Controversy regarding pastor Mark Driscoll has come to a head recently. The responses to this generally fall into one of two categories in my mind. I believe there is an important, key difference between the responses. I think this difference is worth examining because it can help us understand how to respond in other situations besides this one.
Certainly all people make mistakes, and if you are a public figure, you will have some critics. Is this all that is going on here? Some people, including Driscoll himself, recognize mistakes he has made. I believe Driscoll is a sincere, dedicated follower of Christ. Driscoll has acknowledged and apologized for the poor actions he has taken in certain instances in the past. Shouldn’t we forgive him for these and move on? If this is all that is going on then I would agree. I don’t believe it’s good to dig up dirt from people’s past and use it to publicly criticize someone. And if this were the case, I would be bothered by the people who seem cynical and unconvinced by Driscoll’s apologies.
But there could be something else going on here (I leave it to you to decide). I believe the key difference in one’s response to this controversy has to do with whether or not one agrees with Driscoll’s beliefs, especially those regarding women and gender and the use of shame and other strong-arm tactics to achieve compliance. If Driscoll’s beliefs are basically correct, and his mistakes were just instances of poor behavior, then once again, let’s forgive and move on. The issue, however, is that there are people who are convinced that some of Driscoll’s beliefs are not merely incorrect, but are leading him to (intentionally or not) harm others and encouraging others to do the same. If this is true and he has only apologized for some of his behaviors but hasn’t changed his problematic beliefs, then people have reason to be concerned and call attention to these.
There is a difference between making mistakes which hurt people and living out of a paradigm which, intentionally or not, encourages abuse. In light of this, I found it interesting that another blogger recently described spiritual abuse as “acting out false ideologies about God and ourselves“. (My impression is that spiritual abuse is only beginning to become more recognized; this is good because it needs to be addressed.) The abuse isn’t a part of the ideal, but because the ideal doesn’t match real life, people are led to attempt to force others to fit into their paradigm.
Often people will cite the good that Driscoll or others in similar situations have done and are doing. Should they be removed from the position in which they are doing good because of their mistakes? Since everyone makes mistakes, we can’t make perfection a requirement of leadership. But if there are cases of repeated patterns of wrong being done and in which the root cause hasn’t been addressed, I don’t believe the good also done is enough to overlook the bad. The bad doesn’t negate the good, but the good doesn’t excuse the bad. In cases such as this, the person in question should not be in a leadership position until the root issues in question have been substantially addressed. Certainly this requires discernment, yet there are enough people out there who posses the wisdom needed.
If you are interested, I also think that David Murrow’s article, Mark Driscoll’s true god to be revealed is another worthwhile take on the recent Driscoll controversy.
Image from this page.