Sunday, January 29, 2012

Driscoll: In Context

Things come in cycles.

In the early 1990s, in the wake of the Rodney King incident, racial sensitivity (some would call it paranoia) was at an all-time high. The fruits of this sensitivity became a phenomenon known as political correctness.

Racist jokes had long since been frowned upon in polite society, but even the mere mention of any distinction between races became verboten. Tolerance was the buzzword, and if you weren't going out of your way to speak in platitudes about minorities (which, as it happened, constituted a substantial majority in this country then as now, but no one dared bring it up) you were somehow backward, per the cultural elite.

Of course, the unwashed proletariat didn't quite take to the cultural elite's admonishments. Just as the O.J. Simpson trial was (to the amusement of reasonable people) forcing the politically correct class to choose between two minority groups, they were already becoming a punchline. South Park ensued.

Contemporaneously, the evangelical movement met the mainstream as a counter to the outlandish assumptions of the political left. Jocelyn Elders' infamous proclamation that we were to instruct our children on the joys of masturbation, paired with Hillary Clinton's ill-advised assertion that home schooling is tantamount to child abuse, fortified the resistance. Political correctness on the television could be laughed off. Political correctness in our homes, not so.

Cultural conservatives famously won that particular battle.

The election of Barack Obama ushered in a variation of the political correctness movement, namely the feminization of language. In particular, those with dissenting viewpoints are accused of being not intolerant but uncivil. Incivility, you see, is a deadly thing. Just as political incorrectness beat Rodney King with batons, so too does incivility kill. Gabrielle Giffords' blood is on our hands, we are informed.

Louis C.K. is doing a good job of playing the Trey Parker and Matt Stone role on the social front, but what about the cultural implications?

In the religious sphere, we have seen a recent trend toward embracing a more feminine approach to scripture. Concrete choices about repenting before one true Son of God are dismissed as binary, lacking in nuance. Consensus is king. Embracing women and gays in ministry leadership is simply part of our necessary progression. There are no gender roles, and if you spank your children, you are abusing them.

If you disagree, you are backward. Binary. Not nuanced.

As it was with political correctness and child masturbation, adherents to this worldview are vocal, and prominent in mainstream culture (see: Bell, Rob), but yet also scarce.

Enter Mark Driscoll's recent best seller, Real Marriage (colon something, something), which emphatically delineates what some describe as a patriarchal worldview. It is binary, to the point of saying yes or no to specific sex acts. It is not nuanced. It does not embrace a feminine/homosexual paradigm. It certainly isn't civil.

It is, however, wildly popular.

I suspect its influence will endure. Just as abstinence education and homeschooling advocacy groups remain as catalysts for culturally conservative ideas, so will Driscoll's ministry.

And, just as home school and pro-life organizations so vexed their self-proclaimed cultural superiors in the 1990s, not least of which because they took them by surprise, so Driscoll and his ilk (he has lots of ilk) have commenced, among the paragons of new tolerant virtue, an epidemic of the vapors. In response, they have called Driscoll sexually disturbed, a spiritual rapist, and a misogynist; his attendees stupid and vulgar; Grace Driscoll a battered housewife.

Like the far-left in the 1990s, these folks don't understand they are outnumbered. Everyone they know agrees with them. Make no mistake, their words will be used against them. For those of us less inclined to draw lines in the sand re: Driscoll-and-all-he-stands-for, they make the choice for us.

Like him or lump him, history suggests the masses will embrace Mark Driscoll, and will reject the ministrations of the cultural elite yet again. Women and gays will continue to take leadership positions in the church, but in the usual (dying) enclaves of the mainline denominations.

Lost in the shuffle is whether Driscoll's book is any good, or if it will improve any marriages, but who cares? By picking on a popular target, the new theological progressives have hastened their own demise.

Good riddance.


Blogger brgulker said...

feminine/homosexual paradigm

This paradigm is not one and the same. Conflating the two is a common move by those opposed to women in ministry. Attempting to lump the one into the other and dismissing them both is just plain easier than treating them separately.

However, as Scott McKnight is attempting to do in this very moment in his e-book about Junia, it is entirely possible to retain an evangelical hermeneutic and affirm women in leadership.

And this still says nothing about the Pentecostals - who constitute nearly 1/3 of Christians globally - that you simply want to ignore.

Mark Driscoll is not under fire right now because of his stance on homosexuality, and his stance on women in leadership is a tertiary matter (the critiques he's receiving right now about gender relate more to marriage than ministry, from what I've been reading).

He's under fire right now because there's some good evidence to suggest that he has centralized all of the power and shared it among himself and 3-4 other individuals, who cannot be dismissed from leadership except by death or willful resignation.

The questions are whether or not that type of leadership structure as established in the bylaws resembles anything in the New Testament and/or if Mars Hill is approaching cult-like status because of aforementioned bylaws.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

I can just as easily argue against women in ministry as I can homosexuality. Neither presents much of a challenge, from the standpoint of applying scripture.

At any rate, the observations I am making are about theological leftists and their opposition to Driscoll. I don't want to ignore the Pentacostals. I just don't think they have much to do with this discussion.

I have yet to see anyone claim Driscoll and three other people lead the church and cannot be removed from church leadership. I hear a lot of jabbering about Driscoll's top down leadership style, but that's all bound up in the notion that he is patriarchal.

Where in the bylaws does it say Driscoll and three other people cannot be removed from church leadership, except by death?

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

I just stumbled into your blog for the first time in years, and I'm really impressed with your thoughts and thought processes as laid out.

It is, of course, always easy to take aim at whatever is popular at the moment, and we do that better in American culture than anywhere else I've been. Once something is "big", it's safe to throw rocks at. It's a cultural inferiority complex in my opinion.

That being said, I agree with you about Driscoll. Is he perfect? Of course not. Is his leadership style exactly spot on? Not likely. Is he leaing a church with thousands, constantly growing the Kingdom (true Kingdom, which is people from true darkness to true light), and using boring old reformation theology at the same time? Yep.

Let the people doing less for the Kingdom throw rocks while he's out in the field harvesting.

And if we could find as many men passionate about MEN in church leadership as we can those passionate about WOMEN, well I think the church as a whole would have something to be proud of. Inferiority runs deep.

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kevin.

Still bitter. Still nasty. Still the same, huh? Just checking in. No change. Bye.

5:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and by the way. No need to publish the comment if you don't want to. It is emant for you.

5:38 AM  

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