Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Thoughts on Mark Driscoll and Tony Soprano

And no, these aren't connected.

Mark Driscoll is back on a lot of blogs after making a mountain out of a molehill with Bill Hybels. Driscoll is pastor of the 5000! 5000! 5000! - member Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Hybels the pastor of Willow Creek in Chicago. Here's the short version: at a church-planting conference, Driscoll and his crew contributed a video talking about what church-planters need to do and who they need to be. One of his main points is essentially "no chicks allowed." Right after this video was shown, Hybels got up to speak and began by saying, "After that video i would like to acknowledge that there are women in this room and they have spiritual gifts." Source from a guy who was there is here.

And if you can stand it, you can watch the video yourself here. Lowlights include men being able to have sex with their wives at least once a day, Jesus is not a gay hippy in a dress (seriously...who believes that?), and guys "we" have to reach are less concerned with church and more concerned with putting subwoofers in their "retarded" cars. I've been reading reactions around the blogosphere to this video and have seen no one pick up on the use of that word. I just found that point interesting.

Anyway, Mark's version is that Hybels had attacked him and his ministry and had banned the video from being distributed afterward, none of which is true. What Hybels said is above. Elsewhere, people testify to seeing people distributing the video at the door. Does Driscoll believe his hype that much nowadays?

Why'd I even mention this? I like writing responses to Driscoll's rants on occasion just to sharpen my own sword, so to speak. And here, I was amazed that such a view on marital sex is being propped up by such an influential pastor (who IS, I acknowledge, reaching a lot of young guys...if not with a limited view of gender roles and "acceptable manly behavior"). If there are married couples with such a sexual relationship out there, I applaud them. But statements like this have the potential to first set up false hopes and in extreme cases lead to abuse if a woman isn't "fulfilling her role." It's a terrible view of sex besides...in iMonk's critique, he calls it "sex as servicing the man." That ain't right, man.

Switching gears, Chris T. quotes an excellent article on the spiritual themes of The Sopranos.

There have been pop-culture portraits of mob kingpins descending into hell before, of course—think of Michael Corleone fading into shadow at the end of Godfather II. But the artistic temptation is always to make this fall splendid and Miltonic, a matter of a few grand and tragic choices rather than the steady accretion of small-time compromises, petty sins, and tiny steps downward that usually define damnation.

The Sopranos dares instead to explore the terrible banality of evil, depicting ordinary people held prisoner by their habits and appetites who choose hell instead of heaven over and over again, not with a satanic flourish but with an all-American sense of entitlement. Sin is never glamorized or aestheticized: The violence is brutal rather than operatic, the fornications and adulteries are panting and gross rather than titillating. The characters’ sins breed even physical dissolution: obesity, ulcers, hemorrhoids, constipation, cancer. The show offers a vision of hell as repetition, ultimately, in which the same pattern of choices (to take drugs, to eat and drink to excess, to rob and steal and bully and murder) always reasserts itself, and the chain mail of damnation—in which no sin is an island, and gluttony is linked to violence, sloth to greed, and so on slowly forges itself around the characters’ souls.

I love the above quote because it rightly observes that the show tends not to dramatize or add a nice glossy shine to its more violent and sexual aspects. There's no crescendo of music during a murder scene, no pretty tasteful slow-motion love scenes. Likewise there's no buildup of karma...someone finally catches some bad luck or makes a bad choice, but it's because the road they travel has always held that risk.

Take this past week's episode, which deals with Tony's gambling. He rides a stroke of good luck until it turns on him. At that point, he can't seem to get back on track, but at the same time he can't stop. It doesn't really occur to him that maybe giving up gambling might help him not lose money. No, his lifestyle can't allow him to stop.

Or take Little Vito's reaction to his dad's death. He turns goth, acts out in school. Both Phil and Tony try to sit him down and think that just telling him to "straighten up and be a man" will be enough. Lo and behold, it isn't because there are deeper-seeded emotional issues working that their culture's view of "manliness" chooses to ignore (hardcore Driscoll supporters, take note), i.e., it's just a matter of making threats and sending the kid to a boot camp. Never mind that Little Vito's problems all started because of other characters' homophobia and murder. Nothing changes because the real problem isn't dealt with.

I guess I was able to make a connection between these two subjects after all.