Mark Driscoll, the former pastor of the now-defunct Seattle megachurch Mars Hill, became famous for his evangelical brand of toxic masculinity, once characterizing wives as “penis homes.” He was forced to resign in 2014 following accusations of bullying, plagiarism and misuse of church funds. Just a few years later, he’s moved to Arizona, started a new church, and the religion and spirituality website Patheos has chosen to host his blog, giving him top billing on Sunday’s home page.
Patheos, which attracts 15 million page views per month, advertises itself as “the website of choice for the millions of people looking for credible and balanced information about religion.” A representative for Patheos declined to comment on why it decided to prominently promote Driscoll, and Driscoll did not respond to repeated inquiries.
Many evangelicals were horrified when Driscoll’s postings on a Mars Hill discussion board (using the pseudonym William Wallace II) from 2001 were discovered and published by Christian writer and blogger Matthew Paul Turner in 2014. Here’s a sampling:
· Driscoll complained about “p—ified” Christian leaders and blamed men’s porn addiction in part on boys being “beaten into submission” by their mothers, and later girlfriends and wives.
· He referred to a man dating “some gal left on the shelf long past her expiration date just like dear old mom.” If women become pastors and heads of homes, he said, then “hell looks like a good place because at least a man is in charge.”
· Driscoll repeatedly turned down women’s responses, saying, “I know many of the women will not agree, and they like Eve should not speak on this matter” and “I … do not answer to women. So your questions will be ignored.”
· At one point he recommends a few Bible verses to a woman asking a question and adds, “To learn them, ask your father or husband. If you have neither, ask your pastor. If she is a female, find another church. If you are the pastor, quit your job and repent.”
· Driscoll wrote that Adam “was cursed for listening to his wife and every man since has … [had to] sit quietly by and watch a nation of men be raised by bitter penis envying burned feministed single mothers.”
· In another post, he says “any man that thinks and acts like a woman because he thinks that makes him a better man” is a “male lesbian” and a “woman who thinks and acts like a man because she believes it makes her equal to men;” Is a “feman.” He then declared men under the leadership of a female pastor as “rock free” and called feminism “the enemy of every man, every woman, every child, and God Almighty.”
A common defense of Driscoll is that he should be absolved for these comments (and his noxious anti-gay venom, which I don’t have room for here) since it happened 17 years ago. His defenders also characterize his vague apologies — only proffered when his livelihood was on the line — as repentance for his misogyny. By any basic understanding of Christian repentance, they aren’t.
Moreover, if Driscoll had talked about Jews the way he spoke about women even one time, let alone for decades, would anyone think we should overlook it?
“Patheos publishes a wide variety of points of view,” popular Christian writer Rachel Held Evans told me. “But this is not about point of view. He has said terrible things about women and had to leave his church for abusing church members. This is not just a guy who is a Calvinist, and I don’t like Calvinism. This is an abusive person.”
Patheos’ decision emerges as we witness the belated reckonings of powerful misogynist men whose behavior was ignored and enabled all in the name of the almighty dollar. Driscoll brings with him half a million Twitter followers and status as a New York Times best-selling author, but also a long history of sexism and outright misogyny.
Driscoll was the shock jock of American evangelicalism, never far from a controversy. Several years after the notorious “William Wallace II” postings, Driscoll publicly complained that American Protestant culture was a world of “chicks and some chickified dudes with limp wrists.” In a 2006 interview, he blasted the church for producing “a bunch of nice, soft, tender, chickified church boys. … 60 percent of Christians are chicks … and the 40 percent that are dudes are still sort of chicks.”
Driscoll went on to write in a booklet on church leadership that women were unfit for church leadership “because they are more gullible and easier to deceive than men” and warned anyone upset by this statement to not “get all emotional like a woman.” Also in 2007, Driscoll preached a sermon with the following story:
“A woman at Driscoll’s church told him, ‘My husband has always wanted [oral sex] but I’ve refused to.’ I said, ‘So go home and tell your husband that you were in a Bible study today and that God has convicted you of sin. And repent, and perform oral sex on your husband. And tell him that Jesus Christ demands you to do so.’ ”
It’s also been noted that Driscoll likes to invoke the Bible to tell women to “serve” their husbands with oral sex, but has no such teaching for men.
As pastor, Driscoll wrote in a church booklet “Porn-Again Christian” that a man who masturbates is “bordering on homosexual activity” unless he does so in the presence of his wife. He asked his Facebook followers to share their stories about “the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you have ever witnessed.”
In 2012, Driscoll went on a sexist rant in an interview with a British radio host who was married to a female pastor. When the host disagreed with Driscoll’s hostile analysis of female leadership, Driscoll called him a coward and asked: “Is God like a mom who just embraces everyone? Or is he like a father who also protects, and defends, and disciplines? If you won’t answer the question, I think I know the answer.”
The misogyny train kept chugging right along into 2013, when Driscoll and his wife explained in their book on marriage that Christian women were allowed to get cosmetic surgery, but only if it was to make them more attractive to their husbands.
It wasn’t until 2014, with his position as a celebrity pastor hanging in the balance following accusations of plagiarism and authoritarian leadership style bordering on abuse that he apologized for the “William Wallace II” postings. Finally, after Driscoll resigned from his church and was disinvited from a major evangelical conference, Christianity Today reported in 2015 that he said he was sorry for the “perception about what I think about women.”
It’s not a “perception,” it’s a reality. The only difference between Driscoll’s public comments and his secret Internet rantings is tone and language. What seemed most offensive to many evangelicals was “William Wallace II’s” potty mouth, not his underlying view of women, which is apparent in many of Driscoll’s public comments and teaching. Driscoll’s misogyny went largely unchecked, and in the end was not the cited cause of his downfall.
Patheos has promoted a video of Driscoll and his wife holding hands, in which Driscoll said he hopes to get his Bible teaching out to as many people as possible. His wife, Grace, says it will promote material on Jesus, marriage, parenting and content for women.
One shudders to think of the abuse suffered by what wives, daughters and other women in the lives of men who follow Driscoll’s teachings have endured.
“Driscoll spiritualized misogyny,” Turner told me. “His abuse and misogyny wasn’t just affecting the women who walked into his office or worked for the church. It infected anyone who sat in pews of his church, or the churches of the many pastors Driscoll taught at major evangelical conferences. The number of lives affected by his view of women is incalculable because he had such enormous influence for so long. ”
Any outlet that promotes him as a respectable teacher is as complicit in our culture’s misogyny as other abusers’ enablers.
But what do I know? I’m just a woman.
Kirsten Powers is a D.C.-based writer and political commentator. Follow her on Twitter at @KirstenPowers.