(Photo: Mars Hill Church)
Seattle-based megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll took his latest criticism from some within the Christian community about the way he handled the topic of the earth's environment while joking at a recent Christian leadership conference as an opportunity to write about his environmentally conscious family and how humor can be found in parts of the Bible.
One point of contention about his talk at the Catalyst Conference in Dallas was his statement (joke) in which he said, "I know who made the environment. He's coming back, and he's going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV."
Another point of controversy brought up by bloggers and some religion reporters, was his comment: "If you drive a mini-van, you're a mini-man."
Driscoll responded to the criticism by some, who he says "did not understand I was telling jokes and people were laughing [at the conference]," in his blog post, "Catalyst, Comedy, and Critics," published on his website Wednesday.
"I told some jokes. People knew they were jokes, as the laughter was loud enough to hear with the ears God specially designed in part for listening to jokes," Driscoll wrote. "I told jokes about appearance, including guys in skinny jeans and how I wished I could be like the guys who could button the top button on their shirt.
"I also told some jokes about how vehicles are now one of the ways we communicate our identity and value to others. If I remember correctly (I'm getting old and my memory is filled with more important things, like pizza delivery phone numbers and the names of '80s punk bands), this segment included jokes about hipsters who ride scooters, truck dudes, minivans driven by guys who feel like a mini-man (notice the clever combination), and SUVs driven by people who do not care about the environment," he stated.
Faith and culture writer Jonathan Merritt took Driscoll's Catalyst moment to list other controversies sparked by the outspoken pastor and write an opinion piece that asks if Driscoll is this generation's Pat Robertson – an implication that Driscoll also gets in trouble with his remarks, sometimes challenged as unbiblical.
Merritt wrote that Driscoll "ignited controversy yet again when he made it known that he isn't concerned with caring for creation."
He continued, "The 42-year-old pastor has developed a cult-like following among American evangelicals in recent years, energizing his fan base with similarly brazen comments. From antiquated views of women to a seeming obsession with sex-talk to shouting to his congregation that 'God hates you,' Driscoll's raison d'etre seems to be creating conflict. In fact, his acquired taste for foot is so fierce that one can't help but be reminded of a Christian leader from last generation: Pat Robertson."
Merritt's report that several Catalyst conference attendees in Dallas walked out when Driscoll spoke was not verified in a link he provided in the story as a source.
Driscoll wrote in his blog that for the record, he really likes this planet.
"We should take good care of this planet until he comes back to make a new earth, like the Bible says he will," he stated. "So at the Driscoll house we recycle a lot; we organize our lives to drive very, very few miles in a vehicle; we buy local organic produce; and we do other things that would make a hippie happy (notice yet again the clever combination). To those who misunderstood the context, I am sorry if you were troubled. To those who understood context and still ranted, I am sorry that you do not have a sense of humor."
In his blog, Driscoll quotes biblical scholars and parts of the Bible to illustrate that perhaps Jesus was quite the "humorist" and used "wordplay, irony, and satire, often with an element of humor intermixed" to evangelize. Driscoll quoted several passages from author Elton Trueblood's The Humor of Christ, published in 1964.
He concludes, "When the disciples came to Jesus and said, 'Do you know that the Pharisees were offended . . . ?' how did Jesus respond? Knowing their hardened, stubborn, rebellious, religious hearts of unrepentance, Jesus was not ready to schedule a meeting, apologize profusely, blog about his error, or spend the next decade listening to Elton John records alone in the dark weeping bitterly because he could not shake the horror of hurting someone's feelings.
"In the end, Jesus was murdered. This was because he offended a lot of people. Many of them were most offended because they were the butt of his jokes. However, as Jesus says, 'Blessed is the one who is not offended by me,'" Driscoll wrote. "Since we are all goofy sinners whose self-righteousness is a joke, the only way to not be offended by Jesus and to laugh at ourselves is to live a life of continual repentance.
"We should take Jesus very seriously, and ourselves not so seriously. In this way, humor is very serious business."