From Mars Hill to Mount of Venus

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Mars Hill Church, 2012

Mars Hill Church, 2012

Mars Hill Church, 2012

Last week came the news that the 40,000-square-foot warehouse formerly known as Mars Hill Church has been acquired by Quest, a Seattle church whose executive pastor is a Korean-American woman named Gail Song Bantum. Quest is all about compassion and reconciliation. In other words, it’s just about 180 degrees removed from the patriarchal, sinners-in-the-hand-of-an-angry-God pastorate of Mars Hill’s Mark Driscoll.

The story of Driscoll’s rise and fall receives a fine telling from Seth Dowland in a new article in Religion in the News. Dowland, who teaches American religion at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, has had a ringside seat at the Driscoll spectacle, and he ponders the limits of selling hard-edged Calvinism to Seattle hipsters.

In the end, he says, it was just too hard a trick to pull off — what Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Al Mohler can manage in the vicarages of evangelical Kentucky just won’t cut it in the the notoriously unchurched Pacific Northwest. My own sense, as a bit of a student of America’s “None Zone,” is that Driscoll was very much a Northwest guy — the lumberjack boss determined to clear-cut his mountainside according to his own rules, and devil take the hindmost.

Back in the day, many a man was defeated by the region’s unforgiving environment, and that may have been the case with Driscoll too. It’s not that his sins were so great. He ran his operation too dictatorially, got rid of subordinates when they dared to disagree, was guilty of a little plagiarism. Mostly, he made a lot of enemies with his smash-mouth preaching. Maybe Seattle’s just become too soft for he-men. Anyway, don’t overlook Dowland’s piece.