taking the words of Jesus seriously

Never, in my wildest imagination, did I think that the thing I’d get the most criticism for in recent memory was for writing something in defense of Mark Driscoll. I guess this goes to show that, with God, all things really are possible!

That said, there are so many strong emotions that revolve around Pastor Driscoll that, sometimes things get a little bit muddled. Though I don’t tend to write follow-up pieces or responses to feedback I get on blog posts, this one seems to be for an encore.

First, I find it particularly interesting that, although the exact same piece was posted on my blog and on the Red Letter Christians blog, the responses here have been almost universally negative (my readers skew liberal), while the comments on Red Letter were just as positive in the other direction (their readership skews conservative). If this tells us anything, it’s that reality is as we choose to see it, I think. And I’m guessing if Rob Bell were the one at the center of the controversy and I had written a similar piece, the dynamics of the comments on both blogs would have been just the opposite, or roughly so.

Not right or wrong, I suppose, but certainly interesting.

Next, let’s be clear that defense of the human dignity of a person is not the same as condoning or defending their actions. Regardless of any civil findings on Driscoll’s charges of plagiarism, he will likely suffer consequences in the form of decreased book sales, speaking opportunities and the like, as folks question his credibility and authority. And I think all of that is as it should be; each of us must answer for our actions and must face the consequences of our decisions. But it’s not for us to dogpile on someone we don’t like when we realize they’ve screwed up. That is what the Germans call schadenfreude. It feels a bit like a public stoning in a more Biblical context, but as Jesus would have said, the first one to toss a stone in his direction had better make sure they have no sins of their own first.

I was questioned about whether human dignity should be afforded to someone like Driscoll who, by many people’s estimations (mine included), does not sometimes offer such dignity to others. And my answer to this is clear an unequivocal: YES. We’re called to love our enemies, and not just tolerate them. Yes, that doesn’t mean they should not be called to account, but he is being called to account from what I can tell. And I’m not responsible for holding him accountable for the violation of copyright; that’s the publishers’ and authors’ jobs whose material was apparently compromised. What I can do to hold him accountable is not buy his books (done), not invite him to speak (also done), and not support his ministry (done, done and done).

But what Mefferd appeared to be doing in her interview of Mark Driscoll was to provoke him into an on-air fight which, of course, would boost ratings. That was my opinion at the time, and it still is. But based on that opinion, I think the way she handled the interview was mean an inappropriate. Now, it was entirely appropriate for her to ask him about the charges of plagiarism. But it was clear, at least to me, that she was after more than facts. She wanted blood.

I understand the feeling of wanting to watch Driscoll burn on the pyre for this and other transgressions. It’s a very human response. However it is not a Christ-like response. My understanding of Christian justice is one of restoration rather than retribution. In the latter, the righteous get to revel in the extinction of their enemy. In the former, however, the victim is faced with the arduous task of finding a way to peaceably co-exist with their offender.

I’ve levied plenty of criticisms in my previous blog posts toward Mark Driscoll, and he seems to be guilty of plagiarism from what the evidence that we can see suggests. For that, he will undoubtedly answer. But my previous piece wasn’t about him, so much as it was about Mefferd and about us. It’s so much easier to focus on what a jerk Driscoll is (and God knows he keeps giving us more material to support such a claim) than it is to work on being Jesus to him.

Finally, when I suggested that Mark Driscoll deserved compassion, even while being held accountable, one Twitter follower wrote the following:

“I think I mind that the standard you are setting is pretty flimsy and unsustainable.”

To which I replied:

“I think a standard of both accountability and human dignity is fairly sustainable.”

Let’s hope so, for all of our sakes.

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