Since Mark Driscoll’s last round of public queer and trans baiting, I’ve wanted to make a bingo card of some of the ridiculous excuses some Christians make for why Driscoll’s behavior is either acceptable or just not a problem they should have to deal with. Alas, I couldn’t find a bingo card generator, and I didn’t have the HTML skills to make one myself. But now! I have mediocre n00b HTML knowledge to
inflict on share with my readers :-D
And the timing couldn’t be better, since Driscoll appears to have gone and stuck another homophobic foot in his mouth yet again, like clockwork [eta: Molly points out in the comments that Driscoll wrote this in 2008, but it’s just getting attention now]:
First, masturbation can be a form of homosexuality because it is a sexual act that does not involve a woman. If a man were to masturbate while engaged in other forms of sexual intimacy with his wife then he would not be doing so in a homosexual way. However, any man who does so without his wife in the room is bordering on homosexuality [sic] activity, particularly if he’s watching himself in a mirror and being turned on by his own male body. (Dangerous Minds)
There’s really nothing that needs to be said about that, right? The man clearly has some personal issues to work through.
So, here it is: a handy guide to the absurd defenses of Driscoll fanboys and people who just find his public comments too inconvenient and embarrassing to handle honestly. What did I miss? Share your favorite example of ridiculous Driscoll apologism in the comments!
Mark Driscoll Apologism Bingo:
|No one respects women more than Mark. He hates violence against women.||Mark is just a provocateur.||People hate/persecute Mark because he preaches harsh bible truth.||You’re giving non-Christians excuses to slander and hate us!||People have come to Christ through Mark. Don’t lose sight of the big picture.|
|“Jesus wasn’t just a gentle peacemaker.”||This is sinful gossip and slander.||You’re turning Christians against each other and destroying our unity.||Mark is just rough around the edges. He’s refreshingly blunt.||Mark loves his wife and celebrates femininity, just not in men.|
|Mark really loves Jesus.||Mark isn’t in my/your church; he’s not my/your problem.||FREE
|You’re supporting worldly criticisms of Mark by unbelievers.||Why are you so emotional/angry/bitter?|
|Mars Hill is growing. God is really using Mark.||You haven’t listened to every sermon Mark Driscoll has ever preached.||You should share your concerns with Mark privately. Matthew 18!||Just pray for Mark and pay more attention to your own sin.||Mark just wants men to feel comfortable in church.|
|If we ignore him he’ll just go away.||You should be working towards love and reconciliation with Driscoll.||People who call Mark out are the real bullies.||You’re just as much of a sinner as Mark.||Mark is doing God’s work in godless, unchurched Seattle.|
Trigger warning for anti-trans and misogynistic gender policing. In a development that will come as a shock to exactly no one, Mark Driscoll has once again indulged in misogynist, bigoted douchebaggery. This time he invited his Facebook followers to mock “effeminate” worship leaders:
Text: “So, what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you’ve ever personally witnessed?” [Screencap from Homebrewed Theology]
Well, I have many thoughts. The first being that this would be an excellent candidate for a post at Tea Party Jesus. Can’t you just see those words issuing from the lips of Jesus himself? I know I can.
Second thought: This dude is epic fail as a pastor even by his own supposed standards of faith. Honestly, what kind of a pastor invites people to MAKE FUN of worship leaders because of how they look or act? Isn’t leading worship supposedly an act of service to God and a ministry to the congregation? Isn’t worship a sacred time of expressing love and reverence for God? So how exactly is it acceptable to “lead” people to mock worship leaders based on external appearances or presumed anatomy? Isn’t that blasphemous? Doesn’t God judge the heart? Explain this to me, conservative Christians. I am baffled.
Also. There’s the whole part about how worship leaders are human being like anyone else, with real feelings and all that. Not to belabor the whole Jesus thing, but I’m missing how it’s repping Christ to talk about people like this under the guise of being a shepherd of souls. ETA: Joy makes a similar point here.
A further thought: When he calls “effeminate” male worship leaders anatomically male, he clearly means that they are only “anatomically male,” i.e., not really male. It’s quite amazing, really. Mark Driscoll is so obsessed with this gender role nonsense that he’s now taking it to the level of genital policing. He might as well have said that effeminate male worship leaders are male in penis only.
This raises all sorts of questions. What makes him think that anatomy determines gender identity or should limit gender expression? Again, again, a penis is not what makes someone male. The colors or clothes a man wears or how he talks or walks are not what makes him a man. A man is someone who identifies and understands himself as a man. Period.
Perhaps even more confusing… what makes him think he can tell what someone’s anatomy looks like beneath their clothes? More to the point, why on earth does he CARE so very much about what’s going on with other people’s genitals? And what’s up with his FB followers and defenders elsewhere who seem to think he’s making a harmless joke, or worse, a really profound point? I get the feeling if he had put his comments in plain words and actually used the word “penis,” those same people would be up in arms.
Text: Mark Driscoll providing the definition of effeminate: 1: having feminine qualities untypical of a man: not manly in appearance or manner 2″ marked by unbecoming delicacy or overrefinement. [Screen cap from Jesus Needs New PR].
People who defend Driscoll. Let me break this down for you. This isn’t clever or funny or insightful. It’s stupid and juvenile. Let me translate for you.
Driscoll: “I think that person has a penis! But he moves and talks funny! This makes me feel vaguely unsettled and insecure! I don’t want to think about what this means for me as a man so I will mock him mercilessly instead! Har har, look at that guy with a penis who looks funny!”
Ask yourself, Driscoll defenders, why you tolerate or even expect this kind of immaturity from a pastor. From a leader. Ask yourself why this man is so clearly unsettled about his own gender identity that he needs to take potshots at other people’s gender to make himself look and feel more manly.
And ask yourself the excellent questions that Dianna Anderson asks of Driscoll:
I want you to ask yourself this: You are a married man. You have (according to the info I could find) five children, a couple of whom I imagine, by sheer probability, are female [Driscoll has at least one daughter – G]. So think of your wife, think of your daughters, and ask this: Is being female a bad thing?
I know the response already: being female isn’t a bad thing for girls, but it’s a bad thing for a man to display female characteristics.
Ask yourself how this kind of incessant degrading of feminine behavior and appearance makes women and anyone whose identity is in any way “feminine” feel. How it hurts us.
Let’s say that we live in a world where women are in charge. Instead of male pronouns to describe God in the Bible, it’s all female. There’s a zealous writer named Pauline whose words about pastors don’t talk about the pastor having a wife but rather a husband. Her instructions about being quiet in the church are directed at men. Now say you go to a church – you’re faithfully trying to live your life following a savior named Jesus, a woman, who preached great love and sacrifice and spreading the word of her Gospel through the world. You’re doing the best you can to follow what she said in a broken world.
You go to church with your wife and family. She works while you stay at home with the kids, because it’s what men do in this world. And your pastor preaches time and time again about a “feminine” Christianity, about a womanly savior who exhibited all the good things about being female, and she complains about a church that is masculinized, of a church too taken over by men that it’s uncomfortable and wrong and even, possibly, sinful.
You, however, have a complex sense of your own gender identity. Sure, you like doing “manly” things, but you equally feel fine when you do feminine things. You never felt like you quite fit into that subservient role in this Matriarchal world. How does hearing that it’s a bad thing to be masculine, that it’s awful for your wife to share some of your burden as a man, that it’s sinful to the point of keeping [her] from heaven to be masculine?
Does that make you good and angry? Do you think you should be allowed to be masculine or feminine if you wanted because God created you that way? Do you think those archaic gender roles, which aren’t even clearly laid out in the Holy Scriptures of your religion, might just be wrong? Do you feel like who you are as a person is being ignored because of what you happen to have between your legs? [Dianna Anderson, Dear Mr. Driscoll, at Jesus Needs New PR]
When Mark Driscoll pulls stunts like this he’s sending a clear message that anyone who challenges gender hierarchies that place patriarchal masculinity above all else is to be isolated, shunned, and mocked. Men who are not stereotypically masculine. People of nonbinary gender. Trans women. Cis women. Women whose behavior , identities, or personalities at all challenge male assumptions of dominance and superiority. It’s inevitable that there are people in each of those categories who look up to Mark Driscoll as a leader and who read his comments.
Try to see, just try, how this kind of daily, ceaseless attack on femininity makes the many, many people who don’t fit into the patriarchal model of gender feel. Try to see how it makes us feel like we have to embrace an identity of inferiority to be part of the church, or leave.
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:
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.
Trigger warning for suicide, physical and emotional abuse, heterosexism, cissexism.
In the past couple days CNN’s Anderson Cooper has been reporting on the case of Kirk Murphy, who at the age of 5 was subjected to gender “therapy” intended to make him less effeminate and prevent him from becoming gay later in life. The graduate student who oversaw Kirk’s case was none other than George Rekers, the so-called expert on ex-gay therapy who was caught last year returning from vacation with a gay male escort.
Despite Rekers’ citing of Kirk in several publications as a successful example of eliminating gender variance in a child and preventing him from becoming gay as an adult,* Kirk did in fact identify as a gay man in adulthood. Sadly, he committed suicide at 38, which his family attributes to the “therapy” he received as a child, along with the fact that he never fully embraced his sexuality or had a committed relationship with another man.
CNN’s coverage is worth checking out (see video clips below), as is Box Turtle Bulletin’s excellent and comprehensive investigation into the professional and family contexts in which Kirk’s treatment and its aftermath unfolded.
Heavy trigger warning – detailed discussion of transphobic violence.
Last week, Chrissy Polis, a transgender woman, was viciously attacked and beaten by two cisgender (or cis, i.e., not transgender or trans) girls at a McDonald’s in Baltimore, Maryland. Several people, including employees, merely stood by and laughed as Polis was repeatedly stomped on, jumped, dragged by her hair (to the point where chunks of her hair were strewn on the floor), and punched. One onlooker repeatedly referred to her as an “it.” Only the manager and one customer attempted to intervene. One employee apparently saw the incident as entertainment to be captured on video, continuing to film even after Polis, who is epileptic, began to have a seizure. She was left on the floor while the man filming encouraged her attackers to leave before the police arrived. [Sign the petition to hold the employees who stood idly by responsible.]
Why was Polis so brutally attacked? Simply because she wanted to use the restroom.
TransGriot has the video of the attack here. It’s horrifying; I felt sick watching it. But I think any cisgender person who won’t be triggered by it should watch it. See what the costs and consequences of our gender fundamentalism are for a real human being just trying to live her life like anyone else.
The ability to do something as basic and essential as using the bathroom without harassment, without being spit on as Polis was, without risking our safety or our lives, is something most cis people take for granted. In most situations it’s something we do without even thinking. Trans people and especially trans women don’t have this privilege. Using gender specific bathrooms, especially in public, is often a fraught and far from mundane task.
Few cis women would feel safe being forced to use the men’s bathroom, even if they are consistently read by others as female, and as the Transgriot points out, not all cis women “pass” as female by our narrow, prejudiced measures of femininity. Any woman, cis or trans, in a situation where some people read her as an “effeminate” male would be in even more danger in a men’s bathroom. Polis couldn’t use the men’s bathroom safely. And she couldn’t count on using the women’s bathroom safely, either.
Just a few years ago another trans woman, Christine Sforza, was bashed over the head in a New York City McDonalds for being in the women’s bathroom. Her attacker went free and she was arrested, even though she was the one who called the police for help. There wasn’t any video evidence of the assault. There usually isn’t. Neither woman’s experience was an isolated incident. This happens literally every day to trans and gender nonconforming people. But it usually happens out of sight, whether it’s in communities that are invisible because we don’t care about them as a culture (because of class, or occupation – like sex work), or hidden in plain sight as bullying, domestic abuse, or intimate partner violence. Every day.
Polis’s case has gotten attention because it was caught on video, and because of the racial aspect: her attackers are black and she is white. Much of the sympathy she’s gotten, even at supposedly progressive sites, has invoked racial slurs and stereotypes, and has described her attackers with animalistic language and imagery that has long history of being used to support anti-black racism and white supremacy. Polis’s gender identity wasn’t initially reported; now that it’s been made public, some of the sympathy she got at first has given way to victim-blaming vitriol.
If the attack on Polis hadn’t been caught on tape…If her attackers had been white…if her gender identity had been reported from the beginning…would this be a news item? Would people care quite as much? Probably not.
Because the news media is informed by a racist culture that depicts blacks as naturally violent and sub-human, and as a threat to white people rather than dealing honestly with the realities of systemic white privilege and macro-level structural violence against individuals and communities of color.
Because the news media is informed by a transphobic culture that blames trans and gender non-comforming people for any violence and discrimination perpetrated against them, and depicts them as a threat to cis, gender conforming people, rather than dealing honestly with the realities of systemic cis privilege and the daily harassment, discrimination, and violence trans* people face as individuals and as a group, as Diamond Stylz notes:
Until just a couple weeks ago, the Maryland legislature had been considering legislation that was supposed to protect people against discrimination based on gender identity. But Equality MD, the main group lobbying for the legislation, made a “compromise” with liberal state politicians to remove public accommodations (including bathrooms) from the bill, because they felt this would make the bill more likely to pass (it didn’t). In doing so they ignored the protests of the MD trans community even as they claimed to speak for them, and ignored the fact that stand-alone “bathroom bills” have failed repeatedly, due to opponents portraying trans women as predatory “men in dresses” who would use the law as a pretext to assault cis women in restrooms.
The attack on Chrissy Polis is just one example that the exact opposite is true: the real danger is posed by cis people, to trans people. As Transgriot puts it, cis people are the real bathroom predators. Polis now feels afraid to leave her home. Her past criminal record, completely irrelevant to the case, has been made public, almost certainly as a way to smear her as being responsible for the attack. She’s worried that the publicity over her gender identity and record will hurt her chances of getting a job in the future. As she says, no one should have to be afraid to go outside or face job discrimination just because of their gender identity.
This is why legislation that protects the rights of people of all gender identities to use public facilities is a non-negotiable necessity. Maryland also has no hate crime laws that protect gender identity (or sexual orientation). On the state level, this attack can only be prosecuted as a hate crime is race is shown to have been a factor.
The two attackers in this case are 14 and 18. At least one of them can still be called a child. That’s horrifying. People who call these young women “monsters” or “animals” are missing the real horror of the situation, perhaps deliberately. This is what we’re teaching kids to do. When we portray gender variant people as scary and threatening, as lurking in bathrooms to assault cis women. When we turn our heads or even nod approvingly when boys beat each other up for being “effeminate.” When we ignore sexual and physical violence, even fatal violence, against people because of their gender presentation. When we lose our collective shit over a boy with pink toenails.
We’re teaching them that it’s perfectly acceptable to lash out against fellow human beings, just because they don’t fit into neat little gender boxes.
Trigger warning: rape/sexual assault.
You know, sometimes I feel like I’m exaggerating the awfulness of what I was taught about sex, like it couldn’t possibly be as bad as I feel it was. After all, in addition to all the warnings about premarital sex, I did also hear a lot about how sex is a beautiful gift from God to married couples, and how married people have the best sex (in retrospect, this is kind of a weird thing for married adults to be discussing with teenagers y/y?).
Maybe the fact that I had trouble with sex when I got married has more to do with personal and family hangups than it did with anything I learned at church. Maybe I’m assigning blame unfairly. Then again . . .
h/t Jesus Needs New PR (warning for some potentially fatphobic language).
Then I watch clips like this, and remember that this bullshit is EXACTLY what I was taught. That I’d be dirty and used up and unwanted if I had sex. I remember, and I start to think it’s a fucking miracle that I ever managed to have sex with my husband at all.
Small bloody wonder so many evangelical couples find the transition into marital sexuality awkward and even traumatic. How are you supposed to literally change your perspective on sex overnight? Sex one night before your wedding makes you like a germy piece of candy or a cup of spit, but one night after your wedding is a beautiful and glorious gift from God? What about the couples who buy into Joshua Harris’s ridiculous standard of saving their first kiss for their wedding day (seriously!)? How can a couple entering marriage with virtually no experience with being physically affectionate possibly be expected to navigate such a transition without major issues?
These kinds of teachings set couples up for lousy sex lives, which make for not so great marriages. Cis women in particular bear the brunt of teachings that they are being used and besmirched if they have sex, and many can’t magically shut off the effects of years of indoctrination. They aren’t going to feel any less used just because they’re married to the person they’re having sex with. They aren’t suddenly going to feel like their sexual desire or their husband’s sexual desire is any more legitimate than it was before they got married.
Abstinence advocates will say that they aren’t talking about married sex, of course. Just premarital sex – oh, and all non-hetero sex, and masturbation, and any sex involving trans or genderqueer people. Kids just need to remember that only hetero cis married sex is clean and safe, and everything else is dirty and perverted. Well. The problem there – apart from the big, hopefully obvious one of treating something almost all humans do as shameful and wrong in all of its forms but one – is that it’s very difficult to make such a statement not come across as a blanket condemnation of sexual activity (perhaps because, um, it basically is). The message people hear is that any sexual contact or activity is polluting and degrading, and the intense emphasis on maintaining virginity reinforces this powerfully. A few words here and there about how beautiful marital sex is doesn’t dilute the impact of that message. If virginity is a state of purity and self-control, then sexual activity – whether in marriage or not – is implicitly coded as impure and indulgent.
And as many survivors have attested, these teachings are incredibly damaging to people who have been raped or sexually assaulted. The abstinence movement’s concept of virginity is framed entirely around the notion of “purity” or “impurity” of the body and the mind. A virgin body is one that is untouched and unsullied: an unwrapped piece of candy, a rose with all its petals. A virgin mind is “innocent” – which often is a euphemism for “ignorant” – of sexuality. Whether sexual contact or knowledge is freely chosen or imposed on someone is immaterial in such a framework. Coerced sexual contact doesn’t make one any less of a chewed up piece of gum. Survivors of sexual abuse from evangelical or fundamentalist families often feel used, guilty, and worthless because they are no longer “virgins” or “pure” – and they are often treated that way by Christian loved ones and fellow church members. For example:
I had a good friend in college who had to gather a lot of courage to tell her serious boyfriend that she was not a virgin because she had been raped as a teenager. Her boyfriend then went on a tirade about how he thought he was getting something new but it turns out she was “used merchandise” and thus she cheated him. She went on to marry this guy. I still hate him.
I hope it’s been clear that my point isn’t to belittle people who choose not to have sex before marriage. That’s a legitimate choice to make. The point is that the way the professional abstinence movement frames virginity, premarital sex, and sexuality in general is deceitful and dangerous. It relies on shaming tactics and misinformation, and promotes an unhealthy, negative attitude about sexualities and bodies. And it’s not just wrong in the abstract; it’s not just a movement with terrible ideas. It has far-reaching, negative consequences for basically everyone who’s exposed to it unarmed with accurate information.