Slurpees.


They would find a way to blow a million dollars. And so, it’s not about being rich or poor; it’s about being righteous and unrighteous and righteousness really comes down to three questions. How do you get your money? How do you get it? In a healthy, good, godly, Biblical way or an unhealthy, godless, un-Biblical way? Then, how do you spend your money? Do you spend it on things that are wise investments and good uses or are you foolish?

And then, thirdly, why? Why do you use money the way that you use it? How do you get it? How do you spend it? And what’s the condition of your heart that compels you toward those decisions? And it’s very, very curious to me that people still get hung up in this issue of rich and poor. It’s not about that. It’s about righteous and unrighteous. It’s interesting, too.

Over the course of twenty years as a self-selected public speaker Mark Driscoll let it be known he grew up in the ghetto, the rough neighborhood. He also let it be known that as he grew up being a street brawler who looked out for his siblings he considered church life to be pretty lame and pretty gay.  What has become evident over the course of his career is that in terms of the family legend he created about how the patriarch Joe Driscoll chose a path out of the drunken white trash redneck milieu of North Dakota, the story Mark Driscoll has shared is that he, too, aspired to more, to better and smarter and nobler things than the other stupid people in the ghetto were content with.  We’ll discuss this more shortly, for every redneck joke Mark Driscoll told he was establishing his background just long enough to trade on the legitimacy it granted him for a few specific polemical contexts; in any other circumstance the redneck background was the butt of jokes, all the better to demonstrate Mark Driscoll was from the white trash culture but no longer part of it.

Mark Driscoll and the Gospel of [escaping] white trash: Part 6--the necessity of the abjection of the redneck in Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill era preaching for his soteriology and for his capacity to connect to a region's stereotypes

It's not mere speculation to say that Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill era preaching was suffused with a kind of redneck theology.  Driscoll underscored this by example during the 2007 sermon series The Rebel's Guide to Joy.


5 of The Rebel's Guide to Joy
Pastor Mark Driscoll | Phil. 2:1-11 | November 04, 2007

Now carne means meat, and it’s the same root word as incarnation. So Jesus is God with meat. That’s what he is. That’s what it means. This is redneck theology. That’s what it is.

There may be no better way to make a case that Mark Driscoll presented us with a redneck Gospel than to point out that he explained the Incarnation of Jesus Christ in explicitly redneck idioms and matter-of-factly declared that the incarnation was God with meat, redneck theology.  Straight from the horse's mouth, as an old saying goes.

By 2008 Mark Driscoll had enough objections come his way about his approach to humor he made it the whole point of one of his sermons:


Part 2 of Religion Saves
Pastor Mark Driscoll | January 13, 2008

...  And then it moves along. God floods the earth, kills everyone except for a family headed by a man named Noah. They climb into an ark. Upon exiting the ark in Genesis 9, there’s this really funny little story where Noah gets drunk and passes out naked in his tent. I mean, the whole book is a hillbilly redneck saga, par excellence. It’s like all of Genesis takes place in a trailer park. It’s absolutely mesmerizing. I preached the book a while back. If you were here, you know it’s filled with redneck comedy. And Noah gets drunk, passes out naked in his tent, like a hillbilly redneck on vacation. And when I see – I see a guy, not with a tent, but blue tarps. I see a guy in swim trunks and cowboy boots, drunk on moonshine with a John Deere cap, sitting around playing Texas hold ‘em with his uncle daddy, eating Hot Pockets. That’s just how I see it.


Number five, keep looking for the line. But here’s the problem. Everyone has the line of propriety at a different place. I preach to you guys, the line’s in one place. Goes out to the campuses, line’s in another place. Goes out on the Internet, the line’s in a totally different place. It’s crazy. I’ll preach on rednecks and make fun of rednecks, and you guys are like, “Ha-ha-ha,” and then I get some sort of rebuke in crayon from Kentucky.

Driscoll recognized that he could very easily make jokes at the expense of rednecks in Seattle that would make him more popular while the same jokes would alienate listeners from Kentucky (assuming he didn't say all of that purely for rhetorical effect, a trait that, as we've seen over the last ten years, is a prominent component of Mark Driscoll's mode of public address).

Why spend so much time joking about the redneck and the hillbilly if that’s Driscoll’s own lineage? What could be accomplished through Mark Driscoll making fun of rednecks for a Seattle crowd? It may be so obvious it actually needs to be said.

One of the observations Jacques Ellul made about the propagandist is that the propagandist cannot work from nothing. The propagandist can't just start from a blank slate.  It's necessary for the propagandist to identify and capitalize on the stereotypes and prejudices that are endemic to the population that is intended to be seduced, agitated or integrated into the propagandist's interests. 

Translated from the French by Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner
Vintage Books Edition, February 1973
Copyright (c) 1965 by Alfred A Knopf Inc.
ISBN 0-394-71874-7

from pages 36-37

The third important conclusion, drawn from experiments made chiefly in the United States, is that propaganda cannot create something out of nothing. It must attach itself to a feeling, an idea; it must build on a foundation already present in the individual. The conditioned reflex can be established only on an innate reflex or a prior conditioned reflex. The myth does not expand helter-skelter; it must respond to a group of spontaneous beliefs. Actions cannot be obtained unless it responds to a group of already established tendencies or attitudes stemming from the schools, the environment, the regime, the churches, and so on. Propaganda is confined to utilizing existing material; it does not create it.

... opinions, conventional patterns and stereotypes exist concretely in a particular milieu or individual.  ... ideologies exist which are more or less consciously shared, accepted, and disseminated, and which form the only intellectual, or rather para-intellectual, element that must be reckoned with in propaganda.

... the propagandist must concern himself above all with the needs of those whom he wishes to reach.

All propaganda must respond to a need, whether it be a concrete need (bread, peace, security, work) or a psychological need. ... The propagandist cannot simply decide to make propaganda in such and such a direction on this or that group. The group must need something, and the propagandist must respond to that need.

So let's propose an idea here. When Mark Driscoll presented an Incarnation of Jesus Christ as a redneck who came to save the world and redeem humans from Satan, sin and death in the flesh of Mark Driscoll's proverbial redneck this was Driscoll's way of translating into contemporary vernacular idioms the old idea that Jesus did not come in the likeness of any beauty or majesty--Driscoll presented the kind of Jesus in this redneck Gospel that urban Seattleites would reject, which can become a way to understand how "wee" would reject Jesus because Jesus offered us nothing. 

The way this rhetorical flourish worked depended on leveraging a stereotype about rednecks and white trash culture as something worthy of abjection.  It may have been the way Mark Driscoll decided to explain the humility with which Christ became human to live with humanity, die for humanity, and redeem us from sin and death not just because it was a useful way to make the strangeness of Jesus' perceived mission clearer but also because nobody aspires to be white trash in the United States.  Not even Mark Driscoll. 

Look at how his narrative of the Driscoll name goes back in that 2010 blog post to the royal lineage.  No American seems that eager to boast of white trash roots ... and if it weren't so unusual Hillbilly Elegy wouldn't be a talking point in sections of the press, would it?

What the Macarthur wing may still not appreciate about Mark Driscoll's translation of the Genesis narrative into the vernacular of white trash attempted to do was to present humanity as a whole in the most white trash possible terms to reveal the abjection of the human condition in a way that would make the coming of Christ, a necessary framing point in which to understand how Mark Driscoll discusses Genesis, explicable--if Jesus became incarnate in redneck terms to save hopelessly lost rednecks then who would object?  Well, some people did object although it's not clear whether what they objected to was what they regarded as the blasphemous way of discussing biblical narrative or possibly also at the transformation of the biblical narrative into a white trash epic--

If, as I've been proposing this year, Mark Driscoll can be understood less as a pastor with competency in biblical studies and pastoral care and more as a well-trained and calculating propagandist, then Mark Driscoll playing to Seattle area stereotypes about white trash could explain the paradoxical and to many progressive/secularist writers the still baffling appeal Mark Driscoll came to have.  Mark Driscoll's views on women and gays were supposed to have made him foundationally unappealing to urbane Seattleites, right?  His jokes about feminists and gays were in disastrously poor taste, right? 

Well, for those who were only setting out to be offended by those kinds of jokes let's observe that the record shows that on a sermon for sermon basis Mark Driscoll may have told a whole lot more jokes about rednecks, hillbillies and so on.  Driscoll spent more time making fun of the group of people that, as one memoir has told us lately, it's considered acceptable across the board to still look down on.  Leveraging Puget Sound area stereotypes about white trash could have played a powerful double role in Mark Driscoll's public rhetoric. 

The first thing it did was run with an existing stereotype in the region that holds a negative view about white trash, whether urban or rural.  The second thing it accomplished was that by taking the white trash milieu and then transposing Jesus' incarnation into a kind of redneck-meat-incarnation Mark Driscoll was able to present Jesus' incarnation as taking on a humility of not merely becoming human but a human in the socio-economic strata of a culture that had zero prestige and was even the butt of taunts. 

But there's also a third thing that could be accomplished by Mark Driscoll joking steadily about the white trash world that Joe Driscoll chose to leave.  There are two basic modes of humor, laughing with and laughing at. There’s little room to contest the idea that Mark Driscoll decided to laugh at the redneck rather than with the redneck. It could have given him plenty of opportunity to emotionally and socially distance himself from his own background.  For every redneck joke he told, in whatever form, he had an opportunity to argue to himself and the public that he was in some sense no longer himself an exemplar of the redneck milieu.  That might be the closest a person could get to eating your cake yet having it, too. Over the years Mark Driscoll could joke as if he could discern who had more degrees than Fahrenheit and was educated beyond their intelligence and when a suitable moment came, could invoke his argument-trumping credentials with the best of them.  But in order to pull off this rhetorical feat, Driscoll would have to leave a back door open that would admit to the white trash roots of his identity.

Mark Driscoll and the Gospel of [escaping] white trash: part 7--put down people with more degrees than Fahrenheit ca. 2003-2007, invoke credentials in 2012-2013 in response to a "kerfuffle", an arc of double standards on credentials

In order to more fully flesh out some implications of Mark Driscoll as a man of white trash lineage who spent his public ministry simultaneously invoking the idioms of the redneck for their colloquial appeal while belittling rednecks/hillbillies/white trash as a group to distance himself from them, it might be useful to quote something from Rod Dreher's conversation with the author of Hillbilly Elegy:


Rod Dreher
I’m not a hillbilly, nor do I descend from hillbilly stock, strictly speaking. But I do come from poor rural white people in the South. I have spent most of my life and career living among professional class urbanite, most of them on the East Coast, and the barely-banked contempt they — the professional-class whites, I mean — have for poor white people is visceral, and obvious to me. Yet it is invisible to them. Why is that? And what does it have to do with our politics today?

I know exactly what you mean.  My grandma (Mamaw) recognized this instinctively.  She said that most people were probably prejudiced, but they had to be secretive about it.  “We”–meaning hillbillies–“are the only group of people you don’t have to be ashamed to look down upon.”  During my final year at Yale Law, I took a small class with a professor I really admired (and still do).  I was the only veteran in the class, and when this came up somehow in conversation, a young woman looked at me and said, “I can’t believe you were in the Marines.  You just seem so nice.  I thought that people in the military had to act a certain way.”  It was incredibly insulting, and it was my first real introduction to the idea that this institution that was so important among my neighbors was looked down upon in such a personal way. To this lady, to be in the military meant that you had to be some sort of barbarian.  I bit my tongue, but it’s one of those comments I’ll never forget. 

The “why” is really difficult, but I have a few thoughts.  The first is that humans appear to have some need to look down on someone; there’s just a basic tribalistic impulse in all of us.  And if you’re an elite white professional, working class whites are an easy target: you don’t have to feel guilty for being a racist or a xenophobe.  By looking down on the hillbilly, you can get that high of self-righteousness and superiority without violating any of the moral norms of your own tribe.  So your own prejudice is never revealed for what it is. [emphasis added]


On the other hand, as Hillbilly Elegy says so well, that reflexive reverse-snobbery of the hillbillies and those like them is a real thing too, and something that undermines their prospects in life. Is there any way for it to be overcome, other than getting out of the bubble, as you did?

I’m not sure we can overcome it entirely. Nearly everyone in my family who has achieved some financial success for themselves, from Mamaw to me, has been told that they’ve become “too big for their britches.” [emphasis added] I don’t think this value is all bad.  It forces us to stay grounded, reminds us that money and education are no substitute for common sense and humility.  But, it does create a lot of pressure not to make a better life for yourself, and let’s face it: when you grow up in a dying steel town with very few middle class job prospects, making a better life for yourself is often a binary proposition: if you don’t get a good job, you may be stuck on welfare for the rest of your life.

What Dreher and Vance were discussing is straightforward enough.  Now that Mark Driscoll has relocated into Arizona and has begun to put up old sermons we can revisit some of those older sermons and writings to consider whether or not there were times when Mark Driscoll had his own variation of saying someone had become too big for their britches. Before Mark Driscoll had amassed, to his own understanding, credentials enough to invoke as pre-emptive trump cards on public issues, he had a history of inveighing against those sorts of people who tried to do that.

It's not that hard to establish.



Part 1 of Ecclesiastes
Pastor Mark Driscoll | Ecclesiastes 1:1-18 | March 16, 2003

Some say, “But, did he try this? Did he try this? Did he try this?” He did. Verse 17 – “Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this too is a chasing after the wind.” What he says is this – “There’s two approaches to finding meaning in your life. One is high brow.” Some people go high brow. “I’ll get a suit.” “I’ll figure out what the salad fork is actually for.” “I won’t drive my car. I’ll pay a driver.” “I will go to the symphony and I will pretend that large, Italian women yelling at me is enjoyable.” [emphasis added]

“I will eat good food. I will drink good wine. I will sleep in a nice bed.” “And I will use big words that I don’t understand and I will live the high brow life.” And he said, “I did that. I went to college and got more degrees than Fahrenheit. I spent all kinds of money and hung out with very sophisticated people. And you know what? They’re all just lost and crooked and confused and frustrated like everybody else.” [emphasis added] So, he said, “You know what? I tried folly as well. I looked over, saw my redneck neighbors, thought, ‘Hey, they look happy’. Maybe they’re drunk and not that bright, but they look happy, so maybe they have an angle.” So, he says, “You know what? I tried that as well. I got rid of my suit, got all NASCAR t-shirts.”

“I got rid of my condo in Belltown and I got myself a brand new old trailer. I took all the furniture and put it outside in the yard. Don’t know why. All the neighbors did it, didn’t wanna stick out.”


Part 27 of 1st Corinthians
Pastor Mark Driscoll | 1 Corinthians 12:1-8; 11 | August 06, 2006

So the whole point of study is what? Love of Jesus. You can memorize the whole Bible. You can get more degrees than Fahrenheit but if you don’t love Jesus, you kinda miss the whole point. [emphasis added] The whole point of all study and knowledge is the love of Jesus through science and through medicine and through law and through philosophy and through history and through theology. What does this reveal about God? What does this tell me about Jesus?

That’s how you study.

Vintage Jesus, page 148
Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
Copyright (c) 2007 by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
ISBN 978-1-58134-975-7 (HC)

Following in Jefferson’s and Paine’s fatal footsteps, in 1985 the two hundred fellows (a.k.a. kindling) of the Jesus Seminar gathered to vote on the probability of the truthfulness of the words and deeds of Jesus as recorded in Scripture. By the time they were finished, they surmised that only 18 percent of what is recorded as Jesus’ words in the Gospels were actually said by Jesus. Only one statement from the Gospel of Mark got voted in. Even the most critical of scholars think that the trustworthiness of Scripture is a lot better than this. These guys were obviously educated beyond their intelligence. [emphasis added]

Now certainly a Christian can affirm that love for Christ and devotion to Christ's teaching and example and to regard Jesus as Lord and God is the thing that defines a Christian, if we aim to boil everything down.  That's not necessarily the point, which is to observe that it's fairly easy to establish that Mark Driscoll's polemics against people with doctrinal views or views of biblical texts he disagreed with was to say these people had more degrees than Fahrenheit and were educated beyond their intelligence.  These were people, in a phrase, too big for their britches.  When there was a possibility that "nerds" would contest an interpretation Mark Driscoll had for a biblical text based on the Greek Driscoll could be summarily dismissive of that whole approach.  Or at least that could be the approach until it was his turn to assert he was right, as when he proposed Song of Songs 2 had to refer to a woman performing oral sex on her husband regardless of having failed to make a compelling exegetical case for that interpretive approach in the last ... twenty years.



from A Blog Post for the Brits, published by Mark Driscoll January 12, 2012:


I have a degree in communications from one of the top programs in the United States. So does my wife, Grace. We are used to reporters with agendas and selective editing of long interviews. Running into reporters with agendas and being selectively edited so that you are presented as someone that is perhaps not entirely accurate is the risk one takes when trying to get their message out through the media.




I don’t pretend to be the world’s greatest writer. But I did start writing professionally as a journalist in high school, paid my way through high school and college writing articles and editing my college newspaper, got a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the top-notch Edward R. Murrow School of Communication, and have written blogs and articles for everyone from CNN to the Washington Post to Fox News.

It's frankly impossible to take seriously any claim from Mark Driscoll that what he wrote by way of op-ed editorializing for The Daily Evergreen as professional journalism of any kind.  Still, it's interesting to observe how during the 2012-2013 period Mark Driscoll was very ready to tell the world what his credentials and status were as a way to pre-emptively secure his case.



An Official Response to The Kerfuffle At Liberty University
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Apr 16, 2012


Lately, I’ve been busy with something you may have heard of called Easter. So, I’ve not been on the Internet much but instead busy with church and family. However, rumor has it there is a bit of mushroom cloud of controversy over my planned trip. So, I asked our community relations manager, who gets to enjoy reading blogs about me while eating breakfast every day (it’s amazing he holds anything down), to give me a summary of this kerfuffle. (Henceforth, we will officially refer to this situation as “The Kerfuffle.”)

The trouble started with a Southern Baptist blogger . . . yes, you should have seen that one coming. Now, to be fair, the blogger quoted an anonymous “source.” And, we all know that almost everything bloggers say is true. But, when they have something as solid as an anonymous “source,” then you can rest assured that when Jesus talked about the truth over and over in John, this is precisely what he was referring to. I have a degree from Washington State’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and worked professionally as a journalist, and I can assure you that The Kerfuffle is a very serious matter to be taken with the utmost sobriety and propriety. In fact, one anonymous “source” I spoke to said that Watergate pales in comparison.

The irony of this juxtaposition in just half a decade would hardly seem worth commenting on if Mark Driscoll had not lately positioned himself in Scottsdale with a new church plant.  It's easy to talk about how a person weathers storms while skimming over just how much of those storms could ... conceivably ... be explained as variations on pride going before a fall. 

A decade earlier Mark Driscoll would have scoffed at the idea, from the pulpit, that merely invoking credentials proved you had won the argument or even knew what you were talking about.  That's what made Mark Driscoll's eagerness to invoke his credentials and reputation to pre-emptively settle scores over an interview with Justin Brierley or the "kerfuffle" at Liberty University in 2012 such a drastic contrast between the rules for "me" and the rules for "thee". 

It's impossible to not notice the condescension with which Driscoll talked about having been distracted by this thing called Easter.  It didn't take long for Driscoll to invoke Washington State University's Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and remind people that he worked professionally as a journalist (without mentioning the apparently all op-ed side of that). 

Within ten years’ time the guy who was functionally saying scholars who disputed doctrines he considered essential were too big for their britches by having more degrees than Fahrenheit and being educated beyond their intelligence was riding pretty high.  By late 2013 a fateful on-air interview with Janet Mefferd started to change things. 

During the first quarter of 2012 Mark Driscoll avoided any public occasion to discuss the disciplinary case of Andrew Lamb or the publication of the Petry documents at Joyful Exiles.  But if the controversy was something like justifying his approach to Elephant Room 2 or riffing on the "kerfuffle" or even doing a pre-emptive character hit on Justin Brierley, Mark Driscoll was more than ready.  So long as the controversy in question swirled around his public persona he was ready to talk.  Once a controversy swirled around the substance and credibility of what he published things and how he handled things as the lately crowned legal president of Mars Hill things were very different.

One of the questions that never got asked along the way in the scandals that swirled around Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill from 2013 through 2014 is "why?"  Not just why Result Source was contracted or books weren't credited and cited in first editions but why someone in leadership at Mars Hill would have felt there was any need for any of that.  In some effort to work toward proposing a possible theory we can revisit years' worth of stuff Mark Driscoll shared for the record about his family background.