Thoughts on Mark Driscoll...While I'm Knitting

As many of you know, Mark Driscoll, pastor of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, has been causing quite a stir among Christian writers, thinkers, bloggers, and church leaders. I thought I'd wade into these waters as a Christian research psychologist and offer up some thoughts on Mark Driscoll.

The aspect of Driscoll's ministry that I'd like to focus on is Driscoll's thesis regarding the place of masculinity within Christianity. This "Macho Man" emphasis is the most provocative and controversial aspect of Driscoll's ministry. An interview with Driscoll on these matters was recently remixed as a spoof in a widely viewed/circulated YouTube clip:

(For more detail on Driscoll, journalistic accounts about Driscoll's ministry can be found in two widely read pieces by Janet Tu and Molly Worthen.)

Thought #1: On Ultimate Fighting and Drinking Beer
I'd like to begin in perhaps a surprising way, defending some of what Driscoll is saying about gender psychology. I'd like to start by suggesting that many of Driscoll's observations, rather than being dismissed as testosterone-confused Neanderthalism, are important locations for serious theological reflection. By too quickly dismissing Driscoll as the "Macho Man," theology bloggers have, I think, missed an opportunity to dispassionately reflect on gender psychology within the church.

To start, we all know that in the metaphorical landscape of the Bible God is cast as the Male and believers (the church) are cast as the Female. The church is "the bride of Christ." Israel, in Hosea, is an unfaithful wife. In a similar way, God is always cast as Parent and the believer as Child. In short, the language of faith generally casts Christians as females or children.

Following Driscoll, I think it is obvious that if these metaphors are unreflectively overused in a church problems for certain males can be created. Given a certain kind of gender self-image, some males struggle with worship or images that consistently cast them as "female." Now we can object to this reaction, pointing out it's problems, but if we are talking about new male believers or visitors to church this metaphorical switcheroo can be startling, off-putting, and disconcerting. On this score I think Driscoll has a point.

To remedy this situation we see attempts in the Christian world where a kind of "metaphor therapy" is being attempted, trying to reclaim masculine images and metaphors for Christian men. Examples include the book Wild at Heart, Promise Keepers, and, well, Mark Driscoll.

The theological issue is, are these attempts theologically legitimate? That is, does a "masculine Christianity" have a different texture than a "feminine Christianity", experientially speaking? Or should Christianity be post-gender? Should we, as we mature in Jesus, drop the "masculine" and "feminine" aspects of our personality? Is Christianity aiming to be androgynous?

It's rare to get consistent answers about any of this. I think this is because there is a great deal of confusion about what we mean by "masculine." In psychology, the word "masculinity", due to its gender overtones, has been largely replaced by the term "agency." Agency/masculinity is associated with motives for control, power, independence, and dominance. These are, stereotypically, "masculine" traits, but women can be highly agentic as well. If agency means power, control, and dominance then it seems clear that "masculine" traits will struggle to find a place in the Christian ethic. This was precisely Nietzsche's concern about Christianity: Christianity preaches a passive "slave ethic."

But does being a "real guy" categorically imply strong agentic motives? When you listen to Driscoll much of what he is talking about has more to do with traditional gender role interests than agentic personality. Changing the oil in my car, shooting guns, and loving NASCAR are, stereotypically, male gender role interests. And Driscoll has a point that none of this is intrinsically unChristian. The trouble comes when issues of gender role interest get confused with issues of agentic psychology. Loving Monster Truck rallies is a separate issue from psychological needs for power, control, and dominance.

Here's my point. People tend to confuse gender role interest and agentic personality motives. If "Joe Six Pack" shows up at church and gets the vibe that he "can't be a man" what, exactly, does this mean? That to be a Christian you can't drink beer or go to Ultimate Fighter matches? It seems to me that the feminine/child metaphors of Christianity are pushing back against agentic strivings rather then stereotypical gender interests. But this is not at all clear to many male believers. The two issues--gender role interests and agentic motives--are often conflated. This leads to a great deal of confusion about if "real guys" have a place at church.

Thought #2: Chickified Church Leaders
This leads me to my second point, Driscoll's claim that most church leaders are "chickified."

You might be shocked to know that Driscoll is exactly right about this. It is a well known psychological fact that as educational attainment increases the genders look, psychologically speaking, more and more similar (note for aficionados: the M/F scale of the MMPI is positively correlated with education). For example, males who get more educated tend to display greater interest in stereotypical female activities (e.g., cooking, home design, the theater).

I speak from what I know. One year I took up knitting to see what all the fuss was about among my female students (knitting is all the rage now). That semester I freaked out quite a few of my male students as I knitted while proctoring exams. I doubt I could knit through a Mars Hill church service. So count me as Grade A Chickified.

I illustrate the gender psychology/education association to my students by asking them the following question: "How many of your male, PhD college professors do you think are hardcore NASCAR fans?" Answer: Very, very few. Personally, I've never seen a NASCAR hat on the head of any male university colleague. I then ask a follow-up question: "How many blue-collar males working in the city are hardcore NASCAR fans?" Answer (note that we are in small town West Texas): A lot.

See the difference?

So Driscoll has a point. Most church leaders are highly educated. This means that most church leaders are culturally divorced from the average NASCAR fan. The very group Driscoll is targeting.

But here is the very important point about all this. A lot of the reaction to Driscoll isn't even about gender. We are actually talking about the little discussed fissure running through many churches: Education.

I see this everyday in my own church. The educated teach, preach, and have the public leadership roles. The uneducated are marginalized. Worse, if you are an uneducated male, you are force-fed those feminine metaphors. Educated males, being chickified, don't mind or even notice the feminine metaphors. But Joe Six Pack notices the metaphors. All this creates a disjoint in the church. Two groups of males who find each other alien and weird. So when Joe Six Pack wants to start a Wild at Heart study the chickified church leader just blinks uncomprehendingly. Or, if you are me, turns back to his knitting...

Let me offer up this little test for your reflection and experimentation:

If you hear a man trash Wild at Heart or Promise Keepers that person very often has a graduate degree.

In my life and church this test is about 80%-90% accurate. In short, a great deal of the conversation about Driscoll is really about the educational fissures running through the church which tend to manifest in high culture (going to the theater) versus low culture (going to Monster Truck rallies) clashes.

Thought #3: Masculinity as Misogyny?
I've argued in Thought #1 and #2 that Driscoll should not be so easily dismissed. The question he's raising--Why are males not more attracted to church?--is worth asking. And one of his diagnoses on this issue--Church leaders are chickified--has some merit to it.

But the dark side of Driscoll's ministry is its chauvinism and misogyny. And this criticism is also valid for certain impulses one finds in the Christian men's movements. Specifically, the assertion of masculinity implies a suppression of women and a restoration of male power over women. To be a "Christian man" means "reclaiming" and "taking back" leadership roles in both the family and the church. Men use spiritual warrant to assert power over women.

So the issue we need to raise is this: Does the assertion of masculinity in the church necessarily involve an assertion over against women? Can masculinity be asserted in an egalitarian manner?

I think it is possible to recognize gender distinctives without getting into power plays. But I'll admit that this is rare and hard to do. Too often in the church to be male means to assert power over women. And I think Driscoll is guilty on this score.

The point is, I don't mind Driscoll's focus on trying to reach "real guys." I think he's right about this being a demographic that is being lost to most churches. Also, I'm largely in agreement with the diagnosis that chickified church leaders struggle to reach the "real guy" demographic. I say this proudly as a chickified guy who enjoys knitting and writing poetry. So I'm not offended. I see what he's talking about.

But when "real guy" creeps into misogyny, with men asserting power over women through the euphemism of "leadership", I'm in strong moral disagreement.

Final Thought
The point of this post is that when Driscoll starts talking about gender and people start pushing back there is a lot of stuff that starts flying around: Agentic motives, gender role interests, educational fissures, power and misogyny. It all blends together in a conversational stew ostensibly about "real guys." And if we are not clear about what we are talking about we talk past each other. In favor of Driscoll, our lack of clarity means we miss the important and legitimate points he is making. On the side of Driscoll's critics, a lack of clarity means we get distracted by trivial issues (e.g., chickified church leaders) and fail to corner the critical issues of male chauvinism and misogyny.

This essay is about keeping things clear so that when the subject of Mark Driscoll comes up we can start getting a little less heat and a little more light.

And now, back to that scarf I was working on...

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60 thoughts on “Thoughts on Mark Driscoll...While I'm Knitting”

  1. Tony Jones' book The New Christians has an interesting account of Driscol's early involvement in the emergent movement (he would later, as I'm sure you know, break from it). You can tell that - in Jones' mind - he is a sort-of symbol of a path not taken in the movement.

  2. Driscoll is maddening because he makes it so easy to dislike him and dismiss him as an certitude-infested SOB and a punk.

    The underlying ideas that you address in thoughts #1 and #2 reflect my experience, though, too. In a very concrete way that my wife will verify, John Eldredge saved my marriage by using a language I could understand to remind me of socially conditioned truths I had long neglected.

    Unfortunately, if the Ransomed Heart blogosphere is any indication, it also appears that the misogynic dimension of an otherwise healthy message gets amplified in many with whom even Eldredge has connected. And Eldredge's take on turning the other cheek (see Ch. 5 in Wild at Heart) is deeply problematic, to boot.

    Had I been exposed to Driscoll at that time instead of Eldredge, I am pretty certain the outcome would have been far different. Driscoll is insufferable, and I would have tuned him out immediately.


  3. If you hear a man trash Wild at Heart or Promise Keepers that person very often has a graduate degree.

    Ouch. That cuts, cuts deep man.

    As a graduate-degreed professional and father of 4, who happens to love NASCAR, guns, and hunting, I guess I buck the stereotypical labels. And I bristle, somewhat, that NASCAR, guns, and hunting are set aside as "blue-collar" or "uneducated" activities while knitting is somehow more refined or proper. (I'm not knocking you, just using them as examples.)

    Which is precisely why I'm irritated by Driscoll, Eldredge, and PK. qb said it, they all come across as certitude-infested SOB's... so where does that leave a misfit like me? We who do not fit so nicely into labels such as "chickified" or properly complimentarian eventually get left out or disaffected because we don't meet some behavioral standard.

    While I agree that the education gap is a wall between blue-collar and white-collar believers, it is only because we have actively built and fortified it in our prejudices. Even so, the sides still do not accurately describe everyone with certitude... therein lies my beef with Driscoll and the like.

  4. Your post is a welcome balance to a lot of the vitriol spit in response to Driscoll, much of which I find myself tempted to applaud. I am wondering, though, about what qualifies as "okay" masculine interests, which both he and you refer to.

    For example, do action movies (where guys like David "slaughter other men"), ultimate fighting championship, or shooting guns qualify as acceptable interests for Christians? This is coming from a guy who loves his action movies, but it is something I'm currently struggling with. And watching guys beat each other into a pulp, as well as shooting instruments built to destroy life, seem to be questionable as well.

    So, my problem is that (many of) the culturally formed "masculine interests" that we as males bring to the table do seem at least somewhat problematic in the context of Christian discipleship. But Driscoll seems to want to celebrate those things, and you refer to them as seemingly fine. I'm wondering how much those masculine interests (which tend to gravitate toward the violent) can remain untouched by the gospel.

  5. Matt,
    I need to read The New Christians. I'm fairly clueless as to how all the emergent people and trends fit together.

    Thanks for sharing. Your story is why I think it important to confront some of the snobbery I find in may quarters in the church. I have a lot of bible & theology prof friends of mine that look down at WAH and PK. But I know of many men who's lived have been profoundly impacted by those ministries. My suspicion is that theological snobbery is involved and some of this post is trying to bring that out for reflection and conversation.

    I appreciate your bristling. It would be ironic and depressing if a post attempting to break down walls thrown up by class and education actually fosters and reinforces those same divisions and stereotypes. That was not my intention. My goal, rather, was to note a real empirical trend (which exists but, as you yourself can testify to, isn't 100% accurate) to get people to talk about it. As I hinted at in my post, people tend to focus on four big issues when it comes to church life: Gender, socioeconomic status, race, and sexual orientation. But I think one of the most pernicious fissures is the education issue. This problem is particularly acute in Christian churches as Christianity has been, from its earliest days, unapologeticly cerebral and intellectual.

    And, finally, I'm a bit of a hybrid like you. My self-portrayal in the post was a bit exaggerated to make a point.

    Your point, I think, is where a great deal of theological reflection should be done. That is, you've hit in an issue that is getting passed over in all these Driscoll conversations. Is there a sanctified masculinity? If so, what does it look like? Do women in the church get to keep their gender identities while men do not?

    My post is just a preliminary stab at an answer, suggesting that agenic motives need to be separated from gender role interests. The hard part is creating a hermeneutical apparatus that allows us to make discernment issues in the gray areas like with some of the examples you cite. For example, ultimate fighter might be okay. It's violent but its voluntary and no one is killed or maimed purely for sadistic sport. But attending a violent movie (where killing, although virtual, is for amusement or entertainment) might not be. I'm not saying this example is sound, I'm just saying that it's a much more interesting and important conversation than the typical one you find about Driscoll in the world of blog.

  6. Thanks for raising the bar on this discussion. You make a lot of important points and helped me think through some of this from a new angle. Mars Hill has been my community for many years and I think we need to listen to voices like yours sometimes. I don't agree completely with your last point, but your thoughtfulness (and chance taking) on points 1 & 2 make me interested to continue the conversation.

  7. Bryan,
    I also appreciate your thoughtfulness. Let he hasten to say that Point #3 is made from the "outside." And as an outsider I might me wrong. Also, if Mars Hill is like my church, there is a lot of variation and extremes inside the faith community, so a blanket statement is tough to apply to an entire community. And, finally, Point #3 is an expression of my personal view on gender roles. That is, Mars Hill may just want to disagree with me on that score. That's fine, we'll each just express our different views of women's roles in the church.

  8. This discussion is very thoughtful and I also appreciate the lack of vitriol (we better dare not use that word with our blue-collar dude friends!)spit.

    I'm a Mars Hill guy who doesn't like Nascar or guns or knitting, so...I guess I don't fit in anywhere! :) I love my wife though and my boys...very much. I was in a prayer meeting with around 20 other Mars Hill manly men a few weeks back, where we took a look at what it meant to be a manly dude who was going to lead his family. We looked at Jesus who took the role of servant, washing his disciples feet and even dying for his subordinates. We prayed for each other that we would serve our wives and our families like Jesus served us, pouring ourselves out in humility. I am certain that some guys misunderstand the manly teaching at Mars Hill and lord it over their wives in a way that doesn't reflect Jesus, but Mark don't teach it that way and the men who read their Bibles together and pray together at Mars Hill don't roll that way. (to use my blue-collar dude talk!) :)

    Blessings in Christ

  9. I don't know anything about Mars Hill or Mark Driscoll.

    It strikes me that point 2 is more about class than about gender. Actually I think a man who is a feminist, who actively challenges gender expectations, who sees gender as fluid and as a social construct is more free to like football, action movies, beer, loud music and generally be an untidy slob because it doesn't have to have anything to do with the pressure to be macho, he can just enjoy those things for what they are.

    I don't think it is possible to model gendered relations without immersing yourself into an unhealthy and unChristian set of power relations, and that is one reason amongst many why I'm celibate. However I recognise the authority of 1 Corinthians 7 and think that if people do decide to buy into the traditional male-female relationship then they should at least challenge the gendered expectations within that relationship, and that church should empower them to do so. That doesn't just extend to sharing household chores, work patterns and childcare duties, but to who drives to church and who takes the passenger seat, subverting gendered models of sex eg using strap-ons or the male deliberately playing the role of submissive, etc

    The notion of complementarism is unhelpful and illogical when it is applied to everyone who is perceived as fitting into a particular social construct. It is helpful and biblical when it is applied individually - ie everyone is part of the Body of Christ but has different roles and callings which are given and developed by the Spirit, not decided according to whether they are perceived as male or female.

    I suspect I'm in the minority on this, though (although what's new).

  10. Yes, so many people are leaving thoughtful comments; I, on the other hand, am just leaving a funny observation.

    It was quite felicitous what you included in your post about asking your students how many of their professors they thought liked NASCAR. Last Thursday I was sitting in class and my professor walks in with a NASCAR travel cup... I had to do a double-take, it was a real "WTF?!" moment. I really couldn't believe it, this man is the chair of the Psychology department. I wondered if somebody had left it at his house, or if it was a free gift, or maybe if it was a joke... anything but real. In the moment I was able to appreciate how truly strange it was, and also realized that that is a deeply held stereotype of mine. I'm not trying to be a snob, I am simply saying that I had never seen anything like that before, and he shattered my paradigm.


  11. A view from afar -- I saw at the Federation of Damanhur, and at the Shambhalla Mountain Center in Denver Colorado, a clear living articulation of men & women living together with great vigor and action.

    The aim is a society that celebrates masculine traits (in addition to the already prevalently celebrated feminine traits,) rather than making men and women conform to gender trait assignments.

  12. Richard,

    Some gender differences and responses cannot be thought away.

    When I was a young lad about my grandson's age, Harold Yancey and I put a whoopie cushion under the regular cushion on the "deacon's bench" where the preacher would come to sit before he began his sermon. Our timing was impeccable because we knew that it was the preacher's habit to go from the front pew to stand in front of the deacon's bench while the congregation was standing for the song prior to the song before the sermon. When the song leader told everyone to be seated for the hymn before the sermon, he sat down and the faux fart trumpeted forth loudly. Pandemonium erupted.

    Unfortunately for us, someone ratted us out (we suspected it was a girl) and our parents were called. My late father, a spotty churchgoing, thought it was hilarious mischief. My sainted mother put me on bread and water for a week and wanted me to go forward and repent. Harold's parents reacted similarly.

    How many guys (and gals) can imagine Jesus cutting a big one while walking along with the twelve on a dusty Galilean road.
    A messianic pneumatic moment.

    Jesus nonetheless shatters all our stereotypes. Praise Him.

    George C.

  13. I just can't let it go...

    How many guys (and gals) can imagine Jesus cutting a big one while walking along with the twelve on a dusty Galilean road. A messianic pneumatic moment.

    I can! And I'm laughing about it, making it hard to typo. "But the LORD was not in the whirlwind..."

    Awesome story, George.

  14. Dr. Beck,

    The rhetoric and construction (beginning and ending with knitting etc.) of your meditation was clearly designed to offer up a charitable reading of Driscoll. I agree with my fellow commentators that such an approach yielded new insights and is helpful if we want to create a dialogue between disparate classes/genders. Well done. My question: Much like a professor will twist a feeble student's wrong answer in class into "magically" the right answer, are you at all complicit in exploring issues within Driscoll's theology that do not actually exist in his theology? Or, is the subject of Driscoll akin to an object or an event, like a plane-crash that can lead to theological inquiry, or are you saying that, through a dismissal of his views, we are missing an genuine voice to dialogue with?

  15. Hi Justin,
    Thanks for the view from the inside. Like I said with Bryan, I'd hate to paint the Mars Hill community with a broad brush. I'm mainly working with MD's comments about men and the church.

    Hi Tim,
    You make some important points. I'd like to see more of our conversations about gender take up the topics you raise.

    Hi Amanda,
    Great story. It helps illustrate that when we play with stereotypes we are always likely to get burned.

    Hi Stephy,
    I surfed over to your posts and rend them. Thanks for sharing them. Having never visited Mars Hill it's helpful to read reflections like yours.

    Hi George,
    Amazing as always. I always love your stories, particularly those about your dad. I still laugh at the dinosaurs and Sunday School story.

    Hi Bryce,
    Good questions. I don't think anyone should or must dialogue with Driscoll. I wrote the post because I felt that the reflection that has been done on theology blogs has tended to miss the mark or have been preaching to the choir. My approach was to step into the middle, giving credit for what I saw was his legit points and disagreeing with him on what I felt were major (but often overlooked) points. Like most good blog posts I tried to cut at a tired conversation in a new way. That's all I was after. Beyond that, I'm not offering any recommendations about seeing Driscoll as a "voice" to be deal with. For my part, I doubt I'll ever write about him again.

  16. We are actually talking about the little discussed fissure running through many churches: Education.

    I have observed effects of this divide at close range. My blue-collar husband ended his formal education with a high school diploma, but his interests include fine art, theater, and classical music. His favorite sport is bicycling while his interest in NASCAR, football, guns and hunting is zero. He lives by a deeply held principle of nonviolence. Yet his distrust and resentment of highly educated church leaders runs deep, and much anguish has sprung from it.

  17. I find it surprising that people still talk about masculinity and femininity as if they were stable, universal constructs the same the world over. I think it's more accurate to talk about 'masculinities', the recognition that even within a cultural grouping there are different ways of being masculine, and that's ok. Have you read any of RW Connell's work on masculinities that talks about hegemonic masculinity being the type of masculinity that is dominant in a particular context and that it will be at the top of a hierarchy of masculinities? That ties in with what you've identified with 'chickified church leaders'.

    Why don't we acknowledge that there can be as much diversity within genders as between them, that a particular woman can have less in common with another woman - perhaps because of education as you've identified - than she has in common with a particular man. That's what grated so much with me about the Eldredges' books - their universal statements that every woman has to like twirly skirts (I'm paraphrasing) and if she doesn't then she's in denial. I think the comments on this blog demonstrate some of the diversity that we ought to expect among all men, and among Christian men.

  18. He is just like all the other bible thumpers with lots of talk and ZERO proof of anything.
    Take a hike superstition guy.

  19. An additional problem with Driscoll's approach is not that he wants to reach more "masculine" guys (that's fine, those kind of guys need to be reached too), but that he makes his definition of "masculinity" and what constitutes a "real" man normative for all men. Us "chickified" dudes aren't just different from tough guys like him, in Mark's world we are WRONG. There's no room in Mark's view of gender for diversity of personalities among men or women. If you don't fit into his stereotype of masculinity or femininity, you are sinful and wrong. This is not only oppressive to women, it's oppressive to us men who don't fit into his narrow definitions of masculinity.

  20. I've been "chickified" since the day I was born. I didn't exactly have a father to raise me up, but I had a mom and two sisters. I knew how to braid hair, play house, and everything. Because of that, I never fit in really with other guys, but the lack of a father figure really left me craving male attention, so for a while I become extremely homophobic (as a sort of reaction formation).

    I've found that people in my position (fatherlessness) go two ways: Hyper-masculinization or to borrow word "extreme chickification". Guys who do nothing but lift weights, get in fights, and have sex with women all want to prove to themselves their masculinity. This is also related to the rise of gangs as places where men without fathers can have fellowship, although in destructive ways. Then there are guys like me who don't care for muscles, are passive, and don't find women that appealing, but seek out male attention as a way to attain masculinity in their lives.

    I've lost too much sleep over this issue only to realize I have my own masculinity, albeit different than everyone else's. I don't need to look else where for something I possess. It's been redefined for me when I met Christ.

    Jesus showed me what a real man was, loving and compassionate yet firm, nurturing and submissive yet powerful: A feminine spirit clearly displayed in a male body. Christianity may attract certain types of males, but I would say I am every bit as masculine as Johnny Six-pack. I believe everyone has a unique blend of male and female characteristics, which God gave to them for His purposes. What Driscoll is talking about are social constructions of masculinity and femininity, the essence of which are completely different to what men and women actually feel, since even gay men are men and their traits counted as masculine.

  21. Dr. Beck,

    Please explain what you mean by asserting power over women?

    You said,

    But when "real guy" creeps into misogyny, with men asserting power over women through the euphemism of "leadership", I'm in strong moral disagreement.

    Leadership of church and family as a male responsibility taught in scripture is something I believe in. I know many have abandoned this ideal.

    I don't think that leadership implies a power grab. My wife is a powerful woman, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. But she is submissive to my male spiritual leadership. However, that is a role in which we respect each other.

    I will also share one of the most profound illustrations that came out of my work. My former secretary who is married to a guy who can have a macho tone at time, was once talking about being the head of his family in a way that doubtless sounded arrogant to her. After her company left she reminded him that he could only be the "head of the house" because she allowed him to be. Understand the tone of that phrase was that she accepted and wanted him to be the male spiritual leader but in a way that respected her.

    To me "Wild at Heart" teaches that women want male spiritual leadership. They don't want domination. They want a man who leads and honors them, not bragging about being the boss.

    I hope you will reply.

    Joe Palmer

  22. Hi Joe,
    Fair questions. I guess I'd respond this way. Say you had a wife who didn't want her husband to lead her (per your illustrations). Say she wanted to share that leadership equally with her husband. In your opinion would that wife have a sinful attitude?

  23. Dr. Beck, just wanted you to know that you have sparked quite a conversation over at the Jesus Creed blog. I am glad that I came here to read your entire post and the comments.

  24. I was surprised to see Wild at Heart lumped into the same category as PK or Driscoll. As a woman deeply wounded by misogyny early in life, I certainly have not experienced Eldredge as misogynistic in any way. Have you read Wild at Heart in the context of other Eldredge writings, such as Journey of Desire, Captivating, or Walking with God? I think Wild at Heart is less about "macho" and more about coming to terms with gender tendencies as good gifts to be received, enjoyed, and deployed in mutually submissive relationships, all in union with Jesus. The gender tendencies discussed are broader than "Joe Six Pack's". Eldredge himself is highly educated, loves poetry, great books, movies, scholarship, dance, art, and theater as well as hunting, fly fishing and rock climbing. He worked as an actor and in theater before his career as an author. It's hard for me to see a parallel between him and PK or Driscoll as you've described his views here. - Becki Nelson

  25. Peggy,
    Thanks. I was wondering why this post (a year old) started getting comments!

    I wasn't very careful in making distinctions in the post. The reference to Wild at Heart was as an example of things within Christianity trying to recover a "masculine spirituality." Which is exactly the stated goal of Wild at Heart. That was the only point I was trying to make in referencing the book.

  26. Thanks Dr. Beck for this helpful explanation of the many threads that come together in critiques of Mark Driscoll. Understanding the agent/power dynamic and the eduation fissure helps me understand the conversations I've (mostly overheard) related to Driscoll and this view of scripture/the church.

  27. Richard,

    I'm not trying to debate you. I am not trying to trick you. I just wanted you to clarify. Perhaps you have by the way you answered.

    I will answer your question. A wife can no more set aside her husband as the male spiritual leader, than can the church set aside Christ as it's spiritual leader.

    I think that is a scriptural and a practical answer. I do agree that there is latitude in the understanding of what is leadership. I don't think that means dictatorship.

  28. Hi Joe,
    I'm not trying to debate you either. I only asked the question as I think it helps us get, quickly, to some assumptions that we might not share. That is, given your view your questions to me above make perfect sense. But, as I don't share your view, my answers wouldn't have helped clarify anything for you. We just see things differently. Which isn't surprising. Christians disagree about all kinds of stuff.

  29. So are you saying that the discussion is not worthy the time.

    My thesis is simple. If you can set aside Christ as the head of the church, then you can set aside the husband being the head of the wife. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Eph 5:23 (ESV)

    That was my point in that Christ is the head but we are given the right to chose to follow. If your wife chooses to not follow the husband as the spiritual head of her family then she has missed a blessing.

    This brings in all sort of discussions which aren't really where I was going but are important like:

    What if he isn't leading?
    What if he is leading away from Christ?

    My question if you will answer it is by what basis could someone set aside the headship of the husband?

  30. Hi Joe,
    I'm not trying to shut down conversation. It is just that there is a very large literature on the egalitarian perspective. So rather than summarize that here I'd just point you to that more scholarly and exegetical conversation. Read a few good books on the egalitarian perspective and you'll have my view in hand.

    But my hunch is that you've read this literature and found it unconvincing. If so, what, exactly, do you expect me to say? We just see the evidence differently. Happens all the time.

  31. Perhaps it is a fault of mine but I read mostly the Bible. I really don't know how one can misunderstand what that says. People have trouble with authority. I would imagine the people who have trouble with the husband being the head of the wife, also have trouble with Christ being the head of the church.

  32. Thanks for your interesting and thoughtful comments.
    You said: "the dark side of Driscoll's ministry is its chauvinism and misogyny." I agree. I think the dark side is demeaning and objectifying of women. Mark makes that clear on the MH blog:

  33. Dr. Beck, I enjoyed your post, and think you bring up some good points for discussion, but I disagree with some of them.

    I agree with Joe palmer. I also don’t see how the mans’ leadership in the family can be disputed. It’s in at least 3 places in the bible, with the same message each time, wives submit to your husbands. As in Eph 5, the one rejects that the husband is the head of the wife, they also reject that Christ is the head of the Church.

    What so many people miss is that in each of these three passages, (Eph 5, Col 3 and 1 Pet 3) immediately after wives are commanded to submit to their husbands, the men are commanded to love their wives as themselves, be considerate and respectful, and not be harsh with them. 1 Pet 3.7 even includes the threat to “treat them with respect…so that nothing will hinder your prayers”. Nowhere in the Bible is a license for men to abuse their leadership.

    This may be chauvinistic, but it’s the way it is. We cannot pick and choose from the Bible.

    The sermons that I have seen from Mark Driscoll have emphasized the responsibilities of both genders, and I think he right.
    John O’Brien

  34. I would agree with the premise that the higher the degree, the greater the sense of a loss of "low culture" as you call it. But as an M.A.(Theology) educated lover of all things theological and also a former police officer, who loved all things that were culturally manly, including the subservience of women and seven NASCAR races including the Daytona 500. Also, although not mentioned, we as Christians need to understand the deep, historical roots to many of these "sporting events", to understand first that sports is used to mainstream the masses to control them, and second, many sports incorporate civil religion, i.e. put the stamp of Christianity or God upon the sport to attract Christians to spend more money. These are the darker, more insidious side of the professional sports world.

    If a person wants to possess "Manly" qualities, tell him to stand in the face of oppression while loving the oppressor at the same time. Tell him to allow for vulnerability, which will connect him to relationships and the need for responsibility in the community. Tell him that people are being enslaved every day in the U.S. and the world, so why are those who claim to be Manly, so afraid of persecution. I look at people like Father Greg Boyle (Homeboy Industries) as people who appear to be soft spoken, but stand in the face of oppression and directly question President's as to their practices. That's man-hood. At the end of Jesus' life, everyone fled, except the women. There's something to be said about that.

    In terms of the church though, Driscoll and Eldridge overlook the aspect that other men could be perceived by male leaders as competitive to their sphere of power or influence.

    When many women enter the church, there is an already existent tacit relationship between her and the male authority, which will sometimes naturally lead to submissiveness. When many men enter the church, they are usually immediately perceived as competitors for a slice of power.

    Paul calls us to appeal to the divine power in I Corinthians whereas we will then realize that each human being possesses forms of power (gifts, talents) which the church can not function unless these are being utilized.
    As we continually pursue the ministry of reconciliation, we will realize that yes, we are male/female, but there is so much embedded from our culture as to the meaning of man-ness and woman-ness, which is detrimental to understanding this ministry, which I believe you Dr. Beck have thoughtfully argued.

    I must personally pursue non-violent peace building because the natural way of my personality is the way of violence. I must weep, because it's my empathic response to the pain in other people through conversations. And finally I must cross you over (break your ankles) and hit the jump shot in your eye, because that's how I roll. :)

    We need to study the domination system to realize why these predominant male gender traits have become a pedagogue.

  35. Charis,

    As Beck predicted. I read the arguments and they are so weak it is unworthy of response.

    Bilezikian simply picks a word in the sentence that isn't authority to assert as the meaning of headship and therefore claims that head doesn't mean authority.

    Jesus is our head/authority but he is not a dictator.

  36. Dr. Beck,
    I enjoyed your post. Thanks for looking into Mark Driscoll's teaching and what motivates it more deeply.

    thanks for sharing that link.

    Joe Palmer,
    I think the article is worth some thought, and I'd challenge you to read it a second time.
    I agree with Dr. Beck that too much misogyny and male chauvinism is being supported by the church under the guise of male leadership.

  37. I fail to see how any man could feel "chickified" at Dr. Beck's church of Christ, where women are not allowed to speak, pray, read a scripture, lead a song, serve communion, serve in any kind of office or "usurp" authority over any man. It is a very male-dominated service.

  38. Hi David,
    At my church, women can pray, read scripture, lead a song, serve communion, serve as ministers (spiritual formation, small group, children, youth) and lead the communion thoughts.

    However, we have yet to get women the right to preach or serve as an elder. Many of us are pushing for those additional changes. Slow, but important work for our tradition.

    Regardless, appreciate your sweet, charitable spirit...

  39. Dr. Beck, thanks for this article. I've often looked at Driscoll as an embarrassment to the Reformed and Evangelical communities. There is so much he does that boggles my grad student mind. But I am glad to hear someone take seriously his call to awareness of how the Church is losing young men.

    David H., I hope you will come to learn that there is considerable diversity in traditions and denominations. Dr. Beck's church is a pioneer among Churches of Christ in regards to the expanding role of women in the community life and leadership of a congregation.

  40. Dr. Beck,

    I am a female attendee of Mars Hill church and a marriage and Family Therapist. I have been going to MH for about 4 years now. In NO WAY have I ever felt mistreated, suppressed, or marginalized as you would seem to suggest Dr. Beck. I think you are using the term mysogyny and chauvinist incorrectly when it comes to Pastor Mark Driscoll. Mark thinks that the best thing you can do for any woman is to train guys that will continually love, pursue, esteem, and serve them much as Christ in his perfect obedience has done for the Church. I don't think you can call a man that seeks to serve his wife in this way as the head of a covenantal relationship mysogynist, anymore than you could call Christ a chauvinist for being a male and referring to Himself as the head of the bride/church. I think you should rethink your opinion on the mysogyny of Mark Driscoll. I think you should focus on the kind of guys Mars Hill is producing, none of whom would fit the ignorant labels you have mistakenly sought to affix to them.

    Gabrielle Davis

  41. In response to this "analysis", I see many valid observations and opinions based on, well, psychology. On top of this is a definition of genders based on cultural archetypes. I would encourage you to seek scriptural basis of what a "man" and a "woman" is, rather than using worldly attitudes as a measure. Remeber besides being slaves (which is not necessarily "feminine") we are also called to be soldiers. Besides, we are called to be submissive not because we are "girly" in relation to God, but because of God's Lordship over us and because Jesus Christ is our Master. I do agree with you though that if a man shows a preference for things that are agentic in its nature, then there should be further reflection on why that man is drawn to those things.

    I have a bachelor's degree and am currently working on a Master's and yes I do enjoy cooking and other things traditionally feminine. That doesn't mean I don't also enjoy watching and participating in sports, including mixed martial arts. To further illustrate that gender "interests" are very cultural, I am Canadian, and even "manly" Canadians find NASCAR rather boring and don't really understand the appeal, regardless of education level.

    However I do appreciate your thoughts and opinions and am encouraged to also keep testing things against what is truth.


  42. I think that your blog was very well written, however I believe that it is an oversimplification of a very complex issue.
    In addition to being "chickified", it must be noted that men who hold PhD's are also more likely to be homosexual, less likely to have served in the Armed Forces, and are generally more politically liberal than their less educated counterparts.

  43. Hmmm.... this a very good post. Driscoll's implicit disdain for intellectuals suddenly makes sense now. As I type this, I suddenly wonder if it is consistent for Driscoll to extol Nascar/sports but deride videogames like WoW. Seems like they might be fulfilling similar psychological "real men" kind of needs e.g. competition, beating someone up, power, agency etc.

    Regarding your enlightening block quote: "If you hear a man trash Wild at Heart or Promise Keepers that person very often has a graduate degree."

    I am guilty as charged and add to your confirmation that this true.

  44. Excellent point about Education - I definitely have seen this one, my father, a pastor with an MA in Education had difficulty relating to the good 'old boys' in the church. I never saw why until now - it was his education. He wanted to sit around and discuss the particulars of CS Lewis and AW Tozer and then go out in the backyard and tend his flowers. Watching a football game seemed ridiculous to him. And those football-blue collar guys were not impressed by his flower garden, though he could name every one of them by genus and specie I had never made the connection with education before though as a probable reason for the tension.

  45. Leadership as a euphemism. Never thought of it that way, especially at the Christian college I attend, where we're supposed "all" leaders (when really, true "leadership" is those who lead loudest, proudest, and who have the most friends). 

  46. LOL! You are sooo funny. When I saw the title to this blog in your most recent post, I burst out laughing. The thing is, I'm told knitting isn't considered at all a gender-based activity in Europe, but hey, guys who knit in the USA are certainly suspicious. You do have a point although Driscoll was seriously irritating me. I have no problem with men being interesting in hunting (I like hunting) and NASCAR, football, cars and wrestling (booooring). But merely being male doesn't automatically make you right. A family needs both heads and hearts working together without the danger of one suppressing the other on important points just because "someone has to be the head." Christ is the head. In Him, we can come to agreement or wait until we do. I see it happen in our organic fellowship all the time, and there are a lot more than two heads there. It does require supernatural intervention, but that is available to us as believers.

    Blessings, Cindy

  47. My husband & I both have Master's Degrees and are NASCAR fans (although we don't wear any hats). I can see your point, but I think it may have more to do where you live. In NYC the churches I went to were definitely more for mid-upper class. However here in the Kansas City area many of the churches I have attended have had a good cross section of those who have high school degrees, those with bachelors and those with further education. I think we would be surprised at the different types of people that don't feel comfortable in our churches. I would think that if that was Pastor Driscoll's intent he would be wiser to broaden his definition of a man rather than make is so narrow to exclude so many men. 

  48. Do  we all realize what a little world we're talking about here? If you're Roman Catholic or Orthodox or Mainline Protestant or Quaker -- this is a tiny little subculture of Christendom you may never even have heard of. Is Driscoll worth the time?


  49. I wonder if there is an educational fissure for women in the church.... If there is I wonder how it presents.

  50. I read the MH blog (specifically the articles referring to women, and submission), and haven't found anything on it that is against biblical teaching.  Perhaps I'm not seeing what you're seeing?  Although I think Mark Driscoll sometimes exaggerates masculinity to prove a point (my former Marine husband is highly masculine, but can't stand Nascar, for example), I haven't heard anything that comes from the MH church that is anti biblical.  

  51. This is a really interesting take.  One of the curiosities I'm dealing w/ (and that friends in other parts of the country echo) is an extremely strong anti-intellectual bias w/in the church.  City-wise, I'm in a bit of "rednecky" area, which helps to explain this although it doesn't explain things for some of my friends.  Also my charismatic bent helps to explain this (it readily turns into experience CONTRA knowledge).  But while there are Driscoll-types in my circles and indeed a lot of misogyny overall in churches in my area, I still see a tendency among non-seminary-educated pastors to be more of the nurturing type than the easily-identifiable "guys guy."  (However, thanks to Courageous biblestudies and the like, many of them are dusting off their "guy" credentials.)  So I think part of what we're looking at, when a pastor is pastoral and not just a teaching CEO, is that men called to this ministry often have inherently nurturing natures.  They are the counselors and the care-givers.  (Now a lot of different leadership gifts get grouped under "pastor" in our day and age, and some of those gifts may have more of a bent toward power and management than nurture, but I'm talking about the pastors who rub the ointments into the sheeps' wounds.)  So I do see your point, particularly as it relates to men who have thought deeply enough to question traditional gender hierarchy reads of Scripture (which pretty much no leading men or laity men I know of in these anti-intellectual circles have done).  But when it comes to love songs to Jesus and corporate expressions of ecstasy and being warm and nurturing, I see pastors who are not very (or at all) intellectual leading this way too.  

  52. This is very helpful - thank you!

    I wonder whether it's as easy to separate "masculine" pursuits from agency as easily as you suggest? Aren't shooting a gun and driving a car all about power and dominance? And going to a monster truck rally or watching UFC you're seeing agency in action as one person/large truck dominates another person/unfortunate cars getting crushed.
    Also, it's worth asking what it is that 'masculine' men are missing: are they all hankering for a chance to be agents, OR would they like to be in a hierarchy structure? So, the most 'masculine' or agentic career in the contemporary world (and probably for most of history) is being in the military. BUT, serving in the military involves an incredible amount of submission: of giving up one's agency. As soon as you enter you become an anonymous cog in a machine - at the very bottom of a hierarchy. You don't get to decide where to live or where to go or what to wear or how to cut your hair or a whole host of things. 

    Is it possible that one could capture this kind of experience in a church that had a very masculine view of God: submission to a greater purpose, becoming part of a hierarchy etc.? Perhaps what is needed is an elevation of the agentic character of God, so that 'masculine' men can see ourselves as servants within a hierarchy.


  53. Perhaps the message of the gospel does not need to be targeted in a strategic way like marketing does. The Gospel should just be presented Then let the Holy Spirit work with the call that is made to call people to salvation. In the kingdom there is nor male or female So the Bible says so why are we so concerned about gender application now in the body of Christ? I think it's just more of the last days apostasy and false prophets infiltrating the church. Confusing simple historical doctrine as well as blinding the eyes and causing ears not here. One should pray that they will be able to hear the true gospel because they may be blinded and hearts harden going after doctrine that tickles their ears

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