I lived in Seattle for some time and was a guest at Mars Hill (which is to say, not a formal member) for some of that time. I got a lot out of listening to Mark Driscoll and people there were very kind to me.
Mark Driscoll is a gifted teacher of the Bible. He is also a rough and aggressive person in a culture which is strongly passive-aggressive. What’s worse is he is politically incorrect on sex and gender issues. He and his church were mostly ignored for a long time by TPTB.
There was a kerfuffle a few years ago in which a young man in some sort of minor leadership position was discovered to be fornicating, his girlfriend also a church member. He was subjected to “church discipline” as outlined in the epistles, which is to say removed from his leadership position, asked to stop and repent before being reinstalled. He took this hard and quit the church instead. Church members were then told not to associate with him, also as according to the epistles.
This became a subject in the free weekly The Stranger, most famous for Dan Savage. Now, there are lots and lots of other churches where nobody cares if you fornicate, and if people don’t want to eat lunch with you they don’t have to. This however was treated as a major violation of his human rights.
I’m guessing the guys handling this weren’t real subtle and sensitive about it. Mars Hill is run by young Calvinist guys with hipster facial hair on fire for Jesus. On the other if Paul were around he would just smack him on the head and say “Stop fornicating!” Had the boy objected, Paul would have hit him again, harder, and said, “I told you stop fornicating! Now I’m telling you to stop fouling my church with your excuses! Get out and stay out until you care more about obeying God than getting your pipes cleaned!”
See, God is both love, and rules. One without the other is not God, or not a church of God. Formal members sign a pledge not to have sex outside of marriage, look at pornography, and some other things, and promptly confess if they do. Again, nobody has to sign the pledge, and there are plenty of liberal churches in Seattle.
This however marked the beginning of the Cathedral’s interest in Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. Mostly it came down to people feeling Driscoll was not kind and loving enough. Part of it was co-founders and staff who felt they had been pushed out of the church by him.
Things ramped up when a couple meatier things came up. A former cop who worked at a California branch felt he had been told to violate the law by being told to stall on a city notice to vacate a space they were using. Then it came out Driscoll had retained a company to increase sales of one of his books, money which may have come from church funds.
Driscoll has apologized a lot, but the demands for “investigations” have continued. The investigation is a Cathedral tool to slowly destroy the subject. “Questions have been raised”, and “complete and truthful answers are demanded”. The passive voice is always used. Who is actually demanding investigations and is not clear, and what answers are sufficient and acceptable is not clear either. Any investigation that is conducted is not conclusive enough, and any answers given are not sufficient enough.
The KGB used to say “Give us the man, we’ll find the crime.” The cult of investigation works by tearing the target down bit by bit, with the people doing it never being too obvious about who they are. The investigation ends when the target is totally destroyed. This is always done with regret and reluctance, and when it is done all involved will say it was a shame Driscoll couldn’t have been a little nicer, and prevented the whole thing.
Driscoll’s errors can be classified in two ways- the formal and the actual. Formally he is charged with misuse of funds, plagiarism, and being mean to people. I will answer for him, since apologizing constantly isn’t doing him any good. Hiring the promotions company was kind of stupid, since nobody who matters give a crap if a book is on the NYT bestseller’s list. Everybody knows these are highly manipulated. The book was part of a church project and so using church money may or may not have been appropriate, and he may or may not have paid it back later. He has written a lot of books and some stuff is apparently in there without attribution. Progressives do this too, either on purpose or as a mistake, so who really cares.
Actually he is guilty of being non-PC on sex and gender issues. Where he PC none of this would matter in the least. Unfortunately the Bible is not PC, and the PC progressive churches are only attended by a few old people who listen to NPR and think Garrison Keillor is both funny and wise. People come to Mars Hill for actual Bible teaching and if they didn’t get it they would not be going to the progressive churches, they would stay home.
The formal and actual charge is basically that Mark Driscoll is a dick. I suspect this is true. He grew up with a violent, alcoholic blue-collar father. His primary models of leadership and manly behavior I’m guessing are his high school baseball coaches. So I’m guessing he handles any problem by getting angry and yelling, possibly with obscenities added.
Church people, even conservative church people, are generally anti-authoritarian. Anti-authoritarianism is the heart of the Protestant religion. “You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not the boss of me!” sums up Luther pretty much completely. Progressive Christianity continuously undermines any authority not to its liking, and asserts its own authority through passive-aggressive social pressure. Driscoll grew up a Catholic, and while he has said dismissive things about priests, the idea of unquestionable authority may have rubbed off on him.
If someone is being a dick to you, and they are not a cop or Cathedral figure who can destroy you, you can just say “I don’t like how you’re acting.” It’s possible Driscoll just fired or had fired anybody who challenged him, but that’s how things are. Anybody who doesn’t like Driscoll can start their own church. But what these people really want I think is to enjoy the benefits of the people and money Driscoll brings in, while not being troubled by the man himself.
This will only end when Driscoll is permanently removed from Mars Hill, and then Mars Hill will fold up. Driscoll preached through Revelations, focusing on the churches mentioned. I was wondering if he was going to mention what happened to these churches, not a PC subject, and finally late in the series he showed a picture of a ruined church, saying that the Islamic invasion had destroyed it and that church had died, but the mission of the church went on.
Driscoll mentioned in the installment on Smyrna being there to preach to the tiny congregation that still exists. Afterwards he was approached by a young Turk how told him that he felt compelled to preach, but that would mean losing everything, his family and all economic and social position. Driscoll said he told the young man, well, that’s what you have to do then, nobody said it would be easy.
Churches are destroyed. People are persecuted for preaching the true words of Jesus and the apostles. Mars Hill is now being destroyed, and Mark Driscoll stands to lose most of his social standing and probably a lot of money. Most people don’t want to hear the truth. I hope Driscoll will not shut up. I hope he will start another church, forget about the evangelical superstar crap, and just honestly say what he thinks. God’s judgment awaits the blasphemers, the false teachers, and the wolves in sheep’s clothing, atheists and progressive Christians alike.