This cartoon depicts the danger of surrendering our dignity and rights to a spiritual abuser.
I read Adrian Warnock’s thoughts on Mark Driscoll and the Acts 29 story. Warnock’s thoughts can be summed up with the following:
- Accept it. We shouldn’t be alarmed by what’s happening with Driscoll. No church is perfect. No pastor is perfect. These things happen. Paul and Barnabas are an example of disputes within the church.
- Back off. Warnock blames the internet for a lot of the problem because everything gets reported by everybody for everyone to see. We don’t really know what happened. Most of the criticisms now seem to have more to do with the past than the present. There are elders around Driscoll that know him best and we should leave them alone and trust them to handle this.
- Restore him. Warnock says that we should accept Driscoll’s apologies and trust the elders who say that he’s changed. Driscoll has been a great voice for the gospel and he should be restored to his bold preaching ministry.
When Warnock’s asks the question, “how should we all respond as Christians?“, he immediately set the tone for his article. I suggest that telling us how we should respond in such situations actually inhibits true critique and true healing. Warnock means well for the church, including Driscoll, but I fear he underestimates the importance and impact of the story that is unfolding for the countless people who have suffered or are suffering from spiritual abuse.
Let’s consider Warnock’s advice through the questions of a victim of spiritual abuse.
- Accept it: Should I stand idly by and accept what’s happening with Driscoll and his ministry as normal? I agree that there is no perfect church and no perfect pastor. So shouldn’t we remind ourselves of this by allowing ourselves to be observed and critiqued? Saying these things happen and that there is scriptural precedent for it sounds like a toleration of Driscoll’s teaching and behavior. Shouldn’t the unhealthy culture of Mars Hill Church not only be questioned, but challenged, and even require intervention? Isn’t asking me to be objective, not take sides and not let my emotions get involved the same kind of control abusers exercise?
- Back off: Even though some might see the internet as the enemy, I don’t. Driscoll obviously thought it was his enemy and tried to remove himself from it. So is it not possible that the internet helped to bring a dangerous teacher and his church to account? Am I allowed to rejoice that Driscoll can no longer get away with his harmful teaching and practices? Why should we now trust the elders who have been with Driscoll for so long to accomplish the difficult but necessary task of resolving this when they’ve been his greatest supporters so far? Driscoll and the leaders of Mars Hill Church have used silence to protect themselves from criticism. Isn’t it strange that we’re now being asked to be quiet as well?
- Restore him: The very things Driscoll is praised for are the very things that have harmed people. A mouthpiece of God? Vocal? Bold? A man who roars about the gospel? A gift to the global church? Strong? Unique voice? Isn’t asking those who have been abused to forgive and forget Driscoll’s and Mars Hill’s treatment of them so that he can get back in the pulpit and resume his amazing ministry typical of the church’s handling of abuse? Why does the church continually ask us to overlook abuse for the sake of the gospel? Are you telling me to trust him again?
I can hear the abused person say, “I won’t accept it! I won’t be silent! You can’t require me to trust him again! And I don’t appreciate you suggesting that this would be the Christian thing to do.”
I’m concerned for the victims of bad teaching and unhealthy church culture, as I’m sure Warnock is. But not just Driscoll or Mars Hill. In fact, this is what nakedpastor is all about: critiquing what is unhealthy about the church and helping people find meaningful and helpful ways of moving on theologically and spiritually.
So I’m just wondering: Can we see how advising the abused on how they should respond to the news of Driscoll’s ministry’s downfall is not helpful but actually harmful? Can we see how this can actually prevent the process of correction from happening in a thorough way?
Shouldn’t those who have lived under excessive spiritual control be free to express themselves spontaneously, honestly, and authentically?
I know Warnock is mostly addressing the many people, probably myself included, who he thinks don’t have anything directly at stake in this story. But in my opinion, as well as in the opinion of many, Driscoll and Mars Hill represent spiritual abusers. So in this way I do have something directly at stake in this story. Many people are watching something fall that was beyond accountability. Everyone who has suffered at the hands of the church and its leaders has a stake in this story.
So this story is also symbolic. It gives us hope that other spiritual abusers… leaders and churches… won’t get away with it anymore either.
Have you suffered spiritual abuse? Come join others who have and are survivors and learning how to move on at The Lasting Supper.
Read my illustrated story, The Liberation of Sophia, about woman who escapes and finds her freedom.