After a long correspondence, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Doug Phillips, and John Eldredge decide to meet at a bar to discuss whose view about Biblical Manhood is most biblical.
At Driscoll’s urging, they gather at the Red Herring Pub in Seattle to knock back a few adult beverages. Fog settles outside. The four men sit at a booth near the entrance, Piper and Phillips on the right, Driscoll and Eldredge to the left.
The bartender comes over.
“I’ll take a Rum and Coke,” says Piper, remembering his days as an Army Ranger.
“Hot buttered rum for me,” says Phillips. It seems a manly Colonial drink.
“Give me a Margarita,” Eldredge says, kicking off his sandals. He wears a loud Hawaiian shirt, untucked.
Driscoll looks askance at Eldredge. “Just give me a Bud,” he says. Then he thinks better of it. “Actually, give me two.”
The bartender leaves and the men look curiously at each other. They’ve read each other’s books, have sometimes poked fun at each other in sermons, but here in the booth there’s a natural solidarity. They are, after all, men. Biblical men. Maybe they aren’t all that different after all. The biggest question seems to be who will pick up the tab. A real man pays for his guests, they tacitly agree, but how will it work when four of the manliest men in Christendom are sitting at the same table? Who pays then?
A quiet but epic struggle ensues over who will get the check. The unspoken understanding is that the winner gets the title of best model of biblical manhood.
“I’ll get it,” says Driscoll. “It’s my town.”
“No, I’ll pay,” says Piper. “I’m senior and I accept responsibility.”
Before the other two can offer, the door opens and a stranger walks in. The men in the booth stare. The stranger looks like a hippie—long hair, hemp jacket, and wearing what can only be described as an Arabian dishdasha. That, or a dress.
“Is that a dude?” Driscoll whispers. That he even has to ask makes him feel uncomfortable, and a little bit angry.
“I think so,” says Piper, turning around so he can see.
Eldredge admires the guy’s hair and sandals, but dislikes that he’s wearing a peace patch on his sleeve. Pansy, he thinks.
“God, he looks like a cross between Russell Brand and Richard Simmons,” Phillips gasps.
This makes Driscoll cringe. Simmons is gay, right?
The stranger walks purposefully into the room and angles directly toward the table. “Hi fellas!” he says. “Good to see you all.” He stands next to Driscoll. “Mind if I sit down?”
Driscoll scoots in reflexively, giving the stranger a wide berth.
“Thanks!” the man says, and sits down.
Piper, ever the courteous pastor, strikes up a conversation. “So, uh, what’s your name, friend?”
“Josh,” the man replies.
“Well Josh, do we know you at all?” Piper continues.
“Oh sure,” Josh says. “I’ve seen you around.”
“Cool, cool,” says Driscoll, jumping in, wanting some control over the conversation. “So you probably know that I’m Mark Driscoll, right? Have you ever been to my church?” He can’t imagine that anyone looking as effeminate as Josh would dare darken the doors of Mars Hill Church, but hey, miracles happen.
“Yup, I’ve been to a couple services at Mars Hill,” Josh says. “Lots of good people there. You need to take care of those folks.” He pats Driscoll’s hand which is resting on the table.
Driscoll jumps as if electrocuted and pulls his hand quickly to his side. Definitely gay, he thinks. He calls over to the bartender, “Hey keep, can we get a chair over here at the end of the table?” He tries not to show how wigged out Josh makes him feel. Better to act nonchalant.
The bartender brings over the drinks and sets a stool at the head of the table, right in the center. Josh smiles and moves over to sit in it.
“What’ll it be?” the bartender asks Josh.
“Oh, I’ll just have a small glass of Turning Leaf wine,” he says. “And can you add a couple fingers of water?”
The bartender looks at him funny but says, “Sure, sure, whatever you say.” He turns to go.
“Oh, and just add it to their tab,” Josh says, motioning toward the four Christian luminaries.
His gesture alchemizes their displeasure. Suddenly, each man intensely dislikes Josh. It’s one thing for every man at the table to try to pay for everyone else—especially when he knows that everyone else is trying equally hard to pay. But they all hate moochers. Josh is clearly a parasite.
Phillips jumps in. “What do you do for work, Josh?” He wants to remind Josh that it’s important for men to provide for their family, a duty he clearly believes Josh is incapable or unwilling to perform.
“Oh, I used to work construction,” Josh says.
Driscoll noticeably relaxes. Gays don’t work construction, he thinks.
“But now I’m homeless.”
The men look at each other knowingly.
“I couch hop from town to town and I do a little bit of street preaching.”
The men trade more glances. They definitely have a quack on their hands.
“And I sometimes pray for people who are sick. Lay hands on them, that sort of thing,” Josh concludes.
Piper feels heat creeping beneath his collar. So Josh is a flaming Pentecostal. The boy probably speaks in tongues, too. Wrong.
“How do you pay for things if you don’t work?” Phillips probes. He realizes that Josh probably does this often—wanders into bars and pretends he knows people just so he can mooch a free drink. It makes Phillips angry. In fact, he’s pissed. It’s people like Josh who have screwed up America so badly. In the olden days when the Founding Fathers ran things, life was better and men were men. People like Josh got swallowed up by Indians or the wilderness. Or they died of starvation, which is exactly what the Bible says they deserve. If a man does not work he should not eat, right? Phillips is already deciding not to pay the tab. He won’t subsidize a freeloader like Josh. Plus, now that he thinks about it, Josh looks a little bit too Middle Eastern. Images of 9/11 flash through his mind. Or Mexican. Phillips’s cheeks flush. He’ll try to get some documentation before they leave. He has friends who can send Josh back to where he came from. He hates freeloaders. Gosh dang it, his forefathers fought for no taxation without representation! If Josh is illegal, he may not be represented, but he sure as heck should pay taxes or get the heck out of this God-blessed country. Wait a minute…
“How do I pay for things?” Josh interrupts Phillips mid-thought. “Well, I actually have a bunch of women who support me. They kind of travel around with me and listen to me as I preach.”
Even Eldredge sits up at this. “Wait a minute,” he says. “You mean that you don’t work, but instead you just let women support you?” His mind goes on tilt. Is this guy for real?
“Well, I do street preaching,” Josh reminds him. “But yes, I’m really happy to receive their support.”
Driscoll explodes. “This is what’s so f—-ing wrong with the Church in America today!” he shouts. “We’ve got gay pansies like you who mooch off of women, refuse to take responsibility, and probably have perverted fantasies all day and all night. What the hell is wrong with you?”
Josh looks hurt.
Piper, the elder statesman, tries to smooth things over and cover for Driscoll’s outburst, but even he feels shocked by Josh’s scandalous irresponsibility. “Josh my friend,” he says, “you do realize that the Bible lays down clear roles for men and women, and that the biblical principle for manhood is to take responsibility for your family and to provide for them. If you’re out of work and you’re letting women provide for you, that’s the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Do you read your Bible, Josh?”
Josh sips his wine. “Well sure, I just didn’t realize it said what you say it says.”
Driscoll can’t help himself. “So are you gay?” he shouts. “Or do you have sex with all those ‘supportive’ women? Come on, dude, we can see right through you. You’re one of those guys who worms his way into the homes of weak-willed women. Or weak-willed dudes.”
Josh looks at him calmly. “I love many women,” he says.
Driscoll feels angry and relieved at the same time. He’d rather have a fornicator than a homosexual sitting next to him any day of the week. Suddenly, the hand Josh patted earlier doesn’t tingle so much.
“And I love many men,” Josh continues.
Driscoll feels spiders crawling over his fingers. Sick.
Phillips, the lawyer, jumps in. “Josh, this is outrageous!” he says. “Don’t you realize who we are? Don’t you realize what we stand for? We are men who believe with every ounce of our being in biblical manhood and womanhood. Haven’t you read your Bible? Haven’t you read our books? What do you have to say for yourself?”
Josh looks from man to man. He can see their hatred and disgust. He feels sad. He clears his throat. “Yes Doug, I have read each of your books.” His eyes pass from man to man. “I studied them carefully, but I have so many questions after reading them.”
“You wouldn’t be the first anatomical male to disagree with me,” Phillips says. “I wish I could call you a ‘man,’ but you haven’t earned it. Fire away.”
The other men nod. Fire away.
“Well,” says Josh. “I guess that each book made me ask a question. John—“he looks at Piper, “I see that you have written a book on biblical manhood and womanhood, but the first chapter barely quotes a single Bible verse. Instead it looks like you’ve constructed your own definition of manhood and womanhood based on your cultural background and personal preferences. I wonder, how is that biblical?”
Josh turns to Driscoll. “Mark, you talk a lot in your books and sermons about how perverted men’s minds are, how preoccupied they are with sex, and how they need to turn away from lust and instead grow up and take responsibility for their girlfriends and wives. Mark, what are you so afraid of? What are you so angry about? From your books I would say that men are mostly sex-crazed raging adolescents. Is that really true? Really?”
Josh looks at Eldredge. “John, your books say that every man is looking for a battle to fight, a quest to go on, and a damsel to rescue. That this is the essence of manhood, is that right?”
“Then what if you’re disabled, or what if you’re a man and you’re content being single?”
Eldredge looks blank. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, if a man is disabled, physically weak, or mentally disabled, does that mean he can’t be a true man? I mean, if a man is supposed to be a knight on a quest who rescues a damsel in distress, I guess the disabled are plumb out of luck, right? And what about men like me who are perfectly content being single? Does that mean I’m not really a man?”
Definitely gay, Driscoll thinks.
Josh turns to Phillips. “Doug, your books talk about the good old days when men were men and our Founding Fathers were biblical and chivalry reigned in America. But Doug, what about the 99% of people in human history who have never lived in America? Can those men be real men, too? Or do they have to dress like Civil War soldiers or WWII combatants in order to fulfill their manhood? Does biblical manhood really just look like 1776 or 1945?”
Most of the men at the table had never thought of their books like that before.
Josh smiles at them. “I know you all mean well,” he says. “But maybe you’re all missing the point of what it means to be a man or a woman. Maybe you don’t have to qualify it with ‘biblical.’ Maybe you don’t have to be more manly or womanly. That’s a pretty hard standard to live up to. Lots of pressure. And it’s kind of a caricature based on your own backgrounds and cultural milieus, don’t you think? Maybe the point of the Bible is that all of you—both men and women—just have to look more like Christ.”
The bartender walks over. “Another round, gents?”
But only Josh has finished his drink. He stands up from the table.
“Hey fellas, I’ve been visiting different churches on Sundays. I know you probably stay within your own church or denomination, but there’s this great church down the road. It’s Lutheran. The preacher really brings it! I mean, the Spirit is there. I was wondering if any of you wanted to go there with me?”
No one blinks.
“Okay,” says Josh. “But consider it as a standing invite. The pastor is really great. Really top shelf. I know you won’t regret listening to her.”
After Josh leaves, the men sit in silence for a long time. They slowly drain their glasses. Driscoll finishes his beers and orders a couple more. The other fellows remain deep in thought. Driscoll decides to settle the tab himself. He realizes that he’s won the tacit battle for manliness by picking up the bill. He sort of figured he’d come out on top.
“Hey keep,” he says, walking over to the bar. “What do I owe you? I’ll take care of this one.” He pulls out his wallet.
The bartender looks up from polishing the counter.
“Oh, didn’t your friend tell you?” he asks.
“What do you mean ‘your friend?’” Driscoll says. “You mean the homeless guy? I’ve never seen him before in my life. He’s a total moocher. Came in here and pretended to be our friend just so we’d cover his drink. What was he supposed to have told me?”
“Yeah, the guy who was sitting next to you,” says the bartender. “He came in here last week. Said that he was planning to meet some of his friends here today and that the whole tab was gonna be on him. He already settled it with me ahead of time. There’s nothing left to pay.”
Author’s note, 11/21/13: No one is more surprised than I am by the response this post has elicited. I have received feedback from many people–some whom I greatly respect–that my caricatures of Piper and Eldredge in particular are unfair. I have sought to balance my tone in the comments section below. What I hope is not lost in the imperfections of my writing is the main point of this article: that systems which claim to describe true “biblical manhood” or true “biblical womanhood” are actually projections of the author’s own cultural milieu. When an author universalizes these stereotypes, people get hurt. You can hear the voices of the wounded in many of the comments below. You can feel the unspoken pain simply in how quickly this post was shared through Social Media. For those who would discount the point of this little story because of my own flaws as an author, I ask you to listen to the voices of the wounded. They are legion. You may call me to task, but please don’t discount the pain of your brothers and sisters. It is real. And the wrongs that caused it should be righted. Perhaps we could siphon off some of the outrage over caricatures and miscaricatures of our chosen champions in this story, and direct it toward correcting these mythical “biblical manhood” systems which cause so much pain. That is my hope.
11/22/13: Why Satire?
One of the criteria of a truth-based worldview is that it has to be livable by normal people. But legalism creates an unlivable worldview, as we see in the case of the Pharisees. These religious teachers had so many rules and regulations to hedge themselves from breaking what they perceived to be God’s laws that they became objects of comedy. We all laugh at them when we read the New Testament, and Jesus dealt sharply with their errors which led others astray. The only people who missed the comedy of these man-made rules were the Pharisees themselves and their followers.
That was the reason I used satire as a literary device in this post. I believe that these “biblical” manhood systems–which are actually man-made myths– produce lives of satire where men and women live as caricatures of their true selves. It seemed only fair to question these systems in the same style.