Thursday, 25 February 2016

Mark Driscoll's Dalek Theology

Two years ago I wrote a post about the similarity between some christian leaders and Doctor Who's arch-nemesis, the Daleks! (Yes, I am an unashamed geek!)

It had occurred to me that the Dalek mantra of "obey or be exterminated" was little different from the 'christian' threat of "submit or be excommunicated" Of course, for those institutions that don't subscribe to the theology of excommunication, shunning is a viable alternative which produces the same effect.

(As one who had faced such a demand to submit or resign, I have decided that I'd rather face the Daleks - at least they were always honest about their desire for domination and didn't enslave others under a pretence of 'love'.)

Anyway, it was reading a post by Jory Micah today that reminded of my own earlier offering on the subject of submission, because it appears that Mr Driscoll has been preaching on this topic of late:
"Driscoll literally had boys 18 and under stand to their feet and he made a special emphasis on submission, especially to mothers. He states that submission leads to maturity. He tells them, you are supposed to “submit, honor, and obey” your parents.
Driscoll is psychologically training these boys in submission because he knows that someday, these boys will become men and that they will “need” to teach their wives to “submit, honor, and obey” them. The terrifying thing is that Driscoll uses Jesus’ name and the Bible to brainwash young minds." 
- "Mark Driscoll Back on Stage as a Dying Star" [Emphasis added]
Now apart from the fact that the commandment supposedly being referred to is simply "honour your parents", or that the bible calls for mutual submission between adults, the type of submission that is being peddled here does not lead to maturity, but actually has exactly the opposite effect.

It teaches people to become yes-men, to keep the peace at any cost, and to abandon their own God-given instincts. It will teach you to doubt yourself, to question your own thoughts and feelings, to assume your own understanding and perspective must be wrong.

I learned the truth of this the hard way and would love to help others see this toxic teaching for what it really is.

The whole submission and spiritual covering theology came from the shepherding movement of the 1970s. Not only was it eventually discredited, but some of the original leaders publicly repented of this teaching. Despite this, it keeps being regurgitated by other religious leaders - from John Bevere with his fixation on covering and authority, to Bill Gothard's umbrella of protection dogma. The trouble is that it's both manipulative and abusive.

Of course it does make life so much easier for those in power to keep control of those 'under' them, because it keeps those people immature and dependent on the leadership - unable to think or make decisions for themselves. It promises all sorts of favour and protection for those who comply, and it threatens all sorts of dire consequences for rebellion against "god's anointed". So just relax and submit. Remember, your leaders know best!

Just ask Rapunzel...

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Forgiveness Is Not a Magic Bullet

Former church leader, Mark Driscoll, has recently been making headlines again. It appears he's taken one step closer to his comeback by announcing he'll be opening his brand new church, Trinity, in Phoenix. The strange thing is that there is apparently no mention in his publicity of his previous 'workplace', Mars Hill. (Considering that accounts for almost 2 decades of his working life, it seems a trifle... odd!)

Anyway, this announcement has caused quite a stir in certain circles and has yet again polarised opinions regarding his fitness to lead. There are many people (no doubt many of the bodies MD left under the Mars Hill bus) who are decrying the move. Many feel that Mr Driscoll has not yet dealt with the mess he made the last time he headed up a church.

And yet, there seem to be plenty of believers who are applauding the development, loudly proclaiming that all "true christians" should support him because... forgiveness!

Still from The Matrix

Now, I've been pondering and exploring this concept of forgiveness for a long time, but never more so since an ex-elder and his wife from my ex-church (who have since started their own church) applied to the courts for a protection order against me late last year. The application alleged that I represented such a severe threat to their safety, I should be excluded from any place they might possibly be present, including my own sons' school.

Although it didn't actually make it to court, my family and I were put through hell for two months by two 'christian leaders' who had previously been part of the abusive experience which drove me out of the institutional church.

For me, the story has had a far better outcome than I would have dreamed possible, and I am profoundly grateful for that! However, once again, the response of many christians has been to focus on the requirement for me to forgive.

Each time I've experienced abuse or injustice or wrong-doing at the hands of christians, the response has been the same. I must forgive. Yet nothing is ever said about confronting the wrong-doer, addressing injustice, or preventing the same thing happening to others.

It seems the onus is always on victim to forgive, not on the wrong-doer to repent and make amends. It is the victim who faces the consequences - being judged 'bitter and unforgiving'. Meanwhile the perpetrator walks away - free from accountability; free from consequences; free to offend again. Nothing is acknowledged, nothing dealt with, nothing changes. History just repeats itself, but with a vengeance.

Why is it that christians take this line? Why do we show ourselves so unwilling to address wrong-doing and abuse in our midst? Because the victim is a soft target? Because we don't want to pay the price of getting involved? Rarely is the response to abuse one of seeking justice for the victim. Rarely is there a call for accountability of the perpetrator.

It seems the 'christian' response to intimidation or abuse is to push for the victim to forgive; not for the perpetrator to be brought to account for their actions; not for justice to be done; not for protection against future abuse; not for preventing a repeat of the injustice.

That is why there are so many people deeply concerned about Mr Driscoll resuming his 'ministry'. Why would this man change his behaviour - this man who has never faced those he's harmed, never said 'sorry' to them, never made reparation to them? Why would we expect to see change from a man who chose to turn walk away and start a new church rather than clean up the mess he'd made of the old one? Why would he act any differently this time?

Supposedly the 'christian' response is to simply forgive and give the man another chance to damage lives, without giving a thought to the people who are still hurting from the last time. (They are seen as the problem, not him!) And yet Jesus called out the bullying, abusive behaviour of the religious leaders in his day, calling them poisonous snakes, monuments to death, even sons of hell!

He told them they tied up heavy burdens on people's backs, but wouldn't lift a finger to help them carry those burdens. A bit like telling the victim of abuse they must forgive their abuser, while refusing to address and remediate the abuse itself!

So when people like us keep talking about the injustice we suffered, the abuse we endured, the wrong we faced, do not assume it is because we are "bitter and unforgiving". When we speak about the flaws and failures in the church system do not assume it is because we refuse to "move on". When we shine a light on the darkness of christian culture do not assume it is because we are "wanting revenge".

It is because we don't want the bus to run over even more victims. We don't want bullies and abusers to continue in their ill-health. We can see that the emperor is naked and we can't pretend otherwise!

So please stop shutting us down. Assuming we haven't forgiven. Throwing the religious cliches in our face. We have legitimate grievances. Valid concerns. And ignoring the problems will not make them go away. "Just concentrating of the positive" does not diminish or justify the wrong that has been done. There is still a need for the hard work of reparation, remediation, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction. Forgiveness is not a magic bullet!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Maybe The System, Itself, Is The Problem...

I came across this quote today and I couldn't help but think of the 'church' system I've encountered:

"Life is full of examples of systems that work. When you find yourself in a situation where you can't make headway towards solving a problem, consider whether you're addressing the problem at its origin... What part of the system isn't working? ...

Too often we see a bad result and we mistake it for the problem. The result may be just a byproduct of a system that's not functioning, a flashing error warning to let you know that something has to change." - Henry Cloud

And I thought about the many christian leaders who are responding to the mass exodus of people from the institutional church by simply trying to plug the leak, instead of seeing it as a "flashing error warning" - seeing the loss of people as the problem, not a symptom of it.

Maybe it would be good if these people stopped to consider whether the system itself is the problem!

Maybe addressing the rampant abuse might help.

Maybe being honest and authentic (not 'pretend nice') might help.

Maybe dealing with conflict instead of silencing people might help.

Maybe changing the culture of arrogance and privilege might help.

Maybe embracing diversity might help.

Maybe 'leaders' living what they sell might help.

Maybe disabling the hierarchical structures might help.

Maybe abandoning the 'one man show' might help.

Maybe displaying the power of love rather than the love of power might help.

Maybe treating others like people not projects might help.

Maybe asking questions instead of enforcing answers might help.

Maybe dealing with our crap instead of blaming others might help.

Maybe representing Jesus accurately might help.

Maybe giving up the religious system and simply following Jesus might help.