Pastor Dad: Fifty Shades of Driscoll

Jason Micheli —  June 12, 2013 — 1 Comment

mainA friend recently suggested that reading Mark Driscoll is my guilty pleasure- he is, this friend observed, my Fifty Shades of Grey.

An apt analogy considering how, like Fifty Shades (I’m speculating here. It’s not that I’ve actually read it), Driscoll begins each chapter in a predictable, harmless way but before you know it you’re in the middle of something unholy that’s careening towards abuse and torture.

Even Hannibal Lector serves his victims dinner first.

Much in the same way, Chapter 5 of Pastor Dad comes with the title, ‘The Masculine Duty to Provide’ and begins with this sensitive, courting line:

‘It is dad who should be reading the bible with his kids, praying with them, and answering their questions- not just mom.’

But don’t be fooled.

Like the suitor of a torture-porn novel, this is just Driscoll’s way of hooking you so he can go on to his real interest of base objectification.  mark-driscoll

First, Driscoll cuffs women to his nostalgic rereading of scripture:

“Work is for a man an act of worship, just as his wife’s work is worshipful for her. this does not mean that it is a sin for a wife to work when a couple is first married, as they are getting ready to begin their family, or for a wife to make money on the side as a secondary priority while remaining at home with the children, or even for her to work once the children are grown if the motives are pure and her primary duties are not neglected.”

Ladies, don’t get your panties in a bunch because the only thing Driscoll is equal opportunity about is his reified gender roles. When it comes to gender stereotypes, Driscoll goes both ways:

“…there is no way anyone could read the bible and wind up with the silly notion that both the husband and the wife are to be providers and that daycares or relatives are supposed to raise the children of a christian couple. furthermore, it is completely impossible to read the bible and wind up with the inane idea that a christian father can be a stay-at-home dad while mom goes to work. anyone who thinks these things are acceptable is
by definition worldly.”


Isn’t it more inane to impose your incredibly modern, incredibly Western notion of the nuclear family upon biblical texts that share no such presumption?

Isn’t it more inane to use scripture to privilege the Leave to Beaver ideal when a literal reading of much of scripture would mandate that Ward Cleaver enjoy the blessing of at least several Junes in his family?

But what’s the point of debating Driscoll? Like Fifty Shades, you don’t spend time with Mark for the thoughtful conversation. It’s the rough and tumble that his fans get off on. Take this role-playing experiment towards the end of his chapter in which Driscoll feigns a scene of domestic tranquility:

“One night while tucking my daughter Ashley into bed, I asked her, “what should a good daddy do?” Putting her finger on her chin to think, she said, “a daddy should make a lot of money, a daddy should read his bible, a daddy should teach his kids, a daddy should love his kids, and a daddy should be silly and have lots of fun.”

Fifty-Shades-of-GreyThat’s as misleading as Fifty Shades’ innocuous dust jacket. Just a normal Daddy-Daughter exchange you think at first, but before you know it you’re wondering ‘Wait, did his daughter just say a daddy’s first job is to make money?’

A lot of money even.

After reading that I asked my own boys (7 and 10) the same question, and I got this answer:

‘A good daddy loves his kids, teaches them things, teaches them about Jesus, farts (Gabriel) and buys us toys (Gabriel again).’

Maybe that’s not a Chicken Soup type answer but it’s real. Making lots of money would never cross their minds as a response.

So either Mark Driscoll is full of crap about that conversation, which would be sad to put such words in his daughter’s mouth.

Or, Mark is telling the truth and the first thing that struck his daughter about a father’s role is making LOTS of money.

While my boys included cracks about farting and toys, they also reflexively said something about Jesus. And that’s no small point of comparison when it comes to Driscoll’s Pastor Dad.

There’s nothing in it about Jesus.

Where I’d say my primary goal as a father is to nurture my boys into bearing the image of Christ to benefit the world, Mark argues its to provide- financially- for his children.

He calls his book Pastor Dad but in the ways that count there’s nothing really distinctively Christian about his book.

It just reads like a Dad, circa 1951, giving his son fatherly advice with a little scripture thrown in for gravitas.

What’s more, this and the previous chapters of Pastor Dad rely almost exclusively on quotations from Proverbs- a collection of pithy, koans of wisdom that have no context and are ripe for misuse.

When he doesn’t cite Proverbs, he defers to other Wisdom literature.

Fine. But thus far I’ve not come across a single reference to the Gospel stories. Nothing about Jesus- other than how a godly father’s job is to rear his children in the belief that Jesus died for their sin.

But there’s nothing here about Jesus as the 2nd Adam, a model or pattern for what it means to be human.

Surprisingly, a book ostensibly about fatherhood reveals the fatal deficiencies in Driscoll’s Neo-Calvinism.

Calvinism’s singular focus on justification by faith (which itself focuses exclusively on the death of Jesus) just has no other use for Jesus.

Like torture porn itself, once you get past the shock factor of Driscoll’s theology, you realize it’s pretty thin stuff indeed.




Jason Micheli


One response to Pastor Dad: Fifty Shades of Driscoll

  1. Check and mate. Reading Driscoll is clearly no guilty pleasure for you, it’s just straight up torture. Better you than me I guess. It’s too bad, I know he’s a smart guy, I just don’t understand why he can’t see the inanity of his own reasoning.

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