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Monday, October 2, 2006

Mars Hill: Bigger Than Ever

posted by on October 2 at 14:29 PM

This morning, the Seattle P-I profiled Mars Hill Church, which just opened a new satellite church at Chief Sealth High School in West Seattle, under the headline “Young Families Finding their Faith in Mars Hill’s Urban Ministry.” The piece is an utterly uncritical—nay, glowing— look at the church’s “urban ministries,” focusing primarily on Mars Hill’s plans to “become ‘missionaries to the city,’ displaying biblical hallmarks — a commitment to traditional marriage and family, a dedication to serving others — that would attract others.”

“God has positioned us on the fault line between two worlds,” [chief pastor Mark Driscoll] said, adding that those with more means have the opportunity to help their less-affluent neighbors in a city growing more densely populated.

Since urban areas bear so much influence in cultural, social, political and other spheres, “if you want to change the world, you must reach the city,” Driscoll said.

The P-I describes Mars Hill’s philosophy as “contemporary biblical teaching.” Oh, really? Here are few of the things Mars Hill’s members believe (all quotes are from Driscoll’s sermons):

• God does not want women to have jobs. Their role is to get married, stay at home and have as many babies as possible. (Conveniently, birth control is immoral, too.) “Women will be saved by going back to that role that God has chosen for them. Ladies, if the hair on the back of your neck stands up it is because you are fighting your role in the scripture.”

• Women also should not seek leadership roles, either in society (“There is no occasion where women led a society and were its heads and the men complied and followed. … It’s a matter of Biblical creation”) or in the church (“Every single book in your Bible is written by a man.”)

• Homosexuality is an abomination. People who are gay can change. “Your banners, your floats, your buttons—they’re not good. It’s just like letting cancer come into a body… until the cancer consumes the body and kills you. … We will extricate the cancer, and if that person who has the cancer is repentant and wants to kill the cancer, then we’ll welcome them back. But they have to accept that anything but one man, one woman, one God, one life is sexually immoral.”

• Evolution is a lie. Humans were descended from a man named Adam created by God a few thousand years ago. “The lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. This is the making of the first human being, our father Adam. We all descend from him and there was no human life before this man.”

• Hell is a real, physical place, and“it’s hot. Real hot.”

Contrary to what you’d think after reading today’s P-I, Mars Hill is an evangelical church with a radical-right agenda and a taste for conquest. “Contemporary biblical” theology is a completely misleading way to describe what Mars Hill teaches its legions of young members. The growing influence of right-wing megachurches like Mars Hill (3,500 active members so far, with plans to expand to 10,000), especially among young adults, should alarm anyone who believes in civil rights, reproductive freedom, and women’s equality.

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They will do well in that part of West Seattle. Lots of Pentecostal churches and gang bangers looking to become former Christian gang bangers, see Victory Outreach. As the city becomes a place for the very rich and the very poor, these churches will continue to grow for as Mudede pointed out in one of his rants, they teach the original form of Christianity, the most opressive and the most dictatorial, simple bare bones, no need to think. Very different than the "progressive" churches. Their marketing is impressive, I would not be surprised if the christian right targeted Seattle as city to "save."

It might seem a bit extreme for some, but if you look at the way these churches have grown in Latin America, it is no joke. In the 8o's Latin America was booming with liberation theology churches which taught struggle and sided with the struggles of the working poor and the desperate, now Latin America is full of pentecostals and missionaries and those that teach that the poor will inherit the kingdom of heaven, and you better be happy with your lot in life.

Posted by SeMe | October 2, 2006 2:32 PM

Just a little public service announcement: Mars Hill Graduate School has NO relation to Mars Hill Church. In fact they were established first, but clearly they have a name problem now that the church is getting so much attention.

Posted by Christian | October 2, 2006 2:52 PM

Why are my public school dollars going for this?

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 2, 2006 2:55 PM

Scary... and up the road from our new house. Guess it's time to break out the rainbow flag.

Posted by Dave Coffman | October 2, 2006 2:55 PM

Will -

Probably because they're paying a rental fee, same as other groups that use schools in off-hours.

Posted by JenK | October 2, 2006 3:08 PM

Erica - great post. How do we reconcile your great information on Mars Hill with The Stranger's continuing editorial and ad support for it's missionary efforts in the form of The Paradox? Seems kids should know that any profit made from Paradox shows goes straight to Mars Hill and supports their sexist, homophobic mission. I'd love to see you write more about this topic.

Posted by Meinert | October 2, 2006 3:08 PM

No groups that actively promotes discrimination should be allowed to use public property. If there is not a law against this, some of the City Council members who read this Slog should create one.

Posted by Frank | October 2, 2006 3:10 PM

My personal favorite is the meta referencing on male authority. Not only is it written in the Bible that women need to obey men, but -- as an example of their mad leadership skillz -- we should note that it was also written entirely by men! No women need apply. QED.

I think if I can get my head around how circular this argument is, I might stand a chance at visualizing extra dimensions.

Posted by MvB | October 2, 2006 3:11 PM

Dave: Would you like to write a piece for the print edition about the Paradox? Encouraging people not to go, bands not to play, etc.?

Posted by Dan Savage | October 2, 2006 3:12 PM

The King James translation of the bible was, uh, commissioned by a huge, raving homo. James I—pole smoker.

Posted by Dan Savage | October 2, 2006 3:13 PM

I've heard the Paradox was Christian-run, but for what it's worth, they don't advertise that on their website or in their mission (Paradox’s mission is to provide a safe, hospitable environment to enjoy music.), if this is indeed their website: Perhaps they are being subversive? Do they preach at their shows or just have literature available? I've only been there once many , but wouldn't know they were Christian-run unless someone told me.

A wide array of non-Christian bands have played there (Death Cab, IQU..) I would hate for them to be painted with the Mars Hill brush.

If the profits of the Paradox are sent to Mars Hill, then they should get their 501(c)3 IRS status reviewed and perhaps revoked.

I cannot stand Mars Hill, but I don't think an organization should be bashed if it's just being run by Christians.

Posted by question | October 2, 2006 3:25 PM

Jews send their kids to "summer camps" to be indoctrinated about Israel being god's gift to Jews.

Christians send their teens to groups that won't talk about abortion.

Christian and Jewish children are all being brainwashed by idiots. Religion is stupid.

Posted by Religion Sucks | October 2, 2006 3:28 PM

Dan - I'm not really down for boycotts, especially of art. And I am not a writer, nor pretend to be one, though I'd love to support or work with any of your writers on a piece investigating the relationship between Mars Hill and the Paradox, not to encourage people to boycott, but to inform them so they can make their own educated choice. So if you're serious let's work on something. But what I'd love to see is The Stranger not support Mars Hill. ECB has done a great job of covering the church and I hope there is more if it, but it is a bummer to then see the paper's support of the Church's youth outreach program (The Paradox).

That said, in response to Question, the answer is not always as clear as what's in print. The Paradox is run by a few people who are not members of Mars Hill. They are pretty cool folks, and book good bands, most of which are secular, though as any venue, some of which are christian. At the shows, aside from a few chuch members wearing christian t-shirts, you'll see no blatant literature or promotion for Mars Hill or their friend Jesus. And that is on purpose. The Paradox resides inside of Mars Hill's large church. When you drive in front of Mars Hill, you see only the sign for the Paradox, not the church. The shows are good, it is one of Seattle's only all ages spaces, and the atmosphere is of a safe, cool, all ages venue with no agenda. However, just underneath the secular veneer are the church members who make new 'friends', ultimately inviting them back to the church to see their band play at a service, or to go to one of their house parties where there is more church propeganda and direct recruiting. It's all marketing, and it is effective. Bands I know have personally told me they stopped playing The Paradox when they were asked to come back to the church to see the (at the time) director's band play. Unlike many all ages venues, The Paradox guarantees bands money to play, and the shows often lose money. This money comes from the Church, who also covers The Paradox's rent. If the shows make a profit, that money goes to the church. Running an all ages space costs a ton of money, in the case of the Paradox, that money all comes from Mars Hill. Now ask yourself, if you ran a non-profit organization, would you spend a ton of money and give up a lot of space in your building to support something that did not support your mission? Or is it more likely Mars Hill spends this money in order to support their mission? Seems pretty obvious to me.

Rather than boycott The Paradox, we should support it moving to a different space and severing all ties to Mars Hill so it can just be a good all ages music space instead of a recruitment tool for a freaky right wing cult.

Posted by Meinert | October 2, 2006 3:52 PM

The PI usually does puff pieces on Christians, no matter if they are pushing beliefs that are beyond psycho. For some reason, the PI writers like to play to Christians' sanctimonious and bizarre delusions of persecution, even though their goal is to make life hell for everyone else.

Posted by Andrew | October 2, 2006 3:59 PM

Crazy! There was a big feature piece on Mars Hill in a recent Rolling Stone or Spin (I can't remember which) and not a mention was made of the fundamentality of the church.

Posted by boyd main | October 2, 2006 4:04 PM

“There is no occasion where women led a society and were its heads and the men complied and followed. … It’s a matter of Biblical creation.”

Oh dear. Someone should tell Margaret Thatcher.

Or mention Queen Elizabeth of England from the 16th know, back when everyone led a more Biblical life.

Oh yeah, her biggest rival was Mary Queen of Scots. Those wacky Brits. Didn’t they ever read the Bible?

Posted by B | October 2, 2006 4:28 PM

Oh the irony that you would have the gall to criticize someone else for writing uncritical, glowing pieces.

Would it have been better if they had simply described Mars Hill as "the real winner"?

Once again in the stranger - a good message is destroyed by a bad messenger.

Posted by Ms. Pot, meet Mr. Kettle | October 2, 2006 4:30 PM


I'm all for working with the Paradox to sever ties and set up shop elsewhere as a nonprofit. I think that would not only settle the issue, but send a great message that we care about the under-21 set, which I promised myself I would do when I got to be over-21. The more all ages venues we have, the better city this will be.

Posted by jtroop | October 2, 2006 4:39 PM

Thanks. Now what do we do?

Strike that. What exactly is wrong with modern youth culture that they are perfectly willing to subjugate themselves and become hatemongers?

Will religious subservience be this generation's analogue of loose-moraled promiscuity?

Posted by K | October 2, 2006 4:41 PM

Mars Hill sounds like a schwarmy real-estate subdivision where the subgrade construction is geared towards the lower end home buyer.

Experience Mars Hills! Hip, urban-style townhomes, just twenty-five miles southeast of Maple Valley! Prices start in the mid 100's!

OR a cheesy movie staring Hugh Grant

OR one of those derivative bands that is put together by a record label to sound like another derivative band.

Posted by Whos Hill? | October 2, 2006 4:42 PM

I am unsure about where this church is in relation to the socio economic area of seattle. But I can guess this is in area of need of an opiate of the masses in the form of an orthodox christian church. Will this really help these people get better jobs or will they be numbed by messages of misogyny and hate so they can forget about the real root cause of their poverty?

Posted by linda hatfield-southern | October 2, 2006 5:04 PM

Wasn't this venue _started_ by the church when the city passed that stupid law saying that there could not be any all age shows after 10pm or something? Seems like that was a pretty cool thing, and gave a place that underagers' could go and get around that stupid law? Now, since you have some stick in your bum about some of their ideas, they needs to have this service that _they_ taken away and "moved somewhere else"?

Posted by hmmm | October 2, 2006 5:11 PM

Linda H-S,

Good point. Please note my earlier post:'s highly questionable if their social/economic model is sustainable. They don't want women to work, and given the cost of housing and child care, making it on just the husband's income is going to be pure hell (pun intended). Also, the authoritarian nature of these relationships, where the women have no say in family decisions, produces spectacular divorce rates. Evangelical Christians have some of the highest divorce rates in the world, so I'd be interested in finding out what happens to people who leave the cult and/or divorce.

Posted by Andrew | October 2, 2006 5:12 PM

To put it baldly, Seattle is more and more a place where you have to be smart to be able to afford to live here. If you're not smart, you at least need two incomes. (and yes, there are smart people who need two incomes to live here)

These churches don't appeal to smart. The smartest they can hope for is some low-level IT types or basic coders who, though they may not realize it, are the TV repairmen of the new millenium, and are probably destined to be outsourced in the current scheme of things.

I'd be interested in knowing the percentage of homeowners in their ranks.

Posted by Who are these people? | October 2, 2006 5:44 PM


No, that 'stupid law' you are referring to is the Teen Dance Ordinance passed in 1985. The Paradox definitely opened at a time there was a push for more all ages shows in Seattle though. And no doubt it has done a great job of putting on good shows. Just as no doubt it has been used as an effective tool for recruting new members for Mars Hill which promotes homophobia and sexism. I have always objected to the tie between Mars Hill and the Paradox. And yes, I definitely object to 'some of their ideas', like the ones that call to "to kill the cancer" of homosexuality or keep women from holding any position of authority over a man. Twisted ideas for sure. And we should call out anyone trying to co-opt our music scene to promote them.

Posted by Meinert | October 2, 2006 5:48 PM

Mars Hill may be theologically backwards, but damn, their pastor sure is hunky (at least in the photos I've seen). Sex appeal is always a factor that churches are reluctant to admit.

Posted by Polka Party | October 2, 2006 6:02 PM

Anybody wanna start a Science Megachurch?

Posted by Tunanator | October 2, 2006 6:20 PM

The Mars Hill cult receives so much press because it's such an anachronism here in wealthy, educated Seattle, so antithetical to our lives.

I grew up in Arkansas (gulp), and while the Mars Hill freaks would be viewed as more devout than most, the majority of men and women in AR would agree with the gist of their beliefs no matter how crazy.

For example, a legitimate candidate for statewide office once declared that women don’t need an abortion in rape cases because they have a “rape shield” that prevents them from getting pregnant if raped. That’s probably news to you gals out there, but in AR it was only a minor news item in an otherwise Coke or Pepsi election (in 1999!!).

So, it’s easy living here in liberal Seattle for us to forget how most of the US is so ignorant and backward once you drive 20 miles outside a major city. The Stranger’s 2004 Urban Archipelago metaphor was very accurate.

Posted by Andrew | October 2, 2006 7:45 PM

You folks at the Stranger need to do a hard hitting investigation of these guys; not just on their crack-pot 'theology' but on their business practices. Mars Hill has -- as Dave says -- a "sexist, homophobic mission" but this is only part of the story. They are basically real estate developers masquerading as a religious organization so as to avoid paying taxes. They are flush with cash (from tithing) and are determined to buy as much of East Ballard as they can get their fat, fundamentalist Christian fingers on.

Posted by Jim Demetre | October 2, 2006 9:35 PM

You know, I have written before that these people have the right to do what they like in the practice of their own religion.

However, no matter how nice some of the people may be, I cannot respect anyone that would *choose* to belong to an emergent church headed by someone who says the things that this guy does. If you cannot stand up and disagree with what this guy says about women, other religions, etc., you're just as evil and dangerous as he is.

Posted by bma | October 2, 2006 11:36 PM

Shorter Dave Meinert:

  • I don't have a shred of evidence to support my repeated assertions that the money Mars Hill spends on the all-ages club results in conversion of Paradox concertgoers and band members to Mars Hill followers. Not for even a single case. So no, I won't be writing that article for you, Dan.

Posted by robotslave | October 3, 2006 12:00 AM

Thank you for answering my post, Dave.

I'm not sure I understand why you wouldn't want to write about your objection to the Paradox in print, but write all about it in the SLOG. Or maybe a letter to the editor would be more appropriate? I think it's important for people to know about this so we can make sure Seattle doesn't become another Red State (or Red County) over time!

Anyway, up until this point I thought the Paradox was in the U-District so now I've been educated on that.

Posted by Question | October 3, 2006 8:35 AM

Robotslave - Your defense of Mars Hill is odd, but whatever. Like I told Dan, I would work on an article with one of his writers. And if that happened, I would definitely want to interview any of of the several people I have heard about who became members of Mars Hill after attending shows at The Paradox. If you don't think this happens, explain to me why Mars Hill would spend so much on supporting the venue. Is it just because they love secular rock music? I grew up in an evangelical church and know better. The Paradox, along with house parties, the music played at the services, the style of Driscoll, are all part of the church's marketing plan. It is a plan you can easily read about online and one that is being repeated by other churches around the US. There are even conferences for christian churches on how this works. Don't turn a blind eye to this. Mars Hill is actively trying to 'save' Seattle from the evils of homosexuality, a liberal view of women (like women having jobs, holding positions of power over men), etc, etc. Their plan for this salvation involves appealing to wayward youth who are often drawn to alternative culture which the church is co-opting in order to appeal the Seattle's youth oriented music culture. It's their plan, and unfortunately it is working. Mars Hill is counting on people like you and local alternative music writers to accept t
The Paradox as a good, secular project, and ignore what is behind the plan. Don't fall into that trap, unless of course you support their mission.

Posted by Robotslave | October 3, 2006 9:29 AM

oops...the above post is by me, not Robotslave..guess I shouldn't post before my morning coffee...

Posted by Meinert | October 3, 2006 9:31 AM

for a well written article on Mars Hill -

Posted by TBF | October 3, 2006 9:46 AM

a quote from the article certainly points to the success of the marketing Meinert mentions:

"We had originally planned not to have kids, but now we have to do our best to repopulate our city with Christians."

Abolafya's conversion was a total surprise to her. She was a nonbeliever who accompanied her husband, Ari, to a service at Mars Hill -- he was curious to check out the "tattooed punk-rock church" he had heard about.

Posted by Frank | October 3, 2006 9:57 AM

maybe i've missed crucial stranger article(s) covering the issue, but it's surprised me for a long time that the paper hasn't addressed the mars hill/paradox issue in a big, ongoing way, until everyone in this city--every showgoer, every record label employee, every band--is totally clear on the extent of the fiscal (and, from the sound of some of the above comments, recruitment) interrelationship between the paradox and mars hill.

in the past i've seen the venue cited positively in the stranger's all-ages columns, without accompanying mention of the ideology or recruitment practices of the church; given the current polity, though, i hope the paper will start seriously addressing the fact that the paradox is funded by--and is apparently unwittingly serving as a quiet propaganda arm of--a growing local branch of the very "american taliban" so often inveighed against in the stranger's pages.

no doubt the people running the paradox are great people in a difficult position; seattle's all-ages music scene is in particularly desperate straits, and has been for years. but this seems like the devil's bargain (to co-opt a phrase). i don't think i'm alone in not wanting a significant player in this city's all-ages music scene sponsored by extremist hatemongers whose specific socio-religious goals include recruiting young people and teaching them the value of oppressing women and condemning queer people to hell (which, as mars hill teaches, is an actual place; who knew? is it in the midwest?).

if enough people were aware of the volume of bigotry the paradox's lurking sugar daddy sows in its members, and hopes to sow in the population at large, hopefully (as meinert suggests) the resulting community dialogue would encourage the paradox to disassociate from mars hill and seek a less socially corrosive benefactor--a breakup that would rob the church of a major recruiting tool, one that's long enjoyed a big, unearned secular stamp of approval.

thanks for the original post on the church, and i hope the stranger covers this particular thread further in the print edition.

Posted by devin | October 3, 2006 10:56 AM

Has the name thing not clicked with everyone yet?

question wrote:

I've heard the Paradox was Christian-run, but for what it's worth, they don't advertise that on their website or in their mission (Paradox’s mission is to provide a safe, hospitable environment to enjoy music.), if this is indeed their website: Perhaps they are being subversive?

Perhaps they are being paradoxical.

Posted by Phil | October 3, 2006 12:14 PM

Dave, if my "defense" of Mars Hill seems "odd" to you, it might be because I am not defending Mars Hill at all, but rather attacking your repeated and unsupported characterization of the Paradox as an insidiously effective recruiting tool for the church.

Mars Hill may in fact be trying to recruit youngsters via the Paradox, but absent evidence to the contrary, we can safely assume that any such efforts fail miserably, just as ham-handed church attempts to attract youth via "hipness" fail everywhere else.

Part of my problem with your assertions, Dave, is that they insult the intelligence of Seattle teens. When you were that age, were you not smart enough to distinguish cool music from evangelical recruiting? Were you incapable of enjoying the former without succumbing to the latter due to the dark manipulations of the jungle rhythms?

What I suspect is that youth recruitment might be a hoped-for side benefit of Mars Hill's sponsorship of the Paradox, but the real targets of the program are adults. Mars Hill is growing by leaps and bounds not because they are successfully hoodwinking teenagers, but because they offer a support group for people aged 25-45 who want to have tattoos and drink beer and wear leather jackets and listen to cool music without giving up their retrograde sexual politics.

The Paradox funding is part of what allows these alterna-assholes and punk-haired housewives to preserve their self-image, and to that end it appears to be successful, but as a recruiting tool it's hopeless.

Posted by robotslave | October 3, 2006 1:19 PM

Robo - have you been to the Paradox? Do you know kids in the all ages music scene in Seattle? Do you manage bands that have played at The Paradox and been recruited? Do you have friends who's friends have started going to Paradox shows, become members of Mars Hill and stopped talking or hanging out with non-church members? I have and do. I have also been at a show at The Paradox where the sanctuary was wide open from the showroom and people were walking around with Bibles and there were many christian-slogan-t-shirt wearing alterna-teens.

You might think the Paradox doesn't work for recruitment, but there are plenty of people with first hand knowledge who would disagree with you, including the people who run Mars Hill and decide how their money get spent.

Posted by Meinert | October 3, 2006 1:42 PM

Oops, the above post was by me, not Dave.

Posted by robotoslave | October 3, 2006 1:53 PM

My name is "robotslave."

Posted by robotslave | October 3, 2006 1:54 PM

The above post (and all other posts in this thread) was posted by me.

Posted by Meinert | October 3, 2006 1:55 PM

Slavebot, you're getting obsessive. For the record, the above three posts are not from me (41-43), they are from Robotslave who won't post under their real name and now seems to want to use mine.

Posted by The real Meinert | October 3, 2006 3:30 PM

No idea who posted 41 and 42, but I'm at least bright enough to see the joke.

Dave, let me see if I've got this straight: You have some friends who had friends who joined to Mars Hill and then stopped being friendly with your friends, therefore, The Paradox turns teens into Jesus Zombies.

That is your argument, is it not?

Posted by robotslave | October 3, 2006 4:50 PM

Who of any you went to Chief Sealth or any of the sadly detoriating South Seattle public schools. Mars Hill may be a bunch of Fashist Christians who have their head up thier ass when it comes to women and homosexuals. However I don't see any of you who bitch and moan about my "gang banging" neighborhood where I grew Up actually doing anything at all. At least Mars Hill puts their money where there mouth is and trys to make a difference. As some who grew up in West Seattle and attended an evangelitacal church as a teenager I am not some "Jesus zombie" because of it. The church I went to preached the same shit as Mars Hill, but at least I knew that I had adults who cared for me there no matter my beliefs. It was because I went to church and had a community that cared for me that I ended up a succesful well adjusted adult unlike my other friends who became strippers , felons, single mother, and drop outs.It is unfornate that Mars Hill has found a foot hold in my old hood, But your all to fucking self absorbed to notice that it was much needed.

Posted by Bridgette Quaife | October 3, 2006 6:33 PM

OK, I confess. I've been attending services at Mars Hill for a few months now.

Jesus has changed my life.

Posted by The honest-to-goodness real Meinert | October 3, 2006 11:24 PM

The key is to ask, "How do they expand?" What are their recruiting methods? How do they get people into their batshit crazy church? I can't imagine all 6500 new members will just be friends and family.

Perhaps restrictions on religious soliciting would help curb this madness.

Posted by Gomez | October 4, 2006 10:30 PM

I am of the same opinion as Mr. Demetre and Mr. Meinert. With respect to the first gentleman's point, in the same way that McDonald's business is not burgers, it's real estate, so it goes with Mars Hill. They enjoy a holy grail of tithing wealth and tax free status. When you people start referring the church's marketing plan, we're no longer speaking of the work of the man who kicked money changers out of the temple. This 'church' seems to be skating just this side of Jim and Tammy Faye financial impropriety.

In addition to the proseltyzing efforts among the all-age crew, I would also raise questions about projects geared toward other demographics. Mainly, look into the Ballard Jazz Festival. Notice that all the really big shows were at the Mars Hill Church. Now, we could believe that they're just community conscious and helped out because they own the largest venues in the neighborhood, but that would be overly simplistic given its mission.

Posted by Wondering Willa | October 5, 2006 5:23 AM

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I hate myself for the sizes.
Whether it is valid, what they can cause irreversible damage to health?
Now show on TV much as people become invalids as a result of treatment.


Posted by AkelloDWT | October 9, 2006 2:33 AM

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