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Oral Sex, Yoga, and God's Eternal Wrath: Inside the New Hipster Megachurch That Tells Modern Women to Submit

Mars Hill tries to pull a young hipster crowd to Christianity. One of their biggest draws is separate spheres for women and men.

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In the early 1990s, fresh out of college, Driscoll saw a problem with the state of Christianity: There were no men. In a 2006 interview with the organization Desiring God, Driscoll said, “Church today, it’s just a bunch of nice, soft, tender, chickified church boys. Sixty percent of Christians are chicks, and the forty percent that are dudes are still sort of chicks.” The main reason Driscoll himself had a hard time accepting Christianity was that he couldn’t bring himself to worship “a gay hippie in a dress.” But as he read about Jesus and Elijah and Paul, the gospels started to appeal to him—and he saw a way for them to appeal to other self-proclaimed macho men. “I’ve gotta think these guys were dudes. Heterosexual, win-a-fight, punch-you-in-the-nose dudes.” This revelation became the foundation for his narrative of a masculine, tough-love Christianity. “If you want to win a war, you have to get the men,” Driscoll preaches in a 2006 promotional film on church planting called A Good Soldier.

Driscoll is more general than soldier. Heavily influenced by both Martin Luther and John Calvin, he presents himself as telling the hard truth to a generation raised with the pick-and-choose, postmodern notion of Christianity in which “the God of the New Testament is nothing but hugs and muffins, and we’re all going to go to heaven, except maybe Hitler, but it’s a coin flip for him, too.” As Sandler puts it, Mars Hill offers overwhelmed millennials “liberation from liberation.” The church’s success comes from the hyper-masculine way it brands itself not as Jesus’s religion, but as Jesus’s rebellion—not only against the stuffy Christianity of its members’ parents, but also against the free-for-all liberal culture of their peers.

That men lead the movement is key according to Driscoll, who ties myriad modern spiritual and societal problems back to the failure of female leadership. Driscoll traces his theory all the way to Genesis—in a 2004 sermon, he said Eve’s eating of the fruit of knowledge was “the first exercising of a woman’s role in leadership in the home and in the church in the history of the world. It does not go well. It has not gone well since.” What’s more, Driscoll describes Satan’s encouragement of Eve as “the first invitation to an independent feminism...the first postmodern hermeneutic.” For Driscoll, then, feminism and postmodernism are not only demonic, they are inherently linked; two revelations in the bite that led to the fall of man.

Driscoll’s views on gender roles, adulthood, marriage, and success in American society are almost identical to those in a flood of articles released between 2010 and 2011, like Newsweek’s “The Boy Crisis,” the Atlantic’s “The End of Men,” and Kay Hymowitz’s 2011 book, Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys. In an interview with the Christian magazine Relevant, his theory of male twentysomethings’ extended adolescence echoes Hymowitz’s: “We’re finding more women are getting better grades, more women are graduating high school, more women are graduating college, more women are buying homes, more women are doing things that are more adult and responsible.”

But unlike his counterparts in secular media, Driscoll believes that current gender discrepancies are not the result of the growing strength of women, but of the weakness of men. By abdicating their God-given role, men have allowed for the demise of the traditional family structure and the spawning of a generation of unsupervised, unmotivated, Internet porn– and World of Warcraft–addicted young adult males, melting into their parents’ couches while women blow past them to lead the nation.

 
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