Af­fect, La­bor, and Pas­tor Mark Driscoll’s Evan­gel­i­cal Em­pire

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Religion Books—nonfiction / Graphic Nove - CLAIRE FOSTER

Jessica John­son, Duke Univer­sity Press (MAY) Soft­cover $24.95 (248pp), 978-0-8223-7153-3

Bi­b­li­cal Porn is, like the story of Mars Hill Church, both more com­plex and more dis­turb­ing than it first ap­pears. Jessica John­son’s un­spar­ing book of­fers a deep look at the sex­ual pol­i­tics and sub­se­quent scan­dals that dis­man­tled the church in 2014.

John­son dives deeply into her sub­ject. Af­ter a cur­sory ex­pla­na­tion of “af­fec­tive la­bor,” Bi­b­li­cal

Porn jumps into the con­vo­luted pro­cesses of reli­gious con­vic­tion.

Mars Hill Church and its founder, Mark Driscoll, are de­con­structed from a fem­i­nist per­spec­tive. Bi­b­li­cal Porn ar­gues that Driscoll used women’s bod­ies, la­bor, and “bi­b­li­cal porn,” or a highly sex­u­al­ized, com­mer­cial read­ing of the Bi­ble, as a re­cruit­ment tool. The suc­cess of Mars Hill Church, which grew to fif­teen fa­cil­i­ties and thir­teen thou­sand mem­bers in less than two decades, is read as a tes­ta­ment to Driscoll’s successful use of sex as a con­ver­sion tool.

In spite of its racy ti­tle, Bi­b­li­cal Porn is aca­demic, not tit­il­lat­ing. John­son’s per­spec­tive, as a non-chris­tian, sin­gle per­son, is an out­sider’s, a stranger in­ves­ti­gat­ing the sex­ual mores of a guarded, in­su­lar cul­ture. Her per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence in at­tend­ing the ser­vices and sem­i­nars adds di­men­sion to this the­ory-rich book.

One ex­cel­lent scene de­scribes her dis­com­fort while pray­ing at a women’s training day lunch break. “For all the times that I had bowed my head, I still did not know this lan­guage,” John­son says. Yet, de­spite her in­abil­ity to as­sim­i­late,

Bi­b­li­cal Porn is a pow­er­ful and sur­pris­ingly hum­ble ob­ser­va­tion on Mars Hill Church’s so­cial dy­nam­ics.

With deep in­sight and an ab­sence of judg­ment, John­son in­ter­prets the driv­ing forces be­hind Driscoll’s rhetoric, and the toxic ef­fect it had on the be­liev­ers who fol­lowed him.

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