Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, and the gospel of abuse

"The Gospel of Abuse" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“The Gospel of Abuse” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Many people are calling for forgiveness for Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church so that he and the church can get back to preaching the gospel as effectively as it had and get back on the road to success, just like it was before things started unraveling.

Andrew Jones of Tall Skinny Kiwi has written a good summary of what’s transpired up to now.

My question is: “What is the gospel?” Like this cartoon attempts to portray, isn’t the gospel about how we treat people, rather than how effectively we convert them?

Marshal McLuhan wrote years ago that “the medium is the message”.

This means that it’s not just the words you say, but how you say it and the culture it emerges from and the community it creates.

It’s become more than apparent that Driscoll’s and Mars Hill’s gospel is about abuse. It’s not about the emancipation of the human being, but the heavy-handed control of them.

This is not just about a few behavioral issues. The church’s behavior emerges out of its attitudes, beliefs and theology. Driscoll didn’t preach a healthy theology but struggled with some unhealthy behaviors. Rather, the unhealthy behaviors were born out of an unhealthy theology.

Driscoll abused people because this is his idea of how God treats people. Driscoll’s and Mars Hill Church’s god is an abusive god, a god who scorns gays, dismisses women, ridicules differences and bullies anyone who disagree with him. Their god is a god who presses his agenda with complete disregard for those who challenge it and are harmed by it.

No wonder they behave this way! Because their god behaves this way.

So all eyes are on Driscoll and his church this morning. What’s going to happen? Certainly not just a slight adjustment of policy. What is required is a complete overhaul of not just practice, but belief. Not an easy task!

Are you a survivor of church abuse? Come talk about it with us.

Sophia is a survivor. Read her story.

My art is all about freedom. Hang it in your house or work space!


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20 Responses

  1. Tom Aitken says:

    No wonder they behave this way! Because their god behaves this way
    Dont expect a reply to this…..
    Their God….. your God… God.

    Enjoyed the cartoons but getting more than a little concered at the conitual agenda. God is love, only way to him his through forgiveness from him. Not through our inber self. We are human, have failings remember David? Stop the agenda pks.

  2. Deanna D says:

    Forgiveness is not the same as giving power into the hands of a person who is continually misusing it. If a man is repentant, he will do anything it takes to free himself from the temptation to sin. In Driscoll’s case, his power was tempting him to mistreat people. I would be impressed if Driscoll came forward and announced that he understood that his power position had gone to his head, and that now he realizes that he needs to spend a few years out of the spotlight and allow other godly men to step up.

    There is a cycle within abuse in which the abuser is quick to be “sorry” with promises never to abuse again, but once forgiveness is granted, he starts all over again. This cycle is true in domestic violence and in spiritual abuse and is sometimes called the Honeymoon Period: “The abuser usually expresses remorse for his/her actions and the victim starts to believe that the abuser can change and stop being abusive. This stage often continues until the abuser begins to feel confident again and starts to feel a loss of control over the victim’s behavior ” (

    If Driscoll is granted power without time to truly grieve and repent, the cycle will simply continue.

  3. Brad Jersak says:

    “Only love is credible.” Hans Urs Von Balthasar

  4. Love Balthasar! I’ve just ordered a book about Balthasar and Barth.

  5. lotharson says:

    Thanks for this great series of posts, David!

    You truly hit the nail on the head while pointing out that the fundamental question is “What is the Gospel”?

    For passionate Calvinist Mark Driscoll, the “Gospel” can be summed up through the following points:

    1) God predetermines everything occurring in the universe

    2) God led the two first human beings to eat the wrong apple. As a consequence, He cursed their billions of descendants with a sinful nature making wicked deeds inevitable

    3) Consequently every human being “deserves” an eternal stay in God’s torture chamber

    4) God sovereignly determines IN ADVANCE those who will suffer forever and those who will be saved from this unending Ausschwitz .

    I think it is undeniable that the god worshiped by consistent Calvinists is a heinous fiend (if you can pardon me this terrible understatement).
    Calvinists keep saying that atheists aren’t able to live consistently with their assumptions whereas THEY are the ones facing tremendous cognitive dissonances.

    They profess that God, the most perfect Being, is actually far worse than the most odious human criminal having ever lived.

    If there really is such a thing as a “doctrine of demons”, I can’t think of a better candidate than Calvinism.

    What infuriates me the most is that people like Mark Driscoll and John Piper passionately and joyously defend the (alleged) reality of never-ending torments for billions of people having been PREDETERMINED by God to act badly.

    For me, this is similar to Germans in the Third Reich joyfully supporting the extermination policy of their Fueher.

    The Gospel is a Good New for everyone and social justice is astronomically more important (in volume) that homosexuality.

    For Calvinists, the Gospel is the most terrifying, despairing and absurd horror movie one can envision.

  6. yet-another-David says:

    What you worship is what you become.

  7. Reg says:

    Unfortunately, abusers like Driscoll are far more common than many think. Here’s a FB page, SA Recovery, to help those who have been Spiritually Abused. I exited an abusive church in 1997 after 29 years.

  8. Shary Hauber says:

    If there is no change in belief there will be no change in actions. There maybe a stopping of a specific action but another action will show itself that is just as bad. A man may stop beating his wife but her life will be no better until he stops believing she deserves to be beaten.
    Just because someone is not a Calvinist doesn’t mean they will not abuse. I went to a boarding school which was of doctrine opposite Calvinism yet children were servilely abused. Why their doctrine of God was also full of hate. Missionaries were required to sacrifice their all including their children.

  9. Michael says:

    I agree with you 99.999%, with the .001% chance open to the possibility that there will actually be change.

  10. JoAnn D says:

    Tom Aitken, I think you missed a point.
    “Their god” (no capitalization) simply means the way they see God. The way they misunderstand His Word and meanings.

  11. Joy says:

    I was talking about this exact thing (not in regard of Driscoll) today before I read this. Weiiird.

    The context of this (if anyone wants to know) conversation was about…ok
    :Long story alert:
    my last church experience was awful. Our Pastor was really into the “grace message”. Which we were into as well. Later, we became children’s pastors (an incredibly thankless job) and over time we noticed….the pastor was REALLY controlling and manipulative….and if I dare say…a total fuck-head. And if he didn’t like something you did (even though it was within the guide lines of what he wanted for the children, and shit the kids actually liked) he would basically in a passive agressive way, tear you the fuck down. My husband for a year was a nervous wreck and afraid to go to his office every day. And it was hard to watch people adore and stand with this pastor while knowing he had no regard for what you were doing for HIS church. Since, I’ve been dealing with bitterness. Don’t know if I’ve really forgiven them or not, I think I just don’t want to care anymore. Although I do drive by and flip the bird at their dumbass church signs. I hope people there realize they are being controlled.

    Anyways all of that to say:
    I don’t wish harm to these people even if they’ve caused us harm, just get them out of there!

  12. Joy says:

    Ps . Sorry for the cursing. I may have just vented to strangers.

  13. Joy says:

    And I hope power hungry pastors seek help and experience healing as well.

  14. I liked your comments Joy! 🙂

  15. Mark A says:

    Don’t hold back, Joy. Tell us how you really feel.

    Our son was a youth director for about three years, and went through some of the same things. Not that he was trying to get back at the pastor, but he started seeing some odd computer behaviors, and eventually discovered teenage girl porn on the pastor’s computer – which my son reported up the line. The pastor got sent for counseling, and our son’s contract was non-extended (by mutual agreement), and that was the end of his work for the church. He and his family are now in a church they really like, but as he put it, “I can work with the youth on my terms. If they need something and I can provide it, I just do it. I don’t have to go through all the administrative crap and deal with the trustees.”

    Best wishes for you and your husband.

  16. Joy says:

    Thank you guys. I appreciate it.

    And thank you David for sharing this story.

    It’s seriously something that so many don’t want to try and understand.
    Understand that WE give these people so much POWER over us.
    We give power because we like this bubble of “sound doctrine” or “this pastor has a strong anointing”.
    we dare not question the validity of this bubble.

    The bubble that is filled with the attitude that:
    God is only in the holy places exclusively, and not in the hearts of man. God is only in the past or future tense. But hardly the present unless he “comes to this place” or if you serve your church, then of course you get an all day pass.

    We allow these self serving messages to invade our life and we cover for them because “it’s the word of God”.
    It’s not the word of God. It’s manipulation.
    whether it be out of ignorance or out of malice. It’s what ever gets people to your church.
    Even though ironically all they need is Jesus.

  17. Joy says:

    Mark – I’m really glad that your son is doing well where he’s at. 🙂 🙂 :)!

  18. Sauli Ruottu says:

    “Like this cartoon attempts to portray, isn’t the gospel about how we treat people ”

    No, it’s more about the death, on our behalf, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I kinda get your point, but if I were to base my belief on how Christians behave and treat each other, sorry, I’m gonna be really disappointed and leave the thing at some point.

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