Brendan Kiley has an article about the extremely fundamentalist Mars Hill Church in Seattle, led by Pastor Mark Driscoll. The church is built on a foundation of pseudo-macho bluster, with an emphasis on “manliness” — defined primarily as anti-womanliness.
To become a “member” at Mars Hill Church requires more than attending church. Becoming a full-fledged member—a process highly encouraged, and sometimes thunderously demanded, in Pastor Mark Driscoll’s sermons—requires months of classes and a careful study of Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe, Driscoll’s 463-page Mars Hill textbook. To seal the deal, the prospective member must formally agree to submit to the “authority” of the Mars Hill leadership.
Driscoll, the church’s cofounder and public face, has made a name for himself with his strutting, macho interpretation of Christianity, one in which men are unquestioned heads of their households and “chick-ified church boys,” as he calls them, need not apply. He rails against mainstream Christians who imagine a “Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ… a neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy.” Instead, he has molded a doctrine based on manliness, sexual purity, and submission to authority: wives to husbands, husbands to pastors, and everyone to God.
The article tells the story of a church member who found out just how long this submission to authority is taken in the church:
In the midst of this, Lance had begun a long-distance relationship with a young woman in Colorado. Lance says that his pastor instructed him to end the relationship, even though their relationship was not yet physical and nothing improper had happened. Lance balked, but his pastor insisted: “I’m the authority over you,” the pastor said, according to Lance. “You agreed when you became a member that I am your authority, and you have to obey us.” Lance was torn—on one hand, he had signed that membership contract.
On the other hand, this was ridiculous.
In a final, tense meeting, Lance got fed up with the leadership’s harping about submission and authority. “How is this not a Jim Jones theology?” Lance remembers asking. “We don’t even think you were a Christian to begin with,” the pastor retorted, according to Lance, and left the room. The church told him to move out and, if he wouldn’t submit to church demands, to cut off any communication with members of Mars Hill.
Lance quit the church.
But the church didn’t quit him. Not only was he barred from speaking with his now-former friends at the church, Lance says his pastor threatened to contact any future church that he might attend. And then Lance’s pastor took the extra step of calling the father of Lance’s girlfriend in Colorado. “They were warning him how dangerous I was,” Lance says. “That I was on a path of destruction that could result in the death of his daughter.”
Sounds like a cult to me.