On the Lived Theology Reading List: Biblical Porn

Biblical Porn: Affect, Labor, and Pastor Mark Driscoll's Evangelical Empire, by Jessica JohnsonAffect, Labor, and Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Evangelical Empire

In Biblical Porn, author Jessica Johnson delves into the storied history of the Mars Hill Church. A small bible study founded by Mark Driscoll in 1996, it quickly rose to prominence and became a megachurch with 15 total locations. The church closed its doors in 2014 after being beset by scandal, with former attendees testifying to spiritual abuse, emotional manipulation, and financial exploitation.

In this book, Johnson examines not only the history of the church, but also how it is that the Mars Hill congregants became entangled in processes of religious conviction. She contends that they were recruited into sexualized and militarized dynamics of power through the use of what she calls “biblical porn”, which is the affective labor of communicating, promoting, and embodying Driscoll’s teaching on biblical masculinity, femininity, and sexuality. It also simultaneously worked as a marketing strategy, social imaginary, and biopolitical instrument, drawing in more and more followers even as it continued to condition the ones who were already there. Johnson theorizes that the congregants circulated and amplified feelings of hope, joy, shame, and paranoia, which the church capitalized on to grow at all costs.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Jessica Johnson’s Biblical Porn is a magnificent contribution to the field of anthropology, especially given anthropology’s affective turn in recent years. Moreover, it is a meaningful contribution to both religious studies and gender studies given its attention to evangelicalism in the America and masculinist studies. . . . Her attention to affect and affect theory, though, is what makes Biblical Porn stand out as an original contribution to all of these fields.” — Alejandro Stephano Escalante, Religion and Gender

“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

“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

For more information on the publication, click here.

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