“So, what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you’ve ever personally witnessed?”
With that Facebook status, mega-church pastor Mark Driscoll set off a week-long controversy that’s been summed up and responded to multiple times around the blogosphere.
My induction into the debate begun when I stumbled upon a response to Driscoll’s status written by Rachel Held Evans. Evans’ blog lists examples of Driscoll’s past activity as a “bully”, with this as the latest example, and calls on her readers to contact the elders at Driscoll’s church requesting they “take whatever measures necessary to stop Mark’s bullying once and for all”.
In response, Anthony Bradley’s editorial charges Evans with “slander” against Driscoll. He concludes, “What type of Christianity are we displaying before the world if slander is our response to the words of leaders we find offensive?”
Valid question. One I might have asked, in a slightly modified form, of Driscoll too. Anyway…
What are we to make of Driscoll and Evans’ response to him?
Let’s start with Driscoll. I’m not impressed by Driscoll’s perchance for caustic, ungracious speech. I don’t fault him for his Calvinism nor his complimentarianism (while I do, respectfully, disagree with him on both topics). We both totally agree about the inerrancy of Scripture and that the Gospel is not something meant simply to make everyone a little happier.
What does bother me about Driscoll is the heavy stance he takes on other issues. Like the nature of masculinity as he sees it and imprints it onto Jesus. It seems implied that your experience with Christ is deficient if you don’t measure up to Driscoll’s definition of masculinity as cage-fighting, swaggering machismo. Driscoll is defining masculinity – and therefore Jesus – not by any Biblical standards, but by his own cultural bias. That’s legalism.
Which is interesting, because the behavior that Evans called him out on is the behavior that perfectly fits the “macho man” image but runs afoul of Scripture. A macho man runs roughshod over others, not caring to “let his gentleness be evident to all”. A macho man says what he wants, not stopping to consider whether it’s beneficial for all who hear.
So what about Evans? Was it wrong of her to call out Driscoll the way she did? I didn’t find anything hateful in her post. I think I’ve decided the view on that depends on who you side with. If you like Driscoll and agree with what he says and does – then yes. Evans is wrong – both in her view on Driscoll and how she went about making those views known.
But, if you are uncomfortable with Driscoll’s comments and behavior, then all Evans did is name Driscoll’s action. If an accountant stole money from me and I told you he was a thief, is that slander? Am I a “false witness” as Bradley charges against Evans in his editorial? No, I’m stating fact.
So whether or not you think Evans was slandering Driscoll comes down to whether or not you think Driscoll is actually a bully. I’ll leave that to you.
As a test case, though, I really appreciated what Brian McLaren wrote on this topic. He articulated how I increasingly feel when I look at the American Evangelical landscape. From my 20-something perspective, the people whose conservative doctrine I most full-heartedly agree with are the people I’m least likely to want to sit beside at the next potluck. They seem to be the ones who smear their “rightness” into everyone else’s faces and shrug off honest questioning and struggling with a “you’ll see one day” type of pride.
On the other hand, there are those a bit more “liberal”, who mess with the Bible or God’s sovereignty in ways I cannot agree with. And these are the people who I’m most drawn to. I like reading them; I like listening to them. Not necessarily for their message, but for their winsome, gracious way of putting it. They seem the most willing to stand by what they think without resorting to slurs and prideful brush-offs.
The conclusion of a New York Times article by Mary Worthen said it well. The “curious fact”, she wrote, is that “the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents”.
I’m beginning to feel in a minority… a conservative Evangelical wondering if we could boldly share the truth we’re so sure of with a civil, humble tongue.