Mark Driscoll – Masculinity & Art ~ BitterSweetLife

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Mark Driscoll – Masculinity & Art

Mark Driscoll book

Believe it or not, I’m still reading Mark Driscoll’s
Confessions of a Reformission Rev. and really enjoying it. Driscoll tends to be provocative even when he’s making a fairly uncontested (to me) point, say that finger-painting while channeling the inner child is not a very manly activity. Sometimes Driscoll’s penchant for the cutting one-liner can lead to overstatement, which is hilarious at times, but also slightly misleading.

Specifically I’m thinking about Driscoll’s various takes on the topic of masculinity in the church, as opposed to “the types to sing prom songs to Jesus and learn about their feelings while sitting in a seafoam green chair drinking herbal tea—the spiritual equivalent of Richard Simmons” (Christianity Today interview).

Scan his nicely dramatized apprehension on page 71:

…I agreed to cancel a Sunday church service to let some of our long-haired public radio types take us outside to do a large joint art project they had proposed. They gave each of us a large chunk of paper on which to paint something that symbolized our personality, which they would then string together as a large mural highlighting the different personalities in our church… I feared ending up with a church of chickified arty dudes drinking herbal tea and standing around talking about their feelings, as illustrated by their finger painting.

Alright, we get it: Driscoll, “a truck-driving jock who watches a lot of Ultimate Fighting,” is not interested in tapping his touchy-feelyness. We could ask why he couldn’t have “subverted” this apparently “chickified,” artsy mural by painting a picture of a gun—or better yet, some guy in Ultimate Fighting get-up, whatever that looks like. But we give him the benefit of the doubt.

Then page 83 rolls around, and Driscoll describes the church’s newly-acquired building:
We also got to paint the classrooms, set up our nursery rooms, leave our sound system set up, hang paintings on the walls, and use the beautiful classic church sanctuary with wooden pews and wooden arches as a lovely space for a dark, arty evening service by candlelight.

Slow down! After torching painting as girly just a dozen pages earlier, now Driscoll is extolling the virtues of the new church/art-space. Moreover, Driscoll also mentions that one of the founding values of the church was “beauty”—a virtue with deep feminine roots, I would say. Something needs to give here.

What gives, I think, is Driscoll’s habitual use of sarcasm and overstatement. I like his emphasis on masculinity, because I think a lot of Christian guys have been covertly trained to be soft-spoken wusses. However, loudly beating the Man-drum can lead to some misunderstanding, as was demonstrated a few years ago by John Eldredge’s book, Wild At Heart. Suddenly there were bunches of guys running around gruffly muttering “I’m wildatheart, you should be wildatheart, is he wildatheart?” and screaming about guns and brotherhood, as if volume implied toughness. It got old, and I concluded that even though Eldredge had come valid things to say, it would be easy to malign him via his “converts.”

The same could be true if you read Driscoll’s masculinity rants with an overly literal eye. It’s essential to remember that while Driscoll is beating on insipid, tea-sipping wussiness, he’s also extolling beauty and art, and pointing to the glory of Christ, which encompasses mercy, sympathy, and even gentleness—while to this point it has not included (shudder) Ultimate Fighting.

Like what you read? Don't forget to bookmark this post or subscribe to the feed.


Ched said...

I like your observation and analysis. Driscoll and Eldridge are fast to march out the rhetoric against what they see as the over-feminization of the church. However, I'm wondering if a complete removal of the traits that they are villifying would really be edifying to the church. When all men are macho, who weeps with those who weep? I'm exaggerating, but the mentality of eschewing all that smacks of gentleness (art, emotion), sometimes gets out of control quickly. Where is the postmodern/emerging church leader that calls for a return to biblical masculinity without hyped-up, "relevant," aimed-to-shock-and-appall-their-readers prose?

John B. said...

I had started a long comment and then realized that Ariel had already made the same point: that Driscoll is okay with "beauty" per se when its goal is to glorify God--and, I might add, when it's corporate in nature. Why he frames self-expression as (potentially) feminizing is something I don't quite get. Hemingway once showed off his chest hair and then beat up Maxwell Perkins when the latter questioned the manhood of the former. Or maybe Driscoll would retort that the exception proves the rule?

In the Catholic church, some have made the argument that the veneration of Mary is so strong because, in its early history, the Church recognized the need to incorporate the feminine anima to counterbalance the animus of the male Trinity and the absence of women from the clergy. I wonder what Driscoll would say about that.

Ariel said...

E-mom, who lives in Seattle, emailed me this comment, thinking it was a little long. Length isn't a problem when the material is this good, though:

e-mom: Nice treatment. I’m halfway through; it’s funny, in-your-face, unsettling. I respect the man. Driscoll’s got a brain and deep faith—and humility. Raised by a dad who’s a “construction worker and drives an El Camino,” (p. 63) Driscoll seems pretty comfortable in his blue-collar baseball-loving skin.

On audience: We live in one of Seattle’s pleasant urban neighborhoods. To read Driscoll, you’d think all Seattlites are either running around with tattoos and weird hairdos, or we’re wimpy liberal wusses. (Granted, conservative evangelicals are a minority, but we’re here too—and thriving.) Driscoll’s stated goal is to reach “young, creative, urban secular men” (p. 108). His particular niche is unfathered men. “It then dawned on me that I was dealing with an imbecile epidemic. Most of our guys never had a dad and were either cowardly mama’s boys or thuggish pervert jerks.” (p. 129) I think Driscoll’s sometimes over-the-top confrontational style is deliberately designed to shock/cajole this niche group into action. “…I was basically fathering guys my own age and treating them more like a military unit than a church” (p. 130).

On art/beauty. The current (main) church space is located in a former “big box” hardware store, in light industrial neighborhood called Ballard. The “sanctuary” is dark, like a café or dare I say, bar. Song lyrics are projected on overheads paired with nice watercolors, and the church literature is well-designed but masculine in feel, using various shades of brown and black. The church leadership dress in a (military?) “uniform” of brown t-shirts, khaki pants/shorts. Driscoll is also fond of tattoos… a visual art form (but condemned in Scripture). Clearly, Driscoll has a “cool” artistic/creative bent himself. I surmise he has difficulty reconciling that with his traditional Irish Catholic upbringing.

The rest of the book beckons. Any pastor who lauds the accomplishments of Dog the Bounty Hunter, (see Driscoll’s blog) is likely to raise the eyebrow of middle-aged women like me. I plan to keep Driscoll’s niche audience in mind.

Tim said...

Your comments about Driscoll and then the "Wild at Heart" phenomenon made me laugh. As you note, there is positive significance to Driscoll's emphasis on masculinity, but it seems like we love to jump on the next great bandwagon... whatever it may be. And as you imply, the result is often a subtle form of Pharisaism. "I'm wild at heart. Are *you* wild at heart?" And as former-wimps beat their chests, they are left thinking they have the "new answer" for men, or the church, or whoever. I wish there was an answer for people like me. Oh wait... there is. Jesus. Doesn't mean my masculine-pipes don't need dusting off, but every time I stray from Him I regret it.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife