Thursday, July 04, 2013

Real Marriage, Chapter 7--Grace and Disgrace

This was the piece I did not want to write.  I heard of Mark and Grace Driscoll publishing a book called Real Marriage and simply wished that, perhaps, someone would publish a companion book called Real Celibacy. Who knows, perhaps such a book will one day be written.

Review after review was published last year, including a review by Andy and Wendy Alsup who used to serve in ministry within Mars Hill Church.  Wendy in particular shared observations and details that did not appear in any other review of the Driscoll book.  Their review is quite good and fairly comprehensive in discussing the good and bad elements one may find in a self-help book about marriage written by Mark and Grace Driscoll. 

Yet even amid all the reviews it seemed as though more could be written.  In Chapter 7 of Real Marriage, Grace and Disgrace, the subject of sexual abuse is discussed.  What is notable in the best-seller is the lack of any time frame for when the conversation happened.  Grace Driscoll simply mentions "one night". 

FROM THE PULPIT THE MARRIAGE WAS GREAT

What the Driscolls have said at different times about their marriage in public is important because depending on what statements you heard you would not have been able to even infer that things were that bad in the Driscoll house.  It was relatively common at Mars Hill to hear Mark Driscoll say something like this:

http://marshill.com/media/1-timothy/1-timothy-3-1-7

Part 6:1 Timothy 3:1-7
Preached February 08, 2004


...I love my wife. I’ve been totally faithful to her. I’m a one-woman man. I met her at 17. I married her at 21. I’ve been chasing her ever since. I’m quicker than she is, so I’m happily married. You know, things are good. I just am. I love my wife. I adore my wife. I enjoy my wife, you know? I – I’m so glad I married the woman that I did. She makes it easy to love her. It says that he has to be a one-woman man. Some women make that easier than other women. Some women are like Kryptonite. You know? They’re hard, but you still gotta love them. I was blessed with a lovely, sweet, nice, enjoyable, great, glorious woman that I completely adore. ...

...  When a guy goes into ministry, his wife and is children are going into fulltime ministry with him as a team, right? My wife is my partner, my friend, my confidant. Every stupid decision I ever made is because I didn’t ask my wife, literally. She has discernment.


CRACKS IN THE STORY

Yet Real Marriage recounts a marriage that, from roughly 1996-2006 or 2007, was one characterized by more mutual mistrust than the 2004 sermon suggested.  Depressing though it was to read that the Driscolls had such a fractured marriage for the first decade of Mars Hill there were hints here and there that some things were amiss.  A March 2007 blog post at Bene Diction Blogs On may have proven one of the most prescient.

On top of a pile of unending responsibilities, Discoll writes a column, and this one is painful.
Of Brokeness and Buddies

I write this blog while flying somewhere over the United States late on a Thursday night heading home from a conference in the great nation of Texas. I have blogged very little thus far in 2007 as I have been playing hurt in terms of my health. I have been pushing it for ten years since Mars Hill Church opened up, and the end of last year was a particularly rough patch. I was looking forward to a few weeks off after Christmas to catch up on sleep. Sadly, what happened is that I would be very tired and go to bed at a decent hour only to wake up a few hours later, unable to return to sleep. I was not stressed out or thinking, but it seemed something was physically wrong. Even sleeping pills were of little to no help and by the end of the holidays I was exhausted, having slept an average of perhaps three hours a night. A naturopath said I had overextended myself and worn out my adrenal glands (which regulate my sympathetic nervous system).
I’ve read it carefully a couple of times and I have one word for this pace and level of expectation and disjointed assistance to someone crying out for help.
Insane.


It was during early 2007 that Mark Driscoll said from the pulpit that Grace Driscoll described him as Elimelech and then explained what that meant.

http://download.marshill.com/files/2007/01/07/20070107_gods-hand-in-our-suffering_en_transcript.pdf
[roughly one hour in]

...Elimelech is the guy--everything falls apart. It looks dark, it looks bad. He takes a poll he makes a plan. He decides Moab has a lower cost of living. Moab has more vocational opportunity. Moab has food on the table. I will make a plan, I will be the sovereign. I will take care of everything. Trust me. I know what I'm doing. He leads well. He plans well. He tries to be the sovereign (they're all going to die anyways). I am Elimelech.

I asked my wife, "Which one am I?" ... She didn't even breath, didn't even take a breath, "Oh, you're Elimelech." And his name means what? MY GOD IS KING! That was me. If you asked me, Jesus, sovereign, lord, king, God! And if I ever need Him I'll call him but I don't think I do because I've got all this taken care of.

Thus Mark Driscoll on Grace Driscoll on Mark Driscoll.

While the book does not establish a time when the opening "Grace and Disgrace" conversation hapepned, Wendy Alsup shared something in her review that establishes that the conversation had to have preceded the controversial 2007 terminations of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry from employment at Mars Hill. 

http://www.theologyforwomen.org/2012/02/our-review-of-real-marriage-by-mark-and.html

According to Real Marriage, both Mark and Grace were sexually active with other partners before dating each other. Grace went through Redemption Groups at Mars Hill and dealt with her sexual history, but Mark never did (the elder leading the early version of redemption groups in which Grace first found her voice on the issue of past sexual abuse was one of the older elders fired in 2007). Grace deals with her parents and issues stemming from her upbringing in a pastor's home. But Mark only makes a passing reference to his and doesn't deal with baggage from his upbringing AT ALL. Does he have NO baggage he brought to marriage from his women-beating, alcoholic, redneck family (his description)? 
It may be important to distinguish between Redemption Groups, spearheaded by Mike Wilkerson, James Noriega, and others in the wake of the 2007 re-org, and Grace Groups, which were founded by Bent and Joanne Meyer and had already been in existence for a while in 2006 and 2007.  Bent Meyer was one of the men fired from pastoral employment at Mars Hill in 2007.  By Wendy Alsup's account it was in the Grace Groups that Grace Driscoll shared that she had been sexually abused. 

GRACE DRISCOLL'S STORY OF "ONE NIGHT" AND MARK DRISCOLL'S STORIES ABOUT IT, A CONVERSION IN 2006

While the book Real Marriage does not provide a timeline the sermons from the Real Marriage series are firmer, though loose.  Mark Driscoll, in the sermonNew Marriage, Same Spouse
And she looked at me. She said, “Oh, my gosh. I’m so sorry. What did I say wrong?” And I said, “You didn’t say anything wrong, honey. You’re a rape victim. You’re a sexual assault victim.” I said, “I didn’t know that about you. I’ve known you for—” Gosh, at that point, this was six years ago. We met in 1988, so this would’ve been in maybe 2006, five or six years ago. I’d known her for, what is that, eighteen years. I didn’t know. And to be honest with you, she didn’t know. She’d never really connected her story to the reality of what was done to her.

In the sermon “Grace and Disgrace” Mark Driscoll says the following:

This is the one sermon I never wanted to preach. Grace and I were sitting on a couch. It was late one night, just hanging out, and we were just visiting, nothing particularly deep. I started asking her a few questions about some issues in her past and experiences that she’d had, and she just answered them matter-of-factly, just very casually, very unemotionally, and I just started bawling.

And she was taken aback. She couldn’t understand why I was emotional. I don’t get emotional very often. Almost always, if I do, it’s because women and children are in danger. And she said, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” I said, “No, don’t be sorry. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t say anything wrong, but you’re a sexual assault victim.” And she’s like, “What, me? What are you talking about?” I said, “Yeah, what you just explained was textbook sexual assault.”

All of a sudden, everything in our marriage and relationship made sense. We had been married, at that point, for, gosh, it was six years ago. This year, we’ll celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. So, we were married at that point, maybe thirteen or fourteen years. And we dated for four and a half years before we married, so we’d been together seventeen or eighteen years. I mean, I’d known Grace since high school, and we were good friends.

And now I knew her. I knew everything. And she hadn’t concealed anything, so she wasn’t ever dishonest with me. She just never saw it for what it was. And I think that’s pretty common with victims not only of sexual assault, but of other kinds of assault, as well, that sometimes you tend to have a clearer perspective seeing someone else’s life, but you interpret the data in your own life differently.

Sometimes there’ll be repressed memory, where you don’t remember certain things, and then something will trigger it, or disassociation, which is a clinical term, where somebody who’s being assaulted in some particular way, they’ll disassociate. They’ll sort of mentally check out, just as a coping mechanism. And sometimes people are just not emotionally ready to remember and deal with certain trauma or trouble. I believe that God doesn’t give us more than we can bear, and for those who come to understand some things that have been done to them, sometimes it is because they’re finally at a place in their maturity in Christ that they could handle it. And so, in some regards, I guess it’s an encouragement, meaning we’re finally ready to deal with this.

Mark Driscoll's account is more detailed than Grace's account of the conversation in the book Real Marriage, which reads as follows in chapter 7 of Real Marriage: 
One night, Mark and I were casually talking about past relationships and situations in our lives when I found myself describing sexual abuse that had occurred in my past as if I were explaining how I did the laundry yesterday—no emotion, seemingly no pain, no pause for tears or reflection on my words. Mark was crying as I finished the story, and when I asked what was wrong, he informed me that I had just explained abuse. What? I had so much shame and had stuffed it for so long that I didn’t even know it was abuse until Mark told me it more than fit the definition. [Real Marriage, page 123)

Grace Driscoll goes on to explain how this conversation was followed by her trying to participate in a small group of some kind, and how she found it awkward because she was considered the perfect pastor’s wife.  At this point Grace Driscoll and Wendy Alsup have accounts that seem to broadly agree.  Grace Driscoll herself does not describe what the abuse was, when it happened to her, or who the perpetrator was.  Mark Driscoll declared that she was sexually assaulted and/or raped from the pulpit and by all accounts what Grace Driscoll experienced was not something she knew was abuse until Mark Driscoll told her it was. 

GRACE DRISCOLL ON THE INADEQUACY OF MH TO HELP VICTIMS IN 2006, MH ELDERS BEGIN TO CREATE THEIR OWN MATERIAL

According to Grace Driscoll, when she shared her history of sexual abuse it was at a time when mars Hill lacked gospel-centered resources for helping sex-abuse victims or were wrongly focusing on behaviorial modification instead of heart-change.  For instance, on page 128 Grace Driscoll wrote:

Although I was blessed to have people in my life who loved me very much, our church lacked resources in helping abuse victims. We quickly realized there were large numbers of abuse victims attending our church and began the process of gathering resources to help.

On page 131 Grace Driscoll continues:

Several elders were researching and trying out different programs but to no avail. Most weren’t gospel-centered or they focused wrongly on helping behavior rather than the person’s heart. … so the elders decided to write their own material and train our people.

Now according to Bent Meyer’s account of the development of the Grace Groups there was a waiting list for entry into the groups around the time the groups were shut down, and they were shut down shortly after Meyer was fired.  So Grace Driscoll explained that the Mars Hill elders decided to develop their own material to help sex abuse victims.  Grace then mentions a book by Mike Wilkerson and a book by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. 

Mike Wilkerson, in his introduction to his book Redemption, states that there were resources at Mars Hill but they were not sufficiently biblical and in some cases had theology that contradicted what was taught from the pulpit. 


MW:  ...  A few years back at Mars Hill, we realized we had a problem with some of these groups. We had several different kinds of recovery groups for different issues. Some of them were bearing good fruit; others weren’t. On the whole, we didn’t have unity and theological consistency across these groups.[emphasis added] We were also spreading our resources too thinly as a church …

Wilkerson explained early in his book that a concern the elders came to have was that the theology taught in some of the small groups did not match the theology taught from the pulpit.  Unity and theological consistency with pulpit preaching seems to have been a guiding principle for how recovery groups would be shaped. 

Pastor Mike Wilkerson has written this book because I have asked him to.  He is not writing it because he is proud or desiring to establish a name for himself. Rather, he is a pastor faithfully serving a great need as requested. ... The content you will find in Redemption is culled from hundreds of Redemption Groups led by mainly unpaid chuch leaders that run based on the gospel as applied in this book in Mars Hill and other churches.  Simply, it is battle tested and the kind of information that aids in transformation.
Mark Driscoll's forward to Redemption, page 13

Apparently the unifying theological vision for counseling at Mars HIll, according to Wilkerson, had something to do with Mark Driscoll getting Mars Hill in touch with CCEF.

Wilkerson, on page 15 of Redemption:

Pastor Mark connected us with the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, and as we read their materials and consulted with them about our ministries, some things became clear to us. Our counseling ministries had become eclectic, inconsistent, and in some cases ineffective.  We had many different kinds of recovery groups; men dealing with pornography, women dealing with pornography, men and women dealing with the lingering wounds of past abuse, women with eating disorders, women who'd previously had an abortion, and others.  The variety of groups proliferated because we sincerely desired to help many people, and various church members had volunteered to give generously of their time and talent to lead new groups out of their own personal experiences of growth and change.

Wilkerson also provides clarity about what Mars Hill elders felt was going amiss in pastoral counseling and small groups circa 2005-2007 on page 16,
But our worst problem was that these groups were not all unified by the same vision of biblical counseling. As each new kind of group formed, a new curriculum was required, each from a slightly (in some cases significantly) different perspective. Some were thoroughly biblical, while others were an uncomfortable blend of Christian "principles" governed by secular psychological worldviews and methods.  The groups were incompatible with one another, and in some cases, in conflict with the pulpit. [emphasis added] So a husband in one kind of group might receive counsel that contradicted what his wife received in another kind of group, both of which may have clashed with what they heard preached on Sunday--and they may not have even known it. 
So Grace Driscoll and Mike Wilkerson considered the resources available up through the home-made works of MH elders to be inadequate.  Were there any other potential incentives to develop internal materials?  Possibly. Former pastor James Noriega, who co-led Redemption Groups and is credited with developing a prototype mixed group the Redemption Groups were based on, had this to say about his vision for the ministry he was part of. 

Q: What are you looking forward to seeing God do in this ministry?

A: Uncovering more of the enemies schemes, that the church actually becomes a real healing ministry, that we do not have to rely on outside sources to help our people, and that the church is seen by the secular world as a place where real change that glorifies God is going on. [emphasis added]

For Noriega developing resources so that Mars Hill would not be beholden to outside sources was an explicit goal. 

As we've seen it has been repeatedly asserted in various places that Mars Hill lacked resources to help sex abuse victims at the time Grace Driscoll shared her story.  We've seen it said that there were groups that were ineffective and that had theology that conflicted with the pulpit.  What did not get discussed, however, was exactly what resources were being used before the CCEF-related make-over of Mars Hill counseling. 

What resources were available at Mars Hill for people looking into Christian counsel for the sexually abused.  Bent Meyer explained to The Wartburg Watch that he found the writing of Dan Allender very helpful.  In fact it was pretty easy to buy a copy of Dan Allender's book The Wounded Heart at Mars Hill before or after a service.

GRACE DRISCOLL'S "THE MASKS OF AN ABUSED PERSON" AND THE WORK OF DAN ALLENDER
Now at length, we return to Real Marriage itselfIn “Grace and Disgrace”, from pages 129 to 131, Grace Driscoll describes “The Masks of an Abused Person”. There are four categories, the good girl, the religious girl, the party girl, and the tough girl.  The distinction between the good girl and the religious girl is not particularly convincing. Why the term even exists as a category is a puzzle.

However, the categories “good girl”, “tough girl” and “party girl” should sound familiar to anyone familiar with the work of Dan Allender, whose book The Wounded Heart, published in 1990, was available to purchase at Mars Hill during the years in which Grace Driscoll stated that Mars Hill lacked resources for sex abuse victims.  Among evangelical Protestants Dan Allender is so well-known for his writing about adult victims of childhood sexual abuse that even the relatively skeletal Wikipedia entry on Allender’s work mentions it (for now, anyway).

In fact the categories of good girl, tough girl and party girl are in Chapter 9, “Style of Relating” in The Wounded Heart. One searches in vain for a footnote, endnote or any kind of attribution by Grace Driscoll to any of Allender’s writing.  Could this have been an oversight?  Could it be that Grace Driscoll was simply unfamiliar with Allender’s work and happened to come up with the same terminology?
No, that explanation is impossible.  Here's why.



Earliest capture April 26, 2001
Deacon profiles
Grace Driscoll

Occupation: Mom

Spouse: Mark

Children: Ashley, Zachariah

Education: B.A. in Public Relations/Communications, with a minor in Technical English

Role as deacon: Hospitality Committee leader
How you became involved with Mars Hill: I came with Mark. :) Since submission is the key to marriage, I thought it would be good for me to attend and be active in the same church as my husband.

Hobbies/interests: Being a mom, skiing (water and snow), movies, theater, cooking/baking, administrative stuff.

Favorite author: Ken Gire, Dan Allender [emphasis added], Donald S. Whitney, Jerry Bridges, the Apostle Paul (Romans)

Hope/vision for Mars Hill: To participate in and see tons of young people experience a relationship with God. To broaden the fundamentalist mind-set without compromising God 's will for each of us.

Anything else: Growing up as a pastor's kid and now a pastor's wife, I have learned a lot in my view of who God is and what "church" is. I love the Mars Hill family and hope to get to know even more people who want to participate in the family too.

(C) copyright 1998-2000 by Mars HIll Fellowship

Grace Driscoll was listing Dan Allender as one of her favorite authors as far back as the earliest years of Mars Hill.  Pages 129-131 read like a Wikipedia summary of "Style of Relating" from Allender's 1990 book.  In fact Allender’s book was available to purchase at Mars Hill at a number of locations from about 2006 to 2008, the years during which Grace Driscoll claims Mars Hill lacked resources for sex abuse victims.  If there was something that was less than gospel-centered about Allender’s work Grace Driscoll didn’t hint at it in 1998 to 2001 when her deacon profile mentioned his name.  Clearly the resource can’t have been too bad if it had ideas that Grace Driscoll summarized nearly concept for concept.  If Dan Allender himself read Real Marriage what would his thoughts be?

Why did no one involved in the writing and publication of Real Marriage, or even reviewing the book, take note of this?  A question to consider.

POSTSCRIPT:  subheadings are now provided to facilitate reading the flow of the documentation.