The other day Mark Driscoll became the center of attention once again when he posted the following on his Facebook wall: “So what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you’ve ever personally witnessed?” Almost immediately there was response after response by a variety of bloggers (I’ve already mentioned some of the responses here). The most attention probably went to Rachel Held Evans’ post titled “Mark Driscoll is a bully. Stand up to him.” She went as far as to provide the mailing address, phone number, and email address of the church so that people could protest.
While I was sympathetic to the outrage (Should a pastor really say something like this on a public forum knowing there are so many people struggling with their sexual identity in our culture today?) something about it just made me feel defeated. Carmen Andres gave me the words when she wrote on Twitter, “[T]his whole Mark Driscoll thing leaves me tired and frustrated. [I]nto your hands Lord. [I]’m done with it.” Joel Watts shares wise words as well when he reminded us of the systemic nature of our sin that has led masculinity to be equated “with macho brevado”. Yet if most of us are honest we went with our immediate gut reaction and we lashed out at Driscoll either on the internet or elsewhere.
Enter Anthony Bradley. In his World Magazine article titled “Libel is not Love” he says, “Evans’ way of responding cannot and should not be encouraged. What was even more disturbing was the way in which many other believers jumped on the slander bandwagon to feed on the carnage once it went viral.” Bradley equates these types of responses with slander and shows us how over and over again in Scripture this is not how we should respond to one another. At the end he points out how some atheist websites were applauding Evans’ response (and I assume the rest of us who reacted against Driscoll) and how ironic it is that we would seek their applause over and against healing and understanding within the body of Christ.
I feel rebuked, but not satisfied just yet. I see what we have done wrong, but I am not so sure that Bradley provided a solution/viable alternative either.
First, I sense that Bradley’s rebuke of Evans was a tad more calm and loving than Evans’ rebuke of Driscoll, but it seems to have been a public rebuke as well. I am not accusing Bradley of doing a one-for-one here (anyone who reads the two posts can see the difference), but we should use this as a starting point for discussing what makes a public rebuke acceptable and what makes it unacceptable.
Second, what do we do with public statements like this one other than provide a public rebuke? Could Evans have called Mars Hill Church to make a phone appointment with Pastor Driscoll or would that have been ignored (we were forced to ask this same question when John Piper flippantly rebuked Rob Bell on Twitter by writing ‘Farwell, Rob Bell’ or even of Rob Bell for publishing a book that many interpreted as pastorally insensitive)? If we do not have access to pastors because of their status do we merely leave it to local elders to privately correct something so public?
Third, if we are quiet when another Christian does something like this what are the consequences? While Bradley is right to note we shouldn’t applaud the fact that we won the approval of atheists while lashing out at one another, what do we do if a serious person interested in Christianity, wondering if s/he belongs, reads what Driscoll wrote and suddenly thinks this what all Christians think, therefore I must not fit? Is there any other way to counter a public gaff that like one other than writing something open to the public that seeks to correct it? Should the Apostle Paul have taken the Apostle Peter aside when he shamed Gentile Christians with his behavior rather than rebuking him to his face and then writing about it in a letter to another church (Gal 2.11-20)?!
So where Anthony Bradley is correct is that we must not forget that our Lord Jesus Christ said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn. 13.35) We have failed miserably here. Yet I don’t know what to do with something like this, especially since I think private discussions with someone like Mark Driscoll are impossible and not responding could mislead others to think that the church as a whole supports this kind of behavior.
Where do Christians go from here? What can we learn about public error and rebuke? How do we rebuke while making it evident to the world around us that we love one another as Christ commanded?
See also: Derek Ouellette’s “Learning to Blog with Maturity”.