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Holding Heaven To A Penis Home

Holding Heaven To A Penis Home
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by Travis Ritter

art by Shelby Hohl

As evangelical Christian pastor and co-founder of Seattle’s now-notorious Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll had it all. Today, it’s easy to imagine Driscoll as a pitiful shell of a man — besieged  by a seamless string of guilt-ridden accusations, financial investigations, and the betrayal of elders, pastors, colleagues and former members of the church — piecing together his existence, his twenty-five year long devotion to God, praying out the sin into a puddle full of angry tears.

It’s Sunday in late September, the morning skies in Seattle begin in a calm flat grey, burning off into a dreamy blue, sunny afternoon under a cool, Fall breeze. More than a month has passed since weekly protests were staged outside of the Mars Hill main campus in Ballard, the church Mark Driscoll co-founded in 1996 at the age of twenty-five, six years after becoming born-again. Now, at age 44, Driscoll’s empire is crumbling underneath him. There are multiple investigations underway of misconduct that led many elders and members of the church board to become exiles of the church and withdraw their membership. That pedestal he placed himself on through a combination of arrogance, ignorance, and passion has collapsed under the weight of his own words. Now, not even Driscoll’s membership to the church is valid. If there is anyone left believing in Driscoll, they are probably mentally corrupt.

Seattle has never been a particularly religious city, but people began to take notice of Mars Hill for its “alternative” image amongst traditional evangelical churches. Driscoll was not the button-up type of pastor; he was a fresh-faced, hoodie-clad approachable bro who had the feisty energy of a bratty brother wanting to be the center of attention (and who happened to be the oldest brother of five). He married his high school sweetheart, Grace, after finding a calling to serve the Lord and plant thy fertile seed of God’s word into the minds of his impregnable peers. With marriage came the loss of virginity with a sexual life partner. They had five children. And, as his explicitness would go on to show in the following years, a lot of sex that wasn’t just about procreation.

Driscoll’s early entry into leadership at the church gave Mars Hill an upper hand in drawing a more youthful Christian community who felt jaded by more traditional evangelical churches. His Ballard location placed him at the third point of Seattle’s homegrown religious, right-wing triangle — an area that includes a semi-affluent, Republican-voting neighborhood called Magnolia at one point, and at the second point sits Seattle Pacific University, Seattle’s strict Christian campus that would kick out undergraduate students if they were ever caught or seen drinking alcohol by administration.

Eight years ago, I moved from Houston to Seattle and took a job at a local Starbucks three days after settling in. The Starbucks location was conveniently located in Interbay, smack dab in between Magnolia, SPU and Mars Hill. The center of the triangle.

Many of my co-workers were SPU students and alumni, so I was almost always scheduled to work on Sundays, so they could have a day for worship at Mars Hill, where “Gen X” to them meant “Gen Xian.” As a non-believer, I had to deal with the pre- and post-Church rush of people wanting their six-shot nonfat caramel spice lattes and Venti drips or whatever, along with small Bible study groups that would gather for hours on end and drink hot cocoa, would seldom leave a tip, and would complain if the pre-programmed music was interrupting their conversation. I never really got to know the customers, probably because I didn’t want to. Everything about the people, who had a more youth-identifying image, made the church appear like a cult, clad in tattoos and piercings and trendy, albeit preppy, clothing that to me only screamed white people with an identity crisis.

No thanks.

What I first noticed about Mars Hill was its power to brainwash people into believing in truly old-fashioned values in a modern, post-religious climate. Sex and gender roles were a key focus of Driscoll’s sermons, as they would come to light in future articles, debates, and broadcast specials on network television. I had read somewhere that Driscoll held firm on the ideology that the husband was to the be bread-winner of the household, and the submissive wife was to be the bread-maker. This blatant sexism was repulsive, yet I would see my female co-workers become obsessed with finding a life partner they could serve. They were choosing to become second in power, far below their “superior,” strong male partners.

Driscoll’s notoriety among evangelicals was based on his frequency to address things that were very seldom discussed in church, chief among them the topic of sex. He has been fairly candid about his sex life with his wife Grace, to an almost embarrassing degree for someone so entrenched in Christian values. The book he co-wrote with Grace, Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship & Life Together, shot onto the New York Times Bestseller List in 2012. The book served as a Christian sex manual, graphically covering sex topics and personal experiences that were otherwise taboo to evangelical Christians, who criticized it for being too explicit, and leftist non-believers who criticized it for being overtly sexist. If God allowed him to have an explicit bumper sticker on his family minivan, it would have to be “I LOVE TO FUCK.”

All the while, he vehemently preached that masturbation, homosexuality and premarital intercourse was the welcome mat to hell. It’s definitely uncharacteristic of a pastor to be so focused on idea of what sex is supposed to be (procreative first, pleasurable second), not what sex actually is (passionate and pleasurable). The young 20-somethings who flocked to his church, many of whom were virgins, are instilled to believe that any impure thoughts will lead them to sin.

While normal people are waking up, presumably having a little pre-brunch coitus, Sundays at the Ballard church (and the satellite Mars Hill campuses in the Seattle area that streamed his sermons onto a large screen) are spent listening to Driscoll wax poetic on the virtues of wholesome sex (wholesome being between a married man and his female spouse). [Ed. Note: What a bizarrely American phenomenon -- a chain of megachurches…?]

I’ll admit, I’ve never once stepped foot into a Mars Hill Church. Not because I don’t believe in God, or anything that Driscoll bases his sermons on, but I’m not willing to “formally agree to submit to the authority of the Mars Hill leadership,” as The Stranger’s Brendan Kiley wrote in his 2012 exposé, “Church or Cult?”

The Stranger, Seattle’s “Only Newspaper,” has exhaustively covered Mars Hill’s questionable purpose in the community and Driscoll’s series of missteps that have brought the church to its current state — embroiled in crisis. The research into this piece drummed up so many features and angles that one 2000 word article in a paper half way across the country couldn’t even begin to scratch the surface. I’d rather let those well-written Stranger articles do the talking. The paper’s chief, the world-renowned sex columnist Dan Savage, has very openly clashed and trashed every viewpoint made by Driscoll about homosexuality.

Driscoll seems seduced by policing sexuality. Sex is where procreation ends and the journey to hell begins. Heaven forbid two gay men or women can share passionate experiences together, while Driscoll’s cock penetrating every orifice of his wife during one of his bold, candidly expressed journeys of hard, passionate lovemaking is perfectly okay. Five times he has made a little spawn of himself, consumed by the religiously corrupt, thinly defined values that retain absolutely nothing of what love really is. The premise for his argument is baseless in the modern age.

But in recent years, Driscoll’s honor and integrity to the church have been compromised by details of co-opting over $200,000 in church funds to purchase 11,000 copies Real Marriage, in order to get on the New York Times Bestseller List. At best, he’s a fraud. At worst, he’s an advantageous liar. Now his publisher has severed their relationship and ceased to continue printing and distributing the books, and it has been widely reported that the surplus were distributed amongst church members before more scandals would rightfully strip him of his membership.

This past summer, “Pussified Nation”, an explosive, emasculating, feminist-hating rant by Driscoll made in 2000 on the Mars Hill online forum Midrash under a pseudonym Walter Wallace II was brought back into the light by former members of the church. This forum thread garnered more than 100 pages of documented commentary before it was removed from the site. It began with the following (grammar and punctuation unchanged):

We could get every man, real man as opposed to pussified James Dobson knock-off crying Promise Keeping homoerotic worship loving mama’s boy sensitive emasculated neutered exact male replica evangellyfish, and have a conference in a phone booth. It all began with Adam, the first of the pussified nation, who kept his mouth shut and watched everything fall headlong down the slippery slide of hell/feminism when he shut his mouth and listened to his wife who thought Satan was a good theologian when he should have lead her and exercised her delegated authority as king of the plant. As a result, he was cursed for listening to his wife and every man since has been his pussified sit quietly by and watch a nation of men be raised by bitter penis envying burned feministed single mothers who make sure that Johnny grows up to be a very nice woman who sits down to pee [sic].

 

Driscoll admitted he was Walter Wallace II in his 2006 book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev, but Driscoll’s belittling of those who disagreed with him on the forum thread stirred up even more controversy when an excerpt from one of his bat-shit crazy rants went on a far-fetched analogy that men are borrowing their penis from God and that women are “penis homes.”

The first thing to know about your penis is, that despite the way it may seem, it is not your penis. Ultimately, God created you and it is His penis. You are simply borrowing it. While His penis is on loan you must admit that it sort of just hanging out there very lonely as if it needed a home, sort of like a man wandering the streets looking for a house to live in. Knowing that His penis would need a home, God created a woman to be your wife and when you marry her and look down you will notice that your wife is shaped differently that you and makes a very nice home.

Tell your people to put your steeple in it.

God, what is it like to be Mark Driscoll? It’s so convoluted and conflicted to believe in the ideology of sex with your submissive hetero partner as saintly, but pornography, pre-marital fornication, adultery and sodomy are the work of sin. Driscoll’s whole basis for the argument is supported by an archaic text can no longer be current in a post-religious America. Yes, despite all the rhetoric of God Bless America, we’ve breached the tipping point of religion maintaining dominance in our society. These out-dated views on gender roles in the home, with the family are no longer relevant.

Driscoll, the Manliest Man Alive, has painted the image of Jesus as being emasculated, clad in flowing robes and long wavy hair. Driscoll, the Manliest Man Alive, clad in Affliction hoodies and close-cut hair, has painted himself as the savior of masculinity, but in turn has been canonized by the community as a lecherous, spiteful man whose values have sinned against the morality to love all equally and without judgment. What’s left? Nothing but a doughy, hollowed-out soft shell of a man, whose purpose in life given to him by God, is acting on borrowed time. He can do very little to restore the community he both nurtured and vilified. While the Ballard location is still drawing numbers, numerous campuses in the Seattle/Bellevue metropolis are halting operations and selling off property due to a mass exodus of members withdrawing themselves. Driscoll, now without a church to preach to, will need more than a “penis home” to find his second-calling in life.

God Blessed America, but in Seattle and the Houston that I know and love, to sin is satisfying.

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