Why I Care About Mars Hill Church

You may have noticed me tweeting about Mark Driscoll, co-founder of Mars Hill Church.

You may not know this, but Mars Hill Church started in Seattle. Prior to co-founding Mars HillDriscoll was a college pastor at Antioch Bible Church.

Now, that likely means nothing to you. But Antioch Bible Church has a rep around here. First, it’s praised for being racially diverse (all too rare in the US). Second, Antioch is known for its late pastor and co-founder Ken Hutcherson, who received a lot of press for trying to stop gay rights in Washington state. Some of his plans to do so were skewered in the press, but certainly not all.

Let us say that I am not at all surprised that Mark Driscoll doesn’t fall far from that anti-gay tree.  And that is one of the reasons I had no interest in attending Mars Hill even BEFORE they opened a location less than a mile from my home.

But I’m also concerned about Driscoll’s teaching about women. Women in the church, in the home, the workplace, and life.  Around here, you don’t have to read Christian bloggers (though you can) to hear about Driscoll or Mars Hill — area news reports covered that “women belong in the home” and “women can’t lead” were standard Mars Hill teachings.

As noted by Rachel Held Evans and others, some earlier “sock puppet” blog postings of Driscoll’s have recently resurfaced.  I haven’t read them all. One quote in particular is in reference to women asking questions of his sock puppet:

“I speak harshly because I speak to men. A woman might not understand that. I also do not answer to women. So your questions will be ignored. I would however, recommend to you a few versed to memorize: I Timothy 2:11-15 I Corinthians 14:33-35.To learn them, ask your father or husband. If you have neither, ask your pastor. If she is a  female, find another church. If you are the pastor, quit your job and repent.”

I would be embarrassed to have a pastor or spiritual leader write that. I would flee. I say this as someone who has walked out of churches in mid-sermon in response to anti-gay rhetoric from the pulpit.  Then I was — correctly — offended. This is offensive — but also silly.  Driscoll, using a sock puppet account, writes that he’s going to ignore all questions from women on a message board.  At the time he wrote that, he wasn’t disclosing who he was — yet he thinks he can tell who the women are?

Dog at a computer, telling another dog that 'On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.'
“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.
But Mark Driscoll knows if you’re a woman!”

You may gather I don’t think much of Mark Driscoll. You’d be right. The fact that he started his own church, neatly bypassing having to answer to a boss or denomination, is part of it. I think of him as being very young, because his combination of “rock and jeans and cool” and “the Bible is simple” reminds me of teenagers, but it turns out he’s in his 40s and merely acting like a teen. I resent that he’s presented as being a church leader in the Northwest.

But much more important are these words from Fred Clark today at Slacktivist:

There are women at Mars Hill Church. There are girls at Mars Hill Church. There are girls who go to church on Sunday and hear from a man who believes that “pussies” represent everything that is wrong with the world.

In the name of all that’s holy, that has to stop. That is sin. That is evil.

This is an evil, destructive teaching.

6 thoughts on “Why I Care About Mars Hill Church

  1. It’s easy for me to reject his ideas, since I ceased to believe in a personal supreme being some time ago.

    You have to consider that Christianity largely ignored women’s rights until secular women’s groups started fighting for them in the last 400 years. Driscoll’s outrageously sexist position has strong precedent in the history of the Christian religion and the Jewish religion it descended from. If a benevolent deity had a hand in this, why would Paul have been inspired to write those words? Why do the Gospels not contain any instruction to treat women as equals? For that matter, why do the laws from Moses and Joshua allow a rapist to atone for his sin by paying the father of the victim a fee and then marrying the victim?

    …. but if you don’t want to start a religious debate, I respect that. Feel free to delete this post. (I realize it’s your blog and you can do that anyway, I just mean that I won’t be the slightest bit upset if you don’t want the discussion to turn in that direction.)

    • I’m not into debating right now, but if it helps explain things, after growing up more fundie I searched for a church with

      1. A larger structure to keep individual pastors from becoming idols
      2. Women in leadership
      3. Open and affirming of LGBTs

      This lead to me joining the Episcopal church 20 years ago.

      • I grew up Catholic and as a young adult converted to United Church of Christ (UCC). The UCC is loosely organized so I think you can still find some fundamentalist elements. But generally they’re welcoming to LGBTs, allow women in leadership, and support abortion rights and contraceptives. If I still believed in the Christian faith itself, I would be pleased to be a member. The local UCC has an especially warm and welcoming community, too.

        But after my own research I rejected the core theological tenets of all religions I have encountered. I can’t attend the UCC because I support their ethics while at the same time not believing in Jesus, prayer, or heaven.

  2. These words are as toxic as those spewed by the late Pastor Fred of the Westboro Baptist Church. In some ways it’s even worse, because there are people who can hear him and read him and believe that he sounds rational. Worst of all, some of those who believe his words are women, and they are teaching their daughters and their sons to believe it, too.

    But the funny thing about Jesus is that he had a lot of time and a pretty amazing amount of respect for women, considering the time and place. His most devoted followers (the ones who never denied him) were women. So this here atheist happens to think the New Testament has a lot of great show and tell examples of gender equality – or at least gender respect – in action.

    And the last time I checked, the entire Christian faith was supposed to be based on the New Testament, not carefully cherry-picked verses from the Old Testament.

    If I prayed, I would add one for Sock Puppet Driscoll’s flock to get a clue and leave him to play alone in his radioactive sandbox.

  3. it turns out he’s in his 40s and merely acting like a teen.

    LOL

    Bloody hell (no pun intended), that guy’s views are misogynistic in the extreme. I would be giving his ‘church’ a wide berth and I feel sorry for every decent person being exposed to his misogynistic views.

    Maybe it’s ‘better’ that the misogyny is so overt. Many churches, including mine, have one degree or another of an undercurrent of misogyny running through them. (My church only recently voted to have women bishops, for example.) Easy to miss if not looking for it, but corrosive all the same.

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