Seeing as there's a Real Marriage simulcast event coming up in February 2014 it seemed fitting to revisit the subject of the book by Mark and Grace Driscoll. No, this is not going to be yet another discussion of the plagiarism controversy. No, this is going to be a comparison of some statements Mark Driscoll made within Real Marriage with some context provided by the resignation of Bill Clem from being a pastor at Mars Hill Church in January 2013, and with some more context provided by a Men's Basic Training teaching Bill Clem did in 2007.
First we'll begin with Mark Driscoll announcing Clem's resignation circa January 9, 2013. This was the subject of a blog post back in the day but we'll replicate the content for those who didn't read it earlier.
Ballard | Priority Topic
From Pastor Mark Driscoll:
Dear Mars Hill Ballard,
I look forward to seeing you at the members meeting tomorrow night. I’ll be present with the other Mars Hill executive elders (Pastor Dave Bruskas and Pastor Sutton Turner) and the Ballard leadership team to announce the transition of my friend Pastor Bill Clem. Obviously this is a very significant meeting, and I hope you can join us from 7–8 p.m. at Mars Hill Ballard (childcare provided). Before we get together in person, I wanted to write you this letter to convey the details and help you prepare.
My friendship with Pastor Bill began before he joined the staff at Mars Hill. He was part of our Acts 29 church-planting network. I witnessed Pastor Bill care for his first wife, Jeanne, as she died of cancer. It was a devastating experience that lasted for years.
Pastor Bill has taught me a ton about suffering, faithfulness, and how to be a pastor through the darkest of days. He was planting a church in West Seattle while caring for his wife when he joined Mars Hill and his church plant became Mars Hill West Seattle. Pastor Bill has since made a huge deposit in our church, particularly through the content in his Disciple book that we published. He is well loved and respected. Therefore, it is with many mixed emotions that I announce my friend’s resignation. [emphasis added]
To be absolutely clear, Pastor Bill’s transition is not the result of any conflict or sin (in fact, we will honor him publicly at all services on January 27). Mars Hill Ballard is in a season of major change. After sending out dozens of leaders, thousands of members, and millions of dollars as the longtime launching pad for a church that now spans 15 locations in four states, it’s time for Ballard to find out what the next season of fruitfulness looks like as a local church. It’s going to be a big project that takes a lot of years, energy, and effort. After months of prayerful consideration, God’s made it clear to Pastor Bill: he’s not the man to lead whatever’s next for Ballard.
I would gladly have Pastor Bill serve in another position at Mars Hill Church, but he is feeling called to something new in his next season of life. He has my full support in this decision, and though I am sad to see him go, I am forever grateful for his service. He remains my friend and should remain yours.
To help make this announcement, I asked Pastor Bill to share some thoughts from his perspective:
The statement we'll be examining in this lengthy excerpt has to do with what Mark Driscoll said Pastor Bill taught him, about suffering, faithfulness, and how to be a pastor through the darkest of days. But precisely what Clem taught Driscoll about suffering remains to be seen and heard because Driscoll's statement is simply a statement. Furthermore, a brief detour into Real Marriage will be necessary because in the history of Mars Hill Church it would look as though Mark Driscoll and Bill Clem arrived at drastically different-looking conclusions about husbands and sex owing to differences in circumstances. That the resignation letter Clem co-wrote with Driscoll reads weirdly like it has undertones of enlightened self-criticism is not something we'll discuss, tempting though it must be for some readers. Let's turn now to what Mark Driscoll had to say in his best-selling book about marriage on the subject of his depression and what the cure for it was.
Mark and Grace Driscoll
... It is our strong recommendation that if a married couple or going to err, it woudl be wisest to err on the side of too much rather than too little sex.
In our own marriage, this was a serious issue for many years. I (Mark) have never been clinically diagnosed, but it seems obvious that I've had bouts of depression. One of the reasons many other men and I fail to understand when we are depressed is that most books and research on the subject are for women. Both men and women get depressed, but they can express their depression differently. Whereas women often feel their depression and become sad, men more commonly act out their depression in behaviors such as being grumpy, irritable, sullen, discouraged, annoyed, mad, withdrawn, cold, and aloof.
... Remember, too, that there are many causes for depression, so if you think you may be depressed, the first thing you should consider is a trip to your doctor. I did not seek professional hellp, and my hope is that if you're depressed often, you don't try to solve it yourself.
As with many things in marriage, communication is key. When I cam to the conclusion that the cure for a lot of my moodiness was having more frequent sex with my wife, I simply told her. Yes, it's that simple. For years when I would endure depression, I tried to talk to Grace about it. Her natural inclination was to want to have long talks about our feelings toward each other, and I know that connecting with her like this is important. But sometimes I was just too frustrated and ended up blowing up and hurting her feelings. The ruth was I wanted to have more frequent sex with my wife, and we needed to discuss how that could happen.
... For a wife, sex comes out of a healthy relationship, whereas, for a husband it leads to one.
By contrast, at a 2007 teaching session called "Sex and the Single Man" Pastor Bill Clem gave instruction about the reality that even in marriage a husband may have to learn how to cultivate a relationship with his wife when sexual intercourse is not an option. He got particular in a story about his first wife Jeannie's ovarian cancer and the way chemotherapy precluded sexual intercourse.
Sex and the Single Man
Men's Basic Training 2007
45:30 minutes in, with a number of informal "uh" and "um" words excised for readability:
Men, I'm not trying to tell you something that I can say, "Boy, it sucks to be single." For the last over five years my wife has had ovarian cancer, Phase IV, which there are only four phases. So it's been critical most of those five years. She's had five surgeries, she's gone through five rounds of chemotherapy. We just went to the oncologist yesterday and we're told that the cancer's back, so some time in the next month we're going to start chemo again. which will be her sixth round of chemotherapy.
I know my way in and out of most oncology doctor's offices in the downtown Seattle area. The oncology clinic where we have the chemotherapy, you go into the bathroom, and on the wall it says "If you are a chemo patient please flush three times." Okay, now if you're a man and you have a wife who is having chemotherapy and you realize what they're putting in her body eats through porcelain. The idea that you're having sex with her during chemotherapy is not high. They don't make a porcelain condom, okay. The whole idea that she has become toxic means that for twelve weeks and sometimes six months at a time I've had to walk the same walk you're being invited to walk. Purity.
And I have to not collect snapshots of women and take them home to fantasize. I have to know to have a wife in all holiness that I don't get to have sexual intimacy with on a regular basis. ... When she first had chemo, five years ago, she dropped a lot of weight. All of her hair fell out. She looked more like a woman in Schindler's List than a woman on some kind of cover of a magazine. And she needed to be held.
And all of my think-patterns told me, "The reason I hold a woman is because it's gonna take a further stage. I'm gonna end up having sex with her." There was nothing in me that said, "I hold a woman and that's ALL we're ever gonna do." Is, we're gonna sit here tonight and I'm gonna have my arm around her and I'm going to hold her and let her know that I am grateful that she's my wife. But that's exactly what she needed from me.
And if you don't learn how to look at a woman and see beauty, rather than look at a woman and crave ownership, you find yourself in a situation like me (and I hope you don't, as far as a woman with cancer) you're gonna find yourself not knowing how to be her husband.
So by Bill Clem's account he had to learn how to appreciate holding Jeannie with the understanding that holding her wasn't going to lead to sex. He also had to deal with this being the case for anywhere between 12 weeks to six months at a time. By Mark Driscoll's account the cure for his moodiness and depression was having more sex with Grace and that this needed to be figured out. As Wendy and Andy Alsup outlined so clearly in their review of Real Marriage was that sex as the cause of and solution to the problems Mark Driscoll saw in the marriage is utterly central:
The other issue with this book is the centrality of sex, although I should be clear that I think it is healthy to talk about sex from a Christian perspective. When I was first married, it was taboo among Christians to hear honest sexual talk from a Christian foundation. That was unhelpful to many Christian marriages, and believers need some place that isn't pornographic to discuss it in frank terms. But Mark and Grace's story centers completely around the role sex has played in hurting and helping their relationship, before and after marriage. Mark said in the same Acts 29 Bootcamp message referenced earlier that the pastor's wife has the “most important job” in a new church -- “having sex with the church planter.” I wonder what the Driscoll's story would be if Grace became incapacitated long term. If that became the case, the majority of their marriage book would be useless to them.
It seems like it certainly would have been of little use to Bill and Jeannie Clem in 2007 had the book existed back then.
It is worth repeating what just about anyone in the history of Mars Hill might recall about Grace Driscoll's five births, that Driscoll used to mention that she delivered all her babies through C-section. It would seem as though the trauma of a C-section and the time it took Grace to recover from that while also nursing a child put her on a generally two-year cycle of carrying a baby, recovering from the C-section delivery, working to get back to her pre-baby weight ... and amid all that not necessarily have had a husband who knew about her history of sexual abuse (and this possibility , somehow, seemed to never enter Mark Driscoll's mind despite the fact that she'd listed Dan Allender as one of her favorite authors back on marshill.fm around 2001?). Mark Driscoll somehow didn't put together that his wife might have had more than a strictly academic interest in the writings of a Christian counselor known to specialize in treating adult victims of childhood sexual abuse? How?
To take this back to Mark Driscoll's announcement in January 2013 about Clem's departure, it's difficult to get precisely what Mark Driscoll learned about suffering from Bill Clem. To be more specific, what did Mark Driscoll learn from Bill Clem about suffering and dealing with the darkest of days when sex was a subject? It looks like Clem figured out how to keep loving his wife Jeannie as she spent her last years dying of ovarian cancer and went so far as to warn single guys that marriage does not mean a man gets to have sex any old time and that he may have to walk a path with no sex for months at a time. Conversely, Mark Driscoll, by his own account, stated that the cure for his depression and moodiness was more sex.
So while Mark and Grace Driscoll began to discuss, apparently some time in 2007, how to make sure Mark Driscoll was having more sex, Bill Clem was instructing single guys about the challenge of purity and faithfulness while explaining that he had to contend with this even as a married man while his wife Jeannie was in chemotherapy that made sex impossible for months at a time.