As usual, fellow Christians showed an excellent capacity for eating their own and shooting their wounded, and internet comments from Christians pretty much looked like YouTube comments with less cussing and more (abused) Bible verses. I mean who needs context anyway.
I sort of sighed at the whole thing. I’m pretty much jaded to internet hate from both Christians and everyone else, and the only thing that surprises me these days is grace.
Here are some observations.
1) I think most of us love to wait for someone to fail. Especially a well known pastor like Driscoll. There’s a certain surge of bowel-tickling righteousness that climbs our collective spine when a holy figure falls on his face, or even when a celebrity is caught smoking crack on video (until she dies, and then we mourn really loud). We get to implicitly say, “Look at him, I’m way better than that” or “If I were him, I would do this / not do this.” There’s a self-righteous Pharisee in all of us, and we use others’ failures to add points to our moral GPA.
2) Everyone presumes everything. When sensational events occur, suddenly everyone is a psychologist and a philosopher and an expert on anthropological development. Everyone knows exactly why Pastor Mark apologized, because it’s another marketing scheme. He’s not really sorry. His wife hates him. His church can’t fire him. And so on. I will also presume that all these people think they’re God and they can see inside a human brain.
3) Apologies aren’t good enough anymore; we want crucifixions. I have no idea if Pastor Mark meant his apology. That’s really between him and God, and perhaps up to his future actions. But I think we’re too quick to assume “He’s not really sorry.” I think what Pastor Mark did what was pretty icky, but he did apologize, very graciously, with humility and self-effacing awareness. Yet no one seems gracious enough to give this a chance — the wording isn’t good enough, he didn’t address this or that, he “already apologized in 2007” — and it only proves the old adage that you can’t make everyone happy. It seems Christians are even less happy, because they can weaponize their Bibles into pitchforks.
4) Pastor Mark is a human being who happens to have influence. And I don’t envy that, at all. I can’t imagine the enormous pressure and scrutiny he’s under, every second, every day. That’s not to throw him any pity, but I don’t think he ever imagined having this sort of social weight nor to have the media hang on his every word. And unlike twerking celebrities with DUIs and squirmy Twitters and unrepentant childish behavior, Pastor Mark asked for forgiveness. In return, he got a slap in the face, mostly from fellow Christians. And this has to hurt pretty bad.
I met Pastor Mark once at a conference, back in 2011. I was going through a really dark depression at the time. I saw that Pastor Mark was absolutely exhausted, and he seemed to be really apologetic about himself the whole time. He must’ve said sorry a dozen times during his sermon for his past behaviors. And I really believe he meant it. I believe he loves his wife and kids and he loves Jesus. His sermon really encouraged me. Since that time, I’ve sort of liked Pastor Mark, quite a lot. I don’t agree with all he says — when do we ever? — but I’ve come to see him as a brother in Christ, and he needs grace like we all do.
I think our opinions of people change when we actually meet them, when we can see them up close and hear the shaking in their voice and see the uncertainty in their eyes. I think our opinions change when we hear peoples’ dreams and see their hopes for their kids and watch them do something they love. I think every person has a story that counts and their feelings matter and they really want you to believe they’re sorry when they say they’re sorry, and they would like for you to give them a chance to hear them out instead of waiting for them to blow it up. I think we all fail in some pretty miserable ways and the big difference is that most people won’t ever hear about it, and we only need to say sorry to a few people, and we won’t get beat up by all these strangers who claim they love Jesus. I think if we all extended a little bit of what Jesus extended to us, then maybe our online communities could look different than any other place in the world, and we could cheer for our pastors to be better pastors, but more importantly to be better husbands and better leaders and better human beings. I would do that for you, and I hope you would do that for me too.
I think if we really saw someone as God’s creation, we could probably surprise them with grace instead.