Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church

Last week, a cartoon and a flurry of related commentary brought Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church to my attention. Here’s the cartoon by David Hayward, “graffiti artist on the walls of the church,” showing Driscoll preaching from the midst of hellish flames:

Mark Driscoll In Hell

David Hayward’s take on the hard-ass preacher

Hayward explained: “…it acknowledges Mark’s arrogant, male supremacist, bullying, tough guy attitude that he flaunts and buttresses with his theology. But it also suggests that his ideas will not survive the testing fires of purgation.”

Hayward’s cartoon garnered lively, heated commentary, some of it supporting Driscoll and accusing Hayward of hypocrisy.

I don’t often single someone out for criticism. Our politeness-obsessed society frowns on personal attacks, although we give politicians in election races a pass. Go figure. This time, comments of an area father (which have since been removed from the cartoon’s page) pushed me over the edge. He wrote that his daughters got involved with Mars Hill, soon quit college, got married, and started having children, apparently part and parcel of Mars Hill’s regimen for young women. At least one of them cut off contact with her parents. (Memory is fuzzy; it might have been both.)

Those are standard sticky tactics for exploitative religious groups, like the one I used to be involved in. (Why are Churchianity’s soul-mills so often male-dominated and female-denigrating?) I was never a Mars Hill fan. Still, I’m very surprised that the church condones or encourages such shenanigans. I didn’t suspect that Mars Hill Church belongs in the “exploitative” category, until now.

It got me thinking…

(Maybe this post will play right into Driscoll’s agenda to gain notoriety as a hard-ass, pugilistic thug of a “Rev.” If so, oh well. I’m not writing for his benefit.)

Gimme Some Old-Time Religion…  PLEASE!

Over the last few years, I’ve been to Mars Hill in Ballard, heard Driscoll and a man known as “Bubba” preach there, read Driscoll’s book Confessions of a Reformission Rev, watched Mars Hill satellites spring up around Puget Sound over the last several years, and spoken to a number of people who attend there, including some friends and relatives.

I used to go to Calvary Chapel meetings in the early 1970s, in the huge tent they erected in Costa Mesa, CA. I tell people that Mars Hill is like a techno Calvary Chapel on steroids, teleported into our century. Same basic, Bible-literalist doctrines, same catch phrases, same feel to the worship aside from the gadgetry, same demographics. Same old wolf under upgraded sheep’s clothing.

Last week, I watched a Mars Hill event billed as Porn Again, (an awful play on the buzz-term born again,) broadcast from the Neptune Theater in the University District on January 18, 2012, at 7:00 PM. It began with Driscoll on stage alone for 35-40 minutes. He pontificated on the evils of pornography, using a trade-standard associative brew of disgust, shame, guilt, fear, a trace of logic, and a dash of anecdotal evidence. Before you could say “Abra-what-the-cadabra?” he’d directly linked pornography to the likes of rape, pedophilia, addiction, and suicide. I could just see it: young male body language cringing, slumping, and sinking all over the audience. Then, together with his wife Grace, he interviewed a former porn star for another half hour or so. My son (age 23) and I watched as much as we could stomach, including Driscoll’s entire diatribe and about 20 minutes of the interview.

Hairy Ol’ Tails Just Won’t Stay Hid

Driscoll introduced his guest as a former porn star who had turned to Jesus, but neither my son nor I can remember him mentioning her name. During the interview, Driscoll very compassionately and politely asked her, among other questions about her former life:

  • how many men she had sex with
  • how many abortions she had
  • how much money she made as a porn star
  • how many of her fellow porn actors had sexual abuse in their pasts

Driscoll seemed quite interested in seedy details. I don’t remember him asking her a single question about her conversion experience or her new life. Maybe he did so near the end of the interview. My son and I couldn’t bear to watch more than 20 minutes of public humiliation in the name of Christ. We decided to turn the Driscolls off. Then I got an inspired thought.

Throughout the interview, Driscoll’s wife and their guest seemed relaxed, but Driscoll sat stiff and straight, leaning forward away from the chair back, with one hand on each knee. While asking each intrusive question, he gesticulated with his hands. As soon as he got ready to listen to an answer, his hands whipped back to their posts on his knees. His general body position never changed.

At first it was odd. Then I laughed and pointed it out to my son. That was about 5 minutes or so into the interview. We paid attention after that. Sure enough, every time the camera panned to show Driscoll listening to his guest, he had adopted the position. There were moments when he looked so tense, I mused that he might jump the hapless woman right there in front of his wife.

Just before shutting the Driscolls down, my inspiration was to take a screen print of the threesome. I’m glad I did, because Mars Hill hasn’t put up a link to the video footage on their website, nor can I find much on YouTube or elsewhere, just this trailer. You’ll get an idea why from the image below. I was so captivated by the electricity sizzling between Driscoll and his guest, I didn’t pay attention to Driscoll’s wife until I captured the print. Grace’s body language is telling. Is that a glare on her brow?

Note on August 14, 2013: I finally found where they posted a heavily edited version of the sermon and the interview. Click on the image below to go to the video page.

Mark and Grace Driscoll with former porn star at "Porn Again" Neptune Theater, Seattle, WA, Jan. 18, 2012

Are you serious? Really?
(Click on image to go to video site)

If you’re tempted to suspect that this shot is unrepresentative, you’d be correct. This was just before we turned them off. Driscoll was actually less tense at this point than he had been earlier in the interview. Regardless, those hands stayed firmly planted on their marks for as long as we watched. I can’t remember seeing an interviewer as tightly wound for such a long stretch as Rev. Mark. Stranger than fiction.

Care and Feeding of Sheep

I later described the interview to a friend of mine. He has an old friend who once worked in the sex industry. He met her after she got out and turned her life around. She got married, started a family, and is happy as far as he knows. He couldn’t help but imagine his friend being interrogated onstage by someone like Driscoll. The thought of someone making his friend delve into her abusive past in public exhibition made him cringe with anger.

When someone escapes from a deeply abusive situation, everyone who cares about her understands that she needs healing, a safe environment with time to recover, and lots of love and support. Instead of offering her safety, privacy, and protection, Driscoll paraded his guest and degrading details of her past before strangers. He even broadcast the event. She was probably told, like so many converts with sensational backgrounds are told by the “leaders” who exploit them, that it’s her “calling.” This is her lot in the glorious kingdom of Churchianity. I only hope that she realizes what they are doing to her, and that she finds genuine care elsewhere.

Filthy Shoes and Other Weapons

My sincere impression? Driscoll is a pompous, manipulative demagogue making a name by stirring up controversy. His brand involves attacking and denigrating people the coward’s way: from a position of power by use of plausibly deniable allusion. He presumes the right to bring out a metaphorical filthy shoe and tell his audience, “If it fits, wear it.” That’s an easy, time-worn way to beat sincere people down. Honestly, we know that many shameful shoes do or once did fit us–we who weren’t born angels and are willing to admit it. If Driscoll is no bully, then why does he make others walk in filthy shoes of his choosing?

Does decrying filth publicly show that a person is clean? Does it show that he has our best interests at heart, or that he even cares? Does it imply that he has solutions? More often than not, just the opposite. Does it signal intent to share any solutions he has, assuming he has any? Share? No. Sell? Usually, and Driscoll is no exception.

Anyone can howl about filthy, rotten behavior. Some claim to have exclusive cleaning methods. Few really do. Even fewer will take the time, effort, and personal risk to help clean someone up because it’s the good and right thing to do.

Rare is a soul who does all that for love.

From what I’ve seen and read, Driscoll is no rare soul. He’s a howler and a peddler.

A Little Dose of Your Own

I have some questions for you, Mark.

Why are you so preoccupied with filthy shoes? Is it a fetish, or are they just easy props, a way to beat people down and make you look “bad?” No one twists your arm. Why keep dragging them out and forcing them on?

Why not talk more about how to clean up filthy shoes? Got nothing better than “Just say no” and “Just stop” by God’s grace and help? That’s it? Do you not know how?

And who the hell appointed you the Chief Filthy Shoe Fitter? Real men and real women deal with their own shoes. You flatter yourself, dude.

A Bully by Any Other Name…  Stinks

Religious leaders brought an adulteress to Jesus, asking what he thought about the Law of Moses, which ordered that she be stoned to death. Jesus retorted with his famous, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Maybe they knew that they had no right to cast the first stone, or maybe they recognized the arrogance of pretending to be without sin. Either way, honest or cagey, the hypocrites left her alone. Driscoll would have been odd man out, last man standing, stone in hand. He’s that tough.

Driscoll publicly declares his sinlessness and uses it as a platform to throw stone after stone at anyone silly enough to pause and wonder, “Who, me?” I’ve watched him do it. Near the end of his opening rant against pornography and sexual sin–Live! Direct to you from the stage of the Neptune Theater in beautiful Seattle, Washington! That paragon of virtue and grace, Mark Driscoll, in Porn Again!–he declared that “by God’s grace” he has been clean of porn and sexual sin since he was nineteen. He didn’t go into detail about how the miracle occurred.

How is this not spiritual abuse by a spiritual bully?

Places to Go, Empires to Build

But that’s just Driscoll’s sideshow. His real agenda is church planting. From the start, he’s been all about starting new churches. It’s a religious Ponzi scheme that misuses the gospel to create markets for ready fleecing–the Churchian way, tried and true. Just ask others, like David Hayward, who have been in Church leadership where business is conducted, strategies devised, goals set, and plans made, hidden by the fake veils (sheepskins?) of piety that ecclesiasts so love to project and Churchians everywhere love to venerate. And what’s up with those elaborate governance structures that hearken back to Byzantine antiquity? Have they learned nothing about organizational management since then? Is it a body of Christ or an administration? I thought that He was supposed to be the head.

Power-mongering, maneuvering, and domineering are no different done for God than they are done for secular purposes. Humans tend to behave badly when authority, wealth, and prestige are at stake, no matter whose name they claim them for. Churchian or heathen, the politics and chicanery are the same. The lust for control, status, superiority, and the ambitions fueled by them are the same. How are Churchians different, other than using the name of God in vain? Churchians swear that there are differences. There’s gotta be, hidden behind all that holy finery, somewhere.

What’s the Churchian end game, exactly? Is there one, or only bigger and more–in other words, spiritual imperialism? Often, at least in North America and Europe, it’s blatant materialistic imperialism under cover of religious goodwill and social conscience. Listen to Churchian preaching and stated goals. What don’t you hear? An end. When will church growth reach its target and cease? Never. There is no end. Churches have no plans to stop until The End, when–for many of them, Mars Hill included–Jesus will return and throw everyone who didn’t accept Churchianity into eternal hell-fire. Driscoll makes that sound like the ultimate act of a real man’s bad boy God. That’ll teach ’em. Go, Super-Tough Almighty Dude!

Just like the programs of greedy businessmen and tyrants, Churchian campaigns of conquest–they call them Crusades, you know–strain toward the same objective: dominate everything. Churchians like to think of that as “overcoming the world.” Fortunately for us, most of them do a piss-poor job of it; but a chosen few have met with success, and some have banded together in political movements. Apparently God is not all-powerful, after all–He needs legislation to help Him out. We all know who they are, and they happen to be in a panic these days. While church attendance plummets like fire and brimstone from the sky and church budgets shrink like cursed fig trees, Churchians scramble for institutional salvation. Mormons have taken to billboard advertising around the Puget Sound area. Maybe Driscoll should be taking notes.

Wolf Handling

I’ve met plenty of Churchians who get upset when someone calls out bullies and exploiters for the scum that they are. Churchians protest: it’s not kind or loving or righteous. But that’s just when it comes to scum they know. Bullies and exploiters and tyrants elsewhere, out of reach, well sure–they deserve to be stopped, punished. But nearby scum that they could actually do something about? At home, Churchians tolerate only politeness, inaction, and silence. Be nice in God’s name and He’ll take care of them. Vengeance is not ours.

How do Churchians reconcile Jesus’ treatment of the hypocrites of his time with their puny notions of kindness, love, and righteousness? On this point, Driscoll might agree with me. Consider Matthew Chapter 23. Serpents, devourers, blind guides, fools, brood of vipers, whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness, full of robbery and self-indulgence, full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Any room left? Sons of hell. Did I miss anything? Probably. Ah, yes! The scourge of cords that he made to drive money-changers out of the Temple. John Chapter 2.

That was Jesus. That’s what he said and what he did. Why are those things never answers to, “What would Jesus do?” His followers are supposed to be like him: see things the same way and treat people the same way that he did. Are the hypocrites of our time somehow tamer or less nasty, worthy of more sympathy? Or do we give modern hypocrites a pass so that we can coddle our reputations as ladies and gentlemen? We lack the moral courage to call them out for what they are, and then criticize anyone who dares to show some guts. Our duplicity just condones and encourages them.

I’m amused by naïve reactions to harsh treatment of bullies, as if they were people no different from the rest of us. Some people truly are committed to benefiting others. Really, such exist. Others limit their profit-seeking, like Google: do no evil. Others are so addicted to profit, they don’t care whether people, planet, and everything on it get wasted as a result. I recall that Jesus called them swine and warned us not to cast our pearls before them. Then there are the wolves, those who see no person, planet, or anything else for what it is. People are sheep for fleecing, meat, and amusement. The planet is a place to ravage, pee, and dump on. Wolves don’t see people and things; they see nothing but mechanisms for gratification and exploitation. That’s their delusion and their blindness. These days, we call them sociopaths.

Then, Out Jumped a Wolf!

Not even the most kindhearted soul would argue tolerance for a Hitler or a brutal pedophile or someone who chops off the arms of children that refuse to become kid soldiers. Not, at least, once atrocities become undeniable. But what about long before that, while monsters were still in the making? Deep corruption requires plenty of abuse, choice, commitment, a long history of crimes, and no end of opportunity. We don’t go from basically nice kids to sociopathic exploiters by accident or without cooperating in the process.

Wolves aren’t everyone else’s fault, but neither is everyone else in the clear. Nor is everyone even surprised, because wolves don’t whelp and grow in isolation. They have help. We know their families. We know their posses. We watch their mayhem develop. We support and encourage them every time we look the other way, every time we don’t get upset, but instead blindly, falsely hope that the problems will just go away, or that God will take care of them. They never just go away. Our tolerance makes sure of that. And God doesn’t take care of the responsibilities we shirk.

What about the years and years before ghastly revelations eventually came out, while the wolves were practicing, feeding, growing stronger, committing crimes behind closed doors in our neighborhoods, in nearby gym locker rooms, in the boss’s office or the pastor’s study, in villas and palatial compounds, in concealed enclaves, in public and private institutions, under cover of secrecy, or euphemized with propaganda, or denied by omission in media-condoned information blackouts? What did we do then? Did no one but beast or minion know?

No. We knew. Many knew, but nobody spoke. Nobody acted. Nobody risked. Neighbors down the street from Nazi incinerators; parents who turn blind eyes to pedophilic partners; family, friends, and co-workers who pretend that it can’t be that bad. They all have something in common: when the shit undeniably hits the fan, they act surprised. “He seemed like such a nice guy. We had no idea.” No idea of what? That there was so much awful shit? That it would be so disgusting and appalling? Or were they secretly hoping–fingers crossed–that the shit they were only too aware of would never hit the fan, so that they could go on pretending that it wasn’t there?

Ignorance is a pitiful kind of innocence and a lame defense.

Canis Lupus Identification

So, what will we discover when Mr. Driscoll’s hidden crap hits the fan? Will he join the ranks of Scandalous Evangelicals? Or is that company too pansy-ass for him? Maybe he’s been there, done that, and his ambitions drool for more machismo than the average hound dog. Cult status, perhaps?

A passage from Proverbs 30 suits wolves to a tee:

11 There is a kind of man who curses his father
And does not bless his mother.

12 There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes,
Yet is not washed from his filthiness.

13 There is a kind—oh how lofty are his eyes!
And his eyelids are raised in arrogance.

14 There is a kind of man whose teeth are like swords
And his jaw teeth like knives,
To devour the afflicted from the earth
And the needy from among men.

15 The leech has two daughters,
“Give,” “Give.”

There are three things that will not be satisfied,
Four that will not say, “Enough”:

16 Sheol, and the barren womb,
Earth that is never satisfied with water,
And fire that never says, “Enough.”

17 The eye that mocks a father
And scorns a mother,
The ravens of the valley will pick it out,
And the young eagles will eat it.

— New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Self-righteous, arrogant, teeth like swords and knives, devouring, demanding others to give and give but it’s never enough, mocking, scorning. Does any of that ring a bell? Do such people no longer exist, or was the writer of Proverbs just smoking dope and dreamed them up? Why are we reluctant to admit their existence, identify them, and in no uncertain terms put them on notice that we will not tolerate them? They really aren’t so hard to detect. Read those proverbs over again and let it come, don’t block it out. You know people like that.

Anyone can recognize a wolf once outcomes of exploitation become clear, after Kool-Aid is ingested, girls and boys raped, or battered victims finally come out to tell their tales of year after brutal year of secret abuse by authority figures and “leaders.” After the fact, we dumbly shake our heads in horror and disbelief. Monstrous! Unimaginable! We give off that we’re outraged by the evil that went on right under our noses. What’s the real outrage: what the monsters did or what we failed to?

Driscoll is right about one thing. By and large, we’re pussies.

WHERE ARE THE GOOD SHEPHERDS???

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

— John 10:11-15 (NASB)

It’s a little late to stand up and be counted after marauders have done their damage, taken their spoils, and moved on to other victims. Atheists ask, “Where was God then?” Maybe the believing retort ought to be, “Right there with me when I stopped them.”

Instead, most of us choose ignorance. We let wolves come and go at will, as long as their sheep’s clothing looks good. (They love showing it off to an audience.) Only once the blood and moaning and stench become intolerable do we shrug off our nice guy acts and call in the hired hands to sort it out. Damned inconvenient. Disruptive. Funny thing–we weren’t moved to action year in, year out, while some poor sheep secretly footed the lupine bill with violation, pain, and despair . We only get off our asses when ravaging shams become incredible, shocking, potentially embarrassing, and–what’s even worse–expensive.

We dearly want to believe the seductive bullshit that sheep’s clothing advertises. Do we finally sort the mess out to make it better, or just so that we can get back to our business without feeling guilty? Once the bullshit and blood are exposed and public outcry ensues–along with law suits–everyone gets into the sheep protection act. Short of that, if at all possible and for as long as we can manage, we act like moral mutes. Do we shrink from speaking up for fear of “casting the first stone?” Maybe we’re afraid to mistakenly cry “Wolf!” while  pointing at a sheep. If so, we overlook some interesting differences between sheep and wolves.

Disambiguation: Sheep and Wolves

If you cry “Wolf!” and point at a sheep, it will either bleat and look for cover or square off and prepare to defend its ground like a ram. In other words, it will react like a sheep, like you or I would. Offending a sheep is a relatively safe sin, because sheep want the same thing that we do: get past this snafu and back to being sheep. Sheep want to be safe, together, enjoy their food, and have fun. They forgive easily. So, if you inadvertently transgress, just kick yourself, shamefacedly apologize, beg their pardon for your stupid mistake, assure everyone present that you meant no harm, and promise that it won’t happen again. Your ego might get bruised, but you won’t. And neither will anyone else.

If you cry “Wolf!” and point at a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the wolf will turn on you tooth and claw. Not exactly a sheep-like response. Here we see a fundamental difference between ovine and lupine priorities. Wolves don’t look first for safety, togetherness, enjoyment, or fun. They look for sheep. They look for prey. Everything else comes afterwards, after a good kill and a good meal. You can’t actually offend a wolf, because sometime in the distant past, wolves disowned the prerequisite for offense: dignity. They live perpetually aggrieved. So, pissing off a wolf is a safe sin, from a moral perspective at least. That leaves teeth, claws, and snarls to deal with.

Juveniles sometimes lose their cool–and sheep’s clothing–with minimal provocation and pounce for all to see. Experienced wolves don’t attack outright, but from behind closed doors, via secret confabs, under spurious pretexts, or by spreading rumors. Their objective? Protect their first priority: access to sheep. Notice the difference. They are concerned with sheep welfare in order to protect their real concern, accessibility. If you stand in the way, you must go, even if it means destroying you, yours, and even some other sheep in the process.

Cagey wolves, like Driscoll, prefer to find filthy shoes that they can parade in public rather than openly attack you. Finding none, baseless slander works almost as well. Rank and file of the Brotherhood of the Sheep-Clad Wolf are too polite or “meek” or misguided (or ego-absorbed and brainwashed–take your pick) to check the rumors out. They need no checking out! They are not rumors! They are self-evident Truths pronounced by His Greatness, (or, in Driscoll’s case, His Badassness,) the Leader of the Pack! The occasional brush of a hairy tail doesn’t alert them to peek beneath the rumor monger’s pretty sheepskin and disabuse themselves of his lies.

Their timidity–and ours–makes me wonder. What intimidates us? Maybe we already suspect that wolves lurk underneath all that dead wool. Crossing wolves seems like risky business, and I doubt that we avoid it so studiously to protect the hides of other sheep. Our own are more likely the issue.The threat of teeth, claws, snarls, and snaps scares most of us off from honest confrontation. I wonder how Mark reacts when someone seriously challenges his authority or casts him in a compromising light? How long are his claws and sharp are his teeth? (I’d love to find out.) Some people never question why “sheep” would have such big teeth, claws, and snarl or snap so. Others point at the cool sheep’s clothing–See? It must be OK!–and carefully but politely keep their distances. As long as everyone is afraid to cry “Wolf!” nothing stands between flea-bitten predators and carnage, and no one discovers another interesting thing about them.

Wolves don’t have the power to destroy anything that matters, only the power that you let them scare out of you by threatening what you care about. If you care about the things they can damage or destroy, you’re at a disadvantage. Aside from bodily harm, possessions, and pernicious money, the stakes boil down to little more than the stakes in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes: “being judged unfit for your office, or else very stupid.” Image. Reputation. Popularity. Are they worth the price of cowardice? And if bodily safety, possessions, and money are your top three priorities, then you, dear reader, are a fleecing just waiting to happen, and plenty of wolves will gladly try to detach yours from you. They roam and stalk anyone that’s threatened by physical and financial harm. These days in “developed” countries, there’s plenty of good hunting.

We don’t leave wolves free to prey because we’re fooled. We don’t really take their thin, silly veneers seriously. We avoid wolves because we mutely recognize them for the beasts they are behind their affectations. We secretly fear the reek of brutality and savagery that wafts out from under their disguises. It doesn’t take much to threaten us when we feel wary and vulnerable. But threat is a weak force, formidable only to those who don’t dare test it. It takes means and will to make a threat worth worrying about. Most wolves don’t have the means, and not many will brave serious resistance. There are plenty of other sheep around. Finding less guarded flocks is easier than fighting you and risking damage to precious sheep’s clothing. There are the exceptional, rabid few who will fight back. Those are the monsters. It’s a good thing to uncloak them, especially early on. We’re learning how to deal with monsters and devils. They must be put down. No mercy.

Hard-Asses Are Closet Pussies…  Dumb, Too

The irony of Driscoll’s sex-obsessed, intimidating attitude is so comic, I wonder how he manages to miss the joke. The joke’s on him, and he flaunts it near and far. Tough guys, intimidators, brutes, and abusers all share the same defining characteristic: stupidity. For whatever reason, they never figured out how the dang things work.

Once you figure out how things work, there’s no need for force. If you know how they work and you resort to force anyway, you’re malicious, not adept–forget about godly. Dopes who adopt ruffian personas and turn intimidation into a virtue go beyond ungodly, even beyond human. They are degenerates: sub-human. Paul Zak, Director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has a special designation for people like that. He explained the role of oxytocin as a key enabler of human empathy and trust in his stellar TED presentation last summer, Trust, morality — and oxytocin. Then he said:

So who are these people who manipulate our oxytocin systems? We found,
testing thousands of individuals, that 5% of the population don’t release
oxytocin on stimulus. So, if you trust them, their brains don’t release
oxytocin, and there’s money on the table–they keep it all. There’s a
technical word for these people in my lab. We call them “bastards.” These
are not people you want to have a beer with. They have many of the
attributes of psychopaths.

— Paul Zak, Edinburgh, Scotland, July 2011

That’s 5% of the population which probably accounts for an inordinately high percentage of our authority figures and “leaders.” Lack of empathy and trust are crucial attributes for any political, corporate, or Churchian climber aspiring to the topmost rungs of power’s ladder.

But wait, there’s more! Only a rare, truly badass, Bible-thumping powerhouse like Driscoll who publicly kicks his own ass to prove his masculinity (see the last photo in that article) has the huevos to take extreme measures worthy of a religious Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) wannabe: legitimize a dumb, malicious, abusive agenda of imperialism with Bible quotes, so-called theology, and the name of God, then use it to exploit the gullibility of young people hoping to find power but willing to settle for crap.

Only one label captures the gist of a Mega-Rev like this.

Antichrist.

Not the big one. Just a little one. Opposed to Christ and everything he stood for.

I’ve never used that word before, not like that. Not once. Driscoll made me do it.

I’ve seen a lot, and my eyes remain wide open. I’ve known people who were just like the Proverbs 30 passage describes. Does it fit Driscoll? From what I’ve seen and heard, I think the odds are good, but I could be wrong. Time will tell. If the wolf turns out to be a sheep, I’ll beg his pardon.

About Millard J. Melnyk

Motley past, promising future exploring an open, potent understanding of mutuality, individual dignity and personal power through trust. DEAUTHORITARIANIZE EVERYTHING!
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11 Responses to Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church

  1. Shers says:

    I didn’t know about this man and his ‘crusader type’, living large agenda. You knew, of course, that I was one of those who lived early on in the Calvary Chapel halfway houses. Ours was right off the Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach. We were next store to the surfboard shack, and all us girls (as we were all so very young then) used to love it when those cute surfer dudes showed up in the morning to park, slip on their body suits and hang ten.
    I don’t know anything about the insidiousness of Chuck Smith, Chuck Jr. and the like. I do know, and have met, Chuck Colson, who you know was one of the Watergate Seven of Richard Nixon fame. A year after his imprisonment for pleading guilty to obstruction of justice for attempting to defame Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel Ellsberg Mr Colson converted to Christianity. I didn’t meet him at Calvary Chapel but noted that he was one of Smith’s, could you say, aldermen. I did meet him years later when I moved to Evergreen. Mr Colson was briefly introduced to me at Evergreen Fellowship by an elderly friend I’d been office supervisor to in the commercial carpet business while my then husband was setting up his own small carpet installation enterprise in the community. Colson had then become quite wealthy from the autobiography he’d written of his experience. They were all Republicans and thick as thieves. I was not, nor was I ever a part of the conservative party movement in America. Having been one of a big brood of a wealthy businessman’s runny nose children, I saw my share of ‘double standard’ and was uncomfortable with the lifestyle. As soon as I was able to, I took off and lived my own life (since 17-years-old) as a Bohemian performing artist while slowly involving myself in the deceptive drug scene. Remember we were all dabbling back then, thinking that ‘tuning in, turning on and dropping out’ led to enlightenment, thanks to the strong influence of another powerful charismatic on the other end of the socio-political spectrum – that being Timothy Leary. And the ‘needle and the damage done’ took many a life of those I knew and several loved, almost taking mine as well.

    Although my recuperative year at the Calvary Chapel beach house was personally healing, I did have my suspicions regarding long-term stay. Yet, I’d always be grateful for the time I had to clear my head and check out the Bible for myself. It was coincidental that this particular house had many artists and musicians like me. So we did a lot of music and were quite popular with those ever present hitch-hikers along the highway back then. It really was good times! So, why did I leave? Two reasons: one, our house manager Sam, a good-natured man we all loved, had left to marry and help run the family business in Kansas; and, two, I had to make restitution for personal follies committed during those drug years. Living back home didn’t work out because my dad was a ‘dire-hard’ 🙂 Republican, a tad mental in those days and saw me, his wilful daughter, as someone verging on his interpretation of a Communist (which I wasn’t). Enter grandparents, Arcadia, World Visions and His House. 🙂

    Getting back to these charismatic Christians in the limelight while campaigning for their faith and/or religion…. I think you hit the nail on the head with your Proverbs 30 scripture reference. Because of my own background I’ve been sensitive to fools, cons and attention seekers. Personally, I think my attempt to live life as I saw it, while continuing to interpret it after recovery, has been challenge enough over the years. Since then, however, I’ve managed in my own small way to make a success out of what once was a sorrowful failure. Choosing to go into the humanities and teach for a living has never made me rich, though education refined what was already there by smoothing out the rough edges in the process. And I’m grateful to have been able to touch a few lives throughout the learning process of mistakes and triumphs. The few who’ve come back and told me so have given me gifts money could never buy. And, of course, I’ve managed to publish a few books along the way. So, if charlatans have brushed elbows with me along the way I’ve gleaned the good from them while hopefully discarding the bad without too many battle scars. Yet others may not have been so fortunate. And there are those who, for whatever reason, continue to be duped by these people, like your Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill church (a man I’ve never heard of before till you brought him up).

    Too much publicity given a wolf isn’t a good thing, you’re right. However, an intelligent man like you pointing out why the wolf isn’t a sheep, I believe, is a helpful talent. I also believe you’re sensitive enough to know when to quit: when to speak out and when to stop and listen; and, most importantly, when to shake off the dust and move on.

    N.B. ‘Dire-hard’ is an intentionally made-up word. Please excuse my poetic licence. 🙂

  2. Ryan says:

    Are you a prophet? You must be because you drew too many conclusions for me to conclude otherwise. I am geniunely interested in thoughtful critism of Driscoll, but your speculation regarding the event is too unbelievable for me to stomach the rest of what you have to say. I kept reading trying to find the substance of your thought, and alas, I gave up. I skimmed to the end to see what the conclusion is. Your accusations are the strongest I have ever heard. Stronger than Driscoll laying into Joel Osteen. But it is strange that you conclude by saying that your harsh presumptive accusations could be wrong. So, what is your play, a reluctant self-conscious prophet? Or are you just a bully?

    • Ryan, haha, fair enough. That was definitely one of my early efforts. Packed way too much into it. Not surprised you got mired.

      Prophet? LOL, a bit too soon to tell, don’t you think? In the sense that many Christians construe “prophet” naw. Haven’t had those since Malachi or the Maccabees or such. Now we can each prophesy, according to Paul.

      I call it the way I see it, and I’ve had plenty of experience with exploiters like Driscoll. I got pretty melodramatic in that piece (novice writer trying to find his “voice” etc.) I like experimenting with ideas and expressions and especially with broaching subjects and taking them to places not considered “proper” in a lot of circles. The one thing I’m very cautious about is judgment. By the time I’m sure about where a matter stands, I’ve done more analysis, verification, and knock-the-straw-man-down testing of my own ideas than most people bother to do with “opponents,” so the claims I made about Driscoll stand. In fact, I’m very conservative with my claims. I suspect that time will show that I gave Driscoll more credit than he deserves.

      My main point in the article really isn’t even about Driscoll per se. He’s just a great case study. Christians SUCK at overcoming evil with good. The Greek word for “overcoming” (thank you Strong’s) is a very strong one. Overcome as in not a shred of resistance left. In fact, I think that’s probably at a minimum. More like overcome so that those who once were enemies become devoted friends. Several things need to happen for Christians to get off their prayer asses and start MOVING in the Spirit instead of hoping that the Spirit will move without them.

      The first involves honesty, openness, and transparency. In other words, walking in the light. FULL DISCLOSURE. Charlatans like Driscoll can’t operate in the light, only in environments of privilege, secrecy, and insinuated (sometimes explicit) threat. They are easy to spot. True servants of God make the poor feel safe and the rich feel at risk. Wolves in sheep’s clothing do the opposite. When “flocks” insist on dignity and free flow of information, people like Driscoll try to shut it down or they leave.

      The second involves care for others and disregard for ego. The bystander effect results from people wondering about their roles relative to others in an emergency situation, when they should forget both themselves and other bystanders and focus on the person in need. Chickens concern themselves with pecking orders. Kings, priests, and overcomers are secure in their roles and don’t look for permission or approval in order to act.

      The third is, simply, balls. Pat Boone Christianity went out with the sixties. “Christians” who don’t dare risk for righteousness’ sake have little basis for claiming the label. People who don’t dare risk anything have little basis for claiming that they live. I know Christian cops and firefighters who will physically risk their lives, but when it comes to social and spiritual confrontation, they back down. Something wrong with that picture.

      So, I’d love to hear more from you. What’s your interest in “thoughtful critism of Driscoll?” What did you find “unbelievable” about my accusations? What’s your experience with him and/or Mars Hill? I enjoy your sincerity and bluntness. Tell me more, please.

      Your close was also interesting. I find no problem with making my points clearly and strongly while allowing that I could be wrong. We can all, at any point, be wrong. We only have so much information. If I’m missing important information that changes the picture, I’ll adjust the picture. Why wouldn’t I? We all see in part and prophesy in part. Those who teach that you can’t look or speak unless you do it from an unassailable position don’t have the slightest clue about what walking in the Spirit is. Likewise those who think that moving/speaking/acting in the Spirit somehow ensures that what you do or say is infallible. Romans 7 shoots that viewpoint to smithereens.

      Then you asked if I’m a bully. No, not intentionally. However, when it comes to dealing with wolves and bullies I’ve found that you have to use their language to get their attention. People who grieve over their abuse and the damage to their psyches that caused it don’t need to be clobbered over the head. They are already down and want healing. People like Driscoll who glory in their shame, thinking that they have God behind them, as if they knew what they were doing and we should applaud it, need a good whack upside their over-inflated heads, spiritually speaking. We used to call it “broom enlightenment” back in the day: a good whack from a broomstick, and you’ll see the light. I doubt my article serves that purpose effectively, if he ever even becomes aware of it. Still practicing. 🙂

      Love to hear back from you! 🙂

  3. Drew smith says:

    Sounds like you need to stick with your religion and stay away from Biblical Truth! Please take the same effort and bash all the mainstream tv shows that are all about lifting up sin. Driscoll speaks the Truth of course it will hit the chord with hypocritical critics like you. I bet you spent hours researching the truth on all the facts you wrote about and prayed about it numerous times before you posted? The fact that you got so caught up in his posture says a lot. Hopefully your son walked away with a lot more positive than he communicated to you? It is sad to see Christians bash a pastor that speaks the real Truth bc he is not afraid of critics like you. May God give you much grace for you knee jerk response! It sounds like you are a good tool that satan is using as well.

    • Drew, sorry it took me so long to respond. But maybe you’ll wish I hadn’t…

      I don’t waste my time bashing obvious trash like TV shows. In fact, compared to Driscoll, at least they are open and honest about their preference for what you call “sin,” while Driscoll keeps his preferences in the closet.

      The only “chords” Driscoll hits are in my throat. We call it a “gag reflex.”

      I became a Christian in 1972, spent more than two decades in various kinds of churches including the original Calvary Chapel (Mars Hill reminds me of it) and a wonderful home fellowship, until I got involved in fundamentalism in 1978. I rejected Christianity in 1994, due to hypocrites like Driscoll and followers like you who attack anything they don’t understand and don’t much like. But in answer to your question about how much thought went into my article, I’ve thought about this stuff since long before you were born–twice over, I’m sure.

      Driscoll was “caught up in his posture” like a robot. I didn’t make it up. I couldn’t have. I’ve never seen anything like it–not just the obvious physical reaction to the former porn star, but the fact that he either was oblivious to himself or couldn’t muster the resources to make himself relax. After all, he was on the air and before an audience. It’s a wonder he didn’t put a towel on his crotch to hide it from the camera. Are you telling me that no one else who watched him noticed the same? Or are you upset because I not only noticed, but made a public issue out of it? I notice that the video was never posted to a Mars Hill web site. If it was such a great evening, why not share the wealth? Driscoll broadcasts every other little thing–why not this? My guess? Because his FUBAR was so glaring that he didn’t dare.

      As a matter of fact, Driscoll has never met a critic like me, I’ll bet dollars to donuts. So how do you know he isn’t afraid? If he’s truly not afraid, get him to read my article and respond. I admit that it was an inflammatory, polemical piece. (Look it up.) I intended it to be, just to bring out hysterical reactions like yours. I’m perfectly capable of rational, well-researched discussion and debate. Is he? I haven’t yet seen any evidence of that. An old pastor I still have a lot of respect for wrote once that preachers “are like lions from the pulpit, but worse than scared dogs man to man.” I have, however, seen Driscoll challenge pastors on stage to hit him in the face, and when they wouldn’t, do it to himself on camera. What machismo! What self-sacrifice! I’ve never seen the like! What spiritual strength! I’m just not sure where that spirit came from. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t from a God of love, joy, and peace. Apparently, Driscoll’s twisted version of “righteousness” is inseparable from physical violence.

      I’d advise you to consider what you’re saying when you accuse someone of being in league with the devil. Pretty serious stuff. You don’t want to be wrong about it. If someone who criticizes abuse, hypocrisy, and human exploitation is a “good tool that satan is using as well,” then maybe you’ve got your God and your devil confused. Does your God defend abuse, hypocrisy, and human exploitation? If not, and if you don’t, why do you have a problem with someone who slams them? The God of the Bible slams them, too. So did Jesus. I think I’m in good company.

      I can understand your knee-jerk comments in response to criticism of a leader that you must think the world of. I sympathize. Just recognize that your comments exemplify everything they criticized me for. Isn’t that, like, hypocritical or something?

      As far as whether you should idolize a self-conceited thug like Driscoll, I’ll leave that up to you. And if he’s all that you think he is, he doesn’t need you to defend him. Tell him to speak for himself, if he’s got the minerals. I do.

      On the other hand, if you’d like to take me to task for specific points that you believe contradict “Biblical Truth,” I’d love to hear from you! I ain’t goin’ nowhere. Bring it on! 🙂

  4. Reg says:

    Millard, you nailed it. He’s just another controller. Perhaps some here should visit the Recovery from Spiritual Abuse fb page and really learn how these counterfeits do it.
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Spiritual-Abuse-Recovery/170742302956299

  5. DM says:

    Well, I watched the video you linked to, “The Porn Path,” and I found Driscoll to be reverent, respectful, and very insightful and compassionate not only toward this woman, but toward the men who are victimized by the huge industry of pornography. It is not an easy subject to address openly, in any case, which is part of the reason why it thrives so massively in secret. I find your criticisms, nay, slander of Driscoll baseless and completely unfounded. I wonder what it is YOU are hiding, sir?

    As a woman, I felt his treatment of the former porn actress was commendable. He said so many things I wish all men could hear, old and young, fathers and single. Driscoll is solid, he is class. Your rant is completely crazy, and comes from some broken place in your heart. I am sorry you are attaching such a great and good-hearted man as Mark Driscoll. Oh, and for the record, I don’t attend Mars Hill, and am of a different denomination.

    • DM, thanks for your feedback. Anyone who has dealt with his type to any significant extent can see him coming a mile away. Neither your words nor mine matter unless they’re true, and time will tell that tale, won’t it? We’ll see…

  6. Deb says:

    If you reject Christianity then reject it for what it truly is and not because some “preachers” ruined it for you. I myself don’t like Driscoll or many many other people who are the face of what some think Christianity is, but through all their BS stands the Gospel which is much more powerful than what man tries to add or take away from it.
    When you were in the church did they preach what Christ did for you, me, and everyone? Suffering and dying on the cross for our sins to save us from the wrath of a holy and righteous God who must punish sin? He took our place so that we can be forgiven and we must repent of our sins and are then blameless before God.
    A lot of people turn away because they’re told traditions of men and beat over the head by the law, but there is no hope preached and so many turn away feeling hopeless.
    Please, if this is your experience, I ask that you reevaluate what true Christianity is, what Jesus did for you on the cross, and the hope he gives. Then if you still reject it, at least you’ll be knowledgeable of what it is and not just because some wolves in sheep’s clothing turned you away and ruined your church experience. Your soul is too precious for me to stand by and accept that false teachers like Mark Driscoll could have barred the way of salvation for you. Sadly, you are not alone in this experience and I pray that you reconsider.

    • Hi Deb! Thank you for your caring and sincere comments. I appreciate them.

      Just a little about me, since you wonder about what fed my rejection of Christianity: I became a born-again Christian in 1972, washed in the blood, filled with the Spirit, experienced miracles, saved by grace and faith not works, have read the entire Bible at least once, most of it several times, and Scriptures occur to me in connection with my daily life, affairs, and relationships many times a day. I love Jesus. I love his teachings. He excels Buddha and Lao-Tze and I can tell you specifically how. I know what Christianity is an isn’t, both historically and thanks to two decades of deep, committed involvement, including leadership responsibilities and church administration.

      I know what the theory is, what the actual practice is — by hundreds of Christians I’ve known personally, thousands more I’ve listened to, and the practices of many churches I’ve been involved with — and what its history is. My rejection of Christianity is a very well-informed, considered, intelligent, and deliberate one. I don’t reject what Jesus and the apostles intended; I reject what it was corrupted into becoming. The way of salvation is in no way “barred” for me. In fact, I experience more of the truth and power of Jesus’ life and teachings now than I ever did as a Christian. I’m far more happy now than when I was in the church. I’m happy to talk about it with you if you like.

      Several years ago, I began asking Christians, “Where are the rivers of living water?” I don’t want to hear descriptions of them. I don’t want to hear theories about them. I don’t want promises that they’ll come. I want to know *where they are*. If they are real, you can point them out. If they are powerful, you can point out their effects. If not, why not? The best I’ve gotten from Christians so far amounts to citing good, charitable behaviors that aren’t much different than I see in the lives of atheists. Maybe you can you offer more?

      PS. So sorry it took me so long to respond. Not much activity on this blog, so I don’t check it often, and I must have missed a notification email somehow. I’m on Facebook much more often. Check out our group Awakening Together if you want to see what I’m really about as opposed to guessing. You’d be welcome! 🙂

      https://www.facebook.com/groups/awake.all.together/

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