I am truly, totally in awe of Mark Driscoll. He regularly takes time out from his busy position at (insert random, pissant, off-the-beaten-trail whitebread church full of Arizona retirees who collectively embody the phrase low-information voters) to tell a breathless, weary world how to have a perfect marriage. And gosh, that’s a winning strategy right there: end evangelical churn and tanking credibility with a nice Argument from Happy Marriages, given by the world’s most popular Douchebro-For-Jesus! I just don’t know how he does it.1 Today I want to show you how Mark Driscoll thinks we can all get away from all urges to commit extramarital sexytimes and maybe divorce: by making our spouses our own standard of beauty.
In fairness, it was probably one of Driscoll’s various alleged ghostwriters who thought of this entire post, which is called “3 Reasons Why Your Spouse Should Be Your Standard of Beauty.” It’s the most recent one on his blog, having been posted February 2nd.2 This listicle uses a slideshow format, which requires both planning and a modicum of technical know-how to set up, both of which disqualify Mark Driscoll from having any part in its creation. So someone else thought of all of the big words he is going to be using and probably set up most of the technical stuff going on in this post. Just the thought of that is going to tickle me pink all day long.
Indeed, a quick search of La Interwabz reveals that the ideas contained in this post were old long before he flounced away from his once-thriving megachurch empire at Mars Hill. Here’s our prophet drabbling at length in The Christian Post in 2013 about “11 Ways to Attack Adultery,” as just one example (bonus: lots of strawmanning of trans people, always a noteworthy element in a guy claiming to speak for a god of love).
And, ya know, it’s fine to reuse material–I’d just relink to the older post, myself, but then I don’t cross-post my work to a billion different news outlets like Mark Driscoll does in his generosity and then recreate the material on a free-to-read blog platform that is very likely paying him for views. Indeed, in some folks this behavior might look quite opportunistic, dishonest, and, well, shameless, but Mark Driscoll has never considered those silly social niceties as applying to himself.
Anyway, in that 2013 post he wrote for The Christian Post he tells his audience,
An emotional affair is where you have adultery of the heart that has not yet moved to the hands, but it may only be a matter of time. If you have a friendship with someone of the opposite sex, particularly if there’s any aspect of it that is private, personal, it’s a sin. It’s not a sin for two couples to be friends and enjoy one another, but when one husband goes out to coffee with another wife or vice versa, that’s heart idolatry, that’s heart adultery.
You hear that? How incredible and innovative! Having a friend of the opposite sex is, for Christians, is “a sin.” It’s “heart idolatry, heart adultery” to just go out on a friendly outing for coffee together. It’s idolatry because “sex is god, and I worship by having sexual sin.” What a dizzying intellect! He moves on to describe “sexual sin” as something that “starts with your eyes which then recruit your hands.” But don’t worry, Christian marrieds! You can “fight” for your marriage by having lots and lots and lots of sex with each other–and by not sexually objectifying every single person of the opposite sex you ever meet in your life. And it might look like that’s what Mark Driscoll himself is doing right in his own post, but that’s only because we’re not totally Jesus-fied like he is.
That whole listicle is one revelation after another. Keep an eye on his weird and creepy fixation with “hands.” We’ll come back to it in just a minute.
Everyone Needs to Forget His Absolute White-Hot Hatred for Women.
First and foremost, I’m always floored by how Christians will take advice about the most important topics from people who are the least qualified to give it. And this post is no exception at all. Mark Driscoll is very much on record as being completely obsessed with policing women’s appearance–and judging them for not upholding the standards of beauty he thinks they should.
After all, when Ted Haggard got caught screwing male hookers in meth-fueled binges, Mark Driscoll strode right out into the middle of the fray to say that his sympathies were with Haggard–because surely Haggard’s wife had “let herself go” out of “laziness” after having “trapped [a pastor] into fidelity” through the bonds of marriage.3 Women were therefore obligated to maintain their beauty–and, sinisterly, Driscoll considered the Bible itself to be the standard by which that beauty would be judged. If a woman both maintained her youthful beauty and was totally sexually available to her husband, he just couldn’t see any way that her husband might ever commit adultery.
As Rachel Held Evans has summarized so well, the message that male Christian leaders drill down on constantly, despite it not being supported by the Bible at all and even contradicted in its pages,4 is “as clear as it is ominous: Stay beautiful or your husband might leave you. And if he does, it’s partially your fault.”
Mark Driscoll is also the guy who has described his very own marriage as being dysfunctional and filled with conflict and pain for most of its years of life, one that sounds downright excruciating, humiliating, and searingly callous for his wife.
I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a person who is less qualified to offer really good advice about marriage. And yet here he is swaggering in and smirking and pretending with his pretendiest smirk to be just that expert!
He just hopes that we’ll just forget everything he’s ever written or said now.
You see, today, my friends, we are going to learn exactly how a man can somehow–against all odds–remain married to the same woman for a lifetime.
Marriage Today = The Marriage of Adam and Eve.
It’s hard even to know what Mark Driscoll was aiming for with this soft-serve listicle. I mean, I see the first page of the slideshow. I can read all the words and know what they mean individually. Some of them even make sense as sentences and carry ideas through a paragraph.
But they are all but incoherent in terms of meaning. Maybe I’m just not evolved enough to really follow the reasoning of a godly prophet or whatever, but here’s the logic I’m seeing:
- Gosh, that first wedding sure had a lot of elements that aren’t like we prefer today! The couple didn’t know each other. They didn’t have a photographer, cake, or fancy clothes–or clothes at all. And the “pastor” overseeing it was a deity. (Also it wasn’t actually really a wedding, but Driscoll might not actually be savvy to that theological point, any more than he’d understand that the people involved had no real consent to the proceedings.)
- Despite those shortcomings, gosh, that first wedding had a lot hanging on it! If it didn’t “work out” for the couple, then gosh, could any wedding hope to turn into a lifelong marriage? (Yes, he really did just compare a pair of emotional children being paired like livestock by a farmer to a modern marriage. You read that right. And then, in Driscollverse, that god decided that however that first “wedding” went, it would dictate how all marriages forever would and should work. Remember, these are people who think that if a same-sex couple gets married, that has a real impact on an opposite-sex Christian couple’s marriage.)
- The patterns set in that first “wedding” are totally the patterns that Driscoll’s god wants for every marriage.
- Those patterns particularly and especially include Adam and Eve’s individual “standard of beauty” for the other.
- Obviously this myth means for people today that we shouldn’t judge our future or current spouses by some external standard of beauty, but rather to consider our spouses the standard of beauty we should be using in the first place, comparing all others to the spouse rather than the other way around.
Reason 1: You’ll be Happier If You Consider Your Spouse the Standard of Beauty.
That, totally, is his thinking. The big problem with modern culture is that people interact with way too many people, unlike Adam and Eve, who were the only company they could possibly have for a while there. Gosh, weren’t those the Good Ole Days, writes a guy who literally once whined about how harrrrd it was for him to stay married to his wife when she wasn’t fulfilling her god-mandated role as penis home often enough and and and YOU GUIIIIIZE there were hot college girls everywhere thirsting for some Vitamin D from a properly godly man like him that he totally had to turn down all the tiiiiiiiiime…
I guess this whole thing makes more sense when I think of it as him projecting himself and his own shortcomings onto all of the men in the world. Let’s try this out:
When people like Mark Driscoll compare their wives to super-hot college coeds, inevitably their spouses won’t look so good. No, he insists, it is only when men like him decide–somehow, he doesn’t say how yet and I’m betting won’t–not to make those comparisons at all that they will ever be truly content.
Ah, yes. That makes more sense, especially on the next page.
Reason 2: You Won’t Covet Your Neighbor’s Ass If Your Spouse is Already Your Standard for Beauty.
Gosh, how are men like Mark Driscoll ever supposed to be happy with their wives if they’re always seeing hot women on the teevees and screens of the world! And porn! Don’t get him started on porn’s effects on men like him! Why, just one single brief thought of sexing up those hotties can be devastating to the marriages of men like him!
And he decides that the very first step of breaking the 10th Commandment5 is comparisons. Or rather, that “the entire goal of comparison is to cause us to not be content with the life and spouse the Lord has given us.” Really. That’s its official goal. There is no other reason for anybody to do it. I must have missed that in the pages of all those issues of Mademoiselle that I read all through my high school years. It’s a good thing Pastor Mark’s right there to tell us exactly why people anything they do.
In this belief about the evils of comparisons, Driscoll joins his pals in Christian-Land who all sternly inform their readers (women, mostly, I’ve noticed) not to compare their (male) spouses to other (male) people–mostly because it would seriously ruffle those hothouse-orchid-delicate fee-fees of their men, who are already struggling enough with their crippling cases of toxic masculinity. (Seriously: that’s literally the first reason listed by the strikingly-young Christian mommy blogger in the first link.) It is taken for granted that all spouses will come out the worse for these comparisons, a situation which will then inevitably breed resentment and contempt. There is no other outcome that can possibly happen, at least in Christian-Land.
In Reality-Land, though, healthy couples make these comparisons–but will protect their spouses from any negative final verdicts somehow. Or hey, who knows, the verdict might land the spouse well on the good side of that equation–or might reveal a dealbreaking shortcoming or inequity in the relationship. People who have something to fear from comparisons will try their damndest to make comparisons illegal crimethink, the same as people who have something to fear from higher education or from objective, credible evidence for a claim. It’s not hard to figure out what a bigot-for-Jesus and vile misogynist might have to fear from his wife comparing him to, well, any man alive.6
Reason 3: (Divorce Lawyers Hate Him for This One Weird Trick.)
In Reason 3, Mark Driscoll tells us that people who consider their spouse their standard of beauty will be “less prone to adultery.”
And I guess that’s possible in the same way that people who walk around wearing empty tissue boxes on their feet and never leave their pristine, sanitized homes might get fewer colds (except maybe not). But that’s a hard sell to a society in which men and women freely interact.
Of course, that’s not the society that Mark Driscoll prefers, as he outlined in his post attacking Ted Haggard’s wife for getting fat and withholding the vajayjay. In his ideal world, women exist only in the home and not anywhere else–not even on church staff and volunteer rosters (emphasis comes from the original):
Churches should consider returning to heterosexual male assistants who are like Timothy and Titus to serve alongside pastors. Too often the pastor’s assistant is a woman who, if not sexually involved, becomes too emotionally involved with the pastor as a sort of emotional and practical second wife.
This is not a person who understands how to relate to women on a platonic level. This is a person who only sees women as Pez dispensers that spit out sex instead of chalky candy. And because he is a really terrible human being, he knows that if his wife sees more than 2 men during her day, at least two of them will be substantially and tangibly better at something than he is. And that might eventually make her upset enough to not dispense sex, which he is un-self-aware enough to think would be a tragedy for his wife.
So in the world of a man-child who never learned to relate to women, the only advice that makes any sense at all to him is to never, ever get around other women and to bounce his eyes even from the first whiff of comparing his spouse to anybody else, ever. That, literally, is the only way that Mark Driscoll can even hope to avoid such a comparison, and it’s his only real advice for sharing with others who are similarly wondering how they’ll ever avoid comparing their spouse to anybody else.
If you were hoping how to figure out how to use those comparisons in a healthy way, maybe even how to minimize those comparisons if you think you do it unhealthily, or to pick a spouse who already stacks up well against your expectations, or even how to work out what’s really important to you in a mate, then you are out of luck. Hell, if you were even maybe wondering what might go into psychologically conditioning yourself to find a specific human being into your own personal standard of beauty, forget it! Pastor Mark doesn’t know how to do that any more than he knows how to function around female staffers at his church.
(If the only reason someone’s car is super-fast is that it is currently falling off a cliff, I’m not sure that’s really as big of a grand bragging point as that car owner might imagine.)
Lord Snow Presides today over terrible Christian marriage advice: Somehow, despite all evidence to the contrary, Christians keep thinking that their leaders actually have any idea what works to hold two people together for life.
1 By it I mean I don’t know how he says this stuff while maintaining a straight face, but he doesn’t usually even manage that; the phrase Duper’s Delight could subtitle any of his photos.
2 Is he getting bored already? Say it ain’t so! It can’t be! We’ve rent the fabric of our clothes in grief; we’ve torn and crushed the veils around our breasts.
3 For the record, Gayle Haggard looks pretty damned good for having had six zillion children with a space alien.
5 Obviously he’s working off of the ones Protestants usually use. In Catholicism the 10th Commandment is about not coveting thy neighbor’s goods. See more here.
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Lord Snow Presides… is our weekly off-topic chat series. I’ve started us off with a topic, but feel free to chime in with whatever’s on your mind! Lord Snow is my sweet, elderly white cat–who presides over my household like a long-retired judge watching their grandkids play.