The beginning of the end of my tenure as pastor probably began the day I invited two of my staff members to play the "whom would I have sex with" game at the end of a staff meeting. We took out the church roster and went through it name by name. It was hands-down the stupidest thing I ever did intentionally as a pastor. Some (all) bells cannot be unrung. You see, I was playing with two women, and we came to the point where we had to answer the question about each other. Yeah. Stupid, right?
I offer that for two reasons. One, nearly everyone I know likes sex in some form, especially if porn and strip clubs are a form. Second, I'm about to criticize Mark Driscoll for being a complete freak. I made fun of him a while back for writing this:
Masturbation can be a form of homosexuality because it is a sexual act that does not involve a woman. If a man were to masturbate while engaged in other forms of sexual intimacy with his wife then he would not be doing so in a homosexual way. However, any man who does so without his wife in the room is bordering on homosexuality activity, particularly if he's watching himself in a mirror and being turned on by his own male body.
Not only is this one of the most idiotic things a pastor has ever said, it's potentially destructive in terms of young men internalizing this horseshit and the accompanying guilt. (For more on Driscoll as non sex expert, read the amazingly insightful take by Rachel Held Evans. For an equally good assessment on Driscoll as the real reason people are buying an otherwise ordinary book, read Susan Wise Bauer.) However, what struck me as the most obvious problem with the quote is the way Driscoll approaches sex. It occurs to me that if I'd been writing about whether or not masturbation is a gay sex act (clearly it's not), I would never have put that last qualifier in. Who the hell gets turned on by his own body? Who the hell masturbates in front of a mirror in order to get turned on by his own body? These are the ideas deep inside the murky, freaky mind of Reverend Driscoll, aka Reverend Sex Freak. No idea if the twitter account is available, but if you get it before I do, give me a brief shout out.
I made the mistake of thinking that joking about sex with staff members would make me "more real" or would at least give me the opportunity to engage in some fantasies about one of them. Driscoll makes a similar mistake every day, it seems, but he's not learning from them. His arrogance is so huge right now that he conflates Biblical authority and his words in the intro to the book, encouraging readers not to ignore his "godly wisdom" in the form of an otherwise uninteresting piece of misogynistic nonsense. Bauer nails it in her assessment:
What Real Marriage has going for it, in the end, is the only thing it doesn't share with scores of other marriage books: Mark Driscoll. Driscoll has preached the book's content, he tells us, in "England, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Australia, India, and Turkey" and has talked personally to "hundreds of thousands of couples." The author's bio reminds us that he is "one of the world's most downloaded and quoted pastors." He pastors the "2nd most-innovative church in America." The hype in the press release isn't, ultimately, about Real Marriage; it's about Mark Driscoll.
The scandalous chapter 10, the one in which "real parishioners" are allowed to ask, "Hey, Pastor Mark, can we _______?" is where things get weird. First, let me say that if you're a grown up and are in a relationship with a consenting adult and you need to ask your pastor if you can bugger your wife, you might have bigger issues than sex will fix. Second, and Held Evans is so right about this, pastors are not sex experts. Third, trying to justify certain sex acts exegetically from a Hebrew text is so fucking weird and narcissistic that I can't wrap my head around why someone needs the Song of Songs to provide him the justification for liking a blow job. Know why people like 'em, Mark? 'Cause they feel good when done right. Absent the ability to find "thou shalt not suck pole" in Leviticus, a grown up should feel content being sucker or suckee if both are consenting. Pretty sure your concept of god doesn't really care who gets a hummer as long as no one gets hurt.
What's even more bizarre about this book is not our fascination with sex, and yes, people in church like sex too, even those who say they don't; the most "shaking my head not believing this shit" issue with the book is that Driscoll thinks he's qualified to write it. "Hey, I'm Mark Driscoll. I fucked my wife. Wanna read about it? What's that? Doggie style? Hell yeah, bro. Nailed it!" He's a frat boy in charge of one of the largest churches in the world, and he's so drunk on his own celebrity that he regularly excoriates other Christians for being too effeminate or too weak or too female. He has become the authority behind the exegesis in Mars Hill church and in the thousands of Mars Hill clones springing up everywhere that are pastored by equally grating erstwhile frat boys who can't believe God will only let them fuck one woman for the rest of their lives. Well, if that's the case, she might as well be my flexible gumby whore. I'll need some biblical justification for the anal, but hey, I am a man. This would be high satire if people weren't taking this freak seriously.
The problem with Driscoll is that his exegesis is based on Driscoll. It's the ultimate reading the Bible through the lens of my desires and preferences, and he's just smart enough not to see it but to sell others on it not being the case. Driscoll has become a sucking black hole of narcissism and in an irony of comedic proportion the men around him have been brow-beaten into submission by the man they're all afraid will call them fags or women. This is Christianity post-reasonableness with a big dose of machismo, celebrity worship, pop sex psychology, and misogyny. This is what happens when all those pro-male verses are read literally and then added to the aggressive nature of Western male misogynistic sex fantasies. I used to think megachurches were destroying the church; now I'm pretty sure it's the egos behind the megachurches that are doing the most damage, and in all Christendom the spirit of discernment is getting the shit kicked out of it MMA style.