The Citizen-Soldier: Masculinity, War, and Sacrifice at an Emerging Church in Seattle, Washington



Based on two years of research on the same-sex marriage debate in Seattle, Washington, this article examines the cultural politics of Mars Hill Church, a prominent conservative evangelical church that is training men to become “citizen-soldiers.” Mars Hill serves as an institutional resource and home to young pastors disenchanted with attempts to influence electoral politics; instead, these pastors are shifting their attention to affecting local cultures on a global scale. My study investigates how this movement of emerging churches is multiplying through outreach to an unlikely demographic: 18- to 30-year-old men living in urban centers. I explore how Mars Hill is seeking to reform mainstream culture and institutional Christianity by using multinational corporate models, neoliberal logics of governance, and calls to war and sacrifice – in the process also regionally, nationally, and globally expanding its church network. Specifically, this article examines how Mars Hill uses the figure of the citizen-soldier to inspire men to volunteer for church service in accordance with notions of sacrifice and responsibility that simultaneously mobilize and refute ideologies of self. Biblical masculinity is thereby linked to the discipline and deployment of citizen-soldiers who serve as a vanguard to oversee, cultivate, and protect Mars Hill's church planting network. Through investigations of dynamics surrounding marriage equality politics, neoliberal technologies of governance, and militarization post-9/11, this study explores how crises of masculinity and security are articulated in tandem with culture war discourses; this permits us to analyze the effects of the same-sex marriage debate beyond single issue identity politics.