Why Christians shouldn’t celebrate Mark Driscoll’s downfall

c. 2014 Religion News Service

Mark_Driscoll(RNS) The hyper-masculine minister Mark Driscoll has been effectively neutered.

The Seattle megachurch pastor who announced Sunday (Aug. 24) that he was stepping down for at least six weeks while church leaders review charges he abused his power, will likely never write another book. If he does, far fewer will read its words.

He will likely never again jet around the country speaking to tens of thousands week after week. And even if he returns to the pastorate — which, I imagine is likely — he’ll ascend the stage a shadow of his former self. The glory days of Mars Hill and its celebrity founder are irrevocably behind them both.

How should Christians respond to such a spectacle?

Part of me, I admit, wants to pump my fist and dance ‘round the kitchen. For more than a decade, Driscoll has angered the masses by spewing offensive, misogynistic, and homophobic comments. And in the past year, his ministry morphed into an all-out grease fire amid charges of plagiarizing in books, bullying and shunning former staff members, and spending $210,000 in ministry money for personal gain.

Yes, part of me wants to pop bottles and strike up the band. I want to rejoice like one person in my Twitter feed who responded to the announcement, “Good riddance, Mark Driscoll.” But as I’ve given it more thought, I cannot celebrate Driscoll’s downfall, and I don’t think Christians should either.

This may seem like a precarious opinion in light of such a long history of ministerial malfeasance. But I recall Solomon’s words in Proverbs 24:17: “Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.” As the son of a warlord king, Solomon had witnessed more fallen foes than he could count on his fingers and toes. Each defeat meant more wealth for his country, more security for his people. Even still, Solomon says that wise people resist the urge to celebrate in such moments.


Perhaps Solomon knew that releasing the animosity we harbor towards others is the only way the offended can be truly liberated. Maybe he knew, as Henri Nouwen said, “Joy and resentment cannot coexist.” Too often we forfeit all manner of joy, like the elder brother in Jesus’ powerful parable of the prodigal, because we want those who’ve hurt us or others to pay, pay, pay. But what we often find when we thirst for retribution is that the pain of the offended never fully quenches. We pant for more payment, more pain, more shame to satisfy our anger, hurt, disappointment. As the root of bitterness grows deep, its sour fruit hangs heavy.

There is no doubt that Driscoll should have stepped down — and for a lot longer than six measly weeks. I say this not because I believe in the myth of the perfect preacher who resides in an ivory tower and lives more righteously than others. But rather, because his patterns of behavior seem to illustrate instability in his own emotional state. I hope he receives help from a professional. (I know firsthand the difference that counseling can make.)

So in the wake of this news, I find myself relieved but not gleeful. I’m relieved the spiritual abuse is beginning to end. I’m relieved that I won’t have to wake to another one of Mark’s hurtful comments trickling down my Twitter feed. I’m relieved that I won’t have to tell another non-Christian friend, “He doesn’t speak for most Christians.” I’m relieved, even as I grieve that the story did not have a happier ending.

Yes, I am relieved but I cannot rejoice. For when we celebrate the downfall of another, we wake to realize we are also celebrating our own.

(Jonathan Merritt is the senior columnist for Religion News Service.)

Religion News Service

RNS is owned by Religion News LLC, a non-profit, limited liability corporation based at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Its mission is to provide in-depth, non-sectarian coverage of religion, spirituality and ideas.

Leave a Reply

10 Comments on "Why Christians shouldn’t celebrate Mark Driscoll’s downfall"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Jamie Hamrick

Shame on you Merritt. On this website it is easy to see who has the phobia. Driscoll aside, tired of seeing UMR agenda bashing conservatives. Just because we read the Bible differently we are seen as people of hate. Homosexuality has nothing to do with salvation and grace–it is available to all gay or straight. As an evangelical, I am tired of being labeled.

George Nixon Shuler

Ah, so then you have taken position we should perform same sex marriages and ordain LGBTQ clergy.

Larry Buxton

My knowledge of Driscoll is minimal. I’m simply struck by the proximity of terms used to describe him: abusive, offensive, homophobic, bullying, shunning … and hyper-masculine. (One of these is not like the others.” –Sesame Street) I don’t know about rejoicing and gloating, but if we recognize that masculinity should be clearly separated from the other descriptors — and if a person who is abusive, offensive, homophobic, bullying and shunning is removed from a leadership position in the Body of Christ — then I for one am rejoicing.

I know very little about the gentleman in question. Appears that neither of you like (“respect” may be a better word) him. Don’t know anything about Mr. Merritt either–except that he is gloating about the fall of Mr. Driscoll and appears to have at least as big an ego as Mr. Driscoll is purported to have. Seems to me Mr. Driscoll is wise in that he has stepped aside and apparently is going into a time of deep reflection. May his time spent in communication and reflection with Father/Son/Holy Spirit be rich and well spent. John Calvin isn’t all bad… Read more »
Wes Andrews

Thanks james. Perhaps I should have written a more harsh VERSION of Calvinist theology…. thanks for pointing out that I could be more clear. Not all Calvinism is harsh. John Wesley and George Whitfield seemed to be respectful toward one another even amidst the harsh debates between Calvinists and others at the time.

William Eastwood

I suppose he should change his name to Marked Driscoll.

Wes Andrews

While he teaches from a more “harsh” Calvinist theology that wasn’t the issue. His theology did not get in his way, it was his ego. Jonathan Merritt is highly unlikely to read these comments, but Jonathan the term homophobia is a non-term. No one is afraid of homosexuals. And yes, on your way to tell us not to gloat, that’s all you do in your article.

bill krill

Well, Wes, yer just wrong…and you sound a lot like Mr. Driscoll. “Homophobia IS a real term, exhibited by the ignorant.

Wes Andrews

bill, we will have to remain in disagreement. I suppose you are correct. It is a “term,” but which is rhetorical, designed to make a point, but it’s inaccurate. The breakdown of the word doesn’t make sense. NO ONE is afraid of people who see themselves as something other than heterosexual. It’s just an attack epithet that is common with progressive conversation. When a progressive doesn’t like the dialog of the other they attack with derogatory words and comparisons.

Stephen Rankin

I agree with your main point. I still think you spent too much time rehearsing Driscoll’s sins on the way to that point.

%d bloggers like this: