Many have been reacting to Mark Driscoll’s apology letter for the tactics used to get his book Real Marriage on the New York Times Bestseller list.
I wanted to add my reaction too. You can read the apology letter sent to his church but got leaked out here (can you actually have a private letter among a few thousand people? Anyway…)
But first a bit of context. To say it politely, I’ve never connected with Mark Driscoll on any level. His style, personality, theological differences, the hyper-masculinity comes across as more desperate than macho to me and his outright chauvinism have made it easy for me to focus my attention and appreciation elsewhere.
Oddly, over the last ten plus years, a good number of my friends have loved/liked/man-crushed on Driscoll and I’ve had too many conversations that have started with, “Tim, how can you not like him?” Some of them like the Red Sox or the Phillies so yeah, they have many problems.
Among my frustrations regarding Driscoll is how celebrated he is when there is just so much better content and character out there. I’m at the point where I’d rather watch Kirk Cameron in Left Behind than read a Driscoll book (I’ve always preferred comedy to horror).
But despite my intent to not give him any of my attention, his name inevitably shows up on my social media feeds and comes out of my friends’ mouths. “Did you hear Driscoll said Avatar is the most Satanic movie ever made?” That day, I inexplicably began defending him, “Look, we can’t be haters. There is no way he said that. He’s an angry chauvinist, he’s not stup…” Oh look at all these articles – I’m sure he’ll clarify. Never saw one and to each their own but I can’t help but wonder what Driscoll thinks of the Left Behind movie.
Then came the horror stories of people being disciplined by Mars Hill, being excommunicated leaving, forced to sign non-disclosure letters and all sorts of weird stuff depicting an extremely controlling environment. Then the news of plagiarism, and last week, the best-seller manipulation, then this week’s voluntarily retraction of that NYT best-seller status.
Then came the apology letter which made me a bit leery due to it’s length, detail and its tone in certain parts but whatever, this is not my community. In fact, it wouldn’t be much of a problem for me whatsoever if his message didn’t spill over into my community. More on that in a bit.
Manipulating your way on to the NY Times Best Seller list is obviously an issue. Doing so as Mark Driscoll who has been a controversial figure for so long escalates the tension. For many, it just feels like this guy is out of control and his leadership team is enabling and covering for him, and maybe even ideating for him as well. Further this is not mere spectacle, this damages the Church.
So where does that us leave today? Well, it seems we have at least 3 options.
Option 1: Accept his apology and let him keep doing his thing with two possible assumptions.
People who love him and have been accustomed to defending him have already done so, they’ve applauded his humility and think everyone should cut the guy some slack. He has so many supporters that it should not surprise us that his next book will become a NYT best-seller due to their fervor.
Still here are my two assumptions:
- God will govern his conscious, surround him with accountability, and we’ll all live our lives. This is a best-case scenario and this could happen.
- Mark will continue doing his own thing, his own way, and every so often, we’ll repeat this whole scene. This is a bad movie.
Truly would welcome to see the first assumption be real. We need less division, more unity, and greater commitment to the work entrusted to us.
Option 2: Never forgive him, hate on him, take every opportunity to attack him.
Congratulations, it seems you’ve been raised on the teachings of Mark Driscoll – “See something you hate? Get LOUD, throw your Bible at it, remember Jesus woulda grabbed his hammer and attacked!!” Beware of the irony.
A while back I wrote a post called, “Why We Shouldn’t Make Fun of Mark Driscoll By a Guy Who Likes To” arguing that it’s simply not Christian. There’s a difference between joking to make you laugh and outright mocking to hurt another. I haven’t always got it right, but I’m trying too.
Option 3: Accept the apology, Forgive, Walk Away & Get Ready to Wave
Is there a really a third way? Yes, and I think it begins with walking away, giving space, allow God to work and waving at our distant cousin when our paths cross again. Who knows maybe good things will happen.
14 years of pastoral ministry has taught me this. Now, localized conflicts are a bit different than strong differences of opinions with pastor-celebrities but somewhere in there, he is a Christian man.
Every conflict is different but for most of us who have little/no personal connection to him or anyone at Mars Hill, Seattle, this is an option worth considering.
And as you consider, let your heart go out to those who have been directly run-over by his ministry. Check out those links of those stories coming out of Mars Hill. I know people will inevitably say there are bad stories coming out of all churches. Sure. And it’s easy to hear about mine and countless others because most don’t make you sign a non-disclosure agreement upon leaving your fellowship. Really, that’s scary.
But an ever bigger point, let us also realize there has been a lot of hurt caused by a decade’s worth of chauvinism through some Driscoll-types and pockets of the Neo-Reformed movement. The irony to me is that more have been affected by Mark’s chauvinism then by James Cameron’s Avatar. How unnecessary and unfortunate.
To all the ladies who identify, I am among many who are truly sorry that you have had to experience this. It’s unbelievable, so unnecessary and I believe better days are ahead – let’s rely on God’s strength to get there for our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, strangers and everyone in between. Let us also realize as women fulfill the call that God has placed on their lives that men flourish as well.
Most days I find all this consistent with a world filled with tragedy interrupted by many moments of healing and redemption. So every now and then, a mental virus goes through, damages a few minds, spreads to so many others and attacks countless more along the way. Take heart, there is a stronger understanding of Scripture and love that shows equality and grace working its way through the church. It’s a vaccination, a cure maybe, that will benefit future generations for God’s glory. May we channel our anger and frustration to promote this.
Option 3 takes layers of prayer, thought, Christian community, and a trajectory committed to the healing and forgiveness that can only be given by Jesus.
Let me check my words here, let God govern your conscious. Only you can determine what has hurt you and to what extent. My caution would be to treat each chauvinist as fairly as possible. They’re not all satanic.
I know Driscoll has apologized for things before. He wants you to forgive him and let him walk away. Though I don’t think he hatched some diabolical plan that says, “And one day, I will emerge back on social media and take my rightful place …”
There will be something else that makes news. Likely something else in Mars Hill’s past but maybe even something that will happen next.
Let’s be Christian.
But what if the news that came out a year from now was that Mark took advantage of this time, prayed, surrounded himself with helpful people and re-centered himself? What if he watches Avatar again and likes it this time?
And what if he repented of his chauvinism, maybe even to the point of becoming an egalitarian and pens a book called, Real Egalitarianism? In the meantime, let us live our own lives, limit our distraction, recognize our blind spots, and fulfill the calling that God has placed on our lives.
Peace to Mark Driscoll and peace to you.