Shari MacDonald Strong

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Theythinks We Doth Protest Too Much

Recently, I've been lurking on a couple of blogs where folks are discussing the upcoming peaceful protest in response to Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll's demeaning comments about women. (See also here.)

It seems like people fall into one of three categories: 1) Mars Hill attendees and Mark Driscoll fans, who say that he's a nice guy who loves Jesus, and who defend his words, saying that they're taken "out of context"; 2) Christians who are concerned that protests are somehow ungodly or unbiblical; and 3) people who support and/or are planning to participate in the upcoming protest.

I sympathize with the first group. After all, they wouldn't be at that church if they didn't like Mark Driscoll, didn't get something out of his sermons. And, to be fair, while I disagree with the man's theology, I understand that he has a certain charismatic quality (is confident, is a good speaker, etc.), and I also believe those who say that he loves God, loves the Bible, loves Jesus, loves his church, etc. I'm not saying the man is a reprobate who is contributing nothing to the church or to the world; I'm simply saying that he is also saying things that are harmful to women, whether he and his followers see it, and someone needs to say: "Wake up!" and "This needs to stop." I agree that it would be best if this came from the people around him, rather than in the form of a protest. But this isn't happening. So, it makes perfect sense to me that other people of conscience are stepping in.

This brings us to the second group: People who think that protests aren't godly. Some of these folks are concerned with the biblical directive to confront "a brother" first in private. Yet, there are numerous reports of Driscoll's refusal to meet with concerned parties. He won't allow dissenters to post on his blog. He won't listen to the concerns of a woman, as he says the proper channel is for them to talk with their husbands, not to him. I've heard additional reports about him saying he doesn't have time to listen to his critics, as he's too busy "loving [his] wife." In a recent letter to his congregation, he refers to the December 3 protesters as people who "differ with our biblical convictions." An interesting way of framing the conflict; the protesters are against "biblical convictions." I, for one, have plenty of biblical convictions, none of which allow me to stand by and watch a pastor with that much power mock and demean women, particularly those who have the audacity to have and voice opinions. (Mark Driscoll, sarcastically: "I went to community college. I have a degree in women’s studies. I have a pushup bra and clear heels and opinions!" Congregation laughs.)

The people in the second group seem to feel that it isn't right for Christians to protest other Christians, that it doesn't "build up the body of Christ." The problem is, under this line of thinking, people in power can (and some do) say any mean thing they want to, slap on the words "Jesus" and "biblical," and there is no accountability. (I'd be happy not to protest if some people within Mark Driscoll's inner circle were stepping up to hold him accountable for his words. But it isn't happening. Or, if it is, it isn't working: because Driscoll's meanspirited comments about women continue.) One can argue about the advisability of protesting over matters of theology; but Mark Driscoll's comments are something else altogether. It's one thing to take a complementarian position (which I do, in fact, disagree with); it's another to teach it via mockery, sarcasm, and laughter at another group's expense. How allowing this to continue unchecked can be seen as "building up the body of Christ" is beyond me. There have been plenty or Christian churches who taught that the right thing was to keep slaves, to withhold the vote from blacks and from women, to keep women from having rights, from owning property. But then those supposedly "ungodly" protesters got involved and held up signs, engaged in peaceful protests, and helped to get the laws changed.

Those who view protests as "ungodly" see themselves as peacemakers, I think. But until mistreatment of people groups are brought to light, there can be no peace, no healing. As a dear friend wrote to me today, protests are how the "little people" – and the big, strong people – can have a way to use their voices "when only the powerful have pulpits…it's the public call to repentance as one avenue for achieving change." It's frightening to rock the boat, to assert ourselves. Not many people want to do it. Which is really, really too bad.

Thankfully, a few good men and women are willing to do it, which brings me to the third group: people who I am profoundly thankful for.

After decades of crossing paths with people like Mark Driscoll, I feel at times like I'm holding onto Christianity by my fingernails, never quite giving up, but wondering if and when things will ever change. I am deeply grateful to find myself in a Quaker meeting where people care about the homeless and the disenfranchised, about the environment, about peace – and who weekly do things about the issues they care about.

But when I look at the larger Christian church, at the failure to take a stand and enact real change, I feel like crying. I feel more alone than I want to feel. I have to remember that the bullies and those frozen by fear or apathy or and unwillingness to get involved aren't the only faces of Christianity. I have to think about those in the church I love and respect. I have to get in my car, drive up to Seattle, and hold up a sign – and hope that those of us who care can make a difference yet.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

In the Event of Rapture, Getting "Left Behind" May Not Be Nonchristians' Biggest Problem...

As a practicing, if not "official," Quaker, and as someone who is decidedly pro-peace, I may be vastly more sensitive to this sort of thing than most people (though I sincerely hope not). But, come on. Truly. This is the sort of thing that is accepted in the Christian church today? For real?

From CrossWalk America:

Perhaps the saddest thing of all is that Left Behind Games doesn’t think you care that they’re teaching teens to kill in the name of Jesus. In fact, they think most “mainstream” Christians will embrace it. Again, from their own FAQs:

Question: Are you concerned that the Christian community won’t want a game in their home where lives are taken and people get killed?

Answer: Absolutely not. I suppose there might be a very small number that do, but we do not expect this represents the majority of the mainstream and Christian marketplace....

Sign the petition here.

C'mon, Tyndale: Give us all something to be thankful for and pull this turkey.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Overheard at Our House Today

Macky: What's our sister's name again?

Eugenia: Will, do you like antelope? Well, tonight, we're having honeydew!

Will: Mama, why is there honey in this melon?

Macky: Wait a minute! I think I see God....

Friday, November 24, 2006

"Happy Thanksgiving, Officer!"

This will go down in family history not only as the year I couldn't bring myself to buy and cook a turkey because we'd just seen Fast Food Nation, but as the year Eugenia "accidentally" dialed 9-1-1 on Thanksgiving morning, winning herself a little visit from Mr. Policeman. The little turkey! (Eugenia, not the policeman.) Gobble, gobble!

In other movie news, we just got back from watching Shut Up and Sing, a documentary about the political fall-out following Dixie Chick Natalie Maines's public disapproval of George W. Bush's decision to send troops into Iraq, and about the growth the Chicks experience in the months and years that follow, as artists, as friends and sisters, and as women learning to unapologetically find and use their voices. If you can possibly see this movie, do!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Why On Earth Would I Want to Picket a Church? More on the Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill Seattle Action

To: Mark Driscoll
Mars Hill Elders and Deacons
Acts 29 Church Planting Network
Seattle Times

As a Christian woman who is planning to participate in the planned December 3 protest at Mars Hill, I wanted to write to explain my reasons for wanting to do so and to share my concerns about some of Mr. Driscoll's recent teachings and writings.

Let me start by saying, I appreciate Mr. Driscoll's recent blog post, in which he amends his previous blog entry about the Ted Haggard affair and about the dangers of pastor's wives "letting themselves go." In particular, I am grateful for the gentle tone of the post. I believe that if this were the tone that he was known for, there would not be this current firestorm of emotion around his teachings.

It was the Ted Haggard post that brought Mr. Driscoll's teachings most recently to my attention. However, I live on the West coast and have heard of him before. I know both that Mark Driscoll is a very powerful man and that many, many people – a large percentage of which are women – have left Mars Hill Church and sometimes the larger church as a result of Mr. Driscoll's teachings. I also have heard that many people have sought therapy after leaving Mars Hill, as a result of the damage done by his teachings. That last statement, of course, is based on hearsay, so I went online to read some of Mr. Driscoll's writings and to listen to some sermons. In addition to the comments about women "letting themselves go," here is some of what I encountered (in random order):

• Derogatory comments made regularly and consistently about people who disagree with Mr. Driscoll’s theology, labeling them not only wrong or liberal, but “wussified,” “faggoty,” “chickified,” and “effeminate” (e.g., “if the Christ you serve is just a really nice guy – I hate to tell you, but you serve a weak, effeminate, faggoty Christ”).

• Mocking and undermining another denomination of the Christian church:
“The One God has kindly told us who He is—Father, Son, and Spirit. But some chicks and some chickified dudes with limp wrists and minors in ‘womyn’s studies’ are not happy because two persons of the Trinity have a dude-ish ring. So, in an effort to copy-edit God, some folks at the Presbyterian Church (USA) who have free time because no one is going to their church have decided to consider new names for God.”

• Comparing women in leadership to “fluffy baby bunnies”:
“All of this [the Episcopal church appointing female and homosexual leaders] has led this blogger to speculate that if Christian males do not man up soon, the Episcopalians may vote a fluffy baby bunny rabbit as their next bishop to lead God’s men. When asked for their perspective, some bunny rabbits simply said that they have been discriminated against long enough and that people need to ‘Get over it.’”

• Stating/implying that men are the only demographic that matters:
“The question is: ‘If you want to be innovative, how do you get young men?’ All this nonsense about how to grow the church – one issue: young men. That’s it – that’s the whole thing. They’re going to get married, make money, make babies, build companies, buy real estate; they’re going to make the culture of the future. If you get the young men you win the war – you get everything; you get the families, the women, the children, the money the business: you get everything. If you don’t get the young men you get nothing.”

• Calling strong women who disagree with his interpretation of Scripture “godless” and saying the Bible has “a low opinion” of them:
“If it’s a godly woman who has a godly agenda who has something godly to say, then she can speak. If she’s an ungodly woman with a godless feminist agenda that she borrowed from the serpent, like her mother Eve in Genesis 3, and she’s on some tirade mission to represent all women, which is what sometimes happens, women nominate themselves to represent all women… – I love it when the national organization for women, for example, comes out and says, ‘…and representing women…’ What women? Did they take a vote? Did all the Christian women vote? Did the mothers vote? Did the wives vote? No. You don’t represent all women. You represent a liberal feminist constituency. Period. Not all women. Not all women. But there are women who will rise up like that, saying ‘I speak for all women. I champion women’s rights. I champion women’s causes’ (sarcastically). We say, that’s not a problem if it’s in accordance with the rights and liberties and dignities that are afforded to a woman in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t have a low view of women. It just has a low view of some women.”

• Making fun of strong women and mocking feminists:
“The question is not: Will someone be offended? The question is, who will it be? Will we offend God, saying, you know what? This is an old book, you’re kind of an idiot. I have some other opinions. I went to community college. I have a degree in women’s studies. I have a pushup bra and clear heels and opinions! [Congregation laughs.] The question is, who will be offended: God or us? And if we are offended do we really believe that God doesn’t know what he’s talking about or that this really isn’t God speaking to us? Those are the issues on the table. ‘As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches.’ He’s speaking here about godless feminist women who are on an agenda, beatin’ a drum, plantin’ a flag in the ground, ‘We’re for women! We’re for women! We’re for women!’ He says, ‘You know what? We’re for Jesus.’ Wrong mission. Women are great, as long as they’re for Jesus.”

• More making fun of women and feminists:
“They [feminists] will say, ‘You need to treat me like a man!’ None of you women want that. No woman wants a man to treat her like another man. Because if we do…you cry. That’s true” [laughter and applause in congregation]. Also: “The problem with women, though, who want to be treated like men, is as soon as you do, they say, ‘You know what, you hurt my feelings. I’m a girl.’”

• Mr. Driscoll implies that Brian McLaren has sex with goats because he accepts gay people into his church.

• “…women who don’t respect godly authority are demonic.”

• Rather than Mr. Driscoll simply saying that he disagrees with the lifestyles of young men who work in coffee shops and suggesting an alternative or challenging them, he makes fun of them. He uses shame to get men to do what he wants, calling them “chickified,” “limp-wristed,” “pussy,” “faggoty.”

• More mocking of women who disagree with him, painting women who have opinions as “hot-headed” and “emotional,” and more implications that God doesn’t like these women:
“some women think they can do everything on their own and that if men sit by idly like cowards because they don’t want to get into with with their hot-headed, emotional, wives, eventually the women will take over the church, and then the church will go to hell.”

• Undermining women’s efforts to hold him accountable for his words, implying that the raising of theological questions by a woman is the same thing as them calling the Bible “ridiculous,” and calling the squelching of a woman’s intellect and voice “sexy”:
“Does it say, ‘Ladies, don’t have any questions’? Does it say that? No. Does it say, ‘Ladies, don’t disagree.’ No. Does it say, ‘Ladies, don’t think for yourself”? When you disagree, when you’re super-theological, when you’re all fired up, the first thing you don’t do is start yellin’ at the pastor and yellin’ at the church, firin’ nasty e-mails, and declarin’ war and puttin’ together a, a, little group of, you know, feminist women with guns who are gonna make a difference.
“If you’re married, you go talk to who? Your husband. You say, ‘Sweetheart, I was readin’ The Bible, I think it’s ridiculous’” And he would say, ‘We should probably talk.’ ‘Honey I was readin’ the Bible, I don’t understand.’ He should say, ‘Let’s, let’s study that together. Let’s take some time, and study -- together. Now some of you will protest and say, ‘THAT is SEXIST!’ As a married man, I will tell you, it is sexy. That’s what it is. There is nothin’ hotter than a wife with a great new testament, commentaries, concordances, and questions. That is theological foreplay. It’s awesome. Because now you’re connecting at the level of then heart and the soul and god is honoring of that.”

• Mocking homosexuals:
“I am myself a devoted heterosexual male lesbian who has been in a monogamous marriage with my high school sweetheart since I was 21 and personally know the pain of being a marginalized sexual minority as a male lesbian.”

There is more, but I believe I've more than made my point. Frankly, I am upset, I am concerned, I am angry, and I am embarrassed to belong to the same religion as Mark Driscoll. I am deeply offended – not by God, but by Mark Driscoll. If I believed that Mr. Driscoll's words and attitude were reflective of the God of Christianity, I would walk away from Christianity altogether. I read at least one report of a former Mars Hill member who has. Unfortunately, as the Christian religion writer for the Seattle Times, in addition to his other roles, Mark does for many represent the face of Christianity. As that representative, he is showing the world a religion that is mean-spirited and unkind, one that depends upon mockery and shame, cockiness and disrespect, smugness and name-calling to make its points.

I am sure that Mr. Driscoll has many fine points and I am not calling into question his love of God or Jesus or the Bible. I am, however, pointing out that his demonization of everyone who deviates from his absolutist claims is causing vast damage to individuals, to the community, and to the church. Perhaps he is trying to be hip and funny and provocative. But the price of this approach is far too high.

Again, I appreciate Mr. Driscoll's clarifying blog post about the Haggard situation, although I wish he had said "I'm sorry, I was wrong" instead of simply saying he'd been "misconstrued." Mr. Driscoll should apologize publicly for all the things referenced above, for the mean, flippant attitude with which he is attempting to deliver the gospel.

In the original, offending blog post, Mr. Driscoll wrote: "At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness…" If he realized that the post would make him "more despised," then why say something he already has recognized as being despicable? Mr. Driscoll has had to apologize publicly for his abuse before; on March 27, 2006, he apologized for comments made on the CT Leadership blog, in which he (among other abuses) implied that Brian McLaren had sex with goats because he accepted gay people in his church. John Piper also has censured him for being "clever."

Yet Mark Driscoll continues to deliver messages filled with meanness and sarcasm and mockery of those who have different opinions or theological positions, and the congregation laughs whenever he does this. Who is holding him accountable? Who, among the Acts 29 community and/or Mars Hill, is talking with him about this, saying: "Mark, you can't be this mean. This has to stop"?

I realize that I am exactly the type of strong-willed, opinionated woman that Mark Driscoll believes to be "an ungodly woman with a godless feminist agenda that she borrowed from the serpent, like her mother Eve in Genesis 3." I do have an opinion about this matter (though I don't have that pushup bra he accused all feminists of having), and I feel it is my responsibility to stand up and say something. Mr. Driscoll will likely see this letter as fitting his example of those "super-theological," "fired up" "feminist women with guns who are gonna make a difference." I admit, I do hope to make some difference in this situation (no gun, though); unfortunately, I don't really expect this letter to change his heart.

I am, however, appealing to those surrounding him: Please listen. Please understand that Mark Driscoll's teachings and his harsh, unkind, mocking words are hurting women and hurting the church. Please set up some form of accountability (or, if one exists, a stronger form of accountability). Ask him to get some therapy. Until he can control his words and his tone, please ask him to step down as the religion columnist representing Christianity for the Seattle Times. Listen to his sermons with a discerning ear and hold him accountable for what he's teaching; if the tone of the above comments continues, remove him from leadership. Ask him to apologize, publicly. Most importantly of all, please set up some kind of information-seeking group within the church to hear the stories of people who have been hurt by Mr. Driscoll and his teachings – and be willing to act upon what you learn.

You have the power to do something about this. All I have is the power to write this letter. And to stand outside the church, holding a sign. Which is why I still plan to attend the protest on December 3. This isn't an attempt to be divisive and it isn't an attempt to persecute anyone, as some Mars Hill members have claimed. It's simply an attempt to say: "Somebody please do something. Please stop this." The question is: Are you listening?


Shari MacDonald Strong

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I Hope He Hypothetically Gets Hit by a Bus. A.K.A.: More Reasons Not to Watch the Fox Network.

This breaks my heart. O.J. Simpson has written a book about how events would have unfolded had he hypothetically killed his wife Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman. How is it possible that this man is being allowed to financially benefit from his wife's murder? What the hell is wrong with Judith Regan of ReganBooks? With its parent company, HarperCollins? "If I Did It." Yeah. Right.

Whatever you do, DON'T WATCH THIS FOX NETWORK INTERVIEW. Don't give your rubber stamp of approval for this type of behavior. DO NOT BUY THIS MAN'S BOOK. Instead, give your $16.47 to the Nicole Brown Foundation or a local women's shelter to support the fight against domestic abuse. Let's turn this slimy, pathetic, and obscene bid for media attention and financial gain into an opportunity to help some of the most vulnerable, wounded, and at-risk members of our society: battered women.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fluffy Baby Bunnies: Unite! (Action on Dec. 3)

In the days following the Ted Haggard scandal, I became aware (thank you, Bobbi) of a blog entry made by Mark Driscoll, pastor of the Mars Hill megachurch in Seattle. As he responded to what had happened in Colorado Springs, Driscoll offered what he described as “encouragement” and “practical suggestions for fellow Christian leaders, especially young men.” Of note: this excerpt from the second bullet point (boldface mine).

DRISCOLL: Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.

Unbelievably, this was written in response to Ted Haggard’s situation. I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest that possibly Ted Haggard’s problem (besides the drugs) is not that he stepped out on a wife who had “let herself go” (Gayle Haggard is an attractive woman), but that he was acting upon homosexual desires with a gay prostitute and then lying about it. I must also point out that women and wives are not property, but unique individuals who should be encouraged to do (and generally want to do, given sufficient resources and circumstances) whatever they can to take care of themselves -- not because they can then better service their husbands, but because doing so may help them to realize their own hopes for health and happiness.

For obvious reasons, Driscoll’s post was upsetting and maddening to me. Helen at Conversation at the Edge unpacks it nicely. I've never been to his church, but his reputation for doing harm is far-reaching here on the West coast. I know a therapist in Seattle who has had many former Mars Hill Church members as clients, and who has told me that those are consistently the most wounded and unhealthy (as a direct result of Driscoll's teachings) clients seen in that practice. Women, in particular, seem to suffer greatly as a result of his doctrine.

Driscoll has a national reputation as well, as indicated by this Salon article. It's interesting to note what this woman, Ally – a former parishioner at Mars Hill Church has to say.

Made newly aware of Mark's teachings, and of the damage he is reportedly doing, I checked on his blog the other day and found this post, in which he mocks Katharine Jefferts-Schori's appointment as Episcopalian bishop.

DRISCOLL (again): All of this has led this blogger to speculate that if Christian males do not man up soon, the Episcopalians may vote a fluffy baby bunny rabbit as their next bishop to lead God’s men. When asked for their perspective, some bunny rabbits simply said that they have been discriminated against long enough and that people need to "Get over it."

This is a perfect example of why and how women are still being hurt by Christianity, why long-time people of faith (like me) feel embarrassed at being associated with the contemporary Christian church. This is also why I'm going to try very hard to attend this protest. For the opportunity to simply say: Enough is enough!

For related theological debate, see also: Urban Abbess. My favorite line in comments (#133) "I ask you: was the scriptures made for humanity or humanity for scriptures?"

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Point Isn't Not to Stumble. The Point Is to Remember: Everyone Does.

I've thought a lot about the Ted Haggard scandal over the last couple of weeks, and I share some of those in my newest Zen and the Art of Child Maintenance" column over at Literary Mama.

For what it's worth, I appreciate the humility of Ted Haggard's response to his congregation, and I think his wife, too, desires to respond appropriately. My question isn't whether their hearts are currently in the right place, but whether "watching" how they react in the months and years ahead is productive -- or simply more evidence of a problematic "moral performance" mindset that exists in evangelicalism.

"Looks like you may be needing a red crayon..."

Do you know what your child is learning in Sunday school?

My husband is teaching my daughter's class at church this week, and he found this coloring page online while looking for activities with which to entertain the kids. (And, no, he didn't use it.)

Exactly who is using this stuff, anyway? It's a coloring page, people. For children. We should all be very afraid.

At least the ram looks happy.

But wait! There's more!

Coloring murders is fun! Isn't it, Jimmy?

More Ovaltine, please!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thank God Almighty, She's Free at Last

Rosie says it best.

Now, what's to be done about poor Katie?

Thoughts on the Elephant Who Went Shopping for Spats Right After His Mother Was Murdered

It isn't until you're a parent that you realize that books for kids are often downright frightening. The first time I tried to read old, beloved Babar to my own children, I about dropped the book. I don't remember it being that horrifying. But it really kind of is. This cover rendition (author/artist unknown, unfortunately), passed on to me by my friend Kirsten, sums up my feelings about the little elephant.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Hello, Birds. Hello, Bees.

Macky: Do only mamas poop out babies?

Me: Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Humunuh. Mumble, mumble, gerp.

Macky: I wish I could poop out a baby!

That would be a miracle, indeed.

An Evangelical, a Muslim, and a TV Star Walk into a Studio...

I'm still trying to figure out what I want to say, and not to say, about the scandal surrounding ex-NAE (National Association of Evangelicals) president Ted Haggard. For now, I'll simply post a link to a discussion between Bill Maher, Bradley Whitford (oh, how I miss The West Wing!), Reza Aslan, and Sandy Rios about the documentary Jesus Camp, in which Ted Haggard briefly appears.

I can't voice my opinion better than Whitford does for me in this piece. I also was greatly moved by Whitford's piece in The Huffington Post. (This is why I keep watching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.)

More thoughts to come, as I collect them . . .