Progressive Revival

Mark Driscoll (aka the cussing preacher) was profiled in The New York Times Magazine on Sunday.  Here is an excerpt:

“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.”

Driscoll desires to save Jesus from this horrible description and to make Jesus more macho not so feminine or, even worse, gay.  

Masculine, or muscular Christianity is not new to those who know recent Christian history.  It was popular in the victorian era and even some social gosplers embraced it as they conceived of such institutions as the YMCA.  People like Reinhold Niebuhr, the cold war realist and social justice activist preached and practiced an antidote called neo-orthodoxy – a Christianity that would confront evil humbly yet powerfully – who argued famously that divinity resided not in men’s muscles but with God.  Like Driscoll, Neibuhr’s thought appeals to men, men such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama.  

Driscoll is the grandson of those early victorian crusaders.  Yet his muscular Christianity seems more like testosterone Christianity, gained by injecting a steroidal mixture of judgement and scorn that covers fear with a puffed up faith. Instead of a muscular Christianity we need a healthy, limber, and fit faith today to confront the serious challenges to both personal faith and to societal injustices.  We need an athleticism of belief that is open to all people and calls upon them to be active and powerful children of God. 

I’m curious if  those of you who are more familiar with his faith journey and perspective can tell us how Driscoll reconciles his own understanding with Jesus’ words from the sermon on the mount:  

Matt. 5:Blessed are the poor in
spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for
they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed
are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed
are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.  Blessed are
the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

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