The pomo darling boy of the super-reformed emerging church has recently drawn the ire of some of his fellow conservative, reformed evangelical friends. Mark Driscoll has long been known for his regular practice of cussing from the pulpit and engaging in many, many quite explicit sermons about (marital) sex. He has often said that the Song of Solomon is his favorite book of the Bible. In a lot of evangelical circles that are antagonistic to the perceived liberalism of the emerging church, Driscoll has been something of a poster-child for a while. Here we have a younger pastor who dresses cool, is “culturally relevant” and who’s still militantly conservative, insists that men must exert authority over women in every context, and who holds unswervingly to Westminster-style reformed theology.
However, I guess Driscoll’s theological and political allegiances aren’t enough to keep him in the good graces of the conservative evangelical literati. His regular sermons about sex, which often consist of straight up commands to the women of the church to perform whatever sex acts their husbands might desire have not been well-received by the likes of John MacArthur and John Piper. What’s interesting, though is what particular transgressions this outrage has been directed towards.
Most everyone is talking about the fact that the problem with Driscoll is the inappropriateness of his language. Its just not okay for you to be talking explicitly about sex and cussing from the pulpit. That’s the downbeat of the current backlash, and that’s the central issue that has framed the current debate among evangelicals that run in these circles. To his credit, MacArthur (who I generally despise, at least theologically if not personally) has put is finger on the more troubling issue here. Namely that Driscoll’s sexual explicitness is all deployed in the interest of coercing women to fulfill whatever sexual whims their husbands might have. As MacArthur rightly points out, Driscoll’s regular sermons on what the Song of Song has to say about sex always ends up pointing out “obligatory acts wives must do if this is what satisfies their husbands, regardless of the wife’s own desire or conscience.” This is the real problem, people.
Lest anyone think Driscoll is being misrepresented here, listen to just a couple quotes from one of these sex sermons: “Ladies, let me assure you of this: if you think you’re being dirty, he’s pretty happy. Jesus Christ commands you to do this.” This is misogyny sexual domination at its worst. From the pulpit we have an evangelical pastor ordering the women in his church to perform any sex act a husband might desire because, after all, Jesus commands this. In the Song of Songs. I guess.
What’s so disturbing about all this is the way this little kerfuffle is being framed as simply a problem with inappropriate language. The Victorian sensibilities about what is proper verbal etiquette among evangelicals trump the rampant exploitation, degradation, and misogyny that this allegedly Christian pastor is perpetrating on thousands of women on a weekly basis. This is a disgrace. A filthy, sickening disgrace.