A petition to keep Mark Driscoll from speaking at Liberty University…

Have you seen this? It’s an online petition to stop Mark Driscoll from bringing his circus act to Liberty University’s campus.

Sophia, the online petition’s creator (and blogger at Mars Hill Refuge) writes…

How would your founder Jerry Falwell respond to a preacher who taught this in his writing and speaking?

“In conjunction with the rhythm method of birth control, it is possible to use anal sex as an option.”[1]

“Jesus Christ commands you to [perform oral sex on your husband]….What I would say to you as well, ladies, I probably shouldn’t, that most of your husbands wake up in the morning with an erection, and so rather than setting the alarm, if this was the way that you helped to awaken them, they would have a great day. Amen? I’m actually saying these things. Some of you are sitting here going, “Is this happening? Is this really happening?” Yes it is. [Laughter from audience.]…And he says that, “Your vagina is a garden.” It has wonderful smells and it has wonderful tastes. It’s a garden. . . . He talks about how much he loves her vagina. Many women feel awkward about this. The husband needs to tell the wife, “It’s beautiful. It tastes well. It smells well. You keep yourself well. I enjoy it. It’s a garden to me.”[2]

Here’s what one of Jerry Falwell’s peers, well known Pastor John MacArthur had to say about Mark Driscoll’s teaching.

“It is spiritually tantamount to an act of rape” and “Mark Driscoll has boldly led the parade down this carnal path.”[3]

What would the parents of your students say if they saw this?

What would the pastors who refer students to Liberty say?

What would your donors say if they had to read this?

If you say you aren’t worried about that, then for integrity’s sake immediately post these statements on your website. Your students and those who care about their spiritual welfare deserve fair warning about Driscoll’s penchant to sexualize whatever he can, wherever he can.

Click here to sign the petition asking Liberty University to cancel Mark Driscoll’s upcoming speaking event.

Failure to Drop Driscoll may result in a public protest on the Liberty University campus.

Driscoll, along with his wife Grace, are scheduled to perform their “Real Marriage” skit at Liberty on April 20 and 21.

Sophia’s not the only person who doesn’t want Driscoll appearing on Liberty’s campus.

Author Peter Lumpkins
wrote on his blog yesterday…

Sources say trustees took a vote, and the vote was unanimous indicating that Mark Driscoll is not welcome at Liberty University. In addition to Driscoll’s “potty mouth” approach to pulpit etiquette playing a role in their decision, his “Reformed” theology, Acts 29 Network, and the provocative hedonistic understanding of a___ s__ came up as well (XXX). Trustees were apparently flabbergasted that Driscoll was considered for an invitation in the first place.

By a___ s___, he means “anal sex”…

He goes on to write…

Mark Driscoll has publicly expressed his appreciation and love for the Falwells. Let’s see how deep Driscoll’s appreciation is. Will he needlessly bring even more conflict upon the Falwells by going through with the invitation in the face of unanimous disapproval by the entire board of Liberty trustees? What possible benefit could he gain by remaining on the schedule? On the other hand, he’d likely garner conceivable gains by dropping out…by “disinviting” himself.

Time’s running out. Let’s see if Mark Driscoll is the “man” he ceaselessly claims all men ought to be.

You can sign the petition here.

You can read why Sophia helped to create this petition here.

While I’m a big fan of Sophia and her blog and the community of people she speaks to, I’m not sure this is the best way to combat Driscoll’s act. If the petition had been created by students, it would ring stronger in my opinion. But perhaps Sophia or the petition’s other creators have another connection to Liberty that I am unaware of… I think connection is key in regards to petitions like this.

Your thoughts?

Me, troublemaker? Thoughts about criticism…

The story keeps getting told. Today, Slate.com’s Ruth Graham told the story again, adding fresh words from both sides of the issue and offering some historical substance to the topic of “church discipline”. At the end of her piece, Graham writes…

…Driscoll made it clear in remarks at a 2009 conference that he does not tolerate divisive “troublemakers” at Mars Hill. “You can really change the culture of a church by just removing a few ‘negatives’ and elevating a few ‘positives.’ Most of the ‘neutrals’ change. You don’t need to get rid of everybody most of the time,” he said.

Getting rid of Andrew may end up being a mistake for Mars Hill, though. Because of him, the chorus of troublemakers is growing louder.

With each retelling, new questions and criticisms arrive in my inbox and on Twitter and Facebook. Most of the criticism is some variation of the following…

@JesusNeedsNewPR I hope you’re happy. Let’s get the nonchristians to see how Christians attack in the blog world.

And then I received this comment on my Facebook wall…

Way to go Matt. You’ve given those far from God fodder for scoffing at Christ and his bride. Read the comments on the Slate article – hope you are proud. I wish I was a blogger instead of a pastor. Then I could take shots at what people do instead of trying to figure out solutions. If you actually want to contribute something, then explain to us how churches should handle instructions to put the immoral out of the church (1 Cor) or the instructions to shun the divisive (Titus 3) or treat the unrepentant as pagans and tax collectors (Matthew 18). Or you can just keep name calling and slandering – I’m sure Jesus said something about that being the way to build his kingdom.

The latter comment stung a bit, not because of what it said, really, but because I know the guy who wrote it. We met when I was in the sixth grade. Even though we’re not close friends today, we once were. And despite distance and life changing that, I admire and respect him, and too, I’ve enjoyed watching from afar God use him and his wife in ministry (he’s a pastor).

In cases like these, I understand why people attack “the messenger.”

But am I to blame for all of the “scoffing at Christ and his bride” happening right now at Slate.com?

Perhaps I am, though I find it hard to believe that those leaving comments just arrived at their opinions of God and the Church after reading this one article. I can only imagine that other narrative threads exist in their stories that led them to some of their conclusions (and angst).

But here’s my real question: Is the comment section underneath Slate.com’s story a reason not to talk about the sometimes crappy situations happening inside our churches? That’s a serious question, one that I’d love to hear your thoughts on…

The other question I get a lot is some variation of this one: Why are you always harping about Mark Driscoll?

And that’s a good question. And here’s my answer: In my opinion, Mark is one of the most influential “Christian figures” affecting today’s “Christian culture”. His reach influences various aspects of Christian life: church growth, ministry, gender roles in the church, relationships, and more. Furthermore, Mark proactively seeks to influence and nurture young male pastors, church ministry workers, missionaries, etc. If Mark’s theologies, actions, and church management style only impacted Mars Hill, I probably wouldn’t care. Well, I would care and certainly make note of it, but I wouldn’t keep coming back to it. But Mark’s “gospel” bleeds into and affects how pastors of churches all over the country (and world) are managing their churches and ministries, from missions to church discipline. His words affect how pastors teach and manage and control a woman’s role in the church, home, work, etc. If you think I’m crazy, go read a month’s worth of comments on his Facebook wall. These pastors watch Mark. They sometimes idolize him. Sometimes they hang on his every word. And it’s all intentional. Mark doesn’t accidentally influence these pastors, it’s his passion and calling. From what I’ve heard and seen, Mark wants to influence how churches all over the world function. And that’s scary in my opinion.

Which is why I responded to my friend (the one who left that message on my Facebook walk) like this…

Why would I be proud, Tim? I’m not proud. But I’m not ashamed, either. I shared one story of a man who was hurt by the system of a large influential church, a system that took small bits of scripture and added their own rules and cult-like practices to its mix. Perhaps you should turn your harshness on that church’s pastors and leaders and request that they change how they handle “discipline” in the future. Because whether you want to admit this or not, I’m not the one who gave “those far from God” reasons to scoff. Mark Driscoll & Company did that. Mark has done that in various ways over and over and over again. And if you could read the numerous emails that I have received from former Mars Hill members, sharing their stories of abuse and pain under the ill-managed processes at Mars Hill, I truly believe you’d change your opinion. Or at least, part of it. I truly value your wisdom and opinion, Tim. But in this instance, I can’t agree.

I loved how Graham ended her piece, saying that the “chorus of troublemakers” is getting louder.

She might be right. Maybe we are a chorus of troublemakers.

But I can’t help but wonder if the real troublemaker in all this is a short stout soloist in Seattle who won’t stop singing.

Spiritual Abuse Must Stop (a blog post)

Every single time I check my email there’s one more, one more person raising their “digital” hand and saying “That’s my story, too. I was spiritually abused.”

They’re responding to this story. Part 1. Part 2.

Most don’t stop there. These people–men, women, some pastors, some laypeople–go on to describe in detail their stories, the events that happened from their perspectives, that led to some sort of “spiritual abuse”. Many tell stories of being shunned by people who they believed were their friends, families, and confidants. Some were betrayed. Some were lied about. One man says he was interrogated in a dark room with a light shining in his face. And every deed was done in the name of Jesus.

One man wrote this:

“I just read your blogs about Andrew and Mars Hill. I was struck with how eerily similar my story–I live in Texas–was with his, even down to the “community” site that was exclusive to the church and being denied access to it after I was excommunicated. (Which, by the way, was caused by a text message that I sent to someone who had left.) Much like Andrew, I spent my time being manipulated and controlled, and my heart really goes out to him. I know in my case it’s still hard for me to think about the place and all the friends I suddenly lost. It’s sort of like have Post Traumatic Stress, but you also get to deal with the doubt caused in your own mind by the accusations thrown at you.”

There are often many sides to one story. But when it comes down to two, your story and the story of some sort of religious establishment. The establishment’s story almost always overpowers the story of the one who has been hurt. And that story of one is silenced. They get called troublemakers, liars, sinners, cynical, unhappy, mean, etc, etc, etc. And then, even when they do share their stories, nobody listens. Again. Silenced.

One lady said, “I sat down with my best friend and tried to tell her that the stories being told about me weren’t true. But she refused to listen. The church was always right in her mind.”

Many of the letters have come from former members of Mars Hill Church. One of those letters said, “I witnessed and experienced the spiritual abuse at MHC and its pastors on many different levels. I even felt forced to participate in them at times. I’ve felt the social & theological pressures, exclusions and have lost friendships over my leaving. It’s painful as hell and it’s irrevocably changed me.”

I could keep sharing. But to only share bits and pieces is not fair to them or their story. But we need to hear these stories. We need to weep with them over their stories. We need to validate their stories. Some of us need to confess our associations with their stories, our ignoring their stories, our unwillingness to trust a victim’s word against the word of a religious machine.

In my opinion, despite all the good deeds that might happen inside the machine, in order to measure a church’s worth, one must also take into consideration the souls, the people that church has bruised.

So many wrote that they’ve pretty much given up on the church. And that might be true. But in many instances, the church gave up on them. We, members of the universal church of Christ, need to stand up and speak out on behalf of the victims of spiritual abuse. All too often, because of fear or because of disbelief or because “the church must have had their reasons,” we ignore and devalue the stories of hurting people. Sure, sometimes a person’s story might turn out to be farfetched. But that is an excuse we have used for far too long. That is how abuse continues to occur inside the walls of churches.

Church, the truth is, sometimes our establishments, our rules, our hoops and hurdles, our fixes, and our leadership are abusing people, good people, people who are not being heard or listened to, people like you and me, people who will try to experience life at another church but will likely fail, people who might not trust you at first, people who are cynical and skeptic, people who are dying inside looking for somebody to shine a light on their story, their situation, their pain.

I tweeted last night that, it seems to me that far too many lost get found and then they get effed up. Effed up in a variety of ways. And that’s not amazing grace.

That’s a disgrace that each of us, every congregation, every member of a church staff, and every layperson can help remedy.

We begin by listening. And giving those who have been spiritually abused an opportunity to tell their story. Because only when we have the freedom to share, can we begin to walk on a path toward being free.

Let’s help people get free.

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