Mark Driscoll is a wee little man

American churches remind me of those ads for Bally’s health clubs. You know the ones — they show attractive people with perfectly sculpted bodies lifting weights, running on treadmills and dancing or kick-boxing energetically in perfectly choreographed aerobics classes.

The message those ads intend, I think, is that if you were to join Bally’s, then you could look like this. You, too, could soon become an attractive person with a perfectly sculpted body, the ads suggest. (Although it’s not clear to me how any amount of disciplined exercise would also produce the perfect white teeth, exquisite bone structure and unblemished skin that also characterizes all the beautiful model-atheletes in those ads.)

The problem is that those ads also send another message. They tell us that Bally’s is a place for people who look like this. And what that also tells us is that Bally’s is not a place for people who do not look like this.

Bally’s is thus advertising itself as a health club for people who do not need a health club. Want to get healthier? Don’t go to Bally’s. If you’re not already in perfect shape, then you don’t belong there.

Anyone who needs to go there won’t be welcome.

That’s also the message that many American churches are sending out. We try to convey the message that we’re Good People and that this is what church is and what church is for — a gathering of Good People who’ve got it all figured out. The result is that we come across just like those Bally’s ads. We wind up unwittingly suggesting that if you’re not already a Good Person and you don’t already have it all figured out, then you don’t belong here — that sinners aren’t welcome in the body of sinners.

That’s backwards. Being a sinner is actually the only prerequisite for coming to church.

Hold on a minute, some will say, shouldn’t that be “a repentant sinner”? After all, if we’re just going to go about continuing to soak in our sinfulness, without ever repenting or changing or growing, then why bother?

That’s a good point, up to a point. But as we like to say around here, it’s more complicated than that. It does seem wrong to have someone regularly participating in church while continuing unrepentant, unchallenged and unbothered by their sin. But surely that can’t mean that moral perfection should be made a requirement for membership in good standing.

Here again I would turn to my favorite book about the church, which isn’t really about the church at all. David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is partly set at Ennet House, a half-way house for recovering addicts. It’s one of my favorite portrayals and explorations of the world of Alcoholics Anonymous — which I think provides one of the best models for anyone trying to understand what the church could and should be.

AA isn’t anything like Bally’s. It doesn’t portray itself as a gathering of beautiful people who’ve got it all together. Quite the opposite. For AA the message is that anyone who needs to be there is always welcome.

Big Don Gately tells the new residents of Ennet House that this is “a truly great thing about AA: they can’t kick you out. You’re In if you say you’re In. Nobody can get kicked out, not for any reason.”

This had mystified Gately for a long time. How can a community remain a community if that’s the case? Shouldn’t it have some rules and some way of enforcing them? How can it keep order or keep its identity without some sergeant at arms to enforce discipline?

But eventually he realizes it has that. Extra ecclesiam nulla salus:

It had come clear to Gately that Boston AA had the planet’s most remorselessly hard-ass and efficient sergeant at arms. Gately lay there, overhanging all four sides of his bunk, his broad square forehead beaded with revelation: Boston AA’s Sergeant at Arms stood outside the orderly meeting halls, in that much-invoked Out There where exciting clubs full of good cheer throbbed gaily below lit signs with neon bottles endlessly pouring. AA’s patient enforcer was always and everywhere Out There: it stood casually checking its cuticles in the astringent fluorescence of pharmacies that took forged Talwin scrips for a hefty surcharge, in the onionlight through paper shades in the furnished rooms of strung-out nurses who financed their own cages’ maintenance with stolen pharmaceutical samples, in the isopropyl reek of the storefront offices of stooped old chain-smoking MD’s whose scrip-pads were always out and who needed only to hear ‘pain’ and see cash. … AA’s disciplinarian looked damn good and smelled even better and dressed to impress and his blank black-on-yellow smile never faltered as he sincerely urged you to have a nice day. Just one more last nice day. Just one.

You’re In if you say you’re In. Nobody can kick you out and nobody can force you to stay In. But if you decide not to come back, the sergeant at arms is patiently waiting.

Mark Driscoll, the neo-fundamentalist pastor of Seattle mega-church Mars Hill, has a very different idea of church discipline.

Driscoll wants to make the sergeant at arms an officer of the church — he wants to serve in that role himself. And that means, inevitably, that he has a very different notion of what it means to say extra ecclesiam nulla salus — “outside the church there is no salvation.” For Big Don Gately, that meant that the choice was always yours — “nobody can kick you out.” For Driscoll it’s all about control and authority. His control and his authority. It means that he can always kick you out.

Driscoll is back in the news due to his decision to “excommunicate” a member of his church. It will not surprise anyone who is at all familiar with Driscoll that the purported reasons for this excommunication and shunning involve sex and authority. Those two things and the intertwining of them seem always to be at the heart of Driscoll’s ministry.

Matthew Paul Turner revealed the full story of this incident in two posts that I recommend reading in their entirety:

Mark Driscoll’s Church Discipline Contract: Looking For True Repentance at Mars Hill Church? Sign on the Dotted Line

Mark Driscoll’s ‘Gospel Shame’: The Truth About Discipline, Excommunication, and Cult-like Control at Mars Hill

I also highly recommend Dianna E. Anderson’s correctly furious reaction, in which she invokes Hairspray to summarize Driscoll and his fan-base: “a whole lotta ugly comin’ at you from a never-ending parade of stupid.”

What happened was that some guy at the church cheated on his girlfriend by falling back into bed with his former fiance. That’s wrong. One ought not to cheat. Betrayal is bad. It’s mean and hurtful — a sin.

But the cheating isn’t what caused this to flare up into a Defcon 1 crisis for which the entire church leadership had to be mobilized. That only happened because this particular sin involved sex.

There’s a fundamental confusion at work there — one that can be found in many, many places other than Driscoll’s mega-church. It’s the confusion that sees sexual betrayal as bad because it involves sex rather than because it involves betrayal. The same confusion leads many Christians to see sexual predation as bad because it involves sex rather than because it is predatory. This arises from a warped and stunted notion of sexual ethics which offers nothing to say about the subject other than that it’s acceptable within marriage and unacceptably wicked in any other context. Thus even a malicious act within marriage is commended while even a loving act outside of that context is condemned.

That’s pretty screwed up. But it’s not nearly the worst part of this story.

Once it was determined that a member of the church had committed a sin with his naughty bits, meetings were convened and a contract was written up.

A contract. You can see the thing in all its glory at Turner’s blog. It’s labelled “Mars Hill Church Church Discipline Contract” and it outlines a “Plan of Discipline” that is luridly precise and creepily controlling. It includes this:

  • Andrew will write out in detail his sexual and emotional attachment history with women and share it with XXX.
  • Andrew will write out in detail the chronology of events and sexual/emotional sin with K and share it with XXX and Pastor X.
  • Andrew will write out a list of all people he has sinned against during this timeframe, either by sexual/emotional sin, lying or deceiving, share it with XXX and develop a plan to confess sin and ask for forgiveness.

He opted not to sign the contract and informed the church that he would no longer attended there. So long, farewell, goodbye.

But it didn’t stop there.

The church leadership then sent out a letter to every member of the mega-church — all 10,000 of them — informing them that Andrew was “under church discipline” and forbidding any of them from associating with him except “for the purpose of admonishment.”

Robert Cargill isn’t wrong: “That is the definite activity of a cult. … If you are a member of the Mars Hill church, get out.”

But perhaps I’m being unfair or uncharitable. Maybe I’m just overreacting because I’m not as convinced as Driscoll is about the pre-eminence of genital sins.

For Driscoll, sex is a supremely important consideration. What if the matter involved were, instead, something that I considered non-negotiable and of paramount importance? In other words, what if instead of involving some guy who slept with someone other than his girlfriend it involved some guy preying on the poor and despising or manipulating the weak? What if, instead of infidelity and sexual incontinence (the latter of which I regard as far, far less consequential), the sin in question involved deliberate cruelty, bigotry, destroying the livelihoods of the poor, devouring the houses of widows or any of the other sins that I think of as the worst of the worst? What if it were my church and, say, Jamie Dimon or Rush Limbaugh or Scott Walker or Mitch McConnell began attending there?

As it happens, I’ve addressed this previously. See, for example, “Brian Moynihan and Empress Eudoxia” or “Preached down to four.”

Neither of those posts recommends anything like what Mars Hill is doing, or even anything to which the problematic category of “church discipline” really might apply. What I think is called for in such situations is more like the old proverb describing the role of the pastor: “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”*

For an example of what “afflicting the comfortable” looks like in practice, let me repeat Clarence Jordan’s story from the latter of those two posts:

Clarence Jordan, the late founder of Koinonia Farm (the community that gave us Habitat for Humanity), used to tell a story about an old hillbilly preacher in the 1950s who invited Jordan to come and speak at his church in rural South Carolina. Jordan arrived to find, to his surprise, a large, thriving and racially integrated congregation — a remarkable thing in that time and place. (Sadly, it’s actually a remarkable thing in any time or place.) So Clarence asked the man how this came about.

When he first got there as a substitute preacher, the old man said, it was a small, all-white congregation of a few dozen families. So he gave a sermon on the bit from Galatians where Paul writes: “You are all children of God … There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Here I’ll pick up from Tony Campolo’s retelling of Jordan’s story:

“When the service was over, the deacons took me in the back room and they told me they didn’t want to hear that kind of preaching no more.”

Clarence asked, “What did you do then?”

The old preacher answered, “I fired them deacons!”

“How come they didn’t fire you?” asked Clarence.

“Well, they never hired me,” the old preacher responded. … “Once I found out what bothered them people, I preached the same message every Sunday. It didn’t take much time before I had that church preached down to four.”

That, I think, would be an appropriate response if, say, an unrepentant Donald Trump were suddenly to begin visiting one’s church. Preach the same message every Sunday until he repents or runs away.

But in any case, WWFD? is a far less interesting and far less important question than WWJD?

“What would Jesus do?” In this case, or these cases, we don’t have to speculate. The Gospels provide us examples of Jesus’ responses both to the unchaste and to economic oppressors. In the former case, Jesus seemed to enjoy the company of the unchaste. He hung out with them as a friend, shared a pitcher at the well, accepted their gifts and defended them in court. There is nothing in Jesus’ dealings with the unchaste to hint at anything at all like Mars Hill’s notion of “discipline.”

And what of economic oppressors? Their sin was one Jesus frequently condemned in no uncertain terms, so if he was ever going to subject anyone — anachronistically — to “church discipline,” then surely it would be them.

And so we come to the story of Zacchaeus, as told in Luke’s Gospel:

[Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.** So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”

So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”

The grumbling crowds weren’t wrong. Zacchaeus was a sinner. He was a big-time sinner, a corrupt collaborator with the Imperial Beast and an oppressor of the poor. It’s not a stretch to say that Zacchaeus may have been the worst sinner, the worst person, in all of Jericho. He was notorious enough that even out-of-towners like Jesus had heard of him.

So what does Jesus do when he catches sight of this infamous sinner, this downpresser man responsible for the misery of the poor whom Jesus loved? He approached him and said, “I’m going to your house today, I’m going to your house today.”

Interesting. Jesus chose to fellowship with this hateful sinner. He didn’t tell Zacchaeus to repent of his sins and correct his injustices or else he would never share fellowship with him. That wasn’t Jesus’ M.O. — not in this particular case and not in the larger scheme of things. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us,” St. Paul wrote, “while we were enemies.”

This is what we tend to get backwards whenever we speak of “church discipline.” Our idea seems to be that if someone is, like Zacchaeus, a sinner, then we should cut off all fellowship with them until they stop sinning and submit to our correction.

Jesus did the opposite. With Zacchaeus and, more importantly, with us.

Jesus entered into fellowship with Zacchaeus. He offered Zacchaeus the chance to escape from the sergeant at arms.

And look what happened next:

Zacchaeus … said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation*** has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

Jesus’ response to the sinner was to seek him out. Jesus walked up to his tree and informed him that he needed to set 13 extra plates for an unexpected party.

Jesus did not present Zacchaeus with a detailed contract outlining the steps he would need to take, the submission to authority he would have to subject himself to, if he was to be saved. “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” That’s all he said.

And for Zacchaeus, that was enough. Once Jesus showed him that salvation and restoration were possible that was all he needed to hear. He repented and made things right as joyously as Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning.

What if he hadn’t? Zacchaeus’ sin had made him a very wealthy man and his salvation meant an end to all that. What if all that wealth had too much of a hold on him and he had been unable to repent?

I suspect the meal Jesus shared at his house would have been much less joyous and far more uncomfortable all around. And perhaps Jesus would have left it at that, allowing Zacchaeus, like a different rich man in the Gospels, to go “away grieving, for he had many possessions.” Or perhaps Jesus would have stayed another day, and another, and another. Perhaps he would have been like that old preacher in Clarence Jordan’s story: “Once I found out what bothered them people, I preached the same message every Sunday …”

But it’s nonsense to believe that Jesus’ Plan B for Zacchaeus involved anything like the Church Discipline Contract quoted above.

And it’s nonsense to believe that any follower of Jesus should be employing such a crooked and cruel device in his name.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* Both clergy and journalists claim this as a motto. I have to say that I heard it invoked far more often during the 10 years that I spent working at a seminary than I ever did in the 10 years that I spent working in a newsroom. But I don’t think that suggests the clergy have the better claim — I think it just reflects that I worked at a good Baptist seminary and at a bad Gannett newspaper.

** Hence the words to the Sunday school song quoted in the title of this post: “Zacchaeus was a wee little man / a wee little man was he …” So please don’t think that title is only a too-easy joke about the possible physical shortcomings that might contribute to Driscoll’s preoccupation with sex, authority and sexual authority.

*** Jesus once again is using the word “salvation” in a way most American Christians can scarcely recognize. Ask a hundred American evangelists what you must do to receive salvation and I’ll wager that not one of them says, “Give half of your possessions to the poor, and if you have defrauded anyone of anything, pay them back four times as much.” What that suggests, obviously, is that Jesus didn’t have a firm grasp on the orthodox Doctrine of Salvation.

"Looks like Bigfoot took a shit on my plate again....."

LBCF, No. 193: ‘Inaction heroes’
"Old Soviet-era joke: What is the difference between mat (profanity), and diamat (dialectic materialism)? Everyone ..."

LBCF, No. 193: ‘Inaction heroes’
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LBCF, No. 193: ‘Inaction heroes’
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LBCF, No. 193: ‘Inaction heroes’

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  • Jonathan Hendry

    Bob Cargill says about this:
    “The individual in Turner’s exposé is compelled as a condition of further participation in the group to write out in detail a list of his potentially shameful personal sexual history, while refusal to do so leads to personal details already confessed to the leadership being revealed to the community,”

    So you confess your sins in detail to the leadership, and later they reveal that if you aren’t sufficiently compliant.

    Sounds like Scientology: collecting private information during the endless ‘auditing’ sessions, and filing it away for use later.

  • LunaticFringe

    I just want to add a bit of love for Infinite Jest, possibly the most moving and readable quote-unquote difficult book there is.

  • Amaryllis

    Jesus walked up to his tree and informed him that he needed to set 13 extra plates for an unexpected party.
    Hee.

    And a year later, everyone was saying, “My dear Zaccheus! You are not the tax collector that you were.”

  • Amaryllis

    Jesus walked up to his tree and informed him that he needed to set 13 extra plates for an unexpected party.
    Hee.

    And a year later, everyone was saying, “My dear Zaccheus! You are not the tax collector that you were.”

  • I think there’s some confusion about what it means that you can’t be “thrown out” of AA.
    This does not mean that you have a license to do or say whatever you want without consequences.
    You can be thrown out of a specific meeting if your behavior is disruptive.  If that behavior becomes a pattern, odds are that you will be turned away from that particular meeting again and again unless and until you have demonstrated that you’re willing and able to behave appropriately.  There are minimal standards of behavior that every group enforces.
    And, despite the anonymity of the group, members typically attend multiple meetings at multiple locations, so the odds are that if you take your act to some meeting other than the one where you are no longer welcome, there’s going to be someone there who recognizes you and will keep a watchful eye on you.  Even without that, if you act like enough of an ass to get thrown out of one meeting, the odds are that you’ll get thrown out of any other meeting where you behave the same way.
    And engaging in harassing or intimidating actions can result in legal consequences, obviously.
    What “you can’t be thrown out of AA” means is that even if you are still an unrepentant drunk you are welcome.  There is no requirement that you stop drinking in order to participate in meetings (though if you show up three sheets to the wind and reeking of booze you may be asked to leave and come back when you’re in a little better shape and your presence will be less disruptive).  You don’t lose the right to attend meetings or claim membership because you slipped up and had a drink.
    You’re always welcome to keep trying, to, as they say in AA, fake it until you make it.
    Beyond that, AA is not an organization like a church or some professional guild where you can be excommunicated or your membership can lapse if you don’t pay your dues.  If you say you’re in AA, you’re in AA.  Whether or not you’re at a place in your life where you can observe the minimum rules for attending a meeting is another matter entirely, but the point is that no one can tell you that you’re not in.

    ETA: There’s also the question of enforcement. In an organization that has anonymity as one of its central tenets, how would you go about throwing someone out entirely? It’s been years since I’ve attended a meeting, and I last did so in Arizona. Let’s say for the sake of argument that I was so abusive and disruptive at meetings (for the record, I wasn’t) that I was “thrown out of AA.” How is a group running a small meeting in a church basement here in Virginia, nearly a decade later, going to know that I was thrown out? “Your name is Jon? Wait…there’s a notice here that someone named Jon was a jerk at meetings in Arizona ten years ago. Are you him?”

  • I think there’s some confusion about what it means that you can’t be “thrown out” of AA.
    This does not mean that you have a license to do or say whatever you want without consequences.
    You can be thrown out of a specific meeting if your behavior is disruptive.  If that behavior becomes a pattern, odds are that you will be turned away from that particular meeting again and again unless and until you have demonstrated that you’re willing and able to behave appropriately.  There are minimal standards of behavior that every group enforces.
    And, despite the anonymity of the group, members typically attend multiple meetings at multiple locations, so the odds are that if you take your act to some meeting other than the one where you are no longer welcome, there’s going to be someone there who recognizes you and will keep a watchful eye on you.  Even without that, if you act like enough of an ass to get thrown out of one meeting, the odds are that you’ll get thrown out of any other meeting where you behave the same way.
    And engaging in harassing or intimidating actions can result in legal consequences, obviously.
    What “you can’t be thrown out of AA” means is that even if you are still an unrepentant drunk you are welcome.  There is no requirement that you stop drinking in order to participate in meetings (though if you show up three sheets to the wind and reeking of booze you may be asked to leave and come back when you’re in a little better shape and your presence will be less disruptive).  You don’t lose the right to attend meetings or claim membership because you slipped up and had a drink.
    You’re always welcome to keep trying, to, as they say in AA, fake it until you make it.
    Beyond that, AA is not an organization like a church or some professional guild where you can be excommunicated or your membership can lapse if you don’t pay your dues.  If you say you’re in AA, you’re in AA.  Whether or not you’re at a place in your life where you can observe the minimum rules for attending a meeting is another matter entirely, but the point is that no one can tell you that you’re not in.

    ETA: There’s also the question of enforcement. In an organization that has anonymity as one of its central tenets, how would you go about throwing someone out entirely? It’s been years since I’ve attended a meeting, and I last did so in Arizona. Let’s say for the sake of argument that I was so abusive and disruptive at meetings (for the record, I wasn’t) that I was “thrown out of AA.” How is a group running a small meeting in a church basement here in Virginia, nearly a decade later, going to know that I was thrown out? “Your name is Jon? Wait…there’s a notice here that someone named Jon was a jerk at meetings in Arizona ten years ago. Are you him?”

  • I’m reading an excellent book right now entitled “Days of Fire & Glory: The Rise and Fall of a Charismatic Community” which seems to suggest that this is a pretty common phenomenon. From the preface: “Americans are reputedly freedom-loving, but they sometimes surrender their freedom with surprising alacrity and ease. The hierarchy and canon law can serve as guides for freedom, by forbidding a too-quick or too-total surrender of the will to another person. Perhaps freedom of the type and level that Americans have is too great a burden for some adults, who seek to surrender the responsibility for every detail of their lives to the will of another, if that other can be seen as somehow conveying God’s will” (pg. x).

  • Aine

    Yes. The other half of that quote, remember is “the way to heaven is paved with good deeds” The point is not to make you stop and consider your actions, but to make people ACT instead of wishing.

  • Anonymous

    Along these lines: I’m deeply concerned for my cousin.  He was raised Southern Baptist, and until very recently, I would have said he was the best Christian I knew.  But his behavior in the past couple of years has disturbed me.

    He dropped out of a seminary because he felt it did “too much ‘love preaching.'”  He has started attending the bad sort of Pentecostal church, and has recently expressed his desire to attend a Bible “school” that does not award any sort of accredited degree, and whose “professors” have all “graduated” from that same “school.”  It is, in short, an echo chamber, and one which students are not allowed to leave the grounds of for any reason without permission, in writing, from the leaders.  Dating, in general, is prohibited ,not that you have anyplace to go on dates.  (I would post links to the official website of this horrible place, but I can’t recall the name of it.)

    What do you do when your relatives seem to want nothing more than to join a cult?  How can you pull such people back from the brink?  His mother doesn’t recognize the signs of it being a cult and thinks it’s a good, Godly college.  The rest of the family is deeply concerned for his spiritual and mental health and is practically begging him not to go.  Is there anything in this world or the next that can save such a person?

  • Anonymous

    They even told everyone that his offenses were sexual in nature!  How is that any of their business?

  • Anonymous

    They even told everyone that his offenses were sexual in nature!  How is that any of their business?

  • Anonymous

    What?  How are you coming to that conclusion?  That sounds more like what Mars Hill thinks about how to handle such a situation.

  • Anonymous

    What?  How are you coming to that conclusion?  That sounds more like what Mars Hill thinks about how to handle such a situation.

  • Anonymous

    I always figured that the point was making sure that your actions lined up with your intentions.  Good intentions mixed with poorly-thought-out actions can cause more problems than they solve.

  • Anonymous

    I always figured that the point was making sure that your actions lined up with your intentions.  Good intentions mixed with poorly-thought-out actions can cause more problems than they solve.

  • Anonymous

    “Now tell me what positions you sinned against God in.  Did you do a little dirty talk?  Take naughty pictures?  I’m only trying to help, you understand.”

  • Lori

     
    I’m reading an excellent book right now entitled “Days of Fire & Glory: The Rise and Fall of a Charismatic Community” which seems to suggest that this is a pretty common phenomenon. From the preface: “Americans are reputedly freedom-loving, but they sometimes surrender their freedom with surprising alacrity and ease. The hierarchy and canon law can serve as guides for freedom, by forbidding a too-quick or too-total surrender of the will to another person. Perhaps freedom of the type and level that Americans have is too great a burden for some adults, who seek to surrender the responsibility for every detail of their lives to the will of another, if that other can be seen as somehow conveying God’s will” (pg. x).  

     

    Was there some good reason the author felt like s/he was making a particular observation about America? People are people, and as we’ve talked about before, some people are authoritarian followers. If the society at large doesn’t provide the level of control and direction they crave they’ll find it somewhere else. The thing democracies have going for them is that they make it possible for that to be voluntary, rather than enforcing it on everyone whether they like it or not. 

  • Lori

     
    I’m reading an excellent book right now entitled “Days of Fire & Glory: The Rise and Fall of a Charismatic Community” which seems to suggest that this is a pretty common phenomenon. From the preface: “Americans are reputedly freedom-loving, but they sometimes surrender their freedom with surprising alacrity and ease. The hierarchy and canon law can serve as guides for freedom, by forbidding a too-quick or too-total surrender of the will to another person. Perhaps freedom of the type and level that Americans have is too great a burden for some adults, who seek to surrender the responsibility for every detail of their lives to the will of another, if that other can be seen as somehow conveying God’s will” (pg. x).  

     

    Was there some good reason the author felt like s/he was making a particular observation about America? People are people, and as we’ve talked about before, some people are authoritarian followers. If the society at large doesn’t provide the level of control and direction they crave they’ll find it somewhere else. The thing democracies have going for them is that they make it possible for that to be voluntary, rather than enforcing it on everyone whether they like it or not. 

  • Lori

     
    They even told everyone that his offenses were sexual in nature!  How is that any of their business?  

     

    I know. In the Corinthian church the whole point was that everyone already knew. That was why the situation was on occasion for church discipline. If people didn’t already know what Andrew had been up then AFAIK there’s no justification for letting everyone in on the details. 

    But like I said, Driscoll is preaching the Gospel According to Mark Driscoll and there’s apparently no checks at Mars Hill on him just making shit up. 

  • Lori

     
    They even told everyone that his offenses were sexual in nature!  How is that any of their business?  

     

    I know. In the Corinthian church the whole point was that everyone already knew. That was why the situation was on occasion for church discipline. If people didn’t already know what Andrew had been up then AFAIK there’s no justification for letting everyone in on the details. 

    But like I said, Driscoll is preaching the Gospel According to Mark Driscoll and there’s apparently no checks at Mars Hill on him just making shit up. 

  • rizzo

    “It didn’t take much time before I had that church preached down to four.”
    Wow, a preacher that actually represents what Christianity should be…he’s just become my favorite person:)

  • A couple of thoughts…

    As outlined by Paul in the Bible, once he repented of his sin and confessed to another, that should have been the end of it.  Paul commands them to “receive him back as a brother” with no strings attached, not ” only if he completes the twelves step program” or whatever

    The whole thing of bringing back two witnesses, then confessing before the church, and treating him as a nonbeliever is only in the case if the person is unrepentant.  This guy has admitted that what he did was wrong over and over again, but apparently that’s not enough for these people.  He needs to be humiliated and PUNISHED, to make an example of, so that the others can look on with smug satisfaction, thankful that they are not like him.

    Confession can be good; and accountability can be useful if one is truly trying to change some bad behavior… But it should be a private thing, between one or two trusted individuals.  this whole thing… parading him before the elders and the church having him write down all the lurid details of the awful things he’s done… “I made out with my ex girlfriend… GASP!”

    The whole thing just smacks of ducking stools and stocks.  Stay in line or you’re next!

  • Danielle Custer

    Sinservice

    We should come up with an official-sounding definition for this and stick it up on Urban Dictionary, with references to Driscoll/Mars Hill

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Sinservice

    We should come up with an official-sounding definition
    for this and stick it up on Urban Dictionary, with references to
    Driscoll/Mars Hill

    “Painstaking, lascivious descriptions of officially forbidden behavior, with some tacked-on moral condemnation at the end.  In fiction, usually ends with the sinner’s death.” ?

  • Guest-again

    ‘I am shocked to hear that AA doesn’t.’
    Anyone who wishes to be a member of AA is a member of AA – and the only criteria for membership in AA is a willingness to be a member of AA. And even using the word ‘membership’ might be a bit misleading. Every single poster here could undoubtedly find an AA meeting to attend right now (or in the next day, at most) – though I would assume few of the posters here would find it necessary to attend.

    ‘I wonder how they cope if they
    gain a dangerously predatory member–someone who finds out
    participants’ names and calls their employers, for example, or someone
    who persistently hits on unwilling attendees.’
    Part of AA is openness, not secrecy – though privacy is respected. In other words, people in AA who follow the 12 steps would not have any fear of their employers being informed – in part, because the chance that they have already seen co-workers, bosses, neighbors, and so on at such meetings is actually quite good. This is considered one of the reasons for AA’s success (which, for all its various flaws, is strikingly good on an empirical basis).

    http://www.google.de/url?q=http://www.aa.org/en_pdfs/smf-121_en.pdf&sa=U&ei=I6chT-_CLs3u-gbck7CxCA&ved=0CCMQFjAD&usg=AFQjCNHZ6oHZH7wZyO0xf9SsL6BMFKrOxQ (pdf link – this is a non-pdf link – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve-Step_Program

    As for hitting on people – assuming this is meant figuratively – then the person will rapidly find out their presence is not desired – without losing their AA ‘membership.’ (According to AA’s framework, all its members are essentially members for life.) If you mean it literally – and it certainly does happen in settings like homeless shelters – then the authorities, or the police, deal with it as just another case of law breaking. Again, the person does not lose ‘membership.’

    AA is for people with a problem, and a willingness to deal with that problem – generally, in such a setting, one rarely worries about things that are truly miniscule compared to the desire to start drinking again. Never forget what AA is – it is a place for alcoholics to go who have stopped drinking (or are trying to). That is all AA is, and the only condition for ‘membership’ is being an alcoholic – and none of the other alcoholics will deny that person membership in their ‘organization.’ Though some members of AA insist that only AA offers a true path to salvation – but that is another subject entirely.

    (Am I in AA? Nope, never have been, and it is unlikely I ever would, if only due to the overt religosity. Do I know people who are – most certainly. Do I think AA is extremely helpful for its members – well, I do believe what its members tell me about it, and I have basis to argue with someone who has not had a drink for a decade, or 15 years, or 8 – and so on.)

  • Mike

    If you are
    going to engage in predatory behavior while attending our group sessions, we
    are going to spend our efforts explaining why this is inappropriate until you
    either a) stop being predatory or b) get sick of it and leave. It doesn’t
    matter if the behavior was actually predatory or only perceived by us as
    predatory.

    As to how
    it contrasts with Mars Hill’s approach: I say if you choose to leave, then
    that’s the end of it. You will always be welcome to come back as long as you
    recognize that being predatory is inappropriate. Heck, I’ll even go so far as
    to say you’ll welcome back as long as your behavior is not predatory.

    For the
    pastor who preached the church down to four, substitute “racist” for
    “predatory” and it’s essentially the same thing.

    In light
    of Fred’s follow up post, I recognize that it’s important to present our
    efforts in a genuinely loving way; but it’s still important to clearly and
    strongly condemn the behavior.

  • Guest-again

    I see Jon Maki did a better job than I (disqus is really a bad system at patheos)

    As for public/private and confidentiality – the wikipedia link does a good, though typically brief, job discussing what is in fact a somewhat intricate subject. No one who is an AA member is supposed to receive public benefit from being a member – in other words, being a member is supposed to be about not drinking and participating in a community helping those equally desiring the same, and not anything revolving around profiting from that participation. It is supposed to be private, but no meeting is secret – anyone can attend any meeting, at any time.

    And considering how long the organization has existed, it is pretty obvious that its ‘membership’ is capable of dealing with normal human frailties in a suitable manner. Possibly because the group has a shared focus that tends to provide a framework in which other concerns are considered to be secondary to AA members – who, after all, are alcoholics first. As noted in the original AA first step – ‘We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.’

  • Guest-again

    As did Mike – which makes sense. I’m just an outside observer, in the end – which pretty much explains my awareness of a number of things.

  • Si

    Among the many vomity things about this contract and the community fatwa that followed, what struck me was that the sex he had with his fiancee was the sin that was focused on. Not the betrayal with the old friend. It was that he had “secret” sexual relations with the fiancee, that he “lied” about this to “everyone” (this may or may not be true, but it’s also likely that their intimate relationship was *private*, not secret) and that he “dated/courted her under false pretenses.”

    At any rate, this church is sick.

  • Erl

    CU 5012, I hope you won’t mind my presumption in adding that definition to UD! 

  • Quercus

    > I’ve come up with some possibilities:
    > Did I miss anything?

    How about these two?

    5) They want names of co-sinners to apply steps 1-4 (and 6!) to; and

    6) Looking for tips on improving their own techniques.

  • Tom V

    Wasn’t it Groucho who didn’t want to join any club that would have him as a member?

  • Nenya

    I wish I knew how to pull people back from joining a cult. One of my aunts and her husband have in the last few years recently fallen under the sway of a very charismatic and controlling pastor, for whose church they sold their “dream house” (that they’d spent the last five years building and finally living in) and moved to another state. Now their sons are marrying into that church, and I’m happy for them because they seem to be in love, but I’m also worried because I get the vague impression that the girls were sort of picked out for them. 

    As I said to one of my other aunts, who is also worried–“Didn’t our family already go through this decades ago? All of the rest of my parents’ generation got cult-joining out of your systems back in the 1970s! And I thought Aunt M. had too…”

    I certainly have no influence over them, being the commie liberal agnostic bisexual Canadian. Who really hopes she isn’t just sitting around feeling superior because they’re different from me.

  • Anonymous

    I’m going to re-post something that I said on Matthew Paul Turner’s blog, on his post about spiritual abuse from earlier today. I’m curious about whether anyone else is interested in these ideas:

    I think there’s real work to be done in evangelicalism in stamping
    the kinds of attitudes among both clergy and laity that enable spiritual
    abuse. The ideas that people who get in trouble with a pastor must have
    done something to deserve it, that pastors are ordained/called by God
    and thus unlikely to really mess up, that it’s okay for churches and
    parachurch organizations to assert authority over members’ personal
    lives, and that it’s okay for churches to kick out people who are not
    actively causing serious harm to the community are hugely problematic
    and need to be fought.
    As for what to do when there’s a spiritual abuse situation going on?
    Don’t support the pastors, and do support the victims. Don’t buy
    Driscoll’s books. Don’t go to events where he’s participating. When
    another church or parachurch group invites him to speak, write to them
    and tell them why you won’t be going and why you don’t think they should
    associate with him. Speak your mind when people say positive things
    about him. Comment negatively on articles he writes and articles
    praising him, with links to stories of people he’s abused. Comment
    positively on the sites of spiritual abuse survivors. Financially
    support spiritual abuse survivors who must pay for mental health care to
    help them recover from the abuse. Actively support and encourage
    spiritual abuse survivors, and don’t condemn them if they’ve left the
    church or Christianity behind due to the abuse.
    Ultimately, it would be great if someone set up a nonprofit
    organization to work on spiritual abuse issues: advocacy for spiritual
    abuse survivors, education of pastors and mental health professionals on
    spiritual abuse, financial support for people incurring financial
    losses due to spiritual abuse, legal support for people in need of legal
    help due to spiritual abuse, and raising public awareness of spiritual
    abuse. I know some websites dealing with spiritual abuse (e.g. http://www.batteredsheep.com/), and a couple of small nonprofits that deal with specific subsets of spiritual abuse (http://www.safepassagefoundation.org/, http://www.takeheartproject.org/).
    I don’t know of any group that’s trying to take on the whole issue or
    that has gotten the funding to do the sort of comprehensive support and
    advocacy work I’m envisioning. Does anybody have the know-how and
    ability to get something like this started?

  • pinksponge

    There is SNAP (Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests), http://www.snapnetwork.org/

    They seem to do some of the things you mention.

  • renniejoy

    I’m very sad that one of the churches in my town (Seattle suburbs) has become a branch of Mars Hill Church. 

  • Anonymous

    That’s not a Bible school, that’s a voluntary jail. 

  • Anonymous

    Thanks! SNAP seems specifically focused on sexual abuse by Catholic priests, though. 

  • Anonymous

    Call it what it is–a cult.  My cousin is joining a cult.  And the worrying thing is, I don’t know if there’s any way to stop him from doing so, or to salvage what’s likely to come out.

  • Anonymous

    Call it what it is–a cult.  My cousin is joining a cult.  And the worrying thing is, I don’t know if there’s any way to stop him from doing so, or to salvage what’s likely to come out.

  • Anonymous

    Call it what it is–a cult.  My cousin is joining a cult.  And the worrying thing is, I don’t know if there’s any way to stop him from doing so, or to salvage what’s likely to come out.

  • Anonymous

    Deriving twisted pleasure, vicariously, from the wrongdoing of others, while simultaneously denouncing it as The.  Worst.  Possible.  THING.

  • Anonymous

    Deriving twisted pleasure, vicariously, from the wrongdoing of others, while simultaneously denouncing it as The.  Worst.  Possible.  THING.

  • Anonymous

    Deriving twisted pleasure, vicariously, from the wrongdoing of others, while simultaneously denouncing it as The.  Worst.  Possible.  THING.

  • Lucie

    This type of discipline undoubtedly would have worked very well in Puritan days, especially in small villages.  But in a church of 10,000?  How many people even know the offender personally so that they can “disfellowship” him as instructed?  There’s practically a church on every corner nowadays – just find one where they don’t know you.  And in a church the size of Mars Hill, how many other pew warmers are engaging in some sort of behavior that would require a “contract”?  The elders would be kept so busy disciplining, there’d be little time for anything else!  I don’t mean to suggest that church discipline should never take place…but surely there are more effective ways than this, ways that would not, once again, have the potential to make Christians a laughingstock.  How many converts to the faith do you think this story will win?

  • Marla Abe

    I come from a church background that has practiced church discipline for centuries. It is normally redemptive, not judgmental in its purpose.  Mars Hill seems to totally disregard the clear Matthew 18 scripture. One is to go one on one and if the sinner repents, the subject is over.  From what I have read, there was repentance, confession to the appropriate people (fiancee) and group leader.  That is all that is needed.  It is only if someone fails to see that what they have done is possibly sin, does a brother or sister take along two others to speak in love and privacy to that person. If that attempt at caring fails, then eventually the church will speak…openly to that person, and warn them of the consequences of continuing in that lifestyle.  The “church” can be a few people, or the entire congregation on a need to know basis.
    In one incident that I read, in the 1900s, the church asked a young mother to repent of her having a child out of wedlock. After she confessed, she was forgiven, and the presiding elder said, “Anyone who gossips about this or brings it up again will be under penalty of discipline.” 
    I have been on a group who was working with discipline.  We had a young woman, aged 18, who was a housekeeper for a man in his forties, and she was pregnant. (She had just graduated from high school and had a full scholarship to college.) We talked to her and told her that she did not need to stay with him, as we as her church would financially provide for her baby for the rest of her child’s life.  She chose to stay with him.  Our big “discipline”…we asked her to step out of leadership.  No one other than us had a need to know, so it was not announced publicly. She kept attending, we kept loving her and I was glad to perform her wedding ceremony about four years later. 
    I also attended a whole church meeting which dealt with adultery in two leadership positions.  It was only made public because it had become known pubicly.  One of the persons who had fallen into sin was there and confessed.  Immediately two older people, looking grim, walked to her. I was scared. What they did was to start hugging on her and crying with her.  Grace was offered.
    Churches like Mars Hill give discipline a bad name, as it is not meant to punitive.