The Deceitfulness of the “Struck Shepherd”

Meanwhile, situated on the same despising our own flesh spectrum is the reemergence of Mark Driscoll, returning from exile to proclaim a message of forgiveness for all of his critics. Driscoll depicted himself as but one embattled shepherd caught in a maelstrom of ungodly assault, persevering in the calling of pastor to faithfully serve the flock and spurn the bitterness to which his woes and travails this past year would tempt him to succumb.

What a heartrending narrative. How our consciences ought to be pricked! James Miller has something to point out, though, which pops this bloated rhetorical balloon:

Now here’s the one lingering issue I have.  Driscoll just gave a long lecture on forgiveness without asking for it.  Aside from the allusion to “not being totally innocent,” he really didn’t point out his own failings.  In fact, it seemed like the entire lecture was aimed at his need to forgive those people who had wronged him.  What has happened to his family is horrible, as he describes it, and should never happen.  But what lingers after Driscoll’s resignation is that he evaded his Board’s plan for a disciplinary procedure.  He never really reconciled with those whom he had harmed, and after all of his talk of forgiveness, it would have been so simple and so graceful for him to ask for it.  Perhaps that was to be the implication that was to be drawn from the whole talk – that Driscoll now needs forgiveness too.  But the weight of the graphic imagery of the abuse of his family left us with the undoubted impression that Driscoll was a victim who now needed to forgive those who had wronged him.  He was a “struck shepherd” that heaven had taken out.  I think his idea that Jesus’ goal is to gather people around the pastor is symptomatic of Driscoll’s issues.  And if this is indeed a step in the direction of a professional re-emergence, I think most of us still want him to address the many charges and challenges that have been brought against him.  He has certainly apologized for much of it, but I think any professional return on his part will require that those issues go addressed through a supervised process.  There are still many people who have been reportedly hurt, bullied, and fired from their jobs by Driscoll, and I think his read on forgiveness may have to more thoroughly include himself among the guilty if he wants to regain any kind of credibility.

Driscoll has aligned himself rhetorically with the persecuted prophets of the church’s past. One small problem with that, though: he’s no Jeremiah. He’s Nebuchadnezzar posturing as Jeremiah, spewing out faux-grace to cover the imagined offenses of those he’s hurt. He’s still putting on airs to manipulate his hearers and paint a sympathetic portrait of himself. Denouncing those you’ve crushed for their irritating insistence on reality is monstrous. This isn’t the wounded voice of justice railing against persecution- it’s the tyrannical ego of a Caesar or a Herd restructuring reality to conform to their god-sized (but godless) vision of how the world ought to be.

It’s not just the dishonesty that’s so vile about this: abuse of the pastor’s office is abhorrent because the constituent sins it entails draws the church’s confession to be a creature of the Word into disrepute. To exploit the office is to misrepresent the wise and loving authority with which the church’s Lord has vested the elder. Where too many ministers falter is forgetting (resisting?) that this is a subsidiary authority in which he functions as a conduit of Christ’s rule, contingent upon submitting to that same rule himself; the call to serve the church as an overseer isn’t an invitation to lord it over his congregation as a despot satellite of a deist god. The elder is to bring the life-giving, recreative lordship of the risen One to bear upon the social space the gospel creates, in a local, particular, embodied context. But this conduit is corrupted, poisoned even, when the elder usurps that rule for himself and sets up his own petty fief with his parishioners as serfs. This is no channel for new life- it’s another regime of sin and death masquerading as the church. And her visibility as the site of divine-human reconciliation is compromised through such ecclesiastical terrorism and her witness to the world gutted.

But to return to the dishonesty of all it all: what’s especially heinous in this case is Driscoll’s self-identification as victim. His appropriation of our culture’s victim discourse is disgusting, and unfortunately it seems to be becoming more commonplace to see abusers touting themselves as the victims of their prey’s hate. Woe upon them. To pretend that the charge of abusive misconduct is as awful as having been abused is evil, and to pretend you’re magnanimous in extending forgiveness where none is necessary is Satanic strategy which in no way reflects the cruciform pattern of the Master’s life and rule. Drop the facade, for the pitiless will find no pity awaiting them when they at last are exposed for what they truly are. Spare us your Corinthian fireworks of rhetoric and embrace the theology of the cross instead. Repent of your death dealing, cling to the folly of the cross and find life.

Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy.


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