Mark Driscoll is right.
Driscoll is not right about theology, women, queer folks, masculinity, leadership, and on and on and on. But there is something that he has absolutely right: He says what he believes and he stands behind it. There is something to learn here.
Certainly the man is abusive and belligerent but you don’t have to guess with him. I know where Mark Driscoll stands on all sorts of issues. I know what his theology is. I know what he believes and why.
Often I’m not entirely sure what liberals/progressives believe and I definitely don’t know why.
Here’s the thing: I will take Mark Driscoll, Fred Phelps, and any number of other people who say hateful things any day over someone who tries to play both sides of the fence. I will take anger and hate over someone who says, well, I don’t really know how I feel about queer folks. Here’s why: I need to know where you stand.
The thing about playing the fence, or keeping to the center, or not getting into a fight or whatever you want to call it, on issues of justice is that when you do that the oppressors win. You might ask, “why do you have to use win/lose language: This isn’t a competition.” You’re right. Maybe win/lose language isn’t the best. How about life or death? Because for me and for many others these issues are a matter of life or death. It’s the difference between being able to access medical care or being left to die by paramedics [TW on link]. It’s the difference between being able to walk down the street safely or having someone murder you because of your gender identity. It’s the difference between someone being able to see their dying partner to say goodbye or being left outside. It’s the difference between a parent being able to legally adopt their child or not.
And it’s not just queer issues. This is also about theology. Can you tell me what you believe about salvation? What does resurrection look like? What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? What does accountability look like? What does someone who is a Christian look like? Mark Driscoll can tell me. I might disagree with him but he has answers for these questions. I don’t see a lot of answers in our liberal/progressive churches. And I am naming myself as part of the problem. I haven’t bothered to define these things either. When I left fundamentalism, I stopped using words like discipleship and accountability. I stopped talking about a “salvation moment”. And in doing so I have failed as a pastor and as a theologian.
Platitudes don’t cut it for me anymore. I need something better; something more substantial. I don’t want to be told simply that a Christian just loves people or does good work. Because here’s the thing: Lots of people love others and do good work. Why are we a part of THIS story? What is the specificity of Christianity? If we can’t answer that question then maybe our churches deserve to die. This isn’t about we’re the only ones saved and everyone else is going to hell, this is about standing for something, being apart of a specific story.
Christianity needs to mean something. It needs to mean something more than niceties and charity. We need to be bold. We need to be articulate. We need to ignite the imaginations of people.
And sometimes, on issues of justice, we might need to be confrontational. At the very least we need to get off our damn fences. This idea that “we are all in process” doesn’t work on issues of justice. Being “in process” may be a step along the way, but it is not an end point or a way in and of itself, and it is certainly not an effective place to be working or ministering from. Ultimately if we are not working in solidarity with the oppressed then we are aiding the oppressor.
Sometimes we need to stand up and say what we believe even when it alienates people. We have spent so much time trying to say we are not angry like Mark Driscoll. We are not hateful like Fred Phelps. We don’t think this should be a Christian nation. We want plurality and interfaith dialogue and charity work. All of those things are fine; good even! But we have lost our specificity. We have lost our ability and/or our desire to speak into the public square what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
We have lost our ability to name WHY this Gospel is good news. And it’s time to get that ability back.
This is the beginning of a series on redefining theological language. If you want to make sure you don’t miss anything, make sure to sign up for the mailing list below. When you do, you’ll also be sure to get a free copy of my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism” as soon as it releases.