Biblical Porn

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

Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: Published: May 2018

Author: Jessica Johnson

Subjects
Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies > Affect Theory, Religious Studies

Between 1996 and 2014, Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill Church multiplied from its base in Seattle into fifteen facilities spread across five states with 13,000 attendees. When it closed, the church was beset by scandal, with former attendees testifying to spiritual abuse, emotional manipulation, and financial exploitation. In Biblical Porn Jessica Johnson examines how Mars Hill's congregants became entangled in processes of religious conviction. Johnson shows how they were affectively recruited into sexualized and militarized dynamics of power through the mobilization of what she calls "biblical porn"—the affective labor of communicating, promoting, and embodying Driscoll's teaching on biblical masculinity, femininity, and sexuality, which simultaneously worked as a marketing strategy, social imaginary, and biopolitical instrument. Johnson theorizes religious conviction as a social process through which Mars Hill's congregants circulated and amplified feelings of hope, joy, shame, and paranoia as affective value that the church capitalized on to grow at all costs.

Praise

"The enthralling story of the rise and fall of Mark Driscoll, former pastor of the defunct evangelical megachurch Mars Hill in Seattle. . . . Johnson is a talented storyteller. . . ." — Publishers Weekly

"The saga of Mars Hill Church and its founder/pastor/charlatan Mark Driscoll . . .  is treated to a thoughtful, scholarly dissection in this essential book by UW lecturer Jessica Johnson. It’s almost impossible to discuss Driscoll’s ignominious legacy without letting one’s language be infected by ideological zeal (guilty). That’s why Johnson’s ethnographic approach, which focuses on the shrewd process by which Mars Hill recruited, flattered, and manipulated its herd, with special attention paid to issues of class, race, gender, and socialization." — Sean Nelson, The Stranger

"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." — Claire Foster, Foreword Reviews

"Johnson’s book reminds us that Driscoll was real, that Mars Hill did loom large over the Seattle skyline, and that Driscoll’s liturgy was just as creepy and harmful as we remember it to be, if not more." — Paul Constant, Seattle Review of Books

"This fascinating ethnographic study of Mars Hill, a 13,000-member megachurch led by Mark Driscoll, provides a thorough explanation of how toxic masculinity and militarism were turned into tools for growing an evangelical empire." — WATER

"Biblical Porn is useful not only to scholars of congregations, but also to anyone who needs help understanding how shame, fear, and bullying, as well as hope, can co-exist and invest people into institutions that, to an outsider, look clearly harmful to them."  — Rebecca Barrett-Fox, Reading Religion

"Biblical Porn was truly a depressing, yet especially interesting, read. . . . Biblical Porn is journalistic writing mixed with detailed anthropological analysis, written with a clear intent to expose an ever-present moral failure in the world of organized religion." — Jamin Hübner, Priscilla Papers

“Much ink has been spilled over the scandals surrounding American evangelical megachurches, yet little of it engages the phenomenon of Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill with the elegance and sophistication of Jessica Johnson's work. Sharp, creative, and theoretically adroit, Biblical Porn offers a complex unpacking of an important dimension of contemporary evangelicalism. A wholly impressive book.” — Jason C. Bivins, author of Religion of Fear: The Politics of Horror in Conservative Evangelicalism

“Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill churches in Seattle took Calvinist insecurity to new levels, producing an everyday world of acute affective precarity. His church people lived in a slurry of shame, fear, threat, care, intimidation, hope, joy, and paranoia. Wives were exhorted to be their husbands' porn stars 24/7, and men—the victims of a nation ‘pussified’ by feminists—should man-up, have sex on demand with their wives, and pursue air and ground war campaigns of ‘riot evangelism.’ After nearly a decade of summary dismissals, shunning, demon trials, disciplinary interrogations, mass surveillance, and financial scandals, Driscoll's evangelical empire imploded. Jessica Johnson was there for the long haul and provides us with a theoretically rich and evocative reading of this traumatic episode of pastoral governance.” — Susan Friend Harding, author of The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jessica Johnson teaches in the Departments of Anthropology and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction  1
1. Arousing Empire  44
2. Under Conviction  76
3. Porn Again Christian?  111
4. The Porn Path  136
5. Campaigning for Empire  163
Conclusion. Godly Sorrow, Worldly Sorrow  185
Notes  195
Bibliography  229
Index  235
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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