I had a whole other topic in mind for today, but I’ll save it for tomorrow since it might irritate Mrs. Blue and Miz Pink anyway, and I don’t need that.
Instead, I’m going to follow a lead kindly provided by Big Man of Raving Black Lunatic (if you haven’t ever done so, visit him…NOW…he has good shit to read on his blog…OK, visit him AFTER you read this post then…).
Here’s the link (it’s an article from the New York Times Magazine, and it’s longish, but it’s entertaining, interesting and worth the time to read, trust me): www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/magazine/11punk-t.html?em Mrs. Blue had also hipped me to this story, but she neglected to send me a link, so Big Man gets the credit.
Anyway, the article is about Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church, a Seattle-based preacher that has earned the enmity of both conservative Christians and liberals, and is known as the “cussing pastor.”
Look, I can’t do justice to this guy’s personality and the controversy around him in this post. You have to read the article (and you should probably check out Mark Driscoll’s blog sometime, too, though it isn’t nearly as interesting or fiery as his sermons). But suffice to say he’s attracted quite the following of alternative types in Seattle that don’t thrive in the traditional church environment. He preaches on topics like “Biblical Oral Sex” and “Pleasuring Your Spouse.” Right there, you have to know I’m going to have some kind of soft spot for the guy.
Which isn’t to say he doesn’t scare me a little too, because he does, but more on that later.
First, I want to say that his rougher and more raw approach to preaching, along with his assertion that Jesus was far from some weepy wimp, are things that I wholeheartedly support myself. And it’s a slowly growing trend. I mean, how many people in Generation X, much less Generation Y, really want to go to the traditional church services filled with old-ass hymns? Some, sure, but most, not.
Even when pastors don’t go for the foul-mouthed, snarky approach like, for example, that I use here, there are still signs that more and more, especially younger ones, are embracing change.
Sometimes, that’s as simple as updating the music to include more modern things like rock and R&B or even jazz and punk. Sometimes it means making sermons more adult or more relevant, instead of ephemeral and, well, “preachy.”
I believe in holding to the Word of God and preaching the Bible. That said, there are always areas where interpretation is fluid and where things can (and sometimes should) be adjusted for modern realities. In other words, the practice of churchgoing, and of preaching, needs to adapt. Let’s face it: Our grandparents’ and great-granparents’ churches, no matter how “traditional” we think them to be, were not the same as the churches of the 17th century. Nor where those churches anything like the early church shortly after Jesus’ resurrection. Change is both necessary and inevitable.
I am not always proud of the language I use here. And sometimes I wonder if my subject matter is appropriate. But at the same time, I started this blog under prayer, and by the calling of the Holy Spirit, and if God wants me to stop doing this, I fully expect (and hope) that He will make that clear. Until then, I will assume that I fill a necessary niche for both believers and non-believers and possibly-yet-to-become-believers. In the same vein, Mark Driscoll fills a necessary place.
But, as I said, he does scare me a bit on some points. So here’s my take on the guy. After all, I have skewered Joel Osteen, the smiling pastor, several times for his Word of Faith based tomfoolery. Just because Pastor Driscoll cusses doesn’t mean I’m going to give him a pass.
The Swearing and the Racy Topics. Hell, I’m in favor. It’s who he is, and he draws a strong following for it. In other words, there is an audience for his style and message. I will not side with the Christian mouthpieces, pundits and leaders who say he’s wrong for using harsh language or being rough around the edges. It takes all types of preaching to get the gospel out there.
The Casual Dress. This is a guy who will often preach in a T-shirt. I’m cool with that, too. I don’t think that we have to put on dresses and suits to honor God. We honor Him with our praise, our love, our faith and sometimes our actions. We came into this world naked and we leave behind molding, decaying corpses. Some of us are ugly and some of us are good looking. God is far less concerned with our outward appearance than we like to think He is.
His Support of Traditonal Gender Roles. OK, I’m iffy on this. I do believe that the husband/father is the spiritual head of household. But I think we need to tread carefully about the whole “submitting to the husband” thing. Marriage is a partnership. When something impacts on the spiritual well-being of the family, the man should get the final say unless he’s a spiritually clueless idiot. On other matters day to day, I don’t think it’s just “Do what the man says.” Driscoll strikes me as leaning toward the idea that women should ultimately do what they’re told by their men, and that’s a dangerous road. If I get him correctly, he doesn’t believe women can preach. I believe that is wrong and I think they should indeed preach. I’m still somewhat on the fence about the women as pastor issue, but am not opposed to it completely.
His Assertion That Jesus Was Macho. Hell yes! Jesus was tough physically and emotionally and he could sometimes be tough on people. He could be sarcastic. However, Driscoll likes to throw around comments about how most of us have “feminized” the church and turned Jesus into some limp-wristed hippy type. These kinds of comments make me think Pastor Driscoll is a raging homophobe perhaps. I’m not against preaching homosexual sex as a sin, but I am highly and vociferously against homophobia. Some of my best friends (truly) have been and continue to be homosexual, and very few of them are “limp wristed.”
His Neo-Calivinist Doctrine. Aw, damn! Hold the motherfucking presses! Calvinism! Shit, Calvinism? I shouldn’t be surprised, because I see hints of this among many of the more conservative Protestants, even those who don’t outright preach Calvinist thought. But John Calvin was responsible for some people being burned at the stake for disagreeing with him, so he’s not someone I want to uplift in name or in doctrine. Also, I have a big beef with Calvinist thought on the whole idea of predestination. The idea is that God has already decided in advance who’s going to Heaven and who’s going to Hell, and he picked a pretty small number to go to Heaven.
I have several problems with this.
First, why would God simply want to be a puppetmaster? This flies in the face of creating humans “in His own image.” Free will is an intrinsic part of being human. If God simply wanted more servants, He could have simply have never created Adam and never created the split with Lucifer and had a bunch of lovely obedient angels and no war in Heaven. To think that God has mapped out our end in advance, and we have no part in how we turn out, doesn’t make a lick of fucking sense.
Second, how could our Father in Heaven wish that no one would go to Hell if possible, as Jesus told us, if He’s already decided to personally mark people in advance to go there? Salvation seems meaningless to me if it’s being handed out willy-nilly. If that’s the case, Jesus made no sacrifice for us at all, because it wasn’t for all of us and it was already mapped out. In my mind, Jesus had free will not to die on that cross, and I think he would have gone to Heaven, being sinless. The rest of us would have been screwed though.
Finally, why preach the gospel if our eternal fates are preordained? Jesus calls upon us to spread the good news, but if it’s not for everyone, how good is it? And if God has already decided who’s going to Heaven, why preach about Jesus? After all, we have no influence, we don’t really choose God (He chooses who will choose Him), and there is no choice. So knowing about the Gospel would be pointless, and teaching others more pointless still. Again, I call bullshit on this.
So, while I like Driscoll’s general approach, I think he’s preaching some dangerous dogma, and I cannot support him personally on a doctrinal level. But if he can bring some souls to Christ, fantastic. As much as I also don’t like Joel Osteen on the other end of the spectrum, I won’t totally and completely argue with his approach nor dismiss it entirely out of hand if it saves some souls.
I will argue, though, with teaching things that put people on a bad path in life. And both Driscoll and Osteen are guilty on that in my opinion.