The XX Factor

Evangelicals Are Standing Up to Their Own Sexist Leaders

Pastor Mark Driscoll as a guest on "The View," March 7, 2012.
Pastor Mark Driscoll as a guest on The View in 2012.

Photo by Donna Svennevik/ABC via Getty Images

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church has gained national notoriety for his sex-obsessed, hypermasculinized take on Christianity that mostly serves to justify the desires of men who believe they are entitled to completely submissive wives. Good news: Some evangelical Christians are speaking out against him. Dozens of evangelicals camped out in front of Mars Hill on Sunday, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, in order to call Driscoll out for his ugly behavior and particularly his views on women, saying he’s gone too far and needs to “acknowledge his sins and repent”:

“Mark Driscoll has sort of become the face of Christianity in Seattle. It’s insane, some of it,” said Bruce Hanson, who goes to church elsewhere. Kay Willette chimed in, adding, “Mark Driscoll is the Rush Limbaugh of Christianity, a bombastic big-mouth.”

Two members of Mars Hill’s Board of Advisers and Accountability have resigned in the past week as criticisms of Driscoll escalate. The latest incident drawing alarm is the revelation that Driscoll has been using a pseudonym to post on message boards, where he laments that “We live in a pussified nation” and that it’s full of “sensitive emasculated men.” Former members of the church that were protesting Driscoll told the Post-Intelligencer that they disapprove of how the pastor portrays women as “accessories in marriage” who exist just “to please their husbands.”

The protests are just the latest in a series of high-profile stories involving Driscoll, including accusations of plagiarism that were reported on by Ruth Graham in Slate last year. But they are also the latest in a series of high-profile instances of evangelical Christians standing up against members of their own church. 

Take, for instance, the evangelical group GRACE, a group founded by Billy Graham’s grandson Boz Tchividjian for the purpose of investigating how Christian institutions handle allegations of sexual abuse and how they support (or don’t) alleged victims. GRACE even investigated Bob Jones University, at the university’s request, though they were fired after their investigation proved aggressive (and then hired back again after a bout of bad publicity). 

GRACE is hardly the only example. Bill Gothard of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a major organization in hyperfundamentalist circles, was forced to resign his leadership position after more than 30 women accused him of sexual harassment and abuse. Similarly, Douglas Phillips of Vision Forum Ministries resigned and is now facing a lawsuit over his alleged improprieties with a younger woman that moved into his home as a nanny and close family friend. In both these examples, the support system for the alleged victims has come from evangelical Christian circles, with Christian bloggers standing up for and giving voice to the victims and Christian lawyers providing counsel in the suit against Phillips. 

Not that we should expect evangelical Christians to start burning their bras and demanding abortions on demand any time soon. Still, people who consider themselves believers have much more moral authority in the eyes of their fellow Christians than outsiders do, which means that they have a lot more power to hold fundamentalist leaders in check. There’s no reason to think that conservative Christianity is going to abandon its attachment to traditional gender roles any time soon, but it’s good to see that some evangelicals won’t accept the worst of what their leaders are feeding them.