Thursday, January 05, 2012

Mark Driscoll and his fanboys

So Real Marriage comes out this month and wagons are already being circled.  The folks who find him repulsive find him repulsive.  The people who find him a hero still find him a hero.  I'm still frequently ambivalent and critical but remembering the things I have, yes, admired about the man.

Something that has stuck with me in the last few days is this--Mark has repeatedly said God told him to do X, Y and Z.  I can run with that, actually, but just because God told Rebekah Jacob would become greater than Esau did not justify Rebekah's deceit or Jacob's trickery.  I don't have to constantly doubt whether God actually told Mark Driscoll to be a pastor to point out that even within the Bible we get narratives in which how person X decided to personally fulfill what God said was going to come about turned out to be the most sinful means of getting from point A to point B possible. 

By extension, Driscoll fanboys conflate Driscoll's results with the assumption that how he got those results reflect a godly character.  They don't, results are just indicative of unmerited favor at best and at worst a mixture of dumb luck and a communications major knowing how to play people. 
Some of the troubling stuff about the confessions from the Driscolls aren't the marital problems themselves.  Those things seem fairly mundane compared to marital strife stories I've heard.  No, the trouble is that if Mark Driscoll was preaching wifely stripteases and holy blowjobs WHILE he was resenting his wife for not giving these things to him in the marriage it's a hypocrisy issue.  First of all it's not even remotely clear on exegetical grounds Song of Songs extolls wifely stripteases or holy blow jobs.  Second of all, it would be true especially if those things WERE in the text but even more so if they weren't, that Driscoll did not implicitly set himself as the master of the biblical text who knows this stuff because he's learned by doing, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, which is what he actually did in essence over a six to eight year period. 

Then there's the Driscolls' famous bit about stay-at-home dads having denied the faith and being worse than an unbeliever.  The hypocrisy here is even more troubling.  If Mark Driscoll was personally convicted of a sin against his wife by that famous passage, okay.  But how he has handled the text in the last decade and how Grace has blithely co-opted that suggests that no exegetical work or thought about literary/historical context of ANY KIND got done.  If a pastor has denied the faith and become worse than an unbeliever by having a wife who out-earns him and is carrying the financial burden of the family then Mark Driscoll should have been ousted as an apostate somewhere around the year 2000!  He's not a hypocrite because of normal marital problems that, frankly, would not have in themselves disqualified him from ministry.  He's become a hypocrite because he does what Paul Martin has described as preaching "too close to the lesson" without conceding in public that some of his most famous public moments of teaching a "lesson" turn out to have been lessons that were wildly inaccurate and not based on exegetically defensible claims. 

The Targum Neofiti teaching fiasco should be proof enough to Driscoll that if he's excited about something on a given week the LAST thing he should do is immediately translate that personal enthusiasm into a sermon.  It is this propensity that I find troubling and that Driscoll apologists seem least interested in.  As long as Driscoll preaches a view of masculinity they like within a sufficiently Trinitarian format they will overlook how weak his handling of actual texts can be.  Not NT texts most of the time, but OT texts. 

That's a long way of saying the confessions of the Driscolls make them come off as hypocrites not because they necessarily did stuff the Bible says would have actually disqualified Mark Driscoll from ministry, but because Mark Driscoll's own knee-jerk interpretations and applications mega-phoned from the pulpit make his confessions turn him into a hypocrite.  A pastor who doesn't have sex with his wife as much as he'd like isn't a hypocrite if he just privately works on those issues. He becomes a hypocrite if he preaches from Song of Songs multiple times with a Monty Python style nudge, nudge and wink, wink talking about oral sex and different positions as though he knows the score when in reality he resents his wife for being frigid.  THAT is where the hypocrisy comes from and what makes it sad is that if Driscoll hadn't had a history of preaching "too close to the lesson" he could have avoided ALL of this backlash. 

Driscoll fanboys don't realize that Mark basically deserves this kind of backlash.  If you're blind and groping forward and people see this they don't hold it against you if you know you're blind.  If you claim to see and they can see that you don't see clearly then you stop being an object of sympathy and start being annoying.  That the Driscolls have been able to publish Real Marriage by now is because despite Mark claiming he was convicted by 1 Timothy 5 of having denied the faith and become worse than an unbeliever when the chips were down he deciced the most practical pastoral application of this idiosyncratic interpretation of Scripture was to ... keep his job and wait until he got a salary. 

Yet some Driscoll fans can wonder why some critics find the confessions of the Driscolls' problematic.  IF the Driscolls had just kept their heads down and their mouths shut from the pulpit and the public sphere between roughly 1998-2006 on sex in marriage or financial burdens then their confessions via bookdeal would not come off as quite so mercenary to critics and would not reveal them to have been hypocrites during the times when Mark was preaching oral sex while resenting that his wife wasn't giving him any. 

My hope is that the Driscolls will chill out on some patently legalistic ideas they have on marriage and gender that, once they drop them, will make them seem much less hypocritical for having spent a decade extolling what they didn't live up to that is not actually in the Bible. If they hadn't been stumping for X for so many years they wouldn't be coming off as hypocrites for having failed at X for much of their marriage when X isn't even that clearly spelled out as "biblical" teaching. 

Try to imagine how differently Mark Driscoll's ministry might have looked if instead of hearring a voice and going out to start doing all that stuff as fast as possible he actually waited several years, worked on learning things, and slowly started building his marriage and understanding BEFORE jumping into pastoral stuff.  Driscoll fanboys have seemed to reach a conclusion that because it WORKED that basically how Mark Driscoll jumped into things must have been a godly way to do it. I was there long enough to have come to a different conclusion.  If I hadn't come to a different conclusion I wouldn't have ended up being Presbyterian is one way of putting it.  But I can also say, fortunately, that the Christians at Mars Hill are vastly more than the sum of the weirdness of the Driscolls.

Dostoevsky wrote once that the easiest thing for a guy in his twenties to do is to die for a cause. He can lay down his body and life in a flash and think nothing of it.  It comes easily to him.  But if you ask that man to spend five years of his life reading books, studying, learning from old men, and doing this instead of going out and being a man of action .... well, then you'll find that young man often considers that a fate WORSE than death!  Perhaps Mark Driscoll was, per Dostoevsky's observation, simply the archetypal young man more willing to go do than to learn.  Yeah, he's told us how he'd read at least a book every day but by now I want to suggest that reading volume isn't the same as reading comprehension.  Thanks to Paul Martin's carefully thought-through blog entry I would say the thing the Driscoll camp needs to do more and more is to not preach so close to the lesson, to get time to figure out if the lesson has been learned and if the lesson is even true. 

I probably need to keep saying this, I hope to provide a constructively critical approach to Driscoll rather than the fawning praise of fans or the vitriol of adversaries. I'm not going to complain about Mark's approach to the Trinity even if I think Scott Bailey and Robert Cargill were absolutely right to show that Driscoll just made up a trinitarian gloss on the Targum Neofiti.  If it seems this blog has often specialized in stuff where I differ with Driscoll that's because the stuff where I don't differ with Driscoll is so utterly pedestrian I haven't seen fit to note that we agree on the Nicene Creed, we agree on the essential problem of the cessationist position on exegetical grounds, we agree on the value of Christians having an agreement that primary and secondary doctrinal concerns need to be kept that way. 

I would say that where I've come to differ is in my belief that the gospel of Markulinity has, over the last decade, been shown to be more primary than it should be in Driscoll's public discourse.  Masculinity I'm fine with, Markulinity needs an overhaul and the confessions in Real Marriage not only do nothing to dissuade me of that, they offer yet more proof that my reservations about Markulinity were even more well-founded than I imagined.

But congratulations to Mark and Grace Driscoll for going the distance for decades and raising five kids. Whether or not I ever have reason to take any Driscoll teaching on marriage seriously ever again I am glad they have gotten their marriage to survive. It will be interesting to see how my unmarried associates at Mars Hill end up feeling about the Real Marriage series. It sounds like the Driscolls are ever so slightly less prone to thinking of single people as sub-human and second class now. Maybe. 


Anonymous said...

It would be great to have a link ot Paul Martin's blog post.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Good point. Here's the link to where I wrote about Martin's observations and to Martin's own link: