I really shouldn’t have expected anything distinctively sane from a magazine called ‘Relevant‘. That was a huge mistake, and one that I can assure my faithful readership I will never make again. The magazine as a whole is committed to pedantically insisting that Christians can, pretty much be cool too, if they just try hard enough. Personally, I find this idea completely insane. Out of all the people I’ve ever met I have yet to meet someone who is clearly a Christian who is able to fill out all the aspects of coolness that are demanded by our culture. But I digress. My point in all this was merely that I should have expected something as stupid, insipid, and sophomoric as this from Relevant Magazine.
In a multiple-person interview that originally ran in early 2007, Relevant Magazine asked seven questions to various evangelical church leaders about what the most important challenges to the evangelical churches in a America are at this time in history. The answers vary from the utterly boring, to the sadly uniformed, to the sort of ok, to the downright ridiculous. Mark Driscoll’s answers however, were in a class of their own. In response to the question “What do you see as the greatest challenge for young Christians in the next 10 years?” he responded:
There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity. [Italics added]
I am of course most interested in Driscoll’s comment that he is unable to worship someone he can beat up. Strangely enough this would seem that he is unable to worship Jesus. As John Howard Yoder pointed out in reflection on John 1, the proclamation that the Word became flesh “does not simply mean that God became tangible. It means he became weak, undignified, vulnerable. The power behind the creation came among us in such a way that we can hurt him.” The whole reality of Jesus is as one who makes himself vulnerable, who puts himself at the mercy of the forces of sin and death that we have unleashed upon the world. Driscoll is almost certainly right, he could indeed beat up Jesus, and if he saw him, I’m afraid he probably would!
The real Jesus, the Jesus who makes himself vulnerable, thereby revealing the nature and reality of God from all eternity as love is not nearly exciting enough for Driscoll. His Jesus is a kaleidoscopic amalgamation of Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, and a cadre of mixed martial-arts welterweight champions. If Jesus is not an ass-kicking man’s man who changes his own oil, wins bar fights, and ropes cattle, he certainly is not worthy of Driscoll’s worship.
What is ultimately so revealing about this whole statement is not so much that is shows clearly that Mark Driscoll is insanely insecure about his own male identity – though it certainly shows that with sublime clarity. What is revealing about this quote is how it shows the bombastically western notion of masculinity that defines large swaths of evangelicalism. For Driscoll anything less than the assertion that God himself is a gun-slinging son of a bitch makes one into a wuss who deserves nothing more than ridicule. Driscoll lives in a world of binary oppositions. You either have to be a cage fighter ready to beat the shit out of anyone who so much as glances at your girlfriend, or you are a pot-smoking hipster pinko who does nothing but surf the net on a Mac all day and drink organic microbrews.
It’s a wonderfully simple world of black and white simplicity that Driscoll lives in. And what makes it really great is that he gets to live at the very tip top of this world’s power structure (maybe just below his Jesus character, pictured to the left). He is the last of the true Christians. In a world of effeminate losers toting Derrida around in their beer-stained man purses, Driscoll is standing in the gap, fighting for truth, justice, and of course, the American way. It’s a world where everything is stark, everything is simple and God is remade comfortably in Mark Driscoll’s masculine image. Wallowing in his self-aggrandizement, Driscoll makes certain to let everyone know that he is one of the 25 most powerful people in Seattle according to Seattle Magazine (as advertised on the site for Driscoll’s new book). Just about everything he says or does seems like a plea: “Goddammit, I’m a man! Am too!”
What makes the world of Mark Driscoll so fascinating is not just that it insane (which it is), or that is so obviously the product of western culture rather than the Bible or the Christian tradition (which is clear). What is interesting about it is how utterly obvious it is that this world is a complete fabrication. I cannot imagine anyone looking for a moment at the stuff that Mark Driscoll spouts and not immediately realizing that this guy is obviously freaked out by the world and is doing everything that he can to construct an alternative reality for himself and other like-minded people to live in. In Mark Driscoll’s world Jesus actually did come to kick the Romans’ ass (or we wish he had) and he calls us to be iron-pumping, football heroes who slam nerds into lockers and date the hottest girl on the cheerleading squad (without having premarital sex of course).
In other words, Mark Driscoll is Wally Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver. Or, more accuarately, he is Wally after his freshman year of college. He’s wised up enough to know that he better be able to beat people up, and force his point in order to keep himself above the morass of pagan decadence in this evil world, but hasn’t yet awoken to the fact that his world, which he thinks is divinely ordained, is in fact, a culturally produced schizophrenia. It is the death throws of a handfull of white western males who are consumed with the terror of the knowledge deep down that they are no longer in control of American culture and history. And this is precisely why Mark Driscoll is pathetic. In spite of all his bombast and goofy machismo, he is, in the last analysis a very sad, lonely person. That’s how you get when you have to construct your whole world. The very things that could bring him liberation are the very things he sneers at. Living out of control, embracing vulnerability, allowing oneself to be put into question, these are the very things that he cannot stomach. They are far too effeminate and girly for a man like him to countenance. They are marks of the hippie Jesus that Driscoll could never worship. However they are the very shape of the salvation offered in crucified, murdered Jesus. Driscoll is rejecting the very things that could set him free in his attempt to make Christianity distinctive.