Bless me reader, for I have sinned. It’s been 202 days since my last post. And what does it take to get me to stick my nose back into this conversation? Disgust, naturally, and something of a rant. A disgusted rant.
See, I quit reading the emerging/missional blogs. Be honest, who hasn’t at some point or other? I mean, who hasn’t quit that doesn’t have a book deal and some titles to flog or some persona to promote at the head of their megachurch? Am I cynical? You betcha, baby. And all of it is earned cynicism. Now, I haven’t completely lost touch. Every now and then someone asks me a question about some issue that I should have an answer for, and so I check out some referenced article or conversation. And I have this wonderful virtual group of friends, bloggers, cynics, church leavers, writers, thinkers, and keepers-in-line of each other. There are only seven people in this group, so some of this is a tall order… but when one of us finds something that makes us want to spew, we have a caring environment in which to release said spewage. And these journeymates will tell one another when correction or restraint should be used, or will ceremoniously roll our eyes in unison. (Sometimes disgust loves company too.) Oh, don’t get me wrong, sometimes we point out encouraging things as well, and pray for one another. This group is actually a faith community, albeit a virtual one in which some of us have never met “in real life” (an increasingly weak phrase to refer to offline interaction) but remain as connected and accountable nonetheless. It’s real community, and I don’t care what anyone says about the impossibility of such a thing… how does that saying go? “Don’t label impossible what you yourself cannot do”? Or is it something about people doing the impossible interrupting those who believed it so? Doesn’t matter. I know what is. Sorry for the pent-up back-rant there, I know that’s not really a current topic at the moment. But, you know, yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Marshall McLuhan’s birth. You know, Marshall “The-medium-is-the-message” McLuhan, who basically predicted so much of the media milieu that we’re surrounded by today. McLuhan, who said that it wasn’t so much the message that gets transmitted by telephone and television so much as the sender that is transmitted. It was perhaps is greatest insight that our technology is an extension of ourselves. Put that in your virtual-relationships-aren’t-real-relationships pipe and smoke it.
No, my real targets of disgust today include the whole Mark Driscoll thing. I mean the latest one, not all the ones before that. Well okay, some of those as well, but they’re old news. And for most people, the current one is old news too now. And that’s part of the problem… when someone screws up the reputation of Christianity so badly by responding as Driscoll tends to, is that something you want to just let go and hope it will blow over? I hate to break it to you, but there are still people who are upset about the Crusades, among hundreds if not thousands of far lesser issues. It’s the little things that get swept under the rug unresolved that leave people thinking that these issues, since they went unchallenged, must accurately represent Christianity. And that makes me want to spew. Or as Becky Garrison likes to say, it makes the Baby Jesus cry.
I can’t be the only one who finds the whole thing utterly preposterous, can I? Whatever would possess a well-known “successful” big-church pastor and author to go around suggesting that effeminate worship leaders should be publicly ridiculed and that David was much more masculine than the average worship leader because he started killing people as a kid? Um, yeah, are you serious? That’s your apologetic for a trucker who doesn’t like effeminate worship leaders? Hey, Mark, you ever think of suggesting the dude just try a different church? I’ve been told that not all worship leaders are the same… Might it be that the guy just didn’t like the worship leader? Mightn’t it be remotely possible that this fellow didn’t actually think that all Christians were effeminate and was rejecting God on that basis? Or is it really a better apologetic to reinforce the stereotype this guy already had, and characterize “proper” masculine behaviour as killing people in one’s youth.
And it’s so nice that your elders sat you down and told you to say things that were meaningful, but it seems to me they should have been saying, “DUDE! Tone it down or hit the streets! Oh, and we need you to issue a public apology.” But of course, these elders simply told you that you should say meaningful things. Important things. So thanks for not apologizing and promising instead to launch a website promoting your new book. I guess that was meaningful and important. So glad to learn that you’re accountable to someone who can get you to change your behaviour and your public statements when warranted.
Of course, I’m risking a sprained tongue by planting it so firmly in my cheek. Seriously? I think there’s something wrong with the system of creating a circle of people you treat as subordinates and then claiming they hold you accountable. You know the ones, where everyone on the committee seems to think the chair can do no wrong and will back almost whatever he says, though sometimes requesting an explanation first in order to demonstrate that they are actually valuable functioning committee members who can think up questions on their own. Questions like, “Could you please explain for us why this comment was necessary?” followed by a pleasantly quiet atmosphere of listening attentively. Never mind that the question should probably have been “What the hell were you thinking?” followed by many statements in the imperative voice. See, that would be holding someone accountable, instead of just listening to someone’s rationale as they attempt to hold themselves accountable and have a group of people standing by to put a guise of respectability on it.
Problem is that this isn’t the first time we’ve been through this whole rigamarole with Mark Driscoll. And for some reason it always seems to have something to do with gender roles, about which ol’ Marky has some distinct opinions that he doesn’t mind voicing. In fact, the way he tells it, these aren’t just opinions, they’re Biblical doctrine. Mark, it seems, has a problem with women being allowed to do everything he is. The role of the pastor’s wife, apparently, is to keep herself looking hot in order to prevent her husband from having to resort to infidelity. She wouldn’t be able to be a pastor herself, of course. That’s man-stuff.
Mark’s also one of those types who doesn’t like “the gays.” When you boil down that message, it seems not a whole lot different from Fred Phelps, though considerably less vitriolic. At least there’s lip service to loving the sinner, but oddly enough, it’s hard to understand how loving it is to refuse to listen to the viewpoint of another person, particularly around something that strikes so close to the core of human identity. Would it really be so unthinkable to just say, “If homosexuality turns out to be a sin, I pray that you will meet with God’s love and mercy. I think that there’s more evidence in the Bible against it, but there are other Christians who disagree with me. I pray that they’re right.”? Can we not hope and pray for those we purport to love, and to ask God’s mercy? Unless I’m much mistaken, wasn’t that essentially Abraham’s response to the news that God was about to seriously smite Sodom and Gomorrah? (Never mind that the major sin there actually had to do with a lack of concern for the poor.)
As I say, I’ve not been following along with the emerging/missional or other Christian blogs, so I just catch some of the things that shout loud enough to catch my attention. Isn’t it just sad that it’s always just the items that cast Christians in a negative light that really catch any attention. Of course, if anything, this bias is only enhanced in those outside of the Church. But what I said to my friends by email when this thing first came to my attention was this:
I’m so genuinely happy that I had no idea what you were talking about. But then I read the two posts, and found out I might be less of a real manly-man for never having strangled a puppy. Or worn Old Spice. Or something like that. That said, Jesus is still not my boyfriend and I might have issues with worship leaders who insist that he should be. But maybe that’s just me. Or perhaps MD needs to be told that Jesus is *his* boyfriend according to the Bible, just for the value of the horrified look on his face for a split-second. I don’t know, really. I wonder if Jesus strangled any puppies when he drove out the moneychangers? Or if he came today, would he drive a truck and wear a tool belt? Or maybe just a big Texas-shaped belt buckle with a genuine Buck Knife strapped to his side? These theological questions are too big for me anymore, it makes me want to forget the whole thing and just sit down and put my feet up with an alcoholic beverage. One with an umbrella in it. Is that bad?
The other day Jian Ghomeshi interviewed some guy who said that Bill Shakespeare was the most influential man who ever lived. And Jian, of course, said, “Even Jesus?” And the dude said that he saw lots of the bard’s influence today (cue the clip from Gnomeo and Juliet: “What’s in a gnome?”), but no influence from Jesus, what with the minimal-to-nil amount of cheek-turning one can find these days. Dude backed off from “no” influence, but still maintained that Billy-Bard had considerably more. And I’m starting to think he could be right, based on certain valid measures that could be taken. On the other hand, William Shakespeare hung around the theatre and wrote roles for women into his plays just so that other men of his era could put on dresses and parade around in public. Just sayin’. And still, I’m thinking about the word that jumped out at me from MD’s post, something about the whether the man should be the head of his house. It was the word “his” that got me. Oh, beware the presupposition, Mark. You can’t fool me.
As the conversation went on, I applied the manliness-requires-killing test, and started to wonder about the uber-manliness of Davey Crockett, who “Kilt him a bar when he was only three!” I compared him to King David and considered the impact of weaponry selection on manhood.
I think he carried a Bowie Knife. Davey, not David. David carried a slingshot, like Dennis the Menace, who, apparently, would qualify as a manly-man despite his penchant for red overalls. Or maybe because of it? I always lose track. Then again, Dennis clearly didn’t like girls, and that’s hard to reconcile with the slingshot. Unless he really did have a thing for Gina. Can’t blame him for spurning Margaret though, she was downright annoying. Anyway, that’s one for Davey Crockett. And Jesus, who must have been confused when as a child, he resurrected that bird from the dead. Of course, that whole story was apocryphal, and Jesus being manly, the real story must have been that he *killed* the bird as a child. Probably with a slingshot!
…at least we know Crockett was a manly-man. Davey Crockett, not the Crockett that wore white shoes and pink sweaters while chasing drug dealers… really, I shouldn’t have to explain that for you, should I?
And somewhere in there, I posted a Facebook status that said “I keep thinking of examples of effeminate worship leaders, but then I realize, no, those people are feminine because they’re women.” A few people seemed to like it, but I don’t know if they’ll like all of these ideas.
Anyway, it seems I might have missed it with the white shoes comment… don’t know if Crockett wore white shoes, but Boone did. That’d be Pat Boone, not Daniel Boone. Anyway, I think the whole thing demonstrates a clear confusion over the whole question of gender. And maybe something about the love of controversy. You’d think that Driscoll’s publishers would want to rein him in a little, except that the whole thing somehow ends up in the realm of book promotion. Really? How’d we get there? Perhaps the only Christian thing about “Christian Publishing” is… er… well, I may have to get back to you on that one. I can tell you that it seems that it’s really all about the money, as if there were ever any doubt. Controversy sells books, and in the last few years, if it’s not a controversy about gender then it’s about hell. I think those were the two things Jesus really wanted us to work on, right? Love God and love your neighbour. So first, love God so you can go to Heaven and tell everyone else about their Hellboundness, and second, love your neighbour if he’s correctly gender-aligned, otherwise see point #1.
I’m hacking on Driscoll a lot here, but I need to say that Driscoll is really just an animated version of one of the presenting symptoms. He’s not a complete representative picture of the real ill, and he’s not the only symptom. It’s no secret I think we’ve got systemic problems going on, and I’m left wondering about bad fruits and good roots, or good roots and bad fruits.
Who Broke Christianity? is the title of my forthcoming book. I don’t have a book deal, a publisher, or an agent, but I’m (seriously) willing to consider offers that may motivate me to write the book. I do have a thesis, and I can tell you, most of us won’t like my answer to this question… but it does have that annoying ring of truth to it. In the meantime, it seems like nothing is going to resolve itself, at least not before a lot more personality-cult book sales have taken place. And if I should I get an offer for the book I want to write, I promise that rather than apologize for this post, I’ll launch a website to promote the book. That should make everyone happy.