Monday, August 4, 2014

Mark Driscoll & Being "Half a Man," the Sequel

My midweek post responding to Mark Driscoll's online forum rants as "William Wallace II" garnered a fair amount (by my standards, anyways) of attention, and understandably so.  But given how much ink I and others have given this story, it is necessary to report and comment on the next step of this saga, which is that on Friday (which is my Sabbath), Driscoll released an apology for his William Wallace II diatribes, which I am reprinting here in its entirety (courtesy of The Christian Post):

In 2000, we had an un-moderated discussion board on the Mars Hill website," Driscoll said. "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 —indeed, it was plain wrong. 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.

Consequently, I requested that the site be taken down shortly after it began some 14 years ago," he states. "I have not been silent about this matter or the wrongness of my behavior, writing about it in Confessions of a Reformission Rev (2006) as 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. 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.

There are a couple of things on my heart that I want to say about this apology: first, it's great that he made one.  This isn't one of those nonapology apologies (you know the "I'm sorry if anyone was offended" sorts of things we see all the time now).  Driscoll doesn't make excuses or point fingers, but rather is straightforward: "it was plain wrong."  Making an apology without asterisks or caveats needs to be applauded and encouraged.

But while there may not have been any excuses or caveats, it still wasn't as complete an apology as was likely needed.  I want to look at what it is he says he was wrong for doing: responding the way he did, using the language he used.

Certainly, both of those merited an apology.  Of that, there is no debate.

But the thing that (at least for me) was most bothersome and hurtful about his words wasn't the tone, but the substance, which was not apologized for: only the "way" it was delivered and the language that was used.  And that makes it an incomplete apology.

Now, frankly, cussing doesn't offend me (although I realize it does for many other people), save for swear words that also function as sexist/racist/ethnic/homophobic/etc. slurs.  Mark Driscoll wants to throw words like 'damn' and 'ass' around like party favors in his Internet posting?  I really and truly could not possibly care less.  And if I cared at all, it would make me a giant hypocrite.

But making slurs towards women (and especially women pastors) and gay and lesbian people goes beyond tone, it speaks to a mentality that a person has, which in my experience tends to almost always be the result of one of two things: ignorance (ie, they really don't understand how what they are saying is offensive) or prejudice.

I know that's a loaded word, prejudice, and so I want to break it down before we continue: literally, its a compounding of the prefix "pre" (meaning before or prior) and judicial or judicious, meaning an exercise of judgment.  Often, we say someone is "prejudiced" in terms of being, say, racist or xenophobic, but literally what the word means is someone who judges before they should.  It means that someone has, essentially, rushed to judgment.

And that sentiment perfectly encapsulates Driscoll's William Wallace II words.  He is quick to judge, say, women pastors (by telling them to "quit (their) job and repent"), men like me who are in egalitarian marriages (for being "half a man") and gays and lesbians (the "damn freaks" comment, among others), but how well did he (or does he, for that matter) know folks in any of those demographics?  More to the point, how well did he know their hearts and the souls and their faith in God?

Now, for the record, that applies to me as well.  Like I said earlier in the week, I've never met Mark Driscoll.  All I have to go on is what he says and does publicly.  But that public record is by now so loaded with terrible things that he has said or done and then apologized for (like blaming Ted Haggard's wife for Haggard's own infidelity, plagiarizing content in one of his books, and appropriating literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of church funds to get his latest book on the New York Times bestseller list, among other things) that it is pretty easy to get an at least somewhat informed opinion on the guy's ministry.

And when these words are 14 years old (and controversies like the Haggard quotes are nearly eight years old), it is difficult to characterize any such opinions as rushed.  And it is difficult to think that an apology alone is sufficient to achieve true reconciliation.

I have to admit that there is an awfully big part of me that wants to see Mark Driscoll get his comeuppance that is so richly due to him, but that is where I have to be reminded to reach for grace and pray for him instead (as one of my wisest mentors pointed out to me privately after my midweek post, and for the record, exhorting me to pray for Driscoll is exactly the sort of accountability I need and that, thank God, my mentors provide).  And I want to, I really do, if for no other reason than Scripture tells us to, but also because there are a lot of other people who are most likely pretty great whose livelihoods are at stake here, especially since Mars Hill has already gone through one round of staff layoffs this summer.

And then there is that complete, utter, inescapable need to focus on grace.  And while extending grace and forgiveness is a Biblical imperative ("How many times must I forgive my neighbor? As many as seven times? "Not seven times, but seventy times seven," replied Jesus), accountability has to be a dimension of this as well, especially for a pastor of a church with such a strong reputation for the use of church discipline with its own members.

In 2012, it was reported (in the link immediately above) that for a sexual indiscretion with a woman who was not his fiancee, a Mars Hill member was asked to sign a contract demanding that, among other things, he write out a comprehensive list of all of his emotional and sexual sins as part of a "sexual and emotional history with women" that he was to share with his local pastor.

So...will Mark Driscoll be asked to sign a church discipline contract of any kind, or be asked to write out a comprehensive list of all of his sins as a pastor that he will then share with whoever is meant to keep him accountable at Mars Hill?  (That job, by the way, is an extremely murky one ever since the sacking of a couple of its governing elders in 2007.)

While this might sound gratuitous of me to suggest, I'm quite serious, because speaking as another parish pastor who responsible for the vast majority of preaching and teaching in his congregation: we should not ever be held to a lower standard than our flocks.  That is absolutely not okay.  And if it is, then we need to go find ourselves other gigs far away from the church, immediately, because we have forgotten what we are supposed to be about here as a church.

So is Driscoll really serious when he says "I also hope people I have offended and disappointed will forgive me" purely on the basis of his apology?  Because believe me when I say this as a writer (of sorts): words are cheap.  Prove that you're sorry by your actions.  Driscoll's words of apology, by this point in time, carry a value of near nil to me.

And make no mistake: true repentance is what needs to happen here...not only because it is Scriptural, but because, overwhelmingly, those who have been hurt at Mars Hill or by Driscoll would rather see repentance and the beginning of true accountability rather than outright punishment, and this is profoundly to their credit as Christians and as human beings.

But least so far, his lengthy track record of apologizing and then doing something else he has to apologize for again doesn't give me much to hang my proverbial hat on that he actually is repentant.

Fool me once, shame on you.

Yours in Christ,

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