Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sex from the Pulpit, Take 2

After Brett McCracken's post on Mark Driscoll, I was pretty upset. Brett describes a recent sermon Mark Driscoll gave as part of his series on Song of Solomon at Mars Hill Church in Seattle:
Before he began his sermon, Driscoll noted that this was “one of the steamiest passages in the entire Bible” and urged all young children to immediately leave. He then proceeded to elaborate in great detail on the Dance of Mahanaim, talking about what each of the sexually suggestive metaphors meant, etc. Eventually he came to his point: that this passage of scripture was a call for wives to be “visually generous” to their husbands. They should keep the lights on in sex. Walk around the house topless. Things like that.

“The body is the greatest gift a wife can give,” said Driscoll.
I was okay reading the first paragraph, but nearly vomited when I got to the wife quote at the end. Immediately, I started to rant, as follows:
Oh come on, that last line is obviously total crap. My body is the greatest gift I can give my husband? Really? Because I could give him my body and deny him nearly everything else. (And I suspect if I did, he would sooner or later grow tired of my body.) Let's think this through. What if gave him my body but I denied him my support? What if I denied him my encouragement? My friendship? My respect? Heck, what if I denied him my cooking and cleaning? How about my words of love? You're telling me none of those gifts compare to the gift of my body? [Hand motion censored.] You can take a hike.
I decided to write about this, denouncing Mark Driscoll. Then, to get more ammunition with which to destroy him, I watched this sermon online.

Bad idea. I got way too much context. I didn't want to Jeremiah Wright the guy. And the problem was, I never did hear that precise sentence come out of his mouth. I heard a lot of similar phrases, but not those exact words.

In conclusion, I don't think Mark Driscoll believes that a wife's body is her most precious gift. Not per se. Let me explain.

He opened this sermon with a treatise on how "men are visual." He said that men keep a "iPod of images" of attractive women, a log of beauty that extends back to grade school. The subtext here is the appeal of pornography. A wife should be "visually generous" so that the snapshots in her husband's head are of her, and she will show her husband that she is "on his team" in his "battle against porn." This is the line of thought that brings us to how "visually generous wives" are a "great gift to their husbands."

Now, I still am not convinced by this argument, but it does not sound completely insane. Men are visually stimulated (as are some women, as Driscoll admits). He advises husbands to be "verbally generous" to their wives, and I appreciate that at least he is suggesting reciprocity. Come to think of it, I am pro-generosity of all kinds.

What does not convince me is the idea that "visual generosity" would be of much help in fighting a porn habit. It wouldn't hurt, probably, but there is much more involved. I reckon Driscoll would agree that the lure of pornography goes far beyond nekkid chicks, given the book he has written on the subject. I would just have liked him to give a disclaimer or two in his speech on visual generosity.

Obviously, porn is visually stimulating. What is also true about porn is that it is easy, cheap, and widely available. With a connection to the Internet, you can summon naked women (and men) in almost infinite variety. They are always delighted to see you. They never refuse. They are understanding of your unique preferences, your need for perfection, your every whim. And you don't ever need to call them or explain, awkwardly, why you forgot. No wife can compete on these terms. No wife should be made to.

I know Mark Driscoll gets that. When asked, "Isn’t looking at porno and masturbating an acceptable alternative to adultery or divorce if sex with my wife is terrible, infrequent, and/or unsatisfying?" He answers no:
If your sex life is not satisfying, then it is your responsibility whether or not it is entirely your fault because you are the head of your wife (Eph. 5:23). Therefore, rather than excusing your sin, you should repent of your sin and the condition of your home and seek counsel from your pastor(s) and/or professional Christian counselor(s) on how to be about redemption, like Jesus, rather than blame-shifting, like Adam.
I liked this response, despite the whole "my husband is my head" thing (see how old-school this guy is? He's a traditional pastor who happens to dress like a hipster and intro his sermons with slick animated graphics). I don't think any of his views on sex are new, like I said in my previous post. He just addresses these traditional views to contemporary concerns. More power to him, I say.

So I have decided not to be mad at him. He's not perfect, but he's not a monster. And he seems like he does really love his wife.


Ariah said...

Solid stuff. Thanks for sharing. I totally agree with your two posts. Thanks for providing a thoughtful and articulate answer to some of whats been nagging me.

oh it is john campbell said...


mark driscoll: "60% of christians are chicks and the 40% that are dudes are still sort of chicks"

i generally find the emerging church movement to be the same old thing with a slightly different vocabulary

Vincent said...

Thanks for having the courage to share on a sensitive topic and to weigh the arguments before attacking Driscoll or anyone else for that matter. I love your honesty as always.