Mark Driscoll and the Amazing Technicolor Evangelical Funhouse Mirror Sexual Worldview (Swedish Batteries Not Included)

Mark Driscoll and the Amazing Technicolor Evangelical Funhouse Mirror Sexual Worldview (Swedish Batteries Not Included) September 26, 2014

Perhaps the recent tsunami wave of “Mark Driscoll Penis House” headlines has finally subsided to the point where one can write on the subject of the American Christian sexual worldview for a reason other than to gain an easy 10,000 views—and perhaps with a little substance in mind.

Once Discroll’s distasteful and theologically unsound thoughts on human genitalia started splashing across the Interweb, Christian rags like Huff Post Religion madly circled them with the feeding frenzy fervor of a Time and Jezebel.

It seems hard to deny that Christian editors smelled ad revenue and social media “likes” and “shares” when they saw an opportunity to slap the word “penis” across the screens of the sanctified from coast to coast.

It’s an old game in “Evangelical Our Town.” Every once in a while, the repressed sexual tension gets to be too much. When an opportunity arises, the floodgates burst open—whereupon everyone is permitted a Tourette-like release of naughty words, for a time.

This happened when I was at Wheaton College in the 1990s. During the “Great Undergraduate Revival,” students stood before peers and hallowed administrators and confessed all manner of illicit behavior without fear of reprisal. I think someone even said “boobies.”

I had planned to sit at my desk this week and finish a contemplative essay about a possible vocational call I think I’ve been hearing. My essay draft contains quotes from Emerson’s “On Friendship.” In it (mine and Emerson’s), there isn’t a single reference to male genitalia nor a single occurrence of the word “vagina.” I’m so out of touch. As is the great transcendentalist.

By the way, “vagina” comes from the Latin for sheath. You can’t blame that on a disgraced pastor. (“Vāgīna” is also the etymological source for vanilla. Let’s all snicker. Who knows why, but it seems inappropriate. Besides, angels blush whenever they hear that word. Vagina. Tee-hee-hee.)

Before I get any further, let me note that I feel blessed. Somehow—miraculously—I was shielded from knowledge of Mark Driscoll’s ministry all these years. Honestly, when Driscoll Penis House-Gate broke, a friend of mine was shocked to hear me say, “Who’s Mark Driscoll?”

Then again, maybe I’m lying. Perhaps I’m so entrenched within the Acts 29 Network that under my breath I’m muttering, “The first rule of Midrash Forum is: ‘You do not talk about Midrash Forum.’”

I should be thinking about Ralph Waldo Emerson and my unfinished vocational essay, yet instead I’ve spent all week thinking about Mark Driscoll’s penis. Or at least his view of his own penis. And his view of my penis. And I suppose his view of your penis, too—if you have one.

American Christians—or maybe just Americans generally—either think about penises too much or not enough. Or perhaps both. I can’t decide.

Or maybe it’s just that when we do think about penises, we tend to act like an 11 year old with his shoes half-untied, picking his nose, and we feel the need to follow up this thought with a fart joke.

In a certain light, sex, sex parts, sexual interplay, and human reproduction at large (and not so large) is funny. And Absurd. And serious. As well as everything in-between.

But here’s one thing that sex isn’t:  a permanently distorted fun house mirror.

And that is how, as a recovering fundamentalist, I picture the Evangelical sexual worldview. Distorted. To quote myself:

“I was reared in an ultraconservative Christian environment that made Queen Victoria look like Lady Gaga.  I was forbidden from dating all throughout high school, and the Birds & Bees conversation with the man who reared me went something like this:  ‘Those feelings in your penis should be reserved for marriage.  And all the Greek philosophers were fags, so you’ll never attend college if you want anything to do with this family.’”

Unfortunately, tens of thousands of other young men who “grew up Evangelical” (I’m probably low-balling that estimate) suffered similar conversations and mentoring.

An immature urogenital worldview wasn’t just thrust upon us as horny teenagers. Many of us were taught as children to call our reproductive organs “pee-pees” or “tee-wees” or any of a dozen other ridiculous baby-talk labels.

God didn’t make “tinklers.” God made penises and vaginas.

What does any of this have to do with Penis House-Gate?

Well, where do you think a former Top 25 Most Influential Pastor learned to think so immaturely about human sexuality?

Mark Driscoll is the product of an immature sexual worldview. Not its inventor.

Yes, it’s easy, even delightful (if you can biblically justify Schadenfreude) to castigate a failed leader with misogynistic tendencies—especially one who seemed to set himself up as the Chuck Palahniuk of Evangelicalism. But someone needs to start redirecting the dialogue of the Mars Hills Debacle. Driscoll merely stood in front of that distorted funhouse mirror.

The mirror is still there. And millions of us remain standing in front of it.

Let’s face it. Whether we are creationists or evolutionists, experiencing a public depiction of Adam and Eve in their birthday suits still makes many of us uncomfortable. Even worse is a naked baby Jesus—or, blasphemy of blasphemies, a naked Jesus on the cross.

And I’m going to go on record as saying that there is ZERO chance that the producers who brought us Noah are ever going to bless us with a silver screen version of the life and times of Onan. (I didn’t see Noah, but I’m guessing Noah’s Genesis 9 drunken, naked rage was also glossed over.)

Also, when was the last time you saw Ezekiel 23:20 placed upon a Sunday School flannelgraph: “There [Oholibah] lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkey and whose emission [זִרְמַת, zirmah] was like that of horses.”

Almost across the board, English biblical translators have chosen “emission” or “issue” to describe what we all know Ezekiel meant—and what one daring biblical commentary describes as “a gushing of sperm.”

Now hold on just a second. Ezekiel and William Wallace II (Driscoll’s penis-homey alter ego) are both pretty X-rated. Why should we give Ezekiel a free pass yet climb all over Driscoll?

Well, for one, Ezekiel’s intended audience was comfortable with an explicit animal reproductive metaphor. I mean, to anyone familiar with horse breeding, the Ezekiel passage comes rather alive.

Driscoll’s remarks—such as “God created you and it is His penis”—just come off as remarkably idiotic. Is it God’s earlobe and kneecap, too, and will He be wanting those parts back at the end of my terrestrial sojourn? Does He have special plans for my coccyx? Frankly, it’s only ever been a pain in the ass to me.

(Uh-oh. Shit, now I said “ass.” And “shit.” As I once heard Tony Campolo say—and I’m paraphrasing—“Don’t get all bent out of shape about words like ‘shit’ if you don’t give one about all the children starving in the world today.”)

Anyway, my point is that American Christians need to reevaluate their sexual worldview. And not just their sexual worldview. American Christians tend to get all bent out of shape about human waste-related anatomy too—as if Beelzebub were somehow responsible for the functions of the urethra and anus. (God is not Queen Victoria.)

What Driscoll said was childish. He’s paid quite the price for it, and rightfully so.

But Christianity Today, in my opinion, has acted equally immaturely with its recent theologically-puerile article about whether Jesus would ever “hang out in a strip club.”

Yet what was the consequence to its editorial staff? (By the way, here’s my shot-across-the-bow response to CT.)

And that’s all I’m going to say for now. I’m not presenting an Aquinas tome on the subject. I’m just suggesting that we not allow the lexical floodgates to close this time. Let’s keep them open. The words “penis” and “vagina” shouldn’t be permanently hidden under bushels, as it were.

The human body and all its functions are natural phenomena. They are no less natural than all the stars and planets—including Uranus.

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

But let’s not wait several more years for some other theological bozo to come along to make it okay again to put naughty words in print. If you’ve got a good reason to say “penis” or “ejaculation” or “poop,” just say the word without feeling the need to justify it with a biblical reference. The Trinity won’t strike you dead.

After all, Jesus had a penis and an anus too.

Arik Bjorn is a writer who lives in Columbia, South Carolina. His educational background includes archaeology, ancient languages, and biblical studies. He has run the gamut of Christian experience, from Evangelical to Orthodox catechumen to live-in Episcopalian sexton to Roman Catholic. Follow Arik on Twitter @arikbjorn and on Facebook. And check out his website, Viking Word.

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