Mark Driscoll responds to 'Effemigate'

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Well, I have to say that I'm surprised. As a result of Rachel's post, I think Mars Hill Church must have received a lot of emails this week - not to mention the many blog posts I've spotted in addition to those I linked in my previous post. What I'm surprised about is that we have a public response, of a sort.

It's not really an apology. It provides an 'explanation' of why Driscoll asked that question on Facebook last week and I think it does miss the point a bit in doing so. So a man explained to Driscoll that he was put off church because the worship leader at one he visited was "effeminate". To put it bluntly, in my mind that doesn't point to problems within the church. Why treat so many in the church with disrespect in order to fall in line with cultural stereotypes of masculinity? Such behaviour isn't consistent with Jesus's attitude towards ingrained cultural norms. As well as a reinforcement that Driscoll feels distinct gender roles in the church, society and the home are important, the post is also a major plug for his upcoming book and website.

In asking "Gender: Is it a socially constructed reality or a God-given identity?" he seems to suggest that the two are mutually exclusive. I disagree and believe that while it is a God-given identity to the individual, many facets of what we see as 'gender' and what it means to us are socially constructed. I also believe that it is not wrong to challenge translations of the Bible which refer only to men and do not use language inclusive of humankind when this is plainly what is intended. Looking to what the Bible says about gender identity and God should enable us to see through societal constructions and I really hope that in exploring the issue further on his new website, Driscoll will look into this (I have a feeling this may be a hope too far).

So what's good about it? I'm happy that he admitted he has been spoken to by elders in the church and told to address these issues more effectively, because it's important that leaders are accountable and can be encouraged to change problematic behaviour by those they work with. I know that accountability was a concern for many who have been upset by his remarks. I was pleased by the acknowledgement of the enormity of gender issues in the church and in theology as a very wide-ranging matter which needs to be taken seriously, not reduced to throwaway comments on Facebook. There was also acknowledgement of the cultural problems on which he bases many of his opinions - that according to some studies and reports, young men today are allegedly slow to take responsibility, immature and unreliable, contributing to toxic relationships, shirking the duties of fatherhood.

I don't think it's wrong to want to address this and I absolutely believe that churches should be encouraging maturity, responsibility, Godly behaviour and respect for women in men. But I don't believe that this has to go hand in hand with reinforcement of 'roles' and stereotypes which, when it comes down to it, are rooted in modern American culture. I think it is possible to do this in a positive way. Interestingly, Driscoll asks:

"How can the church compel men to rise up without pushing women down?"

I think many people would welcome deeper dialogue from him regarding this as it's been a sticking point in the past. It's also one of the most important questions facing Christianity today, with the patriarchal movement gaining adherents and the continued marginalization of over half the church. I know I probably won't agree with many of the conclusions Driscoll will come to when he goes into more detail about gender issues, but I hope for a more measured approach on his part.

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