This is my last blog post about Mark Driscoll…

Nine current Mars Hill pastors have signed a letter to Mark Driscoll, requesting their leader to resign from his job as pastor and all other ministry responsibilities. And then, former Mars Hill pastor, Bent Meyer, released this.

According to Seattle news, one of those pastors was terminated yesterday for being “rebellious.”

I cannot imagine what mental, spiritual, and emotional hoops those nine men had to jump/crawl over and/or through in order to muster up the courage to send that letter. I commend those brave souls for taking that risk and standing up for the health and well-being of the members of Mars Hill Church.

While the letter is worth reading in its entirety, the paragraph that stood out to me was this one:

Where there is nothing to hide, there is no fear of being exposed. But, rather than seeking clarity, we have cloaked ourselves in non-disclosure agreements. We have become masters of spin in how we communicate the transition of a high volume of people off staff. We have taken refuge behind official statements that might not technically be lies on the surface, but in truth are deeply misleading.

The pastors’s letter as well as a multitude of other recent stories, testimonies, and letters from countless former Mars Hill staff members offer such vivid and personal proof of what a handful of bloggers (me included) have been saying and writing for years: Mark Driscoll should not be a pastor. Mark Driscoll should not being doing ministry. Mark Driscoll should be fired immediately!

May God give the people who are making those decisions wisdom.

***

Yesterday, I received two emails regarding my blog coverage of Mark Driscoll. In one of those emails, the writer called me a “viper.” He went on to say that I “was only using Driscoll to sell books.” His email was rather tame compared to some of the other emails, comments, and messages I’ve received from Driscoll apologists. Recently, many of Mark’s supporters has started adding one phrase at the beginning of their defenses: I’m no Mark Driscoll fan but… Or I think Mark Driscoll is a terrible pastor but… Or I believe Mark Driscoll has made some awful mistakes but… After the “buts” they write long paragraphs about how I’m worse than Mark or just like him or how I’ll one day be judged for “shaming a man of God.”

While that kind of criticism never feels good, I’ve learned not take it to heart. I’ve learned from those harsh critiques. Sometimes I’ve prayed for them. And sometimes their letters have caused me to pray about my own heart, motives, etc. And in a way, I understand why they’re angry. It’s hard reading stories of ugly and abusive behavior about somebody you admire.

Several of the harshest critics have sent me second letters, messages of apology for lashing out at me.

But I get why people get angry and emotional. Because there’s nothing fun or pretty about what’s happened and still happening at Mars Hill.

The other message I received yesterday said this: MPT, as I read the letter from the 9 current pastors today I wept with a renewed belief in God’s sovereignty. You are a part of that and I am thankful to God for you. Had you not broke the story of Andrew last year, I doubt things could have reached the tipping point where we are today. Thank you.

While the notes of gratitude haven’t shown up nearly as often as the angry emails have, every “Thank You” spoke to me, encouraged me, and challenged me.

This is my last blog post about Mark Driscoll.

Why? Because I no longer need to blog about Mark. People far better fit to tell the story are now doing just that–they’re speaking up! And thank God they are. May they be heard.

Three years ago, only a small number of us were willing to tell the story. But that’s no longer the case.

I don’t know what will happen to Mars Hill. And I don’t know what Mark will decide to do. I hope he humbly resigns. I think that’s the best possible scenario for Mars Hill’s people/members.

But most of all, I hope we The Church learn from this experience. I hope that we learn to listen to the stories of those who cry out for help! I hope we stop ignoring the voices of victims in effort to cover up the sins of a pastor. I hope we learn to put truth before celebrity, power, and money. I hope what’s happening at Mars Hill will teach all of us what can happen when the story of God is misused, abused, and used for our own glory.

If we learn anything from this mess, may we learn that! God is not a manipulating device. God is not a platform for powerful men to use for their own good and others bad. God is not a shield for abusers to hide behind.

Let’s be wise in how we share God’s story. Let’s be humble. Let’s blanket our words and actions with love and mercy. But in our pursuit of grace, let’s not destroy the lives of victims and ignore their stories in order to protect the careers/stories of powerful men.

***

May God have mercy on Mark Driscoll. May God surround his wife, Grace, and their kids with love and mercy.

May God show grace and give wisdom to those who are making the decisions at Mars Hill.

May God elevate the stories of the victims, the broken, and heal their lives/souls with hope.

And may God help the rest of us learn from this narrative.

May God use this as a mirror for us to examine our own stories/actions.

 

5 Lingering Effects of Fundamentalism

People often talk about fundamentalism like it’s a geographical location, a place or environment where they experienced the dark ills of religiosity. “But thank God I walked away when I did,” they’ll often say. Or they’ll note, “that place was evil! Happy I’m not there.” How they talk about it seems to imply that walking away was all the remedy they needed.

Of course, talking about fundamentalism like it’s an experience one can easily separate themselves from is very normal, but it’s also naive. Nobody walks away from fundamentalism. We might walk away from a church or away from a cult or spiritual abusive situation. But upon leaving a toxic religious experience, we don’t leave unaffected or alone.

Surprising to many is that recovering from fundamentalism is not a simple journey. Healing is a far more complex path than what most of us anticipate. I think that’s because fundamentalism affects the deepest part of who we are, our souls. It infects our spiritual selves. It involves the core of our being, everything from what we believe to be true about the world and about God to who and how we pursue relationships with others. Fundamentalism is a lifestyle. I don’t think we realize that. But it is. Fundamentalism is not simply a creed that we memorized or a good thing gone wrong, it’s who we are. That sounds really dramatic, I know; but I think it’s true: We are the fundamentalism.

Certainly, how fundamentalism effects us after leaving varies according to the brand of fundamentalism we encountered, how long we encountered it, and whether or not our experience was first generation (meaning: we chose the path) or second or third generation (meaning: we were born into the lifestyle). Other factors that can alter the effects of spiritual abuse might include geography, church denomination, and whether or not, our experience included other abuses such as physical, verbal, or sexual abuses.

Today, I’m focusing on five lingering effects of fundamentalism. This isn’t an exhaustive list by no means. But these are five ways that fundamentalism has affected me as well as numerous others I’ve talked to over the years.

1) Approval Addiction: Fundamentalism breeds addiction to approval. Because most fundamentalist experiences involve high expectations, those of us who lasted for any length of time in a toxic church environment know that the joy of toxic belief involves the performance, the following of the rules/creed. When we get it right our treasures on earth is the approval and affirmation from people we admire, usually church leaders or respected peers. Over time, we unknowingly become controlled by how people perceive our behavior and whether or not they offer us praise. Upon leaving,  that approval we were receiving no longer exists. And we need it. The thing is, most of us don’t know why. At least, not at first. All we know is that when our bosses don’t praise us for a job well done the way we think they should we feel defeated. We get passive aggressive. We go to great lengths to get their approval. But therein is the catch. Since the approval of our bosses is rarely a “spiritual approval,” even when we receive the coveted “job well done” it doesn’t satisfy the void. Approval from family and friends doesn’t usually fill the need either. Spiritual approval is its own unique brand of affirmation, a kind that’s difficult to fulfill outside of a performance-oriented spiritual experience. To that end, a recovering fundamentalist will often jump into new church experiences quickly in hopes that they’ll find a fast fix for the approval their craving. Our addiction to people’s endorsements bleeds into other non-spiritual aspects of our lives, too. Our relationships, our marriages, our parenting, our personal health and wellness, much of our lives can turn into one big hunt for praise.

2) Disagree Impaired. Fundamentalism is built upon a foundation of agreement. The gathering moves forward, becomes bigger, gets popular because the group agrees with each other. That’s why fundamentalists almost always leave when there’s a disagreement with leadership. Heck, most of the time they run. Because a disagreement is not simply a differing of opinion among fundamentalists. Disagreements are a handicap for fundamentalist sects. They breed fear and distrust. But that’s because agreement is the source blood of a fundamentalist movement. Because of that, a dissenter of any kind quickly becomes an enemy of the movement’s assumed “greater good” or often an enemy of God. Which is why the dissenter usually runs or gets chased off because fundamentalists do not know how to disagree. Upon leaving, a recovering fundamentalist will be slow to discover his or her inability to disagree. “Agreement” becomes the goal in relationships, work environments, etc. They become masters of “proving their points,” and when agreement doesn’t seem possible, they run. Because to exist happily among a non unified gathering feels uncomfortable, wrong, otherworldly.

3) Paranoia. Fundamentalism breeds paranoia. Often an effect of the fear that a fundamentalist environment emotes, being paranoid is so common among faithful fundies, it’s like one of the gifts of the spirit. In some ways, perceiving the potential of evil in big and small situations is considered prophetic, a gift of discernment that’s very versatile, helpful foretelling what’s going to happen in the Middle East or imagining the true intentions of a president they didn’t vote for or becoming a useful commodity for understanding the “true” motives of church members, friends, spouses, kids, or pastors. Upon leaving, a recovering fundamentalist will often drive themselves crazy trying to predict, perceive, and control the world around them. While their obsession for world affairs and politics is still very much alive, the most crippling kind of paranoia involves how one interacts with people they see everyday. The “gift” that was considered so useful in a toxic church environment will become far less celebrated in the outside world. That’s because the “gift” begins to define how you interact with people. For instance, you’ll start to assume you know what people think about you. You’ll begin to assume what it means when you’re not included. You’ll assume that you know the true intentions of those whom you call your friends. Your assumptions will come with details, history, a narrative, and seem very convincing. Among fundamentalist cultures, paranoia is nearly invisible because it’s such an integral part of the experience. Everybody is paranoid to some degree! But once you’re in recovery, the habit will fill you up with anger, make it difficult for you to trust people, potentially cause you to make terrible choices, and overwhelm you with questions: What if so&so doesn’t like me? Why isn’t so&so returning my text messages? Where is so&so tonight and why didn’t they invite me? What often happens is that recovering fundamentalists will attempt to control, manipulate, and create environments that they feel safe inside. That might work for a while. But eventually the questions come back and the insecurity returns. Anxiety takes over because we’re not in control or we’re out of control, so we run. We find new friends. We start a clean slate. We start fresh with a good attitude! And that becomes a pattern that the paranoid former fundamentalist will repeat over and over and over again.

4) Passive Aggressive Behavior. Fundamentalists usually hate conflict. That hardly stops conflict from arising. But they will usually go to create lengths to put a stop to the conflict. Much like the inability to disagree, fundamentalists are terrible at arguing too. Whenever they do present their thoughts in a heated emotional fashion, they are silenced, put in their place, or shamed. Since the movement’s future depends on people getting along or “keeping the peace,” fundamentalists become very passive aggressive. In fact, in many ways, passive aggressiveness is almost a form of Christlike behavior because a passive aggressive person makes their point without rocking the boat. At least, in theory. But unless you’re an adult (usually a man) who is in a semi-leadership position of authority, the only way to handle your frustrations among fundamentalists is to do it passive aggressively. Upon leaving, that’s the only way you know how to interact with conflict, passively, only allowing your frustrations to come out in small portions, at the expense of others. To get mad feels ungodly. To be direct and express exactly what’s on your mind seems too hard, uncomfortable, or disrespectful. Passive aggressiveness is so common in society that those of us who are recovering fundamentalists rarely connect our tendencies to indirectly handle conflict with our fundamentalist roots. Healing comes only when we learn or relearn how to be angry, then learn how to not feel guilty becoming angry, then learn how to not run away after becoming angry, and then learn how to let go of that anger and move on. And that’s a long difficult journey that many of us do not want to endure.

5) Exhaustion. Fundamentalism affects people far more deeply than we realize. It seeps into areas of our lives that we didn’t expect or know about. The path toward recovery is long, difficult, cumbersome, often unforgiving, and absolutely exhausting. At some point, sometimes with and sometimes without faith intact, we quit. Because we become tired. We get tired of every choice we make to move away from our old way of thinking turning into a fight among friends and/or family. We get tired of having to explain and explain again why we feel broken. We get tired of fighting the pride we must overcome to be honest about our brokenness. We get tired of every step away being more difficult than we imagined, often creating more drama and more conflict than we thought possible. So we quit. Only to feel guilty about quitting and deciding to start again. But then we quit again. In many ways, that is what the path toward recovery from fundamentalism looks like. There’s no equation for the healing process, at least, not one that works for everybody. Churches don’t often offer a program for spiritual abuse recoverers. Most of the time they become a part of a new problem. Or you end up feeling like you’re the problem. Exhaustion hits you time and time again, often leading us to feel depressed, unmotivated, and alone. And I’m not gonna say “But you’re not alone” because that will just piss you off. Trust me, I get. The journey is indeed exhausting.

To be continued… (Next up, I’ll cover the five things recovering fundamentalists should never do.)

What other effects of fundamentalism have you experienced?

Dear Amazon, I’m a Hachette author and my book releases tomorrow

Dear Amazon,

My name is Matthew Paul Turner. If my name doesn’t ring a bell, chances are, you’d definitely recognize my credit card number. My wife and I—proud Amazon Prime members!—do a majority of our  shopping online at Amazon. Because it’s convenient. And because you’ve made buying almost everything—from diapers to wood carving knives to books and entertainment—easy.

Not only do I shop at Amazon, but as an author who’s written numerous books for a variety of publishers, I’ve also faithfully sent my audience to Amazon to buy both my books as well as the books of hundreds of other authors.

And my next book—my first in 4 years—releases tomorrow (Tuesday, August 19).

Turner_GreatBigAmericanGod_HC

As you might expect, I’m excited about the release of Our Great Big American God: A Short History of Our Ever-Growing Deity. I worked for more than 2 years on this book, researching, writing, and editing. I’m proud of this book and am eager for people to experience it.

But that said, I’m also anxious about its release, too. You know why. Because my new book is being published by Jericho Books, and as you might know, Jericho Books is one of the many Hachette Book Group imprints.

Yep, I’m a Hachette author. And you don’t like Hachette right now. For that reason, for the last three months, you have treated me and my new book like lepers. Basically, you’ve boycotted my book. That wouldn’t be a huge deal if you didn’t command 50 percent of the publishing industry, including 65 to 70 percent of all ebook sales. And yet, according to you, as of August 18, my book isn’t available as an ebook despite you knowing that it is.

But you’re the publishing industry god, which is why it’s been quite upsetting to see my book’s listing at your site appear dead, as though you have no idea that it releases tomorrow, as if you and I haven’t engaged in a professional relationship for the last ten years. So that’s why your refusal to list my book’s Kindle availability sort of hurts, because we’ve worked with each other for quite some time.

However, most hurtful to me and my new book up until now has been your decision to take away my ability to use your site to pre-sell my new book—hardcopy or ebook. Presales matter as you know. Preselling a book is a practice that helps spark buzz, interest, excitement, media, and of course, sales. And you took away my ability to do that on Amazon.

And at first I thought that was where your boycott stopped. But I was wrong. At least, according to how you’ve treated other Hachette authors with new book releases, I was wrong to think that.

Listen, I get it; you’re not happy with Hachette right now. For months the two of you have been at odds with each other, negotiating the cost and pricing of ebooks. According to you, it’s far bigger than that; you say you’re negotiating the future of publishing. And perhaps you are. While I thought the letter you wrote to readers was slightly melodramatic, I’m also quite sure that Hachette isn’t pure in this debate. Heck, maybe Hachette’s even being stubborn and/or old fashioned.

But that’s business, right? Negotiations between two large conglomerates is rarely pretty, and often it becomes ugly and unfriendly and extremely difficult. But of course, usually the negotiations stay inside boardrooms or on conference calls.

But not this time. You changed that.

Earlier this year you decided to make these negotiations personal, very personal. You made the choice to limit the potential of all Hachette authors. You turned a host of authors into your pawns.

And again, I get it; it’s business! And while I think your decision to use authors in this debate as negotiating tools is horrible, I get it. And so far, I’ve managed. I’ve improvised. It’s not been easy. But you knew that it wouldn’t be. You didn’t want it to be easy. That’s why you used me and my book in your negotiations. Because you can. You own the publishing industry and you can do whatever the hell you want. And because all is fair in love, war, and capitalism.

Which is why I’m writing. Because my book releases tomorrow, Amazon.

And because I want you to stop boycotting my book. I’ve been watching what happens to other Hachette authors when their new books finally release. Sure, you turn the link’s lights on. But you don’t treat them same way you treat other books who have different publishers. In fact, you treat them like Lady Tremaine treats Cinderella, like the stepchild you never really wanted in the first place.

Listen Amazon, I’m not trying to pick a fight with you. I might feel like David in a fight against Goliath, but I also love Goliath! I need Goliath. And because I’m not JK Rowlings. I can’t afford to make you angry. I’m not a New York Times best seller. Heck, I’ve only broken the top 1000 on Amazon twice. I’m small potatoes compared to many (most?) of the names on the Hachette author list.

Every single sale matters to authors like me. Every single media hit makes a difference. And every single limitation matters.

Which is why I’m asking you to be fair. For three months, I’ve been quiet as you’ve made my new book a part of your negotiating tactics. I’ve tried to stay out of the debate between you and my publisher. Because I love both of you. And I need both of you. But my book releases tomorrow. Which is why I’m writing, to ask that you show us Hachette authors a little mercy.

Limiting presales is one thing, but please, stop limiting the potential of our books on and after their release dates.

I’ve worked far too hard on Our Great Big American God for it to be reduced to a negotiating tool in your ebook pricing negotiations. I’ve poured too much into this book to simply just sit back and watch you treat it like it’s less than it is.

I need Amazon. Just like I need Barnes & Noble, BAM!, and all the other bookstores. Because you’re huge! And I am small. And because my book is good and it deserves better. So please, show us authors some mercy. Keep the negotiations in the conference room. And let us sell our books.

Sincerely,

Matthew Paul Turner, author.

UPDATE: Amazon.com has made my book available for preorder! And they’ve added the Kindle edition!! Thank you! Not sure if it’s a coincidence or not… but thank you!

UPDATE #2: The hardback edition of the book is “temporarily out of stock”…

My 38 Theses: Ideas for the Church

Last month a friend asked me to tell him my best advice for the Church. At the time, I just laughed and said, “That’s not my place… right?” He shrugged, “Why not?”

Later, as I thought about his question more, I started writing down a few things, just a few thoughts, ideas, and hopes I have for the Church.

I’m still not sure it’s my place to offer the Church ideas. But as a member of the God’s Church and somebody who spends my fair share of time thinking about where the Church might be or what it might look like 10, 20, 50 years from now, I do often wonder what actions we should be taking now to inspire the world’s future believers.

Here’s what I wrote down (in no particular order).

1) The Church needs to stand in front of a mirror on a regular basis. We need to start being honest about who we are, what we look like, our failures, our sins, and our habits.

2) The Church needs to sober of its addiction to cool and/or its addiction of trying to be cool. We weren’t called to be cool or to pursue cool. Our addiction to that end is sucking us dry of meaning, depth, and future relevance. Besides, the Church isn’t cool, especially when its trying to be.

3) The Church should stop morphing those big biblical/spiritual promises found in the stories of scripture into blanketed God-promises for all mankind.

4) The Church should be known by who it unites, who it brings together, who it loves… (Of course, ironically, the Church has always been known by who it unites, who it brings together, who it loves…)

5) The Church should stop being handled, managed, and its future strategized like a brand. We aren’t The Church™. We’re the Church. Which means we must stop managing the Church, selling the Church, and using the Church like its a brand with franchises and stock options.

6) The Church should stop promoting God and Jesus like brands, too. If we believe that God’s name is holy, why on earth would we use it in vain like we own the copyright on it?

7) The Church needs to stop worshiping guns, sports, the CEO/Leadership culture, cultural masculinity, and other American obsessions.

8) The Church should be known more for celebrating and experiencing the mysteries of God as opposed to learning and reciting humanity’s definitions of God.

9) The Church should stop being a large deep financial pit known more for its buildings, technology, and sound and light shows rather than who it helps, locally and around the world.

10) The Church should stop building churches and ministries that are defined and held together by personalities and/or celebrities.

11) The Church should stop fighting a war against religion and embrace the fact that we are a part of religion, that not all religion is bad, and that sometimes religion (in its myriad of forms) can actually be spiritually helpful for some believers.

12) The Church should stop creating enemies out of people with whom it disagrees.

13) The Church should be known for creating/engaging space, time, and practice for helping people connect to the God of the Universe.

14) The Church must start owning its past, not simply the good parts of our history but also the tragic, violent, and controlling parts. By owning our Christian and not-so Christian history, we can learn valuable lessons and ideas for how to move forward in peace, with hope and grace.

15) The Church should be defined by the teachings of Christ more so than the theologies of Paul, the Apostle.

16) The Church should be an institution/environment where gender equality is not only embraced, it is celebrated and passionately promoted.

17) The Church should pursue all things with a spirit of humility.

18) The Church should embrace a path that engages and celebrates community but never at the expense of silencing or ignoring the needs, ideas, and stories of an individual.

19) The Church should pursue being an environment where questions and doubt are as central to the journey of faith as answers and belief.

20) The Church should go to great lengths to ensure that its systems/environments do not favor one person’s story over another, the rich over the poor, the influential over the lay person, the man over the woman, the saint over the sinner.

21) The Church should always be an advocate for the “least of these,” never harboring those whose actions are harmful or abusive and never silencing the outcries and concerns of victims or those speaking on behalf of victims.

22) The Church should evaluate and/or rethink its role among its community, seeking to serve the greater good of all people regardless of their creed, origins, or orientation.

23) The Church should work alongside the mental health community in pursuit of providing an environment of faith and spiritual healing that does not contradict or work against the advice/direction of an individual’s doctor/health care provider.

24) The Church should be led by individuals who embrace their need for accountability, direction, and grace.

25) The Church should be a passionate advocate for life—all life—always seeking to use its platform/influence/resources to bring awareness, aid, education, healing, and sustainability to those whose livelihoods are endangered.

26) The Church should be a safe, welcoming, and affirming environment for all members of the LGBTQA communities. Our passions should also include being chief advocates of their stories, never excluding, preventing, or discouraging any LGBTQA persons from connecting with God and spiritual community.

27) The Church should seek to bring glory to God through worship, confession, prayer, and pursuit of the common good.

28) The Church should seek out ways to bring unity among communities of faith, both Christian and non-Christian alike, helping the culture at large to discover and embrace paths toward peace, tolerance, and goodwill.

29) The Church should seek out ways to engage God’s resurrection story here on Earth.

30) The Church should use/borrow popular culture sparingly, with wisdom.

31) The Church should stop perverting the “good news” with individualism, prosperity messaging, and grandiose promises of transformation.

32) The Church should stop using its overwhelming support of Israel as reasons/excuses to stereotype, fear, and hate followers of Islam.

33) The Church should inspire faith, not fear, arouse belief, not doctrine, awaken people’s curiosity about God, not manipulate God to fit people’s questions.

34) The Church should be known for creating, not mimicking. We should inspire humanity’s urges to imagine, dream, and invent. We should be known for new ideas, new art, and new creations as opposed to critiquing culture, copying culture, and protecting our culture.

35) The Church should always be seeking out opportunities to further reconciliation among races, never becoming comfortable with mediocre forms of racial equality.

36) The Church should be Good News. Not old news. Not bad news. Not fake news. Not fear-filled news. But Good News.

37) The Church should be about confession, about forgiveness, and about resisting the temptations to use confession and forgiveness as reasons for keeping secrets and not calling out the evil deeds of powerful and rich people.

38) The Church should embrace these words of Jesus: That they [the Church] all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

This list is hardly exhaustive. And hardly perfect. Just a list of things I think about when I think about the future of the Church.

What do you think about when you think about the future of the Church?

 

Dear God, Elias starts school tomorrow… (a prayer)

Dear God.

Elias starts school tomorrow.

And thankfully, he’s excited about it. Which is awesome.

Thank you for helping him to be a confident bright kid who’s actually looking forward to school.

And of course, I want him to love school. I want him to be passionate about learning, about experiencing new things, and about engaging new relationships. I really want that, God…

Which means you’re gonna have to protect him, God. Of course, I would love for you to protect him from all of the outside forces that tend happen in and around schools, you know, drugs, bullying, and school lunches. But right now, I mostly want you to protect him from me.

Because I love him so much, God. But sometimes I love him so much that I can be overprotective. Which is normal. But sometimes I can be far too preemptive in my protecting, God.

And as you know, I didn’t love school. It wasn’t all bad. But I have some baggage, mostly just a few fears and assumptions that seem show up the most in my parenting.

And God, the last thing I want to do is to negatively affect Elias’s school experience by projecting my own experiences onto his.

So help me, God. Help me to be the kind of daddy who guides without defining…

Who inspires without assuming…

Who engages without manipulating…

Who’s involved without being too involved…

Because Elias possesses a brilliant spirit, God, one so full of joy and imagination and wonder. And I’d like for him keep those things for as long as possible…

So protect him.

Don’t coddle him. But protect him…

From the bullies… the asshole teachers… and from me.

Amen

John Piper’s ‘Ebola,’ a poem…

As we know, Piper often puts his thoughts down in rhyme. Today, he released his latest poem to World Magazine, a Dr. Seussesque ode to the Ebola virus, inspired by tweets from Donald Trump…

Ebola
Summer 2014

Today a thousand dead. And more
To die. A common ache, like flu,
Then nausea, a fever-soar,
A hopeless clinic interview:
“There’s nothing we can do.”

The bleeding has no bias. These:
A child, a chief, a friend, a nurse,
Liberian, and Leonese,
From Guinea, Texas, taste the curse—
And kindness, from the Purse.

Samaritans, six thousand miles
From home and care, subdue their fears,
And wonder if a sneeze defiles,
Or if a healthy fluid clears
The curse. Perhaps their tears.

But now two treasured ones, struck down,
Contagious still with death—and love—
Fly back to us, our joy, our crown,
A touch of grace, a gentle dove,
Yet through a plastic glove.

While in our land we see today
Another virus spreading, dumped,
More deadly, in the soul. They say,
“Why bring them home?” Though you be stumped,
This grace will not be trumped.

John Piper
August 3, 2014 SOURCE

Toxic Water in Toledo: Are we complicit and what should we do?

Today’s post is a guest post by C. Christopher Smith, the found editor of The Englewood Review of Books

We live in an age of deep brokenness. The news has been full of many horrific tragedies in recent weeks: Israelis and Palestinians killing each other more aggressively than at any time in recent history, escalating conflict in the Ukraine that lead to a plane full of civilians being shot down, the Ebola virus raging across vast parts of Africa and on and on.  What do we do as followers of Christ, called to be “ambassadors of reconciliation,” in the face of these gut-wrenching tragedies that are painful reminders that reconciliation between God, humanity and all creation is not only absent, but even difficult to imagine?  

In our book Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, John Pattison and I argue that our first response to such tragedy should be lament, mourning that we are part of God’s wonderfully inter-connected creation that so often seems hell-bent on destruction. Lament is, no doubt, a foreign practice amidst our technological age in which we have all sorts of devices to distract us, to save us labor and to steer us clear of any semblance of suffering or discomfort. And yet, lament is essential to being the compassionate people (literally those who suffer with) called to be followers of the compassionate Christ.  Lament often helps us see our complicity in a tragedy and guides us into repentance and new ways of living and being that bear witness – even if in the tiniest of ways – that a different way is possible, one that emphatically proclaims that all has been reconciled in Christ and that all will ultimately be healed and made well in creation.  John and I maintain that this process of lament and repentance should unfold in our church communities, where we begin to embody together a different way, the way of Christ’s reconciliation, among the neighbors who live in our particular place. In the words of the Apostle Paul, we (albeit slowly and haltingly) “become the righteousness of God.” [2 Cor. 5:21]

How might this work?  Let’s consider a tragedy happening right now closer to home (or at least to my home in Indianapolis): the ecological disaster in Toledo, Ohio, water contaminated by the toxin microcystin. This toxin cannot be eliminated by boiling water (and boiling may very likely intensify its toxicity), and people with weak immune systems are also being instructed to avoid all contact with the water. Why is the water system in Toledo plagued by this toxin? The toxins are being created by the annual algae bloom in Lake Erie, which in turn is caused primarily by chemical fertilizers that are used in industrial agriculture and are running off into the waters of the Great Lakes.  It is not difficult to see our complicity in this tragedy. My desire for fast and cheap food – for beef and chicken fattened at break-neck speeds on Midwestern corn, for soda and other products sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup, for cheap bread made with Midwestern wheat – has led to the citizens of Toledo being unable to drink or use their local water. These realities should give us pause, and lead us into lament and repentance. But I cannot do these things on my own; I need to be part of a church community that is nurturing a deep sort of economy among its members and neighbors, in order that alternative ways of eating and being can begin to be imagined and worked out – slowly and attentively – over time.

In the summer of 2010, in the wake of the BP oil spill, I was part of a group at Duke Divinity School’s summer institute (a group that included Norman Wirzba, Ragan Sutterfield, Chris Elisara and others), who penned a lament for churches in the wake of that ecological tragedy. It would not be difficult to adapt this lament in response to the water crisis in Toledo. For instance:

As followers of Christ, creator and redeemer of all creation, we mourn the water crisis in Toledo, and the toxic waters that are pouring out of Lake Erie and into homes. We mourn the disease and possible death posed to humans and animals, the economies and ecosystems destroyed, and the gifts of God, created from and for his love, squandered and poisoned. Most of all we mourn our complicity and active participation in a food economy based on toxic fertilizers that has made such illness and death inevitable. 

We find our lives dependent upon the destructive forces that have been made visible in the Toledo water crisis, but which have been a sinful and deadly presence in creation for many decades now. We acknowledge that our current lifestyle of convenience, which drives the demand for cheap food is at the root of the problem and that the irresponsibility and hubris of agricultural industries and farms are only outgrowths of this deeper reality. As the prophets of old said, we hear the land witnessing and testifying against us. 

We should lament the water crisis of Toledo, but we should not be hopeless. Rather, let us hope that God is at work in the midst of God’s people, transforming our hearts and minds and calling us to be communities that share a deeper life together, which bears witness among our neighbors – even if in the tiniest and feeblest of ways – that in Christ, all has been set right and all will ultimately in God’s time be reconciled.

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C. Christopher Smith is co-author of Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesusand founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books.  He is currently working on a book with the tentative title, Reading for the Common Good.

Mark Driscoll has apologized. Now he needs to resign.

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Mark Driscoll has apologized.

Again.

And now he needs to resign.

It’s time. Hell, it was time in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, and six months ago.

But now—either today or possibly tomorrow because it’s a Sunday!—it’s time for Mark Driscoll to step down, to leave Mars Hill, to possibly even leave Seattle.

Late last night Driscoll released this apology to his church members and also to Christian Today:

While the discussion board itself was a bad idea, my decision to attack critics who were posting there (I did so by posting under the character ‘William Wallace II’) was an even worse idea,” Driscoll said in his letter Friday, provided to CT. “I was wrong to respond to people the way I did, using the language I used, and I am sorry for it and remain embarrassed by it.

In his Friday apology, Driscoll noted that, in his 2006 book, he used the forum posts as an example of “something I regretted and an example of a wrong I had learned from.”

The content of my postings to that discussion board does not reflect how I feel, or how I would conduct myself today,” he told his church members Friday. Over the past 14 years I have changed, and, by God’s grace, hope to continue to change. I also hope people I have offended and disappointed will forgive me.

Is there more to this apology somewhere? I mean, it’s not that I don’t accept Mark’s apology, though I’m not really the intended audience for an apology from Mark. But if this really is all that Mark said (and that seems to be the case), then this is a pretty sad excuse for an apology, even for Mark Driscoll.

I mean, it just sounds like Mark Driscoll is tired of apologizing. Which makes sense. How could he not be tired of issuing apologies? He’s apologized a lot. And this time he doesn’t seem to even know who he’s apologizing to or why he’s apologizing. It feels forced, formulaic.

And God knows that faithful-to-fault communications guy at Mars Hill–what’s his name again?–has got to be tired of writing apologies on Mark’s behalf. I’ve chatted with Justin Dean. He seems like a nice guy, far more aware than he lets on. Though he’d never admit this, chances are even he thinks it’s time for Mark to bid farewell to Seattle.

But seriously, how many times can you ghostwrite unemotional statements of forgiveness on the behalf of somebody you know to be an absolute tyrant to work for before you’re secretly writing fake resignation letters and sending them to your friends?

Which is why its time for him to go. Mark hanging on to Mars Hill is like ABC hanging on to Grey’s Anatomy, it’s getting desperate. It’s time for this part of the Mars Hill story to end. It’s time for somebody else to begin writing the next chapters.

I mean, it’s not like I’m suggesting that Grace needs to take the kids to Argentina while Mark secretly works as a lumberjack somewhere in No Man’s Land, Canada. I wouldn’t wish that Dexter ending on anybody.

But I do think that it’s time for Mark to leave… for his family’s sake, for his church’s sake, and for the sake of all of those who Mark has hurt…

Listen, I believe Mark. I believe he’s embarrassed. When your career as a pastor has managed to offend nearly every person on earth except the white people who read The Blaze, how can you not be embarrassed? Of course he’s embarrassed. He should be embarrassed.

And I do believe he’s probably changed. But I’m not convinced that these changes have made him a safer leader, a leader who should be trusted, a leader who should be left in charge of a church full of victims.

And that’s what Mars Hill needs, a kind, humble gracious shepherd to lead them into Part 2 of the church’s story.

But there can’t be a part 2 with Mark Driscoll still in charge.

The only kind of apology that moves this situation forward is the kind that comes with a resignation.

So come on, Mark, man up, walk away… with Grace… and grace.

Grace is not a hashtag. Grace is not passive. Grace is not an excuse to remain silent. Grace is not…

All of us need grace. I believe that with all of my heart. Grace is my daily prayer—that I receive it, that I embrace it, that I show it toward others. Every day, often many times a day, I ask God for grace. My heart wants to know grace, my soul longs to engage the world with grace. Which is why I wake up each day asking God to show me grace and to help me to know grace.

However, in my search to know and embrace grace, I’m also bewildered by how so many Christians name drop “grace.” I’ve seen “grace” show up a lot on this blog in the last few years, often when I’ve written about Mark Driscoll or told stories of people who have been deeply affected by Mark Driscoll’s ministry at Mars Hill.

Yesterday, one individual wrote, “This is between God and Mark. #grace.” The subtext of his tweet was that to show grace was to shut up. And perhaps for Mark our silence would feel like grace. But what about all of the people, the hundred of Mars Hill members who have suffered various forms of spiritual abuse under his care, is our silence grace for them too? Should we leave their stories between them, God, and Mark?

On Sunday, in a conversation online about Mars Hill, one guy said, “he who is without sin, cast the first stone…” His misuse of that story and its context aside, the subtext of his statement was that, unless you’re perfect, you have no right to say anything. That rather than speaking up against the perpetrator or speaking up for the victim, grace means you shut up, do nothing, and judge others with #grace.

Again, I need grace. I am far from perfect. But for the grace of God and the grace of my family, friends, and church go I. But that doesn’t negate my responsibility to stand up for people who have been hurt, abused, or silenced.

Grace is not a hashtag.
Grace is not “giving the benefit of the doubt.”
Grace is not passive or passive aggressive.
Grace does not harbor abusers.
Grace is not something to be demanded just because the conversation makes you uncomfortable.
Grace is not an excuse to remain silent.

Yes, grace is an idea filled with uncertainty. It’s a balancing act. It’s nonsensical. It’s otherworldly.

But grace is also present. Grace is intentional. Grace is active.

Grace is not a middle man negotiating a deal between bullshit and pain.

Sometimes grace calls out bullshit. Sometimes grace brings hope to those in pain.

But I cannot believe that grace would ever stand in the middle and remain silent.