Monday, July 21, 2008

this is going to be all over the place . . .

a while ago, my friend emily posted this video on her blog. mark driscoll, pastor at mars hill church in seattle, explains why he thinks the church needs more men. take a few minutes and watch, if you have the time . . . it's provocative and worth watching.

i have more thoughts and feelings on this topic than i could write, but tried to loosely format some of them in response. yeesh . . .

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill church in Seattle, says he thinks that the "guys" of the Bible were fighters - rough and tumble, Western movie stars who weren't afraid to throw a few punches for the Lord. Apart from disagreeing with him (which I do, wholeheartedly), I am at a loss as to how he came to this conclusion.

One of the most prominent examples of the intersection of Jesus and violence comes after he has prayed the night through in Gethsemane, just before he is about to be given away by Judas. An understandably hot-headed Peter leads with his anger, quickly drawing his sword and chopping off the ear of one of the soldiers who have come to arrest Jesus. Rather than cheer Peter on or pick up a sword of his own - rather, even, then seeing violence and letting it be - Jesus makes it clear that this action by his beloved disciple is unacceptable. When we talk about justice, it seems clear that Peter's actions would pass muster, considering what these men are about to do to his friend and his savior. But even then, Jesus makes it clear that Peter's idea of justice is a petty one, beset with notions of tit-for-tat that feel good in the moment but only perpetuates a systemic violence in which everyone affected is driven deeper down into revenge and rights-centric lifestyles. Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount that his followers turn the other cheek when they are accosted and that they carry the coat of a soldier a mile more than they were required by law - which it seems like no one in his or her right mind would do - seem to be very clear calls to a life that is above violence.

And here is where we come to see what true power is. Because the son of man came not to be served but to serve all - even those who hated him - we who claim his name as our heritage can be strengthened only when we serve. We are not to indulge ourselves in vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves. Violence is inherently selfish - it says 'I am right, you are wrong, and there can be no in between.' (Realize that in making this claim about the selfishness of violence, I fully recognize that weds me to the ensuing idea that even self-defensive violence is selfish. It is, without a doubt, an act in which I place my own well-being over that of another. Selfish.) And sometimes being selfish is okay - but a Christian should never instigate violence. Jesus turned over the tables in the temple, yes, but didn't seek any trader in particular out for a beating, didn't strike anyone. God is love, the Bible says, and while love can reveal difficult things to us, it never hurts us. In the end, any hurt that we feel as a result of God's love is purification, sanctification. Growing pains.

Off topic there a bit - I need to read more Hauerwas and Richard Niebhur.

Back to the video . . . Driscoll claims that "a church lacking in young men cannot be innovative because they do not have any innovators in their congregation." (paraphrased)

Now, I don't know if here he is saying that women are never innovators, or if they can be innovative but should not be. There is certainly a difference between the two arguments; neither of which holds any water with me.

If he means the former - that women cannot be innovative, by nature - well, I have to take issue with that. Empirically, it is difficult not to see the innovative nature of women, whose creativity in the arts and music has been lauded already for centuries. As it has become more culturally acceptable for women to be involved in running organizations, pastoring churches, and starting their own businesses (instead of just answering the phones, organizing potluck meals, and having no options but being a housewife, respectively), the innovation of women the world over is glaringly obvious. From small groups of Kenyan women who have created cloth-making or grocery businesses from the ground up to women like Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitfield in the high-tech world to Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton in the political sphere on to women like the Nancys Beach and Ortberg (is it totally tacky to use my mom as an example?) in contemporary Christianity, there is no shortage of innovation coming from women. I won't waste much more time on trying to refute the argument that only young men are innovators - which also, by the way, diminishes the exciting contributions that can come from anyone over 35 or so - because it seems to me a self-evident falsehood.

If Driscoll means to argue that women are capable of innovation but ought not express that impulse in the church - or anywhere outside the home, I'm guessing - there is not much more to say than that he and I are on very different pages. like, pages one and six hundred thirty-seven, respectively, of War and Peace, Les Miserables, Moby-Dick, insert literary saga of choice here.
To deny a person full use and expression of his or her God-given spiritual gifts is nothing short of sinful. Telling a man that he shouldn't serve in the nursery or disallowing a woman from participation on a leadership team - these things fly straight in the face of what the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians about male and female and all other superficial (not unimportant, but not having to do with a person's soul) distinctions being done away with in the coming of Christ Jesus. We don't live our lives on earth in disregard of these ideals; they are the very things that Jesus came to bring to us. In a kingdom where being the greatest means becoming the very least, all I hear from Driscoll is chest-puffing, divisive rhetoric that continues to drive a wedge between people in the church.

This next idea isn't my own - it comes from my dad - but it does seem to me that if Jesus Christ could entrust the news of the resurrection - unarguably the cornerstone of the Christian faith - to a group of women, well, women can be entrusted with leadership and teaching as well.

Driscoll buys into and zealously perpetuates this idea that has been around in Christian circles for millennia: women as reactors and respondents. In this worldview - and it is a worldview, as it prescribes distinct roles for any and all based solely on gender - women are prohibited from or thought unable to instigate any far-reaching change. Even in the 1800s, people like John Stuart Mill and Mary Wollstonecraft expressed outrage at the treatment of women in popular culture. Things have changed since then, but the Christian church remains woefully outdated. Outdated, though, isn't even the right word - it doesn't seem that the church is trying to hold onto past ideals so much as it has just gotten this issue wrong for a long time. Just as segregated churches have repentantly come to integrate over time, perhaps it will take continuous cultural pressure for us to recognize the Bible truth of equality.

In this, I suppose I hope to start a dialogue - if only an inner one, although I would love to hear what friends have to say about this topic; specifically, women in the church. I understand that there will be disagreement, and can promise sincere listening at the very least. God help us all to seek to understand.


Jenelle said...

Go you! This video made me cringe!!

Hope you're doing well :)


Anna Jordan said...

Glad to see this long, involved post on the topic. I agree completely. The video made me stomp my feet and slam my computer shut (quite literally). I'm glad you embraced it with a post!

Lynne said...

I'm impressed by your dad-- I've been telling people for quite a while now that my mandate as a woman preacher comes from Jesus sending a woman to tell the male disciples about the resurrection. If He had no problems with commissioning a woman to tell the world of the wonder of the risen Lord, i don't see what grounds anyone else has for objecting.

Driscoll is coming to our city, and the excitement with which he's being promoted really concerns me ..