Earlier today, a series of 14 year old message board comments allegedly written by Mark Driscoll in the early days of his ministry have been making their way around the blogosphere. The comments that Driscoll made back then are some of the most horrifying, destructive, unchristian, convoluted statements I’ve ever read from someone who has become a prominent evangelical leader. Driscoll’s language was simply inexcusable and his theology nothing short of deadly.
Over the past few years, Driscoll has moved away from much of the harsh, abusive language that he was once known for. But even though the tone and semantics of his message have changed, it is clear that he has not departed from the undergirding theology that he has adhered to throughout his ministry. And even though the language and public demeanor of Driscoll’s ministry has changed, the abundance of reports of abuse from ex-members of his church proves that the same man who was typing these horrific statements 14 years ago is the same Mark Driscoll who currently pastors Mars Hill Church. Nothing about his theology or worldview has changed.
In fact, in an interview I did with Driscoll for my blog about a year ago, I asked him how his theology had evolved since he began Mars Hill. His response to my inquiry was short and simple –
“My theology hasn’t changed, but I am learning to emphasize certain truths that I’ve perhaps neglected in the past.”
When I read that response from Driscoll, I immediately recognized something was profoundly wrong with that statement. My theology changes every other week. Some of the Christian pastors and leaders that have mentored me often have told me about the momentous shifts that take place in their theology and worldview every couple of years. And yet, one of the leading voices in evangelical Christianity says that his theology has not changed one bit. That just doesn’t seem quite right.
This seems to indicate a lack of humility that comes from truly believing that you have got God all figured out. And if that’s the case, why would you want to be humble? Why would you want to be open to new ideas? As I used to say in my old fundamentalist days, “I’m not narrow minded, it’s just that I’ve already found the answer!” This clearly seems to be Driscolls mindset and is perhaps one of the major driving forces between his very…confident…demeanor, both in his preaching and his writing.
But beyond the arrogance that can emerge from believing you’ve got God all figured out, there seems to be something much deeper going on inside Mark Driscoll that is causing him to present himself in such harmful ways. Mark has admitted a number of times that he had a very difficult and abusive childhood. From what we can tell, there is still a lot that Driscoll has yet to deal with. From a basic psychological perspective it seems quite clear that not everything is well with Mark. And today, we see a very powerful and successful man who very clearly is dealing with deep psychological issues that are manifesting in abuse of others.
It is when I begin to view the situation in that light that my anger and outrage towards Mark begins to turn to a feeling of grief. I am deeply grieved by the amount of pain and damage Driscoll is responsible for through his reckless and abusive teaching and preaching. I am horrified as I continue to hear stories of ex-pastors who lost their jobs and were forced uproot their families to leave the state because of Driscolls tyrannical policies. I am sickened when I think about the number of LGBTQ men and women who have been a part of Mars Hill Church and have heard such hate-filled teaching spoken over them week in and week out. But I am also deeply grieved for the man, Mark Driscoll.
I acknowledge that he is 100% responsible for all of his words, actions, and decisions during his time as Pastor of Mars Hill. He has continually made poor choices and refused help and guidance when it has been offered. He has lied, manipulated, and used his power to oppress hundreds of people in the name of Jesus. But, if what my mentor says is true, and Mark is a deeply broken man with festering psychological wounds from his childhood, then I really do hurt for him. It seems to me that Mark Driscoll is a man of incredible talent and anointing that is being dominated by an immature boy inside with deep scars and unresolved issues that he has carried throughout his life. Once again, none of this gets him off the hook. But it does cause me to begin to understand why he does what he does. I begin to see that there is more than just a power-hungry tyrannical leader who is using religion to abuse the masses. No, it is much more complex than that.
This is perhaps the hardest teaching Jesus calls his followers to, but it is one of the most important. We are called to love those who harm us and to pray for those who hate us. This is the only way to bring true healing and redemption to everyone involved in this dark situation. In the midst of our (very justifiable) anger and even rage against Mark Driscoll and his teachings, we must be careful to guard ourselves against becoming the very person we are speaking out against. We must not resort to gossip, slander, cursing, or mocking- and I am tempted to do every one of those things when I am talking about Driscoll. We must not become people who speak harmful and abusive words back to Driscoll. We cannot return an insult with an insult. This only continues the cycle, deepens Marks wounds, and adds fuel to the already destructive fire.
In times like these, it is easy for our progressive-ish evangelical community to unite in disdain towards a common enemy. Our common anger gives us a deep sense of unity and purpose. Before you know it, we become a raging mob yelling “Crucify him!” But we must remember that One has already been there and done that for us. Jesus has set us free from the cycle of abusive violence. He has offered us a way of true and lasting change. And that is the way of love. Love of God. Love of self. Love of neighbor. And yes, even love of enemy. Even love of Mark Driscoll. Because right about now, I can imagine that Mark could use some love and prayer sent his way. If we want to break this cycle of abuse, we must continue to speak up and shed light on the truth. We must continue to platform the voices of those who have been harmed by Mark Driscoll. We must continue to pray for all of those who have been a part of Mars Hill past, present, and even future. And we must continue to pray for Mark Driscoll.
As hard as it is, we must be willing to step out of the mob, take a knee, and pray for our enemies. It’s the only option we’ve been given. It’s the only hope we have for redemption.
Will you join me?