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.

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  • Mary Kaye

    I will not defend what Driscoll did by any means.

    I do think, however, that an organization has to be able to throw people out.  I am shocked to hear that AA doesn’t.  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.

    I belonged to a Pagan religious group that did not want to ever throw anyone out.  We finally did throw people out after we met (a) the person who would not tolerate women speaking, and (b) the person who groped unwilling women.  We did not have the resources to police them constantly and make them not do these things, and if we had not thrown them out, we would in effect have been throwing out all of our female members.

    I don’t see a Bible example of Jesus dealing with this.  I really don’t know what he would have done.  But I know what *I* needed to do, and it involved being exclusive.

  • Mike

    Fred is very specific about how he thinks it should be handled. All the members of the group who don’t support a members actions spend all their energy and attention discussing with that member exactly why his actions are inappropriate every time they gather until that member either changes their behavior or stops attending the gatherings.

    After saying that out loud I realize it becomes a fine line between throwing them out or driving them out. I suppose it’s all in the intent.

    And you know what they say about the road lined with good intentions.

  • Anonymous

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

  • 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.

  • Anonymous

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

  • http://profiles.google.com/yamikuronue Bayley G

    I believe an individual group can make a member no longer welcome to their meetings, but you’re still an AA member and still presumably following the 12 steps on your own and still allowed to meet with your sponsor (assuming they want to meet with you) and so forth, presumably able to join another group. 

  • Amilia

    I do think, however, that an organization has to be able to throw people
    out.  I am shocked to hear that AA doesn’t.  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.

    Maybe they don’t kick people out, but sometimes things happen to people like that. Sometimes their brakes just stop working, right in the middle of the interstate like that. Life has a way of working things out for people who mess with AA…

  • P J Evans

     For whatever it might be worth, I belong to a group which only rarely kicks people out (generally for reason, and it requires(a) approval by the board; (b) a waiting period; and (c) a vote by the business meeting). Usually people choose to just not show up any more, and stop paying dues. (Death, however, does not terminate membership.)

  • Amilian

    I do think, however, that an organization has to be able to throw people
    out.  I am shocked to hear that AA doesn’t.  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.

    Maybe they don’t kick people out, but sometimes things happen to people like that. Sometimes their brakes just stop working, right in the middle of the interstate like that. Life has a way of working things out for people who mess with AA…

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

     I do think, however, that an organization has to be able to throw people out.  I am shocked to hear that AA doesn’t.  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.
    Totally, totally, totally with you here.

    Groups such as this allow for predatory members to continue their behaviour and *reproduce* the kyriarchal inequalities of the system.

    I admire the difficult work that you did in your group to protect those who are otherwise preyed upon.

  • http://theitinerantmind.wordpress.com/ A. W.

    This is so tragic, but what’s worse is that it’s not just Mark Driscoll.  In his Religious Literacy, Stephen Prothero laments “our collapsing
    of religion into “values” and “values” into sexual morality, which in
    turn functions via an odd sort of circular reasoning as a proxy for religiosity.
    At least in popular parlance, what makes religious folks religious
    today is not so much that they believe in Jesus’ divinity or Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths but that they hold certain moral positions on bedroom issues such as premarital sex, homosexuality, and abortion.”  The disproportianate emphasis on sex has become endemic to the whole American Christian experience.  Without it, it becomes harder to imagine something as ridiculous as this taking place.

  • http://thetalkingllama.wordpress.com/ SketchesbyBoze

    Jesus gives a model of church discipline in Matthew 18.

    That being said, though, Andrew’s situation sounds oddly like a situation I’ve been in for the last two years. I live in a religious community with 20 friends from college. Near the end of 2010, I was severely disciplined and everyone stopped talking to me, even though some of us were still living in the same house. Eventually the (nationally-known) church organization to which we belong found out about it and rebuked my community for being “cult-like” (several of us had been disciplined in similar ways). Today I’m still living in the house, but there remains a lot of tension between me and the others. I’m not saying I don’t deserve it at all; I have a history of treating people horribly, and I’m trying to understand why.

  • http://thetalkingllama.wordpress.com/ SketchesbyBoze

    Jesus gives a model of church discipline in Matthew 18.

    That being said, though, Andrew’s situation sounds oddly like a situation I’ve been in for the last two years. I live in a religious community with 20 friends from college. Near the end of 2010, I was severely disciplined and everyone stopped talking to me, even though some of us were still living in the same house. Eventually the (nationally-known) church organization to which we belong found out about it and rebuked my community for being “cult-like” (several of us had been disciplined in similar ways). Today I’m still living in the house, but there remains a lot of tension between me and the others. I’m not saying I don’t deserve it at all; I have a history of treating people horribly, and I’m trying to understand why.

  • Nenya

    Near the end of 2010, I was severely disciplined and everyone stopped talking to me, even though some of us were still living in the same house. Eventually the (nationally-known) church organization to which we belong found out about it and rebuked my community for being “cult-like” (several of us had been disciplined in similar ways). Today I’m still living in the house, but there remains a lot of tension between me and the others. 
    SketchesbyBoze, this is reminding me of the cult my family was in until my mid-teens, and some of the BS they pulled in the year before my parents left. It is indeed really hard when your sources of emotional, social, and sometimes financial support are the same people who are treating you badly in this way. 

    I think one of the things that helped my parents was to talk to people who understood their situation but weren’t quite as close to it, like ex-members of the cult and friends & family who were part of the group but lived across the country. It gave them some perspective. I also remember one of their friends starting to ask them, “Why did you join this group in the first place? What did you want to gain, by doing so? Okay: now, has that worked out–are you getting the things that you need from this group and is it fulfilling what it promised you when you joined?” (They eventually realized that no, it wasn’t, and ended up planning to leave–at which point the cult decided to kick them out, in a sort of “you can’t quit, we fire you” way. But I think even if they’d stayed it would have been a good thing to think about.) 

    I can’t say what you need to do about your situation. But shutting people out and giving them the silent treatment does not seem healthy to me, and if you have people you can talk to who aren’t right there in the middle of it with you, I think that would be a good idea. 

  • Nenya

    Near the end of 2010, I was severely disciplined and everyone stopped talking to me, even though some of us were still living in the same house. Eventually the (nationally-known) church organization to which we belong found out about it and rebuked my community for being “cult-like” (several of us had been disciplined in similar ways). Today I’m still living in the house, but there remains a lot of tension between me and the others. 
    SketchesbyBoze, this is reminding me of the cult my family was in until my mid-teens, and some of the BS they pulled in the year before my parents left. It is indeed really hard when your sources of emotional, social, and sometimes financial support are the same people who are treating you badly in this way. 

    I think one of the things that helped my parents was to talk to people who understood their situation but weren’t quite as close to it, like ex-members of the cult and friends & family who were part of the group but lived across the country. It gave them some perspective. I also remember one of their friends starting to ask them, “Why did you join this group in the first place? What did you want to gain, by doing so? Okay: now, has that worked out–are you getting the things that you need from this group and is it fulfilling what it promised you when you joined?” (They eventually realized that no, it wasn’t, and ended up planning to leave–at which point the cult decided to kick them out, in a sort of “you can’t quit, we fire you” way. But I think even if they’d stayed it would have been a good thing to think about.) 

    I can’t say what you need to do about your situation. But shutting people out and giving them the silent treatment does not seem healthy to me, and if you have people you can talk to who aren’t right there in the middle of it with you, I think that would be a good idea. 

  • http://thetalkingllama.wordpress.com/ SketchesbyBoze

    Sorry for the double post! Disqus said there was an error

  • Lori

     
    Sorry for the double post! Disqus said there was an error  

     

    This happens a lot these days. What I’ve found is that when Disqus says there’s an error it rarely, if ever, means that your post didn’t go through. Save it just in case, but don’t repost until you hit refresh and see if the first try was successful. It most likely was and you can just ignore Disqus’ complaining. 

  • http://thetalkingllama.wordpress.com/ SketchesbyBoze

    From Cargill’s article: “. . . along with directives to the community to ostracize and not communicate
    with the excommunicated individual – a community which in many cases is
    the sole friendship and support group for the individual. That is the
    definite activity of a cult.”

    But what can you do when it IS your community? By definition, you’re stuck. I talked with a Christian adult friend who said he would have normally advised against joining a religious community like this one, but “these are your best friends and I’m not going to tell you to leave.” They’re my people. What do you do?

  • Lori

     
    They’re my people. What do you do?  

     

    I honestly don’t mean to sound flippant, but it may be time to start looking for new people. That will certainly involve pain and difficulty, but quite possibly less pain in the long run than being part of a group that at least tends toward the cultish. You’re the only one who can determine that, but you many want to consider looking for another place to live as a first step. Stepping outside the situation a bit may provide some perspective that will make the larger decisions easier. 

  • 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

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

  • 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

    The one and only piece of sound theology I ever heard on a Mike Warnke tape* was in reference to a stoner who wanted to know if he needed to quit smoking dope to get saved to which Warnke (claims he) replied, “No. You don’t take a bath before you take a bath, do you?”

    *Loaned to me by a fundie friend who was sorely disappointed that I had remembered all the drug humor but none of the preachy bits. (As drug humor goes, it’s been stepped-on Cheech & Chong, but still delivered a chuckle or two when I listened to it.)

  • Lori

     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.”  

    Given who we’re talking about I realize this is a rather stupid question, but exactly how do Driscoll and his toadies justify this? It’s not in the Bible. Even if you’re going with WWPD?*, once the dirty reprobate said he was no longer a member of Mars Hill and stopped attending Driscoll & Co lost all Biblical authority over him. The letter wasn’t church discipline it was group control. Cult indeed. 

    *What Would Paul Do?  (Are the letters to the Corinthians still considered one of the Pauls rather than one of the not-Pauls?)

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Even if you’re going with WWPD?*, once the dirty reprobate said he was
    no longer a member of Mars Hill and stopped attending Driscoll & Co
    lost all Biblical authority over him.

    I think Driscoll & Co would think they still do have authority over him. After all, they are the One True Church full of Real True Christians…

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Even if you’re going with WWPD?*, once the dirty reprobate said he was
    no longer a member of Mars Hill and stopped attending Driscoll & Co
    lost all Biblical authority over him.

    I think Driscoll & Co would think they still do have authority over him. After all, they are the One True Church full of Real True Christians…

  • 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?

  • 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. 

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com/ Michael Mock

    As a simple matter of clarification – because I’m nitpicky, in other words – it wasn’t just fooling around with someone other than his fiance that got Andrew in trouble. It was that once he’d confessed to that, it also came out that he’d been active with his fiance. (That’s easy to overlook, at least for me, because the idea that an engaged couple might be doing the Wild Thing doesn’t spark an “Oh, how horrible!” reaction from my moral compass. It barely spikes above “Yeah? So what?”)

    But some of that story, and in particular the wording (“Andrew has shown a pattern of behavior…”) only makes sense if you keep that in mind.

    Again, I don’t mention this to condone or defend the behavior of Mars Hill’s leadership. But their reaction makes even less sense if you lose track of it.

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com/ Michael Mock

    As a simple matter of clarification – because I’m nitpicky, in other words – it wasn’t just fooling around with someone other than his fiance that got Andrew in trouble. It was that once he’d confessed to that, it also came out that he’d been active with his fiance. (That’s easy to overlook, at least for me, because the idea that an engaged couple might be doing the Wild Thing doesn’t spark an “Oh, how horrible!” reaction from my moral compass. It barely spikes above “Yeah? So what?”)

    But some of that story, and in particular the wording (“Andrew has shown a pattern of behavior…”) only makes sense if you keep that in mind.

    Again, I don’t mention this to condone or defend the behavior of Mars Hill’s leadership. But their reaction makes even less sense if you lose track of it.

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com/ Michael Mock

    D’oh! Sorry for the double post.

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    “Andrew will write out in detail his sexual and emotional attachment history with women and share it with XXX.”

    On August 23rd, 2009.  I engaged myself in an act of four-way sexual attachment with your wife, your mother, and one Ms. Yugonia Kismyass.  *

    * Of course it’s easy for me to say that from my position.  I know there was a time, far back in my childhood, when the prospect of being kicked out of ‘The Church’ would have actually affected me, instilled a real fear.  Today I have barely the dimmist memory of how such a thing would have felt. 

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com/ Michael Mock

    As a simple matter of clarification – because I’m nitpicky, in other words – it wasn’t just fooling around with someone other than his fiance that got Andrew in trouble. It was that once he’d confessed to that, it also came out that he’d been active with his fiance. (That’s easy to overlook, at least for me, because the idea that an engaged couple might be doing the Wild Thing doesn’t spark an “Oh, how horrible!” reaction from my moral compass. It barely spikes above “Yeah? So what?”)

    But some of that story, and in particular the wording (“Andrew has shown a pattern of behavior…”) only makes sense if you keep that in mind.

    Again, I don’t mention this to condone or defend the behavior of Mars Hill’s leadership. But their reaction makes even less sense if you lose track of it.

  • http://profiles.google.com/yamikuronue Bayley G

    Fascinating! In one of my early deconstruction posts for This Present Darkness, I was amazed to find out you can apparently be thrown out of a church for cheating on your wife; the model you present here is much more along the lines of what I’d expect. 
    (http://yamikuronue.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/tpd-pp-67-70-in-which-no-plans-are-made/ is the post I refer to)

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I’m vaguely reminded of an SMBC theater sketch (NSFW) about “X done right” vs. “X done wrong” vs. “X done extremely wrong”, mostly because this church’s reaction falls into the “done extremely wrong” category. (go watch the video, then imagine the music for the next bit)

    Handling a church member’s confession of infidelity and sexual temptation… done right:

    Do you see how your pre-marriage intimacy with your fiancee could be linked to your weakness when offered pre-marriage intimacy by another, and how without setting strong boundaries around physical and sexual contact, you risk overlooking or ignoring spiritual value of these things?

    Handling a church member’s confession of infidelity and sexual temptation… done wrong:

    You are a SINNER! Sure, your fiancee left you, but that’s not enough! You must repent! Confess ALL your sins, every last once going back at least until you hit puberty! And then GET OUT of our holy church, you dirty, dirty sinner!

    Handling a church member’s confession of infidelity and sexual temptation… done extremely wrong:

    You committed disguisting, carnal sins of the flesh! Confess them! Confess them now… in detail… to myself, and then to three other pastors who would love to hear the details. In writing if you can. Were there any pictures involved, or video? Oh, and because you obviously have problems controlling your needs, the smartest thing for you is to not date anyone, at all. I mean, oananism is a sin, but we don’t want to hear about that…

  • Anonymous

    Reading about this guy’s (repeated) meeting(s) with his elder(s) remind me of the “self-criticism” scenes in Farewell My Concubine (“It says here your wife used to be a prostitute. Isn’t that shameful?” “It says here you used to break bricks with your head. Break one now.”), which is to say, these meetings seem to be more about giving the interrogators some sinservice* than actually helping the sinner.

    *I just made that up.

  • 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.” ?

  • 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.

  • Anonymous

    I find it oddly appropriate that Fred has posted this story today on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.  The story of Paul begins when he was a fanatical Pharisee known as Saul.  His fanaticism led him in an effort to stamp out a new and dangerous heresy which would eventually become known as Christianity.  Thanks to his efforts, he imprisoned many, condemned others to death (while overseeing the stoning of Stephen) and chasing others to foreign cities in order to bring them in and eliminate the heresy.

    Saul was eventually converted while on the road to Damascus where, as Paul, he learned that, in Christ, faith, hope and love live; and the greatest of those is love.

    It seems to me that Mr. Driscoll is living out his faith as Saul, not Paul.  He is more concerned with doctrines of purity and stamping out heresy that he’s missing the whole point of a gospel based in love.  And what saddens me most is that 10,000 people (10,000??  really???) have fallen for his brand of religion.

    When we say, “All are welcome,” we had better be prepared to understand the meaning of ALL.  Yes, there are standards of behavior.  Yes, there are things that cannot be tolerated and that may lead to excommunication.  But if you look at (and use) excommunication as a first-strike option, a club or threat with which to keep people in line, instead of the very sad, painful and last option available that it is, then you’re doing it wrong.

    On a side note:  Fun little part of the Zacchaeus story:  He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.

    The way this is written it’s not entirely clear as to whether it was Zacchaeus or Jesus who was “short in stature.”

  • http://lightupmy.wordpress.com/ Jessica

    I followed the link for the discipline contract, and the author seemed aghast that Driscoll’s behavior made Andrew not want to return to Mars Hill.  I’d actually take it a step further than that– not only does controlling behavior like Driscoll et al.’s drive people out of individual churches, but it also drives them away from God, period.  When those of us that fall into the “undesirable” categories are treated like lepers, well, speaking for myself anyway, I stop trying to associate myself with people who fear lepers. 

  • Anonymous

    I’m just trying to understand the reason that the church leadership would need a detailed accounting of the poor guy’s sexual and emotional relationships. I mean, seriously, he tried to make amends regarding his mistake and now they want his life history? I’ve come up with some possibilities:

    1.) This is a punishment designed to actually break Andrew through humiliation.
    2.) They want to have information that could be used to shame him at a future date so he will be less likely to fight back.
    3.) They want to make an example of him to keep the rest of the congregation in line.
    4.) Pr0n is a sin but voyeurism is just fine so long as you’re doing it for God.

    Did I miss anything? 

  • Anonymous

    I think you covered it.
    Say what you want about the Catholic Church, and there’s a thousand metric shit-tons of fifteen-odd centuries of stuff to say, but at least what’s said in the confessional stays in the confessional. In early Christian communities, one’s confession was often a public affair, at least when one converted, but I guess that once Christianity became the universal religion of Europe people realized “Shit! I’m still sinning and like how!” and decided to take it inside.

  • 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.

  • twig

    And you know what they say about the road lined with good intentions.

    I think I hate this saying more than any other.  It causes well-intentioned people to doubt themselves and do nothing for fear of failure while the morally bankrupt continue paving the road with wild abandon.

    All roads are paved with good intentions – who besides a handful of douchebags gets up in the morning thinking “you know, I’m going to ruin everyone’s day today!”

    Maybe this sentiment was originally intended to make people stop and consider their actions, but man it seems to be used a lot more to justify inaction and shame people who try and fail.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I think I hate this saying more than any other.  It causes well-intentioned people to doubt themselves and do nothing for fear of failure while the morally bankrupt continue paving the road with wild abandon.

    Horse-hockey! No one talks about how the road to Hell is paved with good intentions before someone does something. That line gets trotted out only after well-intentioned people go and do something careless, hurtful, and/or cruel.

    Maybe this sentiment was originally intended to make people stop and consider their actions, but man it seems to be used a lot more to justify inaction and shame people who try and fail.

    Again, horse hockey! It’s used to call out people who think intent is magical, after they try to claim that “good intentions” should excuse the harm caused by their actions. If you don’t like “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”, feel free to substitute “intent is not magical!” It takes a bit more explaining, but it works equally well.

  • 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

    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.

  • Matri

    It involved banning Andrew from dating (for an unspecified amount of
    time), required that he write out “in detail” his sexual exploits, and
    that he have meetings with a church pastor for an unspecified period of
    time.

    The only one here who should be on the sexual offenders list is Driscoll. Seriously, this is really disturbing: No dating, he has to describe “in detail” his sexual exploits, and he has to meet with a pastor for an “unspecified period of time”.

    Does anyone else feel another round of church cover-ups beginning?

  • Anonymous

    Yeah.  I think so.  The smart ass in me would like to ask, though, are they talking IKEA Erotica here or Mills and Boon Prose?

    Edit: Those are TV Tropes links. Be warned.

  • 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.”

  • Emcee, cubed

    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.

    When I read this, it sounded very familiar. These are very similar tactics of abuse used by “ex-gay” ministries, like Love Won Out. You can watch here as a Love Won Out survivor talks about being forced to recount every sin, lie, and sexual transgression to his parents, and to talk about their most personal and shameful acts in front of a room of 100’s of friends, relatives, and strangers. Yes, this is about abuse and control, humiliation and control, shame and control, and yes, sex and control.

    Good for Turner for not bowing down to this ridiculous attempt to meddle in his life. I hope he gets the support and comfort he needs, in spite of Driscoll’s retaliatory BS.

  • Anonymous

    This is incredibly disturbing on so many levels. Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to someone like Driscoll? I can understand it intellectually, but emotionally it  is completely alien to me.

  • http://thetalkingllama.wordpress.com/ SketchesbyBoze

    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).

  • 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. 

  • Benjamin Ady

    Just a wee correction on your telling of the tale-you say he “cheated on his girlfriend by falling back into bed with his former fiancée.” Whereas in the story as told by Matthew Paul Turner, he cheated on his fiancée by messing around with a female friend from community college.
    I haven’t finished reading your article, but I love your description of the difference between AA and MH Seattle, which for me more generally describes the difference between AA and church in general.  But I grew up in a church much like MH Seattle, so my take on the church in general is probably permanently tweaked =)

  • Benjamin Ady

    Just a wee correction on your telling of the tale-you say he “cheated on his girlfriend by falling back into bed with his former fiancée.” Whereas in the story as told by Matthew Paul Turner, he cheated on his fiancée by messing around with a female friend from community college.
    I haven’t finished reading your article, but I love your description of the difference between AA and MH Seattle, which for me more generally describes the difference between AA and church in general.  But I grew up in a church much like MH Seattle, so my take on the church in general is probably permanently tweaked =)

  • friendly reader

    Apologies that this is gonna be long…

    So I do love how the letter specifically says

    “Refrain from associating with Andrew in social settings such as: eating a meal, attending a concert or movie together,”

    and the quotes a bunch of Paul. Heavens forbid we quote not just the Zacchaeus story but any number of places where the Pharisees* condemn Jesus for “eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners”! Though I suppose these modern-day Pharisees probably believe Jesus was believed Jesus only did this to “talk about [their] situation in light of the gospel.”

    *le sigh*

    Every sermon I’ve heard on Matthew 18 has emphasized that (1) you don’t get to kick someone out of the church for something minor that could be resolved between individuals and (2) you need to take it in the context of how Jesus treated tax collectors and gentiles, which is nothing like Driscoll would have you do it.

    But let’s look at each of those Pauline quotes in context:
    2 Thessalonians 3:14 – First of all, Thessalonians of debatable Pauline origin; it may have been written by one of his immediate followers. Taken in context of the chapter and book, this verse is about not associating with people who quit working and mooch off everyone else because they think the world is ending. It has nothing to do with sexual sins.
    1 Corinthians 5:9-13 – This one does have to do with sexual sin, but not premartial sex. It’s about incest, or at the very least an illegal relationship. Paul is saying not to protect these people from secular criminal law.
    2 Corinthians 6:14-17 – This particular passage is also of dubious Pauline origin, though the book as a whole is considered Pauline. Mostly it’s because this passage uses terms Paul never uses anywhere else (Belial, fellowship of light and darkness), but also it seems to be about marriage between believers and unbelievers, which elsewhere Paul never condemns. Again, it doesn’t have much to do with a guy sleeping with his fiancee.
    Titus 3:10 – Titus and 1&2 Timothy were all written by the same person who was definitely not Paul; their writing styles are completely different and the content seems to be written for a later point in church history. But even in context, again, this has NOTHING TO DO WITH SEXUAL SINS. The T writer is telling them to avoid people who “cause divisions” through “stupid
    controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and
    worthless.” Most scholars consider this to be about the emerging forms of gnosticism as well as the continued concerns over how much of the Jewish law Christians should follow.So yeah, Driscoll is quoting all of these verses out of context and not balancing them with other Pauline quotes. And how on earth he thinks shunning is going to make someone want to come back to his church baffled me. Clearly this is about keeping the church up to his standards of purity and not actually helping Andrew.*I use Pharisees within the context of the gospel passages, knowing full-well that eventually their movement evolved into rabbinical Judaism, and that not all of them were judgmental hypocrites. But certainly some of them must have been, and we still have groups like certain Haredrim who have been causing a mess in Israel of late. I’m comparing Driscoll to these types, not to rabbis in general.

  • friendly reader

    Er, take the “not” out of the sentence in the 2 Thess bit about moochers.

  • friendly reader

    Er, take the “not” out of the sentence in the 2 Thess bit about moochers.

  • friendly reader

    Apologies that this is gonna be long…

    So I do love how the letter specifically says

    “Refrain from associating with Andrew in social settings such as: eating a meal, attending a concert or movie together,”

    and the quotes a bunch of Paul. Heavens forbid we quote not just the Zacchaeus story but any number of places where the Pharisees* condemn Jesus for “eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners”! Though I suppose these modern-day Pharisees probably believe Jesus was believed Jesus only did this to “talk about [their] situation in light of the gospel.”

    *le sigh*

    Every sermon I’ve heard on Matthew 18 has emphasized that (1) you don’t get to kick someone out of the church for something minor that could be resolved between individuals and (2) you need to take it in the context of how Jesus treated tax collectors and gentiles, which is nothing like Driscoll would have you do it.

    But let’s look at each of those Pauline quotes in context:
    2 Thessalonians 3:14 – First of all, Thessalonians of debatable Pauline origin; it may have been written by one of his immediate followers. Taken in context of the chapter and book, this verse is about not associating with people who quit working and mooch off everyone else because they think the world is ending. It has nothing to do with sexual sins.
    1 Corinthians 5:9-13 – This one does have to do with sexual sin, but not premartial sex. It’s about incest, or at the very least an illegal relationship. Paul is saying not to protect these people from secular criminal law.
    2 Corinthians 6:14-17 – This particular passage is also of dubious Pauline origin, though the book as a whole is considered Pauline. Mostly it’s because this passage uses terms Paul never uses anywhere else (Belial, fellowship of light and darkness), but also it seems to be about marriage between believers and unbelievers, which elsewhere Paul never condemns. Again, it doesn’t have much to do with a guy sleeping with his fiancee.
    Titus 3:10 – Titus and 1&2 Timothy were all written by the same person who was definitely not Paul; their writing styles are completely different and the content seems to be written for a later point in church history. But even in context, again, this has NOTHING TO DO WITH SEXUAL SINS. The T writer is telling them to avoid people who “cause divisions” through “stupid
    controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and
    worthless.” Most scholars consider this to be about the emerging forms of gnosticism as well as the continued concerns over how much of the Jewish law Christians should follow.So yeah, Driscoll is quoting all of these verses out of context and not balancing them with other Pauline quotes. And how on earth he thinks shunning is going to make someone want to come back to his church baffled me. Clearly this is about keeping the church up to his standards of purity and not actually helping Andrew.*I use Pharisees within the context of the gospel passages, knowing full-well that eventually their movement evolved into rabbinical Judaism, and that not all of them were judgmental hypocrites. But certainly some of them must have been, and we still have groups like certain Haredrim who have been causing a mess in Israel of late. I’m comparing Driscoll to these types, not to rabbis in general.

  • Diez

    There’s another important element that I don’t recall anyone mentioning yet– part of the reason that the MHS elders thought Andrew’s sin was so heinous was because he was a ‘wolf.’ For those who don’t know, according to Driscoll theology, women are ‘weaker vessels’ and anytime they fall into sexual sin, it’s because they were lead there by a big, strong man who they just couldn’t resist.  So (in their minds) not only was Andrew sinning, he was leading poor, weak, powerless-to-resist women into sin right along with him.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go shower.  Just typing that has made me feel filthy and tainted.

  • Diez

    There’s another important element that I don’t recall anyone mentioning yet– part of the reason that the MHS elders thought Andrew’s sin was so heinous was because he was a ‘wolf.’ For those who don’t know, according to Driscoll theology, women are ‘weaker vessels’ and anytime they fall into sexual sin, it’s because they were lead there by a big, strong man who they just couldn’t resist.  So (in their minds) not only was Andrew sinning, he was leading poor, weak, powerless-to-resist women into sin right along with him.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go shower.  Just typing that has made me feel filthy and tainted.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Isn’t it usually the other way around, though? Women have to cover up and spend most of their time working to make sure that we don’t tempt men into sexual sin. I think it’s pretty neat that apparently both sides get to play both roles now! Is this progress?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Isn’t it usually the other way around, though? Women have to cover up and spend most of their time working to make sure that we don’t tempt men into sexual sin. I think it’s pretty neat that apparently both sides get to play both roles now! Is this progress?

  • Anonymous

    The treatment of Andrew is horrible, but the thing that made me scream “CULT!!! RUN AWAY!!!!” was the instruction to the rest of the church to shun Andrew.  Any group gets to set its standards for membership, but when the group starts insisting one of those rules is that members can only socialize with other members, I get really, really scared.

  • Anonymous

    The treatment of Andrew is horrible, but the thing that made me scream “CULT!!! RUN AWAY!!!!” was the instruction to the rest of the church to shun Andrew.  Any group gets to set its standards for membership, but when the group starts insisting one of those rules is that members can only socialize with other members, I get really, really scared.

  • 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.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    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?”

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    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?”

  • 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:)

  • http://profiles.google.com/vlowe7294 Vaughn Lowe

    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!

  • 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.)

  • 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! 

  • 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.

  • Anonymous

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

  • renniejoy

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

  • 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.