Last week, in a sermon on marriage, Mark Driscoll made a comment that launched him to internet infamy (again). Buckle up, here we go:
“And some women – you’re a nag. You’re disrespectful. You’re quarrelsome. Being married to you is like a life sentence, and the guy’s just scratching on his wall every day, ‘One more day. Just one more day… Proverbs talks about certain women – they’re like a dripping faucet. You ever tried to sleep with a dripping faucet? Plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk. It’s what we use to torture people who are prisoners of war.”
Okay, so. Kind of rude, and exactly the sort of “humor” people should expect from his preaching style. But did it really deserve all the blowback it got on the internet?
One of the things that I love about the internet is the ability to engage in conversations about ideas. To hear someone’s perspective, consider it, and formulate your own response. But sometimes it devolves from interesting (if intense) conversations to nit-picking and name calling. We’re like snotty junior highers jeering and throwing popcorn at the rival team’s fans. This does nothing to build up the body of Christ. Instead, it stains it, crumbles it, and wears it down like (dare I say) an open faucet dripping down the foundation of a house.
Here’s what bugs me about the reaction to Driscoll’s latest statement. While a person could certainly take Driscoll to task for his tone (if they considered it their personal responsibility to police his speaking style), there isn’t really an idea here to be responded to. Or at least not a controversial one. Driscoll’s saying that when people act like quarrelsome nags, they make life unpleasant for those around them.
Now, perhaps Driscoll’s detractors smell something else behind this statement. Perhaps they object to the fact that he aimed his comment at women, when men are just as capable of being a big, whiny, pain in the patootie. Perhaps they suspect Driscoll’s definition of “nagging” is too wide; that he would consider perfectly reasonable questions, comments, and requests a “quarrelsome” assault on male dignity. Perhaps they equate encouraging women not to disrespect their husbands with an approach to gender roles that they do not agree with.
And perhaps they’re right. I am aware that Driscoll has said some pretty rude, insensitive things in his day–far worse than the faucet comment–which is why I don’t listen to his podcasts or read his books. I mean, why would I? I’m not Reformed, I haven’t owned flannel or skinny jeans since Cobain, and I was that annoyingly pious thirteen-year-old girl who went up to her teachers after class and told them that they really should apologize for that unkind thing they said to a student. So yeah, the only thing I’m likely to get from authoritarian, shock-jock preaching is high blood pressure.
But. If people are concerned about problematic thought processes behind the obnoxious but relatively innocuous “dripping faucet” comment, then let’s turn off the tap and address the actual issues. Taking the cheap shot just cheapens the argument. There’s nothing there to respond to, and if we do, the whole thing devolves into neener-neener name-calling and holier-than-thou tattle-tale-ing.
Can I make a gross generalization? Christians have become WAY too reactive. Whisper the name “Driscoll,” and half the blogosphere begins to sound like a pack of pissed-off Rottweilers straining at their chains. Murmur “Bell,” and the alarming speed with which people start whipping out their powdered wigs and magistrate gowns makes you wonder if you should suggest he seek asylum in Amsterdam, before he gets sent to the stake.
I’ve heard many Christians say that we want to be known for what we’re for, instead of what we’re against. But we really stink at that. It’s like we’ve lost our redemptive imagination. A nation at war doesn’t build and innovate–or if they do, it’s weapons used to tear down and destroy, not build up and enhance. So why are we Christians constantly charging into battle with one another? Is it possible that we are profiting from it in some unholy way?
Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t call out destructive patterns in our Christian community. We should, with great love, consideration, and respect. I’m not saying we shouldn’t engage in robust discussions about theological disagreements. Approached with gentleness and humility, they can help the body of Christ to grow.
But like I said earlier, taking the cheap shot just cheapens the discussion. Getting your tribe all whipped up about the last outrageous thing your theological frenemy said might make you feel self-righteous and powerful (battle usually does), but it will only deepen divisions in the church, and ultimately, the only blood we’re drawing is Christ’s.
Let’s beat those swords into plowshares, and plant something worthwhile.