Last week we were having dinner with friends, and they asked me why I hadn’t said anything about Mark Driscoll’s ill-advised comment about pastors” wives “letting themselves go” in the wake of the Ted Haggard scandal.
I had a couple of different responses to this… the first being that I didn’t really want to talk about Ted Haggard (this is the first time I’ve mentioned it, now see what I’ve gone and done?). The second was an off-the-cuff quip that Mark Driscoll is a young man with a young wife, and I’d be curious to see what he says in 10 or 15 years’ time.
Really, the best response would have been something different, and might have had to do with my “Mark Driscoll grid.” You see, I’ve always figured that prior to reacting to something that anyone says, you should pause and pass it through the personal “grid” that you’ve created for that person. Everything you know about someone, about what they’ve said and done and what they stand for act like points on grid, together with the observations you can make about the person. If the new information can’t pass through your grid because it’s incongruous with the rest of what you know about the person, you have to question it. If it’s proved to be accurate, you’ll have to fit it into your grid, which may realign or displace previous points, but it must be an informed process.
Now, truth be told, I don’t have a very well-developed “Mark Driscoll grid” yet. I don’t know him personally, only by reputation, and I haven’t read his work or listened to him preaching that extensively. I do know he’s not a wing-nut, even though I might not disagree with him on every point. I also know that his theology is considerably more reformed than most of the emerging church set, which means that on some level, Mark and I need to stick together… so I have to like him at least a little bit. Suffice to say that something didn’t add up with the comment, which sounded over-simplistic.
I think the comment itself was jumped on a bit harshly — we needed public clarification on it before coming down too strongly, and the blogosphere didn’t have it before responding. Loudly. Some people needed to push Mark for a public clarification, but I don’t know him and did not do so. Maybe I should have. Thankfully, whether resulting from public or private urging on the matter, Mark Driscoll has now responded with a clarification of his intent with his comment. The response is gracious, thoughtful, and a touch McLarenesque, humbly thanking his critics.
There you have it. If one of my favorite proverbs is true, “wisdom is proved right by all her children,” which means I’m glad I said nothing until now. And now I’ve got a good bit of new information to add to my “Mark Driscoll grid,” and his stock just went up in my view.
I liked that Mark responded with words seasoned with grace. While I’m not personally holding a great offence against Mark (although not being impressed with what he originally wrote, either), it would have probably been even more helpful if he’d actually said something simple like, “I know my choice of words has caused pain and upset, and for that I’m truly sorry. What my original intent was…”
Still, a good first step. Now, let’s see the fruit unfold.
I too liked Markâ€™s response and I think he had some genuine good counsel. However, I still find it very offensive as a man, his statement regarding that evangelical pastorâ€™s wives need not let themselves go to keep their husbands faithful and then he openly thanked God for a beautiful wife that he has never strayed from because of her beautiful. I too have a beautiful wife, but here outward beauty is not the only reason I have stayed faithful to her. I choose to stay faithful to her because I made a commitment to her as a whole person and not just her beauty. Iâ€™m not trying to live in a bubble and say that me being attracted to my wife doesnâ€™t help, but I am trying to say that Mark on this point gave an offensive un-holistic advice. Why is it just the womanâ€™s duty not to let herself go and not the manâ€™s? What defines beauty? These are just some of my thoughts. Thanks for the post.
I think Mark’s response was unsatisfactory. What was needed was not a clarification or expansion, but an apology. Mark said, “It is not uncommon to meet pastorsâ€™ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness.”
That is a terrible assumptions about these women’s motives and beliefs that he is not in a position to make – he does not know the hearts of this entire category of people. To assume they are lazy and that they hold certain beliefs about their husbands being trapped is wrong, wrong, wrong on every level. If he has evidence that this is true, he should say it, but insulting presumptions are not appropriate.
I’m not ready to jump upon the “Mark Driscoll is a misogynist” bandwagon, but even if 10% of the stories told about him on the net regarding women are true, it would make me extermely cautious about thinking of him as a leader in any sense. Any leader who displays contempt and disrespect for at least half of his congregation, nevermind half the human population, should not be in the position he is in.
I’m curious – why do you need to stick together with Mark just because his theology is more reformed, or like him? I thought one of the points of the emergent movement is that loving people is more important than theology and belief systems. What if his theology includes extremely restricted roles for women and a belief that they are somewhat inferior? How much does a leader’s respect for women matter?
I can stick with Mark like I can stick with John Piper or others with whom I may have some disagreement, but on the whole I agree with more than I disagree with. I haven’t done a thorough analysis on everything he’s said about women, but if I disagree with his views on women, it wouldn’t invalidate his views on total depravity. He really did hit on a hot-button issue. You quoted the part that everyone has reacted strongly to… immediately before that statement, he said:
Immediately after the offending bit, he said:
As I read it, he’s not blaming the wife entirely, I think he intends to speak about the nature of their relationship more than anything.
Mark said other things that I think were a bit strong… whether I disagree completely or just partially. Pastors protecting their cell phone number and email communication and so forth. I think that he’s given enough background that many of the reasons for his thoughts here can be inferred… he’s seen them cause problems. Are they universal problems? No, but he’s intentionally recommending extra caution.
As for the whole “letting themselves go” thing, I think it so obviously off the mark as to not possibly be able to be taken at face value. Mark is a sane individual, I don’t imagine he would think that there aren’t any male pastors “letting themselves go” because they think their wives are trapped to fidelity. It clearly cuts both ways, the issue is about the relationship between them. Pastors need strong marriages. Dog bites man. Hardly a newsflash.
He didn’t apologize because he was attempting clarify. He could have apologized for the confusion, but I’m just happy right now to have him say that he doesn’t mean what he’s accused of. As you say, we’ll watch and see what unfolds next.
I feel as though I am about to go waltzing out on some very thin ice …
But I think this latest post brings up some larger questions for all of us. Questions such as, how does one forgive someone who doesn’t repent? Or who sees no need of repentance? How do we extend grace and mercy to those we are diametrically opposed to? How do we remain in communion with them?
I see these issues because Mark has stated and lives his life through the paradigm of Compelementarianism. Within that paradigm, his latest post (especially) makes a lot of sense. His first post was extremely bombastic and hurtful, yes. But the meat of what he was saying, he feels no need to apologize for, because within his paradigm there is nothing wrong with it. We can’t ask someone to apologize for telling their truth. My being hurt by it because I live within a different paradigm is my problem.
For me, Mark Driscoll isn’t too much of a problem. If I don’t want to be hurt by him, all I have to do is decide that I won’t read what he has to say. But there are others, closer to my life that I do have live in direct communion with. So those questions loom large. How do we forgive someone who does not believe they need to repent? How do we extend grace and mercy to those with whom we are diametrically opposed? How do we continue to live in communion with them?
You know … sometimes I need to be whacked upside the head.
When I referred to “latest post” above, I mean Mark Driscoll’s clarification post, NOT Brother Maynard’s discussion of it. I knew what I was writing about ;-) … unfortunately, I didn’t make it very clear to anyone else!!!
Sonja — I like your approach; context goes a long way toward understanding. My take, fwiw, it depends on what we’re diametrically opposed about. If it’s not a major doctrinal issue (Apostle’s Creed), then we have some obligation to coexist on the planet and call ourselves relatives. If it’s a big enough item, we might want to fellowship with other people, but we still don’t get to call them bad names. For the rest of it, there’s something I’ve been known to tell each of my daughters in turn… “I don’t care if she didn’t apologize, you still have to forgive her.” Repentance and forgiveness are not necessarily connected… if we’ve been wronged or offended, repentance is not within our control — but forgiveness is.
I’ve never thought of it in terms of a ‘personal grid’ before but I have long held the same belief. If someone says something to me that I find offensive or odd I first match that against what I know of that person and try to discover if I may have misunderstood what they’re trying to say. (I’m not necessarily referring to the Driscoll case here.)
I’ve explained the way I think to others as ‘knowing the person’s heart’. Not eveyone thinks the same way I do so there may be a huge difference between what I would mean and what someone else would mean if we spoke the exact same words. I’ve learnt not to assume what someone means in isolation to what I already know of the person. I’ve also learnt that I don’t need to agree with everything that another person says and thinks.