Driscoll the Vampire Slayer

Yes, I am reading Twilight.  Yes, I did watch this clip by Mark Driscoll.  I am not sure which one of those two facts is more embarrassing, but I will be talking about both of them.

I should start out by telling you that I am generally not a fan of Mark Driscoll (in case you hadn't picked up on that yet).  The above clip did nothing to change my opinion. To summarize, in this clip Driscoll rants for 10 minutes or so about how Twilight, among other books, is evil.  

He does, however, start out well.  For a moment I had hope.  He begins by saying "I do want you to be discerning when it comes to culture because I believe one of the ways that Satan works in our day, is he will take things out of the category of religion and spirituality, put them into the category of entertainment, and we completely fail to be discerning. We just think, "Oh, that's not demonic. That's a movie." A movie is a sermon with pictures."

So far so good.  We absolutely need to be discerning about entertainment, and we do often fail in this regard. Further, I think that is a great quote about movies; movies often are sermons with pictures.  Unfortunately, through the rest of this clip, Driscoll fails to actually lead people in discernment or teach them how to be discerning.  We would do well to remember a second point: There is an equally great need to be discerning while we listen to sermons.  A pastor standing before you is trying to convince you of something in an even more focused way than most movies. 

Sermon Discernment Point #1: Check The Facts!

Far to often, when we are listening to sermons, we readily accept what a preacher says about statistics, or lists, or top 10's, etc. without any kind of thought or checking.  We have all heard the stat thrown about how Christian marriages end in divorce just as often as Non-Christians.  I myself have tossed that juicy little tidbit around.  It's not true. Or how about something along these lines: "70% of high-school Christians lose their faith in university"? Also not true. 

What about Driscoll?  Long story short, those books he lists as being billed by Amazon as the "best selling big new books for pre-teen and teenage girls" are no such thing. Amazon keeps such lists publicly available, you can look them up yourself. One example: "Hell's Heroes" ranks in at #16570 on Amazon bestseller lists.

So, either Driscoll is exaggerating, or else the list of books he was emailed was of an entirely different sort than he mentioned.  I lean towards the second. Amazon regularly emails recommendations to people who shop there. The list of books Driscoll received were likely recommendations from Amazon based on browsing and buying habits of people on his computer. 

He also adds that these books are all part of a new genre featuring the occult, undead, and so on, which is coming out of the Twilight series.  Now, Driscoll is older than I am, so maybe he just hasn't been paying much attention, but this is anything but a new genre.  I remember, while I was growing up, that people were reading Goosebumps and watching Buffy.  This genre, as well as adolescent fascinations with such things, are anything but new.  I think I remember people making similar claims about Harry Potter and the Occult? 

Clearly, books about vampires, magic, spells, and the like actually are popular right now.  It is a real issue that needs to be addressed with discernment.  But, the impression Driscoll gives is that these are the books everyone is reading and that this is a massive new trend, a demonic attack, and that we must respond. 

Sermon Discernment Point #2: Check the Tone

Something else to pay attention to is how the message is delivered.  This is where I realized I had made a big mistake on my blog, and I talked about it in my last post.  Our tone communicates as much, or more, than our words.  

What is the tone of Driscoll's message? Mocking and berating.  Most of his criticisms amount to bad jokes.  Like "Do you know what a spell is? Your under a spell if you don't know what a spell is..." or "I'll just say that as a general rule, any angel named 'moron'... you should probably not go with that." 

There is simply no instruction here.  I know that his particular style is popular; people like the fact that Driscoll doesn't pull any punches.  Fair enough. But there is a great distance between being antagonistic for its own sake and being harsh because the situation requires it. 

Sermon Discernment Point #3: Check the Message

Sub-point A: What are the arguments? What is the message?

This is a fairly obvious question to ask.  I mean, this is the entire point of the sermon, right?  

If we remove the rhetoric, Driscoll's is making three arguments for why Twilight is bad: 

1. It is by a non-Christian author. 
2. It is about 'demonic' or 'occult' subject matter. 
3. It is popular. 

In my mind laying the arguments out like this already displays the numerous problems with Driscoll's arguments.  But, let me ask say a few words anyway. 

Why should we not read the work of non-Christians? How far should we apply this policy? If we shouldn't read such things, how many other non-Christian products ought we to avoid? 

Personally, I think we can learn a great deal from non-Christian art.  We just need to do so with discernment. But it is not discerning to argue that because a work is non-christian it is bad. 

On to subject matter.  In one of my favorite series, The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn leads an army of undead spirits to victory in a great battle at the port of Pelargir.  In this same series, Gandolf the Gray dies fighting a demon, and is resurrected as Gandalf the White. Not only that, he casts spells all over the place...  So, should we avoid this series as well? 

Finally, the third arguments is ridiculous.  I know, we have to chose our battles, and it make strategic sense to focus on those items which are making a splash, but the popularity of a thing is not an indication of its 'evil-ness.' 

Sub-point B: What can I walk away with? Or, Can I apply these principles/methods/points in my own life? 

Here is another obvious question.  What am I meant to do with this message?  

In Driscoll's case it seems clear to me that what we ought to walk away with is the ability to face entertainment with a stronger ability to discern. However, Driscoll's message accomplishes no such thing.  What he asks his listeners to do is to agree with him and only watch/read/listen to those things of which he approves. He draws a line in the sand, with the three arguments I listed above, and names them as bad. Is everything which meets those criteria bad?  I don't think so.  

Conclusion: True Discernment

The real problem for someone like Driscoll is that true discernment is both complicated and dangerous.  It cannot be taught in 10 minutes in the middle of a sermon.  It requires time, character, practice, outside guidance as we grow in it, and wisdom.  It involves the complex combination of numerous elements some of which are personally, or culturally, subjective.  You have to know yourself and your world, have a growing knowledge of God's character and desires, have some understanding of God's objective laws and the way of Jesus Christ, and be able to think within a Christian worldview.  Developing true discernment is dangerous in that it may lead others to disagree with you or make mistakes.  All parents go through some version of this as their children grow up and do exactly these things: disagree with us, and make their own mistakes. 

It is no surprise that hard and fast lines and rules are appealing.  After all, we all want to minimize danger and be safe.  The problem is that being over-protective always brings with it the risk of stunting growth in maturity and decision making ability.  This is true when we talk about children or Christians.  Naturally, there is a time in the life of a child when the right thing to do is just tell them, flat out, "That is wrong" or "That is bad."  Knowing when to start helping our children move towards their own decision making is, in itself, a journey which demands careful discernment.  And in this journey, Driscoll offers no help at all. 


You may wonder, after all that, what I think of Twilight. I am nearly finished the book and plan on posting a review of it tomorrow.  You can find out then :) 


Joe Lo said...

Since you threw lord of the rings in there, I had to comment.

I wouldn't want people to choose whether to read/listen to my work based on my religion, so I won't do the same to others.

Andrew said...

Very good point; "Do unto others..." :) I wish I had put that in my post!