Monday, April 24, 2017

on the Walsh/Robison interview with Mark Driscoll, part 7--Driscoll chose to leave Mars Hill but neer got to say good-bye and also says he doesn't know why people are angry with him


Those people who were at Mars Hill and members in 2007 may recall that one of the pious bromides elders shared with inquiring members about what was going on regarding governance was often a variation of “When dad and mom are having a disagreement the kids don’t need to know everything that is going on.”

A new, 2017 corollary to that kind of bromide might be to say that “just because dad and mom got divorced doesn’t mean dad doesn’t love the kids.”  

So we’re back to the Walsh/Robison interview for this:

So being unable to do that and unable to continue forward and leaving was very difficult. I'll be honest, I got up every Sunday for probably six months and sat in the shower and cried so my kids wouldn't see me because we couldn't go to church and it was a very complicated situation. I was very concerned about the well-being of those people because there's -- a lot of churches have fights or conflicts or governance battles, it is nothing new but it is the dear people that don't understand sometimes what's going on and they pay the highest price and they're unsure even of what happened.
The Driscolls were unable to say good-bye but they never explain why they were unable to say good-bye.  The resignation notice was sent and that was made public. In a strictly literary sense “good-bye” was said already. In a social sense or a communal sense there was, perhaps, no formal good-bye, but there’s never been an explanation in the years since Mark Driscoll resigned why he wasn’t able to say good-bye.  

More to the point, given the traumas he has recounted that he and his wife went through and revisits in his interview with Walsh it’s not entirely clear, if we take his accounts at face value, why he even should have wanted to say good-bye to Mars Hill.  Safer, perhaps, to just resign, pull up stakes and leave as soon as possible. Driscoll could have resigned eldership and remained a member within the realm of Mars Hill, theoretically, but he did not choose to do so. The break, perhaps, had to be total.  
The break, we must not forget, was voluntary and instigated by Mark Driscoll and, to the extent that she has shared her role in the decision, Grace Driscoll.  Stories about what they said God told them do not change the fact that any decisions were their decisions to make.  After all, we know from the biblical literature that it’s very easy for a leader to be told to do something by the Lord who then decides to just not do something, such as King Saul.  We can also find cases in which leaders made disastrous decisions because they would not heed prudent advice, such as when David ignored Joab’s advice against taking a census that turned out to be the catalyst for a plague that caused the deaths of thousands. 

Moreover, as we’ve seen the history of Mars Hill governance play out the recurring thread is concern about the lack of accountability Mark Driscoll was subject to as he governed Mars Hill either directly or, at times, through what could be understood as designated proxies.  Had the Driscolls wanted to stay connected to their Mars Hill family they could have just decided to not leave.  The Driscolls said God said they were released but that’s cryptic by itself.  Even “a trap has been set” isn’t the same thing as divine direct permission to quit.   What Mark Driscoll described hearing from God was a statement, not a command.  Even if we assume for sake of conversation that “A trap has been set” and that there was no way Mark Driscoll was able to return to ministry at Mars Hill that’s just a statement.  Everything subsequent to the claim that Mark Driscoll heard “A trap has been set” from God is what Mark Driscoll then decided he was going to do. Only retroactively do those decisions get bathed in the light of an implied divine command.

Anyone who has read the narrative of King Saul can observe that merely because Yahweh rejected King Saul as king over Israel (or Benjamin/Judea depending on which scholars you read on this subject) didn’t necessarily mean Yahweh had altogether rejected Saul.  Saul had, perhaps, an opportunity to repent and participate in the life of the people of Yahweh, just not as king.  By resigning the way that he did Mark Driscoll suggested the possibility that if he had to choose between being a local church pastor and being a celebrity that … maybe … he’d take being a celebrity, if only at the level of the kind of celebrity who can get interviewed by Sheila Walsh.

Sheila: What did this do to you as a family? Because sometimes that kind of trauma is a greater wedge than a glue.

Mark: Well, we had 166 employees and now you've got zero so all the media, the critics, the protestors all show up at your house. Rocks are thrown at your kids. Helicopters are overhead.

Dave Bruskas hadn’t quit by the time Russ Bowen paid a visit to the Driscoll house in Woodway, the house from which Driscoll said something about “ … wrong address. I don’t know.”  If that was the wrong address when Russ Bowen wanted to speak with Mark Driscoll and when a helicopter flew overhead in 2014 why did it suddenly become the house Mark Driscoll really lived at in 2015 and in 2017 when he was talking with people about how the media blocked the driveway.  Kerry Dodd stayed on as president of Mars Hill through to its dissolution after Dave Bruskas stepped down, didn’t he?

Sheila: But you're not just -- this is actual stuff that happened. This is not just imagery.

Mark: No, we moved three or four times for safety issues; safe room, people arrested at the house. Lots -- so I had a bullet-proof, stab-proof vest from the Seattle Police Department.

The safe room is an interesting detail. The Driscolls owned more than one house even as they moved over the course of twenty years.  Driscoll’s house in Seattle proper wouldn’t have necessarily had a safe room but the one in Woodway could have.  As for arrests, one time an arrest was specifically mentioned by Driscoll was circa 2001. What Driscoll described in 2013 was a series of events that, as best can be documented, took place over a roughly fifteen year period; here with Walsh a series of events that may have occurred over the course of twenty years could be implicitly heard by a receptive audience as possibly happening just in the last year or so of Mars Hill.  While back in 2004 Mark Driscoll could boast that he said and wrote things that were so inflammatory he inspired bomb threats, with a wife and children to consider the tone has since turned to lament—not that Mark Driscoll has substantially changed what he says he thinks or believes in any observable way, but he now has had an opportunity to share how the way people have reacted to the inflammatory things he has liked to say has traumatized his children.

There’s no mention, as he did eleven years ago in Confessions of a Reformission Rev, that one guy who showed up to fight did so because he discovered Mark Driscoll was William Wallace II.

Mark Driscoll,  Zondervan
copyright (c) 2006 by Mark Driscoll
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4
350-1,000 people

At this time, our church also started an unmoderated discussion board on our website, called Midrash, and it was being inundated with postings by emerging-church type feminists and liberals. I went onto the site and posted as William Wallace II, after the great Scottish man portrayed in the movie Braveheart, and attacked those who were posting. It got insane, and thousands of posts were being made each day until it was discovered that it was me raging like a madman under the guise of a movie character. One guy got so mad that he actually showed up at my house to fight me one night around 3 a.m. [emphasis added]

Had Mark Driscoll simply opted not to write as William Wallace II in the way that he did nobody would have felt like fighting with him at 3 a.m. What he chose to write as William Wallace II featured the opening salvo of “Pussified Nation” and also the following:
William Wallace IIMember
posted 01-06-2001 09:01 PM    
William Wallace II    

I love to fight. It's good to fight. Fighting is what we used to do before we all became pussified. Fighting is a lost art form. Fighting is cheaper than medication and more effective than counseling. Fighting always wins over compromise. Fighting is what passionate people do instead of killing. So log on, fight away. And if you are reading this and talking to yourself log on you coward and get in the ring.

So when Robison asked Mark Driscoll repeatedly:

Randy: Why are they so mad at you?

Notice how Driscoll’s response stayed on story rather than the topic of the question.

Mark: Well, it was from one of the police officers, I don't know if he was at Seattle S.P.D. but for high alert Sundays where there was protest or there was danger. And the kids knew on those days come in and out with police escort.

Randy: Why? Why were they so mad at you?

Mark: You know I'm a really lovely guy so I just don't know.

In the end Driscoll claimed to just not know why so many people would have gotten so angry at him.  Sure, in his “Mars Hill bus” comment he ended with an observation that he’d read enough of the New Testament to know that sometimes Paul had to put people through the wood chipper but that couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with why anyone might have come to dislike him.

We’ve seen how Driscoll said that he was told by his Board he was a man who had patterns of sin involving pride, anger, and a domineering leadership style.  This was, after all, the man who said in the wake of the termination of Meyer and Petry that, among other things “There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus … . “ The ignorance on Driscoll’s part seems a bit feigned to those who have some long-term familiarity with Mark Driscoll’s sermons. 

For those who may be unfamiliar with Mark Driscoll’s sermons on Esther, he went so far as to say that he could be like Haman, the active antagonist in the book of Esther, the guy whose claim to fame within that book was plotting the annihilation of the Jews:
Jesus is a better servant
October 28, 2012
Mark Driscoll

Now, I’ll say this: this is really convicting for me, personally. I’m in a position of influence and leadership, and I know that my heart inclines toward pride, so pray for me and pray for your senior leaders that we would clothe ourselves in humility. This is a haunting reality. I look at Haman and I realize, “Man, I could be like him in an instant,” and at times, I have been. And by God’s grace, I don’t want to be. Haman’s pride is tragic. [emphasis added]

Here’s what kills me about Haman: he wants to be like his king. Wrong king. We all want to be like our king, but he’s got the wrong king. See, his king is proud, not humble. His king uses people, doesn’t love people. His king loves the glory and doesn’t love to glorify God. Who’s your king? Who do you esteem the most? Who do you want to be like? Who do you look up to? If his name isn’t Jesus, wrong king. Wrong king. So, he is the case study for pride.

Chapter 6, verse 12. “But Haman hurried to his house.” He ran home, “Mourning with his head covered.” This is public mourning. “And Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him.”

Here’s what’s weird: he’s got a better marriage than King Xerxes. [emphasis added] Esther previously said that she hadn’t even seen her husband in thirty days, and they live in the same palace. It’s possible to be a really proud, ruthless, horrible man who’s got a decent marriage. [emphasis added] He goes and talks to his wife, the one thing that the king doesn’t do.

Do you see where, perhaps, even in his own heart, he’d say, “Well, I’m not a ruthless, horrible man. I’m a good family man. You know? I’m good to my wife. I’m good to my friends”? This is how proud people justify their inconsistency. He seems to have a decent marriage and he does have some friends, and he’s going to be a mass murderer. [emphasis added] So is the human heart.

Maybe not every human heart, perhaps more specifically hearts like Mark Driscoll’s.  This may be a show for the public record that it’s possible for a preacher to officially Godwin himself!  Mark Driscoll’s warning is, nonetheless, salient—it’s very possible for a man even such as Mark Driscoll to suppose that because he loves his wife and children that this could, somehow, exempt him from being a domineering and dictatorial man anywhere else in his life. Still, for anyone familiar with the figures of Elimelech in the book of Ruth and Haman in the book of Esther you’d think that these comparisons should have given Mark Driscoll cause to doubt his own fitness for ministry.  If your flaws are like a man who fled to Moab and died there and a man who planned to massacre all the Jews in the Persian empire Christian ministry is the last thing you should be doing.  This is the point at which it’s hard to escape the double standard in Mark Driscoll’s understanding of who is and isn’t fit for public ministry.

Perhaps he’s no longer so fight-hungry as he said he once was:
Part 10 of Ecclesiastes
Pastor Mark Driscoll | Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 | June 01, 2003

How many guys, honestly (you don't have to raise your hands), how many guys in their teens or twenties (I'm in my thirties now so I'm at that place where I WOULD fight but it seems like a lot of work). But especially when I was in my teens I would, just all full of myself, I would just, I liked to fight.  I would LOOK for fights. Certain guys are like this. 

I actually beat up a guy on my OWN baseball team during a game.[emphasis added]  Usually, usually, you know, in a baseball game people why--baseball players are all wussies.  They never fight.  They all just run out to the middle of the field and look at each other which is, I dunno, like prom or something. They're all gazing into each other's eyes. I'm not sure what they're doing.  They hardly ever fight and they NEVER take the bats which, to me, seems like the most OBVIOUS thing.

I love baseball and I can remember when I was playing ball. A guy on my own team in the dugout says something so I attacked him.  Now very rarely do you see a bench-clearing brawl with just one team. Usually the other team's involved. I was a total hothead. I would fight through high school. I fight quite a bit.  Guys would say something, give a cross--you got a problem? That's what he's talking about [the author of Ecclesiastes]. Especially you young guys. Some of you young guys, you're LOOKING for a fight. You want to legitimize it, you want to justify it. Some of you married people are looking for a fight. Provoke. Provoke. Provoke. Boom, off they go like the Fourth of July.

So when this exchange between Robison and Driscoll happened in the April 6, 2017 interview—

Randy: Why? Why were they so mad at you?
Mark: You know I'm a really lovely guy so I just don't know.

It turns out that if we simply consult Mark Driscoll’s own sermons it’s not that difficult to find Mark Driscoll’s own account of character flaws he’s had that might give people reason to be upset with him.  A pastor who behaves like Elimelech and sees himself in Haman could alienate a few people.

In the age of the internet we can now go back to the earliest published writings of Mark Driscoll still on record, his work at Evergreen.  If we examine the kind of “inflammatory” editorializing  Mark Driscoll did as a college journalism student we should take time to ask whether anyone would have greenlit Mark Driscoll as pastor material if they knew what he was capable of saying for the record during the time he said he was definitely a Christian. Driscoll was a polemicist before he became an official Bible teacher and his writing for The Evergreen, if that was what he would include in his resume as having been a professional journalist, could stand some more scrutiny.  Take his editorial arguing that what’s euphemistically known as adult entertainment shouldn’t exist, and does not necessarily merit First Amendment protections, from way back in the early 1990s.

One of Heath Lambert’s objections to Real Marriage when it was published in 2012 was what he said the book would do, introduce people who were not previously aware of pornography and explicit content in ways that might inspire them to look things up.  Lambert read the 2012 Mark Driscoll, not the 1992 Mark Driscoll.  One of the mysteries that might emerge for evangelicals who read the 1992 Mark Driscoll polemics could be to ask how and why a guy who would name drop “Bimbo Bowlers from Buffalo” would be pastor material, ever.  If you can handle reading a column not entirely unlike Dan Savage’s “Savage Love” you may discover that the early Mark Driscoll was stylistically not altogether unlike the man who would for a time be his Seattle-based nemesis at The Stranger.

Let’s remember that by Mark Driscoll’s own account he wrote inflammatory pieces that he said, in some cases, inspired bomb threats when he was in college.  For a man to proudly recount this in one of his books to tell Randy Robison , “You know, I’m a lovely guy so I just don’t know” beggars belief even if we take that statement as pure sarcasm.   

Let’s consider Mark Driscoll’s critique of Haman, that Haman wants to be like his king, Xerxes, and that you should want to be like Jesus.  It’s easy to say that. Who wouldn’t like to say that their king is Jesus if the alternative is Haman?  Of course any professing Christian would agree, but the trouble is that the Jesus Mark Driscoll has presented to the world as king has very often been a Jesus sculpted in the likeness of Mark Driscoll.  As Driscoll put it in his 2006 book, he started his own church because he didn’t like any of the other churches he tried attending.  Perhaps when, at length, it became too frustrating to continue attending the church he co-founded with Mike Gunn and Lief Moi after years of scandals surrounding his own character and the quality of his intellectual property, Mark Driscoll felt authorized by God to just quit.  Then the year after he quit he took to the road to explain how, basically, he didn’t want to quit but God told him to. This year Mark Driscoll would even go so far as to say that planting a church in Arizona was his kids’ idea, to which we presently turn.

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