Yesterday, the Christian internet convulsed as 14 year old documents, allegedly recording Mark Driscoll’s psuedonymed rants on the Mars Hill website, spread through the virtual public square. We, like the rest of humanity, love a good scandal, and Driscoll never fails to deliver. Because of accusations of plagiarism, crashing parties he wasn’t invited to, and brazen language against anyone he deems effeminate, the name “Driscoll” garners attention.
Honestly, it’s tempting as a blogger to drop his name (which I realize I am ironically doing). Soon after I started blogging I shot off a post directed at some irresponsible things Driscoll said and, in the process, discovered the power of his name. It was one of my most widely read posts, got me cited on other blogs, and drove up my Twitter followers. Pavlov’s dog was being reconditioned, only this time the buzzer was blog attention.
It would be easy to castigate Driscoll this time around. I mean, honestly, there is so much wrong with what he says in these old posts. So much that it reveals about his view of gender, sexuality, leadership, and pastoring. I understand that he said it fourteen years ago, and I do hope he has repented, but I’m afraid any change that has taken place is simply tone. Denouncing him would be simple, and many are doing so. What’s harder, and this is what I want to do, is to learn what this says about us as Christians and us as the Church.
Here are a couple things I think are worth noting as I have reflected yesterday and today about the whole situation.
1. Insecurity is pervasive in masculinity, and the church isn’t helping.
Men spend an inordinate amount of time trying to prove they are not women or, at least, that they are not effeminate. As Michael Kimmel says, “Femininity, separate from actual women, can become a negative pole against which men define themselves. Women themselves often serve as a kind of currency that men use to improve their ranking with other men.” When the church emphasizes gender roles in black-and-white “men are like this and women are like this” stereotypes they perpetuate the fear among men that they are not a man. Getting married, having kids, being the breadwinner all become means by which one proves that he is a man. And for many churches, one is suspect as a man until they fulfill all these requirements. This leads to a hyper-masculine bravado meant to assuage, not only the doubts of the individual, but to all those around that they are in the presence of a real man, and if you don’t like it, then you must not be one.
2. Christians love a good scandal.
We are just as drawn to the train wreck as anyone else. In America, we love to root for the underdog and see the person at the top fall. It’s why we hate the Yankees. What needs introspection is whether, even as Christians, we love the scandal more than we love grace. Even though grace is the biggest scandal of all, in the year and half I’ve been blogging, stats alone tell me our deepest love is reserved for scandal. I can’t help but wonder what that means. I don’t have answers here, just some questions and wonderings. If you have thoughts, be sure to leave them in the comments.
3. We measure fruit, but we maybe measuring the wrong kind.
One of the questions that goes ’round and ’round my brain is, “How come the church has so many people in national leadership positions falling so hard?” Now, the obvious answer is sin. I understand that no one is perfect, we all have flaws, and even the people at the top can have major character flaws. That’s obvious. But lately, it seems to have picked up. The internet and social media have definitely played a role in this. Nothing is hidden from the public anymore.
(3a. Nothing is hidden from the public anymore.
American corporations reward its leaders based on the leaders fruit. Can they increase market share? Can they manage an organization? Can they increase revenue? This is the fruit our corporations measure their leaders by. These metrics have impacted what fruit churches look for in its leaders – we just cover it with different language. Heavy-handed leadership is overlooked as long as budget is being met. Outbursts of anger can be downplayed as long as the organization doesn’t suffer. You get the point. We measure fruit, but it isn’t the fruit of the Spirit. Conference speakers are not chosen because their lives are marked with gentleness and self-control, rather, they are chosen by how quickly their church
increased its market share grew in attendance.
4. The end justifies the means.
Maybe we are willing to overlook obvious flaws in character because we do believe that the end justifies the means. After all, as long as people are saved from eternal torment in hell, what else matters? But for the Christian, the means are a part of the end. Our action in the world gives witness to the end we are working towards. They two are not inseparable, but intimately linked.
5. There, but for the grace of God, go I.
How many times have you sat in church or at some church camp and heard the speaker say, “We would all be mortified if our sins were listed on this screen for all to see.” In a very real sense, Mark is living that nightmare. And the possibility that my sins could be put out there for everyone to blog about scares the hell out of me. I understand that public people are disciplined publicly. I understand he has hurt many, many people. I understand his words have wide-spread influence. I get all that, and for that reason believe he should be disciplined. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I have some sympathy for him. Because I wouldn’t want to be under the fire he is. It’s too easy to say, “That would never happen to me.”
But there for the grace of God, go I.
Michael Kimmel, Manhood in America: A Cultural History (New York, Oxford University Press, 2012), pg. 5.