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.


Blogger Benjamin Ady said...


thankyou so much for speaking truth so eloquently and gently and compassionately and fearlessly. Thankyou for coming up to seattle to join us. You rock.

10:59 AM  
Blogger gortexgrrl said...

Excellent piece, Shari. It's the best one I've seen so far on this upcoming protest. Bless you, and may God be with you there.

12:15 PM  
Blogger bobbie said...

great thoughts shari - i've linked!

3:46 PM  
Blogger R.G. said...

I relate to holding on to Christianity by my fingernails sometimes. It's not that my hold on faith or Christ is tenuous; it's my attachment to the church that's weak. So really I guess I would say that my hold on Christianity is fine, but my grasp on Church-ianity is slipping. Great post, by the way. Fair and balanced.

9:31 PM  
Blogger mcewen said...

waring factions in Church policy. Things do not improve.
Best wishes

4:44 AM  
Anonymous Alicia K said...

well put. i just now started hearing/reading about this whole debacle and it makes my soul hurt. i live in chicago or else i'd be camping out on Mars Hill's sidewalk right now. wave your sign extra hard for me!

10:58 PM  

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