A number of us have been watching the unfolding carnival of Bread and Circuses that appears to be Mars Hill Church in Seattle. We hear the stories of abuse, the calls for the senior pastor to step down, the evidences of plagiarism and buying his way onto the New York Times bestseller list. We’ve perhaps read the so-called repentance letter from the senior pastor, or the confessions from former staff, who are saying that they are sorry for being part of a toxic environment. There is one theme, which is repeating itself throughout this train wreck of a story – cowardice.
The former pastors, who have written letters of apology, mentioned their own cowardice in the face of abuses they knew were wrong at the time of occurrence. They either performed in line with the expectations of cruelty, or stood silent as they watched their friends being mistreated, abused, gossiped about, fired, and disfellowshipped under unreasonable circumstances.
Today has been almost two weeks since 20 former Mars Hill pastors asked to meet with the oversight board for Mars Hill Church to navigate reconciliation. There has been no response from either the pastor Mark Driscoll, or the oversight board.
For a church, which is known for machismo, and a pastor who has called other Christian leaders out as cowards, this evasion may come as a surprise to many people. I am not surprised.
I am not surprised that the pastoral staff has spent the last number of years behaving as cowards in the face of pressure to behave as a group of shallow “yes men” to a autocratic self appointed muscle man for God. I am not surprised that they have behaved as cowards using the false justifications of unity, and following a corporate vision. I am least of all surprised that a bullying Senior Pastor is behaving like nothing more than a schoolyard creep who has been caught by the playground monitor, and is now peeing his pants in the principle’s office.
The Christian preachers I’ve met who bluster like MMA fighters from the pulpit or the bullhorn, and call other Christians out for being cowards, or compromising the faith are too cowardly to sit down face to face and have a discussion about the issues. They are willing to call everyone else out publicly, but when it is time to “man up” and obey the scriptures, through obedience to Matthew 18, or admitting their own sins in a serious and meaningful manner – they whimper like piddling puppies. The thing we all must learn is that our worst enemy is never the other. It is always ourselves.
Posturing from the pulpit is evidence of cowardice in the heart. Hiding behind my authority as a leader in the face of confrontation is evidence of the bankruptcy of my faith.
I am not surprised that former pastoral staff from a church of blustering machismo is having to repent of cowardice. They lived what they learned. Monkey see. Monkey do. And now while a group of former pastors nobly ask for a face to face reconciliation over serious issues, Mars Hill leadership sits like monkeys confidently laughing behind the bars of a zoo cage after throwing poo at you.
The former staff have done the right thing. They learned to “man up.” They are also realizing what their former mentor is really made of. Perhaps if enough of them begin to speak up about this, the Man will finally learn to “man up,” and face the real enemy we all have to face – the one in the mirror.
This is my second hard post on this issue. I hopefully will not have anything more to say, other than to track the issue, and identify the movement as I see American Evangelicalism burn itself down from the inside. This is what my upcoming book Burning Religion will be looking at – the self immolation of Christianity. This is why I am looking at the nearly unnavigable space between our world and church. I hope you will follow me through this discovery
Sign a petition asking for publishers to apologize for the plagiarism scandal
Photo by Hope Deifell