Mark Driscoll’s t-shirt ministry – a study in profanity
We learn much about Pastor Mark Driscoll’s ministry from his sermon on the Third Commandment (September 29, 2013). In the sermon, he explains the meaning of the word ‘profane’, and then illustrates his point by drawing attention to a number of Christian t-shirts.
Driscoll explains profanity
Driscoll explains what he understands by the word profane: ‘Here’s the big idea I want to unpack—one word: profane. What does that mean? …And what it means is this: the God of the Bible is a God of glory. He’s a God who’s glorious. What that means is that he is weighty, he is heavy, he’s preeminent, he’s significant. And profanity is when we treat him lightly, inconsequentially, just dismiss him, make sport of him, light of him, and fun of him. We make the heavy God light. We make the glorious God inglorious… it’s using God’s name and therefore projecting and presenting God in a fashion of emptiness, falsehood, triviality, lightness, or inconsequentiality…’
Driscoll illustrates the concept of profanity by showing the congregation a number of so-called ‘Christian’ t-shirts. The first a Jesus Saves t-shirt, with a picture of Jesus as a soccer goalie, diving to prevent the soccer ball from going into the net. A second t-shirt has the words, Bloodwiser, the King of Kings – The wise men knew, His blood’s for you, suggesting that Jesus is like the king of beers. The third t-shirt has the words, A blood donor saved your life. Pastor Driscoll then reminds the congregation that when he preached a series of 12 sermons on Vintage Jesus (2006), he wore an assortment of Christian t-shirts, including the popular Jesus is my homeboy t-shirt, which he said had been worn by Madonna, Ashton Kutcher, Ben Affleck and Brad Pitt.
The Vintage Jesus Series of Sermons (October to December 2006)
Introducing the Vintage Jesus series of sermons, preached in Mars Hill Church, Seattle, in October to December 2006, Pastor Mark Driscoll explained what he hoped to achieve: ‘Each week as part of the package, you’re gonna get a t-shirt. This week is Jesus Is My Homeboy, and I’ve got some good ones coming for you too… And this is a fun sermon for me. I mean they’re all fun. This one is really fun. So I’ll go ahead and pray and we will get right to work. And I’m assuming you guys will make it fun. This is the fun service, to be honest. This is happy hour, and you guys are generally pretty happy, so I’m glad to see ya.’
Part 1: ‘Is Jesus the Only God?’ (October 08, 2006)
T shirt: Jesus is my homeboy
In the first sermon in the series, entitled ‘Is Jesus the Only God?’ Driscoll wore the Jesus is my homeboy t-shirt. During this sermon Driscoll tells the congregation that many movies have been made about the life of Jesus. He says : ‘You may also have seen Jesus in various movies. He’s appeared in more than a hundred movies. Two of the most popular, in recent memory, are the Da Vince Code and The Passion of the Christ. Probably the weirdest one ever done is the Canadian kung-fu horror comedy, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, which is just a weird film’ [congregation laughs loudly]
This is a profoundly blasphemous movie that depicts Jesus fighting lesbian vampires with the help of a Mexican wrestling hero, El Santo. Surely a true man of God would not draw attention such a depraved movie. And so we must ask: What is Driscoll’s motivation in introducing his young congregation to this blasphemous movie?
Driscoll mentions another movie: ‘And one of the funniest is Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. If you’ve seen that film, he really loves baby Jesus played by – I love the fact that Will Ferrer plays the character, he does a good job and it’s funny. And he repeatedly prays to baby Jesus, actually 8 pound 6 oz baby Jesus in your golden diaper. And he keeps praying: “Thank you baby Jesus for my smoking hot wife”. And that becomes a sort of recurring theme in our house, when my wife for example came out the other day and said, “how do I look in these jeans”. I said, “thank you Jesus for my smoking hot wife”. [laughter] That’s the new theme, at least for this season at the Driscoll house.’
This is another blasphemous movie that ridicules the name of Jesus Christ, yet Driscoll enjoys the movie and finds it amusing, even quoting one of Ricky’s punch-lines – ‘Thank you Jesus for my smoking hot wife!’ Dressed in his profane t-shirt, Pastor Driscoll uses the pulpit to tell the congregation about two blasphemous movies.
Part 2: ‘How Human Was Jesus?’ (October 15, 2006)
T shirt: Jesus is watching you download porn
In the second sermon, Driscoll deals with the humanity of Jesus. He explains: ‘And the first thing I want to tell you is that Jesus was a dude, and Jesus looked like a normal dude, right?’ He comments on his t-shirt. ‘The t-shirt I am wearing, for example, is an example of drag queen Jesus. You’ll notice he has very long, beautiful, curly hair and nice features. A little rouge on his cheeks. He didn’t look like that. And it also says, Jesus watches you download porn, which is theologically correct and actually true. One of my favorite t-shirts actually.’
Part 3: ‘What Did Jesus Accomplish on the Cross?’ (October 22, 2006)
Body piercing saved my life
Driscoll introduced the third sermon in the Vintage Jesus series, ‘What did Jesus accomplish on the Cross’ – with these words: ‘Howdy, this is Pastor Mark here at Hemp Fest. Yes Hemp Fest in Seattle, wearing my Jesus is watching you smoke that weed t-shirt.’ The t-shirt worn during sermon was Body piercing saved my life.
Part 4: ‘Did Jesus Rise from Death?’ (October 29, 2006)
T Shirt: Jesus is my guild leader
In Vintage Jesus Part 4, ‘Did Jesus Rise from Death?’ – Driscoll explains his t-shirt: ‘I’ll go ahead and pray and just so you know this week’s T shirt, is Jesus is my guild leader for those of you who are online video game fanatics and World of War Craft addicts. So, Jesus is our guild leader. So I’ll go ahead and pray and we’ll get right to work it’s a good one tonight. And glad to have you all out.’
Part 5: ‘Where Is Jesus Today?’ (November 05, 2006)
T shirt: Buddy Christ t-shirt
In Vintage Jesus Part 5, ‘Where is Jesus Today?’ Mark Driscoll says: ‘This week, I’m wearing my Buddy Christ T shirt, Who’s your buddy, it says. From the film Dogma, if you didn’t see that, Alanis Morrisett plays God. So, that’s a horrible, horrible, horrible thing. She’s Canadian, I mean, come on. (Laughter) God is obviously not Canadian.’
Released in 1999, Dogma is an outrageously blasphemous film that ridicules the Christian faith; it presents an image of Buddy Christ.
Part 6: ‘What Will Jesus Do upon His Return?’ (November 12, 2006)
T Shirt: Bowling for Jesus, he died for our pins
In the sixth sermon in the series, ‘What will Jesus do Upon his Return?’ – Pastor Mark talks about what will happen to creation, Christians, and non-Christians upon Jesus’ return. He says: ‘This is actually my Jesus bowling shirt. I’ll show you the back because that is the good part. It says, Bowling for Jesus, he died for our pins, with a P. (Laughter) So, that’s this week’s shirt. Next week will be another one.’
The central message of the Gospel is that Christ died for the sins of His people. ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15.3); ‘For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3.18). Driscoll ridicules the death of Christ on the Cross of Calvary with his blasphemous t-shirt.
Part 7: ‘Why Should We Worship Jesus?’ (November 19, 2006)
T Shirt: WWJD for a Klondike Bar?
In Vintage Jesus Part 7, ‘Why should we Worship Jesus?’ – Driscoll wears another t-shirt: ‘Secondly I will tell you about this week’s T shirt. It’s WWJD which is What Would Jesus Do, and underneath it says, for a Klondike Bar. (Laughter) That’s this week’s T shirt. This one’s one of my favorites, What Would Jesus Do for a Klondike Bar.’ Here Driscoll takes pleasure in trivialising Christ before his congregation.
Part 8: ‘What Makes Jesus Superior to Other Saviors?’ (November 26, 2006)
T Shirt: If I have to find Jesus, does that mean he’s hiding?
Vintage Part 8, ‘What Makes Jesus Superior to Other Saviors?’ Driscoll gives his explanation: ‘And as well, as usual we have our T shirt tonight. Not to make fun of Jesus. But Jesus has left the realm of Christianity and he has become a pop cultural icon. And so we will look at various cultural views and perspectives of Jesus tonight. But you can tell its Jesus because he has a halo and he’s hiding behind a bush. And it says, If I have to find Jesus, does that mean he’s hiding? That’s a – that’s the T shirt tonight. I was going to wear, “have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal trainer.” But my wife didn’t like that one, so I left that one home.’ Here Driscoll makes fun of Christ, presenting him as a ridiculous cartoon figure, hiding in the bushes.
Part 11: ‘Why Did Jesus’ Mom Need to Be a Virgin?’ (December 17, 2006)
T Shirt: Mary is my homegirl
In Vintage Part 11, ‘Why did Jesus’ Mom Need to be a Virgin?’ – Driscoll unveils his final t-shirt: ‘And lastly, every week we do a goofy t-shirt. Jesus is the most popular, significant person in the history of the world. And I wear t-shirts not to be sacrilegious, but to show that Jesus is a pop-cultural icon. Everybody has an opinion about Jesus, and we need to be aware of them so that we can articulate what scripture says. This week, I’m talking about Jesus’ mother, Mary, and I’m wearing my Mary is my homegirl t-shirt. So, there you go. I got a homegirl. Madonna wore this shirt, too. She has one just like it, so. I don’t know why, but she did.’
The subject matter of the above sermons was later published as the book Vintage Jesus (2007).
Driscoll’s flippant repentance
Turning again to the sermon on the Third Commandment, Pastor Driscoll concedes that the ‘Jesus in my homeboy’ t-shirt, worn during the Vintage Jesus series, profanes the name of God, and he says he probably would not wear that t-shirt again, because it doesn’t fit (raucous laughter from the congregation), and because he thinks (with a chuckle), it violates the Third Command.
Driscoll says: ‘So, some of you say, “Does that make you a hypocrite?” OK, a repentant hypocrite who’s trying to learn, by the grace of God. And maybe you, like me, have got some things in your past where you go, “That wasn’t a good idea.” Yeah, let’s all grow in grace and do better by the grace of God.’ Driscoll’s flippant attitude is obvious for all to see.
Driscoll aggravates the blasphemy by appearing to publicly repent of his profanity with a light-hearted remark that raises a laugh from his audience and a chuckle from Driscoll. If his repentance was genuine, then he would remove the offending profane sermons from the Mars Hill website, and denounce his outrageous book, Vintage Jesus. But he has not done so, and the profanity continues. In the final sermon on the Ten Commandments, Driscoll wears a t-shirt with a picture of rock icon, Rastafarian Bob Marley
The Holman Bible Dictionary defines blasphemy as an attitude of disrespect that finds expression in an act directed against the character of God. The New Bible Dictionary says blasphemy ‘is an act of effrontery in which the honour of God is insulted by man’. These definitions make it clear that blasphemy is deliberate disrespect for God. Any word, image or act which is specifically aimed at insulting, ridiculing or dishonouring God, or the Christ of God, is blasphemy.
Profanity is to treat the holy things with irreverence or contempt; profanity is to mock or make fun of Jesus Christ, the Lord of lords and King of kings.
We must conclude that Mark Driscoll’s t-shirt ministry reveals the blasphemous nature of his false teaching. Driscoll admits that wearing a t-shirt with the words Jesus in my homeboy breaks the Third Commandment and profanes the name of Christ. And for him to do so in the pulpit, while purporting to be preaching the Word of God, before a large congregation is an extreme form of blasphemy. By wearing a range of t-shirts with cartoon images of Jesus, Driscoll has profaned the name of Christ through his series of sermons on Vintage Jesus. And he compounded the profanity by making fun of Jesus Christ in the book Vintage Jesus. The evidence before our eyes suggests that profanity is a way of life for Driscoll, not a careless indiscretion. Those who support this profane ministry must remember that they become partaker of his evil deeds.
Remember the Third Commandment: ‘Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain’ (Exodus 20.7).
You can learn more about Mark Driscoll’s ministry in the book, The New Calvinists (2014), published by The Wakeman Trust and Belmont House Publishing. The book is available from belmonthousebooks.com/