I’ve had a real problem with mega-celebrity, bad-boy, foul-mouthed, plagiarist-publicity-seeking, sex-obsessed, females-better-submit-or-else, God-is-going-to-send-pretty-well-everyone-to-hell* pastor Mark Driscoll for a long, long time. Yes, his church(s) in Seattle have seen significant growth, and if “growth-in-numbers” equals “God-must-like-him-better” theology, then anything I have to say would have to be interpreted as sour grapes.
OK, lots of hyphenated words here–I tend to do that when I get passionate.
But he has now published a letter of repentance–which says it is only for the Mars Hill Church Family but which he (or his publicity team?) posted on Reddit, and I want to be hopeful about this.
But while I want to trust that real repentance takes place, I could not help but to note that he equates himself with God the Father. Two quotes from the letter:
Also, I continue to find great joy in teaching the Bible every week to people I have grown to love with a father’s affection.
As I get older, I am seeking to increasingly love our people as I do my own children in order for our church to be a great family, because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
With the Father’s affection, –Pastor Mark Driscoll”
With his deep father-in-total-charge authority (OK, still having passion/hyphenation issues here) theological base and his understanding that he is everyone’s father, it appears that his repentance still gives him ultimate and sole authority over the people of Mars Hill. I find this extraordinarily scary and with an even greater likelihood of a cult-producing outcome.
I fear that real humility is yet to appear.
I would love to be wrong.
He says in the letter that he is going to remove himself from social media for a year. However, he writes, “In the meantime, Mars Hill and Resurgence will continue to post blogs, sermons, and podcasts on my social media accounts, but otherwise I’m going offline.” Right. That is so offline.
This just looks like yet one more ploy to enhance his position as a celebrity pastor while disingenuously insisting he is so not interested in being a celebrity pastor.
He has acknowledged that he may have just possibly hurt some people by his “angry prophet” presence. Yes, he has.
But I am also aware that anyone serving in a strong pastoral leadership role has the capacity to hurt people deeply. There is no question that I have hurt others–generally unintentionally, but I know it happened, and there are unhealed breaks in communion that I grieve over.
Nonetheless, Mark Driscoll’s theology (and others like him, such as John Piper and John MacArthur) get to play the “angry prophets” because they insist they represent an “angry God” with theology that routinely demeans women and sees female function only in relation to making some man happy. This is scary theology–and often leaves a wide, wide swath of destruction. Driscoll himself has made no secret of the fact that his wife is to service him on her knees whenever he feels the need for sexual release.
And I know too well the destruction of the angry-male-God theology. I lived it for a long time–and very nearly ended my own life because of it. Because I had no worth as an independent person, and because my marriage was set up in such a way that divergent thought on my part had to be stamped out by any means possible, I reached a point where the only logical conclusion was for me to destroy myself in order to please God (male) and the other men in my life.
It was hell. And I mean that in the “literal” sense–I lived it. Darkness so deep nothing could penetrate. Death was the only relief available.
Many criticized the choice I made: the choice of life, which meant leaving that marriage. I paid a huge price, personally and professionally. I still occasionally wonder if the world, and my family, would have been better off had I been able to figure out a way to die that would not have brought too much shame on them. Divorce leaves a lot of scars.
And so, when I read of Driscoll’s “I am still in charge and I’m your father so don’t question me” repentance, deep places with me surface and I get nearly ill.
I do believe there are people who do thrive under that kind of theology. But I was not one, and a lot of others who are slowly dying inside have no place to go, no way to speak out, no exits available to them.
I weep for them.
I think this is wrong and a violation of God’s intention for humanity and kingdom of heaven life.
But again, I could be wrong. That is where my repentance always starts: I could be wrong. I hope that Mark Driscoll can get there.