Mark Driscoll’s “working class” bloody Old Testament Jesus

Jesus-gunI’m not a pacifist or a pansy (other than the fact that I’m not very good at sports, I don’t own a gun, and I don’t see much value in  gratuitous displays of macho-ness). So I don’t feel attacked by Mark Driscoll’s recent assertion that Jesus is not a pacifist pansy. I really have tried to avoid writing anything about Pastor Mark for a long time since I didn’t like the fact that his name was getting almost as big as Jesus in my tag cloud. But one of the paragraphs in his latest infamous blog post offers a revealing illustration of what Mark Driscoll wants Jesus to look like and why.

So here’s the paragraph:

Those who want to portray Jesus as a pansy or a pacifist are prone to be very selective in the parts of the Bible they quote. But the God of the bloody Old Testament is Jesus Christ. When he became a man, he walked the earth as a working-class carpenter. The European, long-haired, dress-wearing, hippie Jesus is a bad myth from a bad artist who mistook Jesus for a community college humanities professor.

There are several things that are awesome about this paragraph. First, instead of following 2000 years of Christian tradition by interpreting the Old Testament through Jesus, Driscoll is calling for an interpretation of Jesus through the Old Testament. In other words, the “God of the bloody Old Testament” tells us who Jesus really is rather than Jesus telling us who the God of the Old Testament really is. If we’re supposed to read the New Testament through the lens of the Old Testament, then what that means is that what God told the Israelites to do to people like the Amalekites and Philistines should frame and qualify how we interpret Jesus’ statements like “Love your enemies” and “Turn the other cheek.”

If Jesus’ words in the gospels (which were entirely absent from Mark Driscoll’s blog post) do not in any sense “trump” the Old Testament, then there’s no reason (other than political correctness) to say that God’s battlefield commands to the ancient Israelites in books like Joshua and Judges are not paradigmatic expressions of His will that should be emulated today by His people in confronting our own political enemies. Either the Old Testament is qualified by Jesus or it isn’t. If the “God of the bloody Old Testament” simply is Jesus without qualification; then the “God of the bloody Old Testament” redefines Jesus.

But the place where Driscoll really shows his cards is in the last several sentences of the above passage. It seems the most important thing about Jesus to Pastor Mark is that he wasn’t a “community college humanities professor” and he sure as hell wasn’t a “European hippie,” because he was a “working class carpenter.” So it really doesn’t have anything to do with the Bible at all. It’s about making Jesus fit a uniquely American concept of masculinity, a brand of Jesus that Pastor Mark and other neo-patriarchal reformed pastors have developed into a brilliantly successful marketing industry.

In America, to be a man means you’re supposed to act “working class” even if you’re rich enough to have never really worked a day in your life. “Working class” in the way Pastor Mark uses the phrase doesn’t have a thing to do with collecting food stamps because you’re juggling multiple minimum wage jobs that still don’t pay the bills. “Working class” is a fantasy of good old-fashioned manliness that escapes the synthetic cyber-world where unhappily self-conscious, not-at-all-working-class men fritter away their lives clicking mouses and keyboards all day.

The way you show that you’re a “working class” man is by driving in a pickup truck out to a ranch in Texas or somewhere like that and doing something “blue collar” with big, hairy, calloused hands, preferably involving a gun. I’m not sure that any of the founding fathers that manly American men supposedly admire would make it as manly men in America today, because they spoke French, wrote poetry, and wore wigs and tights.

In any case, Jesus has to be a bloody Old Testament Jesus and not the androgynous Eucharistic pansy in all the medieval Christian art feeding his blood and flesh to effeminate European monks because Jesus is a “working class carpenter,” not a “dress-wearing European hippie” or a “community college humanities professor.” The Old Testament is the “working class” man’s part of the Bible mostly because it doesn’t get bogged down in esoteric, rambly letters or strange parables (well, at least not in the parts of it where you get to watch God kick some serious ass). It talks about wars where walls get blown down and people get stabbed: you know, the type of world all men play video games in and fantasize about unless they’ve actually had to live through it.

That was why I always read the Old Testament in church as a boy, which I was allowed to do if I couldn’t follow the sermon. One of my favorite stories was the account of how Ehud the left-handed judge killed Eglon, the amazingly obese king of Moab, in Judges 3:20-22:

Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his palace and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As the king rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat swallowed it.

The fat swallowed the sword, and the kings’ bowels discharged. Wow! Can you imagine how amazing it was for a nine-year-old boy to discover that story in church during an incredibly boring sermon by a preacher who was probably talking about the “community college humanities professor” side of Jesus? I think I remember hollering out loud and getting shushed by my mother.

Because the Old Testament and the book of Revelation are filled with awesome gory stories like this, they along with selected excerpts from the New Testament that talk about God’s wrath get the most play in a Christianity packaged to fulfill mens’ needs to feel “working class.” Jesus’ cross can factor into manly “working class” Christianity, but only if you take the focus off of the pathetic pansy who let Himself get crucified by superimposing an angry Father as that pansy’s wrathful executioner.

Mark Driscoll’s Christianity is a Christianity that sells exceedingly well to “working class” men everywhere (except perhaps the ones that actually earn minimum wage and are too exhausted to have the same emotional needs as the white collar guys who strangely envy them). And that “working class” Jesus sure ain’t no pacifist. So don’t get worried when you read Jesus’ Beatitudes; just remember what He did to Jericho in the “bloody Old Testament.”

25 thoughts on “Mark Driscoll’s “working class” bloody Old Testament Jesus

  1. I just saw this. It seems like the battles we are constantly facing is more on ideology than theology. It’s conservative verses progressive. The church in America really needs to find a way to bridge the gap between these two groups.

    It seems to me Jesus is both passive and aggressive. So we each see the parts in him that we relate to more.

    • There is real wisdom in what you said, Jeff. it seems to me that conservatives seem rather conflicted with reference to their connection to Jesus. They talk about Jesus all day long, claim to have a personal relationship with Him, etc., etc. But the only parts of the New Testament they seem to want to quote are the passages that tell women to sit down and shut up. They seldom, if ever, mention the Beatitudes, or the diversity of the company He kept, or Jesus’ constant admonitions to practice love, mercy, and forgiveness. When it comes to telling others how to live, conservatives rarely leave the authoritarian haven of the Old Testament. They seem to have boundless admiration for a God who is frequently portrayed as a wrathful, vengeful, patriarchal bully. If conservatives are such devoted Jesus people why don’t they pay more attention to what He did and said?

  2. Your insights are very much appreciated. Being one of the “pansies” – a Christian pacifist, and I would LOVE to be a European hippie – I have really struggled not to go nuclear and lash out at Driscoll. But that would seem a bit hypocritical. My biggest concern is his willingness to ignore the words and actions of the incarnate God to make Jesus fit the ideal of the conservative USAmerican church, and I thought you explained that extremely well. I am a pacifist precisely because I believe that is what Jesus asks of us. Either we believe Jesus was who he said he as and we understand that he came to establish a new covenant (different from the O.T.), or we move on to something else. My 2 cents.

    Also, I couldn’t get the scary image out my head last night of Driscoll trick-or-treating in camouflage, with a blood-stained head band and a crossbow. People kept asking if he was Rambo, and he would reply, “No..I’m Jesus. But it’s an easy mistake to make.” Lord help us all…

  3. I hesitate to comment, as I know how disagreeing blog dialogues usually end up panning out…BUT, I’d love to attempt to respectfully and graciously say two things on Mark and this blog post.
    FIRST (and most importantly): Mark is a man, and all man have their flaws, and read, to some unseen degree, their presuppositions into their view of God, truth, etc. We ALL fall into that category. Even the most accurate human brain is tainted by, not only their own sinful nature, but their life experience. That being said, it is easy to take a sentence or two from a blog post and analyze what appears to be wrong or under/over-emphasized, but what is more important is to look at the fruit of that persons life. Mark Driscoll, a sinful man like the rest of us, preaches salvation by Christ alone, and I personally know many people who have met Jesus, and are continually being changed by Him as a result of what God is doing through Mars Hill Church and Marks role as teacher there. And it’s not like Mark is making the message of the Bible more palatable to “bring people in”. On the contrary, he’s often portraying it in it’s full explicit and offensive entirety. Thousands of people have been baptized there, and thousands are meeting Jesus. How can you argue with that? How many people have you seen the holy spirit bring to salvation from the words from YOUR mouth? If you really want to know Marks heart, I’d highly recommend watching the short sermon series “God’s Work, Our Witness”.
    SECOND: yes, in the quote above, the point is probably a bit overstated about Jesus’ masculinity. BUT, in regards to the accusation that Mark is saying all of what Jesus says should be viewed through the lens of the old Testament, that conclusion is taking a giant leap beyond what was said. To say: “But the God of the bloody Old Testament is Jesus Christ”, is true. In the beginning was the Word (Christ), and the earthly ministry of Jesus was God incarnate. He himself explains to the disciples: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Not some of the scripture. Not just the Old, or just the New. ALL.

    It’s hard when you know someone, and have seen their heart, to see them slandered. I am guilty of judging, as we all are, and I am challenged by the beginning of Romans 2: ” Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”

    Grace and peace.

    • Thanks for speaking graciously and for sharing the resource of Pastor Mark’s sermon series. I have a copy of his book Doctrine that I am thinking about blogging through and trying to give a fair treatment while articulating our differences. I will probably take that on in the new year.

      I don’t think you would disagree that Mark has a particular genre of people he’s reaching out to. Definitely not community college humanities professors. I get that his evangelism depends on being crass in a certain kind of way so the biker dudes will give him street cred. But I would contend that his “blue collar” motif is shaping his reading of scripture more than it should. My mission field is very different than his. God has given me a heart for the European hippies and community college humanities professors and even the pacifists. So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to critique and push back when Driscoll disses my people even if it’s a gesture that helps him resonate with his constituency and regardless of how many more thousands of people have converted to Christ from his preaching than mine. I don’t think Mark has done what he’s done to earn the right to have his critics silenced. The more fruitful we are, the more dangerous the spiritual pride we face. I imagine he’s a great guy in person. He’s also said a lot of things that have been hurtful to people I care about.

      All that said, I’m very grateful that you spoke up and did so in a gracious way that I couldn’t dismiss. I treasure people who are willing to challenge me and force me to reflect. God’s peace be with you.

      • Likewise, thanks for your response. Your heart is evident in your reply. After re-reading, I was wishing I hadn’t added this part: “How many people have you seen the holy spirit bring to salvation from the words from YOUR mouth?”, as it conveys more challenge than anything, but alas, there is no “edit” button. Good dialogue, and your perspective is appreciated.

  4. Good word, Morgan. I bet I could find a humanities professor or two, along with a European hippie, who could take Driscoll in an arm wrestling match. Sheesh, my wife could take him in a pound for pound strength match.

    Why does a mega pastor like him insist on spewing bad doctrine in his huge arena?


  5. Great post as usual Morgan. Driscoll’s abuse of the Scriptures continues to be disturbing. What his followers don’t understand is that they are following Driscoll, not Jesus. Big difference.

    • I guess you’re of the school that I shouldn’t engage him at all. I just thought the whole “working class” game needed some contemplation.

  6. THANK YOU!! The Humanities Professor crack chaffed my hide. Dismissing hundreds of years of medieval art. I don’t think the Dark ages had Humanities. Maybe they should have had Mark as a professor. I think the Iron Maiden would have suited him well.

  7. Insightful and good blog post. As I understand it I am a pansy. At least that was a slur word used for gay men when I was young and even today it’s use is painful for me. Not that painful, I guess, but it could be for some. Great writing.

    • Hope it’s clear that when I use that word, I’m just quoting Mark Driscoll. Very sorry if it opened up old wounds for you. Like Kurt Willems says, if Jesus is a pansy, so am I.

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