Calling Out Bullies – Whoever They Are

I genuinely try to avoid Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. I really do.

There was a day when I looked up to him as a strong leader, who told about Jesus and shared the message of the Cross with boldness. I admired his clarity and the innovative ways he was using technology to share faith. I thought there was much to learn from the man.

This changed for me a couple of years ago when he began speaking on this supposed “Biblical Manhood”. I’m not sure it was when he started calling people cowards and chauvinists, or encouraging the belittling of people who did not match his standard, but somewhere along the way I realised that I was not, and never would be, good enough for Pastor Mark.

(I mean, maybe it’s my smartly fitting sweaters and shiny boots? Or my enjoyment of a good cup of herbal tea? Should I refrain from salad?)

But I couldn’t avoid this:

I was disappointed to say the least. The last decade has seen a massive revival of the Superhero. Spurred by a reclaiming of sci-fi for the masses and the availability of great CGI, the Superhero is back in our imaginations, bursting through from our childhood comic books into our imaginations and conversations. Many people now feel as though they can access and navigate the fantastical world of DC and Marvel heroes and villains.

I love it. I really do. I love superhero movies.

Yet Driscoll’s comment didn’t just offend my taste. He offended me.

Yes, I would be one of the 20-somethings discussing the merits of one hero over another. Yes, I would draw on the vast world of their comic book history for my points. Yes, I would probably win the argument (not really).

And Yes. I am single.

I hope you will understand though, the deeply troubling aspects of what he has said.

Not only has he assumed that every man ought to be in a relationship. Not only has he branded the fantastical wonderment of young men as something childish. Not only has he publicly shamed those with whom he disagrees for something which isn’t even sinful.

He has done it all as the spiritual leader of thousands and thousands of people.

Some random stranger sniggers at nerds on the internet? Who cares.

A pastor of one of the most rapidly growing Christian movements in the USA bullies those unlike him? Do I need to explain how much of a problem this is?

A reader might respond to me and claim I am being judgemental. Am I no better than Driscoll’s vitriol?

I ought not judge, lest I be judged. Right?

Well if I behave in the manner of Mark Driscoll. If I am guilty of belittling someone else’s preferences, maligning their character and making assumptions, then God hold me in judgement.

Because nobody deserves that.

There is a difference, it seems to me, between judging someone else’s failures and lauding it over them, and calling out abuse when you feel it.

What I see in Driscoll is yet another in a long line of statements built not on God’s word, nor on Christian tradition, but on his western, white, middle class conservative opinion on maleness. And this is the most alarming thing of all.

Sure, we all make regrettable statements. Most of mine are helpfully documented on this blog.

Yet to consistently offend others not on account of the cross but on account of your low opinion of them, then that demonstrates a monstrous character.

Why does it matter? It matters because many young men and women are being shaped and moulded by this man’s speech and acts.

If Driscoll is laying out a scheme for Christian Maleness, then count me out!

At all ages, if [fantasy and myth] is used well by the author and meets the right reader, it has the same power: to generalize while remaining concrete, to present in palpable form not concepts or even experiences but whole classes of experience, and to throw off irrelevancies. Bat at its best it can do more; it can give us experiences we have never had and thus, instead of ‘commenting on life,’ can add to it.

C.S. Lewis,


Add yours →

  1. Great post Ian. I went through exactly the same process with Driscoll too. Helpful comments.


  2. And why might women not be interested in mean talking about superheroes. I mean I might join in, though not sure I have wide enough referents


  3. Never really liked Driscoll, always came across as arrogant in anything I saw him in and when he started on Francis Chan for taking a humble, Jesus-following path and leaving his church to go to work in the inner city, without the huge financial rewards that the megachurch pastor has access to, it really rankled (can find a link if you like).
    I’m not single, I’m not in my 20s! I am married with three kids in my mid thirties and I will still engage in a hotly-contested, informed and passionate debate about who is the best superhero. (Hiro Nakamura if you want my vote).
    IMHO Driscoll is misguided and needs a strong mentor to guide him back to the ways of compassion, humility and gentleness.


  4. From top to bottom – yes, yes, yes.


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