Are We Not Men?

To the surprise of pretty much nobody, Mark Driscoll is getting attention by by saying over-the-top things about gender, in this case it was a random Facebook update about “effeminate” worship leaders a few days ago. Deciding that a cryptic comment wasn’t quite what he was going for Driscoll has decided to clarify what he was doing when he was going off on “effeminate” men leading worship:

“I had a recent conversation with a stereotypical, blue-collar guy who drives his truck with his tools, lunchbox, and hard hat to his job site every day. He said he wasn’t a Christian, but he was open and wanted to learn what the Bible said. In that conversation, he told me he’d visited a church but that the guy doing the music made him feel uncomfortable because he was effeminate (he used another more colorful word, but that one will suffice in its place).”

So one construction worker told Driscoll that he was “uncomfortable” because “the guy doing the music” was effeminate. What the hell? What Driscoll does here is perform a weird inversion where the stereotypical manly men feel oppressed by their somewhat less than masculine counterparts. I say “inversion” here because more often than not the stereotypical macho man boys spend junior high and high school making the less masculine boys feel worse than just “uncomfortable.” Here’s an excerpt from one of the better responses to Driscoll:

“As a man who has always been intimidated by more traditionally masculine men, your words tell me that I am not welcome in your church or among your friends.

Over the years, I have fallen away from the church. Recently, however, I have been longing to reengage. As a look for a new church, I need one that is welcome to all men—no matter how masculine.

When you put out a call on Facebook for people verbally attack ‘effeminate anatomically male’ men, I find myself back in high school—shoved against a locker, with the bullies calling me a faggot.”

The author incidentally is a married, straight man. Driscoll now pleads the case of the poor, misunderstood jocks, not that they merely be forgiven for being total jerks in high school (which is good, forgive the jocks, pray for those who persecute you), but that the church must conform to them. The only evidence that Driscoll can provide for this is that he had this one conversation and that younger men are those least likely to be involved in church. It’s a pretty huge leap to suggest that “effeminate” worship leaders are somehow the root of the latter problem.

Of course it gets much better than that. I thought the big point of worship is that we are to be directing our attention towards the object of our worship, you know, God. Now in addition to that, worship leaders have to worry about being too girly? As someone who’s actually played on worship teams, it occurs to me in writing this that I have no idea how masculine or not I look when I play bass. But now I had better watch out, because some guy in a hardhat might think I’m too much of a girly-man or whatever. Whoops, didn’t think that that was what worship was about. I guess Pastor Mark is back to the seeker-sensitive model in a big way – so long as the seekers are blue-collar stereotypes.

Now I know that what I’m pouring cold water on here is really Driscoll’s one big idea (he seems to be more of a hedgehog than a fox) and that is that there are not enough men in church and that these missing men are turned off by a lack of masculinity (whatever that is) in today’s evangelical churches. But what if Driscoll’s masculinity is a counterfeit variety? Here’s an actual cage fighter talking about pastors who love the manliness of mixed-martial arts:

“Some male Christian leaders may think that by hollering about mixed martial arts, they are proffering a form of masculinity that is both more authentically Christian and more interesting than the milquetoast culture of contemporary evangelicalism. And yet, like Augustine at the theater, these men are not calling their followers into reality, but escapism. Their brand of masculinity amounts to nothing more than voyeurism, projection, and self-help therapy. Far from bold, the MMA Christian’s posturing comes off as frightened.”

I’ll finish by adding that Driscoll holds up to the disenchanted construction worker the ideal of David as the worship musician. One wonders what would happen if the guys down at the job site all came to Mars Hill to find a nearly-naked man dancing with careless abandon at the front of the service?