To all my friends who have written me in the past month wondering why I have not joined in the cacophony of voices denouncing Mark Driscoll. I have a simple answer. I addressed my problems with MD years ago. I grew tired of being one voice noting that he is a bully and a poor preacher. Now that many others are saying it and his empire is collapsing, I am mostly content to let others have their say.
With this article, I am done discussing him. Now it is time to focus on those groups of people who enabled him over the years (and are still enabling him). I think those people need to take a look at themselves in the mirror and answer for their actions. Here are the groups I am speaking of.
Christians Who Like Bullies: One teaching of Jesus that disturbs a lot of people is his insistence that we turn the other cheek. Jesus clearly teaches we are to expect to be persecuted and that the mark of a Christ-follower is that they don’t strike back. They don’t complain when they are mistreated, but they pray. In recent years, Christians have come under fire for our beliefs and many of our practices. In some cases, the criticisms are just. But other times, they are just mean-spirited attacks on our belief system.
As Christians, it bothers us to have people attack us indiscriminately. It bothers us that culture now accepts certain sins that we find abhorrent. It bothers us that our children like television more than church, their friends more than youth group, drugs more than prayer, video games more than Bible Study. It bothers us so much that we want to lash out at the world.
That is why so many Christians latch onto bullies and those who preach like bullies. I am speaking of people like Pat Robertson, John McArthur, Bill Gothard, Michael and Debi Pearl and MD. People rush to hear these people because in their gruff, judgmental and unapologetic ways they sound prophetic against our decaying culture. Unfortunately, all of them have shown by their actions that they are bullies. I use the word “bully” as another word for “abuser”. The word abuser has become so tainted by association with sexual things that I think the word bully suffices. The same people who like Driscoll also like Rush Limbaugh and Judge Judy.
They all come across as hard and critical. In reality, their style doesn’t allow anyone to disagree with them. They shout down all their opponents. They have opponents.
People, it is time to examine the ones you like to listen to. Isn’t it true that you love voices that cry out against the decadence and even though they may go too far, you listen because the alternative sounds “wussified” (to use a term made common by MD). Time to see that Jesus is not the way we think he is. He dialogued with people, showing them the error of their ways, weeping over Jerusalem. Yes, he turned over the tables of money-changers–once–but more often he tenderly protected those who were being bullied. Today’s pulpit bullies have more in common with the Pharisees than Jesus.
Mega-Church Addicts: I have written so much about the mega-church in past articles here and on my old blog. Suffice to say, I consider the mega-church to be the Christian equivalent of Wal-mart. Their existence in a community may help people to find lower commitment, but they end up destroying the smaller churches who have more to offer the community. MD and other mega-church pastors are crumbling these days and part of it is because no person can handle that much notoriety and devotion without it destroying them. People like Steven Furtick, Joel Osteen, MD and Ted Haggard are being brought before the general public in articles published by major magazines. Their lives are shown to be failing and it causes the Christians who attend the mega-churches to get cynical and to be done with church forever. The church of 500 doesn’t put on a show, they don’t buy their way onto the NY Times bestseller list, they don’t have CDs for sale in the lobby. They don’t have a lobby. Time to consider that you joined a mega-church for the show and stayed because they asked for the least amount of commitment. They are Wal-mart.
Neo-Calvinists: The ones who supported MD the most are the bullies of the theological world. They are the ones who like to present God as the Great Benevolent Bully (my term, not theirs). This group is the Neo-Calvinists, those who believe so much in the sovereignty of God that they essentially lay all of the world’s evils at God’s feet. Teachers like John Piper, CJ Mahaney, MD and RC Sproule have littered the church landscape with their vision of God. Calvinists were content simply to place God’s sovereignty over our salvation. They believed that we are saved by God’s fiat choice and by nothing of ourselves. They never extended that beyond salvation.
But now you have preachers like Piper who claim that all the children who died in the shooting at Newtown a couple of years ago died because God wanted them dead. The old Calvinists would say that God allowed it, but the Neo-Calvinist claims God wanted it that way.
In recent months, most of the Neo-Cals have had to make one apology after another. They apologize for hurting others with their bullying teaching. I thought this wayward doctrine had disappeared in the early seventies, but MD and Piper made it popular again. Mahaney had to resign his church because of how many people were hurt by his ways. Piper had to take a leave of absence because he realized how much his teachings have hurt people. MD has made four public apologies for making misogynistic, arrogant, gay-hating, worship-leader-bashing statements.
I look at Arminians such as Jack Hayford, Roger Olson, Greg Boyd and Francis Frangipane and note they have never had to make these kind of apologies.
It is time for those who like the mega-church, bullying, Neo-Calvinist preachers to take stock and look at your lives. Do they look like Jesus? The men you’re following don’t.