Molly Worthen has written a fascinating article entitled: Who Would Jesus Smack Down? and it appeared in the Jan 11, 2009 New York Times Magazine. Isn't the title alone something to step back and ask, "what is this?" So, from a journalistic/marketing standpoint, it worked perfectly for me, as I immediately turned to read it.
I recommend reading it, especially if you are now curious like I was. It has much to say about fridge (dare I say, radical) popular faith trends in communities around this country. However, I must say at the beginning, this piece is deeply troubling to me, as I wrestle with my own faith and belief systems as an Episcopalian/Anglican.
Now, I am sure Mark Driscoll and his religious movement at Mars Hill in Seattle must believe they are being faithful to what they see/interpret as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But I can not understand completely where and how these beliefs take shape, i.e. how they got where they are today. So, I am looking for help from others who might like to read and share your thoughts.
A few conservative blogs have recently responded to Driscoll and they are generally pleased with Worthen's take on his ministry/theology at Mars Hill. However, there is wide agreement among other blogs which I have noted, who are obviously very critical of his provocative sermons. Sermons, which often have titles such as "Biblical Oral Sex." Now, that is a sermon title! Anyway, there is much to be read and compared to here in his work, and I would welcome references to more moderate/mainline Christian commentaries on this and related subjects.
What is my interest? Well, today I write because I find this story continues to stir up in me disappointment and confusion as to what appears to be taking place in our American Religious communities, i.e. especially Christianity. So, I ask myself -- what are the historical, political, sociological, and cultural dimensions to this experience today? In other words, where the heck are these theological/ideological trends in American Christianity coming from? And why does it seem to be getting even more polarizing, darker and complex?
Clearly, there is much to respond to with Driscoll's use of scripture, his Christology, ethics, and very stark views around soteriology, etc... Also, Whorthen reveals some insights here into Driscoll's personal background, and perhaps there is something to be learned by these clues. He is the oldest of five, son of a union drywaller, and was raised Roman Catholic in a rough Seattle neighborhood. He was married at the age of 19, and says he was called by God to plant churches at age 25.
Driscoll's view of Christianity (his interpretation of the Bible) is being recognized and followed now by many across the Seattle area and other parts of the country. This fact alone is fascinating to me as Seattle does not appear to me to be a hotbed of American evangelical thought. Certainly, I am in no way implying that his faith community are sinful people and wrong; and that I offer the only "correct" way to truth, as the enlightened (saved) disciple. Rather, this seems to be their interpretation of the Bible's views on election (one chosen or predestined). I believe strongly in religious freedom in this country and celebrate diversity of thought and practice. However, I do continue to be filled with many challenging thoughts and feelings around these issues/trends in ministry and theology.
Clearly, we can see the historical roots of movements like Driscoll's in America with swings left/right (Jonathon Edwards, Great Awakening, rise of Fundamentalism, etc...). But as a moderate (broad church) Anglican, I now want to ponder some of these events in the coming days here on my blog. I believe now is the time for our church and others to take a hard look at ourselves and ask: where have we failed to completely respond to the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth? And equally important, where must we now change or die (as Bill Spong, and others so correctly point out!).
Finally, the Letter's to the Editor were no help to me either, especially my fellow Episcopalian's response. In fact, they made me even more compelled to begin something here on my blog in order to try and make sense of things.
Once again, please consider reading this article and offering up any insights as you see fit.