|Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle|
In the past week there has been quite a controversy surrounding a Facebook update from Seattle mega-church pastor Mark Driscoll in which he posted:
"So, what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you’ve ever personally witnessed?"
For those familiar with Mark Driscoll this kind of comment is nothing new as he has developed quite the reputation for saying controversial things (and quite a record for having to apologize for the things he’s said). Yet for some Christians these kind of judgmental and hateful words were the final straw that demanded a response en mass.
|Rachel Held Evans, author/blogger|
I was introduced to this controversy at Rachel Held Evans’ blog where she compared Mark Driscoll to a bully and encouraged her readers to stand up to him by writing/emailing the church and the elders to call Driscoll to accountability and repentance. While I frequently read Rachel’s blog I have never seen a topic garner so much feedback in such a short time—some 513 comments and 9,000+ shares on Facebook. Apparently she was not alone in feeling that Driscoll needed to be confronted for his history such inflammatory and hurtful words (I will not rehash his past comments as Rachel Evans has quite a sampling of them on her blog).
While I have read a couple of books by Mark Driscoll in the past and really enjoyed them (partly for his edgy and in-your-face style of writing) I have come to feel troubled both at his way of communicating as well as his theological bent which, in my opinion, is quite destructive in the long run. It seems to me that in recent years Driscoll’s attempts at being edgy have actually caused a loss of credibility in his message. In the media Driscoll has continued to occupy the place reserved for reality TV divas that people watch not for their insightful social commentary but for the over-the-top drama that they seem to stir up in every situation in which they insert themselves. This is heartbreaking because Mark Driscoll is truly one of the most effective Christian communicators of my generation and yet he has continually chosen to go down a path that, in my opinion, distracts people from the good news of Jesus Christ.
So when Rachel Evans asked her readers to stand up to this bully I was ready to join in the charge… at first that is. Yet once I gave it more thought I became a little bit more conflicted with what the right response might be in this situation. While I certainly don’t agree with his statements, I don’t know if a mass protest is the most redemptive way to deal with these issues or if it will truly work for a change in his heart. Sure, after a few days of comments and thousands of emails Driscoll did apologize for what he said (well, kind of) but I can’t help but wonder if this was just another “I’m sorry” or if there is truly a commitment on his part to change.
The great modern philosopher Bono once wrote, “They say that what you mock will one day overtake you, and you become a monster so the monster will not break you.” My concern is that in our attempts to confront a bully we may just as well end up moving in the same spirit. When this happens everyone loses.
When I consider this situation I take comfort in the life of the Apostle Paul. Before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul was a fervent persecutor of the church. He preached against Christianity as a heresy, hunted Christians down and even consented to their executions by his tribe of religious zealots. Paul only became the famous Christian apostle, church planter and author of nearly half of the New Testament after he had encountered the grace of Jesus Christ. What caused Paul’s change of course was neither persuasive intellectual arguments or protests, or even the example of Christians around him, it was nothing short of encountering God himself.
As I look back on my journey with Christ there are definitely some stretches of which I am very embarrassed—the years when I was quite the jerk to anybody outside of my very narrow view of Christianity. I look back now and cringe at how I used to love arguing with people about anything from abortion to evolution to sexuality and how self-righteous I felt when I encountered resistance thinking that I was being persecuted for Jesus when in reality I was being persecuted for being an ass. However something happened to me. Even in my zealous self-righteousness I began to experience the unrelenting grace of Jesus Christ. I have come to realize that God has loved me in my worst sins when I wasn’t a believer and didn’t have any hope in this world as well as in my moral arrogance when I gleefully persecuted Christian and non-Christian alike who didn’t believe the way I did. It is precisely this unrelenting grace that has changed me and continues to form me within.
So as much as I want to confront Mark Driscoll, I wonder if perhaps I should trust him to the grace of God. After all that grace changed the apostle Paul… and a former fundamentalist like me.
Maybe this line of thinking is just a copout from someone who isn’t a big fan of confrontation. Maybe a very public outcry is exactly what needs to happen in this situation. What do you think? How ought Christians react to fellow Christians who say ugly and hurtful things in very public ways?
- Related Post: Mark Driscoll vs. The Shack