If you are not familiar with Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church in Seattle, you should know that many have whistle-blown his church and tactics for many years now. Yet he is touted by fans as one of the few leaders that can draw in a godless crowd of Millennials. Here’s an overview of the history of the Mark Driscoll controversy. This is the same Driscoll who was recently caught paying to put his book on the NYT Bestseller list, who defending himself saying lying wasn’t immoral, just unwise. You may also google search “Mars Hill survivor” stories as well as keep an ear out for the QUESTION MARK protest this weekend.
Today’s guest post is from Savvy Wolfson. This is her personal story of how following Driscoll’s advice damaged her marriage. You can also read her critique of John Piper’s comments on domestic violence also published on FreeAtLast. John Piper is known as a mentor of Mark Driscoll.
Note: This post contains quotes that are sexually abusive in nature.
When my husband and I were newlyweds, we had a lot of learning to do. I’m not talking about the typical, “I needed to calm down about how he squeezed toothpaste” newlywed spiel. I mean that we were entrenched in a deadly Christian culture that bombarded us with abusive advice, unaware that it scarred me and damaged our relationship.
One source of advice was the Neo-Reformed, celebrity pastor Mark Driscoll. We liked him because he would talk about Jesus in a hip way. If you wanted a fundamentalist sermon about sex without the embarrassment that the older generation might bring to the table, Mark Driscoll was your guy. Within a few months of being married, I listened to all of Driscoll’s “Peasant Princess” series on Song of Solomon. In it, Driscoll was in his element as he called upon husbands and wives to do sexual acts for each other, with Song of Solomon as his proof text. Unfortunately, he also laid out severe consequences for husbands and wives (but mostly wives) who were hesitant at any time in the bedroom…ever. For example, he explained why most couples need to have sex every day in the following way:
“The average married couple is intimate two to three times a week and the average married man takes care of himself secretly, privately on the side usually with the accompaniment of pornography three to four times a week. So what the means is: even in marriage the average man is living a secret life more often than when he is with his wife. So, statistically, that would seem to indicate that the average couple should probably be together about every day.” (Peasant Princess: My Beloved, My Friend)
According to Driscoll, the average man has sex addictions. His wife then needs to cater to these sex addictions to have a healthy marriage bed. This is a marriage where one spouse conforms to the other spouse, instead of two individuals who are living in Jesus’ freedom together. If a wife was too tired for sex, Driscoll told her that she wouldn’t be too tired to get up if the fire alarm went off (Peasant Princess: My Beloved, My Friend, 22:50). And in one sermon, Driscoll bragged about how he counseled a woman who had never given oral sex:
[Reads Song of Solomon 2:3] Men, I am glad to report to you that oral sex is biblical. Amen? [Amens and laughter] The wife performing oral sex on the husband is biblical. God’s men said…Amen. Ladies, your husbands appreciate oral sex. They do. So, serve them, love them well. It’s biblical, right here. We have a verse. “The fruit of her husband is sweet to her taste and she delights to be beneath him.” I’ll tell you a story, if you don’t tell anyone else. [Laughter] Of a man who started attending our church because of oral sex. [Laughter] So many of you women come to church, I think in your country [Scotland] it’s 60 or 70%, “My husband won’t come to church he doesn’t have any interest in the things of God and doesn’t’ see why church would apply to him.” We had a woman like that come to our church, she became a Christian, her husband was not a Christian. He hated the church, wanted nothing to do with the church. She kept browbeating him about Jesus. “You need to get saved. You’re gonna burn in hell.” He had no interest in that. So finally I was teaching a class on sex, and she said, “Oh, so oral sex on a husband is what a wife is supposed to do.” I said “Yeah.” She said, “My husband’s always wanted that but I’ve refused him.” I went to 1 Peter 3. I said “The Bible says that if your husband is not a Christian that you are to win him over with deeds of kindness. [Laughter] 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 [Laughter] and perform oral sex on your husband and tell him that Jesus—Jesus Christ—commands you to do so. The next week, the man showed up at church. [Laughter, clapping] He came up to me, and said, “Uh, you know, this is a really good church.” That handing out tracts on the street thing—there’s a better way to see revival, I assure you. (Excerpt from Sex: A Study of the Good Bits of Song of Solomon, 23:38-25:54)
It should go without saying, but God requires insatiable sex drives and oral sex from no one.
And then Driscoll degraded men. He implied that men are so driven by sex that they’ll change their religion so that they can get blow jobs. Was St. Peter really talking about peters?
Unbeknownst to my husband, Mark Driscoll took away my ability to say “no” by preying on my two biggest fears (losing my husband and making God angry). Women all over the world are handled and touched every day, not because they want to be, but because they are afraid of what will happen if they say “no.” “Will I be attacked? Will I be rejected?” they ask themselves. Driscoll and Neo-Reformed church cultures promoted more of the same. “Will my marriage fall apart? Will my husband get his needs met in other ways? Will I be rejecting God’s standards of biblical womanhood?” The problem is, when you take away the option of saying “no,” you also take away the option to consent. Furthermore, you take away the option to freely love, respect, or trust your partner. Isn’t that what marriage is about?
Driscoll’s ideas aren’t random. They’re a blend of America’s patriarchal culture and Fundamentalism’s purity culture taught in many churches and families under different names. And like many fundy sermons, they’re delivered in a way that shames anyone who disagrees. “Oh, you don’t like this? Well, it’s in the Bible, so you must have a problem with God himself.” Since Neo-Reformed Millennials are passionate about truth and don’t want to be in rebellion against God, they believe it. None of this is new, other than the packaging.
Fortunately for myself and for my husband, we had an awakening. We quietly left the church and missions organization that supported these views. We’re recovering. One reason I’m telling this story is to break the shame that sometimes finds its way back to me. Another reason I feel compelled to speak is that many others are still trapped. Survivors from Mars Hill are leaving and telling their stories, and we’re seeing the truth about Driscoll up close and personal. It’s time for the church to wake up to what these survivors are saying and hold Driscoll, and many like him, accountable for his spiritual abuse.
So how are we going to do that? I welcome your suggestions in the comments!
Savvy Wolfson is a FreedomBuilder and an emphasizing, tree-hugging, lucky in love, play-at-home mom to two under two.
Editors note: Post updated to reflect full context of the quote from Sex: A Study of the Good Bits of the Song of Solomon.