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Church or Cult?
February 2, 2012 9:24 PM   Subscribe

Inside the creepy and controling world of Seattle's Mars Hill Church, home of "real marriage".
posted by Artw (81 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh hey, sup Muscular Chrisitany, Christ The Warrior, haven't send you in a while, how's tricks?
posted by The Whelk at 9:29 PM on February 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


If there's anything that I took away from the Gospels, it's that we should do everything we can to avoid behaving lovingly to each other.

Wait, no, that's what Driscoll took away.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:30 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jesus was a rich Prince, like your master, that's why you must toil for him.
posted by The Whelk at 9:32 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


we should do everything we can to avoid behaving lovingly to each other.

As long as you don't "love" yourself, which is gay, apparently.
posted by Artw at 9:35 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is my favorite Mark Driscoll interview.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:36 PM on February 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Is this a double of the Tea Party Jesus post?
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:37 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just so you know, this is the same fucker that blamed Ted Haggard's wife for his sexual infidelity.
posted by Aquaman at 9:37 PM on February 2, 2012


This Marc Driscoll dude really seems to have a masturbatory relationship with Yeshua ben Joseph. Fortunately, the good people of Washington seem hellbent (heh) on legalizing gay marriage soon, so here's hoping they tie the knot already. Man up, Marc Driscoll. Man up.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:37 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


False dichotomy.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:38 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


This Marc Driscoll dude really seems to have a masturbatory relationship with Yeshua ben Joseph

He's sort of obsessed with the topic, actually.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:38 PM on February 2, 2012


He's sort of obsessed with the topic, actually.
You don't say!
posted by joe lisboa at 9:39 PM on February 2, 2012


I bought my house from a couple that are members of the Mars Hill church, and my next-door neighbors are also members. My kids play with their kids, the whole nine yards. They're great people, give you the shirt off their back kinda folks.

Nice people. Wacky church, though.

Oh well. I just try to find ways to steer the conversation away from ... Well, you know. Cthulhu.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:40 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is my favorite Mark Driscoll interview.

See, this one is mine.
posted by verb at 9:44 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


God that dude who runs the place is the biggest douche since Goliath.
posted by edheil at 9:44 PM on February 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've said it before, I'll say it again. I miss Ernst Hardware.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 9:49 PM on February 2, 2012 [16 favorites]


Dear fucking god all the meetings and committes, are the religiously questioning just really into beaucraticy or something? The church goers all sound like tey get a real hard on for a stratgetic exploratory secondary concil meeting.
posted by The Whelk at 9:49 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


i bet if i joined that church it would make my insecurities go away. think i'll give it a shot. hmmm...better sign up for a gym first.
posted by facetious at 9:50 PM on February 2, 2012


It's like a co op board but the superintendent is Jesus

Gahd
posted by The Whelk at 9:51 PM on February 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


...frequent blowjobs...a sin to abstain from alcohol...anal sex...

Yeah, I've been giving a lot of though lately to starting a religion that is basically just about all the fucking awesome badass stuff I enjoy too.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:58 PM on February 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'd heard of him, but didn't know enough about him to know how creepy he is.
posted by rtha at 10:07 PM on February 2, 2012


Blogger David Moore of Fuller Theological, who wrote several posts on the book, said that even though he’s “not much of a feminist,” Driscoll’s dramatic overreaction to his wife’s high-school affair struck him as another example of the guy’s view of his wife as his sexual servant. “This book is an astoundingly unbelievable work of disrespect for women,” Moore wrote.

“[Mark's wife] is often cast as the damaged and sinful wife who withholds sex from her deserving husband, Mark the hero who is justified in leaving his wife but instead comes along to rescue her,” wrote Rachel Held Evans, a popular evangelical blogger and author



Yeah, but he's totally a man. And he beats up other men because that's what men do. In a totally Godly way, because Jesus was a man and he was crazy-strong! Men! MEN! Anal sex!

In all seriousness, Driscoll is what happens when the internalized-self-hate of popular Christian sexuality comes full circle. Anyone who's more conservative than he is gets cast as a stuffed-shirt, feminized and defanged, because they're the authorities to be rebelled against. Anyone who's less conservative gets cast as a degenerate, because they're the dirty ones who can be looked down on. The only moral anchor is Marc Driscoll himself, his sexual experiences, his impulses, his drives, his machismo -- and a Jesus that just happens to be exactly like Marc.
posted by verb at 10:08 PM on February 2, 2012 [30 favorites]


Oh man, from verb's link. His idea of the worst thing you can do to a man is put him into a public high school with a counseling program and arts funding. That is his nightmare society?
posted by Garm at 10:09 PM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Driscoll further consolidated his sole power over the organization with the mass firing of church elders in 2007, citing their disturbing behavior of "displaying an unhealthy distrust in the senior leadership."
posted by Aquaman at 10:16 PM on February 2, 2012


It's also a sin not to jetski down a fuckin mountain, brah.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:17 PM on February 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


The only moral anchor is Marc Driscoll himself, his sexual experiences, his impulses, his drives, his machismo -- and a Jesus that just happens to be exactly like Marc.

Aaaaaaand w're back to onanistic macho-theology lite (TM). Pro-tip, Marc: don't ally yourself with a Jewish pacifist who was bullied and subsequently killed before he reached 35 if you really just want to blather and bluster on in a sadly not-really-compensating way about, you know, GRAR! MANLY MAN MAN MEN-ISH MANSTUFFS!
posted by joe lisboa at 10:20 PM on February 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


I just can't stop finding these things.
posted by verb at 10:24 PM on February 2, 2012


Muscular Christianity can be cool. We just need Teddy Roosevelt to be its standard-bearer again.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:26 PM on February 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


I swear, this is Seattle's own People's Temple. For people outside of our fair city, this is a story worth watching.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:26 PM on February 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.

Really, no one said it yet? MetaFilter... you're slipping...
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:28 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow, verb is just turning up gold. If we're going to ask the "church or cult" question, those links sure make me lean toward answering: "cult."
posted by asnider at 10:31 PM on February 2, 2012


Look, Mark, if God really wanted the rest of us to be just like you, why did he give us necks?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:36 PM on February 2, 2012 [18 favorites]


He said he knows his views are unpopular—that he's even been called a misogynist. "And I don't even know how to give a massage," he joked, his eyes twinkling roguishly toward the camera...
HULK SMASH!

Also, the second link has a link an article wherein he opines that masturbation is pretty gay:
...any man who [masturbates] without his wife in the room is bordering on homosexuality activity, particularly if he's watching himself in a mirror and being turned on by his own male body.
Hmm. Awfully specific example there, Mark.
posted by jcreigh at 10:39 PM on February 2, 2012 [44 favorites]


I want to write so much Marc Driscoll fanfic right now.
posted by verb at 10:40 PM on February 2, 2012 [17 favorites]


Hmm. Awfully specific example there, Mark.

Look, all I'm saying is that a man who masturbates alone in a room, especially if he's wearing a folded paper hat, and especially especially if he's wearing his mom's favorite earrings that he got her on her fortieth birthday, and she was so proud of him, he saved up his allowance for weeks to afford them, but after the divorce he found them in an old blue Adidas shoebox under her bed, they weren't ever actually her favorite earrings at all, were they Mom? Oh god, oh god, what else did you lie about? Was it all my fault? Was it my fault Mommy? ...then that's some questionable activity.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:44 PM on February 2, 2012 [27 favorites]


I'm getting the same vibe Slarty is. This man is going to murder one or more people at some point.

I can envision a sequence of events like:

IRS investigates church... outlook not good for church.

Coke habit begins.

Even more irrational, hateful and sadistic than usual due to effects of long-term coke addiction, a fight erupts during a meeting of senior leadership during which time someone is shot in the face.

Police standoff/self-inflicted gunshot.

Metafilter follow-up post.
posted by basicchannel at 10:45 PM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wonder if he can see Russia from the top of the hill.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 10:46 PM on February 2, 2012


Seattle's Capitol Hill writers for the Stranger nearly shit their pants when Mars Hill threatened to put a church in Capitol Hill, right near Stranger headquarters, a few years ago. Honestly, most of them probably loved shitting their pants. Perverts.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:53 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Alos, for the record: a LOT of the criticism of Driscoll comes from inside of Christian culture. The people grabbing and posting the crazy video clips, the meticulous take-downs of his books, etc? Those are other Christians calling him a whackjob. While certain parts of his schtick are fresh-for-the-90s, there's a long history of charismatic renegade pastors starting small independent churches, framing themselves as the defenders of True Faith, and ostracizing those who ask too many questions.

Back in the 70s, my family was part of a Christian ministry in the midwest that was a couple inches shy of a commune; the emergence of an intense focus on "Discipline" delivered by church leadership and "Total Submission" by congregation members is pretty typical. For people who watch these kinds of cycles inside the Church, it's like seeing the next remake of Pride and Prejudice show up on TV. The question isn't what will happen, but curiosity about what will be different this time.
posted by verb at 10:53 PM on February 2, 2012 [21 favorites]


it's like seeing the next remake of Pride and Prejudice show up on TV. The question isn't what will happen, but curiosity about what will be different this time.

Now with more Pride ... and Prejudice!
posted by joe lisboa at 10:55 PM on February 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


Funny, when the Mars Hill folks first showed up in in Ballard Mrs. Calamari expressed a stronger than usual reading on her creepy meter. I just put it off to her usual distrust of organized religion and lack of exposure to fundie evangelical types. She'll get a good chance to flex her smug when she reads this.
posted by calamari kid at 11:06 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Holy shit, this lead me to the Facebook page for the new Mars Hill church in Portland, Oregon. Turns out my one mutual friend who has liked the page was a girl I went to International school with in Jerusalem and had a big crush on in 4th grade. She lives in Portland, so it's likely she attends a church with her two young babies (we're both 21) that is blocks from my house and on my regular bike path and I haven't seen her since 2000 when we were glueing macaroni that was painted gold onto pieces of gold painted cardboard to make christmas ornaments.

Life is weird.
posted by Corduroy at 11:11 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


This Marc Driscoll dude really seems to have a masturbatory relationship with Yeshua ben Joseph

In response to the idea that the Song of Solomon is an allegory about the relationship between Jesus and the Church, Driscoll said: “If so, it is weird, because Jesus keeps making out with me and touching me in inappropriate places. It’s bizarre, Jesus has his hand up my shirt. That doesn’t help the interpretation in any way. Now I’m gay … or highly troubled … or both.”
posted by straight at 11:21 PM on February 2, 2012


Right, this article's like, "this guy's been treating women and non-straight men like trash for years. But! Now that he's treated at least some straight men like trash also, we're suddenly concerned that it might be a cult or something!"
posted by daisystomper at 11:54 PM on February 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Right, so, The Stranger's been covering Mars Hill for years, and this is just the latest feature article in a long, long line of articles and blog posts at The Stranger about all the various ways this church sucks in its treatment of women and non-straight men. But let your knee jerk super hard anyway.
posted by palomar at 12:11 AM on February 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


I used to live not that far from these douche's Ballard HQ. Driscoll himself I could care less about. I wonder more about how damaged you have to be as a person to belong to this (or any other) "megachurch." Pretty damaged, is my guess.
posted by maxwelton at 12:42 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right, so, The Stranger's been covering Mars Hill for years, and this is just the latest feature article in a long, long line of articles and blog posts at The Stranger about all the various ways this church sucks in its treatment of women and non-straight men. But let your knee jerk super hard anyway.
posted by palomar at 12:11 AM on February 3 [1 favorite +] [!]


Your knee-jerk came sooner so it is more correct? Am I factoring this cromulently?
posted by basicchannel at 12:44 AM on February 3, 2012


I used to live not that far from these douche's Ballard HQ. Driscoll himself I could care less about. I wonder more about how damaged you have to be as a person to belong to this (or any other) "megachurch." Pretty damaged, is my guess.


Depends; megachurches are different from each other like cities are different. Some get slagged on (even by Driscoll) because they're just a bunch of liberal, namby-pamby feel-good clubs that aren't willing to tell people they're going to hell.

Sometimes, people get involved in a group or a church without realizing what the creepy undercurrents are, and by the time they understand what's going on they've invested considerable social, psychological, and emotional capital. That's why hyper-controlling, cult-like leadership structures tend to emphasize the practice of ostracizing anyone who questions the top dog. "Disagreeing" isn't just about ideas, or beliefs. It's about whether you can take being Othered after being part of the Ingroup.
posted by verb at 12:57 AM on February 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'll take "cult", please, Bob.

I've read the Matthew Paul Turner stuff on "Andrew". It's alarming, but doesn't involve Driscoll directly. Still, at a church where he's arranged things into a pyramid with him at the top, he must bear some responsibility.

Just before that, Driscoll made the news with his charming thoughts on Christianity in the UK. In the same interview he attacked the interviewer for going to a church with a woman leading it (in this case, the interviewer's wife). Don Carson's always struck me as a gent: he responded to the UK church thing from "my friend Mark Driscoll" and noted "Moreover, the measure of faithful service is sometimes explicitly tied in Scripture not to the quantity of fruit, measured in numbers, but to such virtues as self-control, measured by the use of one's tongue." Zing!

Mefi has done Driscoll before: billysumday won that thread.

This sort of stuff underscores the need for greater rationalist "evangelism", to my mind: people need reminding that when they hear someone proclaiming "what the Bible says" they are, always and ultimately, listening to the words of men, and that these men have as much power over you as you give them.
posted by pw201 at 1:28 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


See, none of this is all that surprising to me. The idea of church authority is explicitly in the New Testament, to the point of churches in Asia Minor sending representatives to the apostles in Jerusalem for answers to ethical problems, with the full expectation that the apostles would give an answer and that the churches would comply. Check out Acts 15.

But the church has always had procedures for the implementation of authority, and those procedures include multi-level checks and balances. What we've got going on at Mars Hill is almost exactly what's happened with the Sovereign Grace movement, i.e. a quasi-Reformed denomination that realized it liked the concept of authority but went ahead and implemented a pretty strong authority structure without any way of tempering or guiding that authority.

The true irony is that congregational forms, i.e. where individual congregations are completely autonomous, tend to be the most dictatorial, because there's no way to check the authority of individual pastors. Even the Catholic Church, which has just about the most authoritarian hierarchy in Christendom, has, you know, a hierarchy. Your parish priest can't just decide to run your life, because he's under the bishop, and the bishop is under the cardinal, and the cardinal is under the pope, and even the pope needs the consent of the council of cardinals to wield his full authority. So if a particular priest is getting out of hand, the parishoners can go over his head and get the bishop involved. In Presbyterian forms, the elders of a local congregation are called by the congregation itself, but elders from all the churches in a region make up a presbytery or synod, which can correct problems in individual churches, and the presbyteries together make up the general assembly. So there's both ways for higher authorities to correct problems at lower levels, even individual levels, but this authority has to be exercised in certain ways. The advantage of higher authorities than local pastors is that they can't micromanage people, because they're too far removed.

But with Mars Hill and the SGM people, they set up these systems where pastors have incredible authority over their congregants, but there was really no appeal or check on that authority. This is just a bad idea. But it's exactly what you get when you essentially start up your own tradition from scratch. Both of these groups have put together their denominations--they don't like to be called that, but f*ck 'em, a spade's a spade--out of whole cloth.

Driscoll is just a guy with above average charisma but no real connection to any particular Christian tradition. He was raised Catholic and went to some non-descript, blandly-evangelical seminary in Seattle. He talks a good game, but his theology is actually pretty squishy. Sit him down with any serious theologian, prevent him from running his mouth or abusing his interlocutor, and he'd get his ass handed to him. Really though, Mars Hill is what produced the whole Jefferson Bethke debacle, which should give you some kind of idea about the strength of the connection to historic Christianity.

SGM was founded by a bunch of Jesus people in the seventies, i.e. a bunch of evangelical hippies, who were originally really into speaking in tongues and shit, but in the early-to-mid 1990s realized they could probably use some theology. But they sort of borrowed a bit here and there, mostly from the Reformed tradition, without actually making much of an attempt to get their heads around what is really an organic, internally-consistent tradition.

Both churches have, for the past few years, been subject to pretty intense criticism, both from within and from without, regarding the seemingly inappropriate authority that church leaders wield over individuals. It's to the point that their demands exceed even those by denominations with clear and orderly ways of exercising authority. SGM disciplined a bunch of people for not subscribing to a particular model of parental discipline. The head of the denomination had to step down last summer as a result of what can be concisely described as "Being an asshole." It remains to be seen whether they can turn it around. I somewhat doubt it, as their institutions aren't designed with the kind of robustness you need if you want to govern on the basis of anything but personal charisma.

Which is the fundamental weakness with churches that spring up around particularly charismatic leaders. As soon as the leader trips up, the whole thing tends to come crashing down. And since the kind of adoration that attends leaders who lead by charisma rather than some kind of orderly ordination process tends to go to their heads, it's only a matter of time before they do trip up on something.
posted by valkyryn at 3:17 AM on February 3, 2012 [29 favorites]


jcreigh:
...any man who [masturbates] without his wife in the room is bordering on homosexuality activity, particularly if he's watching himself in a mirror and being turned on by his own male body.
Wait wait wait wait wait. I'm a gay man. I fully own that. I like homosexual activity. That said, I've never done this. I don't know anybody who's done this. Does he think gay men do this? Does he think any men do this? This seems more...selfsexual than homosexual.

If any men do this and I'm being completely insulting as I generalize my life experiences to yours, I apologize. Driscoll's weird in a lot of ways but his picking this example just jumps out, like jcreigh said.
posted by This Guy at 5:02 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]



Your knee-jerk came sooner so it is more correct? Am I factoring this cromulently?


I wish I understood what you were saying. Can you be clearer in your weird, baseless accusations?
posted by palomar at 6:03 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wrote: This sort of stuff underscores the need for greater rationalist "evangelism", to my mind: people need reminding that when they hear someone proclaiming "what the Bible says" they are, always and ultimately, listening to the words of men, and that these men have as much power over you as you give them.

Bugger, I fail at linking: that should be listening to the words of men.
posted by pw201 at 6:04 AM on February 3, 2012


What we've got going on at Mars Hill is almost exactly what's happened with the Sovereign Grace movement, i.e. a quasi-Reformed denomination that realized it liked the concept of authority but went ahead and implemented a pretty strong authority structure without any way of tempering or guiding that authority.

This point is an especially good one, valkyryn, because it helps explain the reason why some historic forms of Christianity have very explicit and even ritualistic structures around the act of confession, with a huge amount of attention given to anonymity and confidentiality. Anytime you're expected to share the details of potentially life-shattering personal failures with an authority figure, there's a huge potential for abuse. We can see the mutant offspring of that potential in cults like scientology, too, where counseling sessions are basically just a tool for extracting blackmail material.

Quite a few of the "I left Mars Hill, here's my story" accounts culminate with church leaders spreading details of the departing members' private confessions to the rest of the church, and using it to explain why everyone should cut them off. In one account, the departing member's own counselor posted a message to the rest of the church describing the departing member's sexual history.

There are times when a group can justifiably say, "Hey, just so you know, so-and-so is being asked to leave. He's not a member of the church anymore, because he's explicitly flaunting his disregard for things we feel are fundamental to our beliefs as a congregation." Congregations with out-of-control leadership tend to say this an awwwwwwful lot, though...
posted by verb at 7:00 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Right, so, The Stranger's been covering Mars Hill for years, and this is just the latest feature article in a long, long line of articles and blog posts at The Stranger about all the various ways this church sucks in its treatment of women and non-straight men.

Yes, but this one really is different -- it describes not a so-Reformed-Calvin-would-get-kicked-out church with a crazy pastor but a bunch of events that put together sure sound like the exact behaviors you see within a cult.

Mars Hill is no longer a far-right church to be subjected to ridicule. It's a patriarchal cult of power we need worry about, because these sort of cults are naturally unstable and often end in awful ways.

I think it's very, very unlikely this ends like Koresh or Jim Jones. But it won't end well. Or it will and it'll be the Christian version of Scientology.
posted by dw at 7:28 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


And in the middle of talking to my wife about this, I blurted out, "Wait, this is what would happen if Ayn Rand had embraced Calvinism." And then I realized Objectivism and Calvinism are far more similar than I'd thought.
posted by dw at 7:37 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Except this really isn't any recognizable version of Calvinism. It's what you get if you spend about ten minutes with some of the macro level doctrines without bothering to figure out how they work and then run your project on the basis of your own personal aesthetic. Driscoll doesn't even hold to the so-called "Five Points of Calvinism." His soteriology is vaguely Calvinistic, but heck, so are Augustinian Catholics, if you squint hard enough. You want Calvinism, you read the Westminster Standards or Three Forms of Unity. And hey, there's a whole bunch of stuff in there about how church authority is supposed to work.

Objectivism is actually pretty antithetical to any kind of full-fledged Calvinism. The whole thing is predicated on the idea that you can't do anything for yourself.
posted by valkyryn at 7:59 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


His soteriology is vaguely Calvinistic, but heck, so are Augustinian Catholics, if you squint hard enough.

Not just Augustinian Catholics! Thomists too! Just because the Molinists have had the upper hand for a few centuries doesn't mean they're right. I present one of my favorite articles: A Tiptoe Through TULIP.
posted by Jahaza at 8:38 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm working in youth ministry for my Episcopal parish and man is Mars Hill everywhere. I look online for music, or lesson plans, or vacation bible school stuff and sooner or later, Mars Hill ends up somewhere on the page. I think a lot of these mega churches have made themselves so ubiquitous online that the stuff they produce, based on their own theology, gets absorbed into mainline Christianity. I'd be upset if some of their stuff made it into one of our Sunday School classes, but I'd get why an overwhelmed volunteer teacher might find it appealing.
posted by Biblio at 8:42 AM on February 3, 2012


Well, since he's oversharing, I guess I wonder if he goes down on his wife. Or is she too much of a sinner to deserve an orgasm?

I'm not going to hold my breath about whether he allows her to peg him or not.

Anyway, let's take bets on what takes him down.... I'll put $20 down for domestic violence.
posted by RedEmma at 8:47 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Your knee-jerk came sooner so it is more correct? Am I factoring this cromulently?
posted by basicchannel at 12:44 AM on February 3 [+] [!]


I learned a new word today! I love MetaFilter. It really pays to enrich my word power.
posted by Kokopuff at 8:49 AM on February 3, 2012


I'm working in youth ministry for my Episcopal parish and man is Mars Hill everywhere. I look online for music, or lesson plans, or vacation bible school stuff and sooner or later, Mars Hill ends up somewhere on the page. I think a lot of these mega churches have made themselves so ubiquitous online that the stuff they produce, based on their own theology, gets absorbed into mainline Christianity. I'd be upset if some of their stuff made it into one of our Sunday School classes, but I'd get why an overwhelmed volunteer teacher might find it appealing.

Yeah. In a former life I worked on the online store for another megachurch; if you've got a team of speakers that crank out three sermons a week for an audience of 5000, a drama team that produces 10-20 sketch scripts and videos a month, a music team that produces CDs, backing tracks, and sheet music for a couple CD's worth of original worship music each year?

Yeah, it turns out that overworked churches end up leaning heavily on the materials you produce. Megachurches end up driving a lot of the "front lines" theology in christendom for the same reason that major music labels drive most of the nation's music listening.
posted by verb at 9:07 AM on February 3, 2012


"I learned a new word today! I love MetaFilter. It really pays to enrich my word power."
posted by Kokopuff.

So did I : soteriology - the study of Sotirios Kyrgiakos.

As for Driscoll, he is clearly odd: all that wanking in a mirror shit? wtf?
posted by marienbad at 9:14 AM on February 3, 2012


Tea Party Jesus Starring Mark Driscoll.

And a great response to Driscoll's apparent obsession with nearly-nude men wrestling with one another in a cage.
posted by jhandey at 10:08 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


And a great response to Driscoll's apparent obsession with nearly-nude men wrestling with one another in a cage.

On the one hand, I completely understand this response and agree that, at least given the worldview of people like Driscoll, it's kind of ironic. On the other hand, it perpetuates the idea that gay men are some less masculine (or not masculine at all).
posted by asnider at 10:17 AM on February 3, 2012


On the one hand, I completely understand this response and agree that, at least given the worldview of people like Driscoll, it's kind of ironic. On the other hand, it perpetuates the idea that gay men are some less masculine (or not masculine at all).

And that being feminine is a bad thing in men or women. And that being a woman is less than being a man.
posted by Garm at 12:15 PM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Another really, really interesting response piece to Driscoll's talks about MMA. This one, interestingly enough, is written by a Christian MMA fighter who speculates that Driscoll is "The kind of fan that we all hate: the guy who just wants to see some blood."
posted by verb at 12:27 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


And that being feminine is a bad thing in men or women. And that being a woman is less than being a man.

Yes, that too.
posted by asnider at 1:31 PM on February 3, 2012


Thanks verb. That piece was really interesting. And it's always nice to see that other kind of Christian in action so you don't feel like you're lying -- or that you know all of them -- when you say "They aren't all like that." (I'm exaggerating for effect here. No need to send me every super positive Christian article from here on out.)

I recently re-read the Bible after a long stretch of... well, not re-reading the Bible. And having done so, in part to better understand people with whom I disagree, I find myself understanding people like Driscoll less -- like somehow there's this other book coincidentally called the New Testament of the Christian Bible, but it is somehow the inverse of the one I read. To get from the Bible what somebody like Driscoll does isn't done just by focusing on certain phrases -- it's about ignoring 95% of what is said and/or deliberately misreading it.

I realize this is probably a comment that someone could have, if technology allowed, posted it already within the last 2000 years
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:39 PM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


To get from the Bible what somebody like Driscoll does isn't done just by focusing on certain phrases -- it's about ignoring 95% of what is said and/or deliberately misreading it.

Actually, it's more like what you'd get if you approached any complex text with no overarching hermeneutic: a really weird, idiosyncratic system which is either internally inconsistent or just shoots off in weird directions.

The Bible frequently says that two things which we as humans generally believe to be in tension are absolutely true. The only way of dealing with that is either to either have a theology that's robust enough to account for truth-within-tension or to have one that's narrow enough to drop one side of a whole bunch of tension points. But robust theology takes a lot of work and time on an individual and institutional level, and Driscoll and his ilk (Rob Bell, the SGM folks) are really short on all of those. They've got no institutions, none of them really seem to have spent any serious amount of time seriously engaged with any particular theological tradition, and there's a general distaste for theological rigor as being somehow insufficiently groovy.
posted by valkyryn at 3:42 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Anyway, let's take bets on what takes him down.... I'll put $20 down for domestic violence.

My bet's on porn. Specifically, underage male porn. (Although it will then come to light that he has been beating his wife.)
posted by persephone's rant at 4:30 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Valkyryn makes some interesting points about church governance, but also makes an assertion that isn't always true in saying "The true irony is that congregational forms, i.e. where individual congregations are completely autonomous, tend to be the most dictatorial, because there's no way to check the authority of individual pastors." Those churches DO exist, but local governance can and does work, too. I offer as an example the conservative Southern Baptist church I grew up in, which wasn't really any different from most other big Baptist churches in the South at the time.

There, it was the congregation that had the power. The staff served at the pleasure of the governing committees and deacons, all of which were set up on a rotating structure, which prevented the church from growing a "power elite". You could serve for a year or two, and then you had to sit out; this meant you needed other folks to rotate ONTO those governing committees, and generally cultivate that level of participation from as wide a group as you could. And while women weren't ordained as deacons, they certainly DID sit on the other powerful committees (personnel, finance, building, etc.).

I don't attend a church anymore, but I've often looked back on this system of governance as a great model for any such endeavor -- bring in lots of motivated people. Rotate them through positions of responsibility. Everybody grows. Ossification is avoided.

There is certainly a trend towards something called a "staff led church," and that is absolutely what MH is, and what lots of so-called megachurches are. The irony of this approach is that, in limiting congregational participation in the real governance of the church, they also limit the growth opportunities and rewards that the congregation can glean from attending the church. Sure, there were people who just showed up on Sunday mornings, but it was pretty clear that the folks who took an interest in volunteering to serve in a more involved way were getting more out of the deal.

"Sit him down with any serious theologian, prevent him from running his mouth or abusing his interlocutor, and he'd get his ass handed to him."

I'm certain you're right. Boy, I'd pay good money to see that.
posted by uberchet at 5:15 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying that all congregational churches are dictatorial--they're not--but if you take a random sample of churches that are, you'll find congregational churches are overrepresented.
posted by valkyryn at 6:05 PM on February 3, 2012


uberchet: There, it was the congregation that had the power. The staff served at the pleasure of the governing committees and deacons, all of which were set up on a rotating structure, which prevented the church from growing a "power elite". You could serve for a year or two, and then you had to sit out; this meant you needed other folks to rotate ONTO those governing committees, and generally cultivate that level of participation from as wide a group as you could. And while women weren't ordained as deacons, they certainly DID sit on the other powerful committees (personnel, finance, building, etc.).

That can work. On the other hand, a lot of times you either have a) no one motivated enough to be on the committee, or b) situations where you have a council member literally punching the pastor in the face because he wanted to use an overhead projector instead of a hymnal.

Dysfunctional congregation-led systems can be as bad or worse than the dictatorial staff-led ones.
posted by kittenmarlowe at 7:54 PM on February 3, 2012


I haven't seen her since 2000 when we were glueing macaroni that was painted gold onto pieces of gold painted cardboard to make christmas ornaments.

Oh dear god, I was in college by then. Is this how you old people have been feeling all these years?
posted by maryr at 9:02 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The true irony is that congregational forms, i.e. where individual congregations are completely autonomous, tend to be the most dictatorial, because there's no way to check the authority of individual pastors."

This sentence struck me as well, but I think that's because I grew up going to a Congregational church - and I'll admit that I was only there through high school graduation, but the theology was pretty damned liberal. Which is a bit odd, since it came out of the Pilgrims, but it also produced the Unitarians, so... it was kind of the reverse. There is the UCC as a national organization, but most matters are left to individual congregations. And, at least at my end of things as a kid, many matters were left to me. There was a lot of "love the sinner, hate the sin" golden rule "ask and ye shall be forgiven" (but you have to *actually mean it*) sort of stuff.

On the other hand, there was really no charisma at all in our pastors. And they still used the most depressing dirge-like "Oh God What On Earth Is My Head All About" sort of singing. The Catholics were much snazzier there.
posted by maryr at 9:39 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The UCC is kind of an interesting case, because while individual congregations are more-or-less free to run their own affairs, they're aren't actually purely congregational, because the denomination maintains the authority to ordain--and defrock--ministers. The denomination, as a whole, has a lot more structure to it than any of the Baptistic groups.

And again, I'm not saying that every church or tradition that uses congregational governance is bound to go off the rails. Plenty work just fine. Plenty of hierarchical churches also work just fine. That's not the point. Rather, it's that if you look for the worst examples of pastors wielding too much unchecked authority over their congregants, those churches are almost invariably congregational, because in a tradition with multiple levels of authority, that sort of thing tends not to get a lot of traction. Even if the individual congregation doesn't mind, the regional assembly (whatever it's called) tends to step in after a few years.
posted by valkyryn at 3:51 AM on February 4, 2012


Objectivism is actually pretty antithetical to any kind of full-fledged Calvinism. The whole thing is predicated on the idea that you can't do anything for yourself.

I was looking at it on more base terms -- the Elect/Rich are the ones who are set aside by God/because they're rich. And that means the Elect/Rich are superior to the rest of rabble and should have authority over them.

Though when I say it that way, I realize I'm probably muddling Dominionism with Calvinism.
posted by dw at 7:40 AM on February 4, 2012


From another discussion about Mars Hill, an interesting comment:
I live in Seattle and have been in group therapy sessions with women who attend Mars Hill church and are experiencing profound depression and anxiety secondary to the role they are pressured to play as members of Driscoll's church. They have all said that they were asked to quit their jobs and start having babies so they did in order to be "obedient wives." But they are deteriorating from the inside out. They must defer to their husbands and aren't even allowed to seek counseling outside of Mars Hill church. If they don't do what they are told they are subject to church discipline, and if people leave Mars Hill church the remaining members are told not to talk to the people who left anymore. It's a very unhealthy and controlling system. The things that Driscoll says in this book are often couched in "but don't be controlling or misogynistic" but there is indeed a strong system in place that doesn't allow the women freedom of choice and by the same token, a strong system in place that doesn't allow the men freedom to do anything the elders don't allow.

The women that I have been with in counseling sessions are anxious they will be found out that they are even there because as members they're not allowed to seek outside counseling, but they say the therapy Mars Hill offers is just to "obey their husbands better" and "pray more." The dozen or so women I know in this situation are extremely depressed and each have several children and I see their families eroding from the inside out. I see Mars Hill as very much a totalitarian regime, and as someone who grew up under significant spiritual abuse, I'm really sensitive to this sort of thing.
dw: I was looking at it on more base terms -- the Elect/Rich are the ones who are set aside by God/because they're rich. And that means the Elect/Rich are superior to the rest of rabble and should have authority over them.

Though when I say it that way, I realize I'm probably muddling Dominionism with Calvinism.


I don't think that's necessarily Dominionism, or even Calvinism -- it's a cross-denominational thread that tends to appear in lots of different Christian subcultures from time to time. Prosperity Theology is probably the closest match in modern times, and it's more anchored in the pentacostal tradition of tent revivals and charismatic preachers than the reformed tradition.

The challenge for most Christians is that the Bible does say that God blesses righteous people. However, it also says that wicked people often prosper as well. Some people in the church tend to assume, then, that a rich person who's nominally Christian is being blessed by God for their goodness, while a rich person who's not obviously Christian is automatically super wicked. Sort of like a morality-multiplier.

There are other reasons someone could be blessed with financial riches, though, at least in Christian thought. It could be that God wants them to give it away, or that they are being "tested" by God to see how they will handle riches, etc. The multitude of possible explanations means that how a Christian views material wealth is often more of a reflection on their own issues and hangups than a particular denomination's...

But now I ramble.
posted by verb at 12:27 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Though when I say it that way, I realize I'm probably muddling Dominionism with Calvinism.

Like verb says, not necessarily. It's certainly not any kind of Calvinism. If the doctrine of unconditional election produces anything other than humility, You're Doing It Wrong. The whole concept is that you've been saved utterly unrelated to your own deserving.

But it doesn't really sound like Dominionism either. More like a perennial weed that sort of gnaws on the edges of Christendom. But those traditions that do place a lot of emphasis on personal action or even just take the emphasis on personal holiness a little too far can wind up with a sort of holier-than-thou attitude, as they have some theological basis for saying that some people are better than others. Again, this really isn't what Christianity is supposed to be about, but it's a sort of semi-permanent bad option.
posted by valkyryn at 4:07 PM on February 4, 2012


You question the authority of Mark Driscoll? HOW DARE YOU!
posted by Rykey at 6:23 PM on February 4, 2012


Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll faces backlash over church discipline case.
posted by Artw at 6:08 PM on February 11, 2012


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