Saturday, February 27, 2010

Playing Cards With Mark Driscoll

When I was a teenager, I was introduced to a card game with the uncouth name, "Bullshit." The game is basically about leading (or misleading) the other players to believe that you possess a better hand than you actually do. Once a player has caught on to another player's false claims, they call the bluff by shouting "Bullshit." I loved this game because it created a space in which one did not have to mince words about obvious and purposeful false claims. You simply announced these false claims for what they were.

At times, it seems like sectors of the church engage in a death match competition to prove who is more right, more orthodox, more faithful, more biblical, etc. And often each side will over estimate their own "hand" and underestimate the "hand" of the others. And every now and again, someone will so grossly misrepresent, that the time comes to stand up, lay all the cards on the table, and call the false claims what they are: bullshit. And I am having one those moments with none other than Mark Driscoll because of the following quote from 2008's Church Leadership booklet:

"Without blushing, Paul is simply stating that when it comes to leading in the church, women are unfit because they are more gullible and easier to deceive than men. While many irate women have disagreed with his assessment through the years, it does appear from this that such women who fail to trust his instruction and follow his teaching are much like their mother Eve and are well-intended but ill-informed. . . Before you get all emotional like a woman in hearing this, please consider the content of the women’s magazines at your local grocery store that encourages liberated women in our day to watch porno with their boyfriends, master oral sex for men who have no intention of marrying them, pay for their own dates in the name of equality, spend an average of three-fourths of their childbearing years having sex but trying not to get pregnant, and abort 1/3 of all babies – and ask yourself if it doesn’t look like the Serpent is still trolling the garden and that the daughters of Eve aren’t gullible in pronouncing progress, liberation, and equality (p. 43). "

Like I said: Pure and unadulterated bullshit.

I usually take little interest in Mark Driscoll, though I've familiarized myself with his work for the sake of being well-rounded. Sometimes, I come across something so ridiculous that I might make it a facebook status, and then move on. I, clearly, am not Mark Driscoll's target audience. I am fiercely egalitarian, fiercely NONreformed, and have found a "home" in emergent circles. So, I don't waste a lot of time being outraged at Driscoll, since I suspect he enjoys the "persecution." But when I came across the quote above I was both irked and intrigued for the following reasons:

1. How blatantly hateful and ignorant it is. (not very surprising, but irking)
2. How poorly it was thought out and argued.
3. And most importantly, how it COULD and SHOULD serve as a wake up call for more reasonable complementarians on how they interpret 1 Tim 2:11-14.

First off, Driscoll's appeal to current women magazines to "prove" women are easier to deceive than men is probably the most dishonest part. Mark Driscoll and his engaged-with-culture-self should know better than anyone that men's magazines are selling just as many lies and just as many men believe them, including the one about "true" masculinity being about tough-guy, violence-prone Western notions of maleness. In fact, current top ten lists place both Playboy and Penthouse as two of the most popular men's magazine, in which women are portrayed as voiceless, brainless eye-candy for men to use for sexual gratification. And then other popular magazines, such as Maxim, Esquire, and GQ teach men their worth and the worth of others depends on good looks, money, fine clothing, current style, and how much stuff one can accumulate. Maxim just featured an article entitled "How to Cheat and Not Get Caught." Now should I uphold the lowest form of male-directed media and apply it to my brothers in Christ working to bring about God's Kingdom--who actively work against such mindsets? Of course not.

So while Driscoll's magazine anecdote is clearly ludicrous, I am more interested in his lead point. That the reason women are declared unfit to lead in the Bible is because they are gullible, easily deceived, and still paying for Eve's sin as clearly expressed by the Lord via the Apostle Paul. And I want to applaud Mark Driscoll for coming clean on this. Because most comps, who I admire for being as compassionate and as generous to women as their theology allows, should find these remarks very troubling indeed. Not only because they are extremely offensive and sexist, but because it is the logical conclusion of this kind of theology. If one wants to read the verses in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 "as is" (without considering the immediate context of the letter, the larger cultural context of the time, and the linguistic controversies that have plagued these verses for centuries), and apply these verses literally and universally, then one must also embrace the reasons for the "command." If one wants to continue to exclude women from teaching or having authority over men because "the Bible says so," then one must also accept the reasons given for WHY they are excluded. Mark Driscoll does exactly this, preaching that women are easily deceived and are still under the shadow of Eve's failing.

Most complementarians teach that the restrictions placed on women are about divinely mandated roles and gender hierarchy serves as a picture of Christ and the Church, and so forth, but never would they (or most of comps anyway) dare vocalize that women are restricted from teaching men or having authority in the church because women's very essence renders them dumber than men and it's a continued punishment because of Eve. And yet, that is the only choice the "as is" approach leaves a reader with.

Driscoll brings to light, though probably unintentionally, the quandary many comps find themselves in: how to keep preaching against women teaching men or having authority in the church without having to teach that women are fundamentally and irreversibly inept for the task compared to men.

My complementarian brothers and sisters, if you want to continue to exclude women from teaching and having authority in the church based on the verses in 1 Timothy, then do as Mark Driscoll does, and actually teach that women in their very essence are dumber than men because they are more susceptible to deception by their very nature and must still be held accountable for Eve's sin.

Because the only bigger bullshit move than actually believing women are inherently gullible and more susceptible to deception than men, is to still continue excluding women from leadership positions based on one part of a scripture while rejecting the reasons given for their exclusion in the very next part of the scripture.