Mark Driscoll loves Jesus and preaches the Bible. He loves missions, his wife, his church, and his city. Mark Driscoll also has an untamed tongue (Eph. 4:29; James 3:5).
Last week Mark Driscoll posted the following comment on Twitter and Facebook:
So, what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you’ve ever personally witnessed?
Driscoll asked his many friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter to join him in calling attention to men who don’t fit his particular vision of manhood. Many have defined this comment as “bullying,” – they have a point. Mark does not seem to be trying to build anyone up by this comment. Instead, he is inviting his friends to join him in the ridicule of a particular type of Christian man. Whether the lablel “bully” adequately applies to Driscoll or not, I cannot say, but this statement is an example of “bullying.”
Driscoll has been called to task for this mean-spirited statement in a variety of online outlets (read two prime examples here and here) and while I agree with much that has been said, I don’t think any of these statements are quite getting to the heart of the issue. What bothers me most about this comment is the 87 “likes” it got on Faceboook and the 610+ comments that followed. In particular, there are two things that that are mind-boggling to me. First, Christians unwittingly joined Driscoll in ridiculing other Christians. Second, not once in the midst of those 610+ comments, did Driscoll ever apologize for his malicious comment.
This has become a fairly regular thing with Driscoll. He says things quite often that are unwise at best and is either forced to explain himself further or to publicly apologize:
He suggested that Ted Haggard’s wife had “let herself go” and wondered if that had something to do with her husband’s struggle with homosexuality (Driscoll apologized for this comment).
He said Brian McLaren and Doug Pagit were being “gay” – meaning, of course, that they were being dumb (he apologized for this one too).
Driscoll has a history of saying things that are seemingly designed to belittle people who are markedly different than him. When I took issue with Driscoll’s imbalanced comments about videogames, the reaction of many of his supporters was to cite all of the good things he has said and done in the past. I felt a certain amount of deja vu when I read this post by Jared Wilson about this most current debacle, wherein he argues:
Statistically speaking, if you’re reading this post, it is almost certain that Mark and his church have done more for abused women and “effeminate” men and all manner of other marginalized and victimized persons than you have. If you actually listened to his teaching on men and women, and if you actually looked into what Mars Hill Seattle does in terms of counseling and exposing/rescuing in the world of sex trafficking, you would see that “bully” is the opposite label that fits.
I do not doubt that Driscoll has done a number of good works for victimized people, but the issue at hand is not whether Mark cares about the marginalized or whether or not he is a good person but whether or not he should have made fun of “effeminate” Christian men and encouraged others to join him in doing so. Should Driscoll have said what he did? Wilson says, “probably not.” Here is where I draw a line: there is no “probably” about it. Driscoll simply should not have said what he did. He did not impart grace to anyone in asking for amusing stories of effeminate male worship leaders (Eph. 4:29).
I recognize that Mark Driscoll loves Jesus, preaches the Bible, and has planted one of the largest churches in the country in one of our nation’s most unchurched cities. I praise the Lord for all of that, but if we cannot say that Driscoll’s comments were wrong without minimizing his misdeeds, then we are giving him special treatment for being a successful pastor.
For instance, if someone in my church accuses me of slander, it doesn’t matter how faithfully I have preached the Bible or how many people I personally disciple, I need to address that particular issue. Driscoll has exhibited a pattern of making unwise and sometimes outright sinful comments in the public square. Just because Driscoll is in your camp–evangelical, conservative, reformed, or otherwise–doesn’t mean he is above rebuke. Brand loyalty is not worth the price we will pay for overlooking sinful patterns in the lives of those we admire.
We, as evangelicals, share some of the blame for Driscoll’s comment. If we didn’t put up with such comments from our pastors and leaders they probably wouldn’t say them as often. One of the saddest elements of this story how little outrage was expressed by those within Driscoll’s sphere of influence. Some even left Driscoll’s comment alone and took to criticizing his critics. When people we admire make inappropriate comments we don’t help them by shrugging it off and reminding everyone of all the good things they have done. If we hope to see our churches cultivate healthy communication, we must be able to recognize when our pastors err… without the need for an addendum.
Illustration courtesy of Seth T. Hahne.