The Untamed Tongue of Mark Driscoll

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 said that the Bible encourages women to give their husbands oral sex.

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).

He said “video games aren’t sinful, they are just stupid,” an inductive fallacy that came very close to implying that all hobbies are sin.

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.

About Drew Dixon

Drew is an editor at Christ and Pop Culture and editor-in-chief of Gamechurch.com. He is also a pastor, soccer coach, and writer. Drew also regularly writes for Think Christian, Bit Creature, and Paste Magazine. He has also written for Relevant Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @drewdixon82

  • http://st-eutychus.com Nathan

    Great post, Driscoll did post a non apology apology on his blog the other day (or on the Resurgence blog, which makes an interesting addition to this treatment of the issue.

    Thanks also for the link.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    Thanks Nathan!

    I actually read that non-apology last week. I thought about including it in the post but I felt it was just as you say a NON-apology and thus didn’t really necessitate changing anything to my argument.

    In the end what bothers me most is not so much Driscoll but the lack of willingness to simply define his words as sin. That is a bigger issue than Driscoll’s tongue itself.

  • http://www.mustardseedyear.com Jason

    Well, we get into a slippery slope when we start saying we need to call out publicly posted sin by others. Some of the blogs you quoted have advocated things that are sinful and those blogs are public…should we start calling them out? Why is Driscoll the only pastor who’s being called out for public account for sinful words?

    The whole issue here smacks of a political agenda. It’s not about bullying itself and it’s not about the fact his words were sinful. It’s that his words were seen as negative toward those who are pro-gay and those are the loudest voices calling for Driscoll’s head (like the blogs you quoted.)

    I’m just tired of Christians who claim they’re about accountability and calling out sin but in reality their motivations aren’t that pure. And non-Christians can see right through psuedo-calls for accountability.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    @Jason I don’t think non-Chrisitans “see through psuedo-calls for accountability”–I don’t know what you mean by that because I think most non-Christians read what Driscoll posted on FB and just think–what a jerk.

    I would disagree strongly with many of the “stances” of the blogs I quoted above on some of the very grounds you mention but what I can affirm with them is that much of what Driscoll has said in the past has been foolish and in this case hurtful.

    I merely want Christians to be able to say that–that was wrong. Period. End of discussion. Until we can say that we are always going to be hiding our sin underneath all our accomplishments–that seems counterintuitive to the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone.

    Let’s say for the sake of argument that anyone who has ever called Driscoll out on anything in public all had a “political agenda.” Does that make Driscoll’s comment on FB ok? Does that make it any less hurtful to the dozens of Christian men who are somewhat effeminate? Does that excuse the fact that Driscoll invited his friends on FB to join him in making fun of others?

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    It’s also worth pointing out that Driscoll’s comments are a much bigger deal than those random blogs, particularly because he is such a well respected and well-known leader.

  • Ben Bartlett

    Rich, I agree with your point. I think a lot about this topic because I find myself being much tougher on those in positions of responsibility. And frankly, Scripture does this as well, dishing out special warnings for leaders in both the Old and New Testaments, reminding them that they will be held responsible how they led those under their care.

    Having kids has really helped me out in this area. When my son sins, it’s still sin. But his throwing a fit in the store or hitting his sister is not the same thing as ME doing those things. Responsibility usually carries with it a higher standard, and those who accept the responsibility have to also be willing to accept and strive for a higher standard.

    Of course nobody is saying Mark is somehow MORE sinful than your average person. It’s just clear that in this area he has done less well than many Christian leaders in handling his position of influence gently and wisely.

  • http://notesfromasmallplace.wordpress.com Jake Meador

    Thank you for this, Drew. Best piece yet on the latest Driscoll controversy. Thanks.

  • http://www.mustardseedyear.com Jason

    @Drew, it doesn’t excuse Driscoll. It’s just that as someone who survived bullying as a teen because of my perceived intelligence and wearing of glasses it’s incredibly offensive to see people who claim they’re about stopping bullying yet only talk about the gay kids bullied. That’s the group of people who were screaming loudest about Driscoll and demanding he take back the things that he said. If it’s about bullying, then they should have been talking long before now and their posts shouldn’t have links like Rachel’s about apologizing to gays. You need to speak as loud for the kid being bullied for being smart and topping the honor roll just as much as the kid who says they might be gay.

    And many of the blogs calling for Driscoll’s head have used the same kind of sarcasm and insulting manner toward people with more conservative beliefs yet they aren’t apologizing for the things that they’ve done that hurt others who disagree with them. When I talked about non-Christians seeing through pseudo-calls for accountability it’s when they see someone who mocks conservatives then turning around and calling for a conservative to not mock others. Even if they agree with the views of the person calling out the conservative, they can still see the hypocrisy of it.

    I’m just tired of the excuses. Driscoll was across the line. Fine. Call him on it. Just don’t be blind when those you agree with do the same kind of thing. Let’s get rid of all the mocking other Christians. Let’s get rid of ALL the bullying…not just that with which we disagree politically. I see a lot of that happening here. Jesus would hold us all equally accountable for what we say and do whether we have one person listening to us or 100,000 people.

  • Alan Noble

    Jason,

    Two thoughts. I think on the whole the writers at CaPC agree with Driscoll doctrinally.

    Second, see this recent post where I (lovingly, at least I hope) called out Matthew Paul Turner’s mocking tone towards fundamentalists. In other words, I’d like to think that we are not, “blind when those you agree with do the same kind of thing.”

    While it is certainly not the “job” of CaPC to rebuke Christians on the Internet (e-gadfly! what a horrible site that would be!), when a particular use of popular technology uses a kind of rhetoric (part of culture) that we see as problematic or hurtful, we occasionally feel that it is edifying to explore the rhetoric and perhaps even criticize it, particularly as an example of a broader problem.

  • Jim Stair

    Hi Drew,

    I cannot speak for Mark Driscoll, but I wonder if you or he ever considered 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 in your analyses: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” KJV

    Are we to treat all these types of behaviors with equal pity and concern. Some of these “sins” are so secret that we may never be aware of them, while others (drunkeness and effinate behavior) can be more blatant. Hope this helps.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    @Jake Meador Thanks so much for the feedback–you are very welcome!

    @Jason – I think Alan’s response to you is spot on.

    I will try to find you some articles from CaPC if you would like but we have tackled other types of bullying. But the issue at hand is Mark Driscoll’s bullying of “effeminate” Christian men who lead worship. As Ben and Rich have pointed out above, we should expect more from our evangelical pastors/leaders.

  • Adam

    What a great, well balanced article.

    I am a huge fan of Driscoll, but hold my head in my hands at some of his comments and a few of his beliefs.

    Here’s my thoughts: Mark’s personality is like others I’ve met: driven, over confident, (even arrogant??) strong leadership and chatisma- and these people have traditionally been left no place to bring their strengths, or been given so much leeway that they walk all over others on their way to conqueroring the world…

    I like how Mark admits his weaknesses, apologises and is accountable to others in his church and beyond.(his board told him to apologise I believe) but he brings his strength and has submitted it, allowing God to sanctify it. Mark readily admits in his messages that he is arrogant and acknowledges his need for Gods grace to change.

    Mark should keep making strong statements, apologising when he crosses the line, becoming more like Christ. The Christian community (and his board) should continue to do what this article has done, bring correction in love. I’m glad for Marks presence in our global church community, even if I agree he can be mean and arrogant at times.

    Blessings

    Adam

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    @Adam,

    Thanks for the feedback. I am glad you liked the article. I am glad to hear that Driscoll is surrounding himself with accountability and that he admits his mistakes. I certainly meant for this article to be helpful–I am glad to hear it read that way.

  • peter

    I don’t see anything wrong with what he said. I think you guys need a cup of cement, harden up, and stop looking for the negative in everything.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    @Peter,

    You want to explain why you don’t see anything wrong with his statement?


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