By Derik Hamby
Popular Calvinist preacher Mark Driscoll loves to talk about his image of Jesus being a “prize-fighter with a tattoo down his leg, a sword in his hand and the commitment to make someone bleed.” He has said, “I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.”
My Jesus can beat up your Jesus!
How in the world did we move from the Jesus who loves his enemies to this Dirty Harry-style Jesus?
Guys like Driscoll often accuse liberals of misreading the Bible to fit certain views, but it seems they are doing a good job of that on their own. They worry about preachers who wear sweater vests or whether churches are too feminine. Their image of God seems to have little room for mercy or grace.
I recently heard a young Baptist leader in North Carolina talk about the ideal church planter. Apparently, he needs to be not only a man, but a “manly man” and a “man with some gospel chest.” (If you’re puzzled by that one, I’m not sure I get it either. I had to go look in the mirror and see if I had a Gospel chest or a II or III John one.)
A recent Associated Baptist Press article reported on a professor at Southern Seminary who seems to be into this tough-guy Christianity. He claims we are portraying a weak Jesus and making boys soft. He laments putting men on “weak” assignments in churches, like the bereavement team and fellowship ministries. He even calls for us to reclaim warlike language in our churches.
Imagine how this new macho Christianity would change our Bible stories! Jesus would become an action hero who rides into town not on a donkey, but a motorcycle — and clad not in a robe, but leather. Rather than challenging the Pharisees, he would slap them around. The cleansing of the Temple would stay — but he might do some kung-fu moves while he’s at it. This is a Jesus who takes no prisoners. Forget that business about putting away your sword, Peter! Scrap the loving-your-enemies stuff!
Vacation Bible Schools would never be the same. No more Kool-Aid and cookies; we need some hot wings and beer! Forget that sissy praise music; bring on the heavy metal! Replace freeze tag with some real tackle football (just don’t be a wimp and play it on the lawn; do it in the parking lot).
Lest you think I exaggerate, look at their own words. Mark Driscoll once said, “You have been told that God is a loving, gracious, merciful, kind, compassionate, wonderful, and good sky fairy who runs a day care in the sky and has a bucket of suckers for everyone because we’re all good people. That is a lie…. God looks down and says, ‘I hate you, you are my enemy, and I will crush you,’ and we say that is deserved, right and just, and then God says, ‘Because of Jesus I will love you and forgive you.’ This is a miracle.”
These guys complain that the problem is that men stay away from church in droves, and I do admit this is a real problem. Most churches have female majorities among their members. Many men in our culture seem not to desire a vital, communal experience of faith, so they shy away from churches. Most churches could use a better ministry to men in their communities.
But I don’t think we need to strip emotions and sensitivity from God’s character or change the Prince of Peace into a tribal war-god to draw men inside the doors. We don’t have to make Jesus into an ultimate cage fighter to reach the world.
The accusation that the church has manufactured a wimpy Jesus is ridiculous. If it’s a brave and courageous Jesus you want to see, read the New Testament. Jesus laid down his life rather than waging war. Jesus washed the feet of his servants rather than bossing them around.
The image of a Christ-like servant is not a wimpy and weak one. It takes more guts to go against the violent, hate-filled world than to join it. The Civil Rights Movement was made of men and women who, instead of picking up clubs and weapons, allowed others to beat them and turn dogs and water hoses on them. The result was victory. Peter reached for his sword and Jesus said to put it away.
I could go on. But I might need to find some weights and beef up. I do have to admit I scratched “sweater vest” off my Christmas list.