Oh, my dear friends. Mark Driscoll’s blog has been a treasure trove lately, as he struggles to resolve one of his religion’s greatest failings: its defective and faulty teachings about marriage. One can see why half his his blog appears to be composed of advice regarding marriage–Christians labor under a divorce rate that screams out the truth about their religion’s poor teachings, and the further right into the religion one progresses the worse marriages get and the more acrimonious and frequent the divorces seem to be. Mark Driscoll happens to stand way to the right in his religion, so one can easily excuse him for being thus concerned. Today Lord Snow Presides…. over Mark Driscoll’s terrible not-good ineffective guaranteed-to-fail marriage advice.
Christians generally have a bad problem with trusting non-experts to give them advice about really important topics, and Mark Driscoll is no exception at all. He is in fact the very last person that Christians should turn to about advice regarding healthy relationships of all kinds.
If I were Christian, even if I were fundagelical, the moment I heard about what he wrote about as “William Wallace II” on his church’s bulletin-board system (here’s an interesting examination of how he came to that pen name and began using it), that’d be all I needed to know to ignore anything else he said forever.1 But it seems like Christians have very poor memories as well as shoddy judgment about who to trust with their emotional lives and relationships.
On that forum, he created a plethora of such Jesus-centered and edifying topics as “Pussified Nation,” wherein he ranted at worrisome length about how “poor Johnny” is being raised by evil “feministed single mothers who make sure Johnny grows up to be a very nice woman who sits down to pee.” (And more disturbingly, a woman responded to this rant with “I think I just met my future husband. Thanks, Wallace.”) He refers to gay men as “damn freaks” and declares himself “your self-appointed king” who “will of course decide who receives the Manly Man Award” – though “women are not allowed to post anyone [as a nomination for the award] except their husband or father and I will expect ample evidence that they are indeed Manly Men.” When a Christian (man) reproached him with tons of Bible verses contradicting his attitude, Driscoll replied “Youth pastor? Enough said.”
Mark Driscoll has openly discussed and made not-pologies aplenty regarding his conduct on that forum, but it doesn’t seem like he’s really felt the least bit of contrition. Certainly I don’t think he’s ever mentioned that there are over 100 printed pages of comments he made under that pseudonym.
And as his Christian critics have pointed out, he hasn’t changed at all since those days, whatever not-pologies he offers up to the contrary. One frequent note in these timeline-comparisons is his constant kinship and friendship with ultra-misogynist and fundagelical bigot-for-Jesus Doug Wilson, who’s been a topic of discussion on the subject of Christian-endorsed slavery on many occasions. I reckon that’s what happens when a fundagelical claims that watching the comedy routines of Chris Rock is how he learned how to preach.
But his complete contempt for women–and other churches’ property–and men who don’t fit into his alarmingly sexist and mean-spirited conceptualization of what “real men” (like himself) should be like–appears to be all his own.
No Grace for Grace Driscoll.
I’ve frequently remarked upon his poor treatment of his own wife Grace in his books and sermons, shaming her for having had relationships before him and implying that his sex life is decidedly the most one-sided and emotionally abusive that could exist in a free democracy. If anything, though, his treatment of women generally is decidedly worse.
I ain’t the only one who’s picked up on his misogynistic treatment of his wife, either.
Samantha Field (whose blog is excellent in every way and worth your time) has devoted a whole tag to Grace Driscoll, examining the disrespect he shows her all throughout his public life. A Free Methodist feminist (I know, I know, I’m with ya, just that’s what her blog’s called) points out how Mark enthusiastically shamed Grace for cutting her hair in a way that would be more convenient for her as a new mother because it wasn’t sexy enough for him. He has repeatedly stated for the record regarding her past that “had I known about [her] sin, I would not have married her.” Her “sin,” which he describes as feeling “shell-shocked” about, was having had boyfriends in high school before meeting him, if you’re wondering. He openly discusses her increasing “frigidity” in bed after they were married.2 Oh, and who could forget that his “greatest hits” sermons that include lots of stuff about how married women should always make sure that they are “sexually available” to their husbands, no matter how they feel.
It’s a sickening litany, and it’s hard to imagine what the full spirit-crushing, crazy-making impact of his constant criticism and shaming must have on a woman that he claims to love more than himself. With love like that, I’ll gladly have his indifference–even his contempt, since that doesn’t seem a whole lot different.
DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS MAN’S ADVICE ABOUT MARRIAGE.
Sorry for the all caps there, but I think it’s really important to drill down on one important fact: this is not a person who is qualified to tell anyone how to marriage.
In our Mark Driscoll Drinking Game, we take a drink whenever Mark Driscoll tries to act like an expert about anything. The truth is, he’s just a fundie pastor. Everything he’s ever done relates to learning to be a fundie pastor. That means he’s learned to regurgitate talking points just like he regurgitates his previous ghostwritten books for his blog posts (and outright swipes whatever he thinks he can get away with). He’s learned well that if he just sounds super-sure of himself and can cite a Bible verse to prop up whatever he’s doing, he can barf out anything and his tribe will happily scoop it up off the floor and eat it.
It’s important to note that Mark Driscoll has no education whatsoever in any area of counseling, including and particularly marriage counseling. His education is a BA in Communication, with a Masters in Biblical exegesis (that means interpretation kinda). Neither of those qualify him as an expert on marriage or on counseling in any way. In fact, he was a somewhat-Catholic until he met his wife Grace in his freshman year of college. He was a newbie Christian when he started his li’l home church plant in 1995, at the age of 25.
So he’s just another fundie who poses as an expert. But he’s very successful at it, thanks to Christians’ lack of discernment in picking their authority figures. They tend to think that certainty is an adequate substitute for correctness and factuality, and nobody’s more blustery than this guy. But as Amanda writes at Friendly Atheist in a review of his marriage book, Mark and Grace Driscoll have admitted that they were just play-acting the roles of happy, fulfilled marital partners for most of their marriage’s duration. They were faking it. In reality, for that whole first decade they were barely communicating at all, and when they did, often it was in the form of him using “harsh words,” her choosing “silence,” and both of them at all times going with dishonesty and “bitterness.”3
One of Mark Driscoll’s worst problems is that for that those ten years of him abusing his wife, shaming her to her core on a constant basis, and using her body as his Jesus-approved “penis home,” she was harboring a secret that was tearing her apart. She’d been a sexual assault victim before the two of them met, you see, and she knew perfectly well (as the daughter of a fundagelical pastor) that her only value to a fundagelical man lay in her “purity” — which is to say, in her virginity. Driscoll was already horrified that she hadn’t been a virgin when the two of them met, and it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to think that she had no assurance at all that he’d be a supportive partner to her if she told him about her victimization. When she finally told him, I hope that he realized what an absolutely horrible husband he’d been to her that she hadn’t been able to trust him with something that important.
To his slight credit, as Amanda relates at the link to the Friendly Atheist post above, Driscoll got into therapy with his wife and the two of them began to cobble together something a little healthier for them both. He doesn’t mention if it was real therapy or Christian-approved fake therapy, of course, and given his other opinions one doubts that he’s capable of opening himself up in a context of real therapy, much less recognizing the value of doing so.
That is why, in his November 1 post about how a couple can remain “best friends,” his description of the (probably-fictional) couple in his pastoral counseling session may well have been Mark and Grace themselves. But he glosses over his own marriage’s near-failure by describing their early catastrophic issues as “the fallout from sexual sin before our marriage” and just something they had to deal with as “a young couple.”
And that is why, in his November 9 post about “moving from roommates to soul mates,” he persists in defining “three marriage killers” in “our culture today” – which, in his opinion, are “casual dating, cohabitation, and contractual thinking.” That’s a very common fundagelical teaching about marriage, but he’s done every one of them himself. In the case of the third of those, he still thinks of marriage in shockingly utilitarian and self-serving ways. He doesn’t mention anything in the written part of that post about his own misogyny, control-lust, and objectification of women that might have caused him issues, though.
And that’s why his November 13 post is a standard-issue 3-point listicle (so beloved of fundagelical leaders–take a drink whenever you see one) describing what he thinks are the “three kinds of marriage.” These are, in order of greater approval, “back-to-back marriage,” which he criticizes as being not friendly enough, “shoulder-to-shoulder marriage,” which is based around the couple’s shared tasks of raising children and “serving the church,” which he pushes like someone who depends on a cadre of volunteers providing free labor, and which he criticizes as being friendly but not very romantically attached, and lastly “face-to-face marriage” which is of course the very best. He calls his marriage with Grace a “face-to-face marriage” that he owes entirely to “God’s grace,” not therapy or him getting his head out of his nether regions.
(And his description of how to move through these three types of marriage to the very best one is pure obnoxious grandstanding in and of itself. Women, watch sportsball games with your husbands to make friends with him! Men, put away your cell phones and somehow figure out how to ask your wives how they’re doing sometimes!)
Unsurprisingly, this November 13 blog post is also “adapted” from his previous books. Anything longer than a couple of paragraphs written to lead-up to a canned video is going to be. Take a drink when he admits that he’s just regurgitating old material.
Watching any Christian leader describe how to have a healthy relationship of any kind, much less a healthy marriage, is like watching a pair of kindergarteners play dress-up. They all base their ideas on basic party-line concepts–even Mark Driscoll, especially Mark Driscoll–and then try to one-up each other to sound ultra-Jesus-y and more hardcore than everyone else. That, in a nutshell, what purity culture is, and that’s where it came from and why it just keeps getting worse and worse the longer it straggles onward. That, in a nutshell, is why assault and abuse victims (like Grace Driscoll) feel they must keep silent about what happened to them.
But Christians’ base assumptions about relationships, about everything really, are simply wrong. That’s why Mark Driscoll has what sounds like an absolutely horrible marriage. That’s why he can’t possibly give real advice about marriage–regardless of what he calls his dumb book on the topic.
And that’s why Christian marriages fail–often, consistently, and generally in the same exact ways.
The only really happy marriages one finds in that end of the religion are marriages in which the participants either just naturally and luckily worked well within those rules, with the husbands particularly capable of behaving exactly as selflessly and as compassionately as the base assumptions say a Jesus-centered husband should, or where the couple mutually rewrote the rules to suit their own individual situation, and where the men in particular had a far healthier view of women than Mark Driscoll ever had, not that that’s difficult.
At heart, Christians’ ineffective and failure-dripping view of marriage reflects their general inability to engage with reality. Rachel Held Evans pins the tail on the misogynistic donkey when she writes, in reviewing his Real Marriage book, “I believe [evangelicals] all bear some responsibility for creating an environment in which controversial Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll can write a book about sex and marriage that tops the Amazon bestseller list.” Though his “best-seller” status might be somewhat quibble-able, the facts are that the teachings of right-wing Christianity are toxic for women and poisonous to healthy marriages.
Mark Driscoll didn’t make the game, though. At heart, he’s really just a player who realized early on how to get rich and powerful by exploiting and shining on the game that already existed in his religion–and who knew that his tribe wouldn’t question someone in his position about seriously alarming teachings.
Lord Snow Presides over Mark Driscoll’s terrible marriage advice by graciously lending him our comment section for the day, since he’s still totally a scaredy-cat about feedback.
What say you, Roll to Disbelieve?
What would you tell this sexist-for-Jesus?
1 A bulletin-board system, or BBS, was the forerunner to today’s online forum. A BBS is to forums what clickers are to remote controls.
2 Pro-Tip for Men Like Mark Driscoll: If your wife suddenly and abruptly loses all interest in sex after your wedding day, the reason for it is looking at you in the bathroom mirror every morning.
3 Bitterness is Christianese for anger that the Christian using the term thinks should have gone away by now.
Lord Snow Presides is our weekly off-topic post. I’ve started us off with a topic, but please feel free to talk about whatever you want! Pet pictures and stories are always welcome too.