Mark Driscoll and the he-man woman-haters Gospel

I started writing this back when Mark Driscoll was still head of Mars Hill Church and Mars Hill Church was still a thing. I set it aside when he resigned,  thinking perhaps it wasn’t relevant anymore. 

But grifters gotta grift, I guess, and there seems to be no level of humiliation that’ll ever really get rid of con men like Driscoll. He’s all set up to pretend nothing ever happened, and get another congregation going in Arizona

Don’t be fooled. He is still the man who wrote under the pseudonym “William Wallace II.” In the original discussion thread, and also now that the statements have found a wider audience, there are some who defend Driscoll as making a “sound point” even if crudely and rudely expressed.

That’s what I want to address here. What point is Driscoll really making? And is that point sound, in a theological sense, or any sense at all? 

As a warning — in the portion that follows, I quote his words directly, in order to analyze them, and they are grotesque and vile, which should tell you something about any potential theological soundness right there. (“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” — James 1:26 )

We live in a completely pussified nation.

Starting off with a crude idiom to claim we live in a “feminized” nation — do we really need to continue with this? The “feminization” of modern American life is a common talking point for “Men’s Rights” types and Donald Trump enthusiasts, but what do they actually mean? By any objective measure, women are not, as a whole, equal to men in terms of social and economic power. Men continue to earn more money, run more companies, and fill more political offices. 

So if he’s not talking about power and money, what is he talking about?

We could get every man, real man as opposed to pussified James Dobson knock-off crying Promise Keeping homoerotic worship loving mama’s boy sensitive emasculated neutered exact male replica evangellyfish, and have a conference in a phone booth.

Apparently he’s talking about men — perhaps evangelical men in particular — acting emotional and “sensitive,” being close to their mothers, and not being very sexual. So, he’s talking about “feminized” in aspect or demeanor — men who don’t act “macho.” 

In that context, though, I’m puzzled by the idea of James Dobson and Promise Keepers — both highly patriarchal and explicitly anti-gay — as somehow being “pussified” and “homoerotic.” What exactly does it take to be a “real man” in Driscoll’s eyes, if a bunch of bossy patriarchs still aren’t cutting it? Do they just not swear enough? Is swearing what makes you a real man?

It all began with Adam, the first of the pussified nation, who kept his mouth shut and watched everything fall headlong down the slippery slide of hell/feminism when he shut his mouth and listened to his wife who thought Satan was a good theologian when he should have lead her and exercised his delegated authority as king of the planet.

Is this a sound interpretation of the Adam & Eve & the snake story? Let’s take a look. Here it is, in the King James Version:

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.


Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.

And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

Having been raised, like Mr. Driscoll, as an evangelical, I’ve been reading this story since I was a little kid. There are a few things about it that have always troubled me. 

One, is that I was always told we worshiped a God who was omnipotent, omniscient, and non-corporeal except for the whole Jesus thing. And here he is, described as walking in the garden because it’s hot out, and having to ask Adam whether or not he ate from the tree. So it has to be a metaphor, right? Except that evangelicals are really squicky about firmly declaring anything in the Bible to be a metaphor — perhaps because once you declare one bit to be a metaphor, who’s to say it’s not all metaphor? 

Two, based purely on the text, there’s no reason to think the serpent is anything other than an anthropomorphized animal such as you might find in many folktales. It’s not Satan. It’s just a talking snake. How did we start thinking it was Satan?

The final thing, is that, in a literal sense, the serpent was telling the truth, and God lied. So, although I enjoy the story as a folktale, I question its utility as a work of moral instruction. 

Do you see Eve doing anything special to convince Adam to eat the fruit? A hint of some big power struggle going on? That if only Adam had “exercised his authority,” things would have gone differently? Because none of that is in there. Almost nothing that people habitually read into the Adam/Eve/serpent story is actually in there. This is just a little folktale about why humans are different from other animals.

Back to Driscoll:

As a result, he was cursed for listening to his wife and every man since has been his pussified sit quietly by and watch a nation of men be raised by bitter penis envying burned feministed single mothers who make sure that Johnny grows up to be a very nice woman who sits down to pee.

This is a completely incoherent spew of misogyny word salad. “Feminism” and “pussified” men have existed since literally the dawn of humankind, but are also a horrible new problem that plagues this once-great nation? And who cares whether guys sit down when they urinate? Is that even a thing? Since when was penis envy associated with single mothers? What part of the statement is “burned” supposed to modify?

One day Johnny finally gives in to the pressure of his pre-humpers singles ministry and gets stuck with some gal left on the shelf long after her expiration date that is just like dear old mom who wants him to shut up like Adam, take his beating, and join a church men’s group that is really a woman’s group in disguise complete with cookies and crying and antidepressants to cope with the insanity.

What on earth does “pre-humpers singles ministry” mean? Is he mocking the expectation that unmarried Christians will be virgins? Heaping scorn on his fellow Christians for acting exactly as their religious community expects them to act?

As for giving in to their pressure and getting stuck with “Some gal left on the shelf long after her expiration date” — he’s making the singles ministry sound like a bunch of matchmaking yentas (which may or may not be accurate), but he’s also making himself sound like a total “men’s rights” jerk, evoking one of their favorite talking points: that any “real” man deserves only the most “valuable” woman, and that her value is measured by her beauty, youth, and presumed fertility. 

So what exactly does he think the singles ministry should do instead? Find Johnny a “better” woman? Let him sleep around without judging? 

As for “take his beating” — who is supposed to be beating him? The singles ministry? The new wife? The mother? Is he trying to argue that getting married is (for a man) the equivalent of being physically abused? That seems kind of — well, sick, actually. It seems sick. I really hope that’s not what he means. But if that’s not what he means, what on earth does he mean?

Poor Johnny is by now so completely whacked that he’s afraid of having kids and hold off his taking on any more responsibility as long as he can because Johnny is a boy trapped in a man’s body walking around in a world of other boys all trying to keep their pee pee behind their zipper and do just like their momma told them and be good women.

Poor, poor, Johnny. He grew up in the church, and the church expected him to get married, so he did. Wow, what incredible torment Johnny has suffered. 

There are certainly people who argue that raising a child in any kind of religion is a form of child abuse, but is that really what Driscoll wants us to take away from this? That being raised evangelical will make you “whacked”?

Driscoll is an EVANGELICAL PASTOR. How can he hate his own religion that much?

Anyway, Johnny doesn’t want to take on the responsibility of raising his own children because he’s a boy in a man’s body. Okay. That almost makes sense. 

But then Johnny is also apparently wandering around in a world of men who are really boys, who are really women. (?) And if they were really men they would take their penises out and wave them around instead of keeping them behind their zipper? Isn’t it generally acknowledged that it is children, not adults, who like to run pantsless through the neighborhood going “wheee, look at my thingy everybody!” By Driscoll’s logic, subway flashers are the very pinnacle of mature “real man”-hood. 

And so the culture and families and churches sprint to hell because the men aren’t doing their job

The job of taking out your penis and waving it around, apparently. He hasn’t explained what other jobs he might consider to be a man’s job. 

and the feminists continue their rant that it’s all our fault and we should just let them be pastors and heads of homes and run the show.

Notice that he doesn’t allow for the possibility of an egalitarian cooperative household, without a “head.” Also notice that women being pastors sometimes is completely the same as women “running the show.” This is classic anti-feminist stuff — if women are EVER in charge of ANYTHING, that’s exactly the same as women having completely turned the tables and now men are ones who are oppressed. 

Anti-feminists rarely seem to notice they’re tacitly admitting that one sex “running the show” is a form of oppression. 

And the more we do, the more hell looks like a good place because at least a man is in charge, has a bit of order and let’s men spit and scratch as needed.

Driscoll, if you truly think hell looks like a good place, I strongly suggest that you go there. In fact, why don’t you go there anyway? 

As for the polite society that tells men to keep it in their pants — women are usually the immediate instructors of this, as in, the first person who ever told you “don’t do that in public” was probably your mom. But that has nothing to do with feminism. There’s no official feminist position on spitting or scratching.

And all their whining and fighting is nothing more than further evidence that we are still kings and unless we do our job everyone and everything is getting screwed except Johnny (metaphorically speaking of course).

“We are still kings” — we being men, I suppose, and that is obviously an anti-feminist sentiment, but is it Christian? Are Christian men supposed to be kings? Because I missed that part of the New Testament. 

So, that was crude, misogynistic, aggressive, bullying, weird, and melodramatic, but what was he actually talking about? The dangers of single motherhood? The failures of church men’s groups? His own deep-seated neurotic disturbance about that one time his mom caught him masturbating and raised holy hell about it and he’s never really gotten over it and forgiven his mom, or indeed, women in general? 

Driscoll’s usual mode of discourse is somewhat cleaned up for general audiences, but still expresses more or less the same attitude and ideas: 

In the early 1990s, fresh out of college, Driscoll saw a problem with the state of Christianity: There were no men. In a 2006 interview with the organization Desiring God, Driscoll said, “Church today, it’s just a bunch of nice, soft, tender, chickified church boys. Sixty percent of Christians are chicks, and the forty percent that are dudes are still sort of chicks.” The main reason Driscoll himself had a hard time accepting Christianity was that he couldn’t bring himself to worship “a gay hippie in a dress.” But as he read about Jesus and Elijah and Paul, the gospels started to appeal to him—and he saw a way for them to appeal to other self-proclaimed macho men. “I’ve gotta think these guys were dudes. Heterosexual, win-a-fight, punch-you-in-the-nose dudes.” This revelation became the foundation for his narrative of a masculine, tough-love Christianity. “If you want to win a war, you have to get the men,” Driscoll preaches in a 2006 promotional film on church planting called A Good Soldier.

There you have it. A “dude” — a real man — is somebody who will punch you in the nose. Is Jesus — or Paul — or Elijah — actually on record as having punched anybody in the nose? Ever? No. Nor are they on record as having been “gay” or worn “dresses.” They’re not actually on record as being heterosexual, either. 


Jesus in particular is portrayed as being a rebel by displaying compassion which I think is kind of an awesome character trait myself, and much more admirable than punching people in the face.
In the Gospels, Jesus is terrified of going to the cross, which is basically being tortured to death and I think that would frighten anybody. Being scared isn’t shown as making him less of a man. It doesn’t make anybody less of a man, or less of a hero. Choosing to do something that frightens you takes way more courage than just being a stone-cold sociopath whose fear circuits aren’t operational. That’s hardly even courage at all. 

“Jesus wept” is one of the most famous Bible verses for a reason. No, he’s not a big crybaby in the manner of John Boehner or Glenn Beck, but he did weep, at least once, and it’s kind of a big deal.  

He also had two notorious fits of temper. One, storming through the moneychangers in the temple, is usually regarded as a crowning moment of awesome: one of Jesus’ greatest hits. The other, where he withers a fig tree, is depicted as baffling even to the disciples at the time. (My personal theory: low blood sugar.) 

Punching people (both actual and metaphoric) can make you a hero, or it can make you a bully — it matters who you’re punching and why. And it’s a poor measure of heroism anyway, because the situations where punching would actually solve anything are rare, and the men who are capable of solving things with a punch, even when a punch would solve things, are — you know, a lot rarer than men like to imagine. 

You dudes are not Captain America, okay? Just like I’m not Buffy Summers. The difference? I KNOW that I’m not Buffy. Most women do. But guys — guys seem to have this unshakable belief that secretly, deep down, somehow, in spite of being a sweaty middle-aged couch potato, they have this magic punching power, and someday when it REALLY counts, they’ll turn into Captain America and PUNCH THE WHOLE WORLD IN THE FACE!

Yeah, no. That’s not going to happen. 

Driscoll has constructed a “macho” masculine identity, and sold it to his congregation, that is 100 percent dependent on women voluntarily giving up their power, authority, and autonomy. The pre-feminist view was that women couldn’t do all sorts of things — have a job, serve in combat, lead a nation. The new anti-feminist claim is that women can, maybe, but they shouldn’t because they’re messing everything up. Somehow. They’re destroying the family/God’s plan/the entire fabric of civilization. 

But really, all of these come down to the same thing: they’re destroying the patriarchal basis of male ego and identity. And the patriarchal men are crying out in the wilderness in their pain. Women, get back to your rightful place, and save me!  And the feminists say, you’re a jerk, and I don’t care about your pain. If you’re really so tough, save yourself.

But I guess pain is real, even emotional pain suffered by jerks. Maybe there really is a legitimate deep-seated identity crisis going on in masculinity. Still, dudes, you will not solve it by expecting women to contort themselves so that they reflect back to you the identity you want to believe you have. Any identity you get that way will be false, based on lies — you’re the emperor in his “new clothes” strolling naked through town, everyone too intimidated to tell you what they really see.

You can’t truly make yourself a king by ordering everyone else to play at being peasants. Most of them won’t be willing to try, and the ones who are, still aren’t doing you any favors. They’re enabling you to act like a pathetic, narcissistic bully. 

The “real man” of Driscoll’s fevered imaginings is not a man at all. He’s a screaming, needy toddler forever stuck in the “terrible twos,” resisting his toilet training, dependent on his “mommy” for everything, yet prone to “I hate you mommy!” tantrums whenever she tells him he can’t do everything he wants every second of every day. He likes to pretend that he’s James Bond or John Wayne, a spy or a cowboy or a gangster, but he’s a toddler, so it’s all playacting. Oh, but he’ll get very put out if you don’t play along. In fact, not playing along is absolutely guaranteed to get you a tantrum of epic intensity. 

A real man who is great, is great in himself. He doesn’t need other people to be less. In fact, a really great man will help other people to be more. 

Patriarchal Christian dudes, you need a new role model. 

Hey, I know! You could use Jesus. I mean, the actual Jesus as depicted in the Gospels, not some imaginary right wing tough guy Jesus who liked to punch people in the face. 

Was he tough? Sure. Everybody was tougher back then, by modern standards. They walked hundreds of miles barefoot through a desert. We get all bent out of shape when there’s no air conditioning and we can’t find a parking space close enough to the shopping center. 

Are you tough enough to sign up to get crucified? Probably not. I always thought that was the point of Jesus as a role model. But modern evangelical men of Driscoll’s ilk try to prove how tough they are not through a willingness to suffer themselves, but instead by insisting on the suffering of others — women, gay and transgender people, the poor. Very tough, indeed. But stonehearted cruelty is toughness as a vice, not a virtue.

Jesus respected other people — including, and especially, people who were not respected by society as a whole. The Gospels make this a major character trait. He respected people of low status. He respected women. He respected his mother. He respected children. 

He never punched anybody in the face. But he would step up to protect someone else from getting punched in the face. (Or pelted to death with stones, which is considerably worse than getting punched in the face.) He had a temper, sure, but he didn’t just pop off at people all the time (he took it out on the fig tree). He knew when it was, and was not, appropriate to kick ass and take names.

And, in the end, he did what had to be done and suffered what had to be suffered, in order to try to save the world. If you’re a Christian, you believe that he did save the world. And if you’re a Christian, Jesus is already supposed to be your role model, right? Your number one hero? Your Buffy, your Superman, your Captain America?

But that goes whether you’re male or female. Female Christians don’t get a different, separate-but-equal complementarian Jesus, they get the same Jesus. And male Christians don’t get a special tough guy Jesus either. They don’t get a special he-man woman-haters Gospel where they get to punch people in the face instead of turning the other cheek. 

If Driscoll can’t handle that, perhaps he should look into practicing a different religion. Or, at least, another line of work.