There's a temptation to skip to the juicy parts of "Real Marriage" especially since it was written by Mars Hill Church co-founder Mark Driscoll and his wife, Grace.
There’s a temptation to skip to the juicy parts of “Real Marriage” especially since it was written by Mars Hill Church co-founder Mark Driscoll and his wife, Grace.
They know this, of course, which is probably why they subtitled the book “The Truth About Sex, Friendship & Life Together” — sex getting first billing.
They also know that the book will land in the hands of grimy sinners like me, who will paw through it like a 12-year-old would a Playboy.
So the Driscolls included a preface called “How Not to Read This Book,” which includes the following bit of finger-wagging: “Don’t read as a voyeur trying to figure out our sex life,” and “Don’t read as a critic trying to find where you think we might be wrong.”
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It’s not so much that I think Mark Driscoll is wrong. I just think he’s a little dangerous. He spends his Sundays preaching to thousands of folks not just about the Bible, but offering his spin on it: Men lead their households and churches, women do not, and people beyond the Bible’s pages, well, maybe they’ll come around if the rest of us pray hard enough.
It’s not just that. Driscoll can be disdainful and caustic about gay people, women in church leadership and those in other faiths.
The book is an extension of that because, love him or hate him, Mark Driscoll won’t be denied. There are now nine Mars Hill campuses in Washington state; one in New Mexico, and plans under way for campuses in Rainier Valley, Sammamish, Portland and Orange County, Calif.
With that kind of rapid growth and impact, any avenue into the mind and marital life of the church’s Hurley-hoodied leader is one I’m going to take.
On the day I got on the phone with the Driscolls, Gov. Chris Gregoire had just announced that she would put forward legislation to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
“The majority of people in the state of Washington hold certain values and beliefs, so that seems to be the majority opinion,” Driscoll told me. “We would hold a minority view.”
And Grace? Would you care to weigh in?
“I don’t think so,” she said. “But thank you.”
That response would hang with me for hours. Was she being polite? Or did she not have an opinion? Or was it that her husband was sitting there? Or … ?
At this writing, “Real Marriage,” released Tuesday, is No. 10 on Amazon.com‘s best-seller list.
There is much in there about the Driscolls’ journey, their struggles as a couple finding their way to their callings and to each other. They stress the importance of friendship, service, family time.
“If you’re not friends,” Mark Driscoll said, “it’s going to be pretty brutal.”
All good things.
But the big talker is surely to be the chapter about sex, called “Can We — ?” in which Driscoll notes that he is explaining what couples may do, not what they must do, based on whether it is lawful, according to the Bible, and helpful to a marriage.
It is a bombshell, I told him. I can’t imagine Joel Osteen even kissing his wife.
“Our goal was to get couples to talk about sex,” Mark Driscoll said. “Sometimes Christians have major hangups and insecurities.”
So the Driscolls are pretty up front.
Masturbation: The Bible does not forbid it, so it’s lawful. But whether it’s helpful “is a very difficult and complex question.”
Oral sex: Lawful. “The Biblical book Song of Songs speaks of oral sex in a positive and poetic fashion,” Driscoll wrote.
As for helpful? Yes. “But if it becomes a frequent substitute for normal intercourse, then it is becoming a problem.”
Role playing? Well, the Bible doesn’t speak directly to it, so have at it. And, it could be helpful.
Sex toys? “I read the whole Bible,” Mark Driscoll said. “They’re not in there.”
So go for it, but if you’re using one on your own and not “in oneness” with your partner, then you’ve got a problem.
If nothing else, “Real Marriage” is an eye-opener; a church leader talking about sex and marriage in pretty blunt terms — which is how he’s made his mark.
So why should anyone read beyond the juicy parts?
“It’s a way to look at marriage and relationships and sex from a different angle,” Driscoll said. “… this might be a helpful, different perspective to consider.”
Driscoll’s right, and that’s why I read his book.
He might consider a different perspective sometimes, as well.
Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.