Editor's note: Ladies and germs, you might've noticed a new byline invading our asylum, that of Josh Dulaney--an Orange County boy who spent the past couple of years at the San Bernardino Sun harassing group sex-obsessed cops, horny priests, and white supremacists wanting to run for Mexi-dominated school boards. Our type of guy!
Better yet, Josh wants to do something we've been dreaming about for years at your favorite infernal rag: worship reviews, a necessary endeavor in the land of Warren, Brownie, and Calvary Chapel. So behold the debut of the OCeeker, where Josh will write his latest find--whether Holy Rollers, mosques, parish, or Zoroastrianism center in the search for the holy, the sacred, and the freaky.
Now, on to the OCeeker!
Church hoppers rejoice! Yet another congregation has planted its flag in the land laden with various and sundry denominations.
Heard all your pastor's jokes? Did the worship leader snag the last hoochie in your college group? Feel out of place with your ironic mustache and hipster sunglasses? Then head over to Mars Hill Church Orange County, where Pastor Nick Bogardus is on a mission to shine the gospel light in what he says is one of the darkest places in America--our fair county.
But before we celebrate all things Mars Hill, we must understand from whence it came.
The Alpha Pastor
Mars Hill OC is an offshoot of OG Mars Hill in Seattle. Ecclesiologists--those who study congregational life--call it a church plant.
The pastor of OG Mars Hill is Mark Driscoll. Think of him as young version of Calvary Chapel's apostolic Chuck Smith, sans Hawaiian shirts and a knack for turning a blind eye to perverts in the pews of his kinda-sorta denomination. To paraphrase 1 Peter 4:8, love (and the best legal team tithes can buy) covers a multitude of sins.
Driscoll instead sports dinner jackets and tells people God hates them (ch-ch-ch-check out the 4:35 mark of this clip). He's a Calvinist, and a key doctrine for them is what's known as limited atonement--the idea that Jesus didn't die for the sins of the world, but only the sins of those who were elected to salvation by God's grace. Sure, they believe Jesus loves the once-born, but not in the same way he loves those who are born again. Therefore, He died on the cross only for those predestined to enter family of faith.
In other words, if salvation were like the sexual marketplace, Jesus would have the holy hots for only a few chosen few sinners. The rest are in his friend zone.
Or, picture a car full of burning kids. Two of them are your neighbor's and two are yours. You have the power to save all four, but save your own only. Oh well!
That's how Driscoll the Calvinist can say God hates some of you. Fuck John 3:16.
But there's good news for you heathen: Next time an evangelist on Balboa Pier hands you a Chick tract with demonic cartoons and tells you Jesus loves you, just smile and say, "Nope he don't. If I don't believe, he didn't die for me!"
Then shooby-dooby down to Ruby's.
One other thing. If Driscoll has sex as often as he talks about it...AMEN! Go Maaark! Git bizzy! Go Maaark! Git bizzy!
But wtf is Mars Hill?
Long ago, an Athenian council met on a rocky spot called the Areopagus. The Romans would call it Mars Hill. It was there that Paul the apostle once preached a sermon to a crowd of bullshitters who had convened to bullshit. Think of the scene as the annual Harvest event. But replace Anaheim Stadium with Mars Hill; switch Greg Laurie with St. Paul; substitute a few born sinners talking shop about philosophy in place of 50,000 born-again saints with a hankering for shitty little anthems of praise.
And that brings us to Mars Hill Church Orange County, where one will not find shitty little anthems of praise.
Jan. 29 11:15 a.m.
Nay, church hoppers, they are led in worship by Thrice frontman Dustin Kensrue. And they meet what at this old-timer will always remember as the Galaxy Concert Theatre, where great bands go to die (the OCeeker took in a Corrosion of Conformity show at the Galaxy's previous location, sometime in the early 1990s.), but was recently rechristened as the Observatory.
When the OCeeker attended a recent service at the upstart church, the worship band was in the midst of a rockin' twist on "Amazing Grace," replete with updated lyrics that speak to 21st Century digital boys and girls. Those gathered in the dimly lit venue bounced a little and praised a lot--their beards anointed with the oil of gladness, their young lady scent ascending as prayers to the Most High.
And speaking of the ladies, any burning buck would be blessed by the bounty of babes at Mars Hill. If you need, ahem, a prayer partner, Mars Hill is the place to prowl.
An Excursus in the Book of Ephesians
But alas, the sermon. To the OCeeker's disappointment, Bogardus didn't take the stage. Instead, it was (gasp!) Driscoll himself, who appeared in a dinner jacket and blue jeans.
Driscoll is constant fodder in the evangelical blogosphere. Whether it's his views on Christian manhood, or his tendency to wax long about all things Driscoll, he feeds the blog beast with one money quote after another. He was there to encourage the new church and give a message based on his controversial book, Real Marriage--a manual on matrimony and sanctified sex. Go Maaark! Git bizzy! Go Maaark! Git bizzy! It was standing room only in the temporary temple, where DJ Quik ironically is scheduled this month to bust rhymes about "Sweet Black Pussy."
At the outset of his homily, Driscoll joked that the sermon wasn't being taped, so he could say what he wanted. And what he wanted was to help Christian men become better husbands. Indeed, for all the knocks he's taken online, Driscoll came off as anything but an ogre, even mocking his own family heritage in true Irish fashion, by telling of how he came from a line of whiskey pirates.
(Who's a pirate's favorite pastor? Maaaarrrrrgggghhhhkk Driscoll. OK, that wasn't his joke)
Anyway, the witty and well-spoken Driscoll springboarded from a text in St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians that speaks of the husband being the head of the wife. Admitting that the passage to some women is like water on a cat, Driscoll went on to speak about a man's responsibility to love and cherish his wife, while being the leader in the home.
He veered perilously close to the "man up" rhetoric of Dr. Phil and a thousand Christian preachers who pander to the poon. Indeed, evangelical churches have been overrun by fork-tongued women who lament the lack of men involved in ministry while clamoring for positions of prominence.
At one point, Driscoll said if a man's wife isn't flourishing, that means the man is failing. One could see pretty little heads bobbing in unison. It was then that the OCeeker noticed a young woman sitting atop an empty bar, with her lover sitting in a chair beneath her. The man rubbed her bare legs and rested his bearded face upon her thigh. Le sigh.
Ultimately, Driscoll urged the men, mostly in their 20s and sporting hip haircuts, to treat their wives, mostly in their 20s and flaunting SoCal couture, as Christ treats the church--with love, respect and understanding. It was an apt illustration plucked from the pages of the New Testament.
A high point of the message was Driscoll's exhortation to men who probably aren't ready for marriage:
"If you're a guy who still thinks that The Big Bang Theory is interesting, that Zach Galifianakis is funny, that Seth Rogan has interesting insights, that David Spade contributes anything to the human race, (or) Adam Sandler has ever made a movie worth watching, punch yourself in the face."
Driscoll is at his best when he serves up straight talk chased with Scripture. But he stumbles when falling into the preacherly bragging that scars so many sermons. Driscoll informed the audience that Mars Hill has planted 14 churches, including four recently in different states, with Orange County being the biggest.
Hey, Mars Hill OC peeps: There were hundreds of you in attendance, so unless you all got born again yesterday, you dumped your wrinkly churches for the one with the tight body. Did you at least say goodbye to your former pastors? They have feelings too.
Driscoll said the church (assuming he spoke of the network of Mars Hill congregations) had grown from 10,000 to 15,000 in two weeks. One can't believe that these are all new converts, so watch the sheep stealing, Mars Hill! He also mentioned his media schedule, dropping CNN and Nightline among other names.
The OCseeker gave the sermon a solid B. It was convicting for the most part and packed with theological nuggets, but at times was so Driscoll-centric, one wondered where Jesus went.
Bumper Sticker in Parking Lot: "Give Jesus a Chance. He Died for the Opportunity "
Only one person spoke to the OCeeker--to offer a chair--but his feelings weren't hurt. He knows the easiest place to be left alone is in a big church, and he did enjoy the post-service coffee and a quick peek at the book table.
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Welcome to Orange County, Mars Hill! Remember, natives don't call it "the" OC.
The OCeeker understands you are looking for a permanent place to meet. Trust God to lead you. The OCeeker trusts that there is a high likelihood that he will lead you to a beach town or at least somewhere in South County.
But don't forget your SanTana roots. The OCeeker is watching.
Mars Hills Church Orange County meets every Sunday at 9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd, Santa Ana; orangecounty.marshillchurch.org