Can Driscoll’s Army of SuperMen Save the Church From Death and Destruction?

When do legitimate experiments to turn godly men into manly men mutate into mad science—a design to reject the unfit via spiritual “natural selection”? Answer: When church leaders base their efforts on clichéd fears, outside appearances, and worldliness.

Recently Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll lamented the “dying” Church. The Christian Post quoted from the Driscoll letter graphic, which reads:

Four years ago, Newsweek magazine proclaimed “The Decline and Fall of Christian America.” … Christians are being ostracized, gay marriage is being legalized, the bandwagon has stopped carrying us and has started running over us. The church is dying and no one is noticing because we’re wasting time criticizing rather than evangelizing.

The days are darker, which means our resolve must be stronger and our convictions clearer. This is not the hour to trade in work boots for flip-flops. You didn’t think you were here to kill time listening to Christian music until Jesus returned, did you?

… The latest statistics reveal that those actually practicing evangelical Christian faith is only around 7% to 8%.

If you’re a resolve-strengthened, work boot-stomping person who’s switched off K-LOVE for toughness and do notice things, you may spot other bad trends in the letter, such as:

  • Reactionary claims that echo worldly publications. Secular cover stories about the Church’s impending doom are about as common as Rapture predictions. Since that prediction, Newsweek has struggled with its own doom. The Church will live forever.
  • “America is failing, therefore the Church is dying.” Or, “therefore it’s the Church’s fault.” This is the equivalent of Hollywood disaster film clichés in which you know the end of the world has truly come because California falls into the sea and/or New York City explodes. In disaster films, clichéd global doom means only the coasts; according to some evangelicals, the Church’s clichéd doom equals the U.S.’s demise.
  • Bad and/or unnecessary statistics. Even if Christians number so few, why the panic? Meanwhile, authors such as Bradley R. E. Wright addresses bad statistics from Barna and others, and yet ministries still reflexively use them to promote their own focus.

Naturally Driscoll’s focus, for the conference and an upcoming book, is Christian manliness. Yet he is only the latest popular teacher—similar to earlier trendsetters such as John Eldredge and even “biblical patriarchy” activists—who not only teach that disciplined tough Christian men will save the Church, but they also claim only the right sort of man is fit for this.

Therefore, they say, we must breed more of these spiritual supermen.

Based on Driscoll’s rhetoric, this only includes men who work outside the house (whose wives do not) and men who drive SUVs. Others might add to this eugenics template: These men also love outdoor sports and refuse to question football. To do so is called “unmanly,” based not so much on Scripture as on the words of presidents and generals and worldly defined “toughness.”

What place do such simplistic standards leave for men who do work at home, who are fine with minivans, and strong enough not to care so much about appearances? What about those who venture that football isn’t a training ground for Christian manly martyrdom as some say, or that the sport may even promote violence and immaturity?

Would this spiritual male-eugenics project conclude that such inferiors can only envy young-buck pastors who flex muscles and laugh at the unfit Christian men’s skinny little arms, artistic temperament, and stay-at-home jobs? Would they say, “God can’t use you”?

Such a God would reject the scholarly, weak-speaking, thorn-in-flesh-afflicted apostle Paul.

Sorry Paul, thanks for trying, but to save the Church we only need “super-apostles.”

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About E. Stephen Burnett

E. Stephen Burnett is a journalist, aspiring novelist, and editor and webslinger at Speculative Faith. His mission: to explore and enjoy epic stories that reflect the truths and beauties of the first and greatest Epic Story, God’s Word. He also writes for a dynamic news franchise in Austin, Texas and delves into Christ-and-culture doctrine at Christ and Pop Culture. He also enjoys nonfiction, soundtrack music, and spending life with his wife, Lacy, in their Texas headquarters.