We have had quite a few hits here over the last few days thanks to controversy at Mars Hill concerning Church discipline. Recently, a member of Mars Hill was placed under Church Discipline and released the documents outlining his path back into the good graces of the church, as well as a statement posted on Mars Hill’s inner website called, “The City” in which members were taught how to respond to this young man if they ever saw him in public.
You can read up on the controversy here.
As a practicing Roman Catholic this whole thing strikes me as being very strange and, yes, abusive. As a Catholic what shocked me most was that this young man, Andrew, was being disciplined for what we call “Private sin.” In the Catholic Church, we do excommunicate, but it is most often for “Public sin.” There is more to excommunication in the Catholic Church than that, but that is an important distinction that Mars Hill doesn’t seem to have.
But this whole thing is frustrating to me for a different reason. Pastor Mark repeatedly makes the Catholic Church (as well as the Eastern Orthodox Church) out to be nothing more than a bunch of legalistic rule following and powerful people lording it over people without power. Remember that video that went viral recently titled, Why I hate religion and love Jesus? Well, the young man in the video is a Mars Hill member and pretty much sums up most of what I have heard Driscoll say about “religious people.”
If these documents are authentic they are far more controlling and legalistic than anything I have experienced as a Catholic. I am not saying the Catholic Church’s leadership is beyond criticism. Spiritual abuse and other types of abuse happen in the Catholic Church too. We certainly have some unfortunate moments in our history that include prescribing a severe set of penalties for people who didn’t see things our way. It just drives me nuts that he saw the speck in our eye and couldn’t see the beam in his own.
It has been claimed repeatedly here at Driscollwatch that we love and respect members of Mars Hill Church and their pastor, Mark Driscoll. As far as we could see, this was just a typical evangelical Church. Obviously, we didn’t know the whole story. So, if it needs to be stated, while we respect people who seek to know Jesus Christ, we do not support this system of “discipline” described in these blog posts and we condemn any spiritual abuse inflicted by any religious tradition, including our own. Extra prayers will be offered for anyone who has been wounded by Mars Hill because of this system.
And we pray for Mark and the elders of Mars Hill to rethink their disciplinary procedures.
Some required reading: This post from The Internet Monk about how having a seal of confession helps Roman Catholics avoid this problem. Also, this response to the Religion vs. Jesus video from Fr. Dwight Longenecker at First Things. The Key line…
The young man in the video was clearly attracted to a Jesus Christ who was a young, table-turning radical. His Jesus was impatient with the religious establishment and on the side of the sinners and revolutionaries. His Jesus was the quintessential outsider—the rebel with a cause—a punk who all those rich hypocrites excluded and persecuted. In other words, he was just like the young man in the video.
We all fall into the trap of making Christ in our own image, so it is understandable, and if understandable, forgivable. This, however, is the main justification not only for religion, but also for a dogmatic religion. A dogmatic religion corrects our tendency to make Jesus in our own image.