Why I Don’t Think Mark Driscoll Was Joking

Several weeks ago, Mark Driscoll said this:

I know who made the environment and he’s coming back and going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.

When people got upset about it, he claimed it was just a joke, adding:

I am sorry that you do not have a sense of humor.

The thing is, I grew up in a home where this sort of thing was said regularly, and it wasn’t about joking. My parents were soundly against recycling, because they saw the earth as disposable. I was reminded of this again a couple months ago when I complained to my mom that there was only one place in my town that took glass recycling, and it was on the outskirts, and she basically laughed at me for recycling.

I’ve written quite a bit about my own experiences with evangelicals’ views of the end times. I grew up in premillenialist circles, and we really did believe that Christ would return any day, and I grew up expecting that this world wouldn’t last another hundred years, and probably wouldn’t be here in fifty. This world was put here for us to use, I was taught, so we might as well use it while it’s still here. We looked forward to the day when Christ would create a new heaven and a new earth.

Given Mark Driscoll’s reputation and the similarity between his beliefs and my parents’ beliefs, I don’t think he was joking. I think he was serious. I think premillenialist eschatology gives evangelicals like Driscoll and my parents an excuse to not feel bad about their carbon footprints. I think that in a world of uncertainty, it’s psychologically reassuring for them to belief that what we do to the environment doesn’t matter, because Jesus is coming back and will fix everything.

That said, I’m extremely glad that my parents’ and Mark Driscoll’s beliefs appear to be giving way to a new evangelical approach to climate change and pollution: “creation care.” This new trend hasn’t been without conflict, conflict that often takes place between younger, hipper evangelicals on the one hand and older, set-in-their-ways culture wars evangelicals on the other. In fact, not so long ago Focus on the Family and the National Association of Evangelicals had a falling out over this very issue. In fact, I suspect that this trend is the reason Driscoll played off his remarks as a joke rather than digging in—and we should see that as a positive sign.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://Yamikuronue.wordpress.com/ Yamikuronue

    I suspect it’s one of those things where “I was joking” means “I was being truthful in a lighthearted manner, not intending to start a serious discussion or preach” rather than “I didn’t mean what I said” :/

  • CarysBirch

    I don’t get this mindset and I never did, even when I was evangelical. I replace my clothes every couple of years, but that doesn’t mean I don’t take care of them while I have them.

    • NeaDods

      Exactly! If they really believe that God gave Earth to them to steward, is he supposed to be happy they trashed it instead?

      • Baby_Raptor

        They think that, since he’s going to destroy it anyway, it won’t matter if they get started for him.

      • The_L1985

        The idea of “we were given the earth as a gift, so we should totally smeg it up” never made sense to me either. When someone you love gives you a gift, it is made special by its source. What might otherwise have been ordinary becomes something to be treasured. Think of the childhood toy that “Nana gave me,” or the chintzy bit of home decor that came from an old friend. You can’t bear to toss it out, even after years, because the act of being given as a gift made it special and thus to be conserved.

        People who believe that God gave us the earth to use, yet do not believe we should take care of that gift, quite frankly strike me as blasphemous by their own spiritual “rules”–you’re not supposed to hate or resent a deity you purport to worship. And if you utterly trash a gift someone has given you, you’re saying that the giver doesn’t matter, and expressing a strong degree of unwarranted hatred.

  • The Squirrel

    Christians are supposed to be concerned for the poor, who are the people disproportionately affected by this piggy attitude that we can just dump our garbage/waste anywhere, hey, if it’s a problem, we’ll simply move away.

    • The_L1985

      Yeah, after all, it’s not like humans could ever run out of decent places to move to, or like moving is expensive, or anything.

  • smrnda

    If we shouldn’t screw up the environment because Jesus is coming back soon, then why put a new roof on your house? Why buy a new SUV? It seems like ‘Jesus is coming back soon’ is just pulled out when people want an excuse not to do something.

    On the “I was joking,” people laugh at jokes partly because jokes are meant to point out some truth in a kind of absurd or irreverent manner. A person doesn’t laugh at a joke without, in some sense, believing the joke is true on some level, outside of some non sequitur humor.

    • smrnda

      Oops. I should have written “if we SHOULD screw up the environment because Jesus is coming back soon.”

    • Rosa

      A lot of the imminent-doomsday groups have members who actually live like that, quitting jobs, neglecting children, and running up huge debts. Then the followers have to live with the results when the second coming doesn’t happen as predicted.

  • http://www.facebook.com/melody.marie Melody Jones

    I grew up in Oregon (it’s… it’s green there, guys. very. very. very. green.) so thankfully those kinds of “But God’s going to burn it anyways, what does it matter if I ______?” comments were far and few in between.

    Then I moved to the Bible Belt.

    There is no recycling that I can find at all in my town.

    Complaining about this to a coworker resulted in a full on sermon (because he also preaches at a church I guess? whatever. it was really. really. long.) on how that sort of thinking was putting myself above God because… of reasons. It didn’t actually make any sense to me. I really hope the young, hip, climate caring, planet saving evangelicals pull through on this one. I want to live on this planet.

    • Miss_Beara

      Wanting to put paper, cans and glass in a separate container makes you “above God”? I don’t even… wow. Good luck with the bible belt, hopefully it is just a brief stop for you.

      • http://www.facebook.com/melody.marie Melody Jones

        Ah, but doing it to “protect the planet” and “help the environment” showed that I wasn’t trusting God to take care of His Creation (tm?), and was putting my own judgement above his. At least, I think that was his point.

        I only have another year or so here. I’m counting down. *crosses fingers*

      • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

        Ah, but doing it to “protect the planet” and “help the environment”
        showed that I wasn’t trusting God to take care of His Creation (tm?),
        and was putting my own judgement above his

        Feel free to remind him of this the next time you see him eating or drinking.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Um, what?! So … it’s not “putting yourself above G-d” to invent SUVs, disposable cutlery, and Styrofoam, but it is “putting yourself above G-d” to recycle your cans and bottles?

        I think I need a beer. (And then I’ll take the bottle back to beer store for recycling.)

    • AndersH

      Isn’t there a joke about a man who trusts in God to save him and rejects the help of other people passing by, only to end up in Heaven and have God tell him that those others were the ones God used to try to save him?

      You’d have to be a pretty hardcore miracle-believer if you, as a Christian, don’t believe that humanity is what God uses to reach into the world today. In other words, rejecting reason and our ability to care for the world and other people because we “trust in God” is to fail God, or at the very least to attempt to provoke God into performing miracles for our comforts.

  • sunnysidemeg

    I had a friend who claimed she ate meat (lots of it) to do her part in ‘subduing the earth.’ Ehhhh…

  • Randomosity

    Wouldn’t the Christian god be pissed if he comes back and find that the stewards didn’t bother to take care of the planet before returning?

    If you ask a friend to housesit for you, would you be pleased to come home to no toilet paper, your fridge empty, your kitty litter boxes overflowing and starving and neglected pets, garbage everywhere, no cleaning supplies of any kind, every battery drained, and every single window left open during last night’s thunderstorm?

    • smrnda

      I think Mark Driscoll is inventing a god in his own image. When Driscoll’s god shows up and sees the proverbial guest house trashed, he’ll blow it up and then just build a new one and they’ll all have a huge party, will leave beer cans everywhere and will throw glass bottles from a balcony, and will pee on the wall, and then decide to have a furniture breaking contest.

      • Mary Leinart

        Don’t forget the part where Jesus challenges every Real Man[tm] to a cage match.

      • Gillianren

        Ooo, I would totally watch that! My money’s on the guy who can perform miracles! (Like giving people who think this way a brain . . . .)

      • Nate Frein

        Ugh. This reminds me of our “Christian” renters who broke lease, skipped out on the last two month’s rent, left a huge hole in the front yard, a huge bald spot in the back yard where their pool had been.

        And cans. Cans everywhere. Easily ten (50 gallon) recycling bins full.

  • http://smashed-rat-on-press.com/ The Rodent

    > they saw the earth as disposable

    Probably the single most despicable religious tenet ever. Thinking, and acting, like we don’t need to be conservationists or care about resources because the planet is made to be plundered, and is only X thousand years old, and Jesus is coming the day after tomorrow to take us all to the dream land. Pffft! I doubt our species will survive another 200 years, *precisely* because of attitudes like that. Maybe our successors — the cockroaches — will practice better stewardship in the long-run.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.hompes Katherine Hompes

    So he sees the earth as a gift to humans. Does he treat all his gifts with such callous disregard? Because if someone treated something I gifted them in that fashion, they wouldn’t be receiving any further gifts…

    Of course, I’m an atheist, I don’t see the earth as a gift- it’s simply our home. And it is incredibly stupid to destroy your own home.

    • ako

      I once gave my mom a gift of a hand-made beaded wall hanging, and she loved it so much she had it mounted and framed. Am I supposed to be offended that she took steps to ensure that my gift to her would be protected and remain in good condition, rather than assuming it would last forever with no effort on her part? Is it somehow supposed to be hurtful that she invested time and energy in caring for something I put a lot of effort and energy into crafting, so it would last? Because I have to tell you, I was neither offended nor hurt.

      • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.hompes Katherine Hompes

        I think you missed my point here, Ako. I would be offended if someone actively destroyed a gift I had given them, especially if they had the view that “it’s ok- she’ll just give me another. ” looking after a gift, keeping it in good condition, is a good thing. No arguments here.

      • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

        I believe ako was agreeing with you, and trying to understand the “The Earth is a gift, so we should trash it” mentality. If I give someone a gift, I’m unlikely to be impressed if zie breaks it in front of me.

  • Alice

    My parents were anti-environmentalism primarily because they saw it as earth-worship. They did believe in good stewardship, but only as long as you were very careful to avoid becoming an extremist and as long as you put people first (i.e. not getting rid of jobs that were environmentally destructive, which is obviously short-term thinking). They also believed global warming was bullshit because they think all scientists are liars.

  • Composer 99

    Since I would rather like my parents to enjoy their pending retirements (or at least semi-retirements) over the next 2-3 decades, and I would like to enjoy my future (including retirement or semi-retirement) over the next 4-5 decades, and I certainly would rather like my son to have a good future… Mark Driscoll’s attitude makes me angry.

  • Miss_Beara

    You need to write a book (if you ever have time!) about your experiences about growing up in an evangelical, premillenialist, quiverfull homeschooling family. It is equal parts fascinating and horrifying to know that you and so many others grew up in this environment and families are still raising children this way. I can’t get my mind wrapped around so many of the stories I read here and on the Friendly Atheist. I am from the US but from and still live in one of the biggest cities in the country so my experience with this is extremely limited but I did get preached to by an evangelical friend (former) and I went to Catholic school, but all of the things I read blow my mind.

    I would read it.

    • Nate Frein

      Indeed. If you ever do a kickstarter for it, I’ll happily pledge.

      • Kate Monster

        Same here.

      • Kate Monster

        Same here!

  • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana Hope

    Oh no. My family has ALWAYS recycled.

    • The_L1985

      So has mine, and I was taught that recycling and other forms of caring for the earth were what God wanted us to do. I was also taught that wastefulness (and I still consider the use of disposable plastics as “wastefulness”) was a sin.

      But then, I was raised Catholic by folks whose parents lived through the Depression. It’s taken a long time for my aunt to come to the same realization as her sister that maybe we should take care of the gifts we are given.

  • Monimonika

    This so reminds me of a comic on deviantart (the artist also does funny comics on satwcomic.com) :


    Summary: Humans are self-centered, but not in the way humans typically think…

    • grindstone

      Thank you thank you thank you….I have been looking for that cartoon since the first day I saw it.

  • Starflower

    If God put so much care into the creation of the world, it only follows logically that Christians should want to respect that by taking care of it. (At least, as a Christian myself, that’s what I’ve always thought, but then, I’m not a fundie so.) But hey, logic only gets in the way when you’re trying to justify your irresponsible choices to yourself. In reality, environmentalism IS putting people first, the gratification just isn’t as instant.

    He should tell people in China who can’t breathe without a mask because of the smog, or people in Africa whose children are being poisoned by mercury from gold mining, that the environment doesn’t matter, and see what they think about that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/melody.marie Melody Jones

      but it only took him seven days!1!! and he SAID his plan is to burn it into obliteration, okay. He’s probably spent more time working on the Earth 2.0. I mean, he’s building cities out of precious stones and gold and there’ll be pearls the size of gates, so….

      I’m sure that’s what it is. /endsarcasm

      • http://Thechurchproject.me/ Tracey

        Hey, is ‘endsarcasm’ a new thing where we are sarcastic about the end times? ;)

  • LL

    I’d say that this philosophy explains the Bush administration perfectly and is the exact reason that we are on a path of no return.

    I actually, literally, had a total breakdown after spending a year studying about the destruction of this planet. I spent every moment of every day appalled, sad and scared and all night long dreaming of these horrible things. There is, essentially, no hope. Nothing we do now is even going to make a dent in beginning to return things to a relatively livable state, and when you add the fact that we people are multiplying like crazy… yeah. Oh, and China. Good lord, China.

    So, while my exploration into my role as a woman in society and my history with Catholicism lead me to deeper exploration of religion, it was this environmental study and learning what I couldn’t unlearn about the damage that has been done that initially made me HATE, ABHOR, and DESPISE religion. And Bush.

    I still have regular nightmares. I’m sure that’s really not normal, but the idea of what we people have done to our own home… and the knowledge that most resistance to a better planet is religious-based… I don’t even know what to say beyond that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.hompes Katherine Hompes

      I thought the greatest resistance to environmentalism was greed based? I know most of the “antis” in Aus seem to somehow be connected with big business…

      • LL

        Oh, yes, of course. I meant to include both of those, but I tend to write in a hurry and not actually put down what is going on in my head. Bush just exemplified both of the things together! An entire administration that happened to represent and be in bed with the greediest human beings on earth while at the same time having a fundamentalist approach to the earth – completely disposable and put here only for them to exploit.

        My main point was that this was my introduction into the horrors of religion outside of my experience of Catholicism. But religion is certainly not the only (or even the biggest) driver.

        Now if only I could actually write what I mean :D.

      • LL

        Still not completing my thoughts – bed time.

        On an individual level in this country, I still believe it is the religious that have the highest resistance to care for our environment. But the corporations hold all of the cards and thus provide most of the propaganda, I guess.

        Interestingly, I feel that nation-wide, Catholics tend to be pretty environmentally progressive, but my Catholic communities were staunchly anti-environmentalism. Ferociously. I wonder if that just happened to be more a product of the places I’ve lived. I actually saved a church bulletin (I don’t remember what it’s called ATM, but they seem nationally produced) from 1993 in which a Bishop was talking about how Catholics have a deep responsibility to keep our water, earth and air clean. I found it about 8 or 9 months ago in my papers :). Does anyone have any ideas?

  • Isaac

    I agree with Libby Anne’s point, but I hold plenty of reservations about the so-called “Christian Care” movement. If such a movement grows, they may provide practical help in the short-term, but that’s about it.

    The root of the worldwide environmental problem we currently face is an ideology that gives humans some kind of unearned, mystical superiority to- and separation from- both the system of life as a whole and every other species on earth.

    “Christian Care” being presented as some kind of panacea to old-school evangelical attitudes towards the earth reminds me of complementarianism being passed off as an alternative to classic patriarchal systems of dominance. You can’t remove a weed without removing its roots, and those of us on the secular or liberally-religious side of things have to remember this.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Ever notice how it’s always “I’m sorry you’re flawed” with the Religious Right, not “I’m sorry I said something ass” or “I’m sorry I spoke before educating myself on matter X” or even just “I’m sorry”?

    They’re perfect. Everything they say and do is right. If you’re offended by it, you’re in the wrong, and they’re sorry for that because that means you’re trying to paint them badly. And they can’t have that; that’s persecution.

    Okay, now to finish reading the post.

  • Karen

    I was a voracious young reader, and recall reading , at age10 or 11,a wonderful story by a Jewish humorist. That was 40-odd years ago, and though I was raised Catholic something he said really resonated with me: something along the lines of “The Great Landlord is going to come back some day and demand to know why we trashed the place.” I’ve recycled ever since I was old enough to do so, and laid into a few colleagues over the years for putting recycling in the trash bin.

  • Nurse Bee

    I’ve never understood it either. My dad was on the city council in our town when I was a kid and was instrumental in starting curbside pick-up for recycling. But as a Christian in California, maybe things are a little different? Being a good steward of the earth has always meant taking care of the environment.
    Not a Driscoll fan here btw….

  • Christine

    Actually, the scary thing, is that there are worse attitudes that Evangelicals take towards environmentalism. At least Driscoll is acknowledging the fact that driving a SUV does damage. The head of our government belongs to a church that believes that we can’t hurt the planet, because only God can do that.

    And I know that it’s really wrong to bring someone’s private beliefs up, and use them to trash their public record, but the government is fairly strongly anti-environment (up to and including climate change), and the members of this church have had a history of being involved with pushing for a lot of the things that this government brought in.

  • Joseph Walters

    No, he’s wasn’t joking. I was told by a mentor back in 1984 that we didn’t need to worry about environmentalist because Jesus would return very soon – 50 year window MAX. I’ve heard it many times since.

  • Lisa

    I totally understand your point. To be honest, I NEVER gave much thought to recycling issues. It just… you know… wasn’t discussed, I guess. I knew there were those kind of people, but I just didn’t think about it.

    When I moved to Europe, however, I can tell you I had a serious culture shock in this department. “standart” (unrecycled) garbage is IMMENSLY pricy here, as in, not affordable for normal people. You can’t put all your garbage into the “unrecycled” bin because it up costs A LOT of money each time you want it emptied – first you have to buy a sticker for one year which costs about 100 euros a year for one person (but varies depending on where you live), PLUS for each time you want it picked up another sticker for about 8 euros. So you really think twice whether you want to fill the unrecycled garbage within one week (it’s a really small bin you get for that price, hardly enough for one person if you were to not recycle at all). So it’s basically impossible not to do it. Much cheaper is seperating the garbage: You got yellow bags for plastics (which are free), brown bins for organic garbage (which is cheap) and blue bins for paper (which is also cheap). On top of that, you got glass containers everywhere.

    Also you have to pay 25 cents deposit for bottles when you buy something to drink, so if you were to throw away your bottles, you’d lose 25 cents each time, which I think is quite a lot of money, considering that drinking tap water is completely uncommon here. It’s not rare that the deposit on the bottle costs MORE than the actual drink that’s in it! You get the deposit back when you return the bottles to a store (doesn’t matter which store, doesn’t have to be the same where you bought them).
    So yeah, imagine little Lisa being thrown into the nation of recyclers, coming from a conservative christian background… I was confused, to say the least – and lost a lot of money until I learned how the system works. I know it sounds very annoying and over the top, but I want to say one thing: It is not as time consuming as it sounds (not at all, actually) and it is not as hard and annoying as it sounds. Actually, once you’re used to it, you wonder why not everyone is doing it.

    Once I got used to it I started to wonder: Why do christians acts so outraged at something that doesn’t really bother anyone? Really. It’s not a big deal. And insisting on not doing it to prove a point is just… well. kind of dumb.

    • AndersH

      Should probably mention that this is valid for (certain parts of) Germany (unless some other country adopted that model), not Europe, whether for recycling habits or drinking tap water.

    • Jayn

      “Also you have to pay 25 cents deposit for bottles when you buy something
      to drink, so if you were to throw away your bottles, you’d lose 25
      cents each time, ”

      They do the same in Nova Scotia (it’s only 10 cents, and you get half or all back depending on the container) and one thing I noticed is that recycling became a very common fund-raiser for sports teams, schools, etc. I really miss living somewhere where recycling is both encouraged and made as easy as possible–I wound up stopping when I moved here because rather than unsorted curb-side pickup (actually, that is an option now, though I have to pay extra for it) I had to sort and transport everything myself. I tried doing at least cans, but I found that I just never got around to actually bringing it in, so they got trashed anyways.

  • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com Brambonius

    The thing is that Driscoll isn’t pre-mill in his eschatology, and certainly not a dispensationalist at all. The guy is amill or even partial preterist as far as I know and usually not positive about end times obsessions.

    I would say it was his childish obsession with manly vehicles and his bad sense of humor speaking here. But it’s unfortunately true there’s a lot of Christians who do believe the dangerous ‘God will burn up everything we don’t need to care for creation’ nonsense

  • gimpi1

    I think the fact he resides in the ecology-minded Pacific Northwest might have been a factor in his attempt to pass this off as a joke. I live in Seattle, and not paying attention to the environment here is frowned upon by the majority of folks, including many evangelicals.