The Crosscut articles that exposed the “massive meltdown” within Seattle’s homegrown Mars Hill megachurch make for fascinating reading. Misogyny, narcissism, shunning, shaming and co-founder Mark Driscoll’s dictatorial leadership. If only the church's YouTube videos were half as scandalous.
The church's nine-minute signature piece, “Mars Hill Global,” posted last month, plays like a typically bloated profile of any overfunded nonprofit. It begins with a rousing call to spread the Driscoll gospel in Ethiopia and India, includes talk of “planting” thousands of churches (like body-snatching seed pods) and features the requisite saccharine close-ups of poor children smiling for the camera (no doubt utterly unaware that they are shills for yet another white man’s missionary zeal).
Then the video takes us back to the Pacific Northwest where pastors, all men, do all of the talking. There is even one pastor named, endearingly, Bubba. These soundbites are interspersed with dreamy wide shots of hand-waving church members set to an insipid arena-rock score, like Coldplay on an endless loop (my idea of eternal damnation).
A 2011 video, called “This is the Best Life of All”, is filmed dramatically in silky black-and-white with multiple cameras recording a Mark Driscoll sermon on a stage decorated with scaffolds (culled, perhaps, from a touring production of “Rent”). Soon it transitions to a slow motion, baptismal orgy, the aching soft rock grows anthemic and a surge of acolytes are doused in an on-stage hot tub, assisted by two young men in board shorts.
The best look at the now-beleaguered Driscoll can be seen in his video sermon from 2012, delivered from a stage draped in red velvet and fronted by a humungous wooden crucifix. It looks like a scene from a Rob Zombie film set at the House of Blues. “Repentance is what it means to be a Christian," Driscoll intones in his sermon.
There is also a music video, "In Tenderness", a sweaty blitzkrieg of handclaps and generic Christian rock-and-roll performed by a group called Citizens.
Although I found no evidence of demon sex trials or packets of Kool-Aid in these videos, you can certainly discern the basic tenets of the Mars Hill doxology, a theism based on Me-ism. Men are in control; women and children are props; social good works (helping the poor, the homeless, the battered, etc.) are completely nonexistent. Jesus may be front and center, but he is being elbowed out of the way by the young, tattooed, hair-gelled, male-dominated power structure that's breakin’ it all down for us.
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