Why We Should Fear the Rise of America’s Latest ‘Bro Pastor’


On December 6, Lindy West of Jezebel published a series of quotes from Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll. Driscoll is known for talking about the demonic practice of yoga, for declaring that maybe Ted Haggard wouldn’t have strayed if his wife hadn’t let herself go, and for declaring that Jesus is a sword-wielding hero with a tattoo. He seems like the perfect stereotype of a “bro pastor.”

But he is far from an outlier in American Christianity. With an empire extending far beyond his churches in Seattle, Driscoll is, without a doubt, a major player within white conservative American evangelicalism. And that should scare people who are dedicated to the rights of women in the United States.

Driscoll is the head pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, a large church comprising multiple congregations throughout the Northwest. He has written several books that are New York Times bestsellers, and asserts that millions of people download his sermons each week. He has nearly half a million Twitter followers. His Acts 29 church-planting network boasts of nearly 500 churches across America. He runs conferences and tours across the country, with attendees reportedly in the thousands. And Mars Hill recently announced, like Falwell’s Liberty University before them, that it is getting in the game of higher education, providing undergraduate and seminary Bible education.

Beyond this empire, Driscoll is endorsed and accepted by numerous popular pastors in evangelicalism. John Piper of the Twin Cities’ Bethlehem Baptist Church has proffered endorsement of Driscoll’s work. The popular Reformed blogging network the Gospel Coalition frequently speaks of Driscoll favorably and hosts writing by pastors from his churches. And Christian rapper Lecrae recently toured with Driscoll for his Act Like Men conferences this past year.

The reason for Driscoll’s acceptance, despite his indelicate proclamations about masculinity and femininity, is simple: He’s not actually extreme. Indeed, Driscoll’s views of men and women fit right alongside what many seminarians are being taught in the United States, and what many parishioners hear on Sunday morning.

According to Driscoll, a woman’s duty is to stay at home, to have and raise children, while a man’s duty is to protect and provide for the home—not only for his immediate wife and children, but for his children’s children. The two roles are distinct and separate, and any deviation from this norm is considered an abomination not only to Driscoll’s theology but, he believes, to Jesus himself. It’s worth noting that, like 1950s norms, Driscoll’s theology is mainly directed at white American Christians to the exclusion of racial minorities.

Driscoll is not alone in this strict transphobic and homophobic enforcement of gendered roles. Pastor John Piper writes in a blog post against women serving on the front lines,

Suppose, I said, a couple of your students, Jason and Sarah, were walking to McDonald’s after dark. And suppose a man with a knife jumped out of the bushes and threatened you. And suppose Jason knows that Sarah has a black belt in karate and could probably disarm the assailant better than he could. Should he step back and tell her to do it? No. He should step in front of her and be ready to lay down his life to protect her, irrespective of competency. It is written on his soul. That is what manhood does.

“Irrespective of competency,” evangelicalism tells us, men and women are set in their roles. A woman using her skill set to protect a man, in the evangelical world, is an affront to God and a subversion of her purpose. She is to submit to her husband in all things, because cisgender, heterosexual marriage is the central tenet of this gendered theology. Other pastors fall along these lines too. Kevin DeYoung, a pastor and a contributor at the Gospel Coalition, writes of divorce in cases of abuse:

Let me just add that I am sympathetic to and yet extremely cautious about finding other grounds for divorce. On the one hand, I think it’s possible that God did not mean to give us every possible grounds for divorce in the New Testament. Jesus gave one and Paul (admittedly, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), mentioned another one relevant to the Corinthian situation. So might there be one or two other grounds for divorce? Perhaps. And yet, if you say that you open up a Pandora’s box of trouble. People will argue that psychological abuse is a ground and emotional neglect is a ground and maybe terrible unhappiness is a ground for divorce. I think it is safer biblically to maintain that there are two acceptable grounds for divorce. But having said that, I could envision in extreme situations the elders might conclude: “This man (or woman) has not completely disappeared but his life is tantamount to desertion.” If a guy is strung out on drugs, gambling all their worldly possessions, and has repeatedly beaten his wife, might that count as desertion at some point?

Note all the qualifications that a husband must meet before he is considered “abusive.” He’s only considered as such most extreme of situations—when there are “repeated” beatings. And even then, divorce is only acceptable because the man is not really following God’s plan.

The reason for the contortionist reasoning for divorce is because, often, violence is a central facet of masculinity. As a self-professed fan of mixed martial arts, Driscoll talks of a Jesus who is not a “neutered, limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy” or a “Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ,” but a “prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand, and the commitment to make someone bleed.” Jesus himself is enlisted in the bloody battle, employing violence to get his way and to protect “his bride” (the church). Women, then, in perfect submission, must submit to their husbands in all, and hope that such violence does not turn on them.

This view of violent protective masculinity appears time and again in popular evangelical works about men and women. John and Stasi Eldredge, authors of the popular relationship books Wild at Heart and Captivating, write of men as knights, bloodied from battle, fighting sorcerers and dragons to rescue their fair maiden. The difference between men and women, it seems, is that of violent defense. Violence is an inherent feature of masculinity that serves an arbitrarily violent God. Conversely, demure submission is an identifying feature of womanhood—submitting themselves even while suffering bodily harm.

This view is naturally quite transphobic and heteronormative. Men and women are seen as separate, biologically defined categories, and any deviation from these norms is defiance against Jesus himself. The remarkable thing about Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church is that many of his congregants are young, 20-something men. He proclaims that his goal is to get men back into church, because godly men are the backbone of the family, which is, in turn, the backbone of America. He preaches against not only abortion, but against hormonal birth control, which he calls “potentially abortive.”

Much of mainstream media treats Driscoll as a fringe element, a sideshow curiosity. But he is far from it—Driscoll is quickly becoming the center of American evangelicalism. With the number of young people he is reaching, people outside the evangelical sphere should be worried.

He is making his views religiously sanctioned for an entire generation of young people—people who will teach their children the same things and vote in elections in large numbers. Driscoll’s influence is not something to be laughed at—rather, it should be feared.

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  • fiona64

    Jesus himself is enlisted in the bloody battle, employing violence to get his way and to protect “his bride” (the church).

    The “pastors” who teach this nonsense have clearly never read Matthew 5:39. Rabbi Yeshua was not about conversions at gunpoint (so to speak).

    The remarkable thing about Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church is that many of his congregants are young, 20-something men.

    Most of whom, if you ask me, are eating up his “you are owed hegemony” nonsense with a spoon.

    • CJ99

      Indeed what mark driscoll fears the most is people who are intelligent & think for themselves especially if those people are women.

    • dker zkore

      …Time to tell the TRUTH: MANHOOD101. C O M

      • fiona64

        Poor thing .. you seem to think that your little MRA site means something.

        • dker zkore

          You mad fat ugly stupid cuuunt? LOLOL! :)

        • goatini

          hahaha no kidding.

          Here’s a little gem from their handbook on how to “reward females for submission”:

          ***********
          Example of rewarding:

          You: Men should be in charge [expressing your expectation]
          Girl: Yeah, I like the guy taking charge [meeting your expectation]. Makes life much less stressful.

          You: See, I love that about you! [rewarding with praise for
          meeting your expectation] That turns me on when you act like a
          woman. That’s sexy! [using positive association to reinforce your expectation]. You’re not like most chicks today who try to act like badasses to impress everyone [using negative association to reinforce your expectation].

          ***********

          • fiona64

            I’m not sure whether it’s more Cro-Magnon or Neandertal, frankly … but it’s certainly not fully developed H. Sapiens.

          • dker zkore

            sooo funny when mindless dumb cuuunts like you get angry about hearing the truth..

            u MAD DUMB CUUUNT? LOLOL! :) ….

          • goatini

            Another gem from The Handbook:

            “Men too possess their own natural advantages in the form of… superior mental prowess.”

            hahahahahaha

          • fiona64

            And our little boy visitor is clearly demonstrating that. ROFLMAO

          • colleen2

            This is, of course, the great weakness of the right in general and the religious right in particular. Their arrogance isn’t attached to anything substantive or real.

          • CJ99

            that gives my flashbacks to my childhood of saturday morning tv. They’re like that coyote chasing roadrunner right up untill he runs off the cliff, looks down, then starts falling usually followed by an anvil or a safe.

          • CJ99

            crap really? some moron actually said that publicly? I’m totally embarrassed to be a guy now.

          • dker zkore

            ….sooo funny when mindless dumb cuuunts like you get angry about hearing the truth..

            u MAD DUMB CUUUNT? LOLOL! :)

          • dker zkore

            U mad fat ugly dumb cuuunt? LOL! :)

        • dker zkore

          sooo funny when mindless dumb cuuunts like you get angry about hearing the truth..

          u MAD DUMB CUUUNT? LOLOL! :)

          • fiona64

            There’s just the kind of genius one comes to expect from a typical MRA …

          • dker zkore

            Another stupid cuunt yapping nonsense. keep barking stupid cuuunt LOLOL! :)

          • colleen2

            This one appears to be a 7 year old with a learning disability.

          • goatini

            More bot mots from The Handbook:

            “Allowing women to vote is no different than allowing children to govern themselves.”

            (I would laugh, but this is exactly what these cowards have in mind.)

          • reynard61

            Could we please *not* confuse stupidity with learning disabilities here?! I have both Dyslexia and ADHD. I even managed to overcome the Dyslexia. (Though I still have problems with the ADHD…) My ADHD made my school life difficult, but I somehow managed to figure out that treating women badly and/or objectifying them is a bad thing. So, please; remember that learning disabilities are not necessarily — or even usually — connected with ideological shortcomings.

          • colleen2

            I am not confusing learning disabilities with stupidity and am myself dyslexic. I am quite deliberate in my use of words. If this use of words offends you, reading blog threads must be terribly difficult . Perhaps you should abstain.

      • Ella Warnock

        Oh, I wouldn’t advertise your little site with such pride. It tells the “truth,” all right, but not in the way you’re thinking it does.

        • Ella Warnock

          Aww, little butthurt downvote. Such delicate fee-fees for such a big manly man!

        • goatini

          Get THIS steaming load from The Handbook:

          “Instead of tending to feminine functions like nurturing, supporting and comforting, she abandons them for masculine functions like disciplining, planning and leading.”

          …except that raising children requires women to excel in ALL these functions. Therefore, ALL good mothers are and must be, by necessity, “masculine” (by the definition of these nimrods).

      • CJ99

        try nanoscopic manhood, it fits you.

        • dker zkore

          U Mad fat ugly dumb cuunt? LOLOL! :)

          • CJ99

            Nope I’m having a very good laugh right now at YOU ;P

            Cause i’m a guy. laughing at you for trying to peek at my lovejunk. Normally that would creep me out but somehow thought of you being envious is just too freakin funny.

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    Note that there are some evangelicals who are saddened greatly by what Driscoll, Piper, and DeYoung are teaching about gender relations. For example, David Instone-Brewer has some great and essential insights in how to understand the Bible on reasons for divorce, contra DeYoung and company. And one can check out Christians for Biblical Equality for understanding contra the “man on top” ideas of Driscoll and Piper.

    • forgedimagination

      Unfortunately, as an amazing an organization as CBE is, they have nowhere near the influence into mainstream evangelical culture that CBMW, Gospel Coalition, Piper/MacArthur/Driscoll have.

      They also don’t have the support of 2,000 years of openly misogynistic church history to back them up, either.

  • Arakiba

    Now I know why my wife is wiccan…

    • Kevin Schmidt

      Warlocks can be witch beaters too.

      • fiona64

        Male witches are male witches. Warlock comes from a Scots Gaelic word that means “oath breaker.”

        Educate yourself.

  • shaongaon

    Ah, yes. Another ignoramus dick-head with a platform.

  • CJ99

    What mark driscoll describes as Jesus is not the real deal at all. mark driscolls wet dream is that of a sadist / psychopath

  • ORAXX

    This ‘pastor’ concerns me far less than do the sheep who let him do their thinking for them.

    • CJ99

      To quote a movie I’ve always liked: “who’s the more foolish? the fool or the fool who follows him?”

  • valles

    Does one have to give evidence of very loose hinges to be so influential? He more than passes the test. He score three Swaggarts.

    • CJ99

      Look at the more well known examples such as Jack van Impe or Pat Robertson and the answer is a very loud yes.

  • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

    I hate the phrase/word “cis gender.” I will not read people who use it. Sounds like heterosexuals spend their days urinating on themselves. Disgusting trashmouth bigotry. Shame on you for using it no matter how popular it is.

  • juli1

    I would like to point out that; when I read the New Testament, I am struck by the fact that Jesus *always* treated women as equals to men, matter of fact, in the story of the “Woman at the Well”, the woman was caught off gaurd & surprised that Jesus would even speak to her (by other Jewsish men, she would have been seen as inferior)

    The bible also says, that in God’s Eyes, *all* are equal.

    “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and
    female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    • goatini

      Just try posting about Galatians 3:28 on some radical fundy, and/or radical regressionist Roman Catholic site, and watch Teh Menz bend over backwards, with lots and lots of mansplaining ,to tell you why that simple phrase really doesn’t mean what it very obviously means.

      • CJ99

        You’d no doubt hear much page flipping as they struggle to look it up as their lips struggle through the thee’s & thines of the king james (mis)translation.

        • forgedimagination

          Well, the King James really isn’t different. It just has a couple more “There is” phrases. :/

          But you’re right. They’d struggle to incorporate that verse.

          • CJ99

            The king james mistranslation is centuries old and so very badly out of step with current linguistics it stopped being funny a long time ago. Modern christians true love of that version comes down to 1 thing: that is its much easier to misquote since the meanings are much more obscure to begin with.

    • colleen2

      I would like to point out that Christianity as practiced and particularly as practiced by the religious right DOES NOT follow Jesus in this and never has.

      • CJ99

        I think exactly the same thing. Beyond a doubt the religous bigots in this world try to once again publicly kill him in some grusome manner if Jesus walked among us and was publicly known.

  • colleen2

    The remarkable thing about Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church is that many of his congregants are young, 20-something men.

    I don’t see why this is particularly remarkable. The right uses Christianity to elevate gender inequities and strive for a culture that offers limited and subservient roles for women as FOUNDATIONAL beliefs. . This church is popular with young white men for the same reason that the ‘pro-life’ movement is popular. It affords assholes a social life and an opportunity to pack up and express their rage in socially acceptable manner.

    • CJ99

      I can’t help wondering if his attendence spikes every time the call of duty or battlefield bad company servers go down for maintenance.

  • Donnie McLeod

    3 million American psychopaths getting a nod to do what psychopaths do but with Christ with a K as their cover.

  • gwally

    Just want to point out that this is not representative of all evangelicals, but of the far right. Many evangelical denominations affirm women as equal partners with men: Wesleyan, Free Methodist, American Baptist, Evangelical Covenant, Foursquare, Assemblies of God, etc.

    • CJ99

      I’ve attended all of those churches at various times over my entire life and can say for certain none of them as a whole support equality for women in any realistic way.

  • Marlowe53

    Men in their 20′s make up most of the incredibly stupid libertarian movement, too. With any luck, they will grow in wisdom as they age.

    • CJ99

      Don’t count on it. look at most televangelists & politicians. Such stupidity only becomes calcified with age.

  • RNfromNY

    “Ted Haggard wouldn’t have strayed if his wife hadn’t let herself go,”
    Yeah, everything is our fault ladies. Ever since Eve ate that apple and damned all of humanity. Men are responsible for nothing.