As a Catholic, the incredible variety and range evangelicals have to choose from among available worship communities simply amazes me–from the young and hip, left and funky, to the old school and liturgical, and the flat out cheesy. If you are at all like me and enjoy exploring the diversity of worship possibilities and their typically, equally as interesting and cult-of-personality type leaders, then the check out the New York Times Magazine’s recent feature, “Who Would Jesus Smack Down?” about the Seattle-based mega-church, Mars Hill and its pastor Mark Driscoll.

Just to tempt you to read it in full, a few tidbits to whet the appetite:
“Mark Driscoll’s sermons are mostly too racy to post on GodTube, the evangelical Christian “family friendly” video-posting Web site. With titles like “Biblical Oral Sex” and “Pleasuring Your Spouse,” his clips do not stand a chance against the site’s content filters. No matter: YouTube is where Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, would rather be. Unsuspecting sinners who type in popular keywords may suddenly find themselves face to face with a husky-voiced preacher in a black skateboarder’s jacket and skull T-shirt. An “Under 17 Requires Adult Permission” warning flashes before the video cuts to evening services at Mars Hill, where an anonymous audience member has just text-messaged a question to the screen onstage: “Pastor Mark, is masturbation a valid form of birth control?”

And how about this:
“God called Driscoll to preach to men — particularly young men — to save them from an American Protestantism that has emasculated Christ and driven men from church pews with praise music that sounds more like boy-band ballads crooned to Jesus than “Onward Christian Soldiers.” What bothers Driscoll — and the growing number of evangelical pastors who agree with him — is not the trope of Jesus-as-lover. After all, St. Paul tells us that the Church is the bride of Christ. What really grates is the portrayal of Jesus as a wimp, or worse. Paintings depict a gentle man embracing children and cuddling lambs. Hymns celebrate his patience and tenderness. The mainstream church, Driscoll has written, has transformed Jesus into “a Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ,” a “neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture that . . . would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell.”
Um, well. I may not like the sound of this church and its pastor, but I still find it all fascinating. Reporter Molly Werthen even calls Driscoll, “American evangelicalism’s bête noire.” I don’t doubt it. Read on.

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