Thursday, September 14, 2006 on Mars Hill

Lauren Sandler, writing in the liberal e-zine, has written a 4,000+ word article on Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. (You can access the article for free by clicking on the logo--I had to turn off AdBlock to do it.)

The way Driscoll sees it, the more babies his conservative Christian congregation can produce in this child-poor city, the more they can redirect local politics, public education, and culture in one of the liberal capitals of the world. To complete his trifecta of indoctrinating, voting, and breeding, Driscoll has developed a community that dwarfs any living experiment of the '60s. To say that Mars Hill is just a church is to say that Woodstock was just a concert.

Mars Hill wrests future converts searching for identity and purpose from the dominion of available sex and drugs that still make post-grunge Seattle a countercultural destination. Driscoll promises his followers they don't have to reprogram their iTunes catalog along with their beliefs -- culture from outside the Christian fold isn't just tolerated here, it's cherished. Hipster culture is what sweetens the proverbial Kool-Aid, which parishioners here seem to gulp by the gallon. This is a land where housewives cradle babies in tattooed arms, where young men balance responsibilities as breadwinners in their families and lead guitarists in their local rock bands, and where biblical orthodoxy rules as strictly as in Hasidism or Opus Dei.

Following Driscoll's biblical reading of prescribed gender roles, women quit their jobs and try to have as many babies as possible. And these are no mere women who fear independence, who are looking to live by the simple tenets of fundamentalist credo, enforced by a commanding husband: many of the women of Mars Hill reluctantly abandon successful lives lived on their own terms to serve their husbands and their Lord. Accountability and community is ballasted by intricately organized cells -- gender-isolated support groups that form a social life as warm and tight as swaddling clothes, or weekly coed sermon studies and family dinner parties that provide further insulation against the secular world. Parents share child care, realtors share clients, teachers share lesson plans, animé buffs share DVDs, and bands share songs.

Sandler sees Driscoll--whom she describes as a "stocky, square-headed figure in a black shirt and jeans, with a leather cord around his thick neck"--as leading the new "Disciple Generation," which is "at once political, emotional, deeply anti-intellectual, and more galvanized than you can imagine." "Driscoll has built a fundamentalist empire by blending this stern-father sensibility with the savvy of a pop mogul mainstreaming alternative culture while maintaining its underground appeal."

Almost a third of the article is devoted to mocking complementarianism. For example, she says that in founding the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, "Driscoll has established a nationwide apparatus to push back women's rights through the 'liberation theology' of submission."

Her most serious thoughts concern the relationship between Christianity and the surrounding culture. She writes: "Young evangelicals look so similar to denizens of every other strain of youth culture that, aside from their religious tattoos, the difference between them and the unsaved is invisible." I think that's a fair point on many levels--but if that was true for Driscoll and Mars Hill, why does the author so despise their view of the Bible and the implications thereof?