A few weeks ago a firestorm erupted over an announcement at Patheos that former mega-church pastor, Mark Driscoll would be writing for the website. The complaint lodged by fellow Progressive Christians was that Driscoll’s views on women were not only backward and demeaning, but that he had also done women and others real harm.
I don’t doubt it. Driscoll has described himself as William Wallace II (of Braveheart fame) and as “a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed.” He has made vulgar and derisive comments about women and gays that I will not air here because they were so crude and dismissive; and his abrupt departure from his Mars Hill Church not only evaded questions that the church’s lay leaders put to Driscoll about his behavior, but effectively killed the church’s ministry.
I have never understood Driscoll’s appeal and it is hard to imagine it even now. Just picture a boorish, drunken neighbor, send him off to the gym, get him to drop a few pounds, provide a new wardrobe, leave everything else unchanged, give him a church to own, and add a Bible. That is more or less the picture the picture I have of his ministry.
All that said, I was surprised by the strength of the objections that my friends and colleagues raised over his resurfacing on this website. Patheos is not a confessional entity. Far from it. It hosts a variety of religious, non-religious, irreligious and anti-religious points of view. It features a variety of Christian perspectives, but it also hosts Satanists, Pagans, and atheists. And it relies on a variety of schemes to raise money in order to do all of that.
But why swallow Satanists and balk at Driscoll — especially on a site that has no explicit commitments? Because all God’s children got dogma.
So, after almost a century of portraying fundamentalists as dogmatists and progressives as the tolerant sort who aren’t and who might – or even should — be able to get along without it, maybe it’s time to admit that we all need dogma.
After all, the word dogma is borrowed from the Greek word, dokeîn, which means “that which one thinks is true” or good. Better to arrive at that conclusion in a systematic fashion, based upon what one believes is true about God and the purpose of our lives, than it is to do it piecemeal, reacting to one Mark Driscoll at a time.