Megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll has been attracting heat in the blogosphere for a Facebook status update in which he invited people to make fun of “effeminate anatomically male worship leaders”. Driscoll is known for his over-the-top macho pronouncements, which he justifies as necessary to attract men to the church, but which his detractors describe as bullying of non-gender-conforming men and women.
For instance, he’s said that liberal Christians “recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in his hair”, which must be wrong because “I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” (See Dianna Anderson’s theologically astute takedown of this remark on her blog Be the Change.)
When former National Association of Evangelicals leader Ted Haggard’s longstanding relationship with a male prostitute was exposed, Driscoll said it was the responsibility of pastors’ wives to keep them from falling into such temptations:
“It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.” (Quote courtesy of Huffington Post)
With this as context, I am pleased to share this satire written by a friend who wishes to be identified only as “Chorisande Davita”. My friend is a devout, contemplative woman with quite conservative views on the Bible and sexuality. She’s also passionate about naming and stopping abuses of power in the church.
Mark Driscoll’s Guide to Nutrition for Real Men
by Chorisande Davita
Transcription from YouTube video . . .
Mark Driscoll adjusts his headset, and leans his meaty forearms on a lectern. His adam’s apple bulges beneath a necklace made from a strip of leather, and his furrowed brow and flushed face are ominous signs of what’s to come. Either that, or signs of high blood pressure and a suppressed urge to scratch the scrot rot on camera. He clears his voice and fairly shouts:
“It’s been brought to my attention that there’s stuff circulating on the Web where some poser’s pretending to be me and telling dudes about the diet of real men. He supposedly claims that fries and ketchup are the only masculine vegetables that I say a real man should eat. That’s a damn lie! The God-fearing farmers in this country work hard to make a living, and I’m not some pinko pansy who won’t support them! There are a lot of vegetables that men can eat, and I’m about to tell you which. So stop accusing me of being unpatriotic!
“First off. There are absolutely no fruits a man can eat. If you eat them, you’re not a real man. There are no exceptions. So stop asking. So. Stop. Whining. . . Wash a vitamin C down with your stout or something, but stop crying about it. Suck it up and get a masculine perspective! Elijah ate locusts, you ninnies! I’ve put a lot of thought into the matter of masculine vegetables, and I want you men to pay careful attention. Women, you need to listen as well so you can be blessed wives and not disrespect your man with what you’re cooking and serving him. Single women, pay careful attention if you want a manly husband and want to know how to recognize one.
“Since fries and ketchup were mentioned, let’s start there. Some say tomatoes are a fruit, but I say they’re not, so that’s that. Mark Driscoll says they’re a vegetable, dammit. Ketchup is a masculine vegetable, the poser got that right, but there are other tomatoes which are OK–heirloom and beefsteak varieties are okay, but only if they’re sliced thickly. And preferably sitting on top of a burger. A real burger, one made out of beef! By the way, watch out for those 5 dollar foot long meatball subs–they’re mostly soy, those lying bastards. I’ve half a mind to sue those pansies, but there’s not enough cash in the coffers right now. Anyway, tomatoes. Sissy varieties like cherry and grape are out! Got that? Can you imagine Peter and Paul tucking into a plate of baby lettuce with tiny grape tomatoes? No!!!
“Fries are very manly. Tater tots are not. Home fries are okay, hash browns are not. Other forms of potatoes can be okay, depending. Scalloped potatoes are for low-rise, stove-pipe jeans wearing wimps who floss their teeth and get out of the shower to take a piss. Baked potatoes are okay, but only if they’re sitting on a plate next to a steak that’s at least 12 ounces. On their own, you have to be careful. With chili on top they might be okay, but you have to exercise discernment and insist on chili with chunks of beef, not bits of mystery meat. Topped with broccoli and cheese sauce, no way . . .”
There is some kind of disturbance in the audience. Mark quickly looks out over the people and someone shouts,
“But what about cheese in a can?!”
Mark blinks thoughtfully and says, “OK, dude, spray cheese in a can is definitely masculine. But none of that gruyere or brie or swiss crap in a sauce, okay? Think like a man. Where was I? Baked potatoes. Sprinkled with minced chives–do I even need to say?”
Laughter and snorts of derision throughout the audience . . .
“So, let’s try to get through the rest of this quickly. Onions and peppers–these can be okay if they’re balanced or outweighed by the amount of meat. You know–fajitas, pot roast, manly meals like those. Greens are real tricky. Watch out! Mesclun is not for dudes, lettuce and spinach are not for dudes. Popeye was part of a conspiracy to promote the convenience of canned goods while giving the appearance of masculinity–don’t take the bait. Frisee, endive, leeks, and arugula are for chickified, hanky-carrying, herbal tea-sipping eunuchs who’d be too afraid to scratch their spuds if they had any. Kale, mustard and some other greens can be masculine, provided they’ve been sufficiently stewed with ham hocks.
“Corn is only okay if you’re eating it on the cob at a fourth of July cookout with a sufficient amount of fireworks and flags on display, and everyone there can see that you’ve got serious animal flesh on the rest of your plate. But be very careful to watch what you’re doing with your little fingers while you’re handling the cob! I don’t ever want to see some dude from my church holding a corn cob with his pinkys sticking out–if I do, you’ll be mocked at the next leadership meeting and called out on our next retreat. Those baby corns they put in Asian food? No way. If you’re eating out, let your daughter pick them out of your Chinese food. If the wife brings them to the table, send it back and remind her of your headship.
“Cukes are not to be consumed. They’re for alternative purposes–see This is Spinal Tap. Carrots are very feminine, and not for real men to eat. Exercise careful discernment here. Like, if you’re outside building a snowman with your kids, of course make sure they see you doing the heavy lifting. When it’s time for the nose, have your wife hand your daughter the carrot and then lift her up so she can put it in and no one sees you handling a carrot, dude.
“Squash is masculine only if eaten on Thanksgiving in front of the game and there’s enough poultry on your plate to warrant fiber tablets with the pie. Don’t even think about squash filled ravioli with sage leaves and brown butter, dude. Only if you want people to think you wear lace anklets, push back your cuticles, use body wash, and get your chest waxed. (Guffaws throughout the audience.) Hey, you know it would happen. This is why you came! It’s why you brought a friend. I’m entertaining, I know it, it’s a gift, what can I say. . .
“Real men should stay away from anything that can be broken into florets, described with the word “nibblets,” or prefaced by the adjectives “baby,” or “sweet.” Legumes are complicated. Eating someone’s liver with fava beans and a little Chianti was cool for Hannibal, but you need to be cautious about what you pair with your choice of liver. (Groans and deep chuckles from the crowd.) Now, beans mixed with lots of pork or beef is good, honest, masculine food. Popping edamame is for incense sniffing castrati who order curdled cream and scones and wish they could wear their Spanx in public. I could punch those skipping hippies in the throat! Put down that can of mousse and listen to me, you long-haired gardenia-scented fuschia-wearing ponce! Eat like a man! Be a man! Don’t act like being a Christian means singing love songs to Jesus and noshing on sprouts! It doesn’t! This makes me so mad . . .
Driscoll’s voice fades under the sound of loud rap music, while images from a butcher shop flash to the pulse of the beat . . .
I think that the men to whom he means to appeal hunger for love, belonging and acceptance.
Don’t we all… Could you expand on that, Andy? If you see merit in Driscoll’s concern that traditionally-masculine men may feel out of place in church, what do you think would be a better way to help them feel “love, belonging and acceptance”? Because Driscoll’s solution is to make men comfortable by reinforcing their dominance over other groups (women and so-called effeminate men) who should be their equals in the Body of Christ. In my opinion, he is pandering to men’s pride. Insecurity and loneliness may well be at the root of these men’s need to retain a sense of superiority, but he would probably call them girly-men if they tried to talk about those feelings, so no healing takes place.
I think that the mistake lies in the Billy Sunday-originated thinking that the Gospel needs to be made tougher and more manly in order to accomplish its purpose. It is what it is because of its transcendent message. I think that reinforcing dominance is the result, but I think that the goal is the mistaken thought that a safer place is created for our brothers in Christ by presenting a limited and limiting vision. I know people that feel that they will never be good enough men because they can’t manage it. I think that the preacher imagines he is freeing men, when he is imprisoning them in a legalistic set of expectations that are absurd and cause pain to everyone: male and female, young and old. Just a week ago a man with whom I worked in the early nineties was talking to me about how he was in therapy because he was trying to stop pretending to be someone he wasn’t. He said: “the…[name]… you knew wasn’t me”.
I have never changed a flat, challenged a man to a flat, used a chainsaw and I identify more with characters played by John Ritter than John Wayne, but “normative” masculinity or that which is perceived to be authentic is narrower now than in the 1970s in some respects.
The preacher’s use of castration as an illustration is troubling and questionable in many respects.
I think what provoked me to comment was that the men he’s trying to reach want what everyone wants, and the way to create an environment in which Brothers and Sisters in Christ live in an Apostolic manner is precisely to allow people to express their gifts and strengths and particularity as they have been blessed. I think that our Nooma group is doing a good job for me. I feel accepted and safe and treated like a brother. I wasn’t agreeing with the person. His masculinity is a post-modern monstrosity. It has nothing of the gentleness of a traditional gentleman. It’s all resentment and fear: neither of which come from the Holy Ghost.
I think that the role of the traditional gentleman had very much to do with power. It was a role that codified behavior that made men feel that they had earned their privileges over poor men and all women and children. This new hyper-masculinity with resentment and fear attached is a taliban-like reactionary product which is a response to the opportunities and relative success of our society in recent years.
It’s hard, but our goal is to keep in mind that our fight is not against men, but instead against the principalities, the powers…
Rev. Dr. M.L.K. Jr. said that the Civil Rights Movement freed whites as much as blacks because it freed them from the responsibility and the sin of the oppression. I think there’s even more than that, I think that when you’re part of an unholy enterprise it destroys what’s good about you in ways that are invisible. That which is spirit lives on and that which is flesh…
The preacher’s comments are all flesh: they represent an instinctual defense of territory that is stranglinglove
By the by (I hit 3000, so I had to eliminate a space and start here).
I remember when “Iron John” came out, and a conversation about it in a school bus that was owned by the college I was attending. I read it a couple of years later out of curiosity–I don’t think that I knew what to make of this guy’s enthusiasm.
I think I was disappointed. I read it in an Adirondack chair that was under a shady tree on a warm September day in Long Island, Greenport to be precise–while looking at boats go by. I think it was written for men at a 5th grade reading level, and I think that there must have been an element I missed, because he seemed to be suggesting that every guy/dude/man needed this quest-like experience to become a fluffy popcorn kernel (and not an unpopped sad unfulfilled kernel). The problem was I don’t think that he did anything to suggest what the quest-like experience would be in the northeastern United States for a person who wasn’t going to try to emulate Theodore Roosevelt (for example).
The other thing of dubious value was that he insisted that it was critical for every male who wanted to attain fluffy-popcorn status (my expression, not his), to find a mentor who was an older male (suspiciously like himself) to coach him through the labyrinth of contemporary society.
In any case, thanks for reading my tripe.
Blessings, and God’s Peace
This is so eloquent and inspired. Neither tripe nor popcorn Thank you for sharing this vision of what the gospel of grace is truly about — liberation from all systems of domination, including the ones based on gender. It is true, our pop-culture male ideal today is still about power and privilege, but without even the courtesy and “noblesse oblige” of the gentlemen of old.
We still aren’t sure what the hero’s quest looks like in a post-industrial society where masculine brawn is no longer such a necessary component of success. That is where the Driscoll types are missing a golden opportunity to show the continuing relevance of Jesus’ radical redefinition of strength: he was nonviolent but no one could say his life was lacking in meaningful risks! He put himself on the line, not to pump up his ego with displays of power, but to stand up for the oppressed. Plenty of work to go around, guys.
I think you’d like Hugo Schwyzer’s blog. He is a gender studies professor and a progressive Christian. He writes about these issues a lot.
Really grateful to be in the Nooma group with you — looking forward to getting to know you better.
(FYI for our readers, Nooma is a Rob Bell video series we are watching in our small group at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Come join us if you are in Northampton on a Weds. night!)