Sunday, April 27, 2008

the women's blog at mars hill church

My friend Kimberly posted this about Mark Drisoll and his teachings at Mars Hill Church here in Seattle. I'm concerned about some things going on there and Kim wrote about this subject - I just feel significant unrest about the teachings there. I'll paste what she wrote here and her blog is here.

"So, you have to forgive me for talking about Mark Driscoll again– I know he is just one of many voices on the gender issue. But, he is in my hometown and I am just getting more and more concerned by what his church (Mars Hill) is dictating on gender. Actually, concern is too kind. I am appalled.

You really ought to read this blog, which is the confession of a mother at his church who condemns herself for not being content with being at home. (The blog is part of the official church website, which in the past year has added women writers.) She tells the story of how much she has longed to finish her Masters program (she has 10 credits left), but she finally has repented of desiring anything but motherhood. Here's an except so you can get the feel for how she describes the months after having a child:

"I was miserable. I felt isolated. I missed my job. I missed my old work friends. I missed commuting. I missed my morning Starbucks drive through. My husband was taken care of. My daughter was thriving. But I was going crazy. I felt like my brain was rotting with every load of laundry I did. Every morning I woke up dreading the day and how I would fill the hours, regardless of how many activities I had planned. I was filled with resentment, bitterness, and discontentment.

Isaiah 59:2 - “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

In September, a month after our daughter was born, God blessed us yet again. Samson was offered a job and came on staff at Mars Hill. An amazing opportunity and one we had been praying for and yet I was immediately seized with fear. Great, I thought. I could keep up the happy housewife façade with my husband and friends, but under the watchful eye of an entire church? I would surely buckle under the pressure. Everyone would know how much I loathed being home. How would people react when they knew the truth? They would be shocked at my worldliness. They would shake their heads at my husband’s inability to shepherd his wife.

I grew increasingly angry with God. This isn’t how it was supposed to be! Where was my peace? Where was the joy and relief that I was supposed to feel? Hadn’t God called me home? Hadn’t he impressed this on my heart? I was surrounded by a wonderful supportive community. My husband was the most appreciative doting father, my daughter was the happiest sweetest baby, my friends were always there to guide me and walk with me. This is what I wanted, right? This was the calling that God had made me for. I was designed to be a mother to my child, a helper suitable to my husband.

I believed it in my head but I didn’t feel it in my heart. I was ashamed and shocked at myself. I was so disgusted with the ugly and horrendous condition of my heart that I couldn’t tell anyone, not even my husband. It was a secret sin that I harbored within myself. And the longer I kept my secret, the more the sin grew. I began to resent my husband and daughter for needing me. I grew bitter towards women who could answer God’s calling with a joyful heart when I could not. I knew what I was feeling was wrong, but I couldn’t confess it because by now I felt my sin was too great. I had been feeding it for too long and it had grown out of control."

Also, it is a 2 part posting, and you can read the second part here. Here is an excerpt of how the writer feels when she decides to "repent" of pursuing her Masters degree:

"I confessed and repented to my husband and daughter for the selfishness and singularity of my sin. I embraced my role as wife and mother the best I could and slowly began to feel a joy and peace in my life that can only come from living for God’s will and not my own. I was not completely full, because in this life we never are, but I was walking with the Lord. I was headed in the right direction.

Slowly and painfully I am coming to grips with the fact that I will never finish my Master’s degree. By now my student loan payments have started to kick in, a monthly reminder of that part of me I feel is so incomplete. My graduate student standing has long since expired, but I can’t bear to take myself off the department mailing list. I keep my textbooks tucked away in a dusty box, just in case the Lord changes His mind. I still have that darker part of my soul that hangs on to the temptation for a life apart from God to pursue my own glory."

My disclaimer: I think being a homemaker is honorable, but I think women should have choice in this. And when your theology and social networks tell you it is straight up sinful to desire anything different, than you don't really have much choice. There is just so much harm to analyze here on a psychological and sociological level. I want to weep when I read this story, and the stories of the woman who write in to say they also have "sinned" by desiring more than marriage and motherhood. When will people see how much this theology harms women (and men and their families, too)?

I think the comments of fellow readers might be even more insightful too help us see the psychological harm women are undergoing at that church. Consider these comments of women praising the article:

"(Almost) every Sunday for the last 7 years since I officially ended my ‘career’, I ferret the Seattle Times Job Classified section to find all the jobs in the legal field I ‘could’ have. For some reason (that I quit analyzing or agonizing or guilting myself over many editions ago), this is comforting, to think there are jobs out there that I could pursue. Then Mark shakes his head and winks at me as he hands me the stinky kitchen rag that really should have went in the laundry yesterday, I wipe Jack’s oatmeal off the floor and last nights dirt from Henry’s nose before I sound my last holler alarm to the teenagers to GET UP NOW. (As a sidenote, occasionally, I still get cold feet when I think of my marriage, but that’s another story.) God is faithful and good to conform us into the image of His Son (that’s what this whole gig is about)."

"Thanks for sharing Elizabeth. My daughter was three before Christ set me “free” from my idolatry and gave me joy in being home with the kids.I would encourage you to keep on wrestling with this and pick all the weeds of wrong/worldly thinking that are associated with mothering. I thought I had pulled this one by the root until I heard my little girl say to her father last week…”When I grow up I want to be a mommy just like my mommy” How sweet, right? While this is now my thought, my first, sinful thought was “Oh no, she should go to college and do something really great…not just be a mom.” OUCH! Immediately I cringed, “where did that thought come from?”


juls said...

oh, man. this is very interesting.

my mother was a working mom and continually felt stung by other stay at home mothers at church. it was an issue that could never be resolved.

i can not relate at all to the idea that finishing a masters degree is somehow sinful when you have a new child. although i don't mean to take this situation to be light or funny.

i am not a mother but if God has plans for me to be one I intend to take it up with him and my husband what my future career plans will be. i don't think any woman should be made to feel like they need to conform to any set church made ideal and the admissions of these women are unsettling. there is truth in our feelings and we can not deny them. God has a way of working things out, why couldn't he work it out in various ways? why is the church in the US so set in making people be the same person?

California Girl said...

Holy sh&t. No, I can't at all see how these people of the church would encourage this for women. If she wasn't to get her Masters Degree then why did God give her the smarts to get that far and then stop just short of her goal? If God is directing her life then she should follow her heart and what she feels God is telling her rather than let the men of this 'church' dictate what she should and shouldn't do.

This is one of the big problems I cannot overcome when it comes to dealings with the church. So controlled by men - and in that I also mean humans, not just men. Give me all your money. Give me all your time. I will tell you how to live your life. When you should reproduce. When you should be happy. Who you should marry. When you should breathe. I will control all this because I am a man and I will interpret God's written word for you - you can't do it yourself.

How I hope that these women get the strength to listen to their own hearts and their own God and learn to be happy with what ever they are doing. If that is motherhood, then great. If not, find out what it is and quit letting the 'church' dictate your entire life.

Find a church that embraces your love for God and I suspect that these women will grow and walk with God and be happy.

Sorry - this one just hits way too close to home for me.

the nibbling marmot said...

Driscoll is a flaming asshole. I have heard him preach his nonsense several times, and some of the crazy, scary shit that he said is still with me.
My mom has a pretty amazing story about coming out of that kind of environment, and I am grateful every day that I did, too. Waking up and finding a way out IS possible.
If you ever wanna talk more about it, lemme know. Fuck oppression.

michaelstevensrev said...

"My disclaimer: I think being a homemaker is honorable, but I think women should have choice in this..."

Your disclaimer is very wise. The focus on 'sinful' activity is bad, for men or women. Yes all of us can take our callings in this life and pervert them, even parenthood. Though should that be the focus as people who have been set free by the gospel. Does a mandate need to come down from the authority structure in a church to convict a specific group (women) in the church of their personal (not public) sin? One job of the Holy Ghost is to convict us of our sin, pastors do not need to take over this responsibility. God has it handled. We have been set free by God therefore free to do great things and to make horrible mistakes, welcome to life.

In regards to "the nibbling marmot" comments, I am really sorry for anyone who's family might have been effected by incorrect teaching of the Bible. I am sure that I have blown it and hurt people in the past and I am deeply sorrowed by that fact. Love of hate Mar Hill's views/practice and anyone on the pastoral staff, they are fellow Christians, and deserve first our love. Oppression does suck but again trust that the Holy Ghost can overcome those obstacles better than any of our angry comments. Just my thought, I know you'll either take it or leave it.

stephy said...

Mars Hill gets my love all right, by way of prayer and righteous anger!

nancypants said...

I've been thinking on this for a while. Didn't want to respond right away without thinking for a while on it. I certainly think it's not right for the church authorities to bind consciences where there is no rule. I don't have a problem with pastors/church leaders pressing scripture home to us even if it's not always what we want to hear (ie. that sin is sin whether we prize it or despise it... Umm... I didn't mean for that to rhyme.) But binding consciences on many gray areas is less than a stone's throw away from legalism.

But then I also know that "whatever is not of faith is sin" so if a person knows their own heart and knows that he/she is clamoring for something for all the wrong reasons and making an idol out of it, for them to repent of it is certainly not wrong. Right? We were discussing this topic and how it's not a super cut and dry issue and Shawn was reminding me that when he had just graduated seminary he was actually trying to get out of doing church ministry altogether... He began pursuing the idea of getting his Ph.D because he wanted to be in academia. Nothing wrong with wanting to be in academia but he knew his own motives... he wanted to be looked at and listened to as an important scholar. He wanted to write books and be noticed and have people sit at his feet picking up shreds of knowledge. He knew that he was seeking to not be a pastor because being a pastor sometimes sucks... it's very humbling and can be very messy and doesn't just require your brains but your heart, soul and motives... your job is to love people and people (as we know) can be hard to love... that and you rarely get to leave your work "at the office." (There are many jobs like that of course.) So for him, he was eventually convicted (after being rejected by the school he wanted to go to... sometimes God speaks in less than mysterious ways. LOL) that though the pursuit of academia is certainly not a sin in and of itself, he was doing it for selfish and prideful reasons and he needed to repent. This could sort of be compared to the topic of this post... since he was convicted about his motives, what if he decided to tell everyone who could be a pastor but chooses instead to go into academia that they are sinning? There is no such law in scripture... He would be wrong in binding their conscience in this way. Still, he can share the way that God convicted him of his pride and his self-seeking motives... that he was humbled and that he eventually accepted his calling though it was not his initial plan and though it was and is not always something that he enjoys every single aspect of (like SAHMs and diapers maybe.) :^) It's likely that someone out there is struggling with similar conflicting desires and might relate to the struggle he faced.

For some Moms perhaps their conscience will not be at peace if they are pursuing goals for selfish or prideful reasons... That doesn't mean that all Moms who get degrees or work outside of the home are doing so for selfish reasons or because of sinful motives. Could they be? Maybe, maybe not.... that's something they have to deal with between themselves and God though. I could... well, rather, I AM guilty of this same selfishness even while at home so I know that a Mom doesn't have to ever leave the house to have the same inner struggle. I think the problems arise when people (whether it's purely horizontal or vertically from some authority figure other than the Holy Spirit) try to do the job of binding consciences... While the Holy Spirit has every right to bind this woman's conscience, what I find the most sad is that she was in such a terrible state of fear at what PEOPLE would think of her. Even if she did have selfish motives, the church is made up of fellow sinners so if they have such a reputation for always doing everything right and never being real with one another, this sort of problem where people (men and women) feel they cannot be real and express their deepest struggles, whatever they are, are going to crop up all over the place. (How's that for a run-on?? Yikes.) It's a perfect recipe for hypocrisy.

As a church are we supposed to be striving for holiness? Definitely. (And encouraging one another in it.) God is Holy so He loves holiness. He sent Jesus that we might be "a Holy" (set apart for His own gracious use) "people and a royal priesthood" -- meaning in part at least that we are supposed to be conduits of God's grace towards people and also be praying for people to be reconciled with God. I confess, I fail at both far too often. But the church (speaking in generalizations, not about all individual churches) often falls off the other side of the horse (that being the fakey cheerful rah rah hypocritical side near the ass of the horse) when we become obsessed with the *appearance* of holiness, as opposed to the fight for it -- the painful visceral inner struggle that we each have whether we admit it openly or not. But churches that focus on coming along side individuals who struggle, even struggle to the death sometimes (I'm thinking here of my brother, Rich), are not the churches that grow by the thousands each day/month/year necessarily because they are doing the slow painstaking work of shepherding rather than working towards an image or a reputation. It's almost like the difference between a quick Oprah makeover and an Extreme Makeover that includes months of psychological probing. It's slower, more painful, often more messy, more vulnerable and a lot fewer people sign up for it than for the quick fix surface job.

While I don't hate the churches that make these sometimes damaging mistakes, I pray that God will show them (as well as me in my own sin) where they are wrong and where they need to repent even if it means a messy clean up job.

Thanks for a good discussion Stephy and sorry that I'm so verbose today. But I guess I'm always verbose... ((sigh)) gets me in trouble more than I care to admit! LOL

Bell Blog said...

I wonder what these people would have to say to/about me. . .a christian mother who desperately wanted to stay at home with her baby, but after much prayer and going through every option found that it just wasn't possible to stay at home and was forced to go back to work. I'm guessing that I would also be accused of sin for not agreeing to move back to arkansas and live in a trailer - which is what would happen if I did quit and we lived on what my husband makes. It's sad that they would see it as sinful from every direction, right?

Thanks for sharing this. I continue to be amazed at the church's perspective on working mothers. Even in churches that claim to be "progressive" these sentiments are rampant. They are so hurtful and unnecessary. One time I asked about a women's bible study that didn't happen during the day and the response I got was that they had never considered that before. . .they just didn't see that there was an audience for that. So I started my own group, and shockingly found 7 other women within one week. And I didn't even look very hard. That just proves that they weren't even trying.

I don't know what to do about situations like this, but I certainly appreciate you putting it out there like this.

Anonymous said...

"For some Moms perhaps their conscience will not be at peace if they are pursuing goals for selfish or prideful reasons..."

Driscoll envisions himself as the head, or "father", of a movement. He has often joked that his goal is "world domination." Is that sinful?

nancypants said...

Yes, anonymous, it is! :^)

believer333 said...

How sad. Interesting that they removed the woman's blog.

God made us all unique. When Christian leaders try to box people into their ideas of living, then what happens is that individuals are told not to be the unique persons they were created to be. And that is painful.