Must read: On Cage Fighting, “Masculinity, Misogyny, and the Fear of Losing Control”

Christian and former cage fighter Matt Morin has a fantastic article on mixed martial arts (or MMA, the technical title for cage fighting) and its implications for thinking about masculinity from a Christian perspective. It’s a brilliant and thorough takedown of Mark Driscoll’s absurd fetishization of violence and domination as the epitome of “real” masculinity. Morin systematically unpacks misogyny, the homophobia, the harmful assertions about “real” masculinity, and the deep-seated insecurity about gender and embodiment that underpin the current trendiness of MMA in some complementarian circles.

And he does it all from a perspective informed by Christian anthropology! It’s very heartening to me to see challenges to Christianized toxic masculinity from within Christian circles. It drives home the ridiculousness of complementarian assertions that gender essentialism and bigotry are inseparable from being a “real” Christian. And it’s extremely powerful to have a Christian man explicitly reject Christian patriarchy and call it out as misogynist, homophobic, and harmful to everyone.

Seriously, it’s an amazing article and an absolute must-read. Check it out – The Confessions of a Cage Fighter: Masculinity, Misogyny, and the Fear of Losing Control [discussions of physical violence].

Morin particularly takes apart this clip of Driscoll claiming that MMA represents “pure” masculinity:

Transcript:

And I don’t think there’s anything purer than two guys in a cage, no balls, no sticks, no bats, no help, no team, and just see which man is better. And as a pastor, and as a bible teacher, I think that God made men masculine, he made humanity male and female. And men and women are different, not that one is good and the other’s bad, that’s why I married a woman, I’m very glad to be married to her [laughing].

But i think men are made for combat, men are made for conflict, men are made for dominion, and it doesn’t matter what you do to a bunch of guys, I mean, you could put ’em in the worst public high school, and tell ’em that they need to just be into their feelings, and talk about their feelings, and cry a lot, and fingerpaint their inner life, but at the end of the day, they’re still gonna want to throw down. And when they go out to recess, two guys are gonna go at it and see which one is the dude.

And that’s just the way that men are made. So we either allow that in way that is violence [sic] and inappropriate, which is what a lot of guys do, through criminal activity, or we put it together as a viable, legitimate sport, and let men be men and do what men do, and let the other fat, lazy men sit around and criticize them while watching.

Driscoll appears to have a talent for packing lots of wrongheadedness into a small number of words. Where to start? Perhaps with his statement that humanity was created “male and female,” a launching point for much of complementarian theology. Driscoll takes for granted – as do most people, to be fair – that all humans fit into binary categories of sex and gender: male/female, masculine/feminine. But both sex and gender are far more complicated than a binary system can account for.

In biological terms, what we boil down to the single word “sex” is actually made up of several different paramaters (e.g., genes, gonads, genitals, secondary sex characteristics like body hair and breasts, etc.) These factors are interrelated, but don’t always correlate with each other as we expect, and don’t always easily add up to an answer of “male” or “female.” Intersex is the most obvious example of this, but there’s also a tremendous among of variation in sexual characteristics between people who fit “typical” expectations of male or female sex, as we can plainly observe by huge differences in appearance (and specifically sexual development) between men or between women.

Gender is perhaps even more complicated than sex, with incredible variance in both gender identity and gender expression. We’re all assigned a gender at birth based on what our genitals look like, or are prematurely surgically altered to look like, as is sadly the case for some babies born intersex (trigger warning). But the gender we’re assigned at birth doesn’t always fit with our actual gender identity (i.e., some people are trans), and there are many people whose gender identity is nonbinary: neither male nor female, or not entirely one or the other. And in addition to gender identity (what we feel internally), gender expression (how we express our internal gender) also varies widely. Many cultures past and present have recognized this.

Perhaps Mark Driscoll doesn’t know – or doesn’t want to know – that gender variance is in the bible. The very same bible he quotes as evidence that humanity was created male and female features eunuchs – not just people who were castrated, but also people who in Jesus’ own words were born eunuchs – and others who challenged binary sex and gender categories. Peterson Toscano, creator and performer of the play Transfigurations, points to some of these examples:

(I’ll try to get a transcript of this up later.)

Of course, there’s a lot more wrong with Driscoll’s comments than the assumption of binarism (which, again, is widespread), and I’ll get to those and some of Morin’s criticisms of them in subsequent posts.

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Why is Ann Voskamp’s “mysticism” a problem?

Since I started questioning my religious upbringing, I’ve been increasingly aware of how incredibly narrow and anomalous fundamentalist and reformed evangelical understandings of Christianity are from a historical perspective. The kerfuffle over Ann Voskamp’s book is a perfect example of this; some reformed evangelicals claim it promotes a dangerous, heretical, and irreverent view of God and how God relates with human beings. But the things they claim are blasphemous are actually long established ideas and motifs in numerous Christian traditions, traceable in one form or another as far back as the earliest Church, and well within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy by any reasonable, historically informed standard.

For example, Everyday Mommy, the blogger who sparked the initial controversy over Voskamp’s book, has repeatedly criticized it for “embracing and promoting mysticism and contemplative spirituality” and drawing from traditions she finds heretical:

This extremely dangerous notion has it’s [sic] roots in the heretical, mystical teachings of a 16th century Carmelite nun who wrote of her ‘ecstasy’ with Christ achieved through trances and out-of-body experiences. Mrs. Voskamp is a devotee’ [sic] of this mystic. This metaphorical imagery is not Scriptural and is unsound at best and false teaching at worst. (comment)

Set aside for a moment that this is really bad history; this is an argument that doesn’t make sense even from a reformed evangelical perspective. The Bible is full of examples of people who had trances, visions, and other mystical encounters. Paul claimed to have been “caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know” (2 Corinthians 12, ESV). The entire book of Revelation is one big, trippy, out of this world hallucination. Biblical figures like Abraham, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Cornelius – just for starters – experienced visions. By EM’s definitions none of these experiences count as “mystical.” Nor is it “mysticism” when Christians claim to hear directly from God, to have God “living in their hearts,” or to speak spiritual languages that only God and other Christians (if anyone) can understand. No, we’re supposed to accept these pretty strange accounts as “normal” biblical Christianity, while rejecting Teresa of Ávila’s visions and raptures as obviously beyond the pale of orthodox Christian experience.

“Mysticism” has little meaning here beyond “spiritual experiences we’re uncomfortable with.” It’s a privileging of the reformed version of authentic spirituality over any and all alternatives, and a reading of the Bible and reformed Christianity’s own spirituality that’s blinkered by a priori assumptions. They either can’t or won’t acknowledge that Christianity – a faith which, after all, for most calls for belief that a virgin could conceive a child by the Holy Spirit and that a being can be both fully man and fully God – has always had a deep mystical streak at its heart. Nor are they aware of or willing to admit that there are mystics in virtually every Christian tradition and at all points in church history, not just in Catholicism or other traditions she deems heretical, and her tradition is no exception.


Mark Driscoll is not God

Trigger warning for the video in particular – emotional/psychological abuse.

Mark Driscoll is at it again, making pronouncements from on high about who’s going to be damned to hell.

There’s a lot that’s wrong here. He’s claiming yet again that a version of Christianity that teaches that the vast majority of the world will be tortured for eternity is “good news.” He continues to use manipulative and abusive tactics as tools of control. Many people who have been abused in one way or another by someone close to us will recognize “just because I’m yelling at you doesn’t mean I don’t love you” and “I’m yelling at you because I love you” as classic lines from abusers. It’s chilling. Once again he’s asserting his superior and exclusive access to truth and salvation over the rest of the world and everyone who disagrees with him.

As for his tears of gratitude – I’m sorry, I haven’t seen a crying act that transparent or unconvincing in a long time, and I have a toddler. I don’t believe for a second that he accepts that he’s just as deserving of God’s wrath as anyone else. Not when he’s just spent most of his time in this clip loudly damning all but a tiny portion of humanity to hell (does he realize how much of the world is Buddhist or Hindu? I don’t know that he cares).

But the point is so much bigger than Driscoll’s arrogance and bigotry. It’s important to debunk this dehumanizing theology and point out its dangers, and that’s a huge reason why I started blogging. But it’s also important to offer alternatives for people who feel trapped in a hostile and damaging faith, because they’ve been misled into believing that it’s the only way they can be good Christians, the only way God will accept them.

This is a lie. I know it can feel so true. But it’s a huge, audacious, breathaking lie.

Here’s the truth:

– Mark Driscoll is not God.
– Mark Driscoll has no idea who is going to heaven or hell, or even if any such places exist.
– If there is a God who decides our eternal fates, it’s not taking orders from Mark Driscoll. Whatever happens to us after we die has nothing whatsoever to do with Driscoll thinks, says, or does.

– Being a Christian doesn’t mean whatever Mark Driscoll says it means.
– Christianity is far, far bigger than reformed evangelicalism. Reformed evangelicalism is a tiny branch of Protestant Christianity and an even smaller fraction of all Christian traditions.
– The vast majority of Christians churches do not share reformed evangelical beliefs on hell or salvation.
A loving God is not going to punish everyone who “fails” to find – or find a home in – some random niche version of Christianity.

– It is not a sin to disagree with Mark Driscoll’s interpretation of the Bible.
– The Bible has very little to say about hell. What it does say has nothing to do with our image of hell and everything to do with ancient Jewish, Greek, and Roman beliefs about the afterlife.
– The Bible is a set of disparate documents created for many different purposes, produced in a wide variety of contexts, and written in ancient and difficult languages. It’s a complicated document that calls for careful, attentive reading. It can be read in many ways.

– No matter what Mark Driscoll says, there’s nothing incompatible about faith and “philosophical speculation” or “mental investigation.”
– It’s ok to have questions about faith and the Bible. It’s ok to ask those questions and to pursue rigorous, intellectually sound answers to those questions.
– People who reject scientific and historical inquiry as dangerous to faith and are opposed to or threatened by facts and research do not have strong faith. They have weak faith.

– No matter what Mark Driscoll says, there’s nothing wrong with kind, humane theology that upholds the dignity and worth of all people as sacred.
– There’s nothing sinful about believing in a God who loves everyone, without conditions or qualifiers.
– And there’s no reason to believe that belief in the Bible is incompatible with belief in such a God. Many, many Christians believe in a God who loves.

What about all of the verses within scripture that seem to imply a truly irresistible grace?John 17:2: For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
Luke 2:10: But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
In John 1:9, the gospel’s author writes: The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
Romans 5:18: Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
Romans 8:20, 21: For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Acts 3:21: For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets….

And I could go on and on. But my point in listing those verses isn’t to argue theology, it’s only to point out that there IS indeed biblical support for Jesus-centered redemption that is bigger and more merciful and gracious than what most evangelical theologies proclaim.

Do we believe that Jesus is good news for all men?

Or do we believe that Jesus is good news for all men who ask him into his heart?

Or do we believe that Jesus is good news for all men who follow some sort of evangelical equation that proclaims (in an earthly sense) that he’s a follower of Jesus?

Who are we to put limitations around the words “all men” or “all people”…

I’ve said this before, but I think sometimes the “evangelical God” we boast about is quite small. Or at least… how we talk about him is small.

Of course, Mark could be right. The God that we boast about, that we love, that we worship could be ready and willing to send BILLIONS and BILLIONS of people to the flames of hell. All in the name of justice baby! But then why does God ask us to care for the sick, the weak, the hungry? Why does he tell us to love one another? Why does he care about the relationships we pursue and value? How can we boast about a God who values unborn life but is fully willing to send 11-year-olds from India to eternal torment?….

I believe in a God who makes things right. I believe in a God who will leave the 99 to find 1 lost soul. I believe in a God who is my shepherd. I believe in a God who manifested himself through Christ to bring redemption to the world. (Jesus Needs New PR)

– You don’t need abusive theology or an abusive God to be a Christian.
– You don’t need fear, hatred, contempt, or bigotry to be a Christian.
– It’s a lie that making people live in constant fear is an act of love. Even the Bible says so: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”

Mark Driscoll is one person, with one interpretation of the Bible, one version of a huge, old, complicated, diverse religion. Taking his teachings as gospel is nothing more than making God in Driscoll’s image. Mark Driscoll is not God. Thank God for that.


Rob Bell and the “heresy” of a loving God

Religious fundamentalism is dangerous because it cannot accept ambiguity and diversity and is therefore inherently intolerant. Such intolerance, in the name of virtue, is ruthless and uses political power to destroy what it cannot convert. It is dangerous, especially in America, because it is anti-democratic and is suspicious of “the other,” in whatever form that “other” might appear. To maintain itself, fundamentalism must always define “the other” as deviant.Peter Gomes

There’s a huge controversy brewing in the evangelical blogosphere and twitterverse over Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, an upcoming book by Rob Bell, a pastor associated with the emergent church movement. According to the promotional materials for the book, Bell argues that “a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering.” The immediate accusations of universalism and hand-wringing about the state of Rob Bell’s soul are yet another illustration of how swift, uninformed condemnation of people and/or ideas they don’t like is not only common among reformed evangelicals, it’s practically an art form.


(Image from The Naked Pastor, ht Jesus Needs New PR.)

Both the criticisms of Bell’s presumed argument and the way they were aired reveal some ugly truths about the values and priorities of the evangelical community. They dogmatically oppose even discussing the possibility that, regarding the fate of humanity, God’s love wins, because in their view, a Christianity that preaches God’s love without God’s wrath is heresy, and no Christianity at all. They insist on a divine love mixed with wrath that can’t be satisfied without blood, which isn’t love at all. They are literally against the idea of a God who loves.

What’s more, the incredible speed and vehemence of the backlash points to a deep investment in the idea that no one outside their tiny corner of Christianity could ever be loved and welcomed unconditionally by God. On some level, they cherish the idea that most of humanity will suffer for eternity. Sure, evangelicals warn people about the dangers of hell, and try to convert people. They express concern and sadness over the ultimate fate of “lost” souls. And yet, the words and actions of reformed evangelical leaders betray how attached they are to the belief that they are the chosen few.

The constant rhetoric of being “holy, set apart, and different” from the rest of the world is a subtle example of this (e.g., Joshua Harris’s argument that wifely submission is a sign of being specially chosen by God for a home in heaven). Evangelical leaders claim marginalized, “counterculture” status as a badge of pride, insisting that “the world” hates them because they are God’s people. They point to their “persecution” in this word as a sign and promise of eternal rewards in the next; their identity revolves around it. Of course, this means that the condemnation of the majority of humanity to hell is also a central aspect of their faith and identity.

This is made more explicit when evangelical leaders talk about hell at any length. Take, for example, the perceptible relish Mark Driscoll takes in describing the torments of hell, and pontificating on who will end up there: “There is an eternal hell. This is not a point for philosophical speculation. This is a fact. There is a real hell that will be full …. a place of conscious torment …  For ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever.” Or take the example of Denny Burk, who flatly concurs that “only a few select people will make it to heaven” and asserts that a “countless throng of people” will be cast into hell.

Evangelical leaders often cite Augustine’s maxim: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” In other words, certain non-negotiable doctrines and practices exclusively define who is and is not a Christian; on other matters, Christians are free to believe and practice in many different ways. The reaction to Rob Bell reveals the perverted nature of evangelical understandings of what is “essential” and “non-essential” to Christianity. There’s room in their gospel for Bryan Fischer, who claims that God gave the Americas to Europeans because Native Americans “morally disqualified” themselves from “sovereign control of American soil.” There’s room for unrepentant race-baiters, nativists, misogynists, and even rapists. But the idea of a hell crammed to the gills with eternally, infinitely tormented people is an essential, non-negotiable doctrine, and anyone who dares to suggest otherwise is met with howls of outrage, ostracized, and condemned (Bell, Carlton Pearson, William Paul Young, among others).

They show what they truly value. They don’t care about having a church that works towards equality and more social justice. They don’t care about harm done to others not like themselves. They believe that hell will be FULL and call that “good news.” They condemn the world and call that a “liberating gospel of grace.” They preach emotional sermons complete with melodramatic tears, quivering lips, and and cracking voicess, waxing lyrical about the beauty of the gospel and how grateful we should all be for what God has done for us. But their gospel cannot be a beautiful thing for most people. It’s not a message of hope, not a message that anyone can be saved and spend eternity with God. By their own theology, most people cannot and will not be saved. No, their message is one of hatred and condemnation. It’s “good news” that you will be damned for eternity unless God decides you’re special. This isn’t a gospel of Christ. It’s a gospel of hell.

Rob Bell is absolutely right: what evangelicals believe about heaven and hell shows what they believe about who and what God is. It exposes the lies and contradictions at the heart of their gospel. God is to be loved, but God is to be feared. God desires that no one should be lost to hell, yet hell will be full and only a few will be saved. The gospel is good news to sinners, yet most sinners have no hope of ever attaining salvation. God is infinite love, but will torment “his” own creations without mercy, and without remorse.

Evangelical theologians don’t want to deal with the real implications of a God who doles out salvation based on membership in an exclusive secret society. Nor are they honest about the incoherence of basing an absolutist theology of hell on biblical references to the Greek Hades and Hebrew Sheol, neither of which are anything like the modern Christian concept of hell. They insist with mindboggling arrogance that the Bible only supports one position on the afterlife, and that anyone who doesn’t agree with that position will be punished forever by God. Unsurprisingly, even on this point they are inconsistent and hypocritical, simultaneously condemning Rob Bell and praising C.S. Lewis, who certainly did not believe that only Christians can be saved (cf The Last Battle and The Problem of Pain, for example).

It’s all so patently ridiculous, so breathtakingly and absurdly arrogant. I wonder now how for so long I couldn’t see this doctrine for the utter mockery of truth and human dignity it is.

Partial transcript of Bell’s comments in the video below the jump. Read the rest of this entry »


Substitutionary atonement is not forgiveness

Unreasonable Faith has a good post by Sola Ratione on how little sense it makes to claim Jesus’s crucifixion is some kind of “forgiveness” for sins. It reminded me of this video by NonStampCollector:

It also reminded me of a realization I had the Easter before I finally accepted that I was agnostic. I still felt a bit of an obligation to observe it in some way. I think I was also still holding out hope that I could be a Christmas and Easter Christian, if nothing else. So I tried to come up with reasons to attend Easter services, tried to dredge up some tiny remnant of personal meaning or positive feeling for what used to be my favorite season in the church calendar. I tried to find some meaning in the Resurrection. Something about hope or renewal? But you can’t have the Resurrection without the crucifixion, which, I soon realized, was a big problem for me.

I couldn’t find anything to celebrate about Easter because I found the event at the heart of it senseless and barbaric. If God wanted to forgive everyone, why not just do it? Why require  violence, death, and a blood sacrifice for forgiveness? How could deliberately slaughtering an innocent human being (divine or not) ever be a good thing for God to do, much less a necessary one? I couldn’t stomach the thought of standing in church and singing hymns thanking God for killing someone “for” me.

There are a lot of theologies of the cross out there. One that makes some sort of sense to me (as someone who, to be clear, does not at all believe Jesus is/was God) is that the crucifixion is God identifying with the poor and outcast and suffering, and being in solidarity with them. Which, you know, still seems a strange and futile gesture to me, but at least it’s not one that claims that the violent death of another human being was (part of) God’s gift to me or anyone else.

Substitutionary atonement – the doctrine that Jesus literally took the sins of every human dead, living, or not yet in existence on himself, and that he literally took on the infinite punishment that every human being deserves for their sins – is not forgiveness. True forgiveness is freely given, it doesn’t come with strings attached. It doesn’t demand retribution, not on the person who did wrong, and certainly not on someone who had nothing to do with the wrong. Substitutionary atonement is both an irrational and abusive theology. A couple comments at Unreasonable Faith encapsulate why that is.

Kodle [after pointing out that it would make no sense for a regular person to withhold forgiveness until someone other than the offender is punished for the offense]:

And notice the unequal relationship. God never asks forgiveness for abandoning you in times of need, or killing your mom with cancer, or taking up all the parking spots so you have to drive to the far end of the lot, or making your presentation at work a disaster so you don’t win the account, or your child getting bullied at school, or your boyfriend moving out. He had a very good and secret reason for doing all this and the only way you can move on, rather than forgiveness, is excuses for god’s very good and secret reasons for making terrible things happen.

Michael, responding to that comment:

This point you are making about the unequal relationship is exactly what pissed off Job. In the end of the book, God came down to answer him–not to apologize, but to be a jackass and ask pompous rhetorical questions. On a larger scale, this relationship is what the entire OT is about, or perhaps the entire Bible. It establishes God as a patriarch who is above question and even above his own law.

Substitutionary atonement requires us to accept that it’s alright for God to behave in ways that would be considered cruel and capricious from anyone else. It requires that we claim God is “good” in a way that doesn’t resemble what we would call “good” in any other context. It preaches a patriarchal God who brooks no defiance and demands perfection from others that “he” doesn’t live up to, and doesn’t have to live up to. In so doing it provides a script and model for authoritarian, hierarchical, abusive relationships between human beings that mirror the authoritarian, hierarchical, abusive relationship between God and humans.

Let’s be real. This is a god who simultaneously expects absolutely perfection from humans (and “graciously” provides it in the form of Jesus) and rationalization of his considerable flaws. He takes his anger out on undeserving people, becomes angry at the drop of a hat, requires that everything be done just so, demands constant praise and attention, thinks the entire world has has wronged him and holds eternal grudges, and thinks everyone should be grateful just to be around him, grateful for whatever they get from him, no matter how meager. In any other context, we’d call that narcissistic, and we’d certainly call it abusive.


Jesus’s ministry vs. church ministry

Just a quick thought – I was just reading this article Mark Driscoll tweeted about how Acts 29, his church planting network, fared in the last calendar year: “4000 saved and 133 new churches.” 2010 was Acts 29’s “biggest year yet” after “an explosion of growth over the last five years.”

It’s pretty clearly implied in the article that numerical growth is linked to divine approval. Which is interesting. It’s one of the peculiarities of American evangelical culture that people simultaneously believe that their “persecution” is a sign that their version of Christianity is the true faith, and also believe that growing churches and revenue are a sign of divine blessing. It’s a convenient paradox; either way God is on their side.

The other thing that occurred to me was how very different the Acts 29 model of “ministry” is from Jesus’s ministry in the gospels. By a lot of measures today his ministry wasn’t terribly “gospel-centered” or all that successful. He had a small, rag-tag bunch of followers, most of whom were of pretty low status if not total outcasts (fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, adulteresses…). Sure, he told people to repent and converted people into his followers, but that wasn’t really the bulk of his ministry.

In the gospel accounts he seems to have spent far more time healing the sick, feeding people, and caring for the poor and marginalized, even arguing that such people were more righteous and closer to the kingdom of God that the rich and the religious elite of the time. He preached a radical vision for society: give up your wealth and security to follow the way, share what you have with those who have less, nonviolence, the poor are rich in spirit and the meek will inherit the earth, make yourself last if you want to be first. He spent a lot of time ministering to the physical needs of people who didn’t have much – something contemporary evangelicals consider to be a “distraction” from the gospel – and called that righteousness, and said those who failed to provide for the physical needs of those with less than them could not be part of his kingdom.

What if churches measured their ministries by this standard? What if they spent more time making sure everyone has food, shelter, healthcare, basic rights and needs than they did trying to police people’s morality or make their churches bigger or win more converts? What if they defined success by how many people they helped, by how much they shared with others, not how much money or people they could claim?

I’d be proud to belong to a faith like that.


Mark Driscoll: If you don’t believe in hell, you’re going there

Speaking of belief in hell, I found this little gem at Jesus Needs New PR (full transcript at the end of this post):

Where to start. The whole “you must accept Jesus or you will BURN IN HELL” thing is abusive theology that preaches a tyrannical and capricious God. Driscoll is also (consciously or not) using classic thought control methods here; he makes no attempt to defend his argument on rational basis. Instead he manipulates language and emotions and uses fear of punishment to motivate desired thought and behavior. Classic cult stuff. For example:

Some of you will say, ” I don’t believe [in hell].” Dear friend, come to Jesus, or you will experience it.

Don’t believe in hell? That just means you’re going there! I don’t know about you, but this sure is making me want to come to Jesus. I loved MPT’s comment about why using hell to motivate belief is theologically problematic:

Using “Hell” as a selling-point for Jesus actually elevates Hell’s importance above that of Jesus’s importance… because it’s like saying… without Hell… there’s no need for Jesus…
Isn’t Jesus more than an escape route? And I’m not trying to be sarcastic.
Would Jesus be relevant to your life without Hell?
I know Christians who answer “no” to that question…. which uplifts Hell far above Jesus… Jesus becomes simply the “x” in some weird scary spiritual equation…

I have thought about the problem of using the fear of hell to motivate people to “love” God (hello, abuse!), but not quite in the way MPT puts it, i.e., that this version of Christianity is based on faith in hell as much as it is faith in Jesus. That’s clearly what Driscoll’s comment implies. And It’s what most evangelical attempts to proselytize are based on – “do you know where you’ll go when you die?” It’s belief in hell first, then belief in Jesus – and all because you don’t want to go to hell.

Here’s a sad and telling truth: many evangelical churches tolerate and even embrace all sorts of vile misogyny and racist dogwhistling from the pulpit, and can’t be bothered to care about the injustices of poverty or war. Daring to preach that nobody goes to hell, on the other hand, is guaranteed to infuriate your congregation. That gets you condemned as a heretic and abandoned by your church. Priorities!

There is an eternal hell. This is not a point for philosophical speculation. This is a fact. There is a real hell that will be full. Many will not pass through the narrow door . . .

I do not think “fact” and “philosophical speculation” mean what Driscoll thinks they mean. Memo to Mark: any discussion of a possible afterlife is by definition philosophical speculation. You know, because it’s not observable? Also, it doesn’t really make sense that an all-powerful God who “loves” everyone and doesn’t want anyone to go to hell (John 3:16) can’t be on the ball enough to make sure that heaven, not hell, is full. “He” seems a bit full of fail.

Jesus speaks of hell more than anyone else in the Bible. Jesus likens hell to a place of conscious torment that is eternal and unending…For ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever…

Don’t believe the cartoons, and don’t be a fool. Satan does not rule hell… Jesus rules hell.

His Jesus sounds kind of douchey. Which, given that Driscoll preaches a Jesus whose persona is basically identical to his own, isn’t surprising.

When you die, there is no opportunity for salvation. The door slams shut behind you, and you will stand before Jesus, and he will sentence you to a punishment in hell that absolutely fits the degree of wickedness that was present in your life. That means that some of you will suffer more than others. But all who fail to pass through the narrow door will suffer. And they will suffer for ever.

Wait, wait. Is Driscoll getting his theology of hell from Dante now? Or from Greek mythology? Because I’m pretty sure there isn’t a damn thing in the Bible about “degrees” of punishment to suit one’s wickedness in life. Also, his god continues to be douchey by arbitrarily defining “wickedness” as not being a Christian.

Many preachers are cowards, they don’t tell you this. My job is to love you well and tell you the truth…I will treat you as adults and I want you to make your own decision. But I also want my hands to be clean of your blood. I want you to make the decision fully aware of the consequences of this opportunity that God sets before you. [Dramatic delivery] Some of you are going to hell…For all of your days you will regret your own folly and the opportunity that you allowed to pass you by. And you will have no one to blame but yourself.

OMG, you guys, Mark Driscoll is SO BRAVE (if he may say so himself). Let’s pause a moment to admire his amazing COURAGE and FORTITUDE in telling people they’ll burn in hell.  What a hero.

“You are going DIE and REGRET your horrible decision as you are being TORMENTED in hell FOREVER if you don’t listen to me – but dudes, it’s your call!” Driscoll respects you. He’ll let you make your own decision.

I’m pretty sure saying  “the bogeyman will get you if you’re bad” is how (not very nice) people treat children, not adults.

Transcript of Driscoll’s comments after the jump.

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