Mark Driscoll founded the Mars Hill Church in Seattle some fifteen years ago, determined to bring conservative Evangelical Christianity to the most radically left wing city west of the Mississippi. He had great success, despite – or perhaps because of – the hostile political climate. In unchurched, liberal Seattle it’s easy to position oneself as the only “real” Christian church in town. This message resonated with a lot of young men and women who otherwise found themselves spiritually lost in a city of Pride Parades, public nudity and hostility toward conventional families and values.
Over time, as his church grew, Driscoll became very proud and confrontational. He made a number of veiled and open threats against those he saw as insubordinate, suggested that young men who won’t marry his female parishioners deserve beatings, and produced extremely matrifocal books on marriage. Throughout it all, he deferred only to his wife, who seemed very much to be the power behind the throne.
Perhaps because Driscoll came from a small town, working class Irish Catholic background he had something of an inferiority complex. Certainly, he seemed to feel that marrying into a “respectable” Anglo family was a great privilege. When he finally made it, all that old resentment must have come bubbling back up, expressed now as a mean streak and a ruthless, bullying attitude.
For some time, Driscoll’s dominant, pushy behavior worked. he kept his flock in line through displays of power, which included public humiliation of subordinates. But this kind of thing doesn’t last in the long term. Men want to follow someone with a noble spirit rather than a gangster. That is, after all, the appeal of Christianity.
Now, Driscoll’s church is beginning to fall apart. He alienated the wrong people: the men. Because of his folly, many have broken ranks, and some are calling it a cult.
Driscoll’s fall from grace should remind us that great accomplishments require that men cooperate, and that cooperation is best achieved through a sense of fraternity. Discipline will always be important, but when a man loves and respects his leader a mere look of disapproval is more effective than a whip in the hand of a vile thug.
We should recognize that if men can’t cultivate respect without resorting to attacks and actions designed to humiliate, they have limited leadership potential. This applies in all walks of life – even MRA – and it’s a lesson that cannot be forgotten.