Permission to treat others poorly often leads to people treating others poorly. It is bad enough when permission is denied and yet people continue to treat others dishonorably. Provide a framework for one’s personal tendencies and the excesses become obvious.
I started down this trek in my last post by suggesting John Piper missed an opportunity to play a helpful mentoring role to Mark Driscoll. Other supporters of Driscoll should not get a “bye” in playing respectful objectors. But Piper’s position is so widely held that the reason for the overall silence from those who readily ring the bell for Driscoll may signal a much larger indictment than should be shouldered by Piper alone.
We may be witnessing little more than a couple of high profile pastors emulating their cultural surroundings. Witness Newt Gingerich’s outburst at being asked about his, as John Stewart put it, “somewhat overlapping marriages.” Rather than call Newt on the carpet the interviewer cowers in the face of Gingerich’s reaction. Too often this is how Driscoll responds to criticism and those who may be in position to offer a critique cower rather than face a cage match.
Long before Driscoll was fulfilling the hopes of every pragmatic Evangelical by pulling off in Seattle what “no one has done before,” Driscoll responded rather bombastically at a Soularize event held there. (I do have the audio. Yes, he has since distanced himself from those culture-embracing Emergents. Keep reading.) Sure he disagreed with the questioner. You may too. I may. But, his tact in reply was to get louder and personal. His recent interview in the UK and his subsequent response were consistent with his pattern. When pressed, get personal. Claim extraordinary results as reason your position is the preference and then ridicule an entire culture for the lack of any comparable model. (Pastor Mark responds from his perspective here.)
I read an article referencing the dustup with Driscoll, MacArthur and Piper a number of years ago. The author suggested that Driscoll had experienced the work of sanctification. He should no longer be considered the cussing pastor. Good for Pastor Mark. But, disagree with Mark and it is hard to see much progress.
The move to create a Jesus to fit an MMA imag(ination) is really nothing more than an extension of cultural iterations where might makes right, men are the rule, and life experiences are cast as male enhancements. Don’t think so? The reviews of Real Marriage I have read indicate a hermeneutic intended to create in marriage an atmosphere for the sexual gratification of the male as its raison de’etre. Piper’s vision of masculine Christianity grants permission.
Radical? Reformissionary? Nah. Satisfied in God? Really? The moves are more host culture dressed up with Christian-ese than radical appropriations of the way of Jesus in modern times. Before taking offense for Messrs. Piper and Driscoll, this is the current state of affairs in Christendom as I see it. In other words the defense of a masculine version of Christianity is verbally defended in the public sphere by these high profile pastor/preachers but they represent the common approach in a good many settings. Or put simply, they announced what others also believe and practice in an ever-narrowing band of Christendom. (For the particular nuance of “Christendom” I have in mind take some time to read David Fitch.)
Rachel Held Evans solicited responses from male theologians/pastors for feminine images of God in the Scriptures. Jesus lamented over Jerusalem longing to gather his people as a mother hen would gather her chicks but they would not. While Jesus referenced his feelings in terms of metaphor, he did not choose a masculine analogy.
My aim is not to defend an egalitarianism that simply reduces human beings to a gender-less brood. The issue is much deeper than that.
What if some outside of Christianity understood the radical move of Paul better than those inside the faith once for all delivered. Rather than pit Paul against Jesus, some political theorists who have turned to reading Paul suggest a better reading of him is as a figure more radical than Jesus. Scandalous. What if they are right?
They are not promoting Paul above Jesus. Instead, their reading seems to suggest Paul takes Jesus and appropriates his message in ways that undercut some of the long held assumptions about the way the world should work. Maybe it would look something like this. The Apostle Paul challenges the pagan cults in Corinth as he suggests women keep silent in the church. If, as scholars contend, there were one thousand temple prostitutes exercising authority over men acting as seductresses many of whom were repenting and joining the community of Jesus people in Corinth, then one could assume they needed to learn the ways of Jesus and rather than as novices in the faith simply baptize their patterns thereby disrupting the church.
Is it really appropriating the message Paul gave to somehow convince us that today women who come into the church are secretly temple prostitutes who share the same need as the women in Corinth? What if the more radical move would be to take the scandalous message of Jesus’ liberation and see in our modern culture(s) the need to appropriate Paul’s radical interpretation of life in Jesus that cuts across ethnic, gender, and social position? The result would be challenging human sex trafficking, working to restore dignity to young women by refusing to see them as simply young boys without the accompanying genitalia, and standing with women in other countries who suffer the indignities that go with chattel status. Now that would be a radical move. That would be a Jesus move.
We spend way too much time looking for ways to sooth the male ego. What we need are pastors to stand and suggest healing and liberation for men whose socialization has for them created a need to pound their chests to prove their masculinity. (Consider the comment by Guy in the previous post.) The move does not undermine male leadership. But, it does set it in the context of a Body created by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus who sets us free from the need to hold on to hubris. Pride produces actions that inevitably reduce the importance of a self-selected subset of human beings in order to maintain positions of power and authority. Pastors need not create a vocabulary to veil this for their congregations but expose the way these patterns have debilitating effects on vitality in the Church.
A friend called yesterday concerned with what he was reading on this whole affair. He maintained that in his setting the call to men to assume responsibility was having a positive effect on the congregation. Good. Every human being needs to be called to responsibly live in the commonwealth of God. If men are failing at that, then call them out. But do not create for them a means to maintain what they impulsively will do – keep others, especially women, as servants. Jesus’ call is to be a “servant of all.” We hate that little word “pas.” But, those beholden to a literal reading cannot somehow escape the clutches of that little word.
Masculine Christianity? Masculine feel to Christianity? Maybe one day we will let go of hyphenating the Good News of Jesus and see it as it was declared, Good News for all people – to them and for them a Savior has been born, Christ the Lord. That would be a better foundation Piper could lay for Driscoll.