Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A few random thoughts on Mark Driscoll (and his critics)

Mark Driscoll is the founder and, until recently, senior pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  He stepped down in the wake of allegations of bullying, plagiarism, possible financial improprieties, authoritarianism, and other flaws.  He leaves behind a megachurch that will take months if not years to heal.  As usual, he has supporters who believe he is being unjustly persecuted, and detractors who think he is the anti-Christ, Judas Iscariot and King Ahab all rolled into one.  Also as usual, the truth is most likely somewhere in the middle.

I was never a huge fan of Driscoll's; his raw sexism (he once referred to women as penis houses) and vicious homophobia ruined it for me.  He always struck me as an angry man, which makes it easy to believe the bullying charges may have some basis in realty.  But perhaps it would be helpful to move away from specifics and into generalities.

In general, it takes a certain type of personality to have the drive to build a megachurch.  I could never do it; I'm a shy, retiring, introverted. bookish. academic kinda guy.  I might do okay as a teacher in somebody else's megachurch, but the Type-A personality required to bring such  a church into existence; that's just not me.  And I deeply respect and admire those who do have the personality to make it happen.

At the same time, the reality is that often those same traits that make someone a super-leader also make them very difficult to live with.  Megachurch founders, and leaders of Fortune 100 corporations, often do not play well with others.  They often don't do things by consensus, and they frequently don't tolerate opposing viewpoints.  Nor could it be otherwise; it's those very traits that make them super-leaders in the first place.

So how surprising is it, then, when the founder of a very successful megachurch turns out to be a bully who thinks the rules don't apply to him.  And maybe, just maybe, the rest of us simply need to accept that reality.  I'm not saying that bullies shouldn't strive to do better; I'm just saying that sometimes they just are what they are.

This then takes us to the board of directors that forced him out.

That board is made up of people who, one assumes, mostly don't have the talents to start a megachurch of their own, and who therefore owe their positions and salaries to the efforts of someone who did.  How very strange it must be to be in the position of having to fire someone without whose work the megachurch from which he is being fired wouldn't exist.  It's almost as if, once the Constitution had been ratified, the country had told Jefferson, Madison and Monroe that their services were no longer needed.

I suppose that sometimes the good of the institution requires getting rid of people who, at an earlier stage, were necessary.  But I'm not sure I have the personality to do that either.

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