Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Brad Sargent summarizes events between Tony Jones and Julie McMahon, some considerations of Rachel Held Evans reactions to Driscoll vs Jones


A few years back Rachel Held Evans posted "Mark Driscoll is a bully: Stand up to him" Compiling a linkathon of reasons to consider Driscoll a bully, Evans urged readers to take a stand against Driscoll. back in July 2011.  When Driscoll formulated a response, "The Issue Under a Lot of Issues", the net result was to promote the then forthcoming Pastor Mark TV and book Real Marriage.

A few years back Evans wrote about why Driscoll's popularity was not discouraging to her.
1. Those of us who advocate servant leadership instead of hierarchal leadership are less likely to produce “evangelical celebrities.” 

Two things to consider.  The first thing is that as Darryl Hart put it in a book a few years ago, evangelicalism has historically been more progressive than conservative in its political ambitions, if you look at its broader history in the United States.  The second thing is that celebrity can and clearly does exist regardless of political or ideological alignment.  If Francis Schaeffer has been a hero to the Christian Right, Frank Schaeffer has parlayed that into making himself a Christian Left voice, and the problem of the celebrity as shortcut for rigorous discussion and debate doesn't get avoided whichever way we turn, left or right in politics or theology. 

The last two years of controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll have suggested that the reason for Driscoll's decline was he could not ultimately weather the level of internal critique and scrutiny he was subjected to.  Driscoll was not "brought low" by progressives but by conservatives and evangelicals who probed him about finances, intellectual property and other issues.  Evans, meanwhile, seemed to mainly have use for Mark Driscoll as a foil to make reference to during her book promotional activity.

It seems necessary even as Mark Driscoll has not appeared in public this year to highlight a problem in Rachel Held Evans' approach.

... Driscoll has long been known for his authoritarian leadership over Mars Hill Church, and for his controversial teachings regarding gender and sexuality. He made national news in 2006 when he blamed Ted Haggard’s affair with a male escort on Haggard’s wife for “letting herself go” and has often repeated the teaching that women who fail to please their husbands sexually (by providing regular oral sex and maintaining their attractiveness) bear some responsibility for their husbands’ infidelity.

The problem is that Driscoll never said Gayle Haggard let herself go, and one of the most pervasive progressive canards that has long since been disproven is that Driscoll ever said any such thing.  While robots.txt still applies to Resurgence content the full text of the stuff Mark Driscoll actually did write about the Ted Haggard controversy is over here. Evans cited as evidence for her case an article from Salon from 2006.  The problem is that, as Wenatchee The Hatchet established in exhaustive detail, AlterNet/Salon had an exceptionally poor track record of getting things down accurately about Mars Hill and Driscoll in first-round publication.


It's to the credit of Salon and Tarico and company, though, that they went back and corrected their mistakes, misunderstandings and misrepresentations when they were brought to light.  Evans has, to date, not been observed to have done that. 

Evans lost no time to comment about Mark Driscoll when "Pussified Nation" was made available.

Evans did not provide anything by way of historical background, or social context, for what Driscoll was reacting to.  For that you might want to go here.  What seems striking about comparing Evans' reaction to Driscoll to Evans' reaction to a scandal related to Tony Jones is the default position: assume the best up front about Jones even though, as scandals go, the evidence regarding Jones up front seems more significantly damning with regard to Jones' character than the evidence available in the plagiarism scandal seemed to be when that scandal first broke.  If anything Evans was content to rail against Mark Driscoll for having opinions she didn't agree with.  The thing about the First Amendment is that it protects us from being arrested by government officers for saying things they don't approve.  It doesn't mean we can't lose the confidence of the public along the way. 

Now Wenatchee The Hatchet has written a few things critical of Driscoll's ideas in the past but when Tony Jones made the remarkably foolish decision to sound off on Driscoll (at all), it was hard not to see it as an idiotic and opportunistic gambit.


Jones' proposal that Driscoll was influenced by toxic theology hardly seems worth suggesting in light of Jones' divorce and how he seems to have handled himself along the way.  Driscoll may have many, many issues but Mark and Grace Driscoll are still married, and they both consider the care of their children.  As pastoral conduct goes it doesn't seem Jones is in a position to find a problem with Mark Driscoll about theology if he hasn't managed to stay married to his earlier wife.  This isn't a matter of progressive or conservative politics or even theology. It's possible to propose that the restriction for an elder or pastor is "one spouse" even if we would consider the Greek to be technically "neuter".  At least Driscoll's defenders could legitimately say in his defense that when he was sexually active with women he wasn't married to he wasn't even self-identifying as a Christian yet.  What would Jones' account be?

Here we are in 2015 and the star with more present clout and influence "looks" like Rachel Held Evans, more than Mark Driscoll, at least for now.  If there were even a hint that "maybe" Mark Driscoll did to Grace Driscoll what Tony Jones did to Julie McMahon what would Evans' reaction toward Mark Driscoll have been? 

Not that Wenatchee The Hatchet has taken the "lessons" suggested by Evans seriously with respect to Mars Hill, but one of the "lessons" we could learn from the rise and fall of Mars Hill would be that without an honest and serious internal critique the idol factory chugs along in business-as-usual.  If anything it seems to Wenatchee The Hatchet that Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans have been two sides of the same coin.  We need fewer celebrity Christians from both the left and the right.  We need fewer people who reflexively defend their own team because they know where their own bread gets buttered.  If the things McMahon has shared about Jones are provably true then it seems impossible for any of Jones' defenders, least of all the likes of Evans, to defend Jones out of reflex. 

Now we could discuss why some people remain national treasures and heroes in spite of evidence of plagiarism.  After all, Martin Luther King Jr. day was not that long ago and he's been celebrated as a hero even though there's evidence he plagiarized.  But the odds that Tony Jones, whatever his flaws, is anything close to a Martin Luther King Jr. seem remote.  It's possible for our heroes to also be monsters and if the progressives don't recognize this about their heroes while insisting that it is a reason to dismiss the heroes of the Christian right as false teachers then it looks like when the shoe is on the other foot nobody on either side wants to admit that their heroes have feet made of clay. 


Well ... there it is.  Given that Jesus' teaching on divorce in the synoptics seems pretty cut and dried no matter how you choose to interpret it ...


the question someone like Evans needs to consider could be framed in the following way:  Mark and Grace Driscoll are still actually married.  What about Tony Jones?  Is he still married to the same person he was married to seven years ago?  If he's not and if he's married to someone else now then couldn't a person suggest that going by the teaching attributed to Jesus in the synoptics on divorce and remarriage that Jones is not in the best position to hold up as a healthy alternative to a Driscoll?


Freeman said...

Good points. They'd be easier to read if you'd pay more attention to punctuation.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

That day was full of being stuck on public transit for a couple of hours in semi-rainy weather. Knew something was going to end up being a bit off ... and punctuation would be the thing.

Greg Logan said...

Editing is still possible!

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

yes, eventually, but there are some other projects going on. :) Adding clarifying punctuation is something that can happen.