Rev. Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill church, has a true gift. Just when I think I’m making at least a modicum of progress toward tolerance – if not actual Christlike love – toward the guy, inevitably he does something to make me despise him all over again.
On the Monday, before President Obama’s inauguration ceremony, Driscoll sent out the following message to his more than 300,000 Twitter followers:
Praying for our president, who today will place his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know.
As of Thursday morning, the tweet has received more than 3,400 retweets and nearly 1,350 favorites. Driscoll’s next tweet was about an iPad Mini giveaway.
I have so many points of struggle with this, it’s hard to know where to start. On a more superficial level, he taps into one of my biggest pet peeves (as pointed out in one of my “Christian Cliche” articles) by saying he’s praying for someone, and then following that with a double-barreled insult. It seems that, when people say they’re praying for someone in this context, it’s effectively saying the person is wrong and they’re asking God to make them different. This smacks of inauthenticity, condescension and contempt. You’re not praying for him; you’re praying at him.
Further, Driscoll drags the President through the theological mud by suggesting both that he doesn’t believe the Bible and likely doesn’t even know God. This places many subjective value judgments on something I believe can’t be made into a propositional “right/wrong” sort of binary. What does it mean to believe the Bible? Does Driscoll really believe that he – or anyone else – can embrace a thoroughly unmediated or uninterpreted understanding of scripture? This is arrogance of Pharisaic proportions.
And to suggest that anyone, let alone the President of the United Sates (whoever he or she is at the time) is Godless not only dishonors the office itself; it implies that the accuser knows the inner-workings of another’s heart and relationship to God. I’m no Biblical scholar, but my sense of the Bible’s message on this is that no one but that person and God knows a person’s true heart.
So I’m left here with these feelings about Driscoll, most of which are quite familiar to me by now. I worry that he is leading thousands of people in a direction of rigidity, intolerance and divisiveness. I am angered by his judgments. I am saddened by the number of affirmations his statement has received. And I’m disturbed by the fact that he can so effortlessly shift from denigrating the President to giving away iPad Minis.
Now. what the hell do I do with all of these feelings? Part of my job as a Christian blogger is to call out wrongs where I witness them, which is part of the aim of this post. But as for Driscoll personally, I am at a loss. I don’t want to pray for him. He pisses me off. I don’t like him. I don’t even want to love him. If I do pray for him, I want to pray that he will change, which is in many ways the very thing I’m suggesting he has inappropriately done. I’d like to ignore it all, but he is one of the more prominent voices in Christianity today. His words have tremendous weight. His actions affect the future of the Body of Christ.
So how do I begin to love someone I find so very easy to hate? For me, it starts with the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Am I likely to change Mark Driscoll? Chances are he doesn’t even know I exist. And even if he didn’t the odds of him caring what I think are marginal. I don’t matter in his world. So what is the net effect of this hate? It’s poison in my own well, really. And if I don’t contend with it, I run the risk as a public figure of passing that poison on to others.
So I lay it down. I give it to God. I try to imagine Driscoll as a child – literally – and as a beloved creation of God. I also remind myself that God is God, and I’m not. It’s not my job to discern the nature of Mark Driscoll’s character, though I do feel compelled to name destructive, mean-spirited behavior when I see it. But to attack him personally is to, as Paul decries, become the thing I hate. It’s like Luke Skywalker striking out at Darth Vader, only to look down and realize that every act of aggression makes him more like his enemy.
In the end, in an effort to search my own heart, I think my greatest distress comes from a lack of trust. I can’t seem to trust that God will make God’s self known in the world in the ways that we need it to be known. I want people to see God the way I see God (surprise!), and I have a reflexive urge to discredit other perspectives that appear antithetical to that view.
So how do I love Mark Driscoll? Ultimately, I love him (or try, anyway) because as much as I wish I didn’t, I see myself in him. I can’t claim any moral high ground over him when he and I are of the same cloth.
Do I like admitting that? What the hell do you think?
So Mark, my brother, I can’t say with a clear conscience that I love you today, right now. But I’m working on it. And any help you can give me in that regard would be really great.
Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004. Christian is the creator and editor of "Banned Questions About The Bible" and "Banned Questions About Jesus." His new memoir on faith, family and parenting is called "PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date."