The Rev. Mark Driscoll, senior pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, has apologized for losing his temper and using coarse language.
That’s a problem, because that wasn’t the problem.
Christianity Today’s Ruth Moon summarizes both Driscoll’s apology and the things he was apologizing for, while also, like Driscoll, completely missing the point of what he ought to have been apologizing for:
Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll in a letter to his congregation Friday apologized for controversial comments he made in an online discussion forum in 2000.
You can see where CT is going with this thanks to its trademark use of the tribal signifier “controversial.” Driscoll is a white evangelical with an unwavering “stance” against homosexuality and abortion, so he is not, himself, “controversial.” If Driscoll had consecrated the marriage of a same-sex couple, Moon’s report would have begun “Controversial Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll …” But since he checks all the right boxes on his Big List O’ Tribal Stances, he remains an uncontroversial person who simply wound up in proximity to controversy due to comments he made that were controversial.
In Mars Hill’s Midrash forum, posts from which resurfaced and circulated this week, Driscoll posted blunt and emotional comments critical of feminism, same-sex sexual behavior, and “sensitive emasculated” men, all under the pseudonym “William Wallace II.”
“While the discussion board itself was a bad idea, my decision to attack critics who were posting there (I did so by posting under the character ‘William Wallace II’) was an even worse idea,” Driscoll said in his letter Friday, provided to CT. “I was wrong to respond to people the way I did, using the language I used, and I am sorry for it and remain embarrassed by it.”
In his 2006 book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev, Driscoll acknowledged and apologized that he posted to the forum under the pseudonym in response to postings from “emerging-church-type feminists and liberals.”
As Warren Throckmorton points out, Driscoll’s earlier acknowledgment of those posts attacking “feminists and liberals” wasn’t so much an apology as a humblebrag. In that 2006 book, as in the recent apology he shared with Christianity Today, Driscoll rues the tone and harsh language of his “William Wallace II” sock-puppetry, but never suggests that the substance of his disagreement with them was also wrong. CT continues:
“I went on the site and posted as William Wallace II, after the great Scottish man portrayed in the movie Braveheart, and attacked those who were posting. It got insane,” he said in the book. “This season was messy and I sinned and cussed a lot, but God somehow drew a straight line with my crooked Philistine stick. I had a good mission, but some of my tactics were born out of anger and burnout, and I did a lot of harm and damage while attracting a lot of attention.”
In his Friday apology, Driscoll noted that, in his 2006 book, he used the forum posts as an example of “something I regretted and an example of a wrong I had learned from.”
“The content of my postings to that discussion board does not reflect how I feel, or how I would conduct myself today,” he told his church members Friday. “Over the past 14 years I have changed, and, by God’s grace, hope to continue to change. I also hope people I have offended and disappointed will forgive me.”
A senior pastor trolling church discussion boards pretending to be someone other than himself is a pretty sleazy form of cowardly dishonesty — “William Wallace II” deserves to join Mary Rosh in the Sock Puppet Hall of Fame — but Driscoll seems to have learned that was wrong and it was right for him to apologize for that.
But his whole apology is focused on how he said what he said — not on what he said or why anyone would ever say such things.
See, from Driscoll’s point of view, the cussing and vitriol in his posts were the extent of his “sin.” They were his “crooked Philistine stick,” but he says God still used them to draw a straight line. His apology covers the style of his postings, not the substance. He still believes that substance. He still preaches it.
He still describes the substance of those posts as a “good mission.”
Frankly, I am not “offended and disappointed” by cussing and vitriol. I don’t give a rat’s ass about Driscoll’s coarse language.
The real problem with William Wallace II wasn’t his language or his surly attitude, the real problem was his rabid, elemental misogyny.
This is a man who hates women. A lot.
Matthew Paul Turner has posted some excerpts of Driscoll’s sock-puppet posts, and in all honesty, the last time I read something like this was during my attempt to get through Elliott Rodgers’ “manifesto.”
Here is Mark Driscoll, a pastor, writing on a discussion forum for members of his church:
We live in a completely pussified nation.
We could get every man, real man as opposed to pussified James Dobson knock-off crying Promise Keeping homoerotic worship loving mama’s boy sensitive emasculated neutered exact male replica evangellyfish, and have a conference in a phone booth. It all began with Adam, the first of the pussified nation, who kept his mouth shut and watched everything fall headlong down the slippery slide of hell/feminism when he shut his mouth and listened to his wife who thought Satan was a good theologian when he should have lead [sic] her and exercised his delegated authority as king of the planet. As a result, he was cursed for listening to his wife and every man since has been his [sic] pussified sit quietly by and watch a nation of men be raised by bitter penis envying burned feministed single mothers who make sure that Johnny grows up to be a very nice woman who sits down to pee.
Everything Driscoll identifies as bad, weak, dirty or evil he characterizes as feminine.
Everything Driscoll identifies as feminine he characterizes as bad, weak, dirty or evil.
This is what he believes. This is the gospel that Mark Driscoll preaches: All that is feminine is bad, weak, dirty and evil. All who are female are bad, weak, dirty and evil.
In a sense, Driscoll’s so-called “apology” only reinforces and restates his gospel of misogyny. He apologizes for his tone and his language because, in his eyes, repeatedly comparing his targets to women is the worst possible thing anyone could say.
Driscoll’s apology acknowledges that this gospel of misogyny is hurtful and offensive, but he still does not seem to understand that it is also a lie. He doesn’t understand that he is simply wrong — that his head and his heart are overflowing with a lot of seriously warped, messed-up delusions about men and women, masculinity and femininity.
It’s no wonder the guy is a seething ball of rage and misery. He’s trying to live a lie and reality is harsh to the feet of shadows. He’s trying to be good, but in his mind goodness is all mixed-up with some Hollywood cowboy macho nonsense and the more he pursues this priapic manliness the more he finds the possibility of goodness and decency slipping away.
That’s sad to watch. It makes Driscoll something of a tragic figure, so I understand the impulse of those who say we should be responding with “grace” for poor Mark Driscoll. But he’s not the only character in this tragedy. He’s not the most important character in this tragedy. The downward spiral of his decompensation is going to harm a lot of other people and I’m far more concerned about showing grace to them first.
There are women at Mars Hill Church. There are girls at Mars Hill Church. There are girls who go to church on Sunday and hear from a man who believes that “pussies” represent everything that is wrong with the world.
In the name of all that’s holy, that has to stop. That is sin. That is evil.
And if your heart doesn’t break for those girls — first and foremost — then I simply don’t believe your appeals to grace have anything to do with what grace really means.