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The hyper-masculine minister Mark Driscoll has been effectively neutered.
The Seattle megachurch pastor who announced Sunday (Aug. 24) that he was stepping down for at least six weeks while church leaders review charges he abused his power, will likely never write another book. If he does, far fewer will read its words.
He will likely never again jet around the country speaking to tens of thousands week after week. And even if he returns to the pastorate — which, I imagine is likely — he’ll ascend the stage a shadow of his former self. The glory days of Mars Hill and its celebrity founder are irrevocably behind them both.
How should Christians respond to such a spectacle?
Part of me, I admit, wants to pump my fist and dance ‘round the kitchen. For more than a decade, Driscoll has angered the masses by spewing offensive, misogynistic, and homophobic comments. And in the past year, his ministry morphed into an all-out grease fire amid charges of plagiarizing in books, bullying and shunning former staff members, and spending $210,000 in ministry money for personal gain.
Yes, part of me wants to pop bottles and strike up the band. I want to rejoice like one person in my Twitter feed who responded to the announcement, “Good riddance, Mark Driscoll.” But as I’ve given it more thought, I cannot celebrate Driscoll’s downfall, and I don’t think Christians should either.
This may seem like a precarious opinion in light of such a long history of ministerial malfeasance. But I recall Solomon’s words in Proverbs 24:17: “Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.” As the son of a warlord king, Solomon had witnessed more fallen foes than he could count on his fingers and toes. Each defeat meant more wealth for his country, more security for his people. Even still, Solomon says that wise people resist the urge to celebrate in such moments.
Perhaps Solomon knew that releasing the animosity we harbor towards others is the only way the offended can be truly liberated. Maybe he knew, as Henri Nouwen said, “Joy and resentment cannot coexist.” Too often we forfeit all manner of joy, like the elder brother in Jesus’ powerful parable of the prodigal, because we want those who’ve hurt us or others to pay, pay, pay. But what we often find when we thirst for retribution is that the pain of the offended never fully quenches. We pant for more payment, more pain, more shame to satisfy our anger, hurt, disappointment. As the root of bitterness grows deep, its sour fruit hangs heavy.
There is no doubt that Driscoll should have stepped down — and for a lot longer than six measly weeks. I say this not because I believe in the myth of the perfect preacher who resides in an ivory tower and lives more righteously than others. But rather, because his patterns of behavior seem to illustrate instability in his own emotional state. I hope he receives help from a professional. (I know firsthand the difference that counseling can make.)
So in the wake of this news, I find myself relieved but not gleeful. I’m relieved the spiritual abuse is beginning to end. I’m relieved that I won’t have to wake to another one of Mark’s hurtful comments trickling down my Twitter feed. I’m relieved that I won’t have to tell another non-Christian friend, “He doesn’t speak for most Christians.” I’m relieved, even as I grieve that the story did not have a happier ending.
Yes, I am relieved but I cannot rejoice. For when we celebrate the downfall of another, we wake to realize we are also celebrating our own.
Image courtesy of Mars Hill Church Seattle.