How the Accidental Complementarian confused the bejeebers out of me today!

I think this will be my last egalitarian post for awhile, unless some unforeseen blogosphere emergency arises. Starting tomorrow I’d like to switch back to pleasanter topics. But I discovered an article about an accidental complementarian over at Her.Meneutics and was so baffled by it that I had to write a post just to put my thoughts in order. This blog is becoming like therapy for me.
It tells the story of Jen Pollock-Michel and her journey from egalitarianism to complementarianism. She opens with an anecdote about all the times that her husband has moved for a job, leaving her to pack the kids and the house and deal with the responsibilities of relocating. She (and the article’s subtitle) makes reference to complementarianism being a misunderstood lifestyle, and goes on to explain how she came to believe that comp theology is more Biblical, because of her understanding of “head” as meaning “authority.”
I read this article. Then I read it again. I still didn’t fully understand what it was getting at, so I read it a third time. Each time, I gained a new appreciation for the author’s bravery in telling what’s sure to be an unpopular story. Unfortunately, I also gained layers of frustration each time as I tried to parse what exactly she was getting at.
Well, that’s not completely true. I know what she was “getting at.” I think Pollock-Michel wants to remind readers that complementarians aren’t all thoughtless drones who inherited their theology and don’t know better. I think she feels marginalized and wants to express that. She’s asking not to be judged, because she’s dealt with her own share of frustration in embracing something she used to reject.
It’s a venting piece. I get that. Venting pieces aren’t bad. The problem is, this one was a bait-and-switch, and it baited us with something very important: the notion that complementarianism is misunderstood, and the implied promise that she was going to more accurately define it for the skeptics.
Early in the article, she says that comp stereotypes are not “the full truth” and that “misunderstandings about complementarianism abound.” I think it’s true that some people misunderstand complementarianism. And yes, stereotypes probably don’t fully describe the experience of people who live it. Stereotypes seldom do.
The problem is, she never expands on this. What is the “full truth”? What are the “misconceptions”?
She offers us an anecdote about her own life that seems to fit the stereotypes, then tells us the stereotypes don’t show the whole picture, but then doesn’t paint that picture for us.
Let’s back up for a moment, though. The first thing that really struck me about this article was the contrast between what the article states vs. what its tone is.
The article states that negative views of complementarianism are misinformed. But here’s how the tone reads:
It opens with an anecdote about a put-upon wife. It actually draws attention to the fact that the negative stereotypes can feel true. It uses words like “reprieve” to describe the desire for egalitarianism. The best the article can muster in terms of positivity is to vaguely describe submission as “holy beauty”—but even that comes off as being a belief mostly acquired through guilt (guilt for having a “deaf ear” and guilt for being unwilling to match Christ’s attitude about sacrifice). Loudly absent is any concrete description of how day-to-day comp life actually feels beautiful; the beauty is attributed to the theory, not the practice.
And it’s not just the feel of the article that bothered me, but the impossibility of putting together exactly what she’s trying to say. There’s just enough contradiction of language, and just enough missing pieces, to leave readers with lots of questions, all of them unsettling.
First, what message were we to gather from the opening anecdote? Was the prioritization of her husband’s career, and her automatic assumption of solo childcare, a conscious decision they made because of complementarianism? Or was this simply a rhetorical strategy to showcase people’s hasty assumptions about female oppression? The start of the second paragraph makes it seem like just a rhetorical strategy, an example that the author plans to flip around and show a different side of, when she says, “Our arrangement could illustrate the burden…” (emphasis mine). Readers expect a hasty “But you’d be wrong!” followed by an explanation of why complementarianism isn’t actually the killjoy it appears to be.
Yet she never does circle back to refute this “illustrat[ion]” of burdens, and actually ends the paragraph with, “I sometimes can’t help wondering if the stereotypes are true.” Then, she says the phenomenon of overburdened women is not “the full truth” of complementarianism—which, to me, implies that this unpleasant stereotype is the truth and is a reality, just not the whole of it. So, does that mean that she has indeed discovered complementarianism to be a system that causes wives to be more burdened than their husbands? That seems like a strange thing to highlight in an article whose subtitle calls the movement “misunderstood.”
I also wanted more about her thoughts on authority. The concept of “head” meaning “authority” played a critical role in her switch from egal to comp, but what does “authority” mean to her and her husband? What does a man’s authority suddenly look like in a marriage that has always functioned with complete equality? What did her husband have to do differently? Was the prioritization of his career the way they interpret him holding “authority”? It’s the only concrete example they give. Who got to decide what authority meant—him or her? Both?
Part of the reason I ask this (and obsess over that opening anecdote) is that equating authority with bread-winning, and submission with childcare, is one of the most stereotypical and least scripturally defensible beliefs the comp movement endorses. I had thought that perhaps this couple, having started out egalitarian, would define “headship” differently than how many comps automatically do. That’s part of the reason I was interested to read the article, and I felt the subtitle implied it. The article, however, actually gave no evidence that she had discovered complementarianism to be different than she thought it would be as an egal.
Now, perhaps she and her husband do define headship and authority in unique ways. Maybe this anecdote does not reveal their definition of authority. But we’ll never know, because no real definition is provided, forcing us to read between the lines.
Yeesh. I feel like I’m getting really crabby about this. The thing is, I admire this author’s bravery. At least she’s being honest about where she is, and she has every right to keep the more intimate details of her marriage to herself. I just felt that the title and opening of the article were a big bait-and-switch, and I wish things had been clearer.
Truth be told, I want this article to make more sense because it touches on a subject that’s close to home.
The picture of a marriage that starts egal and moves into comp is, in some ways, a frightening thing for me to look at. Jaron and I also married as committed egalitarians. We, too, didn’t use “submission” in our vows. Like the author and her husband (at least at the start of their marriage), we believe that male dominance is part of the curse (I won’t say that male “headship” is, as everyone seems to have a different view of what “headship” means and I’d rather not tangle with that). When someone describes a marriage with a similar premise to mine that traveled to such a different place, I’m invested in hearing how that shook out.
I tried to imagine today what would happen in our household if I told my husband I believed he was my authority. He’d look at me, laugh, say, “Then as your authority, I order you to act like an egalitarian for the rest of our lives,” and we’d probably never mention it again. It’s sort of like when my parents got engaged. Mom told Dad that she was okay with deferring to him on big decisions. “No,” he said, “we should make all decisions together.” To which she replied, “No, really, I honestly don’t mind deferring to you,” at which point he put down his foot and said, “No—we will make all decisions together, and that’s final.”

: )

So I guess we all engage in a little double-speak now and then. I’ll have to forgive this author. It must be hard to write about something so complex in one page, and I don’t have to know her full story to know what my story should be.
But darn if those missing puzzle pieces don’t set my OCD going!
(By the way…if anyone is curious how the egalitarian position can be Biblically defensible, please visit CBE or God’s Word to Women. I don’t want this comment section to begin reinventing the wheel on theology that’s already been exhaustively hammered out in other places.)

Four Reasons I Prefer the “Divergent” Movie to the Book

^^ See what I did there? FOUR? Get it? 😀
So, wait. What? Rachel liked a movie better than a book? Since when is that even a possibility in this universe?
It’s really rare to find a movie that exceeds the book in my eyes. Even my very favorite movies, like Lord of the Rings and To Kill A Mockingbird, don’t impress me as much as their novel counterparts. Then there are some movies, like the first Hunger Games film, that outright disappoint me when compared to the book. (Then there are things like Masterpiece Theater’s Dracula (2007), where I’m not sure the screenwriters even read the source material.)
Divergent is a big exception to this rule. After seeing the movie, I appreciated the intelligent concepts and creativity of the story much more. In fact, I’m grateful to the movie for helping me like this neat story better. It made the good parts of the story shine and buffed away some of the rough edges that put me off in the book.
Many readers may disagree with me on this (happily, I value divergence, so none of you will be getting a visit from the Erudite authorities). But here, in no particular order, are the basic reasons I found myself sitting straighter, laughing louder, and clutching the seat-arms harder than I thought I would as I viewed this film.
Every paragraph is infested with spoilers, bee tee dubs. 
Pivotal Moments Come Across With Strength
This is a big complaint I often have with book-to-movies; some of the most important moments in the novel get watered-down onscreen and lack the emotional punch they should have. I was so disappointed with Rue’s flower funeral scene in Hunger Games. I literally raged at the incompetent handling of the “I’m Not A Coward” scene between Harry and Snape in The Half-Blood Prince.
With Divergent, however, the effect is the opposite. Seeing it onscreen breathed life into some of the moments that felt listless to me while turning pages.
Take, for example, an early scene when Tris (Beatrice) is running with her new faction, the Dauntless, to catch the Dauntless trains for the first time. In the book, you got the idea that this was an unruly group of teens having fun, while the new initiates scrambled to keep up. In the movie, though, we got a heart-pounding drumbeat as Tris runs with them. They swarm the train platform and crawl upwards. Tris is the last to climb; will she make it before the train gets there? Then there’s that beautiful few seconds when Tris is the only one who doesn’t realize they have to run to catch the train. Everyone else starts off ahead of her, and for a breathless moment, the audience worries she won’t notice. Talk about effective cinema.

I also loved the flying-from-roof scene, when the Dauntless-born initiates hitch Tris to the sling and send her sailing from the top of a building. This was one of my favorite concepts from the book, and I was delighted with how the director handled it. We see Tris’ joy as she begins—her uncertainty as the cable leads through the middle of a dilapidated building—her terror as it looks like the cable leads to a dead-end on a roof—and finally her muster of last-minute wits as she pulls the break to keep from splattering against the wall at the end. It’s a breathtaking little microcosm of her inner journey from joyfully escaping Abnegation, to finding a world she doesn’t expect, and learning how to handle it.
Additionally, action scenes usually play out better onscreen than on the page, and this story is packed with action. The training fights, the simulations, and the ending battles seemed more real in the theater than they did when I read them.
Greater Focus on the Interesting Parts
One of my main gripes about the book was how much time we spent watching Tris and the other initiates get to know each other and struggle through endless training sessions. Author Veronica Roth threw an awful lot of characters at us—Eric, Peter, Al, Drew, Molly, Christina, Four, Tori, Will—and then spent the majority of the book bouncing those character from fights to capture-the-flag to dinner to drunken revelries to family visiting day. The string of semi-related events didn’t feel cohesive. All the while, more interesting concepts lurked in the background—like society’s attempt to isolate the different human characteristics that make us go bad; or the question of where bravery and selflessness intersect; or the mystery about why Erudite is stirring up things against Abnegation. I was fascinated by the final battle scenario, where Tris and Four are the only “awake” Dauntless members because they’re Divergent. But the book spent more than half its energy on the high school dynamics of Tris’ initiation group, and waited too long to begin the final battle sequence.
The movie tightened its focus and paced itself better. It gave us only the main characters to worry about. Al, Peter, Will, Molly and Drew were in the background, allowing us to focus on Tris, Christina, Four, and Eric. Training scenes moved quickly, and the point behind each exercise was better explained, helping to clarify the overall trajectory of the Dauntless program. Overall, the training stuff took up less space than in the novel.
Thanks to all these things, we were allowed to focus on what was most important: Tris’ growing Dauntless bravery; her quest to discover what Divergence means; the hint of government overthrow; and her growing feelings for Four. That’s it. No mini revenge plots with Peter’s gang. No worries about Al’s mental stability, or how to politely turn down his advances. No obsession with rankings at every single turn. Just boom, boom, boom, one plot point leading inevitably to the next. This allows for a greater percentage of screen time devoted to all the exciting stuff at the end.

The Clunky Writing and Dialogue Are Gone
Okay. I’m just going to say it. With all respect to the author, some of the writing felt clunky and stiff.
I know. I know. (Hiding behind my desk chair). Please stop throwing things. I’m sorry. Well, no, I’m not sorry, because I meant it. But can I come out from behind my desk chair without all of you killing me?
I hesitate to nitpick over writing style because, as a writer, I can’t imagine a more hurtful thing than for someone to say that my prose doesn’t flow. So I wouldn’t be saying this unless I was really sure I meant it. Although the concepts were great and this author obviously loves her story, the writing felt amateurish.
First, clichés abound, both in the narration and dialogue. Do people really gulp in the middle of uncomfortable sentences? Do girls really feel physical sensations every time they interact with their crush? Does everyone say over-used phrases like “How on earth” in conversation?
I also sensed an over-focus on active voice. Now, this is something I can sympathize with. In my early days of novel writing (okay, let’s be honest…up until two or three years ago) I had the importance of active voice drilled into me by writing groups. The problem is, if you get too zealous about this, it’s easy to see active voice as a rule rather than a tool. It can actually start to limit the flow of what you want to write, forcing each sentence into a little box that looks suspiciously like all the other sentence-boxes you’ve created for the last three chapters. I’m not sure if this is what happened to Veronica Roth, but it sure seems like it.
In the movie, however, all of this is gone, replaced by excellent directing and stronger written dialogue. Problem solved.
Tris and Four Are More Likeable
Fortunately, the disappearance of clunky narration also freed me up to understand the characters better.
Tris was easier to interpret on the screen. Her book narration, while in first person, ironically didn’t help me understand her. It seemed that her motivations and feelings were always going three directions at once, often contradicting themselves, leaving me confused about who she really was and what was at stake for her. Granted, she’s supposed to be complex (Divergent, after all) but it just came across as unfocused.

In the movie, however, we have three external things to help us interpret Tris: her dialogue, the events occurring around her, and Shailene Woodly’s portrayal of Tris’ actions. We’ve already covered how the dialogue improved. Woodly kept Tris consistent by maintaining some timid mannerisms alongside growing determination and confidence. Beyond that, we see clearly what’s at stake in every scene, but don’t have Tris’ inner thoughts constantly jumping to other things to confuse us. All in all, the movement of her character development feels clean and smooth.

Likewise, Four came off better. The movie let him be mysterious, which worked. Yet it didn’t play up the misleading appearance of him picking on Tris, or the ambiguity of whether he’s a jerk like Eric. I found these changes refreshing and much less condescending to the audience, since we’ve seen enough teen fantasy stories to know that mysterious guys are usually tender-hearted love interests in disguise. We got to enjoy simply discovering his character piece by piece.
Final Thoughts
Did the movie get everything perfect? No. It missed the mark on some important things. Tris’ mother was never revealed to be Divergent, and her death scene was not the intentional self-sacrifice we saw in the book. The exploration of what bravery really is was mentioned all of once. And the ending gag of sticking Jeannine with her own serum was strained at best.

But overall, this was a great movie. The writing was good. The visuals were nice. The music was right on track. And we got some great performances by actors Theo James and Shailene Woodly. On a side note, Woodly will also be playing the lead in another teen book-to-movie, Fault in Our Stars, due out in June.

Hazel Grace Lancaster

Hey, wait a second. It looks like there’s another main actor in both Divergent and Fault In Our Stars.
Ansel Elgort as Caleb Prior/Augustus Waters

Uh…hold on…
Tris and Caleb
Hazel and Gus
…I am so disturbed right now…

Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill: Hindsight is 20-20

The Mars Hill conundrum continues as former pastors and elders come forward with more specific testimony about what’s wrong at the church.
I’m writing today because it speaks to my previous Driscoll-themed post, which, if you recall, argued in favor of the wider church culture being allowed to call Driscoll out on worrying behavior.
The problem that many well-meaning (and some not well-meaning) Driscoll supporters had was with bloggers, radio hosts, media writers and others who didn’t personally know Driscoll but drew their own conclusions about what was happening at Mars Hill. Driscoll’s supporters said that many of these people’s claims were alarmist, presumptive, untrue, and unfair.
So imagine how vindicated everyone felt when former Mars Hill leaders came forward and—surprise!—said the exact same things about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill that all these “alarmists” had been saying for years.
No, I’m not kidding. They said the exact same things. As I read through the following three posts, I was utterly shocked at how similar their claims were to everything I have read on Driscoll-critical blogs over the past three years.
This post documents the comments of Kyle Firstenberg, former Mars Hill member and former executive pastor at Mars Hill’s Orange County branch. (Side note: doesn’t this guy’s last name sound like it came from an “ermagerd” meme?)
This post documents the comments of worship leader Luke Abrams who, until a year ago, was still at Mars Hill. It’s worth noting that Abrams left the church in good standing, without grievances, for professional/career reasons, yet it only took him one year away to admit to how unhealthy MH was.
The third link is a blog post by Abrams’ wife Jessica, discussing her reflections on what was wrong at the church.
I compiled a list of claims these three are making about Mars Hill and Driscoll. All of the following are things that Firstenberg, Abrams and Abrams either participated in or say they’ve observed at Mars Hill.
Claims About Mark Driscoll Himself
*Built a leadership structure around himself that keeps him from true accountability
*Looks at numbers and “results” rather than hearing people’s concerns
*Other pastors are expected to be dedicated “to Mark Driscoll himself” and not just the church
*He’s responsible for the tough atmosphere and “culture of fear” at Mars Hill
*Pastors feared losing their jobs if they tried to hold him accountable
*Driscoll is used as a measuring stick against which other members and leaders should measure up
*He has “unrepentant sin”
Claims about the Mars Hill Culture in General
*Being tough and “instill[ing] fear” in others were part of the operations of a pastor
*Pastors experienced paranoia about not measuring up and “being discarded”
*Sin was often dealt with too harshly rather than having abundant grace
*Church discipline was more about fixing people and didn’t focus on love
*Belief that God was working through Mars Hill and not other places, i.e. other churches are wrong
*True dialogue wasn’t always sought with people who left the church with grievances
*Growth and results were valued more than love and personal friendships
*”Took advantage of volunteers” resources (such as time and energy)
*Members were treated poorly by those in authority over them
*Money (tithing) and attendance numbers are important to those in power
Driscoll’s/Mars Hill’s Gender Theology
* Teachings about marriage were “domineering and forceful leadership”
*Wives should not “stir the pot” but should run opinions through their husband’s opinions
*Women play “supporting” roles to their families and church but are limited from full expression
*A wife’s personal interests rank last, behind her husband and children
*”Spiritual hierarchy”; a man’s opinion/discernment is more trustworthy than a woman’s
(Jessica Abrams’ post is one of the most eloquent statements about the damage of limiting women that I’ve ever read, by the way. You should definitely check it out and give her some kudos).
These are some of the worst accusations that the blogosphere had already leveled at Mars Hill, accusations that were called unfounded or mean-spirited or just plain wrong by many Driscoll fans and many other high-profile pastors.
I bring all this up because honestly, I’m still trying to process it. As someone who has followed Mark Driscoll’s career with concern over the years, I’m experiencing a lot of feelings right now–mostly, the feeling of having been gaslighted. Gaslighting is when someone tells you the opposite of what you know to be true, in an attempt to undermine your trust in your own judgment. In shorthand terms, it’s when someone tries to drive you crazy by insisting on the opposite of what you know in your gut.
Now that some of the strongest accusations against Driscoll have been corroborated by his close associates, I find myself tearing my hair out with frustration. Why did everyone spend such a long time denying that this was going on? Why did so many Driscoll supporters insist that everyone was misinterpreting the blatantly obvious evidence coming out of Mars Hill? When ex-members of MH came out of the woodwork telling eerily similar stories, why did people still try to chalk it all up to “holding grudges” or “bitterness”?
Even I, who am no fan of Driscoll, was beginning to doubt my own instincts. Had Mark really bullied the pastors around him to the point where they wouldn’t stand up to him? Surely that was a little bit exaggerated; they probably just all agreed with him and couldn’t see his errors for what they were. Did Mark really believe that he was more right than all other churches, or was that just his hyperbole exaggerating his attitude?
I guess, on some level, it is ideal to hold off on judgment until you have the best evidence possible, and Mark’s close associates are some pretty good evidence. But then, why weren’t the many wounded victims who fled Mars Hill counted as pretty good evidence? Because they had never been hired as pastors? Because they were seen as lowly laymen who had never written a book? Because anyone who leaves a church must be in the wrong, since pastors/churches are always in the right?
Here’s what frustrates me. What if these problems had been caught and corrected years ago, when people first started talking about them? What if Mars Hill had become a healthier place, and its members today weren’t experiencing all this fallout? What if all those members who’ve been hurt in the last few years could have avoided that?
What if Mark could have started on the road to better emotional health and less anger and more repentance a long time ago, and be living a happier life today?
Instead, he and his church have gotten all the way to an embarrassing national-stage controversy that threatens to undermine the ministry. Three or four years ago, maybe the problems could have been solved if people had just admitted to them. At this point, you’ve got ex-pastors calling for a “peaceful evacuation” of the church. That sounds like the ministry could go under.
A final word of caution: I am all for giving people the benefit of the doubt. I have had moments where I was misunderstood, and moments where I was wrong and wanted people to accept my apology. So I don’t want to encourage people to be alarmist, gang up, or jump to conclusions before getting all the facts on someone’s suspicious behavior.
But it alarms me when evidence against someone’s character can be blatant and repetitive over a period of years and still not be seen as a reason for action, until some crisis forces everyone’s hand.

The Mark Driscoll Controversy: Why We’re Allowed To Talk About It

I don’t know about you, but I’ve followed the recent dustup at Mars Hill church in Seattle with great interest.

Quick background: Mars Hill is a mega-church with many satellite plants, headed by a pastor named Mark Driscoll. If you know anything at all about the evangelical blogosphere these days, you’ve probably heard of Driscoll’s many controversial statements and actions.
 I could literally spend a baker’s dozen blog posts going over Driscoll’s mistakes. But I won’t, because other people already have (the former list is a drop in the Jupiter-sized ocean, I assure you). Suffice it to say that Driscoll has been accused of having a gender theology that devalues women; of promoting an overly-authoritarian type of leadership; of being a bully; of being arrogant and self-seeking; and, most recently, of buying his book Real Marriage onto the NYT best-seller list and then pretending he earned that prestige honestly.
This last event sparked a new round of criticism aimed at Driscoll by secular and religious media alike. It only got worse when 20 former pastors of Mars Hill came forward to state that they are seeking mediation for problems with Driscoll that have occurred over the last several years.

Through it all, Driscoll’s supporters have spoken against those who criticize him, saying that the church should not become involved in in-fighting and ganging-up, because it will make us look bad and slow down the work of the Gospel. (For an example of these views, see this recent article at Those who call attention to Driscoll’s gaffes have been labeled divisive, mean-spirited, bitter, grudge holders, and a slew of other vague terms that people often reach for when they don’t feel like engaging an actual conversation.
Then, of course, there are also lots of level-headed Driscoll defenders, people who just think their pastor has gotten a raw deal. They’re worried that critics who are angry about Driscoll’s past offenses are simply ganging up now for a little un-Christlike revenge. And let’s be honest: who among us would feel warm and fuzzy if we saw people doing that to our favorite pastor?
Add to the mix a long (albeit hit-and-miss) history of apologies from Driscoll, and the situation gets more complicated. If the dude is apologizing for (at least some of) his missteps, should we give him a break and just drop it?
Anyone who knows me personally knows that I’ve had deep concerns about Driscoll, and the culture of Mars Hill, for about three years. As former elders, more former elders, and former members come forward with disturbing stories of Driscoll’s behavior and the church’s operation, it gets harder for me to assume that Driscoll’s apologies are fixing his mistakes. On the whole, I’m a supporter of the widespread critique Driscoll’s ministry is now receiving, because I believe there are some problems at Mars Hill that Driscoll helped create and that have hurt people.
Please notice what I’m not saying. I’m not saying Driscoll is a big fake. I’m not saying Driscoll has never had anything good to say. I’m not saying that I want to see Driscoll’s life ruined or his marriage fall apart. I’m not saying that I delight in seeing a man crash-and-burn in embarrassing ways. I’m not even saying that I know for sure Driscoll’s apologies have been disingenuous.

Driscoll and I believe in the same Jesus, the same salvation, the same Kingdom. But some of the things we disagree on (such as church authority and gender theology) seem to have become so harmful to his teaching and the people under his ministry, that I believe it’s only right to call it out. This means inviting him into a healthier set of beliefs.

This is the motive many of Driscoll’s critics have—not a motive driven by hatred or bitterness, but a real concern for real damage being done.
Although we can’t know the inner state of Driscoll’s heart (only God can), I believe everyone’s concern is validated by the sheer number of incidents that have come to light over the years, and the fact that he tends to make the same kinds of mistakes (arrogance, misogyny, sweeping generalizations of those who disagree with him) over and over. For anyone willing to do a few minutes of research, it’s evident that Driscoll’s offensive behavior is both widespread and repetitive.
With that in mind, I’d like to address a couple of criticisms that have been lobbed at religious and secular whistle-blowers, showing why the work they’re doing is completely appropriate.
Is it appropriate to talk about these issues publicly, especially since those in the media (and those of us who blog) don’t know Driscoll personally?
Yes, it is appropriate.
Driscoll has intentionally put himself out there as a public teacher. He did not have to take his ministry beyond the doors of Mars Hill—or the city of Seattle. He did not have to start writing books and promoting podcasts. And, if he felt called to church plants and involvement in a large network like Acts 29, he had to know that his teaching was going into the public eye, like it or not.
He’s also gotten votes of confidence by other high-profile pastors like John Piper, who have massive followings.

Driscoll’s ministry is. not. private. It is not. His teaching is high-profile, it is seen as setting a trend for the Neo-Reformed movement of the next generation in North America, and it has affected the very nature and structure of every Acts 29 church out there (of which there are about 500worldwide).
I defy anyone to argue that the man’s ministry is private.
Now, if a ministry is high-profile, and it engages a network of literally thousands of people, isn’t it downright dangerous to say that, no matter how unhealthy it gets, we’re never allowed to let the public know that something fishy is up and needs to be fixed? What about everyone who has read his books and listened to his podcasts? What about everyone who attends an Acts 29 church? That’s an awful lot of people he’s reaching out to, and if some of what he’s offering is unhealthy, why shouldn’t he be called onto the carpet for that—and his followers made aware?
As for whether the media and networks of random bloggers are the right people to do that, I want to make two points. First, many of the alarms are coming from people who personally experienced Mars Hill, and many knew or know Driscoll (look at Joyful Exiles and Mars Hill Refuge, already linked above). So you can hardly say that all the talk against Mars Hill has been drummed up by an army of anonymous persons who have no business speaking to it.
And secondly, it has become obvious (again, for anyone who will do five minutes of research into those links) that there are victims coming out of that church network who did try to address the problems within the network first, but had no luck. Yes, in a perfect world, any problems of Driscoll’s would be handled by Mars Hill. But eyewitnesses are testifying that the environment around Driscoll is not properly filling that role, that it is in fact letting him get away with too much, driving victims out into the world to search for help.
So let me put it to you this way. If we in the wider church culture see that people are being hurt and silenced, and that the people who are “supposed” to help them won’t offer help—do we just turn our backs and say “Well, not my problem” ?
If Jesus were standing in the room with us right now, do you really think you could say, “But Lord, these hurting people aren’t my problem.”
Really? Really now. I’ll give you another minute to think about it.

The misfire here is assuming that all ministries work the way they’re supposed to, that all pastors submit to a process of checks and balances with other believers, and that all problems can be caught at the local or regional church level. Yes, often that best-case scenario happens. But sometimes, it doesn’t. In this instance, it most glaringly has not. At such time, I believe it is appropriate for the wider church culture to step in—for the sake of hurt victims, and for the sake of the leaders who may be wrecking their private lives by being drunk on power. There’s no way to know for sure unless we confront and call out.

Now obviously, you don’t want to do this without plenty of evidence. But folks, we have that. 
But doesn’t it weaken the body of Christ for the world to see such infighting?
If some form of abuse truly is happening within the culture of Mars Hill (and many watchdog bloggers and ex members think it is), then God will not excuse us for staying silent just because we didn’t want to feel sheepish in front of secular culture.
And the wider world is more astute than many Christians seem to give it credit for. The sex scandal in the Catholic Church should have taught us that. The wider world was shocked that the church, which is supposed to stand for loving and protecting the weak, covered up child abuse. It didn’t call that behavior “understandable” because the church “wanted to look good.”

If we call out unhealthy behavior, the secular world won’t think we’re infighting. It will see that we’re serious about being loving and fair, to the point of lovingly chastising our poster boys and favorite celebrities. It will see that when innocent people get hurt, the church comes running. It will see that when people teach something harmful, the church gets up and says “No. This is not what we stand for.”
If, on the other hand, the church does nothing in the face of unhealthy behavior, the secular world will have one of two options to consider; either that we agree with the unhealthy behavior, or that we just don’t care.
Frankly, I don’t want anyone to think either of those things about the church. 

But Mark Driscoll has repeatedly apologized for his arrogance and some of his most visible mistakes. Why are we still talking about this if the man has apologized? And look, he even apologized for his arrogance to his church as recently as last week!

Psychology professor and blogger Warren Throckmorten recently featured this article on his blog. The article itself is just a summation of the rumbles around Mars Hill lately. But I want to draw your attention to the included excerpt from former Mars Hill member Bryan Zug. At the end of his first two bullet points, Zug states the following: 
“While repentance of this specific incident may or may not have occurred, the culture that begat it is still bearing deadly fruit.”
The above sentence could be a thesis statement of everything that has worried me about Mark Driscoll’s ministry for the last three years. I believe the culture that admires Driscoll has continued to look the other way as long as Driscoll will say he repented for something, leaving the underlying cause of the damage unexplored. That tendency is allowing him to keep hurting people, and himself, and it needs to stop.
For example. In my 13-link sentence, I included the now-famous story of Driscoll’s comments about feminine-looking worship leaders. It was hurtful to men (for implying there’s something wrong if you aren’t “manly” like Driscoll), to women (for using femininity as an insult) and to gay people (I hope I don’t have to explain to you that ridiculing girly men has historically been tied to cruelty against the gay community).
Driscoll apologized for the incident and took the quote down. Okay. Those are good things to do. But then, everyone said, “It’s over. Leave the man alone. Can’t a guy make one mistake?” And Driscoll went on his way, continuing a ministry trajectory that paints all men one way and uses femininity as an insult.
He apologized for the specific incident, but was the underlying cause (his beliefs about masculinity/femininity) ever dealt with?
Another example. Driscoll was often criticized for being sex-o-centric in his view of marriage. When Real Marriage came out, Driscoll surprised many by saying that he’d been sexually frustrated for much of his marriage, and that this impacted his teaching in that area. Some saw this as a step in the right direction, a sign of maturity. “See?” they said. “Driscoll is recognizing and admitting his fault, and being open with us.”
Ironically, the very book Driscoll used to confess this was also an apologetic for the very same sexual obsession he’d been demonstrating up until that point. Other reviewers have demonstrated how this book kept sex as the main focus of marriage (and, for that matter, why it betrayed his still-unfair views of women and his anger problems), so I won’t go into that here.
Suffice it to say that, once again, people pointed to a specific statement of repentance but did not watch to see if the underlying cause of the problem was being addressed.
“While repentance of this specific incident may or may not have occurred, the culture that begat it is still bearing deadly fruit.”
Therefore, even if Driscoll is truly, deeply sorry for an event, he may keep repeating it in other ways, because he is still ensnared in a mindset that believes unhealthy things. Until he actually takes large steps to address underlying theological problems, these problems will keep recurring in new and ever-more-inventive ways, like the Whack-A-Mole popping up from different holes and always evading the club. Except this will be “Whack-An-Arrogance” or “Whack-A-Sex” or “Whack-A-GayBashing” or “Whack-A-Bullying” or “Whack-A-I-Insulted-All-Dress-Wearing-Anglicans” or “Whack-A-Stay-At-Home-Dads-Suck” or “Whack-A-Sit-Down-And-Shut-Up.” My arms are already tired from all that head-bopping, and I’ve only been following this story for three years! And when you consider that all of those problems will keep on affecting everyone who reads, listens to, ministers with, or attends a church affiliated with Mark Driscoll, it becomes clear that the stakes are high for him to get himself in order.
Part of the reason I like Zug’s quote so much is that it used the word “culture.” I think that’s the perfect word, because it reminds us that Driscoll himself is ensnared in a certain type of environment feedback loop that drives him to a lot of the decisions he makes. That mindset is what helped create Mars Hill, but I’m willing to bet that the culture of Mars Hill took on a life of its own and fed back into Driscoll’s life. It’s an attitude, and a culture, that believes church should be authoritarian for its members’ own good. It’s an attitude, and a culture, that believes men count for more than women. It’s an attitude, and a culture, that reacts against instead of dialoguing with the gay community. It’s an attitude, and a culture, that believes asking questions to be an act of rebellion.
He didn’t just wake up one day deciding to hurt people, and he’s probably still not entirely cognizant of the hurt that he’s caused—because to him, most of the things he believes are okay and workable, and his environment reinforces that. (Which brings me back to an earlier point—if no one at Mars Hill is willing to tell him he’s wrong about that, the buck gets passed to the wider church culture).
I suspect that this environment allowed Driscoll to continue on in ministry when really, he probably should have taken a break to reevaluate the state of his heart. I’m not saying that the man should never again pastor, but when red flags reach a certain point, it definitely behooves someone to back down and make sure the things they’re doing don’t keep hurting people. It alarms me that Driscoll apparently realizes he has long struggled with arrogance, but thinks that the realization alone will suddenly heal him of it to the point where his ministry can continue in a healthier way. Sometimes we have to remove ourselves from a situation and take long stretches of time to address our underlying beliefs and heal.
At the very least, if he knows his arrogance tainted what he was trying to do, he needs to go to work double-time repealing messages he sent out into the world earlier. He needs to widely and publicly correct himself, and ask people to forgive the angrier parts of his early ministry rather than just passing them off as the natural outworking of an “angry young prophet.”
One Final Disclaimer
I hope I have said all the right things here. I am not God. I can’t see inside Mark Driscoll’s heart. But I firmly believe that if this were another pastor—say, a pastor who had not been the only young, hip poster boy for the next generation of a growing movement—that people would have been comfortable asking him to make changes a long time ago.
What I ultimately want is for the hurt to stop happening, for Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill to be healthier and happier, and for the rest of us to be safe from yet another sketchy sermon or sudden public blow-up of offensive words.
I realize that it’s easy for someone like me, who is not a mega-church pastor embroiled in a controversy, to sit here and point fingers at one who is. But again, I don’t think that’s a good excuse for saying nothing when bad things are obviously happening to real people in the real world.

[**Edit: It’s been reported by Throckmorton and others that some of Driscoll’s material (sermons, etc.) is starting to disappear off the Mars Hill site. Whether this is a cleanup crew doing scrub work, or whether Driscoll/the church has decided that they need to take another look at, and possibly rescind, some of his earlier material, remains to be seen. Believe it or not, my snarky self is not immediately jumping to the more cynical of those two conclusions**]