Mark Driscoll's Redneck Jesus

Tim Challies seems moderately disappointed with Mark Driscoll’s new book, Vintage Jesus. Challies primary issue with the book appears to be Driscoll’s application of contemporary slang to the story of Christ’s life. I tend not mind such things myself and so Driscoll’s slang, while perhaps posturing, is nonetheless not bothersome to me. Rather I’m somewhat dismayed with how Driscoll appears convinced that everyone else’s conception of Jesus is deficient compared to his. Says Challies:

“It also engages in some light apologetics, defending Jesus against the countless caricatures of Him that have arisen through the history of the church.”

Okay, so that sounds like a perfectly good book topic I guess. The problem is that, based on Challies’ excerpts, Driscoll just adds one more caricature to the list, Redneck Jesus:

“Jesus was a dude. Like my drywaller dad, he was a construction worker who swung a hammer for a living. Because Jesus worked in a day when there were no power tools, he likely had calluses on his hands and muscles on his frame, and did not look like so many of the drag-queen Jesus images that portray him with long, flowing, feathered hair, perfect teeth, and soft skin, draped in a comfortable dress accessorized by matching open-toed sandals and handbag.”

I cannot recall a great many handbags in the icons and religious paintings I’ve seen, and usually the beard kills the “drag queen” aesthetic for me. As for the muscles thing, I’m sure that carpentry made him strong, but the image that Driscoll conjures up might not have jibed with Jesus’ metabolism, there are lots of chunky and scrawny tradespeople out there (more chunky than scrawny these days, but life in Roman Judea was a tad more hardscrabble, I’m sure).

What uncoils from this depiction is a sort of trailer park Jesus, someone who would enjoy insufferable redneck comics. Some of the stuff shows an utter lack of scholarship, for example, Driscoll makes a big deal out of Jesus’ mother, Mary probably being a teenager when she gave birth to him. Guess what? So were most first-time moms at that time (and indeed, such was the case until the last century or so everywhere and continues to be the case in much of the world), but alas, I digress.

Driscoll fails to counteract any “caricatures” because he has simply made up his own caricature out of crude stereotypes about macho blue collar men as a solution.