I’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.”