Biblical Porn: Affect, Labor, and Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Evangelical Empire

Jessica Johnson. Duke Univ., $24.95 (240) ISBN 978-0-8223-7153-3
Johnson, professor of gender, women, and sexuality studies at the University of Washington, tells the enthralling story of the rise and fall of Mark Driscoll, former pastor of the defunct evangelical megachurch Mars Hill in Seattle. The term “biblical porn” from the title relates to Driscoll’s tendency to preach that women should always be sexually available to their husbands (and should be willing to do such things as stripping and taking pornographic Polaroids) and his subscription to “muscular Christianity” (hypermasculine warrior archetypes for men). Johnson makes seething critiques of these trends within Christianity and links them to Driscoll’s aggressive church expansion: Mars Hill reached 15 locations before Driscoll resigned in 2014 due to allegations of emotional abuse and financial manipulation. In addition to including excerpts from Driscoll’s public sermons and interviews with former Mars Hill parishioners and pastors, Johnson recounts her attendance at services, church-related activities, and focus groups, and transcribes many of her informal conversations with church members. In the most revealing entries, Johnson describes learning of Driscoll’s strategies of recruiting members through fear tactics (many female members explain they felt coerced and shamed by male pastors) and how those feelings of shame turned female members into recruiters themselves as they began to view their advocacy of Mars Hill as a means for gaining salvation. Johnson is a talented storyteller, but her book’s readership may be limited to scholars and graduate students given some of the dense, jargon-heavy passages that can make this often feel like more an ethnography than a exposé of a megachurch’s downfall. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/12/2018
Release date: 05/01/2018
Hardcover - 248 pages - 978-0-8223-7136-6
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