The Man has fallen.
If you’re at all active in the religious blogospheres, you know who I’m speaking about. In a move that surprised his church elders and absolutely no one else, Mark Driscoll has stepped down from his position as lead pastor of the Mars Hill Church industry. Haunted by a string of accusations ranging from plagairism to spiritual abuse to misappropriation of church funds, Driscoll stated in his resignation letter that he believed that stepping down was for the good of his family and his ministry. Coincidentally, the board that he personally appointed also found that none of his actions excluded him from ministry in the future, so The Return of the Dudebro Pastor might already be in preproduction.
The reactions to Driscoll’s resignation haven’t been a surprise. There are those who are satisfied and relieved by his fall, and those who argue that people shouldn’t be satisfied and relieved. There are those who finally feel like their years of abuse and hurt are vindicated, and those who insist Driscoll’s victims should be working on forgiving him.
But my purpose here isn’t to gloat about Driscoll’s downfall (I did that privately with a few shots of Jameson), or to again reiterate his long list of offences. It’s to focus on whether Driscoll’s departure from Mars Hill Church matters in the long run. Was it a victory? Was it a step forward? Does it really make a difference?
After deliberation, I’ve come to the conclusion that it does. And it doesn’t.
Which is maddeningly unhelpful, I know.
With a congregation of tens of thousands and a Twitter following of almost half a million, Driscoll was an extremely popular and well-known face of the misogynistic, homophobic, dudebro, Jesus-was-armed-and-dangerous Calvinistic movement. The loss of such a charismatic and dynamic leader (whatever you may think of him, Driscoll was both these things) is a large blow to his brand. But the legacy of Driscoll has hardly disappeared with his face. Driscoll trained pastors. He trained men to be rude like him, crude like him, bully others like him, put people down and shame them like him. This method of ministry has leaked out into the Christian world, and the Spirit of Driscoll is evident every time you watch Christians interact on the internet.
I saw this occur two days ago with a Twitter user who goes by the handle of @kingjimmy1982. He also blogs here. Two days ago, Jimmy was debating the role of patriarchy in Christianity with another individual. Frustrated that his opponent didn’t immediately reverse his position when confronted with the fact that not everyone agreed, Jimmy had this to say.
“it’s gotta stink making a living running your mouth and speaking do ignorantly. Seriously, go get a real job”
Now, of course, it’s not bullying to accuse someone of ignorance, provided that you can back up your claims. It is, however, bullying to put someone down, mock them, or harass them for their chosen occupation. When I pointed out Jimmy’s bullying behaviour and rather sarcastically pointed out that it was completely without the grace and humility that Christians are supposed to act with, Jimmy said – in all seriousness – “I’m proud of my humility. Thanks!”
It was followed by an appeal to the Christian persecution complex when he sarcastically thanked me for not judging him.
It’s a typical Christian attitude. Anything I say is in the Spirit of Christ as long as I personally say it is, in not so many words. And remember, mocking and putting someone down for their career isn’t bullying but calling it out as such is taking the low road and being judgemental
However, the interaction soon leveled up in both aggression and bizarreness when Jimmy proceeded to accuse me of calling him out on bullying solely because the individual he attacked ‘appeared gay.’
This was, of course, very reminiscent of the now infamous Mark Driscoll Facebook post where he called upon his followers to mock effeminate-appearing worship leaders. When I remarked on the homophobic nature of judging people as ‘looking gay,’ Jimmy quickly backpedaled, claiming that it wasn’t that he looked gay, but that he seemed to be gay because he supported LGBT rights. I pointed out that by his logic, 54% of the nation is gay, to which he responded that the individual was more supportive of LGBT rights than most people. So he’s gay.
Whether the individual in question was gay, bi, trans, asexual, etc. is entirely beyond the point. The spirit in which Jimmy claimed that my accusations of bullying only reflected the gay way that the individual looked is textbook Christian anti-gay bigotry, and his back-pedalling was just an attempt to put himself in the clear when called out on it. Jimmy went on into a tirade against public speaking as a career, people who stand against bullying LGBT people, how Catholics aren’t ‘real Christians,’ and rounded it off to an appeal of how persecuted Christians feel.
So yes, an interesting and enlightening interaction.
But the sucker-punch has yet to be delivered. As a testament to the power of irony and the sheer audacity of Christian hypocrisy, moments before Jimmy delivered his first insulting and bullying tweet, he was tweeting about Mark Driscoll and how he was no longer above reproach and therefore unfit for ministry.
The disconnect here is just…astonishing. That so many Christians can preach a message of accountability and responsibility and then refuse to live it out themselves. Their judgement, their accusations, their call to accountability is reserved for others, not themselves. The Spirit of Mark Driscoll, the spirit that bullies, mocks, and then attempts to admonish others is alive and well. There’s a common Bible verse about specks and planks that’s almost too cliche to even mention here.
In the end, @KingJimmy1982 is one man on Twitter who has a blog. He has demonstrated himself to be both a bully and anti-gay, but in the end he’s just one man. So again I ask the question: Does it matter?
I say, with complete confidence, that yes it does. It matters because people hear these words. They affect people. They hurt people. They foster a culture of spiritual abuse and no personal accountability. It matters when people call others out on their bullying. It matters when people stand up and say ‘No, I will not let this go unchallenged.’
Atheists, it’s important for us to stand up against the abuse and bullying utilised by Christians. But to those Christians who actually care about others and the effect your church has on them, it’s even more important to hear from you. People like Jimmy, like Driscoll, always need to be confronted. They always need to be called out. And Christians have an additional calling to do so because this is your tribe.
It’s time for you to step up and clean house, or you will continue to be understandably perceived as an abusive, uncaring, bullying community.