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


Blogger relevantgirl said...



I read much of the same stuff after I read his comments about wives and was, frankly, shocked. If he talked about a minority this way, he'd be run out of town. But talk about women this way and it's ok?


12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Rachelle:

Hi Shari! I'm so grateful to have found your blog. I adore your writing and already today as I've read through your recent posts I've laughed and felt solidarity. Thanks for being there!

I can't wait to meet you in Seattle!


5:49 PM  
Blogger Michelle O'Neil said...

If it's true that we despise in others what we fear in ourselves, it looks like he's having a raging battle inside with his own "feminine."

Let's all pray for him/her.

Seriously. He needs help.

5:25 AM  
Anonymous jenbird said...

Shari -

To say something other than what has been said here already, I want to thank you for the very clear and specific things you suggest that people around him do. These are the kinds of things that lead people into a deeper understanding of the problems and eventually to pieces of change. Way to put it out there, woman!

And I completely agree with Michelle's input and think it has needed to be said for quite some time. Thanks for that --


6:47 AM  
Blogger R.G. said...

Shari, I can't believe you don't have a pushup bra! Don't tell me you've slacked on on getting your clear high heels too.

I've read quite a bit on Driscoll lately, but yours is by far the best recap I've seen. Thank you for doing this important work. It is indeed scary that a person like this calls himself a Christian and continues to have a following.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Benjamin Ady said...

shari--amazing recap. thankyou. see you at on the 3rd.

10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a member of Mars Hill church and a woman. At times I have felt the same as you and at times, I have laughed, not knowing it would hurt someone else in the congregation.
I am sorry you feel upset for what pastor mark has said. I don't know if he is a powerful man but he is man trying to do the best job that he can. As am I a woman doing the best job I can do serve the church and the city of seattle.
I do sin on a daily basis as we all do. I go to MHC to learn the most I can about Jesus, I'm terrible at understanding any thing else except him.
I am hoping to learn more on December 3rd. I'm sorry you have seen the bad side of are all in my prayers.

Thank you for your words...maybe we will learn something :)


11:57 PM  
Blogger kpjara said...

The more I read from Mark Driscoll the more disgusted I am.

I'm thinking he may need a Saul/Paul experience and I'm going to have to trust that God will 'bring it'.

Wonderful post.

6:42 AM  
Blogger ShariMacD said...


Thank you for your gracious response. I absolutely believe that you're at MH for good and honorable reasons, just as many other people are, and I hope for and want the best for you. I promise, I wouldn't have written the letter, wouldn't be attending the protest, if I didn't care deeply about the people who listen to Mark speak every week. I can tell that you are seeking to understand what's happening in the church, and I am, too. Thank you for your kind words and thoughts. My hope truly is that good will come of this protest, both within and without of Mars Hill. That would be a wonderful thing, indeed.

Thank you again.

And to Mary, Rachelle, Michelle, Jen, Benjamin, and Kim (it's Kim, yes?), thanks for the feedback and support. It makes me feel less alone!

9:20 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

i'm curious!!!
did anyone respond back to you?

6:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will admit that it is a shame that one of the few 'popular' pastors who actually holds to Biblical doctrine feels a need to express himself in such an (apparently) offensive manner. Regardless of its offensiveness, though, is the fact that it is simply not becomming of a pastor to present in such a a way that he does.
That said, his theology is correct, and far superior to that of at least 95% of North American pastors.

7:06 PM  

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