Bob Jones, Mark Driscoll, and C.J. Mahaney, cont.

Part 1

John Jensen’s post about the criticism he’s gotten from other Christians for swearing got me thinking again about about the skewed moral priorities that often prevail in evangelical churches. Growing up, we were led to believe that all sorts of personal choices disqualified someone from being a “real” Christian – swearing, listening to “ungodly” music, voting a certain way, wearing certain clothes. Before I went to college, I honestly thought it was impossible to be a Christian and a Democrat.

But I was never taught it was impossible to be a good Christian and a racial separatist.

To the contrary, my experience was that fellow conservative Christians, white ones in particular, were extremely reluctant to call BJU’s opposition to interracial marriage what it so obviously was: blatant racism. They had no trouble saying they disagreed with the ban, that they believed in racial unity in Christ. But few people would go so far as to actually call the ban racist, much less make a real issue of it.

Instead people stressed that Bob Jones and others at BJU were our “brothers in Christ” and that they loved Jesus, loved the Gospel, and were working hard for the kingdom. Yes, they said, Bob Jones is wrong to oppose interracial marriage, but no one is perfect; we’re all sinners and we all make mistakes. All of us are wrong about something. Making a public issue out of BJU’s sin would be self-righteous. It would be wrongly attacking a fellow Christian and creating division and conflict in the church, making the church look bad to the secular world.

Besides, Bob Jones wasn’t really racist – he didn’t hate black people, he just honestly believed the Bible required segregation. BJU never went quite so far as to say “We hate blacks,” so the churches I attended not only did and said nothing to oppose their racism, they also supported BJU and affiliated institutions by purchasing their books, and holding BJU up as a good Christian university that good Christian families could send their kids to.

There are days I think BJ III would have had to put on a hood and burn a cross on Jesse Jackson’s front lawn to spark any serious uproar in white conservative Christian circles. Even then I think it might have been dicey.

Evangelical responses justifying Mark Driscoll’s hate speech or C.J. Mahaney’s autocratic leadership of SGM illustrate the exact same kind of thinking that allowed BJU’s ban on interracial relationships to stand for so long. Put simply, there’s a pattern of making excuses for fellow evangelicals, as well as a culture where certain “sins” are arbitrarily and bizarrely prioritized over others.

Saying “shit” gets you flack for being a bad example, not being “holy,” and being a “stumbling block” to others. But engaging in hate speech or abusive behavior that actually traumatizes people is apparently not a sufficiently bad example or “unholy” or “stumbling” enough to warrant public criticism. Anyone who disagrees will be accused of “libel” and “slander.”

I mean really, this is the same crowd that just months ago pitched very public tantrums over a video of Rob Bell asking questions about hell, and over Ann Voskamp’s erotic spiritual imagery. These folks were quick to warn of the spiritual danger of Bell’s and Voskamp’s writings (without having read them) and to paint them as stealth pagans.

Now this same crowd is accusing critics of libel and slander for pointing to a clear, public record of Mark Driscoll’s bigoted, bullying behavior, and for simply discussing countless compelling stories that point to SGM being a ministry that perpetrates and enables all sorts of abuses against its members.

The hypocrisy, the moral relativism, and double standards are quite blatant.

13 Comments

  1. I want to find more excuses to use the phrase “stealth pagans” in daily conversation.

    I just got back from a week at my parents’ house. If I hear the words “Mark Driscoll says…” one more time, I am going to scream. I try to pick my battles and present examples of Driscoll’s bad behaviour, but my mother’s response is always “When did he say that? Did he apologise?” She’s convinced that Driscoll has apologised for every instance of misogynistic idiocy he’s ever perpetrated, but that people just enjoy criticising him and don’t want to remember the apologies. I don’t think she’s cottoned on to the clear pattern of disgusting behaviour he’s exhibited over the years.

    • Well of course there are stealth pagans EVERYWHERE so you should have plenty of opportunities ;)

      Ugh, having to hear him being held up as a wonderful leader and constant excuses for his bad behavior would make me want to scream, too. Honestly – of course I don’t know about your mom – but I think with a lot of Christians, the problem is that they don’t want to see a pattern of disgusting behavior. They’d just rather not see it so they do anything to deflect or derail the conversation.

  2. Pingback: Bob Jones, Mark Driscoll, and C.J. Mahaney « Are Women Human?

  3. Bingo! You’re exactly right!!!

    • Thanks for the comment, Camille! I keep thinking that if someone wants to get away with really bad behavior as a conservative Christian, becoming a pastor is totally the way to do it. If they’re male, that is.

  4. Tim Johnson says:

    Joel – yet again you have stimulated my thinking about some very blatant hypocrisy. The church of Jesus Christ needs you – desperately. Never quit calling a spade a spade.

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Does anyone here know the ORIGINAL meaning of “Taking God’s Name In Vain”?

    It does NOT refer to cussing.

    The original application was “Claiming God’s Sanction for something NOT of God”, “Doing Evil and Claiming God’s Name”, “Using God’s Name to Sanction/Justify Evil.” Cussing was a distant second at best.

    However claiming Cussing was the primary-to-only meaning is VERY convenient.

  6. Very true. I think for a long time the church has been stuck, focused on the outward – drinking, swearing etc. While ignoring the far darker heart issues. The discussions on gender, hell and other taboo topics need to take the forefront so that change can begin to happen. But I think we like to see quick results – it is far easier to tell someone to stop a behavior than get them to examine where in their hearts that behavior comes from and how it is harmful.

    • Thanks for the comment, Joy, and welcome to the blog. I agree that a huge part of the problem in evangelicalism is an obsessive focus on outward conformity.

  7. Stealth Pagans? Openly pagan white skin worshippers of the southern united states led by the head pagan white skin worshipper Bob Jones.