This week has been a rough one for Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Following one scandal after another, the Acts 29 Network – which he helped found – removed his standing and his church’s standing within the network. They also encouraged him to step down as the leader of Mars Hill.
To add to that, Lifeway Bookstores, which is one of the biggest faith-based book chains around, decided to stop carrying all of Driscoll’s books. Basically this just means he can join me and all of us progressive Christian authors who have been edged out by Lifeway. You’ll get used to it, Mark.
All of this is good for Christianity as a whole. For starters, it demonstrates the autonomy of the Acts 29 Network from their founder. And despite their many misguided policies regarding women and their proclivity for hyper-calvinism overall, it shows that they, too, have their limits.
As for Lifeway, I can’t really tell if their decision to drop Driscoll is an ethical one, or a matter of mitigating further PR risk by having his titles in their stores. Either way, props for getting his face off the shelves, regardless.
I’d not be surprised, too, if Driscoll chooses to step down from Mars Hill in the near future. At some point, even he will recognize his leadership as untenable.
In the midst of all of this, I’m conflicted. Yes, I’ve been as vocal of a champion as anyone else for removing his authority as voice advocating for the Gospel in the world. His actions, words, and general demeanor are hurtful toward women, non-Christians, or pretty much anyone who doesn’t agree with him or conform to his mandates for what it means to be a man or a follower of Jesus.
So where’s the conflict? Frankly, I hate that it comes to this. There are plenty of ways his voice could have been attenuated or silenced without the drama and humiliation. Granted, he’s done it to himself by continuing down these many self-destructive paths, but it doesn’t make it pleasant to watch.
I’m also saddened when I see anyone – especially someone who calls themselves a Christian – rejoicing in his humiliation or suffering. Yes, we can find hope and encouragement in him being held accountable, but to revel in his public shaming is not Christ-like.
Finally, anyone who suggests this is God’s way of dishing back to Driscoll what he deserves, shame on you. First, do we honestly believe a God of infinite love, mercy, and compassion plays such games, keeping tabs and then pulling the proverbial trigger right at the moment when one’s fall will be the hardest? That’s not the God of my understanding. Second, so help us if any of us gets everything we deserve. Think, just for a moment, of the sum total of your own sins and shortcoming; now, imagine “getting what’s coming to you.” Is that “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,” sort of justice really what we want from God and for ourselves?
Or do we really believe the things Jesus said about responding to hate with love, about loving our enemies, and about finding creative, divinely inspired ways for grace and beauty to emerge even from the shit-piles we make of our lives sometimes, Mark Driscoll included?
Driscoll has an opportunity here to re-invent himself into someone who embodies resilience, grace, and humility? Will he do it? Only God and he know. Whatever his course of action, it should be done out from behind the public microphone he’s had the privilege of dominating for so long.
But as for you, Mark Driscoll the man, I’ll be doing my best to pray for you. I don’t want to, but that’s exactly why I need to.
Christian Piatt (christianpiatt.com) is the creator and editor of the Banned Questions book series and the author of PregMANcy, a memoir on faith, family, and parenting. His next book, postChristian (Jericho Books), will be published in August 2014.
Image: Mark Driscoll preaching. Courtesy Mars Hill Church Seattle, via Flickr.