On Mark Driscoll–Or How to Respond to People Who are More Wrong than you would Think a Person Could Be

This is the image I have of Jesus reading Driscoll's latest post.

This is the image I have of Jesus reading Driscoll’s latest post.

Recently my brother in Christ (cough, cough, ahemmmm), Mark Driscoll, has unleashed on the world yet another macho tirade masquerading as biblical interpretation. I’ve seen lots of buzz about this article because in it he claims that “Jesus is not a pansy or a pacifist.” Them’s fightin’ words for Mennonites! And there is a lot in the article to fight about–or rather there are a lot of interpretive and theological (and chronological and sociological . . . ) errors to point out. Several people have already made attempts to do so.

Here’s my question: Is it worth it? Is it worth the time and energy it takes to process and respond to Mark Driscoll’s words? (And yes, I get the irony in writing this blog post.)

Yesterday morning my husband overheard me giving a mini-lecture to our 16-year-old son. My beloved partner is working on a PhD in education and teaches special needs students. He gently reminded me that, because of our son’s particular special needs, he does not process that kind of verbal input. That is to say, it’s a waste of my time to lecture him. “I know it doesn’t do him any good,” I said. “But it makes me feel better.”

So, from that perspective, people should feel free to refute Mark to their little hearts’ content. If it makes you feel better to reiterate why you are the reasonable grown-up and he’s acting like a self-absorbed, testosterone-infested adolescent, lecture away. If it makes you feel better to quote Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount; if it makes you feel better to explain the genre of apocalyptic writing; if it makes you feel better to point out that the “long-haired, dress-wearing” image of Jesus from paintings was around long before hippies or community colleges–by all means write a blog post. (I personally, am feeling better already.)

But I can’t imagine that Mark will read or care much about these posts. He’s too busy pointing out all the bossy women and wimpy men for Jesus to cut down with his divine sickle . . . or trample with his divine horse . . . or something.

Mark’s claims about men and women and sex and God are so over-the-top wrong and ridiculous that it’s hard to not read them. Once I succumb to the temptation to click a link to something he wrote, I just can’t stop myself from reading on to see how he will possibly say something more insane than what he’s already said. (And I’m rarely disappointed.) It’s like slowing down to look at an accident on the highway. Morbid, but a little irresistible.

Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about even giving him the time of day to read his stuff, let alone respond to it.

On the one hand, I want to believe that if we just ignore Mark Driscoll, he will go away. (Not away to the sixth level of hell with all the heretics . . . just away to a cabin in the woods somewhere without internet access or mail service.)

On the other hand, I know that too many people are pulled in by his cockiness and . . . honestly I don’t know what they are pulled in by, but I know they are pulled in. And many of those people are damaged by his teachings. People are spiritually abused. Relationships are twisted and broken. His teachings are so toxic there is a support blog for survivors of his church, Mars Hill.

So how do we respond to those who do this kind of damage in the name of Christ?

I think, I pray, that God has placed some people in Mark’s personal circle to council and teach and rebuke him; that God has granted the gift of discernment to some people who are in touch with those most likely to be pulled into Mark’s warped way of thinking; that God has given some people a large platform from which to preach spiritual and biblical truth so that Mark’s perspective is in no way considered “the Christian” perspective on the world.

And I thank God that I am none of the above people.

For my part, I think I need to give my spirit a little sabbath and heed the words in the fourth chapter of Philipians: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Which means that next time I see a link to something by Mark Driscoll, I will pray, “lead me not into temptation,” and move on.


15 thoughts on “On Mark Driscoll–Or How to Respond to People Who are More Wrong than you would Think a Person Could Be

  1. Good stuff, Joanna. He does say many an astounding thing, doesn’t he? It is best to avoid him, no doubt. He got my goat a few years back with some nutty things he said about Stay at Home Dads that I just couldn’t let go of. I made a comment on the article and was subsequently lambasted by his “congregants”, “followers”, “devotees”, whatever they’re called. I read comments ranging from my staying at home with my kiddos was akin to child abuse to my being a bum and a loser. Astounding that folks feel so emboldened to make such comments. I just asked that he not make such over arching generalizations when it comes to his fellow man and the many, many families within and without the Christian community trying to do what’s best for their children and extended family. I’m pretty sure he didn’t hear any of it. And that’s okay.

    • It’s usually the gender-role stuff Driscoll writes that gets to me, too. I’ve never been bold enough to actually post on his site. Not surprised that it wasn’t received well, though.

      • Of course, Boyd’s “Reknew.org” doesn’t have comments, either, but it seems he is a bit more willing to engage and respond to criticizm, both on Twitter and on his blogging…

  2. Yeah, this particular article wasn’t posted at Resurgence. Not sure why he doesn’t allow for comments there. I wish I could remember where the post was. Then again, maybe that’s a good thing.

    I find Greg Boyd highly accessible in comparison to folks like Driscoll.

  3. Good thoughts, Joanna. I don’t disagree with you. I think, though, that the point of responding to Mark Driscoll (or whomever else) is to help other people understand why that teaching is wrong. I would not expect Mark himself to be deterred by reading a blog post, but hopefully such posts will help people who are perhaps on the fence about it.

    • That is the real question–will it help those on the fence? Honestly, I don’t think I have many readers who would feel much but horror at Driscoll’s teachings. I hope there are people with more diverse audiences who are challenging his teachings. Or maybe we can challenge his teachings without naming him in particular? I have these same mixed feelings about Fred Phelps.

  4. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Forgot who said that…

    (Not really 😀 )

    Engaging directly with folks like that is like hitting your head against a brick wall. Unfortunately for them, they’ve often got too much invested in what they say and too little humility to be able to take the backlash that comes from saying, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” Which means that even if you can convince them on an intellectual level that they’re wrong, they’ll still continue to spout the same nonsense because to say it out loud would be to lose not only their credibility, but their livelihood.

    I often feel preachers of this ilk are deeply unhappy and afraid. They must be, for if they believe their own preaching, one little slip off the path of righteousness (and we ALL slip on occasion) will condemn them to hell. If they don’t believe their own preaching, they already know they’re condemned, because they know they’re lying and leading others astray.

    And so I pray, not that they will come to believe like I do, but that they will come to understand that God through Jesus Christ forgave our sins, ALL of them, for ALL people.

    I believe that this is the message we need to preach, especially to those who follow such preachers. We need to do it without descending to their level, as well, for to do that invites danger. “The measure you give will be the measure you get.” I don’t know how any fire-breathing bible thumper can read those words and not immediately collapse in fear and trembling. Best we not follow their example.

  5. I’ve struggled a lot with how to relate to Mark Driscoll. I’ve gotten to the point where I refuse to actually click and read the articles, although I get so many quotes secondhand that there’s still plenty to get upset about. We even got Real Marriage by some well-meaning friends at our wedding; so far in the first year and a bit we managed to open it and read the Table of Contents. For the most part I feel sorry for him. I really think that he just got too much fame too quickly thanks to his charisma and his willingness to be blunt. His maturity just didn’t keep up to his fame, which means he just doesn’t bother to listen to anybody who disagrees with his preconceptions which are based far more on his favourite UFC fighters than on anything to do with Scripture or Christian tradition. I’ve been at a loss for a long time about how to best deal with things like this.

  6. I think the value in your writing on such subjects, when you can bring yourself to do it, is to help those of us who are wont to be blunt ourselves discover and integrate into our lexicon more gentle language to say what we want to say. I know in my volunteer work for hospice and other quiet one-on-one encounters, I am sometimes confronted with people who are in damaged or damaging relationships with scripture, religion, or pastors that are acting as heavy yokes at a time when what they need is comfort and a fresh perspective that permits them some freedom to respond authentically. I can usually say something like, “Well, that’s one perspective, but not all church people see things that way.” It’s after that when it gets a bit dicey. I welcome when you or someone else I read has lodged in my mental file a nifty and kind turn of phrase that doesn’t begin “That’s just what some chauvinist pigs believe, but you don’t have to believe that in order to keep your faith.”

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