02 July 2008

Wrong about Mark Driscoll

I wrote this in response to Rhett Smith's blog-post, titled "Does Mark Driscoll Promote a Mysogynistic and Violent Christianity?". By all of the accounts of our mutual friends, Rhett is a great guy, that did an amazing job running an awesome college ministry at Bel Air Pres, in Los Angeles (my former Church) Rhett's also someone whom I hope to call my friend when he and his wife (finally) move to Dallas, TX! But I passionately disagree with him on this question.

The text of my reply: What do you think?

I feel this is completely unfair and a mischaracterization. What is your basis for the claim that Driscoll supports or perpetuates a Mysogynistic and Violent Christianity?

I've listened to almost every sermon of Driscoll's at Mars Hill over the past two years, and can say with all honesty, I have never heard anything that is remotely akin to such a claim. Having listened to his whole teaching ministry for nearly two years, I can tell you a lot about the guy, his heart, ministry and beliefs…and they’re anything but violent and misogynistic.

Now I have heard Mark make sarcastic, ironic, cutting & jabbing statements that attack & deconstruct the feminized, responsibility-fearing young men (among others) that he hopes to reach & convict. It's certainly fair to take issue with his style or effectiveness, if that's Wess or Haden's belief. But to apply a sort of ‘hermeneutic trajectory’ to his satire and biting statements, leading to misogynistic, or violent is unfair and reckless. All you have to do is listen to the man's sermons and theological series to "get" his heart and theological beliefs.

Now, listening to his teaching you will also learn a lot about his background and upbringing that created the personality that loves UFC, bacon and guns. The guy’s background is one of violence, street-fights and family alcoholism and if your listen fairly and with integrity to his teaching, a listener would ‘get that’. Sorry if this offends, but I count him as a ‘man’s man’. And if you ask those that know my heart (or ask my beautiful wife, five daughters and Mom), you would know that any man I would bestow that title on, I would do so not because of some redneck aggression-prone simplistic stereotype, but because week after week he unabashedly preaches repentance, substitutionary atonement, men taking responsibility, serving love for wife and family, being emotionally available and serving towards your wife, respecting girls, women, marriage, celebrating Biblical sexuality and is unafraid to defend and celebrate masculinity.

Sure, there are plenty of missteps and misquotes that have undoubtedly aided his critics. But I have to honestly submit, Rhett, week-after-week, I laugh at the shots he takes and while, I know it will offend some, I never see the big deal. Along with an intellectually honest search through all of his material and teachings, you will also find there are a multitude of sermons & statements out there in which he humbly apologizes, back-tracks, or even talks about John Piper (a man he counts as a dear friend) holding him to account for using "shock-jock humor".

Without a doubt, if the shoot-first, ask questions later, critics would listen consistently to the messages from Mars Hill, you will hear Mark hit the same drum beat of imploring men to grow-up, keep their pants on, respect and honor women, love their wives, serve their wives, love their kids, provide for their family. Be a leader. Often in story of his own relationship with his wife and children as the "cuddle dad" and "faithful, serving husband" become evident and the example of what his faith looks like at home. I would suggest listening to him preach through the weight of “loving his wife as Christ loves the Church” to have a more intellectually honest basis for understanding where Driscoll comes down on Biblical husbandry.

As far as the larger, underlying detraction in Wess, Haden (and perhaps your) post(s), about a concern or discontent with ministries or pastors that seek to really serve men…I totally and completely “get” where Mark Driscoll is coming from, and who he’s talking to. I fully believe that true, Biblical manhood is scarce in our culture. I feel it’s religiously (pun intended) under attack. And it is as epidemic within our culture. It’s actually going to be the purpose and premise of the book I am setting out to write. I really feely that men need a clear picture, definition, defense and roadmap to Biblical masculinity. Men must be held to account for the miserable state of marriage in our culture. For the rampant, debt-laden, financial messes in our country. For the broken homes, incarceration rates and failing Churches. And for the 65% of men in the Church that are addicted to porn. It’s cataclysmic. It’s a tragedy of Biblical proportions (again, pun intended). And you don’t solve it by everyone talking through their feelings, and packaging the Gospel as a way to ‘feel better’ about everything in your life. (Clearly that’s a whole separate discussion).

I’ve never heard Driscoll try to re-package Jesus or the Gospel to ‘create or reinforce his worldview…or serve the other world in which he lives’. I would challenge anyone to go through his sermons and point out where he’s not faithful to scriptures. I have heard him deliver the gospel for years with a style, tone and approach that is, well, just plain type-A masculine. He’s in your face. He preaches election, repentance and the depravity of man. He illustrates the whole nature of God, to include God’s wrath, by preaching exegetically through scripture. God gets pissed off sometimes, and so does Mark. Jesus does in fact come back with a tattoo in the book of Revelation. But that’s beside the point…I feel that it’s pretty easy to understand that Mark delivers lines like that to illustrate a point. It’s a joking line, meant to get a laugh (and it does every time I’ve heard him deliver it). As a Calvanist, he doesn’t even believe that he had a choice to worship Jesus—limp-wristed hippie, or not. It’s just meant to be funny. I really don’t get the offense that’s taken by the things that he says, at times. (Unless I were Mormon, I’d be pretty pissed to hear him say that my religion was deception of demons and that I was ‘riding my bicycle to hell’). I would also caution taking judgment of him, his ministry and theology by the handful of charged statements, out of context…less we and our lives also be judged by the same. I’m just sayin….

We must insist upon real, Biblical leadership from our men. And while his style and delivery is bound to always piss some people off, Mark Driscoll does nothing less than exhibit a commitment to scripture through exegetical teaching. I truly feel that week after week, he faithfully unpacks a literal interpretation of scripture in ways that are delivered in plain English, through examples that are practical and relevant (if they may hurt feelings) with good old, simple humor, sarcasm and irony.