Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Mars Hill Bellevue Pastor Matt Rogers describes protest as leaving a bit of trash and slandering good men

While public statements made by or on behalf of Mark Driscoll regarding his stint at William Wallace II expressed regret and embarrassment about that period in Driscoll's career as a public figure last weekend, this week a Mars Hill campus pastor seems to have issued a statement regarding this recent Sunday's protest at the Bellevue campus as follows:
From Pastor Matt Rogers:

This past Sunday outside our building about 60 professing Christians led a protest, left a bit of trash, and slandered good men. Inside the building our church family worshipped Jesus. Let that image be what defines us. Others will cast aspersions, but we will worship Jesus.
We cannot let fear rule our church. We must choose love. Choosing fear would lead us to attack those who are attacking us. Instead we will choose to love them by praying for them. Choosing fear will drive us to anger and bitterness which will spill out in how we talk about them, engage with them and eventually even with each other. Choosing love will be our witness to all the outsiders watching us right now that we forgive just as God in Christ forgave us. By refusing to give into fear we will commend Christ to our city.
Choosing fear shapes how we interact with each other as well. Choosing fear leads to second guessing and distrusting the statements of our leaders. Choosing fear leads to not standing up for the truth and the honor of good men because of what might come our way. Choosing love will enable us to show grace toward one another, to trust the Spirit at work in one another, and encourage each other to do the same.
Trust is a choice. At some point you simply have to choose to trust someone or not trust them. Extending trust to another Christian is trusting the Holy Spirit at work in them. Trusting a fellow Christian means that when there is sin the Spirit will bring repentance. Trusting a fellow Christian means trusting that they will be more like Jesus tomorrow than they are today. I don’t want to live with a heart filled with cynicism and fear. I simply don’t know how to love others when my heart filled with cynicism and fear.
As elders we should have done more to communicate with you. By not saying more clearly that much of what you read online is slander, half-truths and gossip we left you in a place of wondering what is true. When this recent storm began a few months ago I looked into all of it because I had a responsibility to as an elder. What I have consistently seen is a pattern of repentance when sin was present, growth when errors were made, and patience when the accusations were false.
Let me say very clearly that Pastor Mark, Pastor Dave and Pastor Sutton are honorable and trustworthy men. I count it a privilege to serve with them not because I have anything to gain, simply because it is true.
I am asking all of us to choose to live in a way that is joyful and trusting vs cynical and fearful.
Meanwhile, others will remind us of our sin, but we will worship the Savior who died for our sins. Others will try to turn us against one other, but we will worship Jesus who gave His life so we could be one with Him. Others will try to keep us living in a past from which we have repented and changed, but we will worship Jesus who makes it possible for us to have a new beginning

A few short observations.

Local news coverage has indicated not all participants were necessarily even confessing Christians. And, once again, it seems that Christians have this misunderstanding about what "slander" is.  To quote a simple definition from Sam Raimi's first Spider-man film, slander is spoken, in print it's libel.  If there was an aim to contrast protesters outside with those who worship Jesus that rhetorical move is more aggressive, despite what looks to be passive-aggressive rhetoric, than anything Mark Driscoll and company conveyed to Christianity Today last week. 

As for the fear and love distinction, let's just go back to Donnie Darko's objection to the fear/love continuum as being too simplistic a way to assess human motivations and experience--it's just too binary. 

One of the more striking things about statements made by the BOAA this year has been to admit that gag orders have existed, that lots of people were ... transitioned out between 2011 and 2013, and that Result Source Inc was brought in to buy a place for Real Marriage on the NYT bestseller list. How admitting to all of those things led into a steadfast expression of loyalty on the part of the BOAA to the Mars Hill executive elders has yet to get a significant explanation.  For Matt Rogers to suggest that even in this "season" that there is "slander" when the BOAA has already admitted of its own accord that a number of things that had not previously been confirmed beyond doubt were absolutely the case raises a question about what Matt Rogers considers the protesters to have said (if they even said anything during the official protest itself) that would be "slander".

Not that Wenatchee was even at or would have bothered going to the protest but that's an altogether separate matter.

Rogers leans hard on the claim that trust is a choice and you have to choose love and by extension trust.  The sixth sentence in Rogers' statement says "Choosing fear would lead us to attack those who are attacking us" while the first sentence says "This past Sunday outside our building about 60 professing Christians led a protest, left a bit of trash, and slandered good men."

That could be pretty readily interpreted by a lot of people as an attack, even if it was presented in a passive voice.

Read the lengthy letter from Pastor Mark Driscoll from November 8, 2007 and you'll see quite a wind-up to Driscoll talking about the termination of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer.  Driscoll described these men as men he trained.  He also claimed that these men were least administratively gifted (compared to who?) as though that were relevant to drafting by-laws at all. 

Rogers seems to have moved along with the fear/love theme and then gets to this: "By not saying more clearly that much of what you read online is slander, half-truths and gossip we left you in a place of wondering what is true."

Mark Driscoll has so thoroughly verified that he wrote as William Wallace II and MH has at no point disputed the authenticity of the materials attributed to William Wallace II up to the present moment.  It is possible this could change but for the moment a denial that Mark Driscoll wrote as William Wallace II or wrote those things credited to that name on the old Midrash seems unlikely.
Driscoll's apology issued last week is, if anything, another case of Mars Hill executive leadership admitting in pretty simple terms that what has been reported was what happened.  If Rogers is going to make any claim that much of what members could read online is slander, half-truths or gossip a clarification of what claims have been made that are untrue might be a good starting point.

As a matter of fact Wenatchee The Hatchet devoted quite a bit of time and effort to discussing the factual errors in Valerie Tarico's AlterNet piece about Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll in early April this year.


A potential problem that may arise with Mars Hill is that Mark Driscoll mentioned some things in the Ten Commandments series that may be an indicator of how other leaders within Mars Hill may define "slander" and particularly "gossip". 


If you’re the person everybody comes to for disclosing secrets, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Just like toilets flush and send everything to the sewage plant, you may be the spiritual version. The Christian’s temptation is to sanitize this information by calling it “prayer requests.” But you can’t throw a Christian word in with a non-Christian deed and expect to fool anyone. If Sally wants people to pray for her because her husband committed adultery, let Sally tell the group herself.

Sometimes gossips say things that are untrue, but more often they’re simply “saying what they should not.” Telling other people about somebody else’s business is no way to love your neighbor. In fact, gossip is often sharing damaging information with the intent of murdering someone’s reputation. Murder can be physical death, but gossips commit a form of murder that destroys a person, emotionally or psychologically.

So if gossip is something that is technically true but is perceived as being said with the intent of murdering someone's reputation can Mark Driscoll account for why there are any prophetic books in the Bible at all?  You see, if "gossip" is defined as saying things that are true that are perceived as having the aim of telling other people about somebody else's business that can be gossip but it can also be pretty much every prophetic book of the Bible and, arguably, the entirety of the Bible itself when the definition is this broad.  The narrative of David starting a war to make a name for himself and sending his troops to besiege an Ammonite city while he kicked back in the palace let his eye wander could be defined as "gossip".  If so then best not read 2 Samuel because it contains some stories that aren't very edifying and say some true but damaging things about the reputation of a king who was also a prophet.  And yet that narrative is in Samuel-Kings.

If Mars Hill leadership embraces a working definition of slander or gossip that insists that even things that are factually verifiable are said that are perceived as harmful have to be "gossip" then Mark Driscoll might have to be included. 

After all, for those who may recall the moderated Midrash, it wasn't as though Driscoll didn't set his sights on famous Christians

For the earlier post from the 2004 Midrash jpg sample, the following text:

This is a joke. Rush Limbaugh? Moralism and evangelism are not the same. This is a movement of moralism. Getting a few thousand Christians to stand in a place for a few hours is a waste of time and money. To argue that marriage is the backbone of our society is a joke when you are in the highest cohabitating city in the U.S. and half of marriages end in divorce. And, for Christians to argue that homos will ruin the sanctity of marriage is ludicrous when the Christian divorce rate is HIGHER than the non-Christian divorce rate. I wonder what believers will say if the homos who do get married stay together more often than we do.
In the end, people who do not know God sin. We don't fill up Seahawks stadium to protest the cohabitators, Key arena to protest the guys who look at porno, or Husky stadium to protest those who have divorced without grounds. Christians just pick some sins that they really hate and overlook others like gluttony because most of us are fat, or greed because most of us really just want more junk. Unless people meet Jesus they will sin sexually. And, they will vote. And, other sinners will vote with them to not judge sin because that's what sinners do and they always cover one another's back.
America is not Israel, it is Babylon. Our nation is godless and wicked and trying to get people to be moral is the wrong mission. In the end, homosexuality is clearly wrong but it will become a legal form of marriage. And, after that polygamy will be made a legal marriage form in my lifetime to accomodate the bisexuals. The only option is if the church leads enough people to Christ that they stop their sin and change the culture.
Go ahead and attend the rally. Go ahead and vote. But, also seek to lead some folks to Christ so that we can change things from the inside out. Lastly, at the end of my block are two gay guys who have been together for many many years. They are quite nice, good neighbors and in the end less of a threat to the health of the church and progress of the gospel than moralists and legalists who claim the name of Christ and jack up the gospel for lost people by telling them that if they go to a stupid stadium as heterosexuals it doesn't really matter if they hate Jesus because they are good people on the winning team.

Yes, that was Mark Driscoll sounding off and saying that the MayDay for Marriage event from 2004 was a joke.  Ten years ago Driscoll was annoyed with evangelicals sounding off for straight marriage and condemning gays a la MayDay for Marriage.  Or at least on the Midrash that Mars Hill members could participate in we could see that he said those sorts of things.  By now readers may have worked out that Wenatchee The Hatchet has stored a few things and, well, sometimes people send things along.  It's not just that occasionally content from The City finds its way to Wenatchee The Hatchet, stuff from both the unmoderated Midrash and the moderated Midrash are available. 

If anything some Driscoll critics might do well to be informed that ten years ago Driscoll was venting to his own church about how idiotic he thought the Dobson/Hutcherson activist angle was.  Which may make it all the stranger that in the last year Mark Driscoll opted to go on Glenn Beck's show in the promotional roll out for A Call to Resurgence. 

But per Mark Driscoll's own rather unusual definition of gossip, what if we took Mark Driscoll's relatively recent 2013 working definition of gossip and read that definition back onto the Mark Driscoll of 2004 on the moderated Midrash.  Was Driscoll being a gossip regarding Hutcherson or Dobson?  Or was he speaking the truth or expressing an opinion?  Mars Hill may run the risk of being the pot calling the kettle black if campus pastors even passively express the idea that those who have publicly criticized the policies and directions of Mars Hill executive leadership as slanderers.  After all, just because Mars Hill has scrubbed large segments of Driscoll sermons where Mark Driscoll has sounded off on public figures doesn't mean no one remembers what he had to say about William Young's The Shack, or about Joel Osteen from the 2007 Phillipians series.
Public criticism is not necessarily or automatically a personal attack or sinful because if it were Driscoll would have had to quit being a pastor almost as soon as he'd started.  Criticism actually is (even if it isn't always) an art form and a discipline.  Christians, particularly in the American evangelical scene, tend to reflexively define criticism in pejorative terms.  For a church where many a man was happy to announce "Mark's sermon really kicked my ass this last week" it can sometimes seem as though Mars Hill has a leadership culture that likes to dish out the hard truths without minced words but displays some resistance to ever being on the receiving end of what they have at times dispensed. 

As Wenatchee The Hatchet has documented in the last couple of weeks, Mark Driscoll has changed his tone but not the substance of what he has taught on gender, sex, and sexuality over the years.  Apologizing for tone is not the same thing as expressing regret for what was said.  Revealing what sorts of things Mark Driscoll was writing fourteen years ago is not simply a matter of getting an idea what he decided to write while playing a character fourteen years ago.  Some people would ask why it matters?  We've covered this question and a historically pertinent answer to it earlier.

But for sake of review, some may recall the Facebook controversy in July from three years ago where Driscoll invited people to share stories about effeminate anatomically male worship leaders and some of what Driscoll said in response to that controversy.


So, we are working on a new website where I can speak to these real issues in a fuller context. Lord willing, sometime in September, after my trip to Europe with my family and a lot of other people, and then some recovery time, we will launch a new website. 
In the past, I’ve not had a regular place to work out personal commentary on social issues, and so I’ve erred in sometimes doing so in places like Facebook, Twitter, and the media, where you can have a good fight but don’t have the room to make a good case.

Right, Driscoll never had a regular place to work out personal commentary on social issues either from the pulpit or on the moderated Midrash quoted earlier in this post or as William Wallace II on the unmoderated Midrash fourteen years ago.  Driscoll didn't have any blogging options such as the old Resurgence in 2006 where he opined about Adriana Lima, Jenna Jameson, the Ted Haggard controversy, and Oprah.  Nor was Driscoll availed of a regular place for working out social commentary on social issues on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.  Because none of those options were around and because Driscoll had not had a regular place in spite of all those options to work out personal commentary on social issues that's why Pastor Mark TV was born?  Was Mark Driscoll absolutely sure about that in 2011? 

As for Matt Rogers, if he's willing to claim that most of what is out there online is slander, half-truths and gossip and has considered the controversies over the last few months then perhaps he's willing to field any and all member questions about Joyful Exiles, Repentant Pastor, We Love Mars Hill, some material at Practical Theology for Women, and other places. 

Rogers is certainly entitled to speak his mind, not least on The City (which is the most likely place his words were distributed) but 2014 has shown that what pastors at Mars Hill commit to any social or broadcast medium may slowly or quickly erupt in an entirely different setting.  If Wenatchee may dare to speculate, the Rogers statement strikes such a different tone and direction of thought from the Mark Driscoll statements supplied last week it can give cause to wonder whether Mars Hill has a unified or coherent sense of how to respond to the cumulative controversies that have emerged in the last year. 

1 comment:

ExeGe said...

Even better:

It seems Matt Rogers was not actually there on Sunday.