On the Mars Hill Podcast and The Things We Do to Women

by | Jul 28, 2021 | Uncategorized | 22 comments

The Mars Hill Podcast and Sex
Merchandise is Here!

Episode 5 of the Mars Hill Podcast is delving into how Mark Driscoll taught about sex. Wow.

For those of you who don’t know, Mars Hill was a megachurch and a network of satellite churches in the early 2000s in the Pacific Northwest, centered in Seattle, founded by pastor Mark Driscoll. He was famous for his hyper masculine style, and known as the cussing preacher.

He also was a bully, and the church fell apart when elders tried to reign him in and hold him accountable for unchristlike behavior. He quit, and his family moved down to Arizona where he has started a new church (and where there are even more horrifying allegations).

When he left, some of the satellite churches went independent, but many just dissolved. And thousands left the church entirely. It was a mess.

But that Mars Hill mess was avoidable, and that’s what Christianity Today has been exploring in a series of podcasts.

Called “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill”, they’ve been interviewing insiders and trying to paint the picture of how things went so bad.

Okay, that’s the background.

Now, let’s talk about what makes this pressing today.

Yesterday an episode dropped about sex.

We actually included some quotes from Mark Driscoll in The Great Sex Rescue as evidence of how common the harmful teachings we deconstructed were. It was Mark Driscoll who called women “penis homes” and told women they should gratefully drop on their knees to “service” their husbands or repent. That’s all in our book.

Episode 5 talks about all of this, and so, so many people are tagging me on social media telling me about it. I’m very grateful when people send me things that may be interesting to me, because it’s often the only way I hear about it. I don’t spend a lot of time on news sites or perusing social media feeds because I’m so busy, so I tend to only see things if people send me links (and thankfully lots do).

And this one is blowing up all my inboxes right now, because everyone is saying it’s right up my alley–and it sounds like it is.

Only thing is I haven’t listened to it yet.

I know I will, but it’s a really busy month with a writing deadline, and I know I’m going to find the episode triggering.

Just likely not why everyone thinks.

Hearing what Mark said won’t be triggering; I know it all, and I’m kind of immune to that right now. Seriously, most of what I do is look at horrible quotes in books (we’re now at a whole new level of horrible as we look at quotes in books aimed at teenage girls for our new book), and very, very little can surprise me or shock me. And I’ve already heard what Mark said anyway.

What I’m scared of is that the conversation seems to be revolving around how bad Mark is, and I’m afraid people won’t make the connection that none of what he says was in isolation or was different from what is in our evangelical bestsellers.

Here’s part of what we said about Mark Driscoll in the book:

Now-disgraced former megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll said this in a 2007 sermon in Edinburgh about how a wife should “repent” of the “terrible sin” of not giving oral sex:

She [the wife] says, “I’ve never performed oral sex on my husband. I’ve refused to.” I said, “You need to go home and tell your husband that you’ve met Jesus and you’ve been studying the Bible, and that you’re convicted of a terrible sin in your life. And then you need to drop his trousers, and you need to serve your husband. And when he asks why, say, ‘Because I’m a repentant woman. God has changed my heart and I’m supposed to be a biblical wife.’” She says, “Really?” I said, “Yeah. First Peter three says if your husband is an unbeliever to serve him with deeds of kindness.”

We believe oral sex can be a healthy part of couples’ sex lives, provided both of you are comfortable with it. But cross-centered sex means that making love needs to be about serving and loving. To frame it as Driscoll does here, and to use Bible verses to manipulate her into giving him oral sex, strips the wife of her dignity. Driscoll has lost much of his credibility in the church, partly because of statements like this. We wonder, though, why so many authors of books can say similar things without being similarly discredited. Is it only that we do not like hearing it out loud?

The Great Sex Rescue, p. 212

It’s that highlighted part that’s so important to me: what he said is not different from what is in our bestsellers. Why is it that we allow it in books, but notice it when it’s said aloud?

One of my theories is that it’s mostly women reading the books, and women don’t have a way to speak up and be heard. When it’s said out loud in mixed company, it can become more obvious that it’s a problem.

One Twitter thread on Mars Hill put it this way:

Later on, she ends her thread with a recommendation for our book:

What we learn from Mars Hill is that when women are excluded, Christianity can develop a sex fetish. 

Imagine being a young man growing up in Mars Hill, hearing that once you’re married, your wife owes  you sex–and not just any sex. She needs to “service” you or she’s in sin. 

How many young men flocked to that church because they could almost glory in their sexual desires and lusts because they were manly, and they knew that if they picked a Mars Hill woman, she’d be constantly taught that her main duty as a Christian wife was to put out as often as possible?

This happened at Mars Hill. But it also happened in the wider evangelical community. It’s still happening right now, which is why we had to write The Great Sex Rescue. 

The Great Sex Rescue

Changing the conversation about sex & marriage in the evangelical church.

What if you’re NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the things that you’ve been taught have messed things up–and what if there’s a way to escape these messages?

Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.

As I said, I will likely listen to episode 5 soon.

I know it features great people, like Rachael Denhollander and Sarah Bessey. I wish they had asked to interview us, frankly, because we could have given them numbers to go along with the discussion–like how many women actually believe these harmful messages; what happens to orgasm rates when certain of these messages are believed; what’s the real cause of sexless marriages.

I hope that one day Christian media as a whole recognizes what a treasure trove of data we’re sitting on, and how much data is in The Great Sex Rescue. We truly did something new, and it does make me sad when people miss the opportunity to mention it.

In the academic world we’re getting some buzz, and I’ll tell you more about that soon. Joanna and I have been handpicked, along with a pelvic floor physiotherapy prof, to deliver a big address to the huge Physiotherapy conference in San Antonio, Texas next February on religious women and vaginismus, and what we found were the big contributing factors. And our data set will be available for all academics to use soon. But somehow the Christian world isn’t catching on.

If anyone has any ideas, let me know.

But here’s something you can do to help me:

Whenever you see a reporter or influencer or big podcaster posting about something like this, tag me in it! Let them know about our research and that I’d make a great guest/great someone to interview. I do get a lot of interviews that way.

So tag me! Keep sending me this stuff.

And give episode 5 a listen and let me know in the comments here what you thought. Did they loop it into the wider evangelical culture? Did they criticize the people who endorsed his marriage book and hold them to account? I’d love to know!

UPDATE: I’ve now written my own Twitter thread about this.

If you’re on Twitter, like and retweet to help it get seen! I’d love to get some more podcast interviews on this, or be covered more in the Christian press. And click through to read the thread!

The Mars Hill Podcast and Sex

Have you listened to episode 5 yet? What were your thoughts? Do you think the evangelical world is waking up to this stuff? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Laura

    I’ll also have to listen in on that podcast even though I am NOT a fan of Mark Driscoll. Several years ago, I read his book “Real Marriage” before I even knew about the scandals. I found it troubling how he blamed a lot of their marital problems on his wife Grace, a survivor of sexual abuse. Mark did not seem to care about how past sexual abuse affected Grace; he seemed more concerned about how this affected their sex life. Read some of the 1-star reviews on Amazon and you’ll know what I’m talking about (https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/1400205387/ref=acr_dp_hist_1?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=one_star&reviewerType=all_reviews#reviews-filter-bar).

    As a survivor of past sexual abuse and sexual assault in my former marriage, I just cannot take anything that Mark says in his book and apply it to my life and future marriage. This is another example of men thinking they are entitled to sex because they’re married and women just have to put up with it. The sad thing is that a Christian friend of mine recommended this book to me. I’m sure she did not know about Mark’s scandals and his sexist, misogynistic sermons.

  2. A2bBethany

    I think it’s way too easy and common to fall into a belief that the gospel needs our reputation. And that leads to a lot of deception and hidden shame.
    The best preachers have to constantly keep their own pride in check and remember that they’re a mouthpiece, not a movement leader.
    I liked the guy who did the podcast! Good voice and stayed fairly factual.
    And we’ve had 2 different experiences of family drama, around boundaries around marriage. Not flirting but spending too much time alone with someone else’s spouse. I’m extremely sensitive to stuff about that.

  3. Anonymous

    “male sexuality was prioritised in the teaching of the church, even to the point of compelling wives to engage in sex acts if it’ll ‘serve’ their husbands, no matter whether she’s comfortable with it or not.”

    One thing I remember learning from my church was that if your husband was unfaithful with you, then keep giving him sex, so he isn’t tempted to return to it. I was raised with this whole type of thinking and believed it, yet this particular message didn’t sit right with me at all. My thought at the time was “If my husband cheated on me, I wouldn’t want him to be anywhere NEAR me!” and ” Why doesn’t the wife’s feelings of trauma and betrayal matter any?”. Jesus advocated divorce for such cases. So, why was THAT not the message I heard instead? But I didn’t say anything at all. I should have. But in my defense I thought it was right, a hard truth, a die to self kind of thing and I was so young. I’ve been better at speaking up now.

    • EOF

      Something else the church never seems to mention is how little Jesus had to say about subjugation/submission of wives. If he said anything, I can’t recall ever reading it. He was always respectful of women when others weren’t. So, which is more godly, and which is the trait of sinful men? Treating women well or like slaves?

      If we’re supposed to be following Jesus and his teachings, why isn’t the church’s focus on his teachings? If husbands were living out Christ’s commands, there would be no power plays against wives, no using of women’s bodies.

      John 8:31-32: Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teaching. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

      Where does subjugation fit into that? Men having power over women while simultaneously being unable to control their sexual sin? Where is the permission for men to sin against one women for his entire life as long as married her?

      I wish Mark Driscoll was alone in his bad teachings, rather than one of so many bad seeds.

      • Melissa W

        You hit on something I say all of the time. If you can’t quote Jesus to support your interpretation of Paul then you are misinterpreting Paul or if your interpretation of Paul is directly in contrast to a command of Jesus, like “love your neighbor as yourself” then you are misinterpreting Paul.

      • Laura


        Well said about focusing on Jesus’ teachings and how He treated women. Unfortunately, that’s not what these pastors like Driscoll are teaching to their congregations.

        I listened to that podcast and I could not believe the things that came out of Driscoll’s mouth. Thankfully, none of my pastors ever talked like that. I felt empathy for the women who shared their stories about being in Driscoll’s church. For a pastor to tell women that they shouldn’t further their education and career in order to stay at home and pop out babies is just plain awful. It should not be the pastor’s business to tell people how to live their lives, except to glorify God. If a woman wants to be a stay-at-home mom and her husband is in agreement with that, then that’s their choice NOT the pastor’s.

        I would have never lasted long in Driscoll’s church. Any time I’ve heard a pastor make sexist comments, I refused to return to that church.

  4. Mara R

    I have listened to it and to every episode so far.

    I definitely feel it is better than episode 4 that talks more about Driscoll’s “He-man, woman haters club” which some of his interviewees looked back on with bittersweet nostalgia. I feel like a guy, who attended Mars Hill for a time has a better perspective than the podcast host.

    Episode 5 does touch on how Mars Hill takes the Evangelical movement’s problematic view of sex and makes it even worse.

    Actually, the entire series is trying to get to the root of the problem, including the larger issues of the evangelical movements history and views that made Mars Hill even a possibility.

    Do they go far enough in episode 5 to deconstruct the problems in the sex teachings on our present day evangelicals? Probably not. But they don’t make the mistake of trying to say that what happened in Mars Hill was not influenced by the teachings of the times.

  5. EOF

    I’ve been listening to each episode as they go live, and I thought about you the entire time I listened. I too wondered why you weren’t interviewed. Maybe soon! I hope the tweets catch their attention and they get with the program. 🙂

    If I remember correctly, the podcast did mention (briefly) that Mark’s views were in line with Evangelicalism at the time. It would be nice to see them interviewing some of the women in the congregation.

    • Muchala

      I bet they will. My understanding is it’s going to be a long series. And they did mention in episode 5 that they’d be discussing the Real Marriage book in a future episode

  6. Katydid

    This reminded me of the post about being churchless. I was considering returning to my previous church because I have seen how they’ve rallied around a divorcee and I was impressed. However, I also noticed that they closely follow Timothy Keller, and just saw that the pastor is friends with a convicted pedophile who was active in several connected church communities. So, I took inventory of the churches I’ve been to and they have all had pedophiles. I was even more shocked to see that my local Catholic parish has allowed a pedophile on the active sex offender list to attend Mass. He has to come with his wife and kids and, I guess, can only come to Mass and his kids’ sacraments.

    In my secular friends circle, we found out that one guy was peddling and viewing child porn and every single one of us dropped him like a hot potato, yet here the churches harbor these men who are CONVICTED pedophiles. Children. Not teens that some people excuse or find less criminal, but actual pre-puberty children.

    The other red flag for me was the small groups have a hard and fast rule of no talking badly about your spouse. And yes, opening up about being abused is not allowed because it falls into that category. Now, I get it that perhaps a Bible study is not the place to discuss marriage issues, but if someone suddenly opens up about being abused you don’t tell them, “we dont allow talking badly about our spouses.” You get them help!!

    Until churches can really make changes, and drop these celebrities and these tired old attitudes and sexisms, there really is going to be a lot of churchless women.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think you’re right, Katydid. And that is so telling about the pedophile issue. I do think there’s a big reshuffling happening. I did finally listen to the Mars Hill podcast, and I liked Sarah Bessey’s take on the word “apocalypse”. There is a great revealing going on right now.

    • Chris

      Katydid, there’s no way a Catholic priest is going to prevent someone from attending mass. It’s just not happening. My parish has a RSO also and he comes to an early Sunday morning mass and then leaves afterwards. He cannot be on the property at any other time so no volunteering or anything like that. When news of this mans status broke in the church there were a lot of people in the church who wanted him banned from even attending mass. There was a brief moment when I feared (found out later I wasn’t alone in that fear) for his physical safety. The very popular priest we had at the time basically told everyone that if he couldn’t minister to every member of the parish there was no point in him (the priest) being there. After all the priest scandals we’ve had in the Catholic church I took comfort in the fact that the only person who actually heeded the gospel message in this case was the priest.

  7. Andrea

    It is important to remember, as someone already pointed out on Twitter, that Mark Driscoll did not go down because of his misogyny, but for financial misdealings. People tolerated his misogyny and it was hardly even dealt with before the #ChurchToo movement started and Sheila wrote a book about how bad evangelical sex can be. Christianity Today was part of the machine that propped him up and is still silencing dissenting voices, such as Stephanie Drury (check her out also on Twitter @StuffCCLikes). He basically created a Christian version of porn that had started proliferating online at the time he was at the zenith of his powers. The need for the woman to be “on her knees” during oral sex, for example, that only happens in porn and has more to do with subordination and humiliation than genuine oral pleasure. (Just a note of caution to distinguish between porn and sex; Driscoll obviously has no idea what mutual, intimate, and pleasurable means.)

    Over on Twitter I also saw Rebecca’s comments on James Dobson inflated sense of sexual attractiveness and I wanted to ask please pretty please if maybe she could write a whole post about that. I have heard pastors tell these kinds of inflated stories from the pulpit and I’m sure others have as well.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      We’ve already planned out a podcast on that James Dobson thing! We’ve been killing ourselves laughing at it all day. Like laughing til we’re crying. Which is good because we needed it.

      I actually reached out to Laura Robinson who wrote the original thread to see if she’d join us for the podcast. Haven’t heard back from her yet but I hope she will! This idea that all women just want to sleep with you is really, really funny (well, pathetic, but right now i’d rather just laugh).

    • Mara R

      It was very frustrating watching the church not care about Driscoll’s misogyny during the last years of Mars Hill.
      Men in power didn’t consider that important.
      But boy, you should have seen all of them come totally unglued over Mark’s plagiarism. It was a site to behold. It was also discouraging that the men in positions of authority cared so much more about intellectual property than their sisters in Christ.
      I hope times are changing.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes indeed. That’s still happening. Even look at the SBC right now. They care more about Ed Litton’s plagiarism than they do about covering up sex abuse scandals. It’s really distorted.

  8. Chris

    “what’s the real cause of sexless marriages.“ That statement implies there is only one cause. The older I get and am exposed to ever more sexless marriages, the more I am convinced that the reasons for a sexless marriage are potentially many.

  9. Mara R

    Oh Sheila!

    Whenever you get the chance to listen to Episode 5 of Christianity Today’s Podcast, make time to listen to Episode 4 first.

    And THEN make sure you watch this youtube video from Kyle Howard, a trauma informed therapist. He take CT to task for tiptoeing around the toxic message of and rape culture produce by Mark Driscoll’s teaching at Mars Hill.


  10. KRC

    Why then, is Mark Driscoll part of XO Marriage part of Jimmy Evans ministry? Is there something I am missing here about Jimmy Evans that he would take this man on as part of this ministry?

  11. Emmy

    I listened to the podcast and found it very informative. The audio clips from Mark Driscoll’s “sermons” I found very disturbing, I must say. Especially the pull-his-pants-down-and start-to-serve-him-speech was very disturbing to me. You wrote: “what he said is not different from what is in our bestsellers. Why is it that we allow it in books, but notice it when it’s said aloud?” Do you mean the other bestsellers write things that bad?

    Yes, it was worse to hear it on the audio clip than to just read it on a page. I found especially disturbing to hear the audience laughing. But it was also disturbing to see it written.

    If the other bestselling authors really write stuff just as bad as Mark Driscoll, the situation is really bad and we are in big trouble as a Christian community.


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