The double standard at work: Anthony Bradley on Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans

WORLD Magazine’s Anthony Bradley, slamming the campaign by Rachel Held Evans (RHE) against Driscoll’s bullying, perfectly exemplifies these tendencies to enable hateful behavior and attack anyone who dares to challenge it:

One sign of the declining state of Christianity in America is the way in which believers publicly slander one another, which can do violence to love and undermine the witness of the Church to nonbelievers. A recent example occurred when a Christian blogger took offensive [sic] to a comment made by a prominent pastor, and then, sadly, the blogger’s rant went viral on the internet.

Dear Anthony Bradley: let me assure you, Mark Driscoll’s repeated, public misogyny is what’s doing violence to love and undermining the witness of the Church to nonbelievers. Evangelicals who are trying to hold him accountable for his speech are doing your church a huge favor.

Also, did we read the same post by Rachel? She gave a measured recounting of Mark’s long-standing pattern of verbal abuse and called on other Christians to take responsibility to end bullying behavior and stand up for the least of these. I’m struggling to see how anything she wrote counts as a “rant.” But hey, if you want to read a rant, you can check out my post on the subject.

Just goes to show you how taking even the most measured tone when calling someone out is no protection whatsoever from someone trying to derail a discussion with a tone argument.

Bradley claims that people dislike Driscoll because he “[speaks] boldly against feminism in our society and paganism in the media. Well, guilty as charged on the first count, but paganism in the media? Is there a cabal of Wiccan newscasters I don’t know about?

He continues: “I am not here to defend Driscoll’s post and would personally challenge him over what he wrote.” He makes no attempt to elaborate why he would privately challenge Driscoll over what he wrote, and apparently he’s not so concerned about that: “My concern is how Christians handle conflict with other Christians in public.”

In sum: Bradley would handle a conflict with Driscoll in private, but feels no qualms about taking a conflict with RHE public. And his conflict with RHE is that he disagrees with her decision to make her criticism of Mark Driscoll public. That’s not confusing or contradictory at all!

And I suppose gender has nothing to do with the fact that Bradley considers Driscoll, and not RHE, worthy of the deference of a completely private correction. Now, Bradley says he emailed RHE to express his disagreement with her approach. But she never replied to him, and obviously women owe men with whom they’re not acquainted replies to their out-of-the-blue emails. Clearly Bradley had no choice but to write about her on the internets!

Funny how Bradley doesn’t say anything about privately emailing Driscoll about the post that started this in the first place, given that he claims he would privately challenge Driscoll over it. Funny how he so clearly approves of the fact that Driscoll “speaks boldly,” but has his knickers in a twist over a woman speaking out in a similarly bold fashion against Driscoll’s hate. Nah, couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that RHE is a woman voicing a strong opinion on the internet.

There is nothing loving about calling a pastor a “bully” – that is, “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.” That is a serious charge.

And Driscoll doesn’t fit that definition of a bully how, exactly…?

While it is more than reasonable to understand why someone would take issue with Driscoll’s post, Evans’ way of responding cannot and should not be encouraged. What was even more disturbing was the way in which many other believers jumped on the slander bandwagon to feed on the carnage once it went viral. [Emphasis mine]

Again, the double standard is amazing in its total shamelessness. Driscoll calling on people to make fun of effeminate men is barely worth a word, but RHE and others calling it the latest in a pattern of public bullying is not simply slander, but carnage. Good grief.

Bradley goes so far as to completely redefine slander and libel in criticizing RHE’s posts:

Jacob W. Ehrlich…explains that because of the oral culture of the world of the Bible there is no difference between slander and libel in christianity. And according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, slander in the Bible is understood as an “accusation maliciously uttered, with the purpose or effect of damaging the reputation of another. As a rule it is a false charge…but it may be a truth circulated insidiously and with a hostile purpose.”

Interestingly, some defenders of SGM have been sharing an article by Tim Keller and David Powlison that similarly redefines “slander” based on a literal translation of biblical Hebrew, taking it entirely out of its current linguistic, legal, and cultural context. These SGM apologists use this argument to claim that not only are Brent’s documents slander, simply discussing them or passing them on is also slander.

So slander now simply means to say or discuss anything that reflects negatively on another person’s reputation, no matter how true it may be, and slander is now the same thing as libel. In other news, Hebrew is now English and we live in the 4th century BCE. The more you know!

Evans’ slanderous post also represents one of the things that God finds detestable, “a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community” (Proverbs 6:19). Additionally, the Bible teachers that if someone offends us we should go to the person directly first (Matthew 18:15-20).

Christians publicly defaming the character of other Christians by name is not the way of love. But Bradley publicly calling RHE a “false witness,” accusing her of libel AND slander, and “stirring up” conflict and dissension is somehow totally different RHE calling Driscoll a bully.

Thanks to the dissension that has now been stirred up, atheist websites are applauding Evans’ response to Driscoll. What type of Christianity are we displaying before the world if slander is our response to the words of leaders we find offensive?” Evans maintains that “Mark’s bullying is unacceptable,” and I would add that so is ungodly public speech against another Christian.”

Calling someone a bully is ungodly speech, but calling people “effeminate anatomically male” is NOT ungodly public speech? And apparently in Bradley’s world, nontheists are just sitting around waiting for Christians to stir shit up with each other. Wrong again, sir. People inside and outside the church applaud RHE because she had the courage and integrity to stand up to an incredibly influential man in her community, despite the potential cost to herself, and state clearly that his harmful behavior needs to stop. We applaud her because she chose to stand up for people who are being hurt by Driscoll’s bigotry, instead of siding with those who use their power to oppress, as so many other influential Christians do, whether through silence and complicity, or by actively enabling and making excuses for abuse as Bradley does.

Anthony Bradley needs to ask himself what kind of Christianity he’s displaying before the world when he argues that Driscoll’s behavior merits only a private rebuke, while RHE’s call out of his behavior is “ungodly.” From where I stand, the kind of Christianity he’s displaying is one that shelters abusers and silences survivors and those who are in solidarity with them.

10 Comments

  1. Bradley’s slam against RHE is disturbing, not to mention it reeks of male superiority and a dose of “Shut the hell up, woman!” Ugh.

  2. Libel, by definition, is an untrue statement. If it is true, it is not libel. However, accusing someone of libel, when they have not committed libel, is libel. Dr. Bradley, as a scholar/professor, should know that. And, I believe he does.

    However, the denomination which Driscoll heads, Acts 29, as well as Resurgence and other organizations controlled by Driscoll, via speaking engagements and “Boot Camps”, for years has provided Dr. Bradley a sounding board and an audience far greater than his college or seminary classroom ever did. So it should come as no surprise that he might be beholden to Driscoll. But Dr. Bradley’s outrageous accusations, lead one to seriously question his lack of judgment, or if he will say anything to be part of the “good ‘ol boys” network. It is very disappointing.

    Dr. Bradley, before now, enjoyed a reputation as a scholar and an academic beholden to no man, and aloof from the squabbles and power-brokering of the celebrity-driven superstar “pastors.” It is sad to see that reputation tarnished by an ill-informed defense of a bully. Shame.

    • Given Anthony Bradley’s elite position in the increasingly lucrative world of Driscoll’s Acts 29 and Gospel Coalition speaking tours, I would never expect Bradley to have the courage to call out Driscoll on his bullying.

      But to actually appear to stand against those that call Driscoll out for his repeated bullying reminds me of the weak school yard boys that would accompany bullies and give them the platform that gave the bullies the sordid satisfaction they got out of bullying.

      Those weaklings were desperately wanting the bully’s approval.

      I have been an admirer of Bradly – he has tarnished my admiration of him.

  3. My mother just was telling me how she could understand the reasons behind the Japanese internment camps, so…I don’t even know. Maybe it’s just that we want to be liked by the people who make the rules, and the people that make the rules are the people in power.

    So much of the vocal, public, media Christianity is so saturated in power I cannot see how it and Jesus are in any way compatible.

    • So much of the vocal, public, media Christianity is so saturated in power I cannot see how it and Jesus are in any way compatible.

      Yes. Absolutely. Well said.

  4. As many have pointed out, Bradley’s suggestion that Rachel Held Evans is libelous is no different than Evans calling Driscoll a Bully. The pot is calling the kettle black.

    How can a Christian (Evans) calling another Christian (Driscoll) a bully, which many think he is, be harmful to the testimony of the Church, but a Christian (Bradley) calling another Christian (Evans) libelous is ok? Even Bradley certainly must recognize the inconsistency.

    Even World Magazine is known for its willingness to call a spade a spade when valid criticism of Christian public figures is warranted.

    What I can’t figure out, is how it Bradley’s “Libel is not love” commentary makes World Magazine, but Dricoll’s awful Facebook comment did not – especially after C.J.Mahaney steps down after years of accusations of being an arrogant bully (which is finally noted By World Mag as news August 13, almost 2 months after the fact)

    • What I can’t figure out, is how it Bradley’s “Libel is not love” commentary makes World Magazine, but Dricoll’s awful Facebook comment did not – especially after C.J.Mahaney steps down after years of accusations of being an arrogant bully (which is finally noted By World Mag as news August 13, almost 2 months after the fact.

      That is an excellent question, Thinker. And I didn’t know World Mag had kept mum on the CJ issue until now. Very interesting.

  5. Apostrophil says:

    I just found this blog and read your article, and there are no words to express how grateful I am for your clear and fearless writing, Grace. Although I have only recently heard of Mark Discroll & Co., I grew up in a church “pastored” by a classic bully. The same patterns emerge, no matter what creed the bully follows. To see your analysis of one enabler’s ugly attempt to stifle truth and honest discussion–wow, what a breath of fresh air. I don’t even know you, and I want to hug you. You just made a big difference in this young woman’s heart. Blessings on you.

    • Thanks for the comment, Apostrophil! And welcome to the blog :) I’m really glad to hear that this blog spoke to your experiences! I know what a relief it’s been for me to hear people honestly name problems in the church that no one else seemed to be talking about, so I can definitely relate.