Mark Driscoll, Misogyny and Masculinity

This is an introductory post to Mark Driscoll’s theology, and in the coming weeks I will be covering him more in depth. For Feministing this means a focus on what Driscoll believes about sex and gender. Non-gender focused posts on his theology will be available at my personal blog. This post is about the core of his masculinity: misogyny, inerrant scripture, and Calvinism. Driscoll is a “shock jock” preacher who thrives on argument and the attention that gives him. Controversial remarks concerning biological sex and gender roles reverberate loudly in today’s society, giving Driscoll the attention he craves.

Mark Driscoll is the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. While this seems an unlikely place for a conservative Calvinist to take up shop, he’s a popular guy. 7,500+ people flow into his church (at various locations) each Sunday. Over 100,000 folks download his sermons on iTunes each week. The New York Times Magazine published “Who Would Jesus Smack Down? Mark Driscoll, a pastor with a Macho Conception of Christ” last year. Driscoll got his start working with the emergent church movement, although he has since decided most preachers were too “sissified” and has distanced himself.

I do no use the word misogyny lightly. I think it’s powerful word, and I think it speaks to more than just ignorance. There are plenty of men and women, even “traditional relationship” complementarians, I do not think are misogynistic. Nevertheless, there certainly are misogynists in the world, and Mark Driscoll is among them. He holds deep contempt for women. Even those who self-avowedly hate the “overwhelming femininity” in the church think he “blurs the line between masculinity and misogyny”.

Driscoll believes scripture to be inerrant and is a conservative Calvinist, a doctrine I’ll talk about in more depth later, but this influences his view of humanity. He believes that everything changed after the fall. God hates all of humankind, the elect and the damned alike. No one is has an ounce of goodness or virtue worth saving. The inerrant part of his belief leads him to focus on God’s curses after the fall, and is the basis for his misogyny.

“If your wife is working, you are a selfish bastard. How dare you make her shoulder her half of the curse and part of yours as well!”

“Women will be saved by going back to that role that God has chosen for them. Ladies, if the hair on the back of your neck stands up it is because you are fighting your role in the scripture.”

Driscoll has taken these scriptures (and a handful of others) and created a theology that requires women to be “homeward focused” and finds no scriptural evidence for a woman working outside the home, even if “given permission by her husband”. Cole NeSmith brings up Psalm 31:24 “She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.” but apparently, that doesn’t fit in Driscoll’s bible.

When Ted Haggard (conservative mega-pastor, Colorado Springs) was caught with a gay prostitute and meth, Mark Driscoll knew whom to blame: his wife. Zach Lind of Jimmy Eat World blogged about it the following quote before Driscoll could recall his essay from the web.

Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is… not be helping him either.

This is Driscoll in a nutshell. Men, being manly men, are important. They achieve being “real men” when they have sexy wives under their complete control. Biblical Manhood means rejecting any femininity as wrong. If you are a pastor, you should only focus on men, because, like Eldredge believed, if you win the men you automatically get their wives and families.

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  1. Sunset
    Posted June 23, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Something I have pointed out repeatedly to this type:
    Working outside of the home is actually a fairly modern concept. For most of human history, the standard model has been that work and home were blurred. Many people were farmers who lived and worked on the farm. Others were artisans who likely operated a business out of the front of their house. It is really only post industrial revolution that we developed this distinction between “work” and “home.”
    Which renders most biblical arguments about women staying home moot.

  2. L.K. Louise
    Posted June 23, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    you’re absolutely right!
    Thank you for pointing that out, I tend to forget how modern the strict separation between “home” and “work” is.

  3. Audentia
    Posted June 23, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Thanks! I’m enjoying these posts a lot. :o )
    I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but…Proverbs 31:24, not Psalms. (The whole icky “Are YOU a Proverbs 31 woman?” thing)(I like to think of myself as a “Judges 5″ woman, personally…in the case of someone like Driscoll, particularly a Judges 5:24-27 woman).
    It’s interesting to hear Driscoll’s views on the Song of Songs. Especially since I’m pretty sure I’ve read that his response to ‘Is masturbation okay’ is, well, Ecclesiastes 9:10 (“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”)
    “Driscoll: ‘Women will be saved by going back to that role that God has chosen for them.’”
    He’s a Calvinist! He doesn’t believe that anything we do matters for our salvation.
    …But it’s all okay, because sexually-deprived men still get to masturabate, right?

  4. dark_morgaine
    Posted June 23, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    I have heard of this guy. He does not speak for me or my Christianity. Ironically, it’s been my experience that in a hetero-cisgendered married relationship the wife usually takes the kids to church while the husband watches football or something. I know way more women who go to church without their husbands than husbands who go without their wives. Not to say some men don’t attend church without their wives, just my own experience. Further, Jesus’ followers included women, even women who supported the movement financially.

  5. L.K. Louise
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    haha, wow I really need to edit more, thanks for the scripture fix (I even had it right too, but I guess my fingers are used to typing “Proverbs 31″
    I’m actually in the middle of writing a post on Calvinism/generational curses/how that applies to the dignity of women, because it’s a fascinating view. I attended a VERY conservative reformed church as a teenager (PCA denomination) and the calvinism + gender issues are an interesting (and ugly) mix.

  6. L.K. Louise
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you in saying he doesn’t speak for my Christianity, . As a catholic who believes in liberation theology (inspired by the jesuits and maryknolls in latin america and feminist liberation theologians like Rosemary Radford Ruther), there is very little (if anything) Driscoll and I would agree upon. Unfortunately, as a minority position myself in the faith, I don’t exactly have any right to call someone else out as a heretic (marxist critiques and the Roman Catholic church aren’t best friends).
    And you’re right about the church being attended by a majority of women. This is something that a lot of men recognize, and because they’re such a minority, folks like Mark Driscoll and groups like Promise Keepers or the Wild-At-Heart folks are trying to “reclaim” the church as a place of unrestrained privilege for men. Sermons should be about men, etc. There’s a backlash against the “feminization of the church” (which, as a catholic, still makes me laugh. This year was the first I ever saw a female altar server! I’d never seen women in front of a church, so ‘feminization’ isn’t a reality I’m aware of.) and an attempt to remove all things “feminine” or “in the woman’s realm” from not only the church but also from the Trinity.
    Driscoll himself has complained about the ‘architecture of the church being too feminine’, down to the colors of the walls being too “feminine”, the male pastors being too effeminate because they have to cater to women.

  7. Comrade Kevin
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    What an angry, snarky dude. I can understand why people follow him, to some extent, but he makes my skin crawl.

  8. KBZ
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    >> Ironically, it’s been my experience that in a hetero-cisgendered married relationship the wife usually takes the kids to church while the husband watches football or something. I know way more women who go to church without their husbands than husbands who go without their wives. Not to say some men don’t attend church without their wives, just my own experience.
    (I will preface this by stating that I am not a Driscoll fan — I am simply restating some of his arguments to demonstrate just how misogynistic his brand of Christianity really is.)
    I’ve read some of Driscoll’s sermons before, and he would likely agree with everything you said above. It is among his goals to make Christianity more “masculine” so as to bring men back into the church.
    His primary thesis is, apparently, that Christ and the Church have been “feminized” to such an extent that they “cater to 40-year-old women” rather than “real Christian men”. This is, apparently, causing Christian men to fail in their leadership roles … and destroying Christian fatherhood, families, etc.
    – He cites to “boy band” Christian music which sounds more like “love songs to Jesus” rather than “onward Christian soldiers.”
    – He cites to “feminine” visual images of Christ with fair skin, a thin frame, long flowy hair, wearing robes (which he calls a “dress”), and that Jesus is often shown loving children or cuddling with lambs.
    Driscoll states outright that these images are driving men out of the church, and instead offers an alternate “masculine” image of Christ, “because men can’t worship a guy they can beat up” (I didn’t look up these quotes word-for-word … but they’re pretty close paraphrases).
    He calls Jesus a “dude”, and states that Christ “was a carpenter in a time before power tools”, likely had leathery skin, calloused hands, rippling muscles, and that Christ “wasn’t someone that you’d have to check for an Adam’s apple to verify he was a man” (throw in a bit of transphobia for good measure). He also states that Christ was loving and gentile occasionally, but wasn’t afraid to show anger, throw tantrums, scare evildoers, etc. His image of Christ is apparently sort of a Godly Mixed Martial Artist.
    His church is apparently very popular with 18-30 year old men (as you would expect). He does “adults-only” sermons in which he explicitly addresses the Biblical morality surrounding specific sex acts (I think the gist is that everything is OK if you’re married and heterosexual … otherwise, you’re a sinner). He has done entire sermon series on the Song of Solomon and the “sexual availability” of wives in marriage (apparently the fact that everything is OK means wives must do everything to please their husband (and God)). Christian wives saying “no” and the underavailability of blowjobs (not moral weakness among Christian husbands) is apparently causing infidelity and pornography addictions, and thus destroying Christian marriages.
    I find his brand of Christian thought both repellant and oddly fascinating (in the same way I’d find a living Neanderthal fascinating).

  9. dark_morgaine
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    ‘Christ and the Church have been “feminized” to such an extent that they “cater to 40-year-old women” rather than “real Christian men”.’
    Because of course only “real Christian men” matter. I know that’s him and not you talking. The thing about how wives need to be available for their husbands makes me sick. Frankly, if you read Paul’s letters, most of them say that since the end is coming now, (as they thought) people should refrain from sex altogether, unless they just can’t, then marriage is the much worse second option. What would Mark Driscoll say about the monk lifestyle?
    ‘Jesus is often shown loving children or cuddling with lambs.’
    How about “Let the little children come to me…” Mark Driscoll? Isaiah and the lion and lamb imagery. Lamb of God? He rode a donkey, and a donkey colt at that, not a stallion, into Jerusalem, a sign of peace, not war.
    Glad to see there are others who agree. Also, glad you shifted through his quotes and paraphrased, because I’d probably just be sick.

  10. dark_morgaine
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 2:17 am | Permalink

    ‘he church as a place of unrestrained privilege for men. Sermons should be about men, etc. There’s a backlash against the “feminization of the church” (which, as a catholic, still makes me laugh. This year was the first I ever saw a female altar server! I’d never seen women in front of a church, so ‘feminization’ isn’t a reality I’m aware of.)’
    Ah yes, the ‘feminization’ of the Church seems to be a Protestant-centric phenomenon. But American Protestants are notoriously good at discounting the experience of Catholics. Didn’t JFK have to give a speech stating that he wouldn’t turn the country over to the Pope if elected?
    The downside to the inclusive nature of faith is that it gives nutjobs a platform for their oppressive ideas, and what’s a bigger motivator for the faithful than “God said so”? It always makes me sad to see any faith used as a means of control and oppression. This isn’t what God wants, and I think this is a major factor in turning people away from organized religion.

  11. Audentia
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Ha! About 90% of the reason I went to div school after college was to spite the pastor at my old PCA church, with whom I had about eighty trillion “Women can TOO be in ministry” arguments. :D (I never had any intention of being a pastor, but I wanted a master’s in religion and this seemed like a neat way to combine two necessary tasks).
    Did they preach the “women have to stay with abusive husbands” and “sacrificial headship without the sacrifice” crap at your church, too?

  12. Audentia
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    The feminization of the Church a Protestant thing? The Church has been portrayed as female (Ecclesia = Latin for church, is feminine) since they adopted the Bridegroom/Bride imagery as the major symbol for Jesus and the Church. Which would be, pretty much all its history. The whole *point* is that the Church is supposed to be submissive and responsive to Jesus (cf. the head and body), thus he is male and it (she) is female*. The idea of a “masculine” Christianity fringes on heretical. We are supposed to depend on God, not break out the brawn. Driscoll and those like him just want to bring their Dude Point Of View to something that explicitly calls for the exact opposite.
    * Don’t get me started on what bad implications this has had for actual women.

  13. L.K. Louise
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    oh yes. Just because your husband abused you did not give you the biblical mandate to get divorced! It probably meant you weren’t submitting well enough and the poor man didn’t know what to do with all that sinful womanly independence!
    After all, nothing about spousal abuse is mentioned in the bible, so if he’s not cheating on you, well, you have no grounds for divorce.
    I applied for an M.Div myself actually (at Princeton, Duke, SMU-Perkins, Austin Presby & Southwest Episcopal), but after a semester (at Perkins) realized I seriously did not want to be in ministry that way. I’m considering going back for a Th.M or an MA in Religion. I did my undergrad in Religion (and took a few graduate level classes at Liberation Theology & Contemporary Ethics Theory) & Classics (4 years greek, 3 years latin, “take-a-dative” parties) so I have the background.

  14. L.K. Louise
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    When I use the phrase “feminization of the church”, I am not primarily referring to it’s historical attachment to “traditionally feminine virtues”, although that is true and important. Driscoll and his ilk mean something different when they claim “feminization of the church”, namely, that women are involved, comfortable, and catered towards (even in small and specific ways) inside the church. That’s what’s upsetting to these folks.
    You are of course right, that traditional imagery about the church being female and therefore submissive to Jesus has some very dangerous connotations that need to be addressed.
    I think this “masculine” church is heresy (although as a Catholic). They reach well beyond the “submissive to Jesus” virtues and are fighting the fact that the church is a comfortable space for women- therefore, it is not *dangerous* and *masculine*. Cause women shouldn’t feel safe in a man’s place, according to Driscoll. The fact that women aren’t being forced to come by their shepherd husbands means they’re not being treated like sheep!

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