I’m Enjoying Mark Driscoll’s Fall from Grace

The New York Times did a story the other day about Mars Hill Church founder Mark Driscoll and the avalanche of allegations that have knocked him off his pedestal and may well destroy him and his megachurch career. Plagiarism and shady schemes to get his book on the bestseller list were just the beginning of his troubles:

The church he founded, Mars Hill, enjoyed rapid growth in the Pacific Northwest — one of the most secular regions of the nation — and it claims 15,000 members worshiping at 15 campuses in five Western states, and 200,000 more people watching its services online every week. Mr. Driscoll became a celebrity in conservative Christianity, a sought-after speaker and prolific author known for a celebration of masculinity that helped Mars Hill attract young men, a demographic noted in church life mostly for its absence.

But now Mr. Driscoll’s empire appears to be imploding. He has been accused of creating a culture of fear at the church, of plagiarizing, of inappropriately using church funds and of consolidating power to such a degree that it has become difficult for anyone to challenge or even question him. A flood of former Mars Hill staff members and congregants have come forward, primarily on the Internet but also at a protest in front of the church, to share stories of what they describe as bullying or “spiritual abuse,” and 21 former pastors have filed a formal complaint in which they call for Mr. Driscoll’s removal as the church’s leader.

Mr. Driscoll is rapidly becoming a pariah in the world that once cheered him.

Two weeks ago, Acts 29, a church-building organization co-founded by Mr. Driscoll, said it was removing him as a member and urged him “to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help.”

On Sunday, he announced that he would be taking a few weeks off as charges against him are investigated by the people who work for him at the church he created and controls (but I’m sure the investigation will be thorough and impartial /sarcasm). I have to admit, this is really fun to watch as yet another con man is exposed. Driscoll is going down in flames and I’m happily roasting marshmallows. S’mores, anyone?

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  • John Pieret

    S’mores, anyone?

    When it comes to people like Driscoll , s’lesses would be better.

  • “…and may well destroy him and his megachurch career.”

    I must admit, I’m not that optimistic. Exposing someone as a fraud in this community only unlocks the “I’m a martyr” achievement, and allows them to level up elsewhere.

  • marcus

    @2 And he’ll be very, very sorry and contrite and weep and beg forgiveness and find Jebus again and load another scam into the player…

    Yeah, I’ve seen that movie.

  • raven

    “…and may well destroy him and his megachurch career.”

    I must admit, I’m not that optimistic. Exposing someone as a fraud in this community only…

    Good point.

    Almost always nothing ever happens to these frauds, conpeople, pedophiles, and sexual predators.

    1. Jim Bakker is out of prison and back again. Hovind is or will be out of prison soon and back again.

    2. Quite often when you hear about child sexual abuse from a minister, they’ve been caught before somewhere else.

    3. HW Armstrong demanded his cultists not divorce or use modern medicine. He himself got divorced and lived to an old age due to extensive use of…modern medicine.

    There really is no accountability or acceptance of consequences in the fundie xian cults. Or learning from the past.

  • Was he caught having teh ghey butt sechz? No? Then he’ll survive this storm. Teh ghey butt sechs is the only thing that can destroy a megachurch pastor’s career. Everything else is forgivable.

  • raven

    I don’t find what Driscoll did all that unusual for a fundie leader. In fact, it is rather benign considering. I’ve yet to hear about dozens of traumatized children or half a dozen ex-girlfriends.

    Why bother complaining? It’s routine. Dogs got to run and fundie preachers got to scam.

    It would be far more unusual if Driscoll wasn’t doing stuff like he is doing.

    PS In the list of heroes with feet of mud, I left out D’Souza. Fired from a fundie university for an affair, convicted felon. And still a hero to the fundies. I guess they are used to it.

  • Sunday Afternoon

    @4 (raven):

    This has me thinking of the the parallel with supporters of convicted fraudster Brian Dunning… people are so f*@k’d up.

  • Two years ago, an article was published The Stranger that asked whether Mars Hill was a church or a cult.

    I’m sure you can guess the answer.

  • lldayo

    I’m sure he’s going to be quite upset at having to leave his church and spend more time with the tons of money he has.

  • And I have a feeling Ken Ham will be next to fall from grace due to allegations of discriminating against anyone who’s gay, Jew, Muslim, and Christians who won’t conform to his narrow minded views.

  • mikeinohio

    Grifters are gonna grift. It’s what they do. And there is no greater niche in which to grift than religion. Reading some of the conversation that is occurring on Patheos among his fellow “church planters”, indications are that many are simply waiting with bated breath until this all runs it’s course and this guy can be back on his pedestal, once again filching his followers with his own peculiar version of “The Good News”.

  • rationalinks

    Hey, sometimes mega churches do implode spectacularly. We had a mega church here in Kansas that was run by a fellow named Jerry Johnston and his family. They were affiliated with the SBC so you know they were legit . The Kansas City Star ran an investigation on them after some of their former staffers complained. Turned out the Johnston’s were funneling money from the church to themselves and the church was almost bankrupt. They owed contractors and the state something like $14 million. In the end they ended up losing the building and most of their congregation. I’m not sure how they avoided jail time, but the church is now defunct.

    There is a silver lining here though. The local school district bough the building and the grounds for a song and converted it into a child education center, early learning center, and professional development center.

  • Dweller in Darkness

    I really don’t think Driscoll’s a grifter. I mean, he evolved into a person hipdeep in fraud and wrongdoing and might even face jail time over it, but I think he sincerely thinks that it was all to “God’s honour.” Additionally, he might not have a string of ex-girlfriends or anything, but he HAS driven away a large part of his congregation with his arrogant and damaging behaviour. You know that bit in Macklemore & Lewis’ “Same Love” with a woman singing, “No more crying on Sundays?” She went to his church. I won’t get into the details of why she cried – it’s rather sordid – but she’s hardly alone.

    The article doesn’t even get into how he trolled his own church’s website as a Christian MRA named William Wallace and said some very not-nice things in a very not-evangelical tone (swearing and everything). He’s gone too far off the script to come back easily, especially within the mainstream of evangelical Christianity.

  • busterggi

    “Driscoll is going down in flames and I’m happily roasting marshmallows.”

    Y’know they said the same thing about Peter Popoff, Jim Baker, Marshall Hepplewhite and others and the only ones not to come back are the dead ones.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Y’know they said the same thing about Peter Popoff, Jim Baker, Marshall Hepplewhite and others and the only ones not to come back are the dead ones.

    Well, The Walking Dead is set in the South. I wonder …

  • grumpyoldfart

    If he gets kicked out he’ll just form a breakaway sect; start preaching about double-tithes, and live happily ever after.

  • Michael Heath

    I’ve been following this story a bit in Warren Throckmorton’s blog since the NYTs story broke.

    It’s my humble opinion that the root cause of Mark Driscoll’s fall from grace is his misapplication of where the line is drawn between the truly privileged and the unprivileged. Mr. Driscoll drew the line too close to himself, where the church’s elders and [all male] pastors demanded more fruits than merely lording it over the powerless within their sphere of influence. No, they want more of the autocratic power Driscoll wielded amongst the hierarchy against the sheeple.

    I won’t be enjoying Driscoll’s crash unless we observe his fall causes more people to abandon their beliefs and more people become committed to equal protection for all humans. That rather than practicing the hate and abuse promoted by all the Mars Hill Church adult congregants.

  • I’ll just leave this here…


  • mikey

    @ #5, d c: Two words: Ted Haggard.

  • I really don’t think Driscoll’s a grifter.

    Every cleric who ever lived is a grifter. The extortion scheme is the giveaway.

    “Nice soul you have there, wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to it, flames and hellfire for ever and ever and ever, sez me.”

    10% tithe, please and thank you.